With the cost of living increasing seemingly every day, here are my top tips to reduce your food bills:
Shop seasonally. The biggest money saver, and perhaps the easiest. Fruit and vegetables that are in season are cheaper – and often tastier – than those that aren’t in season. Embrace pumpkin and squash in winter, and make meals around mangos, tomatoes and those beautiful summer strawberries in summer.
Make a plan – and stick to it! Deviating from your plan can cause food to go to waste, which is money straight down the drain.
Use your freezer. Whether you have a large freezer or small, use it for more than ice cream. Whether it’s whole meals that you have bulked cooked (see below) or the odd spoonful of sauce or grated cheese, the freezer is very useful.
Bulk cook. With energy prices on the rise too, a great tip is to plan baking two things at once. If the oven is on for one dish, why not roast some veggies at the same time to fill the other shelf? You can them use them in a salad or make a pasta sauce with them the following day.
Embrace those leftovers. Once a week, plan a meal that you can use all those veggie leftovers in, such as stir fry, fried rice, or quiche. You don’t have to be imaginative all the time with your leftovers. If your kids will eat a spoonful of chicken stew on a slice of toast for dinner, yum! And it’s amazing what ingredients make a sandwich or if in doubt I’ll quite often resort to something on toast. Most things go on toast!
Think how your gran cooked. As a young mother in the second world war in the UK, my gran went through rationing as well as growing up in a generation that valued everything. She lived the rest of her life never wasting a scrap.
Look to other cuisines. Traditional rustic Italian soups and Spanish dishes utilize food and leftovers like stale bread, as well as making the most of seasonal ingredients.
Buy cheaper cuts of meat. Buy cheaper cuts of meat that require long slow cooking – I love my slow cooker as can I prep the meal like these slow cooker Greek lamb shanks in the morning, work, entertain my son etc, and come back to a hot meal. Opt for a whole chicken rather than chicken breasts or chicken thighs. You can then use the meat in different meals and the bones make delicious stock. If you don’t want to roast a whole chicken, I find chicken marylands a good alternative. They can be the same price per kg but will take less time to cook (and you can still make stock from the bones if you wish!).
Reducing the amount of meat you eat – try and have a few nights a week making vegetarian or vegan dishes. I say ‘try’, as I know my dad for one would not be impressed at not having meat every night of the week, so I understand this can be easier said than done. Pad meat out with veggies or beans/lentils (or both!) like in this Mexican beef mince recipe. Instead of making meat the hero of your meal, make it the side dish. You can also quite often reduce the amount of meat in a dish, especially dishes like pies and stews – they still have all the meat flavour, but cost less.