Stopping food shopping

In Food on April 1, 2014 at 6:15 pm


I seem to shop for food every day, with a big supermarket shop about every two weeks, yet my kitchen is already crammed with food.

Checking out my pantry, I think I have a slight tendency to food hoarding, not feeling comfortable unless I always have multiple tins of tomatoes, kidney beans, sweet corn, peaches and rice pudding, plus plentiful dried pulses, rice, pasta, polenta and other staples ready in stock.


Ready for what exactly? A siege?

I noticed this morning that I have no fewer than three tins of that (rather marvellous) Azera coffee in the cupboard, with another one on the go, because it was on a two for one offer at Sainsburys and I got sucked in twice. For someone who drinks one cup of coffee a day, that should keep me going a while…

My freezer is as crammed as my pantry, with the double quantities I always make of Bolognese sauce, stews, curries, stock etc. plus other things I’ve overbought and at least three bags of petit pois (and an essential bottle of Finlandia ha ha ha).


So for a week I’m going to buy only the absolutely essential fresh items: milk, yogurt, cheese and eggs, as I need them. And fresh fruit and vegetables only once I’ve finished all the tinned and frozen stuff. I’ve got a chicken in the fridge already, so no other meat, or fish.

It’s spring here, heralding the start of a new season of gorgeous food, so it seems the ideal time to clear the decks.

Here’s how it’s going so far.

Peggy and I both missed lunch, very stupidly, and extreme panicky hunger at 5pm made me give in at the corner shop, so dinner was… (the shame) a packet of biltong for her and a packet of pork scratchings for me.

So I failed on not buying food on day one (and I failed in making sure my daughter eats a balanced diet). I’m not proud, but I am honest.

We topped up our unpleasant impulse snacks when we got home with a few cherry tomatoes, an apple and other random grazings. Later on, we both had Greek yogurt (from Liedl, which is the best ever) with banana and tinned peaches.

Lunch: I brown bagged a tuna salad and an orange into my office. My halo is feeling quite tight.

Dinner: Carrot and Red Kidney Bean Burgers from a recipe by Jack Monroe. I only had to buy some fresh coriander. Served them in some pitas I already had in the fridge. They were pretty nice, but next time I’d put some chili in there too, or lime. OK it needed a bit more flavour, but my daughter ate it. And no wonder Ms Monroe is so slim. This felt like a starter to guzzle guts here.

Pudding was tinned peaches with some tinned rice pudding.

For Aussie readers – Jack Monroe is the hot food blogger turned Guardian columnist/guru in the UK right now. I love her.



  1. Same Maggie – there is only two of us but my pantry is stocked within an inch of its life. I have recently emptied my freezer and that felt ridiculously brilliant x

  2. We have been trying to clear our fridge, freezer and pantry before our move back to Australia this week, and as you know it’s a hard enough task as it is. But what did my husband do 3 weeks ago…he came how with 3 packets of mince because they were on offer. Countless Bolognese, Burgers, Meatballs and Mexican later, I have learnt that it’s not a saving if you don’t need it!

    • Oh my… Mostly I resist them – especially the buy two get one free deals, they really are the worst. I once came home with 3 honeydew melons and as I unpacked them felt so stupid. That coffee would have been a deal, if I’d only bought it the one time, but when you’re in the supermarket you get dazzled, don’t you? They spend ££££$$$$$ on research working out how to do that to us.

  3. Google “the $21challenge” by Fiona Lippey. Good luck!

  4. Do you not have leftovers in portions in the freezer ready for those Hangry times?

    • No. ha ha ha. The hanger hit while we were in the shop getting something else and my resolve just snapped… At home, a bit of cheese, some salami, would have tided us over until dinner, but the timing wrecked my plans!

  5. Maggie, I have the same problem and there is just me at home. I know when I am out of control when my cupboard is full and I have to use the counter. My cupboard is not as big as your pantry. My sister thinks I might have some deep childhood issues.
    From one hoarder to another….what’s with all the jam!! Or do you not need to out it in the fridge over there?
    Good luck…I will be following your progress. ..

