Baby-led weaning, Budgeting, and the Birth of the reverse shopping list…


So, the little one has decided that he’d quite like in on this eating thing the big people keep doing. This is where we get to live in a house now permanently covered in mashed banana in exchange for some really hilarious photos to show his first girlfriend. Luckily (?) last month I took the difficult decision not to return to work but to focus on finishing some studies, teaching about cheese, and doing things like this blog – so of course I have loads of time now to chisel off dried up shreddies from the high chair legs. Hmmm….

These two things are what has inspired this post, as well as a more general sense of how abhorrent the wastage of food is. Whilst we have always been fairly careful about our budget, the drop to one wage has meant some fast arithmetic at the supermarket checkout recently. This of course makes for quite a wrench when several times a day we have to watch a small portion of that food get splattered over the carpet or smeared into big brother’s hair.

Baby-led weaning works on the premise that your baby is in control of feeding himself. They have what you have, and find their own ways of getting what they want to their mouths. It allows them to experiment with chewing and biting food before swallowing and to have experience of different textures and flavours. This appeals hugely to my sentiments that the more exposure children have to food (how it’s made, where it’s from, what is eaten around the world and how, etc.), then the healthier their relationship with food and eating can be. It’s also loads of fun – we can’t be the first people to give their baby a pickled gherkin just to see the face they pull?! (

Therefore, a combination of trying to save some pennies and a realisation that for quite some time my kitchen will be full of lots of random leftovers has led to the creation of *fanfare* The Reverse Shopping List! This has been a brilliant way to save money and has also cut down on the need to do a ‘fridge cull‘. Come on… admit it…. you’ve all stood in front of your fridge with a bin bag containing liquid cucumber and the lone Petit Filous at the back that was use by last year sometime. Now you need never face that shame again! Well, not so often, depending on your strength at resisting impulse buys.

Basically, the reverse shopping list is a way of planning the family’s meals for the week based on what you have already. I think most people do the majority of their food shop at a supermarket, so no matter how strict you are there is always more than you need. Courgettes, right? It is not possible to buy one small courgette. You want small courgettes? Here, have 3 in a pack! You only want one? Here, they’re all enormous though! Aargh!!!! Ahem, anyway…

I start my list with 3 columns – fridge, cupboard, freezer. I then list everything we have under those columns (except for things like milk that you’ll forget to buy anyway and have to go back for… or the box of ice poles you were bullied into buying in July and now the kids don’t want because all the cola ones have gone.).

I then try to see if there’s anything on those lists that spring out to me as a meal in waiting. I give ‘priority’ to the Fridge list as this is usually the most perishable. For example, my list this week had red pepper, cabbage and celery which made me think of stir fry; and my Cupboard list says I have noodles – winner! The best bit about it is that I get to learn new recipes. So, if I’ve exhausted my kitchen repertoire and there’s still loads on the list I start googling the ingredients to see what comes up. I have half a pot of yoghurt at the moment left over from curry at the weekend and it’s feeling too autumnal to want it for breakfast. I did a search for ‘recipes with yoghurt’ and came up with a Hairy Bikers recipe on the BBC website for shaksuka which I’d never even heard of. It looks great, uses even more of my ingredients list, and maybe, just maybe, the six year old might not find it poisonous. (

It’s not necessary to have all the ingredients for everything as long  as the left overs are no longer left over. Then you can write your regular shopping list for the bits you need for the recipes. This method today meant a weeks shop for the family was only half a trolley full and came in at under £50. I’d love to hear what your reverse shopping lists come up with!


Caveat: this technique assumes a fairly well-stocked ‘larder’ – by this I mean herbs and spices, flour, pasta, tinned tomatoes etc. These basics are well worth any initial expenditure as it means something can always be scrabbled together to feed the family. This is something for another post…