When we came to NZ a few weeks ago I was assigned a role of a chef which I gladly accepted as I like to cook- mostly because I am bit of a control-freak when it comes to eating. I like to know what goes into my meals and I constantly try to perfect my recipes. So far it’s been an interesting journey of daily meal planning- the biggest challenge being to make each dish healthy and hearty on a moderate budget. I pride myself in being a thrifty grocery shopper and follow some tips that help me to make smart choices when deciding what to put in that buggy.
- · Plan your weekly menu and write a list of ingredients. Bundle your items in categories like Produce, Meats and so on. It will make your shopping experience a lot easier as you won’t be browsing through aisles mindlessly but target needed shelves. Who likes to spend hours in the store? Nobody!
- · Buy generic brand pantry staples like canned goods, flour, oil, condiments, spices, rice- usually they cost slightly cheaper but taste as good as a name brand goods.
- · Splurge on selective items of your choice. For me it is dark chocolate and bread ( I like a good European style bread which is dense and rich in flavor). For others it will be imported cheese or aged vinegar. Whatever’s your fancy – it’s worth paying premium for things you enjoy consuming in small quantities.
- · Lean ground beef is a great source of protein and there are endless recipes to incorporate it in your diet at least a few days a week. Having lived in different countries I can tell you that pretty much everywhere ground beef has an attractive price point.
- · Cook oats for breakfast. Oats are healthy and wallet friendly, especially when bought in bulk (I prefer rolled oats to instant oatmeal type). I make overnight oats by soaking oats in milk of choice and yogurt and adding nuts, seeds and fruit later. If you prefer a hot brekky- oats can be cooked in a jiffy.
- · Buy local and seasonal veggies and fruits. When we lived in Costa Rica we were gorging on pineapples, when we lived in Australia we were indulging in mangoes and now I am hooked on kiwis. Beware of two things though: in some instances local can mean paying more and it tends to spoil faster. I learned it the hard way here but discarding unused spinach and lettuce after a third day of purchase.
- · Make your own trail mix. It is a great snack when peckish and can be easily made by purchasing your favourite ingredients in bulk. This way you also avoid hidden sugars and oils which is often a case with pre-packaged store bought mixes. I love a combination of almonds, walnuts, dried cherries, pepitas and dark chocolate chips. Enjoy in moderation!
- · Follow food blogs to generate ideas and discover new unexpected food combinations. I pin my newly found ideas on Pinterest- my virtual cook book http://www.pinterest.com/tinkerbella8/foodie/
- · Make your own smoothies- it is a shame to pay for something that will cost you a fracture of a price at home. Plus it’s a good way to salvage fruits that are about to go bad like bananas, berries, pears, peaches and so on. Experiment with your base- I opt for kefir instead of yogurt for a tangy flavor and use add almonds instead of a protein powder.
JPhoto credit: www.femalefirst.co.uk