Do you regularly spend a fortune on the weekly shop? Throwing away lots of wasted food? Reaching for the takeaway menu because you don’t know what to cook? Struggling financially because of the current situation? If any or all of these apply to you read on. I may have some ideas for you how to help.The news this week that MPs have voted against free school meals for children in England has really shocked and upset me. It has really hit home this week how lucky I am that I am able to feed my family and pay my bills without too much difficulty. The thought of any child having to go to bed hungry is heartbreaking. Whilst I have fortunately never been in that dire situation we haven’t been without our struggles. Whilst I was on maternity leave my partner lost his job and we were in a difficult financial situation.Now while I have never been the best cook I have got by. Mostly I was a lazy cook. I bought meal kits, ready chopped veg and meat. Due to our circumstances in 2018 we had to do a complete overhaul of how we lived particularly how we managed the shopping and food.In this blog I am going to focus on some general changes we made around the food shop. In later blogs I will look at recipes and meal ideas.Where the heck do I start?That’s exactly what I wondered when I realised how much our usual monthly budget had shrunk! Start with the location. Where do you shop? I’m honestly amazed if anyone can regularly shop in Tesco these days! (Sorry Tesco). Look at switching to Aldi or Lidl if you can. That slashed a bit of our bill before we even picked up an item. Now I know not everyone has time but if you are able it’s definitely worth looking in places like Home Bargains and BM Bargains for your cleaning type products. You can usually do this just once per month. So may be a bigger initial layout but you will save overall in the other weeks. One of my favourite places is The Food Warehouse. It has not got everything for a complete shop but an amazing range of frozen foods and lots of store cupboard staples at very good prices. We go to stock up the freezer occasionally.Your going to have to cook from scratchYes if you need to save money this is another easy way to do it. I’d rather peel my fingernails off than peel veg to be honest but I do it now because it is so much cheaper. (Plus prepared veg is in all that plastic and so you are helping the environment too!). When I got down to it I realised I actually really like cooking. What I found really rewarding though was how cheap I could make a really good meal. When you start making your own food you soon start to pick up what foods go with which other foods. This is a life skill that’s not taught in school and one I wasn’t really great at prior to 2018. You also learn how to bulk food out with veg to make it go further.Top tip for chopping onions…use your kids swimming goggles.Cupboard staplesNow there are a few things that I can’t be without. The most expensive are probably going to be the dry herbs and spices. If you are starting from scratch I would suggest buying one or 2 per week or month as your budget allows.
- Cumin, Paprika, Tumeric, Garam masala
- Chinese 5 spice, soy sauce
- I like grinding salt and pepper personally.
- Stock cubes beef/chicken/veg
- Cheap honey
- Tin tomatoes, baked beans, tomato puree
This combination of dry ingredients is nearly everything I use regularly in various dishes. I would start here but always add to your collection. We have a huge selection in our cupboard.Look for the cheaper cuts of meatSwap chicken breast for thighs they are so much tastier too. Buy a whole chicken and strip the whole carcass while it’s hot, that way it’s easier to get every bit of meat off. You can even keep the bones to make an amazing chicken stock. I will tell you how in a later blog. Pork is reasonably cheap. We like to buy a joint and slow cook it. It can then be pulled for hot rolls, Sunday dinner, sandwich meat. I have a few different things I like to do with pork chops too. Minced beef can be very cheap. You can swap the lean mince for the 20% fat mince and save a bit more. I’ll tell you what I do with my 20% mince in a future blog.Best before VS Use by datesSo much perfectly good food is thrown away because people aren’t clear on the difference here. Use by means that food should be used by midnight on the date printed. I am not suggesting you should do this but depending on what it is I have a sniff and if it smells ok I crack on. I don’t do it with Chicken or fish ever. Best before means goods CAN be consumed after the given date. It just may not taste as fresh or won’t be at it’s best.Bulk out mealsWe bulk out with mushrooms and vegetables mostly. You can use chickpeas, pearl barley at or lentils to do the same. Also if there’s some veg that’s going to go over in the bottom of your fridge then just throw it in whatever you’re making. Pack up the leftovers and either have them the next day or pop them in the freezer for another time.Pick off brand productsThere are very few foods that I have to have on brand. Cheerios is one and mayonnaise is the other. Anything else I cannot tell the difference. I wasn’t that keen on switching over at first but honestly I don’t know what I was scared about. Some things I actually prefer the Aldi brand. Their flavoured cider is awesome by the way!Other things…If things are really tight then buying kitchen items are definitely not at the top of the list. However, having a large freezer space can make the world of difference. Especially if you have a big family. Now I’m not suggesting you go and buy a new one. If you look on local Freecycle sites you may pick one up for free or cheap. Another must have for me is my slow cooker. I can batch cook large quantities for minimal effort. Again, look on Freecycle sites. I’m not sure how many areas have a quid bid site but our local site is fantastic. The bargains I have had on there! There are always kitchen items on ours. If you don’t have one in your area set one up. It’s an easy way to sell items too.Well I hope that helps somewhat regarding how to get started changing your shopping and mealtime habits. I have got a few more blogs planned around this subject. If you have anything you want me to add in please let me know.Love and peace xxx