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16 February 2012

5 Fab Tips for Frugal Food Shopping

90 Second Fitness the vook It might sound odd coming from somebody living in an enchanted place like Monaco, but I do make it a habit to buy my groceries on a strict budget. Life here is not all about Ferrari’s, Fred and Fendi; there’s working-class girls in Monaco too (and no, I am not talking about ladies of the night).
Supermarkets are pretty much the same the world-over, except some of them in Monaco have this annoying habit of making you weigh your own fruit and vegetables. This has been known to cause problems at the check-out when I happen to forget about that particular protocol and am obliged to sprint back to the fruit aisle to weigh and get a special sticker for my one apple while the people behind me in the queue glare impatiently. But I digress.

I love good food. It is possible to eat really well on a budget with not that much time or effort, it’s simply a matter of changing habits. I also love reading Leo Babauta’s inspirational posts on changing habits rather than setting goals and I reckon that food shopping fits neatly into this category. Here’s five fab food shopping habits that you can easily get the hang of:

  1. Fresh foods. By fresh foods I mean buying the basic ingredients and not ready-made processed foods. I think everyone is able to cut up their own chicken into slices and put herbs on it, right? So why pay more for the privilege of some big company doing it for you and adding lots of preservative E-number ingredients along with it? Same goes for salad and veg, flavoured yoghurts, bread and other baked goods.

  2. Discount brands. Just as you are reaching out in front of you for your favorite brand, stop. Look a little further down the shelf. Can you see a rather plain looking label on the packaging of exactly the same product? Supermarket discount brands are usually a good bet (I swear by Carrefour Discount here in France) because typically they are made by the same manufacturer as the big-label brands but you’re just not paying for fancy packaging or expensive advertising. Go on, I dare you. Try the discount brand. You might even be pleasantly surprised!

  3. Compare prices. It never ceases to amaze me how few people actually do this. They reach for the same product time and time again because at one point in their hazy distant past they probably saw an advert about it and have stuck to it ever since. But take the time to compare the tickets that list the price per kilo and compare which is cheapest. It’s worth it because sometimes even a supermarket brand can be more expensive than others.

  4. Frozen foods. This may sound like a contradiction to the first tip, but I’m referring to frozen basic products rather than processed products. Frozen fish or meat is usually much cheaper than buying it fresh. Frozen vegetables are fantastic because you can just grab what you need from the freezer to help towards your "5 a day" with no waste. The vitamins of the veg are actually preserved better than if they’ve been hanging around on a supermarket shelf for ages.

  5. Less meat, more beans please! Living in carnivorous France you would be forgiven if you thought you would by lynched if you didn’t serve meat at every meal. Steak frites has got to be France’s most popular dish! But meat, especially quality beef and lamb, is outrageously expensive in this corner of the world. A very cheap but fulfilling way to substitute meat is by using different pulses. Quinoa, lentils, kidney and cannelloni beans can be dressed up in all sorts of wonderfully creative ways. Just type in your 'legume' of choice into my fave easy recipe tool, BBC Good Food website, select your cuisine of choice, calorie-range (you name it, the choices are endless!) and loads of yummy, easy-to-make, interesting recipes will pop up.

It really is about simply changing your habits. Instead of automatically reaching for those same old products, stop and compare, and take the time to think a little about the meals you're going to prepare and buy only the basic, building-block ingredients. Sigh, think of all those pennies saved. Well, I suppose you could save them. Or you could put them to good use by buying a good, quality bottle of wine to accompany your meal with - I'll leave that up to you!

Photo credit: Vook tv


Love your Frugal tips Gertie! I love eating pulses. I live in France too and agree meat is so much more expensive than the UK! Love your blog too...really cool design

@CityGatHeart xx

Thanks City Girl At Heart!

I'm still tweaking re: design, but slowly getting there! I will definitely be keeping an eye on your blog so I can apply my frugal tips to shopping for your recipes!!

x Gertie

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