“She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
"Winter is dead.”
~AA Milne, when we were very young
Thursday, 8 November 2012
Lately I have been really astounded at the rate that the cost of my weekly shop is going up. When I first moved over here 12 years ago, I had a weekly budget of £50 for the two of us and two cats . . . that seemingly paltry amount gave me a grocery cart filled with all that I needed to keep us going for a week. These days, I am lucky if I can get away with spending any less than £100, and most weeks that doesn't even include such basics as meat. I am relying more and more on my food storage, and even then my grocery costs have virtually doubled. I just don't know how family's are doing it.
Something's got to give . . . there are only two of us in this house, but we live on a fixed income and there just isn't a lot of extra funds in the budget for all of these increases in costs. The cost of our heating and electric has gone up, petrol for the car. These are things we haven't got really a lot of play with . . . kind of out of our control . . . it's become quite evident that the only way I can manage to try to make ends meet is to try to trim my grocery bills . . . not an easy task, in today's economic times. Everyone is feeling the pinch.
This means a lot more planning on my part. I need to make up weekly menus now, compile grocery lists and then stick to both . . . the menus and the shopping list. I can't allow myself to be swayed by two for one offers, or "bargain deals" for things I wasn't going to buy in the first place. I need to find the best deal for all of the ingredients which I use every day, vital staples and toiletries . . . and also for those little extras . . . because we all need a little treat once in a while.
I recently discovered a site called My Supermarket, which is an online supermarket comparison site. IT's a great place to find the best supermarket deals here in the UK, and I've been using it lately to help me find the best prices for all of my needs.
My Supermarket is the UK’s leading independent food & grocery shopping and comparison site. By using it you can find the cheapest prices at the top supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsbury, Asda, Waitrose and Ocado. What's more, it's a completely FREE and easy to use service.
They allow you to search the database and find the cheapest prices for food and groceries. You add all the products you need to the basket and My Supermarket will transfer your basket to the relevant supermarkets website to process payment.
In short . . . they do all the legwork so you don't have to. It’s a great tool to compare prices across the big supermarkets. They display all the latest special offers like buy 1 get 1 free or discounted products, making it easier to save money in one of the few areas we are able to make differences and savings.
I have taken several of my recipes here this morning and I will show you how I was able to economize, not only in the choices I have made for my weekly meals . . . but in how and where I do my shopping.
For my purposes I will show you the results of one of the ingredients of the first recipe which I wanted to cook. Macaroni with Bacon Sauce. The above slide show shows you all of the options for bacon and the prices which I was able to find at each of the shops. I was able to see which shop had the bacon I needed at the cheapest price.
*Macaroni with Bacon Sauce*
Serves 4 to 6
This is one of those old fashioned dishes that just never go out of style. Economical and easy to put together, it uses ingredients I always have in my larder, and best of all, it’s delicious! It’s also a good way to get some vegetables into kids that balk at eating vegetables, I’ve never had one turn their nose up at this yet! I like to serve it with a salad and some crusty rolls for mopping up all the sauce. I make short work of all the mincing by using my food processor. It works a treat!
¼ pound of lean bacon, cut into 1 inch squares
3 medium carrots, peeled and finely minced
3 medium onions, peeled and finely minced
1 large green pepper, de-seeded and finely minced
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 fat clove of garlic, peeled and minced
¼ cup of tomato paste (puree)
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1- 1 ½ cups of hot vegetable stock
1 pound of macaroni
Grated parmesan cheese*
Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the bacon and cook, until it starts to crisp up a bit and the fat begins to run. Add all the vegetables, mushrooms and the garlic and cook, stirring from time to time, until quite tender. Drain off any fat, if present. Add the tomato paste, seasonings and enough of the hot vegetable stock just to make a sauce that is thick enough to coat the pasta, but not runny. Let simmer for about ten minutes.
In the meantime bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Cook your macaroni according to package directions. Drain well when done and stir the hot macaroni into the sauce, mixing well to coat. Let stand a few minutes before serving. Serve hot with a healthy dusting of grated parmesan cheese on top.
*Note: if you are not fond of Parmesan Cheese, a nice cheddar goes very well also.
This screen shot shows you the results of price comparisons at each of the shops for all of the ingredients I added to my shopping basket. Note: I chose the store brand ingredients, and did not opt for special offers, as I could certainly have done, saving even more money. I kept it simple though so that I could show you how very well this site works. From the price comparisons on this recipe alone, there was a vast difference in prices for the whole list of ingredients, from as low as £11.20 at Sainsbury's to £12.74 at Waitrose.
*Cheese and Onion Soup*
This may be quick and easy but it's not short on flavour. Proof positive that you don't need complicated or expensive ingredients to make something quite, quite tasty!
4 medium sized onions, peeled and coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)
16 ounces boiling water (2 cups)
16 ounces whole milk (2 cups)
a knob of butter
a couple of handfuls of grated strong cheddar cheese (I like to use a good Farmhouse cheddar)
4 slices of buttered toast (I like a hearty whole wheat)
seasalt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
a pinch of grated nutmeg
2 spring onions, finely chopped for garnish
Place the chopped onions into a large saucepan along with the boiling water and some salt. Simmer until tender. The onions should be quite translucent and very tender. This should take about 20 minutes. Add the milk and bring back just to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for a further 15 minutes. Add the knob of butter and season to taste with some salt, pepper and a p9inch of nutmeg.
Put a slice of buttered toast into the bottom of each of four heated soup plates. Top each with some of the cheese. Ladle the hot soup over top and sprinkle each with a garnish of chopped spring onions. Serve immediately.
