There is a TV series on BBC One at the moment called “Eat Well For Less”. It has sensible advice about improving your family’s health whilst simultaneously saving money. I love to splurge on a brilliant extra virgin olive oil, but day to day I am quite frugal. So, for all you parents that want to save a quid or two, I thought I’d share my own tips on eating well for less…
1. Do a weekly meal plan
Meal planning is simply writing down your meals for that week. I choose to do it on either a Sunday night or a Monday morning. I only do dinner, not breakfast or lunch as we tend to wing those with what we have in. I don’t include weekends as they are always a bit haphazard and Adam likes to cook. I find that if you know roughly what you are eating that week you can buy exactly what you need accordingly – and you waste a lot less food.
2. Change your supermarket
Two big, obvious choices here: Aldi or Lidl. I visit Aldi about once every few weeks (sometimes less) when I need to re-stock on stuff like toilet rolls, porridge oats and cans of beans. The budget stores really are cheaper and you cannot tell the difference in quality. My local Aldi doesn’t stock certain health goods I want (brown rice, coconut oil, lentils, etc) so I just buy these at other places.
3. Keep a low inventory
Since we moved into the farmhouse, I have had to keep a low stock of stuff in as we have a tiny kitchen. It’s actually a good thing; I am much more aware of what I have and haven’t got in, and only buy things as I need them.
4. Shop local for bits and bobs as you need them
I just nip to my local greengrocers or butchers and get exactly what I need for the next 2 days’ meals. It is cheaper, I get a better, more personal service, and I am supporting a local business. A butchers’ produce is almost always superior to anything you could get in the supermarket (the lamb in our butcher’s is from the hills all around us). Also, a good butcher offers other ways of saving, such as selling you half a lamb, butchered and labelled, so you can stick it the freezer (you save about a third by doing this).
5. Shop seasonally
By eating seasonally you aren’t paying the extra add on costs of importing. Obviously with bananas you can’t shop seasonally as they are never in season here! But with squash, strawberries, new potatoes, leeks and so many other vegetables, you can buy better and cheaper produce if you stick with the seasons.
6. Choose frugal ingredients
Some cuts of meat have got more expensive, like pork belly and lamb shanks due to them becoming more popular. But you can still buy really cheap cuts of meat like lamb belly – amazing simply roasted or boned and rolled, or lambs’ liver, which is so nutiritous and really fairly cheap too – simply flash fry and serve with bacon and mash. Chicken thighs are a cheaper choice than breast and have so much more flavour. Even better, buy a whole chicken and get 3 meals out of it (roast, leftovers then use the carcass for stock). Use lentils and pulses (buy dried and cook them yourself to save a huge amount) to pad meals out and get a huge protein boost. (The picture above is of a lentil bolognese.) Choose seasonal veggies for the cheapest and only buy what you need.
7. Forget brands; buy basic
We are all being sucked in by marketing when it comes to branded food! The basic, supermarket own brand is often just as good and half as expensive. Try the non brands and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
8. Frozen food is cheaper and, in some cases, better!
Some things are actually better frozen. Fish is frozen minutes after catching, so you are getting fresher ingredients than when you buy fresh. For curries and the like, frozen fish in fillets are awesome, as are frozen raw prawns. For smoothies, frozen berries are much better than those insipid, out of season, expensive ones. And we all know that frozen peas are a Godsend – for a kid friendly side, or to make an amazing, truly fresh soup.
9. Tinned fish – the ultimate cheap superfood
Oily fish is SO important for our brains and bones. Even if you don’t live near a fishmonger – like us – you needn’t miss out on your Omega 3. Try tipping a tin of sardines in tomato sauce over penne. Mix a tin of tuna and some sliced raw mushrooms into a white sauce then mix with pasta and bake. Combine leftover mash with tinned salmon, some peas and a little ketchup, then shape into patties and fry up some tasty fishcakes.
10. Eat less meat, but higher welfare, better quality stuff
Meat is the most expensive food we buy. And thats fair enough; after all, an animal died so we could eat it! I have this philosophy: I am OK with eating meat if I know it’s had a good life. So I choose to spend more on high welfare meat, and eat it less often. When meal planning, you’ll be able to see how many meat based meals you are actually eating. I strive for a balance: a couple of veggie meals, a couple of meat based dinners and at least one or two fishy feasts.
So they are my frugal family food tips that mean we can eat well for less. What are yours?