Food is still going up in price so now is the time to get clever with your shopping and cooking. By giving it some thought, and changing a few eating habits, you can provide cheap, tasty and nutritious meals for the whole family every day. Here are some of the best ways of cutting the cost of the family food bill without compromising on taste or goodness:
- Once a year, use up everything in your cupboards. Only buy perishables to go with what is already there (you know, all those pulses, pasta shapes, jars of sauces, tins of things that have been there for years!). That will cut down the shopping bill significantly for a month and it may give you some surprisingly tasty meals using sauces you've never tried before.
- Shop at markets rather than supermarkets – you save about 30% on your food bill. If you time it right (towards the end of the day) you can get entire boxes of fruit and veg very cheaply.
- Use the internet to find recipes for unusual foods or to use up leftovers.
- If you've bought a large quantity of vegetables from the market very cheaply, either make soup from them and freeze some or blanche them (half boil them quickly then ‘refresh' with cold water) and freeze them to use with meals later on.
- Shop online if possible. It stops you being tempted by ‘offers' the supermarkets put in your way to make you buy. It could also be cheaper to pay the delivery charge (particularly if you choose a less popular time) than the travel or petrol costs you would have getting yourself to the shop. Also, the sites tend to keep your last shopping list so that you can just re-order what you need.
- Use internet comparison sites to find the best prices for the things you want to buy at that site.
- Invest in a bag of Klippits. They keep anything fresh – half-eaten bags of crisps, opened cereal packets etc. They're marvellous things and really save on food bills by keeping everything fresh and crisp for weeks.
- Plan meals for the week (or even for the month). That way you can plan ahead, buy only what you need, cut down on waste and save a lot of money.
- Shop with a shopping list, based on the meals you have planned for the week. Try to stick to the list, although picking up genuine marked-down items that are close to their sell-by date can be a good idea.
- Get into growing your own fruit and veg. Even if you live in a flat with no outside space you can grow herbs on window ledges, tomatoes in grow-bags and lettuces in window-boxes!
- Cook in bulk at the weekend and freeze into individual (or family-size) portions. This cuts down on waste nicely and stops you buying pre-prepared or takeaway meals.
- Check the fridge each day and plan meals around what is likely to go off first.
- Those leftovers from last night's dinner can make a great lunch to take to work if refreshed with salad, saving you money daily. For example, stews and soups can simply be put into a plastic box and microwaved at work. Cooked meat can be used in sandwiches and even cooked vegetables and mashed potato can be whisked into a filling and nutritious soup.
- Replace a meat dish with a veggie version once a week. Vegetarian meals are generally cheaper than meat-based ones. If you really want your meat, get into pork which, pound-for-pound, is the cheapest meat.
- Buy in bulk with friends. If one of you has a card for a cash-and-carry then buy together and get the benefit of the cheap prices without having to store loads of tins in your home.
- Keep fresh fruit, vegetables and salad in the fridge and they can last up to two weeks longer.
- Get free food, particularly from Spring to Autumn, by picking it. Be aware of picking poisonous plants though!
- Keep your own chickens, if you have the space and the time. You will have fresh, organic eggs regularly and could make money by selling extra ones to neighbours Get into Freeganism! Freegans are people who collect the food thrown out by supermarkets because it is at it's ‘Sell by' date. Most foods are perfectly safe to eat at this stage but legally the supermarkets have to get rid of it. If you can find the bins at the back of the supermarkets and you're not squeamish, you could eat for free every day of the year!