Serves 4 - 6
Light and fluffy, and wonderfully savoury, these dumplings float on a delicious sea of a robust and tasty tomato sauce. What’s not to like about these lovely taste tempting babies?
½ cup peeled and finely chopped onion
¼ cup finely chopped green pepper
¼ cup finely chopped celery
¼ cup butter
1 bay leaf, broken in half
28 ounces of tinned chopped tomatoes, in their juices, undrained
1 TBS soft light brown sugar, packed
½ tsp dried basil
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
For the Dumplings:
1 cup plain flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp of Italian garlic seasoning
1 TBS cold butter
1 TBS snipped fresh parsley
2/3 cup of milk
Melt the butter in a large skillet (with a lid) over medium high heat. Whenit begins to sizzle add the onion, pepper and celery. Cook, stirring, until they are tender. Add the bay leaf, tomatoes, brown sugar, basil, salt and pepper. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.
Make the dumplings as follows.
Whisk the flour, baking powder and garlic seasoning together in a bowl. Rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Stir in the parsley and then finally stir in the milk, mixing it only until mixed together and all the dry ingredients are uniformly moist.
Remove the lid from the simmering tomato mixture and drop the dumpling batter onto the top of the simmer liquid by tablespoonfuls. Cover tightly with a lid and simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes without peeking, until a toothpick inserted into one of the dumplings comes out clean and they look set and somewhat dry on top. Serve immediately, spooned out onto warm plates.
*Spicy Pork Chops With Peaches*
Oh my but these are some tasty. I just love peaches and pork is a meat that goes so very well with fruit. Tender, juicy and spicy these chops please on many levels. I simply served them with rice and a vegetable and it was a meal fit for a king!
2 TBS brown sugar
2 TBS, plus 1/3 cup orange juice
2 TBS soy sauce
3/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp mild curry powder
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 boneless pork chops
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cups peeled and thickly sliced peaches
Combine the brown sugar, 2 TBS of orange juice, soy sauce, cardamom, curry powder and pepper in a small bowl. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
Trim all the fat off of your pork chops. Place them into a heavy plastic bag or between two sheets of cling film and bash them with a rolling pin (gently) until they are about 1/3 of an inch thick and uniform in size. (this also helps to tenderize them) Place them into a shallow glass dish and pour the spice mixture over top. Allow to marinate for at least 15 minutes, or cover and place in the fridge to marinate for up to 2 hours.
Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium high heat. Shake off any excess marinade (reserving marinade) and cook the chops in the heated pan, browning well on both sides. This should take about 2 minutes per side. While the chops are browning, add the peaches to the marinade, turning them to coat them all over.
Add the remaining 1/3 cup of orange juice to the pan and bring to a simmer, stirring. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer the chops, turning occasionally,until the chops are cooked through, some 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the chops from the pan to a plate and cover loosely with foil. Keep warm.
Add the peaches and the reserved marinade to the pan. Increase the pan heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring often, until the liquid is reduced to a light sauce. Stir any juices from the resting pork chops. To serve, spoon the sauce and peaches over the chops.
*Gingered Shortbread Biscuits*
Makes 5 dozen ( or so)
These wonderful biscuits are perfection personified. Buttery. Short. Crumbly. Melt In Your Mouth. Spicy . . . perfection. Three little bites of heaven.
1 cup of butter, room temperature (225g)
1/2 cup icing sugar, sifted (65g)
3 TBS finely chopped candied ginger
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups flour, sifted (200g)
Pre-heat the oven to 300*F/150*C.
Place the butter into a bowl and cream it together with the sugar until it is light and fluffy. Beat in the ginger and the salt. Gradually work in the flour until it is all incorporated.
Divide the dough into thirds and working with one third at a time, shape into a round and roll it out 1/4 inch thick in between two sheets of wax or baking paper. Cut into shapes as desired. Place on baking sheets. Repeat until you have used all the dough, re-rolling the scraps as need be.
Bake for 17 to 20 minutes until light golden and set. Remove to a wire rack to cool
Optional: Melt about 2 ounces of dark chocolate by breaking it up and placing it into a bowl. Heat in the microwave for 20 second intervals, until completely melted. Using a fork or a small spoon drizzle the melted chocolate over the cooled biscuits. Allow to set and dry before storing in air tight containers.
I put into my shopping cart all of the ingredients which I would need to buy, that I didn't already have in my store cupboard for all of these recipes here on this page today. (I didn't add spices which I had in my spice rack already, or salt and pepper, small amounts of sugar, etc. which I would already have as a matter of course.) I didn't have to switch pages from one grocery store to the other. Supermarket.co.uk automatically added my choices to the cart in each grocery store and by that I was able to compare the end total from all of the shops and therefore determine which would give me the best prices for these particular recipes, which I feel are a fair sampling of what I would be cooking for the most part in a week. Of course I would need to add other essentials to the list, but for this comparison of only these particular recipes I could easily see which supermarket was going to give me the best prices.
I have to say I think this is a brilliant tool and I am going to use it from now on! They claim you can save up to 35% on your grocery bills and by my comparison shop, I was able to see just that. The total cost of my shopping was only £31.14 at ASDA, as compared to the most expensive which was Tesco at £36.60 (even higher than the premium shop Waitrose!)
It was easy to use. I could swap from one store to another with ease. It showed a comparison price total for all of the major shops, and the checkout was a breeze.
So, what's my end opinion of all of this?? I think it's a great site, and even if I don't actually order my groceries online for delivery, I will still be able to compare the prices and then drive to the shop which is going to give me the best all round value for my money, and in this day and age, that is something which is worth it's weight in gold. I give My Supermarket two thumbs up and a 10 out of 10 for what they offer.