We’re all keen to save money and create less waste when it comes to everyday meals, especially right now. Shopping savvily is even more important while we’re going out as little as possible, and although it can be a little tricky to only shop once a week, it can help you to be more shrewd and make less mindless purchases. We spoke to traders at Darwen Market, and to Kate, owner of Darwen’s eco refill shop, Earth Evolution, to get their top savvy shopping and cooking tips… Find a notepad and get ready for some new ideas!
Clear out your cupboards
1) Start by having a good clear out of your cupboards to see exactly what you have. It’s easy to automatically add staples to your shopping list each week, when you already have them at the back of your cupboards. There are tons of favourite store cupboard recipes out there, including classics such as corned beef hash and vegetarian chilli. BBC Good Food has a whole section on store cupboard meals, to give you inspiration on how to use up your bits and bobs.
Plan your meals
2) Make a weekly meal plan to ensure you’re not wasting food. After looking through your cupboards to see what you already have, flick through your recipes books and browse online for easy meal ideas, and why not ask each member of your household for a meal they fancy? Think about what you have to do each night of the week – if Tuesdays are particularly busy for you, plan something simple, or opt for leftovers that won’t need any prep. Remember that you’ll need to use ingredients that go off sooner at the beginning of the week, so if you do your shopping on a Thursday, you might find it makes sense to plan store cupboard meals for Wednesdays. There are also lots of groups on Facebook that you can join to get affordable meals ideas, such as Feeding a family on £1 a day.
Only buy what you need
3) This may sound obvious, but it can be hard to do so when shopping at large supermarkets. One of the many benefits of shopping local is that it’s easy to buy an exact quantity, no matter how big or small. The butchers at Darwen Market (Turner’s and Leeeming’s) won’t bat an eyelid if you ask for just three sausages or two rashers of bacon. S Parr & Son can divvy up their cheese to meet your needs, Woods Fruit and Veg can provide you with as much or as little produce as you need, and the same goes for all of the food traders. Woods also sell their famous broth mix which is a great staple to be used for soups and stews, and Verity at Rushton’s can make affordable family sized pies and lasagnes which are freezable.
Plus, Earth Evolution on Duckworth Street has a huge range of goods, including beans and pulses, cereal and oats, flours, pasta, rice and grains, herb and spices, snacks and sweets, tea and coffee, plus cleaning and beauty products, which can all be bought in the exact amount you need. You get the added bonus of being more environmentally friendly too, as you take your own jars and containers from home to fill up (or use the recycled paper bags provided). How many times have you bought a pot of herbs for a recipe, used a tiny amount, and then let it go stale in your cupboard? Avoiding this waste of food and money is easy when you shop small.
Tips from Earth Evolution
4) Kate told us about her tip of buying beans and lentils dried, as it works out cheaper than buying tinned pre-cooked goods from the supermarket, and cuts out unnecessary packaging. Simply batch cook your dried goods and freeze them in portions, ready to be used in your soups, chillies, curries and other hearty warming meals. For those of you who are vegetarian, vegan, or who just have meat-free days each week, Earth Evolution is currently offering grab and go meal bags, which contain everything (or almost everything) you need to make healthy meals at home, with absolutely no waste, as everything is pre-portioned. This is a good option for busy days when you want to cut down on prep. Check out Earth Evolution on Facebook and Instagram for more great tips.
Ask for advice when shopping
5) The personal service that shopping locally offers can help you to shop and cook more savvily. Darwen Market traders and Darwen’s independent business owners are always more than happy to offer advice and tips. Ask them about what in season at the moment and what’s locally sources (buying seasonal and local food is another way to shop savvily – these goods are often more affordable, as they haven’t had to travel far – which makes them better for the environment too!), and if you’re unsure of how to cook anything, don’t hesitate to check.
We hope these tips have been useful, and that they’ve inspired you to shop local and support Darwen’s fantastic independent retailers. Earth Evolution and the majority of Darwen Market traders are also Shop Darwen participants, meaning you’ll receive entry to the Shop Darwen prize draw if you spend £5 or over – find out more here.