Having Cheaper Meals

Blimey, things are getting more expensive aren't they?

I know the rise in inflation has been on the news, but it really only hits home when you see everyday items costing more.

I've mentioned before the app I use to sort out where I buy different items from, but I'll just say it again, in case it helps someone.

I buy food once a month - with fruit and veg weekly.  I plan (roughly) the meals for a month.

I write out the food and household items we already have, and what we need extra to that for a month. Then I go online to Trolley.com

I type in my shopping list, tick the shops I use, and it gives me each item and where it is cheapest. From this I do an online shop and a click-and-collect shop; with a small list for a third shop.

Now then

Cheaper meals - this is how I do it.

1. Eat smaller amounts.  

It's not rocket science to say that using smaller amounts of each ingredients saves money - but I'm not talking about going hungrier: and certainly not saying you should neglect nutrition. No. But. Halve the expensive ingredient and replace it.  

For example, our main meal today was Lettuce-wrapped Yak Sung.  This is how I made it cheaper:  I replaced pork mince with Quorn mince and used half the quantity - using two handfuls of porridge oats mixed in to bulk it out. Instead of more expensive veg, I finely chopped carrots and onions. 

2.  Saving on cooking costs.  

Cook a larger amount and freeze half. This saves fuel for cooking two meals. Also, if you make a few meals that start with the same base ingredients, perhaps cook one big batch of that. For example, a mince/onion base is used for lasagne, bolognaise and cottage pie. Cooking one pot full and freezing in portions also helps you manage the amount in each meal that can be bulked put with veg.

The other cooking cost idea is: if the oven is going on, what else can you cook at the same time?  Maybe prepare two lasagnes, or add homemade pasties to go in the oven and use that heat.

3. Veg is grate. Deliberate spelling!

Grated fresh veg goes in most of our meals. I buy cheapo veg that won't win any beauty contests, but tastes just the same! Grated carrots or celery add flavour and cheapy bulk. I also put almost every veg part in my slow cooker. Potato peelings, every washed part of veg, limp veg, bendy veg, slightly soggy veg.  NOT the very end pieces of root veg or anything mouldy (doesn't get chance to go mouldy in our house!). Add veg stock cube and water and wahey- 'free' soup! This can also be used as the base for a casserole. Blended or soft and lumpy. ((They don't call me Soupdragon for nothing.))

4. Potatoes are it.

Jacket potatoes go with almost anything.  Tinned beans, tuna, cheese - yes, but what about leftover cooked veg and a squirt of mayo? Mashed white beans in a little oil? Tinned spaghetti?   Tomato puree and grated cheese (pizza on a potato!) Leftover curry.   Spuds are worth their weight.

5. Cooking slowly.

I talk about using my slow cooker. I probably use it three times every week. I've always got a soup made from leftovers and in the fridge, and meals that involve dried beans / peas / lentils or chunks of Quorn cook brilliantly this way.

You can dress these slow-cooked casserole meals up with a posh name:

 Mediterranean casserole (passata, herbs, olives and garlic)

Stroganoff (peppers, mushrooms and yogurt)

Mexican (tomato puree and spices)

Cassoulet (lots of garlic and herbs)

6. Cut out / down your use of meat.

One of the biggest price increases is on meat.  If you are a meat eater, buy less or eat less. You can buy reduced price or cheaper cuts of meat.  We rarely eat meat now - in fact, due to health reasons I have stopped all meat and dairy. However, this can work out more expensive if you just buy a veggy/vegan version of the meaty item anyway. Instead plan different meals.

7. Make your own

Well worth looking into is can you make your own rather than a ready made.

E.g. burgers are easy and can be made from whatever you have. 

If you like pasties then make your own pastry. You can buy a bag of flour and a tub of marg for the price of a ready roll of pastry: but you can make 4 times as much!

Chips are so easy to make that it astounds me when I see ready-peeled and cut frozen ones!

I spoke to a youngster recently who had been to McDonalds for the first time ever. I asked her what she thought of it, and she said her dad's chicken nuggets were better, and that she didn't like the leftover packaging.  I hope there are many more kids - and adults - who jump on the same bandwagon.

8. Use leftovers

Make leftovers into another meal. Freeze them. Make soup from them. If there are four of you, plate up five meals. There is food then for nibbling on, for teenagers, for supper. Once you get into the habit of doing this, it's easy.  

9. Reduced price grub.

Our local shop has a tray near the till for reduced price bread and cakes. This food is at the 'best before' date. We will often pick up a couple of loaves of bread then put them in the freezer once we get in.

A loaf of bread can be as little as 20p! We worth buying at that price.  Toast is a good 'fill-up' snack for a teenager. 

10. Where does your shopping cash go?

Ask for the receipt when you food shop.  Look through these at the end of the month and see exactly what you spend money on. Is this something you can save on? Did you need it? Was it eaten, or did some get wasted? Can you buy a cheaper version? 

Use this analysis of your receipts when you plan the food shopping for next month. 

11. Eat cheaper.

What are the cheapest foods you can buy that go a long way? Think about dried lentils, rice, tinned spaghetti in sauce, paste in jars, cheese, onions, carrots, potatoes, pasta, frozen veg.

You don't have to ear at restaurant standard every day. 

Something on toast once or twice a week won't kill you, and it can help save money.

Do you have any ideas to add to this?




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