Welcome everyone Sandra in Spain - FlamencoI’m Sandra Piddock, and I’m a freelance writer, dividing my time between Spain and the UK. I’ll write about anything that interests and/or challenges me, and I like to focus on the lighter side of life whenever possible.. Read more
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Smart Shopping and Saving inSpain

Overall, it’s much cheaper to live in Spain than in the UK. However, not everything is cheaper, and there are tips and tricks to help you get the most from your Euros, whatever is happening elsewhere in Europe and the rest of the world. I come from the Midlands, and we know how to make the most of our cash there, so I’ll be passing on stuff that will help you to make your money go further here in Spain.

Buying canned tuna? Go Grande and save money

Monster can of Nixe tuna, ready to go

Monster can of Nixe tuna, ready to go

Tastes sometimes vary in Piddock Place. Take tuna, for instance. I love it, Paddy loves it, and Tony doesn’t mind it once in a while. So I always used to buy those handy small tins with just enough for one round of sandwiches, or a filling for a jacket potato. Then one time we were having visitors, and I was making a tuna pasta bake for 8 people, so I needed a large can. Looking in Lidl – my first port of call for shopping in Spain and England, I came across their monster size Nixe tuna. 900 grams – 650 grams drained – of lovely chunky tuna for just €4.29.

I daresay lots of people are put off by the size of the can, because I hardly ever see anyone else with one in the trolley, but I’ve kept it in the fridge, in the tin it came in with the plastic lid, for up to 5 days with no problems. And there are lots of other things you can do with it, apart from the obvious jacket spuds, sandwiches and salads. I make appetisers for buffets or tapas meals using leaves of cogolla (Little Gem) lettuce, or halved pequillo peppers. I fill them with various things – tuna, mayonnaise and sweetcorn, crab salad and cucumber, coronation chicken, prawns in Marie Rose sauce. The chunky tuna you get in the giant tins is also good in a tomato based pasta sauce over penne or spirals. And it made a fantastic tuna pasta bake too.

I alvays drain off as much of the sunflower oil as possible, first by lifting the ring pull just enough to be able to drain off the oil without losing any tuna. Then I have a crafty trick for getting rid of as much oil as possible. I place a coffee filter in a large plastic funnel – these are very cheap from the Chinese bazaars if you don’t already have one. Then the tube on the funnel goes into an empty milk or oil bottle, and the tuna goes into the filter in the funnel. You’ll be surprised how much more oil this extracts, but you need to be patient.

Which reminds me. When I was at school, during the Religious Education lesson, the teacher asked us to write a prayer asking for patience. I thought mine was very good, but the teacher wasn’t impressed. It went like this:

‘Please God, grant me the gift of patience, and can I have it right now, please?’ But I digress.

When the can is empty, Tony collars it to melt down all the end bits of the citronella candles we burn on the terrace during the summer. He puts a wick in the middle, and hey presto! – we have a long burning anti-mosquito candle for free. At the risk of Stating The Bleeding Obvious, I should say that it’s a good idea to give the can a good wash first, otherwise your candle will burn with a distinctly fishy smell. And no, we didn’t do that, but someone who shall remain anonymous to preserve what’s left of their dignity did. It ended badly, with the candle being consigned to the bin.

One word of warning – all monster tuna cans are not created equal. I recommend the Nixe one because it has huge chunks of tuna which hardly soak up any oil. But the own brand one they sell in Mercadona is more flaky than chunky, and no matter how well you drain it, you’ll get an oil slick the size of a small island on your plate. If you have any other recommendations, please pass them on in the comments.

So, have I tempted you to Go Grande when it comes to canned tuna?


Seasonal fruit and vegetables – organic at bargain basement prices

A tempting display of fruit at the market

A tempting display of fruit at the market

There are so many things I love about life in Spain, but top of the list has to be shopping for seasonal fruit and vegetables at the street markets. If I wanted to, I could go to a different market almost every day of the week, and all within 10 – 15 minutes driving distance of our home in Algorfa. These, then, are the markets I can choose from:

  • Benijofar  on Tuesdays
  • Algorfa, San Miguel or Guardamar on Wednesdays
  • Rojales on Thursdays
  • Torrevieja on Fridays
  • Almoradi on Saturdays
  • Zoco or Lemon Tree Road (Guardamar) on Sundays

At some point, I’ll review the markets, and tell you about my favourites, but the main thing I go to the markets for is fruit and vegetables. The great thing about Spanish street markets is that everything is seasonal, so it’s at the peak of taste and vitamin content, and it’s cheap.

You don’t actually realise how cheap it is though, until you get to know how stuff works in Spain. The growers who sell their produce on the markets are small independent farmers who have followed madre and padre onto the land. That means they don’t use chemical pesticides – they stick with the tried and trusted natural treatments that have been handed down through the generations.

What this means is that you are buying organic produce, without paying a premium for it. Last week on Zoco market, cherry tomatoes were going for 2€ a kilo, and plums and pears were the same price. Melons were 2 or 3 for 1€, depending on the variety, and you could get 4 – 6 Cogolla (Little Gem) lettuces for 1 €.

Those prices are pretty amazing anyway – especially to Brits who are used to taking out a second mortgage for the week’s fruit and vegetable shopping. But when you remember that you are paying these prices for organic produce, you realise just how lucky you are to live and shop in Spain.

Photo credit: Maggs Perkins @ maggs224.com