Wednesday, 25 August 2010

New Shopping Regime

I don’t do the bulk of the fruit and veg shopping these days. I worked out that when I drove up to Seaton Delaval every 3 or 4 weeks I tended to buy a lot to save going up there again too soon (petrol is currently £112.9 per litre). I’d aim to go every 2-3 weeks at most and would spend £15-20 each trip. Then it would be a race to eat all the food before it became too sad. Of course I froze anything we weren’t going to manage, rather than throw it away, and it does get used, but we prefer to cook from fresh as much as possible. 

It occurred to me that, being over 60, Bill could go into Newcastle on the Metro for free and could shop at Grainger Market, where the prices are very competitive.  Well, the bus is free; an annual Metro pass costs all of £12 for senior citizens. He often takes his bike on various excursions as well, but prefers not to carry heavy loads, as it isn’t as much fun. Also, he just bought a bright yellow 2002 Tour de France cycling top; carrying a backpack of veg just doesn’t fit that image, does it? He seems to spend about £10 to fill his backpack and shops about three out of four Fridays.

Bill is perfectly competent to buy useful things in sensible quantities. I make the point of saying this as I know not everyone is; Jane knows what I’m talking about. His reward is that he stops to enjoy a pasty from Gregg’s while he’s out. I tell him if we need anything specifically, e.g., tomatoes for my salad lunches, onions which we use constantly or an aubergine for a recipe I’m going to try. I leave the rest to him and then get a pleasant surprise when I put away the shopping. Knowing he will be going most Fridays -- he cut his hours back to 4 days a week about a year ago -- he doesn’t buy as much and the fridge is less crammed. If I ask him to check specific prices, eg for salmon steaks, he will bring that information – and sometimes the fish - home. 

The downsides are that that Grainger Market shops don’t give receipts and so I don’t know the specific price per unit (pound or kilo) that he pays for things and so can’t directly compare, but my impression is that the food bill is slightly lower all the same and of course the transport cost is nil. I also miss seeing the very cheerful women who work up at the Seaton Delaval shop, but Jane and Chris will be coming to visit next month and we’ll go up and buy the 25 kilogram (55 pound) bag of potatoes for the very silly price of £3-4. It will be nice to have potatoes again. 

We've yet to empty the pantry, though admittedly I've re-stocked a few items we use routinely.  As we run out of anything, it goes on a list.  When we start to run out of anything critical, like milk, then I go to the supermarket and do my best to only buy what is on that list.  We’ll try this new routine for a few months and see how it goes.

One shock I did receive after using up all the honey, which I like on my toast in the mornings, was that the price had rocketed up.  I seem to remember reading about sticker shock being one of the side effects of frugality.  I'd heard that bee populations were struggling to find habitat, but as our gardens are full of them, I wasn't too worried; I wasn't quite ready to believe that all the other bees had dropped dead in the last month.  The store brand was now £5.53 instead of £2/kg.  I bought the generic 'mixed fruit jam' (£1.12/kg) instead.   Luckily, the old generic honey reappeared on my next shopping trip, so I get to enjoy honey again.  The jam isn't bad, so I may buy that occasionally as well.  Though I am a creature of habit and have my preferences, I'm not averse to having a variety of things at breakfast time.

I think Bill enjoys this new shopping task, not to mention the pasty, and I enjoy him bringing home surprises. Funny how such small things entertain us.

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