Tom Aitkens food shopping tips

I’m lucky I eat at work and only have to shop at the weekend, so my fridge is very rarely fully stocked. There’s nothing more I like to do at the weekend than go out and look for new tastes and foods and then take my time pottering around in the kitchen. You wouldn’t think I’d find it at all relaxing, but I do.

None of us likes to do the weekly shopping, but let’s take up the challenge to make it more exciting. I find shopping with other people a real help, so why not take along your partner, children or friends and really get them involved? Most importantly, talk about what you’d like to make and eat. We’ve all got very different ideas for what we want from our meals. Believe me, you’ll learn something from it.

On the whole, I’d say that we all shop with our eyes shut and just load the trolley from a shopping list, walk the aisles and automatically reach for the things we get all the time, file into an orderly queue at the till, pay and walk out.

Whatever day you do your shopping on and whereever you decide to do it, there are a few key things to remember. Always spend within your bud get and cook within your means and the time that you have. If you don’t, you’ll end up stressed and not enjoying the results.

Don’t just blindly walk along try having a browse along the aisles or stalls first. You may see something you’ve never used before or that inspires you. And if you’re at a farmer’s market, don’t be afraid to ask about what’s in the food and to have a taste. Our producers are so enthusiastic about what they do and can give you some great ideas and tips.

If you aren’t a confident cook, but are willing to try something out for the first time, why not experiment with something straightforward, such as a homemade stew or roast? Stews can be marinated the day before and cooked very slowly, and are the best way to use a cheaper cut of meat. There’s nothing better than coming home to the delicious smell of a slow cooking stew or casserole wafting from the oven.

Once you’ve had your first look round, think about what you’d like to buy and build the rest of it around the main dish. If you’re pressed for time, then get something that takes minutes rather than hours. For example, some fish or meat that could be lightly marinated in herbs or spices and then grilled can take minutes to prepare and cook. Just add some sautéed spring greens with a fresh salad.

Involve family and friends in the cooking it’s so much better to have people helping and you’ll all learn from each other. I think it’s so important to make it fun. And there’s nothing like getting everyone to share the food around a table instead of eating alone.

This month, try to think of the things that you’ve been too scared to try or just walked past before and give them a chance. Until you’ve tried them, you’ll never improve or pro-gress in the kitchen. And you could just be missing out on something delicious.

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