How can I reduce the time spent on shopping/cooking - need your top tips...

(58 Posts)
Quandry Mon 24-Feb-14 10:48:58

I have decided I simply spend too much of my time food shopping and cooking and I want to try to be more super organised about how to reduce it. Thing is, I don't want to compromise too much on food quality (e.g. don't want to start buying loads of ready meals) or spending loads more.

We're a family of four (with 2 hungry teens) and DH & I tend to share the cooking, so I don't have ultimate control hmm.

We do online shopping with Tesco, but it tends to be a bit haphazard i.e. remember to do a shop once we're really short of everything, and then usually there aren't any delivery slots for days. If DH does the online shop he just re-orders the last order, or all our favourites and we have to cobble together whatever we can - arrgh!

Ideally I'd like an online grocery service which lets me automatically book the same slot EVERY week, then just prompts me to add extra items and checkout. Does anyone do this? Or do I have to force myself to always sit down on say, a Sunday to do my online shop?

I know everyone on MN always seems to say meal plans are the way forward, but how do you know what is going to be happening in a week or 2 weeks time? It always seems that we have something unexpected happening like DS1 will need to stay late at school and then only have a 45 mins window to grab tea before going out again - and it will not be a 45 min window which co-incides with me serving dinner!

What about this whole cooking double portions and freezing? I've sometimes done this in the past for e.g. Spag Bol, and then DH just uses all the frozen stuff when it's his turn to cook, so I don't actually gain any time from this! (Perhaps I need to hide it at the back of the freezer!).
What dishes work well for freezing? What do you freeze them in? Do you cook from frozen, or have to remember to get out first thing in the morning?

If someone with super-organised, OCD tendencies would like to share their strategies please.....

DaffodilShoots Mon 24-Feb-14 11:00:16

I need these tips too!

Notify Mon 24-Feb-14 11:24:09

I have a veg box and an organic meatt box delivery. The meat comes in bulk and is kept in the freezer.

When the veg box arrives I spend aprrox 5 mins making a meal plan which will use the meat from the freezer and ensure the veg is all used up before the next weekly delivery

Then I go to Lidl and buy anything else we need (running shopping list on fridge and anything I need for the meal plan) I like Lidl because apart from the prices it's so easy. I can be in and out in 15 mins having done a full week's shopping.

If you can't get it in Lidl we don't have it and if it wasn't on the list when I went, it waits until next week. Teens soon learn to remember to put something on the list when they use the last of it! Keep popping out for extras means you spend way more than your realise and hoovers up time.

The meal plan's on the fridge so whoever's cooking knows what to cook (days can be swapped to suit if necessary)

Keep a list and add to it each time something runs out. Thats the basis of your weekly shop.

Menu plan for 5 days out of the week, but leave a couple of gaps to use up leftovers, allow for meals out, invites etc.

Book your preferred delivery slot NOW, and then start adding items to your basket.

Have some quick and easy standbys - soup and toastie night, omelettes etc

Ocado do the automatic rebooking of slots, after a few weeks it builds up a pattern of what you order and suggests what you might want.

I do smaller orders a couple of times a week to get over the "Hmm what will we all be doing next week to plan meals for", but in reality we tend to have a pretty set routine through the week and order similar stuff.

MiloBelle Mon 24-Feb-14 11:41:40

Ocado price match tesco (I think) and if you have their smart pass then you can book a regular weekly slot. You have that slot guaranteed each week. Smart pass also means free delivery. I definitely rate them!

Mrswellyboot Mon 24-Feb-14 11:48:10

I don't have teen children so maybe cannot help but what I do is keep a stash of gnocchi and ready to wok noodles, taco shells etc.

Once a fortnight I cook a huge batch of Bolognese and add courgettes etc. Then I store in little tubs in the freezer and only have to defrost. Gnocchi takes five mins. I add kidney beans and chilli for tacos etc

I do the same with chicken curry. Stew. Then you can just bung jackets potatoes in the oven.

Slow cooker is brilliant for soups and then add potatoes. Or sometimes I cook eight pork chops and add veg and casserole mix and freeze.

I find shopping in aldi / lidl reduces time as there is only one or two items to chose from.

Mrswellyboot Mon 24-Feb-14 11:50:15

sorry I also keep a magnetic notepad (Tesco have a pretty kirsty allsop one) on the fridge so dh and I write down what we are getting low on - like boxes of tissues so I have a ready to go list by Friday.

DaffodilShoots Mon 24-Feb-14 12:23:06

Yes to the aldi/lidl point. I think reducing choosing time is a part of this. I am also moving towards my Mum's "it's Friday so it's fish" style!

I did have a friend whose child had an activity night that meant he was out at their normal dinner time. They used that night to get him used to preparing his own meal: usually something like scrambled eggs. If you have a hungry teen they will still appreciate a portion of the other dinner when they get back!

Actually eggs are something I make sure I never run out of now and they can make a quick meal. Learning to make an omelette is good fun.

