Friday, 23 December 2016

20 Ways to save money on food

Christmas is nearly here and before the credit card statements come through, I wanted to share some frugal tips which don't feel all that frugal and may be worth keeping in mind over the holidays.

Make the most of your leftovers!

Poultry like chicken or turkey are brilliant to use up as leftovers.  I always make stock from the carcass and often make a pie in the days to come out of the leftover gravy, stock, meat and some vegetables.  It's also fantastic in curries.  Another top tip is to freeze the cooked meat in gravy or thickened stock to make a pie later on.

Eat the seasons

There is a reason strawberries are cheaper in June and it's the same reason why they taste better too.  Seasonal food is not only cheaper, tastier but likely to be more nutritious too and have fewer food miles.

Don't forget the freezer

Frozen vegetables and fish are always in my kitchen.  Peas, broad beans and soy beans are fantastic frozen and with frozen fish and shellfish you have no worry about how long it's been on the counter.

Skip the take away

Ok we all have days when we can't be bothered to cook but with a wealth of 10 minute recipes on my blog, surely there's something you fancy and it would be even quicker than getting in your car or waiting for a delivery car as well as costing you much less!

Trade down one level

So you always buy branded pasta?  Try own brand.  Already shop own brand?  Try a value range.  I used to be this way about tinned tomatoes but now I've found some great budget and value brands which are fantastic for this tomato and basil soup.  At some point you will find the balance between price and quality but this will depend on your personal viewpoint and on the food item.  It's worth a try.

Have an extra vegetarian meal

Meat is (generally) expensive.  By eating one extra vegetarian meal a week you will save a lot of cash even on the cheapest cuts.  Why not try this chickpea (garbanzo bean) curry?

Invest in a slow cooker

When you do eat meat, eating cheap meat means cooking it well.  The cheap meats tend to be the toughest, hardest working parts of the animal but also with the most flavour.  Luckily a slow cooker makes cooking the tougher cuts a breeze and allegedly they are as cheap to run as a light bulb but I can never find an official source to confirm that's true.  They'd certainly be cheaper than putting a stew in an oven though.

A Buddha bowl can use up loads of odds and ends

Not sure what to cook?  A grain like rice or bulgar wheat plus vegetables, meat or fish if you like and a dressing and you're done.  A great dish for using up what's left and preventing waste.

Freeze leftovers

Curries, soups, stews, they all freeze fantastically and mean you don't have to cook another day.  It's also a great way to save money on lunch.  Even a subsidised canteen is unlikely to be able to make soup as cheaply as can be made at home.

Beware of the BOGOF

BOGOFs, or Buy One Get One Free are not a bargain unless it's something you will use in the life of the product.  Even then consider if you are likely to use more simply because there is more in the house.  For example, there might be a pack of biscuits on buy one get one free.  You normally buy another brand which is slightly cheaper but you get the more expensive ones because the free pack makes the "per biscuit" price cheaper.  Only problem is that as a family you would get through one pack of biscuits a week.  Perhaps by the end of the week there wouldn't be any left on the last day or so but one pack would be all you'd buy.  This week though, there are two.  So buy Tuesday, the second pack is opened and then shopping day comes round and you're out of biscuits again.  Not only did you not save money on the BOGOF but the family ate more calories it didn't really need.

Make a list

I can't pretend I'm always great at sticking to a list but I do make one.  Some people swear by internet food shopping to keep to a list.  I can't admit to being a fan of internet food shopping because I like to look at the quality before buying but in any case if you have a plan, you can be in and out of a supermarket even for a big shop in less than 45 minutes.  Time and money saved.

Don't shop hungry

You're far more likely to buy that tempting cake.

Just popping in for a couple of things?

Then take a basket rather than a trolley, it will discourage you from buying more.

Avoid shopping with your child if you can 

Or if you can't, this is where internet shopping does have value.  Kids are distracting, complaining and hate food shopping.  I always end up buying something I don't need and forgetting something vital when I'm with my son.

Look at the whole display

Also look at all options online not just the first listed, look up and down on shelves not just eye level.  Look along the length of the aisle not just at the middle and ends.  There are functions devoted to where products are placed in supermarkets, people base their careers on this kind of thing.  You may still want the product which is prominently placed but it's worth looking at the options more carefully.

Look at the price per g or ml

Some packaging is deceptive; if you're mulling it over between products it's worth looking at the pack sizes.  With the economic slump some pack sizes are smaller than they were so certain brands may have become less cost effective.

Rotate your fridge

When you put things away, put shorter shelf life items in the front and try to keep track of approaching dates.

Freeze ingredients

It's not only cooked meals which can freeze but many other foods like herbs and vegetables.  Take a look at great ways to use your freezer for more ideas.

Learn to cook

Many processed foods are cheap and some (sadly not all) of them are pretty decent but you will never be able to take advantage of great and cheap seasonal ingredients if you can't cook.  The secret is though that cooking is really easy (except for hollandaise sauce, that's a labour of love.)  Being able to cook means you use your leftovers, it means you can be a bit creative with what's in your fridge and so it means less waste.

Check out the world foods aisle

In a lot of UK larger supermarkets they will have an international foods aisle which will stock various herbs and spices in packs often 5 times the size of the tiny supermarket jars and often cheaper than the jar price.  It's certainly worth a look if you get through as many spices as I do!

If you have any more ideas, please add them below!

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