So when I am not cooking or writing recipes or being a responsible custodian of two small humans, I am probably at the store buying food – again.
Friends, I feel like I spend ALL my money on food and there is never anything in the fridge. How does this happen? Truly, some days I just can’t even.
So unless you are really oblivious to prices and what things cost, you may have noticed that everything edible has pretty much quadrupled in price. Or, to put things in terms my Dear Husband can understand; when you do your little stroll through Tannie Woolie on a Saturday morning, you may be leaving with the same amount of bags but you have more than likely spent twice the amount of money than you did say 4 months ago.
My heart breaks every time I am at the till. Not for me, but because every time I am paying more, it makes me wonder how people earning so very little are able to put food on their tables every single day of the month.
Between the soaring food costs and the drought I feel invested in – no scratch that –I feel absolutely compelled to shop better. Not in a sense of making sure that I spend less, although let’s be honest that would be great too, but in the sense that I want us as a family to become more mindful of what we buy, how we use it and equally importantly, what we can do without.
Shopping better means that I have to plan better. Now, I have never planned dinner meals for the week before say 5 pm on the actual night they are needed, so obviously this is not an area of strength for me. But one must try.
This past month I decided to concentrate on doing better with regards to our meat and so decided to buy a rather delicious sounding reasonably priced meat hamper from my butcher. We have an amazing butchery here in Paarl and if you are buying your meat from a supermarket, just stop it. Go get great meat at better prices from a butcher.
Anyway, just to confirm that I know exactly what I am talking about when it comes to food, I managed to quite unexpectedly buy about 12 kgs of meat for a family of four in one go. It made me ever so grateful for my big freezer. Included in the meat hamper were packs of beef goulash, beef stew and lamb stew, all great cuts for slow cooking but to be honest, not ones I buy often. When you only start cooking dinner at five or six pm these are not really cuts that can work well for dinners on the fly.
But since I now had them, I decided to make the most of them and I have to say that am pretty well pleased with the dinners we have enjoyed this past month. One trick I learned was to cook two dinners in one go. I make one usual Sam style super quick throw it all together kind of dinner, while at the same time I get a dish like this Beef Stew with Gremolata on the go for the next night. (I pop stews into my Wonderbag for the night.) Turning less expensive cuts of meat into awesome dinners the night before we actually need them makes me feel like Martha Stewart, all prepared and housewifely.
Before I have to head out to the store again, do you have any food cost saving kind of tips for me? What are you doing to ward off depression and misery at the tills? Tell me how you do it.
- 500 ml (2 C) prepared beef stock
- 10 ml (2 t) mustard
- 440 ml (1¾ C) draught beer
- 200 g bacon, diced
- 1 onion, chopped
- 5 ml (1 t) herbs de Provence
- 2.5 ml (½ t) nutmeg
- 2.5 ml (½ t) ground cumin
- 1 kg beef stew, cut into even sized pieces
- 30 ml (2 T) cake flour
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 45 ml (3 T) butter
- 250 g Portabellini mushrooms
- zest of 1 lemon grated
- 80 ml (⅓ C) chopped Italian parsley
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- Bring the beef stock, mustard and beer to the boil, remove from the heat and set aside.
- Heat a medium sized heavy bottomed saucepan.
- Add the bacon and for a few minutes until the bacon begins to cook.
- Add the onions to the pan and fry until the onions begin to soften.
- Stir in the herbs de Provence and the spices.
- Add the meat and toss well in the pan such that the meat is coated in the bacon fat and spices.
- Stir in the flour.
- Add the hot stock and stir to mix.
- Bring the stew to the boil and season well.
- Turn the heat down and simmer for about 2-3 hours or until the meat is tender. Alternatively, transfer to a Wonderbag or slow cooker and cook until the meat is tender.
- Heat the butter in a frying pan.
- Add the mushrooms and toss to cook for a few minutes until just tender.
- Season the mushrooms with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Add the mushrooms to the stew.
- To make the gremolata, simply mix together the lemon zest, chopped parsley and the crushed garlic.
- Serve the beef stew hot with the gremolata sprinkled over the top.