One of my friends moaned to me last night as she had started cooking from scratch, as I had advised, but said it was costing her more. She sent me a picture of stuff from her fridge that she was going to throw away. They had been ingredients in recipes that she hadn’t used again and was going to waste. We chatted about how she could keep the cost down and so I thought I would share some of my tips with you. You probably know most of them but it is good to be reminded sometimes.
- Keep the ingredients simple using mainly staples from your kitchen. The less ingredients there are in a recipe the cheaper it will be. I rarely look at recipes with more than 6 ingredients.
- Weave ingredients that are going off in the fridge into other meals eg she was throwing away plain yoghurt which she could have used to make pizza dough, dips, served with fruit, or frozen to make a yoghurt bark.
- Base some of your weekly meals on no meat, or little meat. This doesn’t mean you have to start eating chick peas or other food the family would turn their nose up at. If you incorporated pizza, cheese and onion pie, or a curry they wouldn’t even twig what you are doing.
- Pad meat meals out. Add potato or beans to your meat pie. Add lentils, oats, bread crumbs or vegetables to your bolognaise or chilli.
- If you do want to use an ingredient that you won’t use for a bit, preserve it. I love Harissa paste but can’t afford to buy it often. When I do buy it I freeze it in ice cube trays and then bag it to use in meals when I want it. I do the same with lemon juice if I need the rind for a cake.
- Batch cook. Stretch a meal and freeze it to save another time eg. I will make a big pan of bolognaise using vegetables and two big handfuls of red lentils with 250g of minced beef. Out of this pan of bolognaise I will probably make 3 meals. These might include things like lasagna, serving with spaghetti, serving with a pie crust, mixing some with left over mash and making pasties, making savoury pancakes, serving with mash potato on top, or putting in tortilla wraps and airfrying until crisp. If the oven is on try to fill it. If I don’t have much time I will just throw in a rice pudding or something simple so that I don’t waste electricity.
- Don’t be a brand snob. If you are putting baked beans in a pasties with some sliced sausage and cheese they don’t need to be a high quality brand. You don’t need a branded flour to make pastry. Even if your family will only eat branded products you can still cook from scratch with cheaper products, no one will notice. (To be honest my family didn’t notice when I poured Aldi ketchup into a Heinz bottle, or put an Aldi cereal bag into a Kelloggs box either 😊).
- Mix up leftovers to make a meal eg if you have a bit of left over chicken and a bit of ham from packed lunches, turn them into a pie. If you have leftover mash potato and half a can of tuna make a couple of fish cakes.
- Plan your weekly meals around 2 or 3 of the most expensive ingredients. A pack of sausages can make two meals if cut in half and used in a toad in the hole and a sausage quiche, or sausage casserole. A chicken can be served as a Sunday dinner and then make a chicken pie, a chicken supreme, chicken curry or serve with chips, for instance. I will often get 5 meals for 2 of us out of a chicken.
- If you shop weekly, plan to cook the meals at the beginning of the week with the ingredients that will go off (or prep and freeze them).
Cooking from scratch may seem hard work at first but if you are creative and keep it simple it can save you a lot of money. You will gradually find meals that you can make quickly when you have little time, and you may even start to enjoy the challenge of cooking to lower your food budget, as I do.