Cutting the Cost of Your Food Bill

Food ShoppingWe spend on average 10% of our income on food, imagine if you could claw some of that back…

The weekly shop is unfortunately an unavoidable expense, of course we need to feed ourselves and family, but there’s no reason why the Angels can’t help you trim that additional fat off your food bill.

Cooking meals from scratch rather than buying ready meals is by far the cheapest way to eat day to day and with such a expansive resource on the web, finding easy to follow recipes is a doddle.

Quick Frugal Food Shopping Tips:

  • Plan your meals for the week ahead and go to the supermarket prepared with a list will ensure you get only what you need.
  • Check the cupboards first so you don’t end up buying double.
  • Make as few trips to the supermarket each month as possible; the more you shop, the more you spend on unnecessary impulse buying.
  • If you are making fewer trips, look to frozen fruit and vegetables.
  • Fewer shops means that you have longer to collect coupons or offers.
  • Always investigate Buy-One-Get-One-Free offers and avoid Buy-Two-Get-Third-Free. Remember to think, ‘Do I really need this?’
  • Hit multiple stores and use the budget supermarkets like Aldi.
  • Freeze whatever you can if it’s not going to be used within a couple of days.
  • If you have younger children try to leave them with someone to avoid distractions and other unnecessary purchases.

Use Cheaper Cuts of Meat

Over the last couple of years during the recession many chefs have championed the cheaper cuts of meat and as such the supermarkets have followed by restocking more traditional cuts you’d only get in the local butchers.

These cheaper cuts have often been overlooked in the past as they are usually tougher and require a different method of cooking. However, these cuts are some of the most flavourful when they are prepared and cooked correctly. Investing in a slow cooker will make these cuts beautifully tender and flavourful; it also means that your preparation time is reduced as it’s just chucking the ingredients in together.

While some of these are fattier cuts, this will pack much more flavour into your meals and sauces. If it’s too much fat for you, you can simply cut it off prior to or after cooking.

For example, at Asda, Oxtail is £5.14 per kilo as opposed to braising steak (which is also cheaper than rump or sirloin) which is £8.75 per kilo. While not often a favourite, Oxtail is a great alternative for stews and meals which involve, long slow cooking, because it is slightly more gelatinous, the accompanying gravy has a rich deep beef flavour. Other types of cheap cuts are the neck, shoulder (braising steak) or skirt, all ideally cooked slowly. The brisket is also an ideal alternative to traditional cuts for roasting, it’s also a popular barbequing cut.

Alternatively, buying chicken legs and thighs instead of breast is also a way of significantly reducing cost without sacrificing taste, for example, at Tesco; chicken breasts are £11.65 per kilo, while the legs are £3.70 per kilo. While some may not enjoy the idea of cooking on the bone, it’s easy to de-bone and dice for meals such as curries and pasta. Even whole chickens are cheaper per kilo than prepared breast, so if you’re feeding a few or making dishes which include diced chicken like stir fry or pies, then this is much better value. Leftovers can also be used for sandwiches and making home made stock.

Even when eating lamb or pork there are cheaper substitutes, such as Lamb Shoulder instead of leg, £6.00 per kilo compared to £13.33 at Tesco. Other cheap cuts are the neck or scrag, which are best slow cooked or the breast, which can be rolled or stuffed and roasted similar to a leg or shoulder, and even though it has increased in popularity, Pork belly is still one of the cheaper cuts along with cheek and chump (end loin which is good rolled and roasted).

Fish generally is still rather expensive, but there are cheaper options such as Plaice, Coley, Pollock or Mackerel, especially if you make the effort to visit your local fish monger. Buying frozen is also much cheaper then fresh.

While many are offended even by the mention of offal like liver or kidneys, improved recipes mean that these exceptionally cheap options shouldn’t be sneered at. Liver isn’t cooked the way your Mum used to, when it could be used to sole shoes and at around £1.50 per kilo is an absolute bargain if you can over your former misconceptions of the cut.

More Veg

Ultimately meat is an expense, so try bulking up meals with more vegetables, baked beans or pulses, not only will it keep you fuller for longer, but you’ll also be getting some of your 5-a-day. In fact even adding one vegetarian meal to your weekly menu will make a significant different to your shopping bill over the month.

Growing your own vegetables is also extremely cost effective, why not get started with a small herb garden or window box.

The Market

You may hear this a lot, but using local shops and the markets is considerably cheaper than the supermarkets, firstly you only pay for what you want, overheads are generally cheaper and you’re not paying for the packaging, which ultimately goes in the bin any way. Your local greengrocer, butcher or fishmonger will also be able to give you cooking advice and the rapport you build with them may even be beneficial.

Similarly, using ethnic supermarkets is also cheaper if you’re looking for speciality ingredients to try new recipes or looking to stock up on essentials, most also stock meat, such as Halal butchers. Again, a decrease in packaging and overheads means its much cheaper.

The only issue with using these types of places is most commonly our time and convenience, however if you can make that little bit of effort or looking to shop on a budget, it’ll definitely be worth it.

Use the Leftovers

The amount of food this country wastes is staggering, making too much food is often the cause of this, whether our eyes are bigger than our bellies or just a simply miscalculation results in money inadvertently being chucked in the bin.

Most food will last up to 2 days when refrigerated, apart from seafood, so make a habit or covering taking for lunch the following day. Alternatively, you can save time and money by making double and freezing the other half for later in the week or the following week if you freeze it. Although, only ever re-heat food once.

Even if you only have a small amount, think how it can be used; in sandwiches, with a jacket potatoes or rice the next day?

You can also use left over bones and carcasses to make homemade stock, while stock isn’t expensive; making your own will be much tastier. Simply boil the bones with some root veg and earthy herbs, leave to cool and either strain or simply store away in your fridge or freezer for a later date.

 

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