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When times are tough, we look to cut back everywhere we can. An obvious place to look is your food budget, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop eating heathily. In fact, it’s easy to eat healthy and save money on your groceries, provided you plan accordingly. Here’s how.
Plan Your Meals
First up, take a look at what you already have in store. Using what you already have will save a huge amount of money on your groceries. Check and list the contents of your fridge, cupboard, and freezer, taking note of any obvious items you can make a meal with. Think leftover meat from a roast, or some vegetables lurking in your salad drawer. If you have other frozen veg in your freezer, some potatoes and some store cupboard spices, you could whip up a vegetable (or meat and vegetable) curry or stew.
Make a plan of what you’re going to eat over the next 7 days. If your next supermarket trip won’t be for a while, try to plan it for the next 10 days, or 14 days at a stretch. You can use frozen and dried goods to make all sorts of meals.
Next, make a note of any additional items you need to purchase, and add these to your shopping list.
Cook From Scratch
Cooking from scratch is not only cheaper, it’s healthier and more rewarding. And you know exactly what’s gone into it. If time is tight, try prepping your meals for the next day the night before. Stews and soups can be put into the slow cooker (brown any meat off first) in the morning, ready for dinner later that day.
Instead of using oven chips, cut some potatoes into chunky wedges. Mix them in a bowl with some sunflower or olive oil, and some seasoning of your choice. I like to use either salt and pepper or some paprika with some onion powder to add a little flavour. Once the chips are nicely coated, spread them onto a baking sheet and bake in the oven for around 30 minutes at 200 degrees. Timing will vary depending on the size of the chips so keep an eye on them.
Spaghetti bolognese or any other tomato-based sauce can easily be cooked using onion, garlic, tinned tomatoes, tomato puree and some basil and oregano. I also add a little salt, pepper and sugar to taste. Chopped, tinned tomatoes are a fraction of the price of sauce jars.
You can also make your own white sauce for dishes such as chicken pie, fish pie, chicken and mushroom tagliatelle, etc. Make a roux with butter and flour, then add relevant stock (even better if you’ve made your own!). Add a little at a time to get the consistency you need for the dish. For extra creaminess, add some milk, cream or yoghurt.
Making food go further Top Tip:
To save money on home-made cheese sauce, add a little mustard and some grana padano or parmesan with the cheddar cheese. Parmesan is lower in fat and you need less of it as it’s a stronger flavour. Taste the sauce before serving to ensure it’s got the right level of cheesy flavour.
Buy in Bulk
Did you know that if you buy more, the cost goes down? Buy a 750g pack of minced beef and split into two to make two meals.
A pack of 8 chicken breasts can be split into 4 portions and put in freezer bags for meals later in the week or the following week.
Bigger bags of pasta and rice cost less and will go further, as will large packs of cheese. I buy the supermarket-own basics range mature cheddar. It tastes delicious and you get loads!
Stop buying pre-cut/pre-prepared foods such as carrot sticks, shredded lettuce, or broccoli florets. It only takes a few minutes to prepare these yourself and will save you a small fortune.
Focus on Carbs
Potatoes, pasta, rice and other grains are excellent for bulking out wholesome, satisfying food. There are so many things you can do with potatoes if you use your imagination! It’s also really useful to keep a store of plain flour in your cupboard. In the absence of self-raising flour, you can make your own with a little bicarbonate of soda. If you don’t have bread flour, you can make soda bread, or flat breads such as naan or your own tortillas. While making your own bread won’t save you a huge amount of money on groceries, it’s extremely satisfying and there are no added chemicals.
Make croutons out of stale bread before it goes mouldy. Cut into small squares, toss in some olive oil, then place under the grill until golden brown. Store for use in salads and soups. Alternatively, whizz up your crusts to make breadcrumbs then leave to dry before storing. You can use these as a crunchy topper for macaroni cheese, or a crumb for your own breaded fish or chicken recipe.
Use Pulses and Lentils
This is one of my favourite things to do, to bulk out family meals such as cottage or shepherd’s pie, spaghetti bolognese, lasagne, soups, stews etc. (Much to my husband’s dismay, although sometimes he doesn’t notice!) It saves a lot of money on your groceries as it makes your meals go further!
Also, dried soya mince (found in the aisle with the other dried pulses, beans, etc) can be added to, or substituted for, minced meat. It’s full of protein and very cheap, and absorbs the flavour of the dish.
Eat More Veg
We’re always being told to eat more vegetables, and one of the quickest and easiest ways to do this is to add frozen vegetables to meals. It makes your food go further and also drives the cost down. I add frozen peas and sweetcorn to shepherd’s pie and cottage pie. Also to chicken/ham/turkey pie (which I make using my own shortcrust pastry).
Another option is to grate some carrot into spaghetti bolognese (or similar dishes), and is a good way to disguise the added veg from your kids as it breaks down very well and is difficult to spot! If your children are averse to mushrooms, trying pulsing them in a blender. It chops them into tiny, indistinguishable pieces that will get lost in the rest of the mixture.
If you’re an omnivore, try adding two or more vegetarian meals into your menu each week. Vegetable soups which can be blended are a great way to get more veg into your children. Add some red lentils for extra protein. Jacket potatoes with beans and cheese are rich in protein, vitamin C and fibre. Throw together some onion and garlic, potato, sweet potato, peppers, peas, carrots, mushrooms with some curry powder and coconut milk for a tasty vegetable curry. Add some chickpeas or lentils if you have them. (Dried peas and beans should be soaked and cooked before adding to soups and stews). Vegetable curry is so filling and cheap to make.
The best part about this type of cooking is experimenting! Find a recipe and follow it loosely, checking if you can substitute one herb or spice for another.
I hope these tips to save money on your groceries have helped. Let me know in the comments below if there’s anything you do that I’ve missed on here. 🙂
For help on writing a successful meal plan, click here.