I meal plan on a monthly basis. I work out how many meals I need to cook and I batch cook four or five casseroles, which save time and money and those are our dinners on the three days we are all out of the house. Last one to bed checks the menu and put one out to defrost. If the meal is forgotten or not needed I have a few easy replacements in for whoever is eating. Pasta, ham, sauces, gnocchi.

Once a week I get a food delivery of fresh items for the four days we dont have freezer meals, the slot is booked each week and DH and I can add to it on our phones when something runs out. We also use Aldi for a few rhings and do a monthly run to sainsburys for items we can't get elsewhere. One week in six I don't get a delivery and browse the reduced section which can be well worth while.

Now admittedly we have two very young children so not at the stage of after school clibs or evenings out so I can appreciate that makes it more difficult.

spiderbabymum Mon 24-Feb-14 20:17:46

Ok OP tooooo complicated , Toooooo complicated

Start with meal planning .

Plan five dinners a week , one easy dinner plus one left overs or freezer meal

I started simple . Then moved onto using weekly plans ...THAT COME WITH weekly shopping lists

Then do two shops in advance online

TESCO will allow u to prebook slots

I started with this book

Austerity housekeeping ....by s Bradley

It has 8 weeks of meal plans WITH SHOPPING LISTS FOR THE ENTIRE WEEK !!!!!!!!IE no just the dinners EVERYTHING

If u are not a great cook . She has even included the recepies .

IT'S literally saved me about 3-4 HOURS a week in TIME and mu shopping bills are down ...a lot !!!

OR an alternative is the sailsbury s website

They have THREE 7 day meal plans ....with shopping lists

I HONESTLY THINK THIS IS THE WAY OF THE FUTURE

spiderbabymum Mon 24-Feb-14 20:18:22

Is that any help ?

spiderbabymum Mon 24-Feb-14 20:20:11

http://www.sainsburys-live-well-for-less.co.uk/meal-planning/weekly-plans/

spiderbabymum Mon 24-Feb-14 20:21:17

www.sainsburys-live-well-for-less.co.uk/meal-planning/weekly-plans/

Scroll down to the weekly plans

YOU CAN PRINT THEM OUT OR just order the lot from sainsbos

Stockhausen Mon 24-Feb-14 20:23:19

Buy a slow cooker!

spiderbabymum Mon 24-Feb-14 20:24:23

KIND OF agree ...we have one but often just not that happy with the results .

AnythingNotEverything Mon 24-Feb-14 20:24:50

Loads of great advice, and I'm afraid the only way to do it is to plan!

We use an app called Our Groceries which is shared across both our iPhones. Like a shared shopping list we can both add to and delete from.

We often make double lasagnes or fish pie or ragu for spag bol. We freeze them in foil trays with paper lids. We tend to defrost but I bet you could cook from frozen.

You need a quick family chat once a week to work out where everyone is and plan accordingly. If plans change, you can flex by only having planned 6 of the 7 dinners, or that person gets theirs later. Always have emergency tea in the cupboards - beans on toast, soup, individual portions if spag bol etc.

It does work. My mum always complains we've got no food in the house, but we only buy what we need and we use it all up. Saves a fortune.

spiderbabymum Mon 24-Feb-14 20:30:39

Other tips ANYTHING that you cook make double and freeze half .....good for soups , mince , stews

happyyonisleepyyoni Mon 24-Feb-14 20:31:37

Book next weeks delivery slot when u get this weeks shopping. Just check out with a couple of things in trolley. Then go back and do the shop the night b4.

I have started buying shortcuts like ready prepared veg, mash and roast potatoes. Yes it's expensive but cheaper and healthier then ready meals.

(I work ft and get home at 5.45 with a tired and whiny toddler and have to get tea for 2 adults and 3 kids ready in 30 minutes with her snapping at my ankles...)

lightningstrikes Mon 24-Feb-14 20:32:59

I bulk cook and freeze once a month using once a month meals (american website) that has lots of menu options. They give you the shopping list, preparation and cooking instructions. you can print out the labels and stick them to the food containers. It does take an evening to prep and the whole day to cook, but I love love love having it all done and only having to remember to defrost the next meal. I use the vegetarian menu and it has saved me loads of money on my food shopping. I've been doing it for a few months now and rave about it to anyone who will listen!

Bonsoir Mon 24-Feb-14 20:35:22

I also think I spend too much time shopping and cooking. My family are greedy pigs

Bonsoir Mon 24-Feb-14 20:38:20

Good eaters grin

I do an online shop for non-food items and drinks once a month. I do a supermarket shop which I have delivered once a fortnight or so. And the rest I buy fresh at the market. Batch cooking and freezing is good - I make batches of sauce for pasta etc that do six meals.

spiderbabymum Mon 24-Feb-14 20:39:45

Lightening that sounds interesting .....off to have a look

spiderbabymum Mon 24-Feb-14 20:41:45

Lightening do you have to become a member ????

ToAvoidConversation Mon 24-Feb-14 20:46:04

Meal plan with flexible things you can take out of the freezer and defrost on the night if possible (microwave). Batch cook lot. I'm only really limited by the size of my pots and freezer. Would love to do even bigger batches. Chilli, lentil bolognase, curry, bits for pizza, meatballs and tomato sauce are all good.

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