We live in such a throwaway society and all to often food gets thrown away when it really is perfectly fine to eat. It takes a bit of effort and creativity but you really can save a fortune by utilising some a simple yet effective tips to reduce the amount of food that you throw away every week.
So what’s the solution?
There is no quick fix but some savvy kitchen hacks which will save you time and money and see your food bills come down dramatically, it really can save you a great deal of £’s over the year.
1.Plan Your Shop
No matter if you shop online or if you go and shop at your local supermarket, make a list. It’s such a valuable tip as you will know exactly what you do need, make a menu plan for the entire week and stick to it. Check your cupboards and buy only what you need for the week, that way you aren’t duplicating what you already have (you will know as your handy list will be with you!) and this in itself will save you money as you wont have too much and end up throwing out food that is unused.
It’s amazing how simply shopping online with your weekly menu plan next to you can cut the cost of your shop. Remember you are taking the emotion out of the whole process and an impulse free shop can be a lot cheaper! You are less likely to add in items (do you really need that chocolate bar?!) to your basket and also you have a rolling tally of what you are spending and where you are saving money too. Make sure you head over to Martin Lewis Money Saving Expert before you go online too to see if there are any new codes or offers you could be using to save you even more £’s
When you have made your menu plan for the week take two meals and batch cook them for later use. I do this regularly and it not only saves time in the long run but you can budget the meals and save time as well as money, and quite often you will find that the ingredients are cheaper to buy in bulk than they would be individually. This is where a decent sized freezer really comes into it’s own, you can make the family’s favourite lasagne but instead of making one you can make three, pop two into the freezer (or make individual ones for teenage lunches!) in the knowledge these will be perfect meals over the next few weeks. It is a really good habit to get into to make one and freeze one, and starting out with just doing this once a week will make a difference to your time and your money.
I used to think that fresh was best, but as I have got older I have realised that frozen foods haven’t lost any of their quality in the freezing process and by having plenty of frozen foods, fruits, meat and vegetables you can save endless trips to the supermarket for yourself. Not to mention saving on petrol and also eliminating the need to throw away any foods that have gone off – not so with frozen foods! Now I have taken to buying over half my weekly foods as frozen and I like the fact that I have food to hand in the house without the constant need to go out to the supermarket. I even recently found out you could freeze avocados – who knew?! Now if I see them on offer I will often buy and freeze them for later. I also freeze browning bananas as they make wonderful banana bread and as I live with an antipodean I have honed my banana bread making skills as he grew up on it in NZ!
4.Meat Free Mondays
This has been a really good thing to embrace for us as family, Meat Free Mondays gives us an opportunity to explore other dishes that we sometimes may avoid as they seem more like side dishes being the carnivores that we are! We have been enjoying Meat Free Mondays for a while now and at first our choices were a little boring and limited but over time we have got really creative as well as thrifty and I must admit that Meat Free Mondays quite often rolls over to Meat Free Tuesdays we like it so much. What I’m trying to say that for other meat eaters out there like us, just because it’s Meat Free doesn’t mean it is going to be boring. Lots of Asian style cookery is Meat Free and I have started freezing herbs and flavourings ahead of time to make sure I have plenty of flavour in each dish. Buying in bulk when I see lemons and limes on offer and freezing into ice cube trays has been a handy tip especially as they do go off quite fast in the fruit bowl. Another really cost efficient way to store fresh herbs is to chop the herbs finely and half fill each cube on an ice cube tray, fill the remaining half with water and freeze. You will have fresh herbs ready for your recipes in the freezer, all you need to do is add the individual cubes to taste. Look out for supermarket fresh herbs on offer or reduced and have a go at this thrifty tip to keep meals tasty and fresh.
5.Blend & Freeze
A few years ago I started to buy fruits and vegetables and blend them, freeze them in zip lock bags and use in stews, sauces and soups. It was such a success that I still do it now and put aside a day where I blend and freeze in bulk so I have plenty for the months ahead. You can puree a whole cauliflower for example, steam and blend then divide it into four, add to zip lock freezer bags and freeze to use for macaroni cheese sauce, beef stew, vegetable soup, and carrot & spice muffins. This makes the meals tastier, cheaper adds moistness to your baking, you can experiment with different fruits and vegetables for different dishes. My top tip is to buy fruits and vegetables in season when they will be most cost effective and also get to know your local greengrocer and fruit and veg market stall holder, they will be able to advise you on what product is in season and at it’s tastiest, most local and cheapest and also if you shop there regularly they will often throw in some free produce for your continued custom, it’s a win win.
6.Find Alternative Foods
This may seem the most obvious but the savings can be so large it’s surprising when you try it out for yourself just how much money you can save. Do you really need fresh tomatoes for that favourite recipe or can you add in some tinned (own supermarket brand) tomatoes instead? Finding Alternative Foods to use which are cheaper to use save £’s and when you find the tinned alternative on the supermarket shelves, look down to the last shelf as quite often these will be the cheapest alternatives, the supermarket brands which are much much cheaper than the eye level brands. For me it’s what I was used to buying so psychologically I was almost programmed to reach for the same items, but making the change to Alternative Foods I barely noticed any change in the taste of the foods. Now we have changed all our store cupboard essentials using the cheaper alternatives, cereals, rice, pasta, tinned foods, and lots of frozen foods and have saved so much and the best part is that the quality of taste hasn’t been compromised at all. Look out for tinned alternative foods in your everyday cooking as well as frozen too, don’t be afraid to use cheaper alternative meats (or no meats) i your dishes either to save money and discover a new tasty recipe.
7.Use Cheaper Cuts
This is aimed at meats as it is such a big expense in our weekly shop, but equally you can save on fruits and vegetables too. Aim to substitute at least three main meals per week with cheaper cuts of meat, it will mean you have to cook for longer or prepare the meat in a different way (e.g. marinating) but the savings can be huge. On beef it could be brisket, shin and skirt, on lamb shoulder and chump and on pork spare rib, cheek and belly are thrifty choices. If you are unsure just ask your local butcher who can advise you not only which are the cheaper cuts but how you prepare and cook them too. I bring vegetables and fruits into this because if you buy in season you can save money, and also if you go to any local markets you can find unusual produce which is less popular that are a cheaper alternative. You will also find that toward the end of the day when the stalls are getting ready to leave all fresh produce will become half price or more, time for you to bag a bargain and stock up on plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and if you have any left over don’t forget to freeze!
On special occasions we do buy a joint of meat from our local butcher and the Moroccan Lamb dish below was a delicious recipe we enjoyed and with the leftovers I was able to make a Shepherds Pie as well as using the meat for sandwiches for my other half for the next day at work too. You can make the meals stretch and use up leftovers in a tasty way, it needn’t be boring!