Tuesday, October 8, 2013

STOP-tober 8th: Store Cupboard Tips

There's no getting around the fact that if you have a house filled with enough food to last you a few months, you will need more willpower in order to not to just overeat for a shorter length of time. This affects anyone who even does a big monthly shop. How do you make those economy bags of crisps, nuts and biscuits last the whole month? How do you stop yourself eating all the cheese in the first week? And what about that chocolate that was on sale and good for cooking or allowing yourself the occasional square for a treat?

Much of the store cupboard is dried goods that need soaking and cooking. Even pasta or rice which is relatively quick to cook, isn't going to tempt you for a quick snack in its dried state. Other stuff is more problematic. Tins of tuna and olives become delicious on toast (bread taken from 3 loaves of bread in the freezer because they were on offer) in about two minutes.

My store cupboard - yes I know you've seen it before. 

The big problem starts when you cook it up into ready meals. A big part of the store cupboard philosophy is cooking in batches and filling your freezer. Whilst I'm not going to defrost a whole cottage pie because I feel like a nibble, one or two (or more) pastries, a slice of pizza, a muffin, can all be zapped in the microwave in the blink of an eyelid.

Most of my store cupboard know-how comes from my store cupboard guru Elaine Colliar from Mortgage Free in Three. As I wrote two days ago, Elaine's store cupboard is far superior to any other I've seen. Here are a few tips I've picked up from Elaine and other bloggers who are trying to budget and eat well at the same time.

1. Store large quantities of food in portions according to what you need for one meal or recipe. For example, a cake can be sliced and bagged separately for one slice to be taken out for tea, a dessert, or for a packed lunch. Cheese can be divided into portions suitable for various planned recipes and meals before freezing it in baggies. If something is assigned it is less likely to disappear in a peckish moment.

2. Plan your weekly menus including breakfast and afternoon tea so that each of your portions in the freezer are accounted for. If you take three slices of pizza  or three muffins from the freezer one night in an uncontrollable binge, that's three suppers for your child or three packed lunches that you will have to replace.

3. Don't cook too much. Make double or even treble portions to stock the freezer certainly, but don't feed the freezer with no end in sight. If you have enough cooked and frozen food for a half-year menu plan, stop cooking and eat out of your freezer for a while. Freshly cooked is much nicer and it's about having all the ingredients in the house, not about saving time in the kitchen. This does not apply when you can get a load of fresh produce very cheaply and it will go off. In this case cook it all up and fill the freezer.

4. Don't buy too much 1. Even if food is on offer, you don't have to buy enough for the year. This doesn't fit in with the store cupboard philosophy anyway. The directive is to buy one item each time you shop that you can put in the store cupboard and to buy that one item at a reduced price. That way you are constantly re-stocking at very little extra expense. 3 for 2 or bogofs are excellent for this.

The weekly shop at 173nis (about 31GBP)

5. Don't buy too much 2. Even though the 10 small packets of crisps packaged together are better value than individual packets, you only need to buy one package of 10 at a time. These are not on special offer they are economy packed. You can buy them at this price whenever you run out. 50 packets of crisps under the stairs is just asking for trouble. (My weakness is crisps, you can substitute biscuits or chocolate or whatever your poison.)

6. Get into the spirit (the zone?) of the frugal living challenge. I'm much more excited about the thought of decimating my food bills than I am by a slice of  re-heated pizza at 11pm.  It also helps to have some coping strategies in place like a good book on the go to entice me into bed early. Another trick I have is to sip soda water all evening. I have 1.5 litre bottles in the fridge and I can get through a whole bottle in an evening with twists of lemon or fresh mint added. It feels like a cocktail (of sorts) and a bit of a treat.

7. Health. Nothing tastes as good as losing weight (if you need to) and having your meals planned and your food budget accounted for is a sure way to do this. And even if you don't need/want to lose weight, you eat better and more healthily by cooking from scratch.