    • The jam is all presents from lovely friends who have made it… I just can’t chuck it out, although apart from some DELICIOUS blackberry made by my pal Sally, we don’t even eat jam! I just don’t know what to do with it, but it’s something I’m going to have to address during this project. And it’s a good job it doesn’t have to go in the fridge, because there’d be no room for anything else!

  6. Ditto! I reckon I could not grocery shop for a month. Every week I mean to check my fridge/pantry before I meal plan/shop and of course I never do (any of the above other than shop). I tried meal planning and ended up buying MORE stuff, not cooking it, then chucking a lot out. Oh the food wastage, scary stuff. I must say, I’ve never had biltong for dinner!

  7. It’s about getting creative in the kitchen with what you have. I’m lucky I work in a fruit & veg shop, so I get what we need for that night/next morning when I finish. I try to go to the supermarket only once a week, with a list. And about once a month, I don’t go at all. Let everything run right down. Saves me a lot of money and time!! Good luck.

  8. We rejigged our pantry situation a few months ago and bought a huge old white-painted school cupboard. It’s wide and not too deep, so, as we were commenting last night over our G &Ts, we can now see at a glance where everything is. Yes, the conversation is scintillating at our house…

    We also have regular purges, and try to avoid the shops for a while, but now that we have a little fridge and freezer (runs on gas – no electricity here in Wattle Flat), there isn’t much scope for squirrelling stuff away. Not as many dodgy, long lost curries covered in permafrost.

    • ooh I LOVE the sound of that cupboard. Deep shelves and cupboards are such a trap. I’m so glad I started this and can see it’s going to be an ongoing mission. I want empty shelves!

  9. Oh how funny Maggie, I was thinking the exact same thing this week as I crammed yet more stuff into my huge walk in pantry and two yes two overflowing freezers. We could survive for years if there was a siege. (BTW, happy English childhood memories, a large dollop of homemade jam is amazing over rice pudding…. )

  10. Dear Maggie, I think (and I am sure the lovely Nigella L. would agree) its very organised and “good mother” of you to have a truly well stocked larder, freezer etc. My fridge just about always looks depressingly empty (only myself to feed on a regular basis). I love going to my friends with families and opening their fridges, etc. Having said all that – nothing beats gorgeous fresh food – so great you have Spring about to pounce. Enjoy

  11. This is a brilliant idea ( she says, having just made an enormous list because Coles is giving a $20 voucher if $240 is spent). I’ve got far too much in my pantry and freezer and a vegetable garden yet I still can’t resist a deal. Maybe next week I will follow your example…

    • That’s a biiiiiig outlay for a pretty mingy return. Not even 10% and when you go back to spend it you’ll spend another $100. The big chains spend $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ on research to make us spend more… Watch this space!

  12. Staring at my groaning pantry right now thinking this is such a brilliant idea….bare shelves do sound appealing. Thanks for the great idea. I adore Jack Monroe, she’s so inspiring!

  13. Dear Maggie, if you want to get rid of your semolina, you should make Gnocchi Alla Romana. All you need to add is milk, one egg, a little butter, a pinch of nutmeg, and Parmesan cheese, all staple ingredients I am sure you have already on hand. They are really yummy!

  14. Here is a link to a recipe for semolina gnocchi that is fairly similar to my Italian recipe

  15. spot on as always Maggie! Love this and am totally motivated, thanks!!!

    • Hurrah! I can’t wait to get back to it… My husband wanted pizza last night (we have a really amazing proper pizzeria where I live) and I wanted to say NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO but he’s just back from 2 weeks looking after his ailing mother so I had to let him have what he wanted. But when I’m back it’s GAME ON!

  16. lol, my pantry shelf collapsed the other day which forced a bit of a tidy up. But only a little one.
    I have these great plastic baskets in the pantry to facilitate organsiation and they really help untill I start piling things on top and on top again and again. At least it makes the tidying up a bit easier but it doesnt stop me over buying and doubling or tripling up. ;(

    • That made me laugh…. and you are SO right about the trap of the neat storage. That’s how come I have so much rice, pasta, lentils etc, it’s the storage. Great point for a future posting xxx

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