How to shop “better than normal” during lockdown
We have all been asked to shop normally during the lockdown. But for many people, ‘normal’ involves going to cafes, getting takeaways, popping into the supermarket for something you have run out of and for many families, normal means wasting food. The average Kiwi family wastes $644 of food every year which they buy intending to eat but end up throwing away.
So during lockdown we would like to challenge you to shop better than normally do. It will save you money, save you time inside the supermarket, you won’t have to shop as often and you will waste less food.
Plan your meals
Some of us love the spontaneity of making meals up as we go along. But during lockdown meal planning is key. The more we reduce the number of trips we make to the supermarket, the safer we keep the people in our bubble and everyone else’s.
If you now have a stockpile of food in your pantry and freezer, try to make sure you use a mixture of tinned, fresh and frozen vegetables when planning meals. That way you are using up some of your stockpile and then buying some fresh. This will leave you more space in your fridge for items such as milk or cabbages which can take up a lot of room.
The Easy Choice Family Kai Autumn booklet is a budget meal plan which feeds a family of 4 adults for five meals a week and has some great ideas for combining fresh vegetables with tinned and frozen food. It also comes with a downloadable shopping list.
Jamie Oliver and Nadia Lim both have cooking shows running on TV One teaching simple recipes for using up pantry samples. Check out 3 simple sauces you can make with pasta from Jamie, or watch Nadia turning potato and flour into gnocchi.
Make sure to plan one back-up meal which uses ingredients you already have, so that if an ingredient you want from the supermarket has run out of stock you don’t need to hurriedly search around for new inspiration.
You can still have your takeaway night. Pizzas are easy to make. You can make your own bases from flour and yoghurt or buy them premade or use pita pockets. Hamburgers are another quick win check out our recipe for beef burgers with wedges or fish burgers with lemon slaw, or buy crumbed fish and french fries from the frozen food aisle for fish and chips.
Write a shopping list
Once you know what you’re going to eat, make a shopping list. Check for things which are running low, not just those you have run out of. Once you have made the list, take the time to reorder it in the layout of your supermarket. This will save you having to backtrack in the supermarket, crossing paths with even more people, and means you will be able to get in and out fast as possible. If you are shopping for more than one family, it is even more important to order the lists in the layout of the supermarket to make shopping easier. For most supermarkets the layout goes:
- Fresh fruit and vegetables
- Delicatessen / bakery
- Butchery and seafood
- Dried and tinned goods
- Cleaning products
- Dairy and chilled
- Frozen food
Know what’s in season and how long it will last
Cauliflower is not in season, peeps, so unless you are happy paying $10 per cauliflower or buying frozen cauliflower pieces don’t plan a meal around it. Equally, if you are on a budget you may want to avoid summer vegetables such as aubergine and capsicums which are starting to get expensive.
Good value vegetables in the supermarkets in April and May are: broccoli, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, potatoes and onions. For fruit, pears and apples are in season, and kiwifruit will start to get cheaper over the next few weeks.
In-season fruit and vegetables will last longer than those that aren’t, so if you are buying more expensive summer produce such as courgettes, nectarines etc, eat those up first. Your seasonal autumn vegetables will last longer. Check out our storage guide for which vegetables will last the longest.
How to unpack your groceries
According to the New Zealand Food Safety & Research Centre, there is no evidence so far that humans have been infected by swallowing the Covid 19 virus in or on food or drink. So despite social media videos advocating otherwise, there is no need to wash your fruit and veges in hot soapy water. The most important thing to do is to wash your hands thoroughly before unpacking your groceries and then wash them again once you have finished. Prepare and wash your fruit and vegetables as normal – wash them in cold running water and peel and cook where appropriate. Importantly, make sure they are thoroughly dry before putting them in the fridge as moisture will make them go off more quickly.
If you are buying carrots, celery or lettuce, the way you store them will determine how long they last. Carrots last 10 times longer if stored in a plastic container with a paper towel inside. Lettuce and bagged salad leaves last 4 times longer if stored in a lettuce crisper or plastic container. If you have bought meat on special, then store it in the freezer until you need to use it.
Check out the rest of our storage tips here.
Last but not least, don’t overbuy on items such as dairy and fresh fruit and vegetables which have a shorter shelf life as otherwise you could just be throwing your money into the rubbish bin. Many dairy products such as milk and cream can be frozen so if you have bought too much and you can’t use them up in time, pop them in a freezer. Hummus and dips also freeze well. Equally if your fruit is starting to go soft stew them up or make a feijoa and apple crumble. Chuck any unwanted vegetables into a pot to make soup. Check out our how to guide to turn any leftovers into a tasty soup.
If you have a top tip on how to reduce food waste during lockdown, share it with us here.