8. Other benefits. 1. There is nothing so satisfying as a store cupboard you know will feed you and your family through strikes, shortages, illness, temporary unemployment, etc... 2. I lied, there is one thing even more satisfying... a weekly food bill no one will believe. Not only for the smugness of it but also the increased spending power in other areas.

9. Gifts. You may have enough jars of home made jam and chutneys to cover all your Christmas presents. Well your children will probably want something else but you know what I mean.

Do you have an amazing store cupboard? Leave a comment below or blog about it and tweet me @midlifesinglem .

18 comments:

  1. I really would like to be this organised, one day! I'm really enjoying your posts and have also started following Elaine's blog, I'll try and make it my task for winter.

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    1. I've not organised myself as far of the menu plans yet - this is just the theory you understand. Elaine is wonderful isn't she? Good luck for your winter task, I look forward to reading about it.

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  2. I'm really excited for you that this is working well for you so far! I love having a full freezer and a stocked pantry... right now, I don't have much of either. But hoping to get back to normal soon, and then I really want to get myself organized.

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    1. You ran down your stores before moving house. Now that you've moved I'm sure you'll build it all up again. Your use of lentils in your blog recipes inspired me to start using them more.

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  3. When my storecupboard grows up, I want it to be like Elaine's. Great post - I really have to mind number 3 a bit better.....

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  4. I giggled at No8 - Its the question EVERYONE always asks - how are the bills so low - but you have laid it out all there for them all to see.

    And yes- I do smugly pin the weeks shopping receipt on the board in the kitchen and grin at it all week :-)

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  5. The thought of the food bill has kept me from raiding the fridge more than once this week. I have to admit that I am more than a bit smug as well. :)

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  6. What a wise post, it is good to be reminded all these points, I have a lot of dry stuff too but sometimes, like today for example, I bake bread with the intention of making it last for a week (2 loaves, 3 people one of which - me - tries to eat less carbs) but it was so nice that DS and I had half a loaf between the two of us for lunch!

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    1. I hear you. I find that I often don't bother with the dry stuff and we have bread with our meal instead. This is not good as rice or lentils are cheaper and go further.

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  7. Diane and Conor in Cary, NCOctober 9, 2013 at 11:02 PM

    Unfortunately (or fortunately) I have only room for one shelf of dry goods in the kitchen for I have a very small kitchen with minimal cabinet space for the dishes, glasses, pots and pans, etc. However, there is one shelf above the washer and dryer that I use for canned goods and 1 bottle of detergent. That is eat for me! The refrigerator is small too so I have minimal space for freezing. But it keeps the food bill down because I don't have any space (or money, teaching jobs are hard to find here, especially ESL). All in all, during hurricane season I am not prepared for I have no place to put my hurricane emergency kit! LOL!

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    1. In my previous post there is a link to Allegra who keeps some of her food stores under the beds in storage containers. But I understand how no space can also reduce the food bills. Let's hope you have no need of hurricane rations.

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  8. Uhm, turns out I have a store cupboard and didn't even know it, lol. I guess it has to do with the way I was brought up/taught to do things (no, not the cook and freeze part, but the cook-from-scratch-have-dried-stuff-and-essentials part). So probably there is another benefit to re-discovering (it is more of a rediscovery really) this - kids get used to it and they might have an easier time later on. Perhaps it might help to talk to older people/look through older advice if in need of help with this.

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    1. Funny you should say that Diane because Elaine (Mortgage Free in Three) says the best way to learn acquire new skills is to ask a granny. Her method is asking the old ladies in the tea rooms if they can help her learn to knit/crochet/bake/grow vegetables/sew/etc.... Cheaper than going on a course and you can make some special friends.

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  9. Some great tips here - some of which I use already. Except I just cannot do proper meal planning, cos life and exhaustion often gets in the way :)

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    1. I try to make a plan but I hardly ever stick to it.

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  10. I am so impressed... it just feels like a better way of living and much nicer having no waste in the process. X

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    1. It is a better way of living. I've amazed myself at how much less we can live on if we don't waste food or pay for processed junk and packaging.

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