Just over a year ago, facing increasing household bills and the cost of the weekly shop going through the roof, I made the decision to review what food I was buying and where I was buying it from.
Convenience used to be everything. For the two years I lived alone after graduating from university I would do a monthly shop online. It was a big shop. Generally costing over £80 and consisting of mostly meat and household products, I would portion things out and fill my freezer.
There would also be fresh produce included, such as fruit, vegetables and bread, but more often than not this would go off very quickly and I would have to throw it away. Due to it being cheaper to buy the big bags of carrots or peppers, I must have discarded at least half the vegetables I bought, therefore I would need to regularly top up my fridge throughout the month. My total monthly food bill would regularly exceed £100.
Another problem I encountered was that it was so difficult to buy the right amount of food for one person. It was either massive packs of chicken, huge quantities of minced beef, or ‘three for two’ offers causing me to end up with a freezer full of sausages. My diet had such little variety. [pullquote_right]Out went the monthly online shopping orders and deliveries, and in came the weekly trips to the market.[/pullquote_right]
Just over a year ago, I moved in with my boyfriend and decided to make a change to my shopping and eating habits. Out went the monthly online shopping orders and deliveries, and in came the weekly trips to the market.
We found an excellent butcher in Newcastle’s Grainger Market that sold whole chickens in a range of sizes for exceptionally low prices. A whole chicken in the supermarket always used to cost well over a fiver, coming in just the one size. This was just for the cheap chickens too. If you wanted free range or organic you’d almost double that price. At this particular market stall, all the chickens are corn fed, which makes it so juicy.
Many packs of meat are included in a ‘five for £10′ offer, which we take advantage of almost every week. Packs of chicken portions, pork steaks, bacon, belly pork, lamb chops, even small whole chickens are often included in the offer. The butchers even coat them in marinades, so you can choose from a range including oriental, hot and spicy, and garlic and herb; but you can always have it left plain, should you prefer. This offer, along with a whole chicken, usually provides enough meat for a full week – all for under £15.
The butchers are also really helpful and will happily give you advice on what meat they would recommend. Do you live on your own and just want three slices of bacon for a ‘morning after’ bacon butty? They will select and wrap them for you. Do you want a chicken spatchcocking, so that you can do your own Nando’s style dinner? They will sort that out and save you the hassle and lost fingers. Does a recipe require 300 grams of minced beef? Sorted. No more buying two packs, ending up with leftovers.
We also found the quality of the produce so much better than the supermarket. The meat is tasty and succulent, the vegetables are crunchy and full of flavour, and you can get any cheese you can imagine and more.
We still have to go to the supermarket for certain things. The bakery only sells fancy platted loaves or crusty bread that, although incredibly tasty, are not ideal for sandwiches.
Since the students returned to university in September, I have noticed an increasing number of them trying the market for their food. Maybe they have seen the light?
If you feel like trying something new this weekend, then go to your nearest indoor market, spend some time walking around and see what’s on offer. You won’t regret it, and your wallet will definitely appreciate it come the end of the month.