One of the questions I get asked most often is what should a grocery budget be or how can you set a limit on what you spend?
Regardless of your income or expenses, as the cost of living increases, you are going to feel the pinch in certain areas of your life.
We can all save money by taking control of our food waste; most households in Ireland will throw away at least 20% of their food every week for a variety of reasons. So if you can control your food waste, you can make your groceries last longer and ultimately save money.
Instead of throwing away your vegetable peelings after you’ve made dinner, why not give them a quick rinse and add them to a large pot, cover with lukewarm water and boil for 30 minutes to make your own vegetable broth?
Once cooked, drain the peelings and put them directly in the brown bin once cooled. Store the broth in the freezer when cold or in a jar in the refrigerator. It is perfect for adding to soups, stews and making gravy. It is also less salty and less processed than using a bouillon cube.
I also like to rinse the potato peelings, lay them on a baking sheet, season and drizzle with a little oil. Bake (or deep fry) for 20 minutes until crispy and golden for homemade chips. You can do the same with any root vegetable peel and also with kale.
When compiling your shopping list this week, consider making a meal plan based on what you have in your presses, fridge, and freezer before you make your shopping list. For rotation purposes, it’s good to use what you have.
If you’re short on time to cook and have trouble with how long your day’s veggies will take to prep, consider buying a bag of frozen chopped onions or butternut squash.
These bags will keep for several months in your freezer and will certainly save you time when preparing meals. Believe it or not, depending on volume, it’s actually cheaper to buy a bag of frozen onions than to buy a fillet of fresh onions.
I’ll be tracking the cost of a basket of groceries in supermarkets over the next few weeks, you’ll see this week’s results below along with my picks for the best value deals on the shelf this week.
8 green apples in a bag of SuperValu cost. Cut and core your apples ahead of time and tie them up with a piece of string or rubber band in the lunch box. This will make the apples accessible for little people to eat on break.
300ml of coconut oil costs €1.59 at Aldi, making it by far the cheapest of all major food retailers. You can use coconut oil for cooking/baking, it is also a very effective moisturizer on a budget.
The potatoes are on sale this week in 1kg bags in Lidl, Aldi, Tesco and Dunnes stores. If you swap your 2kg bag of potatoes for 2 smaller individual bags, it will reduce the cost of the basket and save you at least a euro on your purchases, or even more depending on the supermarket of your choice. When you’re on a budget, every precious dollar is worth it and sometimes the smaller sized package is cheaper than the bigger one.
While the overall cost of the Irish Examiner shopping basket is down this week due to special offers, I’m starting to see price increases across the whole basket. Two supermarkets recently raised the price of their free-range eggs to €1.79, whereas a month ago all supermarkets were sticking to €1.59. This is something that I monitor weekly so you can rest assured that I will let you know if I notice the price of other items increasing as well.
Storing Chickpea Stew in the Cupboard
If you cook from what you have in the press, this is a great way to use up what you have and is perfect for thermoses and even for a warming brunch.
Put the sunflower oil in a large saucepan over medium heat with the onion and garlic. Stir for five minutes then add the smoked paprika, stir for another minute.
Add drained chickpeas and toss to coat with onions, garlic and paprika.
Now add your tomatoes along with the water. Mix well then break the pasta into small pieces directly in the pan. Bring to a boil then cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
Now add the sweetcorn, herbs and plenty of Parmesan, if using and serving.
Point: If you want a meatier version, add bacon or pieces of slices at the very beginning of cooking the onion and garlic. Or you can serve with a poached egg on top.
Hidden Vegetable Chocolate Cake
Use beetroot to make this dense chocolate cake with a hidden vegetable and feel slightly virtuous while eating.
Preheat a ventilated oven to 200°C. Line a 20cm diameter cake tin with parchment paper.
Place a medium saucepan on the scale and weigh the butter and sugar directly into the saucepan.
Put the pan on low heat and watch it, stirring occasionally until a smooth syrup is obtained.
Grate the beetroot and set aside – don’t add it to the flour now as it has a high water content and will make the final cake lumpy.
Put the dry ingredients in a large bowl, mix and make a well in the center. Pour the melted butter and the sugar syrup inside and mix well.
Crack in your two eggs and mix again until incorporated into the batter.
Stir in your vanilla extract and finally, the beetroot, making sure it is well coated in the batter. Bake for 40 minutes.
Once baked, allow to cool completely in the pan before removing the paper and serving. Glaze with melted chocolate or ganache if you prefer.