Running a household can be a difficult and stressful task, especially when keeping an eye on your spending. By following a few simple rules and our top 5 tips for producing delicious meals on a budget, you can save a few pennies in the process…
1. Buy in season
By doing this, you’re able to take advantage of the multi-buy deals on seasonal fruit and vegetables. Plus, they are far more likely to taste better because they’re being grown at the appropriate time of year in the appropriate country. During December and January, our local independent store had blood oranges available. To say they were delicious was an understatement! Every single blood orange I bought tasted as good as the last, and this was because they were in season. I was devastated when February hit and the store was no longer able to order then because they were out of season. If we did this with all our fresh produce, especially fruit, we’d probably kiss goodbye to hard, bitter and sometimes tasteless fruit!
2. Cook in bulk
This point follows on from our previous one…if you buy seasonal produce in bulk, made a double batch and freeze half in portions, and you have another meal ready and waiting for you. And even if you;re not cooking seasonal dishes, you still save by cooking double. By doing this, you’re reducing any potential waste, being economical, freezing your seasonal produce at the point of peak freshness and maximum flavour, plus you it carries all the convenience of a ready meal except you know exactly what’s gone in it. In addition, you also save time, as well as money. I find that if I double a recipe, it only adds an extra 5 – 10 minutes on the cooking time rather than doubling my cooking time. That’s time that I can then spend doing other things.
3. Turn to more exotic style of cuisine
So many cultures around the world use spices, which, when stored correctly, will last a long time and add so much flavour. Now, I know what you’re thinking, spices are expensive. Well, some are (like green cardamom), but many (like cumin seeds) are very reasonably priced and add so much flavour without adding calories. Plus, using spices as your source of flavour will reduce the need for more expensive items (like cream for example) and your spices will go much further than that one pot of cream, which you’ll mostly likely use all at once. To make sure you do save money, instead of buying the small, tall jars of spices, head the the world food isle in your local supermarket and you’ll find much bigger bags of spices for the same price! Spices need to be stored in a cool, dark cupboard. So pick an area of your kitchen that doesn’t get hit by sunlight. Buy whole spices and only grind them when you are about to use them in cooking, as whole spices will stay fresh for twice the length of time than ground spices (on average, ground spices will keep for 6 months and whole spices will keep for 12 months).
4. Swap meat for vegetarian protein
Now, I’m not saying that you should cut meat out all together, but if you have meat 5 times a week, that can be expensive. Instead, why not try lentils and pulses? For example, dhal (Indian lentils) are absolutely delicious, and if you have a meal Indian chickpeas, it is tasty and filling. In our house, we regularly add green lentils to our bolognase. A few years ago, when I was conference producing and commuting to London, we didn’t have time to get to the shops and only had one pack of mince for dinner. With four mouths to feed (and two of those mouths belonging to boys) we knew one pack wouldn’t be enough. So, we added plain boiled green lentils to bulk it out, and it was delicious! So delicious, that now we always do this, and we use half the amount of meat, so it’s win-win all round!
5. Grow your own
This involves a time investment rather than a financial investment, so if you are looking for an excuse to each delicious tasting food on a budget, this tip is for you! You can buy seeds very cheaply and will be surprised at how much fruit and veg you will get in return. Courgettes are very easy to grow, and when they do grow, they grow in abundance! Spinach is also great because it regrows after you’ve cut it, so you’ll have a constant supply. Growing your own is also very handy if you are partial to the more expensive soft fruits, such as blueberries and raspberries. We have a blueberry plant in our garden, and every summer, we are rewarded with soft, sweet fruit. If I find that I don’t fancy blueberries for a few days, I still pick the fruit but freeze it straight away. Then, in the following months I blend them (straight from the freezer) with orange juice, and I have a really nice smoothie.