What is Operation Jam Jar?

Operation Jam Jar is all about getting back to basics in the kitchen.

Check out my efforts at cooking from scratch - cakes, soups, biscuits

Learn how to make things that you would normally buy at the supermarket - wraps, ice cream, pizza bases

Try to live a more 'country' lifestyle in the city - making your own jams or relish

Get the skills to enjoy cooking in a thrifty way, and have a bit of fun while you do it

Sunday, August 29, 2010

7 things you don’t need to buy at the supermarket

When it comes to being thrifty, it’s not just about buying cheap cuts of meat or home brand jelly.  You can save money before you even get to the supermarket. 

Over the past few years we’ve all been brainwashed to think that cooking has to be quick & easy, and this has led to the proliferation of short cut products.  Many of them are supposed to save you time, but this usually comes at a cost: namely the price of the product & the nutritional value.  Here’s just a couple of ways that you could be saving each week.  They may take an extra few minutes, but they tend to be tastier, better for you, and cheaper too. 

1.  Pasta Sauce – at $2-6 per jar it’s much cheaper to just simmer down a can of diced tomatoes, add some herbs & spices, and a chopped onion if you fancy it

2.  Pre-Chopped Vegetables – ESPECIALLY the new McCain frozen pre-chopped potatoes. Those actually make me angry.  You’re paying extra for a machine to cut them, package them up & then market them to you. Just cut them yourself people, it takes no time at all and costs a ton less. 

3.  Meal Base Sauce Sachets – I used to be a massive fan, but once you get the hang of a few basics it’s really easy to do without these.  One of the tastiest sauces for a stir-fry is a bit of honey, soy sauce & garlic.  Or just use oyster sauce, it’ll last you for about 10 stir-fries, and costs about as much as one of those sauce sachet thingos.  For something like burritos or tacos, a mixture of chilli powder, salt & pepper, turmeric and cumin works really well as a dry marinade for your chicken or beef.   

4.  Dips – when you know what goes into some of the simplest dips like hommus and tzatziki you will see how much you can save by doing it yourself.  Much healthier too, as you can use yoghurt for creaminess instead of, well, cream.  Make tzatziki by chopping up a small cucumber and a bunch of mint and mix it into a tub of natural yoghurt.  Add a teaspoon of minced garlic, a squeeze of lemon, salt & pepper and you’re good to go. 

5.  Biscuits – it’s nice to have them as a treat & bake them yourself. Here’s a really quick and easy biscuit that you can whip up in no time – coconut macaroons.  Mix together a cup of coconut, half a cup of caster sugar, a tablespoon of cornflour, a pinch of salt and one egg.  Roll little balls of the mixture and place onto a tray lined with baking paper and bake at 180 degrees for 8-10 minutes.  Yum.  

6.  Ice-Cream – again, probably worth making yourself if you’re having it as an occasional treat.  I talked about a recipe for making strawberry ice cream last week.   Even easier is a chocolate ice cream that I made yesterday – melt 200g of dark chocolate and add it to 300ml double cream that you’ve whipped until thick. Freeze for 4 hrs.

7.  Frozen Desserts – you’ll get loads more love & appreciation from your friends & family if you serve up even a half-tasty home made apple pie than if you serve a frozen one.  A home made dessert really is worth the effort.  You could even just serve a few types of home made ice cream as a dessert, it’s really that tasty

Once you get the hang of it you might even start to wonder why you used to buy these things in the first place…well, maybe...

Have you got any tips on how to save at the supermarket?

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