The long shopping list

shopping list
Photo courtesy of Bruce Turner
We learnt last year when we were travelling that we had to make our grocery shopping last longer than 1 week, and sometimes longer than 2 weeks (not by choice, but because there were no supermarkets in coo-wee).  By the end of our 9 months of travelling we were nearly experts at shopping for food that fits into tiny spaces, is nutritious, meets a tiny budget and will last for nearly 3 weeks.  

Somehow, the cushiness of city life has taken over, and we got back to bulk food (in more ways than one), that costs more and needs us to go back to the supermarket every week.  

We knew that we could do it before, we had been pushed to the limit and survived, not only survived, but we were a whole bunch healthier, and the food lasted a whole lot longer too.  What was the difference?
We had gotten into the habit of buying wider variety of "stuff", and stuff that sits in the cupboard, only to be used here or there, but not to be used up, and we were not buying thinking of what we would need for the essential needs of a family of 5 (4 boys) over the whole of the period.

So, we sat down and looked at what our needs were, the basics.  It ended up being a fairly extensive list, however, if it was going to stop us going to the supermarket every week and "accidentally" throwing those extra incidentals in, then it would probably be worth it.  

My husband summed it up one day, when he was making scones after asking what went in them, by saying, "So what we really need is flour, butter, powdered milk and sugar, and lots of that, and then we can pretty much make anything."

Yup, that's right.  Bulk of those will see you through a long way.  Add onto that, oats, sultanas for some muesli, a whole heap of crackers, loads of pasta and rice, and red lentils, tins and tins of tomato, corn, tuna and legumes, meat* for the freezer and you start to see how the basics, the essentials of the pantry that can sit there for the 3 weeks and slowly be consumed.  

We now draw up our "lucky dip" menu (chosen by everyone in the family); 21 different dinners to choose from, ensuring that we include the all the food needed for them on the shopping list, and then these are the meals that we eat.  It is good for us because it is not too structured.  Some people like their menu suggestions more structured, if that suits, go for it.

So, how is it going?  Well, after I hauled around (by myself) the most enormously overloaded trolley (I did vow to NEVER be that woman), and after the checkout, it somehow didn't fit back into the one trolley, assistance was required by one of the checkout chicks. Yup...Me making banal conversation with a 20-something about my ridiculous amount of food.  Anyway, at that stage, I thought that it would only last 2 weeks.  A friend of mine who has 2 girls and a boy laughed when I told here and said that they go for 6 weeks!!!! WOW! I would have needed 4 trolleys.  So far it has been 3 weeks and one day and we have been to the market once for fresh fruit and vegies (normal), and bought more 12 more rolls of toilet paper and bread about every 4 days.  We are on the bottom of the barrel for the powdered milk now, with the boys whingeing about the flavour now (they didn't really complain last year).  It is probably time to go again as some of the essentials are starting to ebb away, however, some of them are surprisingly well stocked still, so time to look at the list and make sure that we are not "over-buying"

*We don't eat a heap of meat so this doesn't impact our freezer much.  We generally only eat free range chicken, and kangaroo.

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