‘Eating Well for Less’ is the third in a series of blogs setting out the lessons I have learned from lockdown. Previous blogs in this series have looked at the need for information and new ways to communicate.
Eating Well For Less
Well it was forced upon us but boy has it been a good lesson! A refocus on buying local, healthy home cooking, I’ve lost weight and we have saved money!
When reading this, remember that there are only two of us in this household, Barnet Boy and me. As pensioners, we work part-time to supplement our income. I can only speak for our experience in relation to eating well for less.
Limited Visits To Supermarkets
The lockdown in Italy started on 9 March 2020 and lasted in total for two months, one week and two days though it seemed longer. At the time of writing we are still gradually emerging out of lockdown but still with lots of restrictions.
Grocery Shopping Pre-Lockdown
Before lockdown we would go out a couple of times week to buy bread and groceries. Of course, we never just bought bread or the few vegetables that we needed. It was inevitable that the odd special offer would find its way into our shopping trolley.
Similarly, if I wanted to make something for dinner and was an ingredient short I would just pop out and buy it (along with a couple of other things that would catch my eye). All that changed when only one of us was allowed out once a week to go grocery shopping.
Grocery Shopping During Lockdown
In lockdown I went to the big supermarket once every three weeks and then in between times BB went to our local shop in Paciano once on each of the other weeks to pick up fresh fruit and vegetables. Using the local shop reminded us that we could shop more locally. The range of produce is limited, but for essentials such as yeast, flour and fresh goods it makes sense to only pop down the road. Plus there are fewer temptations!
Given the different approach to grocery shopping, I had to plan our meals much more carefully. We are both vegetarians, I eat predominantly vegan, and I had to really think about how I was going to use the food I was buying as it was going to have to last longer. I actually started meal planning several days ahead. Whereas I used to get up in the morning and cook whatever took my fancy, my choice became dictated by available ingredients and things that needed using up.
Scarily, for me anyway, I would start writing a shopping list a few days before I went out. This is the woman who wings it when shopping. Having to wear a mask and gloves and with limited numbers allowed in the supermarket really focused the mind. You just want to get in and get out fast. I found I actually stuck to the shopping list and only a few additional items made their way home. I spent a lot longer looking at the use by date on, for example, soya burgers for BB, to get as long as possible. The purchases of this one visit would have to last a while!
We Found We Saved Money
The cost of the shopping per trip was considerably more than before – about a third more I would guess. But that was for a once in three week visit rather than weekly so overall we didn’t spend as much. Just as well given that our incomes have reduced as a result of Covid-19.
What I was actually buying changed too. Instead of buying bread and cookies, for example, I was buying the ingredients to make them and more besides. And after a few weeks of this we realized we were actually eating well for less money than we were spending previously.
Couldn’t You Have Had Your Groceries Delivered?
Grocery delivery is not prevalent here in Umbria like it is in the UK. Whereas in the UK finding a delivery slot became a real issue during the lockdown there, having any delivery would be a luxury here. Gradually, some retailers introduced a delivery service as time went on though few would come to us as we live in the countryside.
For those unable to get out during the lockdown, perhaps high risk or those with positive test results, Local volunteers in Paciano would collect food orders from the local store and deliver them. There was a real sense of community helping each other. One of the reasons I love living here of course.
Couldn’t You Have Had Some Takeaway Meals?
There were no ‘pizza deliveries’ or equivalent during the first half of the lockdown as it was not common practice here. As the lockdown got longer and longer, gradually many restaurants were allowed to start doing takeaway for collection or home delivery. That meant towards the end of the lockdown we were able to get the occasional treat! But certainly for the first month we were on our own.
Time For Home Cooking
Our food cupboards have been organised to within an inch of their lives and nothing is being wasted as food is used before it reaches its ‘use by date’. Gone are the days when there are large numbers of items lurking in the back of my cupboard that we should have eaten ages ago. Packets of dried items that I bought in case we got snowed in over winter used to be the worst culprits!
I am doing a lot of cooking, eating more than I ever have and have lost weight (go figure). I make our own bread, cookies and deserts, including vegan ice cream. As well as our usual meals I have made curry, pizza and some old favourites from the UK like ‘bubble and squeak’.
The only technical hitch I encountered was no weighing scales and no food mixer. I switched to cup measurements and guessing LOL. Also, a lot of wrist work with a hand whisk where necessary (avoided where possible – think arthritis).
Once I got into the swing of doing it, it takes no time at all to make a loaf of bread every few days and the cookies are addictive (particularly the walnut and sultana ones, she says brushing crumbs off her keyboard). Having control of the ingredients means we are eating really healthy food. No additives or preservatives. Low fat, no sugar overdose. But it all tastes great and as the lockdown has eased we have agreed I will continue with the home cooking as we are enjoying the food and saving money. We like eating well for less!
Time to Experiment
The time stuck in the house also gave me a chance to experiment with alternatives to cows milk. This is the subject of a separate blog, but broadly when you are intolerant to soya, almonds, oats and coconut, you have to think outside the box to find something to make a decent cappuccino with if you want to avoid cows milk. The answer, by the way, is cashew nut milk. Watch out for that blog!
The next blog in this series of lessons learned from lockdown looks at how I have adapted as an artist specializing in photo art – who isn’t allowed to go far to take photos.
Before you go
My name is Dorothy Berry-Lound an artist and writer. You can find out more about my art and writing at https://dorothyberryloundart.com.
Thank you for reading!