There was a time when I did all my food shopping in the supermarket. It was convenient, everything was under one roof, I worked full time and usually went shopping after work. I didn't want to use up too much time and thought that was the most efficient way to shop. I would wander through the fruit and veg picking up whatever took my fancy, paying no attention to where it was grown and whether it was in season. At home I would make whatever I could with the food I had bought usually by looking through my recipe books getting frustrated most weeks by the one vital ingredient I didn't have! Over time I migrated away form the supermarket, but not entirely, to using a variety of different local shops. I am aware that I have plenty of time to devote to my food shopping should I want to but I did manage to shop that way in a lunch hour when working part time.
Food is important to me, using good ingredients I always cook from scratch from necessity as I become ill if I eat too many preservatives. I don't worry about five a day or seven or ten or whatever the latest research/advice is. I think more about the overall week to keep our diet balanced. I do this through planning, the basis of which is vegetables. We eat a mainly vegetarian diet, I am vege and do all the cooking! I buy meat once a month at a farmers market which I will cook about two to three times over the month. At this time of year all our vegetables come from the garden for the rest of the year, a veg bag from a local farm co-operative. I devise a menu of meals for lunches and teas from the available veggies. At the same time I also plan (or try to) our weeks' activities so that I know how many picnics and quick meals for late days out to plan. Any ingredients for our planned meals that I don't have in the cupboard go on a shopping list along with items that I have run out of that I don't buy that often which I record on a small blackboard in my pantry, a cupboard under the stairs that we have incorporated into our kitchen!
Planning meals focuses and reduces my shopping time, I can do all in less than an hour, despite visiting several shops and having two children in tow. My list keeps me focused especially in the supermarket, I am not tempted by offers, reductions etc unless they are on my list. It is also saves us money as I only buy what we have planned to eat so every fresh ingredient gets used before it has a chance to go off and we throw away virtually no food. What little does go off ends up in the compost bin or on the bird table.
One of the major, and in my book best, advantages of planning meals ahead is it has gotten rid of the twice daily dilemma of what to eat, but I still need to focus on our meals. There is definitely a better flow to our days when I have thought ahead about which meal on the list we are going to have and what time we are going to eat, otherwise I have hungry children snapping at my heals as I try to throw a meal together which is not a great combination. It is difficult to come up with lots of meals that are quick to cook so sometimes I prepare bits in the morning to speed up the cooking when we do get home. This salad is a good one for that. It is a recipe that I have forgotten the provenance of I have no idea where I read this or if I made it up but this is what I do, actually recipe is perhaps a little grand for this as the quantities are made up as you go along.....
Broad Bean Salad
White Wine Vinegar
I have not given quantities as it is really hard to work out the weight of broad beans from their pods. The pile above yielded 110g of beans.
- Remove beans from their pods and steam for a few minutes.
- Put beans in a bowl of cold water to stop them cooking and to make them easier to remove from their cases.
- Remove cases and put in a bowl, I know this is a faff but for this salad the beans taste so much better.
- Chop enough feta into small squares so it balances the quantity of beans.
- Likewise with the mint. which you finely chop.
- Combine oil and vinegar 2:1 I used 1tbsp oil and 1/2 tbsp vinegar for this salad and drizzle over other ingredients.
Stir, eat and enjoy!
So are you a menu planner or do you prefer to fly by the seat of your pants or somewhere in between?