Written by: Shani Fowler
For many of us the household budget can become quite stretched and feeding our families is an expensive business. Often as we wait for payday to arrive, we can find the cupboards becoming bare and the idea of a delicious meal seems to be impossible. There are ways though that we can still eat well when we are a little light on money. Below are some tips on just how to do that.
Start from scratch
It is usually cheaper to cook meals pretty much from scratch and even if you are no Jamie Oliver in the kitchen, getting to grips with some of the basics is not too difficult and there are plenty of comprehensive recipes and tutorials out there. Flick on your computer, do a quick search and the world can be your food oyster.
Eating well and having tasty food on a budget has planning at its epicentre. Throwing out foods you have bought on impulse is wasteful and expensive, so plan what you are going to eat (each meal of each day) for at least a week in advance. Might sound crazy as you don’t know what you and your often fickle family might fancy next Friday, but plan and stick to it you must. Also just try to do a food shop once a week because if you find yourself wandering into the supermarket after work, you will find the money leaving your purse rather sharpish!
Try shopping locally
Supermarkets have become the normal way to shop. We have been conditioned into thinking we have to push that trolley round and buy everything from there. The supermarkets draw us in to buy more with their “buy two get one free” kind of deals – these are specifically designed to get us to spend more – which is exactly the opposite or our aim here. Visit and befriend local butchers, grocer etc. Tell them in advance what you want to spend. Going in regularly may help you get the best deals. They will get to know you and possibly save something for their ‘regular customer’.
Because we are used to buying all prepacked foods these days, we can lose sight of buying loose vegetables or buying anything by the kilo– often this can work out cheaper because you are buying what you want and not what someone has packed up already. You’re also able to see what you get, some prepacked foods have the odd ‘bad apple’ hidden in there, so keep this in mind too.
Store food well
Make sure that you keep each specific food stored in the best conditions for it, it will last longer and then you are not throwing out anything that you intended to use for your meal making.
Bulk buy where you can
I recently saw a big sack of potatoes for about 50p more than a small bag. If you know you can use them and you have some where to store things (where they are likely to last) then get the bulk buys.
If you want to go organic but the word conjures up ‘pricey’, have a rethink. The price difference on some organic foods against non-organic can be negligible or even non-existent so consider buying organic. Pick your battles though as some organic foods can be too pricey to eat in a tight budget, but getting it where you can will better for you, better for the planet and if you shop around could be better for your purse.
Meat and fish
Cheaper living could mean eating less meat and fish but is that such a bad thing? Buy and eat smaller portions and have them less often. This can actually give you a bit more variety by introducing more vegetables etc.
When things are approaching their ‘use by’ dates, either freeze items if possible or make dishes up and freeze them for the following weeks. Shepherds pies, meat pies, most things will freeze, then you have the less hassle dishes ready for next week with hardly anything to pay out.
Eating well with little money involves planning, being resourceful and being prepared to change suppliers and shopping habits. Then as you channel your inner Nigella and grapple with the cooking, you might find you actually enjoy your new foods along with the methods of getting them.