My shopping essentials (and how I calculate recipe costs)

I’m often asked how I cost my recipes – so thought that it would make sense to list the products I buy in one place, as a handy storecupboard or shopping guide. Obviously this os tailored to my household, our budget, what we buy and use – we are two adults and two children after all! But I hope it helps as a rough idea as to where those 6p carrots and individual cloves of garlic come from… I also thought it would help to track prices – as when I started writing this blog, stock cubes were 10p for 10, and this morning as I type this, they are 25p for 10 – so the prices on my recipes date quickly, but are correct at the time of going to print.

All prices are Sainsburys own brand or Basic range where available, unless otherwise stated, and this list will be updated with every new budget, costed recipe I add. I’ll go back through the archives and compile it from older recipes too, and update their prices where necessary, but that is weeks of work – over 200 recipes to edit and recalculate – so bear with me!

Here’s what I buy and in what quantities, to try to get the most out of my shopping:

Fruit and vegetables:

Onions, 1.5kg bag (average 15 onions):
95p (Nov 14)

Garlic, 2 bulbs (average 10 cloves per bulb):
35p (Nov 14)

Carrots, 1.5kg bag (average 20 assorted sized carrots):
85p (Nov 14)

Kale, 200g:
£1 (Nov 14)

Frozen spinach, 1kg:
£1.50 (Nov 14)

Basics sultanas, 500g:
85p (Nov 14)

Dairy and eggs:

Basics mozzarella, 125g:
50p (Nov 14)

Basics cream cheese, 300g:
75p (Nov 14)

Basics hard strong cheese, 200g:
£2.50 (Nov 14)

Free range eggs, 6:
£1 (Nov 14)

Basics salted butter, 250g:
98p (Nov 14)

Basics lard, 250g:
45p (Nov 14)

Tinned goods:

Baked beans in sauce, 420g:
30p (Nov 14)

Tinned tomatoes, 400g:
40p (Nov 14)

Tomato purée, 200g:
50p (Nov 14)

Pasta, rice and flour etc:

Whole meal flour, 1.5kg:
£1.10 (Nov 14)

Spaghetti, 500g:
35p (Nov 14)

Allinsons dried active yeast, 125g:
65p (Nov 14)

Self raising flour (Basics range), 1.5kg:
55p (Nov 14)

Plain flour (Basics range), 1.5kg:
55p (Nov 14)

Herbs and spices:

Mixed dried herbs, 13g:
40p (Nov 14)

Chicken stock cubes, 10:
25p (Nov 14)

Ground cinnamon (Fairtrade), 45g:
£1 (Nov 14)

Kitchen store cupboard:

Vegetable oil, 3l:
£4 (Nov 14)

Fairtrade white granulated sugar, 1kg:
90p (Nov 14)

Basics table salt, 750g:
25p (Nov 14)

Sunflower seeds, 100g:
85p (Nov 14)

I’ll update this as I publish new, costed recipes on my blog, but thought that for now it would help to build a storecupboard and explain the process I go through to cost my recipes. For up to date prices on the places you shop, see http://www.mysupermarket.co.uk

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/agirlcalledjack

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Categories: Blog

27 Comments »

  1. It’s great that you go back and recalculate the prices of older recipes. Have you thought about using a spreadsheet to recalculate them all quickly (although setting it up may take a while). You can have the ingredients list for every recipe and a master shopping list where you put the up to date prices of every ingredient – then the spreadsheet can calculate the cost of each item on every recipe for you!

  2. Oh…. the OCD in me says you could do your recipes on a spreadsheet… with ingredients listed and prices updating automatically. No idea how but it sounds fun! Seriously, prices are always going to be out of date and you shouldn’t worry about it. You do a great job giving people ideas of how to eat well on a budget already.

  3. Why not use a spreadsheet? Then you could change the price of e.g. a tin of tomatoes and all recipes using tinned tomatoes would change.

  4. Curious about baked beans in sauce – here in the US that describes red-brown beans (pinto? red beans?) that swim in a sweetened and often barbecue flavored goo, sometimes,with bits of … ‘bacon’. I buy a variety of canned beans in their cooking juice (I know it’s cheaper to buy dried, but who has time to cook those?) so they get all their flavor from what I do with them. Curious about the British baked beans,

    • Hello, I think the most popular beans in the UK are probably Heinz, although there are many other brands and most supermarkets do own brands too. On my tin of Heinz beans the ingredients listed are Beans (I always think they are haricot, but I may well be wrong), tomatoes, water, sugar, vinegar, cornflour, salt, spices and herbs, so a sort of tomato sauce, but very smooth. Hope that helps.

    • british baked beans are most often haricot beans (also known as navy beans) and most supermarkets here in the uk cook them in what they call “a rich tomato sauce” very similar to the american versions. however when i was in the u.s. i noticed that baked beans were often more sugary, or enthused with bbq flavour. we don’t usually have bacon in ours but sometimes you can find sausages! these are usually priced up.
      i think jack has selected these kind in her daily shopping because most supermarkets over here provide an “essential range” or “value range” usually including baked haricot beans in sauce. if you can find a cheaper u.s. alternative for example bags of dried runner beans i’d go for it!

