Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Distant lands are not so far away

There are 2 kinds of shoppers in the world. The first kind are those who fly by the seat of their pants (or their stomachs) and shop when hungry and never make a list and just buy what seems good at the moment and can never recall if they have any couscous at home and so buy an extra box to be on the safe side and then get home to find they have 3 unopened boxes lurking in the pantry. You know who you are. Mum, I’m talking about you here. The other sort are those who meticulously plan and make lists and think about what they have in their cupboard before they go gallivanting off to the shops and plan recipes that share ingredients so produce doesn’t go to waste. This is us.

Going on a holiday where you have access to a kitchen is wonderful because you can avoid having to spend all your dosh eating in restaurants as well as making sure the food is vegan. But you don’t want to spend ages in the kitchen on a holiday, do you? Then let Spidergrrl  come to your rescue. This is how we plan our holiday meals to save you money and time without lots of food waste.

First you need to research what sorts of supermarkets there are in the area where you are going. This will determine what recipes you can plan to take. We were lucky on our Dr Who trip that there were several small shops in the town like a Spar and that our preferred supermarket Waitrose was a bus ride away.

Next you need to look through your cookbooks and find recipes that don’t require lots of specialty ingredients. Don’t choose anything--no matter how tasty and easy it is to prepare--if it needs 1 Tablespoon of an ingredient that you would have to buy and then would never get used for the rest of the week and then couldn’t easily be gotten home and would be wasted. I had to leave behind many of our favourite recipes that needed 1 TB tamari soy sauce. Also don’t choose anything that needs just a bit of produce --like 1 rib of celery--where the rest of the celery won’t get eaten.

Look for ways to adapt what you normally do. We love cowboy beans but British cowboy beans have a thin runny tomato sauce  not the rich molasses sauce we think of from Louisiana baked beans. At home when we open a tin of cowboy beans we add cider vinegar, molasses and grey poupon mustard to get it a bit of a kick but it would be impractical to bring or buy containers of those for 1 spoonful each. So what to do? We bought a small bottle of HP Sauce--kind of an A1 type sauce and used that with the beans. Not quite as good as our home beans, but definitely gave them some flavour to pep them up. Same with “cheeze” sauce. I do an awesome cashew cheese sauce based on Dreena Burton’s recipe for Vegveta. But you need my vitamix to make it as well as 1 TB tahini and 2 tsp cider vinegar. But we solved that problem by making a few substitutions. I used finely ground almond meal and increased the lemon juice to make up for the lack of vinegar and left out the tahini. It was not quite as rich as our home version but it tasted good.

Bring stuff with you. I packed my stick blender. It was great for whipping up sauces or pureeing soup. I have these little Rubbermaid pots about the size of yogurt pots. For each recipe I premeasured the herbs and spices into the pot, labeled them and taped the lid closed. They were easy to pack and saved having to bring 20 spice jars with you. I also packed ½ cup millet in a small ziplock bag, ¾ cup barley couscous in a bag as well as 1 ½ cups wholemeal spelt pasta in a larger ziplock. That way we didn’t have to buy bags of those and either throw away the rest or try to come home with opened bags. There would be nothing worse than getting home and opening your suitcase to find all your clothes covered in millet. And when empty, those bags could be storage for other things. After we ate the pasta I used the large ziplock bag to store some lettuce that I had bought.

Be flexible. I know if you have planned it can be hard to deviate, but you don’t quite know what you’ll get when you use someone else’s kitchen. I had planned to make a 3 bean soup that was big enough to eat over 2 meals but it was apparent the moment I surveyed the kitchen this would never work. There was not a cooking pot big enough to house the soup. I would have to attempt to cook it in at least 2 pots--perhaps 3 pots. So, deep breath and adapt, adopt and improve. At the supermarket we bought 2 tins of Amy’s lentil soup and at one of the local shops I spent 75p on a box of Cajun spices and bought a lime and presto! Using a tin of chickpeas invented a whole new recipe that was so good we’ll be eating it again this week. And I used the empty spice pots to carry home the rest of the Cajun spices. Bonus.

Make a shopping list. Write it down and use it. When we arrived we brought the list to the local shops and bought everything we could so we didn’t have to carry it on the bus. If you are willing to go with different brands than you normally buy then you can get lots more locally. In town we got most of the tinned beans, tinned tomatoes, hummus, HP Sauce and fruits and vegetables--apples, oranges, bananas, onions, potatoes, peppers, limes, lemons, carrots, frozen peas and bagged salad leaves. . Then we bussed into Hythe to buy more specialty items--health food cereal, multi grain wheat free crisp bread, Oat milk, chocolate Oat milk, soy yogurt, tenderstem broccoli, brown basmati rice etc. We only had to do the big shop by bus once--everything else we just topped up locally.

So here is what we ate:
The night we arrived and were tired--Amy’s lentil soup over brown rice. Served with roasted broccoli.

Sexy Mexi Millet--black beans and tin of chopped tomatoes and sweetcorn with chilli powder, lime juice and millet. Served with thickened yogurt sour cream.

Pasta and red sauce with cheeze sauce--homemade tomato sauce (tin tomatoes, tomato paste and Italian herbs) with cheese sauce made from almonds. Served with roasted broccoli.

Black eyed peas in curried yogurt--black eyed peas and slow cooked onion and pepper with a curried yogurt sauce over brown rice. I used the other half of the yogurt for this. Served with roasted broccoli.

Roast potatoes and cowboy beans. Just what it says. Served with salad.

Moroccan barley couscous with onion bhajis. --couscous with Moroccan spices and dried apricots, spring onions, red pepper, chickpeas and frozen peas and onion bhajis on the side. That was a bonus. I had planned to buy some falafel at the Waitrose but one of the local shops had onion bhajis in the freezer section. They are great because they are gluten free--made with chickpea flour. 

Cajun chickpeas with rice -- Chickpeas, red onion and a pepper in a sauce of lemon juice, lime juice, tomato paste and Cajun spices roasted in the oven over rice with peas and carrots on the side.

We spent no more than we would for a week’s worth of groceries and ate like royalty and I didn’t feel like a kitchen wench. Hoorah!


  1. I got tired just reading about all your efforts. Think I'll just take my chances on what's available when I get there! :-)

  2. p.s. Lynda, my former housemate, was the worst at bringing home extra stuff because she was afraid we were out. And it had to stay on the counter, too, or she couldn't find it. I have to say that my pantry/larder is much better now. Still not up to HTTP standards though. Not gonna happen.

    and----you didn't have to tell me you were describing me in the first paragraph-----anyone who knows me would recognize my M.O.