12 September 2014


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

Broad Beans
Fresh Mint
Olive Oil
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?


  1. The more I read of your posts the more I think that you and I would get on well together as we so often seem to share the same ideas. Like you when I was first married and working full time I shopped in the supermarket - I would meet Mr M from the train on a Friday evening and we would do the supermarket shop together before catching the bus home with the carrier bags full. I did however shop for fresh veggies and meat during the lunch hour several times a week too. Gradually things have changed and now I shop less and less in the supermarket and more and more in farm shops and local independent ones as well. I do plan ahead though sometimes I just make a list of enough ideas for menus some quick to prepare and cook and some which will use up what veggies we have in the garden or things we already have in stock etc. I always always write a list and usually stick to it and am not persuaded to buy things just because they are on offer although if it is something I know we will use which can be stored I might take advantage of offers. But there is no such thing as a free lunch and if something is on offer then something must be more expensive to take into account the savings. I don't actually keep an account of what I spend and my mother used to ask me what I was paying for something such as butter and I never actually knew but I just know what I can afford and my bill is usually about what I expect - comes from all my years of shopping no doubt! I try to buy local foods and if not actually local then at least British produced rather than buying stuff flown from the other side of the world but we do occasionally buy a pineapple and bananas and oranges are never local of course! I also buy organic wherever possible. This topic is an interesting one and now I have started I could go on and on and ....!

  2. oh that sounds delicious. we've just eaten the last of our broad beans, must grow more next year. I would love to be a planner.

  3. That sounds delicious. I'm a meal planner and shopping list type of gal, I always know on Monday morning what we will be eating for each day of the week. Like you I cook from scratch and I think this is definitely easier to do with a plan.

  4. I'm in the same situation, I eat vegetarian (vegan now with Colm's food sensitivities) and I do all the cooking! I cook meat a few times a month, too. You sound so organized with your meal plans and lists. I need to start doing that!

  5. I really really need to try and plan our meals more, I know it would help, especially as yo u say on the days when there isn't much time. I definitely need to put some more effort into good food for us all. CJ xx

  6. Sounds a lot like our home, but we don't do any meat. I am not really a planner; I decide that day what we'll have for dinner and lunch the next day is normally left overs.

  7. I'm so envious that you've got this sorted! I struggle with meal planning because I'm not a spontaneous cook so end up making the same recipes often. Once in a way I get spurred on and go out and buy loads of new things to make and sadly, some of it gets wasted. This time around, living in close proximity to local produce, I hope I can remedy this to some extent. New life, new goals...I'd love for a day in our lives when we will savour our leftovers! :) x

  8. Definitely plan in our house otherwise it all just sort of falls apart ie spend loads but still don't seem to have anything to eat! I shop online too which saves me from being seduced by products I don't need or want.

  9. Looks like a great recipe, thanks! I completely agree with the menu planning, the weeks I don't have our meals planned are almost always a disaster. xo


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