      Source: a lifetime of baked bean enthusiasm

    • Mary: American in the UK here!

      When Jack says baked beans, she means the plainest version of baked Beans, or pork and beans, that you can find. if you are looking for a brand, Campbells or Heinz are national, and Heinz is the same as the brand here ( but I bet you anything the US version has more sugar!). A cheaper regional or store brand will do if your purpose is the rinse them to use as cooked beans in Jack’s recipes. When you wash off the mild, thin, orange colored sauce, the beans will be small and white. In some parts of the US they are called ‘navy’ beans if you buy them dried, in other parts with Italian immigrants they are ‘cannelini’ and you may be able to get canned cannelini beans in stores with a really wide selection of canned beans.

    • As a Bostonian who has lived in the UK for 20+ years, the differences are the beans: UK uses Haricot and US traditional Boston baked use Navy beans which are a larger variety of white bean. UK uses a sweetened tomato based sauce, US has molasses, salt pork or bacon, maybe an onion diced and brown sugar or maple syrup. Boston baked are slow cooked in a ceramic crock for hours in a low oven

      Also baked beans in the UK are served at breakfast, sometimes on toast (which is nice). Boston baked are served with corn or “brown” bread. Its difficult to make brown bread as they dont sell coffee in cans! 😉

      • If you want a large round tin to cook bread in the large tins of conmcentrated tomato paste work well. Cover a baking tray with cling film and dolop teaspoonfuls of the paste onto it. Freeze and then store the frozen dollops in a plastic tub ready for use (overall works out cheaper then from a tube). Now you can wash your tin ready to bake round bread in!

  5. Bigger bags of onions are better value than Sainsbury’s: 4 kilos, which they’re currently offering us for about a pound, over in Dalston. They’re common in ethnic grocery shops and at ordinary (not swanky) street markets.

  6. Oh dear Jack…I think price updating might be like painting the proverbial bridge….just date them as above and shame our Supermarkets into keeping basics at just that…..it rather highlights the issue to see stock cubes go from 10p to 25p …percentage wise I wonder whose income has increased to match (some maths whizz work it out for me but I think its 75%?)

  7. Out of interest I just checked the price of supermarket own brands in France where I live. Big surprises…at todays exchange rate
    onions £1.18
    garlic £1.57
    carrots £1.18
    beans in tomato sauce 66p
    stock cubes 76p….

    Which is all very interesting when you consider that this stuff is grown here… not shipped in. Someone is getting fat and rich!!

    Keep up the good work Jack !

  8. Well worth checking the value ranges through MySupermarket.
    Sainsburys are getting more expensive by the week, Asda Baked Beans 24p, Tinned Tomatoes 31p.

  9. Bought your first book, love it 🙂 just wondering….mainly cos I’m an outdoors type…have you ever looked into different cooking sources/methods ? Like wood burning stoves that use twigs ? I’m currently cooking using wood pellet kat litter…and homemade stoves made from cans, and an ikea utensil holder….10 litres of cat litter = 45 mins burn time = 20p ….but if you buy it on offer, it can equal 45 mins for 8p ! Pretty cheap but no good if it’s raining…..just thoughts……I was wondering if you’d considered alternatives to the norm ? You do great work…thanks !

  10. Please don’t spend (waste) your time updating prices on historical posts. Keep them as they are; they were accurate at the time. If you start updating, then some (that have been updated) will be accurate for now, and others not, which will be much more confusing for the reader.

    And personally, I’d rather know that you were spending time creating and trying out recipes, or writing them, or having fun with your family than going back through everything again, and again. And again.

  11. I had noticed that not only have Sainsbury’s hiked their basic ranges but they had taken some of the shelves all together or they were condensed so less where available and practically hidden down the bottom/side! I suspect so many people had switched to basic brands it had a knock on effect for them so they’ve had to be a bit sneaky about it, I am also under the impression they are better off ‘wasting’ out of date food than reducing it as it can be written off for more than reducing it down, it would explain why there is less higher priced foods on the reduced shelves and what is only has small amounts knocked off? I always nosey about the reduced sections and have really noticed the difference where normally I buy meat but the tiny reductions are not enough for us to justify now, the tomato puree tip is great btw! We are literally freezing everything now in usable portions and I have to say Lidl is trumps for fresh lasting fruit and veg, I buy whatever is on offer and go from there recipe wise, keep up the good work Jack, it seems you bear the brunt sometimes just for purely sharing your ideas and experiences in relation to papers ect, sadly some people can only criticise god forbid they see the good in stuff and not pick apart anyone who is open and honest!

  12. Just comparing my shopping on that well-know supermarket comparison website, and have found “wonky” onions (sic) at Morrisons for 58p for a 1.5kg bag. Get down there, quick!

  13. You can get tubes of tomato puree for 35p – 39p from Lidl, Aldi, and B&Ms – they vary, but they are invariably below 40p. 🙂

    Asda are now doing “wonky” veg boxes for £3.50 – the contents vary, but you certainly get value for money.

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