Most of us are always looking for ways to make our hard-earned cash go a little further – but that doesn’t mean we’re prepared to cut corners on quality, especially when it comes to food. We’ve put together an easy guide to saving money in the kitchen and cutting your food bills. Most of these tips are so quick and simple, so you should be able fit them into your existing timetable with ease!
1. Be prepared
Buying your veg ready-peeled, cored and chopped from the supermarket saves you precious minutes during the week when you’re trying to fit dinner in with a hundred other things. Not only is it relatively expensive, though, it also means those vegetables aren’t nearly as fresh as they could be – they start to deteriorate and lose vitamin C content as soon as they’re peeled and prepped.
Save money and get a better quality product by prepping all your veg at the weekend, and freezing it in ready-portioned bags. With hard veg like carrots and parsnips, you need to peel and chop them then ‘blanch’ them. To do this, boil the prepared veg for three minutes then plunge it into iced water.
With softer veg like butternut squash, you only need to boil them for one minute before transferring to the iced water. You can then either freeze it as it is, or, to stop it all clumping together in the bag, you can ‘open freeze it’. Cover a baking tray with clingfilm and arrange the veg on top so the pieces aren’t touching each other. Put it in the freezer for an hour, then retrieve it and tip the now frozen pieces into a freezer bag.
2. Get creative
Instead of buying the same old things all the time, investigate different ingredients. Stewing steak is around half the price of rump steak, and makes a delicious alternative.
Invest in a slow cooker, available from retailers such as Argos from as little as £11.99. Before you go to work in the morning, just fry the cubes of steak with an onion and transfer it into the slow cooker with some of those frozen carrots and parsnips, some red wine and some beef stock. When you come home in the evening, you’ll be greeted by the aroma of a stress-free and good value meal.
Slow cookers are great for all sorts of meals, such as vegetarian chickpea curry or tagines – freeze what you don’t eat at the time.
Do you have friends or family who grow their own fruits and vegetables? If so, why not see if you can have any of their excess produce – or even see if you can arrange a swap with them if you grow your own. Fruit trees, for example, tend to produce a glut of produce that becomes ripe en masse, so people are often keen to share the fruits of their labours. There are lots of recipes you can make with fruit such as apples, pears and plums.
3. Use those leftovers!
Did you know that in the UK we waste over seven million tons of food every year? Getting savvy with the leftovers is not only good for your pocket, it’s also better for the planet.
Cooked, leftover vegetables can be placed in the blender with some grated cheese, beaten egg and breadcrumbs to make simple veggie burgers. This is a good way to encourage children to eat healthy vegetables too, as they don’t always immediately notice that blended vegetables are the key ingredients!
If you’ve only got a small portion of stew left over, try adding lots of extra vegetables and a pastry lid to make it into a pie. Use up leftover vegetables in homemade soups, like minestrone, that are great for quick and easy lunches.
Milk that’s just ‘on the turn’ is ideal for using in scones or puddings. If you’ve opened a big tub of yogurt and no-one seems to want to finish it up, use it in baking muffins or mix it with beaten egg and Parmesan as a quick and simple topping for a lasagne.
If you roast a whole chicken, get as much meat as you can off the carcass and use it for a curry or pie then make stock from the bones. Make it into a family challenge not to throw anything away!
4. Leave behind that takeaway
Takeaways are a regular Friday-night treat for many of us, but not only are they often ridiculously unhealthy, they’re also expensive. The average portion of takeaway chicken korma contains a whopping 1,249 calories and that’s before you start adding things like naan bread.
Making your own version at home is much cheaper and healthier – and if Friday night is the night you look forward to not cooking, take ‘one you made earlier’ out of the freezer. If you really can’t resist a takeaway, look for money saving coupons that could help you save money on your favourite takeaway treats.
5. Buy food in bulk
Depending where you live, you may be able to buy food directly from the supplier. Farmers will often sell veg at the gate, but you might not be in the market for a 20kg sack!
Team up with friends and split bulk buys between you – you’ll be supporting local business as well as getting a better quality product for less.