I’m sure to most people, food shopping is simply a necessary chore. Not me. As a bonafide foodie, it is one of my favourite things to do. I prefer open markets because having grown up in Nigeria, I want to be able to touch, feel and if possible smell the produce unhindered by a plastic wrap or a sealed can. I enjoy conversing with the shopkeeper, butcher or greengrocer and sometimes they even offer you advise on the best way to cook a joint of beef, or steam a vegetable. I love the sounds of an open market, the snippets of conversations you can overhear, the occasional laugh or giggle, and even delicious gossip. You won’t believe the kind of things I’ve overheard. At supermarkets, if you notice, everyone seems to move around like robots, all the stores look alike, zero personality, almost non-existent personal experience, whether you are in a store in Lewisham or Londonderry, the experience is the same. With open markets, each visit is different; your fellow shoppers are usually friendlier and more engaging, the shop attendants are more helpful. Yes it may not be as tidy or neatly arranged as a supermarket, but the atmosphere is alive, buzzing, and jovial.
So what do I buy when I go food shopping? I’ll like to add that I have a tall freezer and another tall fridge freezer. 11 freezer compartments between them so visualise the amount of storage space I have.
Take a deep breath, here goes.
- I buy all kinds of meat you can think of from the butchers (supermarket meat, I’m not a huge fan),
- fish (catfish, tuna/swordfish, sea bass), seafood (shrimp, king prawns, lobster, mussels, squid, crab, periwinkle),
- vegetables (Nigerian veggies – ugwu, water leaf, soko, oha, atama, ukazi, efinirin, ewuro, ewedu), a carton of tomatoes, red and green bell peppers, chillies, yam, plantain, okra.
Yes you read all of that correctly. I buy all that and much more, and it takes hours to shop, the long drive home, and more hours to clean and store in the freezer, in meal sized portions (to prevent defrosting and re freezing). Each cabinet is arranged by content. It’s a whole Saturday’s work.
During the week I make a list and take a trip to the dark side (supermarkets, lol), and stock up on ingredients for my food fusion or foreign dishes. I must admit I’m addicted to seeing a full freezer. It makes me smile to know, I can think of anything I want to eat, and I have 80 – 90% of the ingredients right in my freezer or store. If I have to entertain friends or cook for that special someone, I don’t have to go into panic mode.
So, that is my experience with planning my food shop. On the back of that, here are handy tips to help you on your next food shop
- Look into your fridge, freezer, pantry, store cupboard etc, and find out what you already have. There is nothing more annoying than buying what you already have, when you could have spent that money on something you don’t have
- Make a shopping list. I can’t stress this enough. A shopping list helps you determine how much to spend
- While making the shopping list, pencil out what you are going to cook with those ingredients. Shopping for food without a plan is not only wasteful financially, but you end up storing food items you probably don’t need for months on end, taking up space in your freezer, pantry or store cupboard. Your food shopping must have a purpose.
- Have a budget, either weekly, monthly or tri-monthly. it not just helps you to plan financially, but you can see which items you buy more on average and you begin to ask yourself why. if your cooking or food is getting boring, you are probably buying more of the same types of ingredients, when you can buy less and have move variety.
- Get to the market early, to get in on the good stuff, and possibly bargain with the sellers if possible. When the afternoon rush sets in, this becomes more difficult.
- If you are heading to familiar markets, shop in sections i.e. buy everything you need from one section before moving to the next. All that walking around aimlessly for hours, doesn’t serve you well
- Try to shop with faces you recognise, as you tend to get better deals most times
- Don’t food shop in a hurry, you will end up with a mismatch of things. Unless it is a quick pop to the market, for proper bulk shopping, set aside a few hours.
So, what do you get up to when you go food shopping? I’ll love to hear your stories.