Do you like watching cooking programmes on TV?
You may remember a programme called ‘Economy Gastronomy’ which was on (in the UK) a few years ago.
It was a series which looked at ‘ordinary’ people who were spending too much money on their food shopping. Two cooks (Allegra McEvedy and Paul Merrett) taught them how to menu plan / budget / cook with impressive cost-cutting results.
I was especially impressed by one family who – as I remember – were spending about £17,000 on food per year! – largely due to eating too many ready-made convenience foods – and they managed to cut their expenses drastically.
Now we don’t spend nearly that amount, but whilst I do try to keep an eye on costs I am aware that we could do better – and in these credit-crunch times that would be no bad thing.
Fired into action by the Live Below the Line challenge, I have been looking much more carefully at food costs – and you may have seen a couple of weeks menu plans that I put together for around £20 for 5 meals for 4.
What has struck me most is that despite radically reducing our weekly budget, the family don’t seem to have noticed a drop in quality of the meals!
I don’t claim to be an expert on cost counting, but I have learnt some interesting things to help cut costs, which I thought I’ld share.
- Plan rigidly – and stick to your plan – yes, REALLY stick to your plan. The aim should be to abolish those expensive last minute dashes to the supermarket to buy food when you’re in a hurry.
- Make a Shopping list and stick to it – although you are allowed to add things which are on offer and you usually use!
- Online shopping: use comparison sites (such as mysupermarket.co.uk), and use the box (in the top right-hand corner) which states how the products you are being shown are ordered. Select the option of ‘Price per unit (low to high)’. You may – like me – be very surprised at the cheaper options you find.
- Try a cheaper brand. A few weeks ago I was ranting about the enormous variation in the price of tinned tomatoes – 31p to £1.19 for 400g chopped tomatoes. I bought one of each to compare – and, yes, there was a difference, but in my view – if I’m adding a tin of tomatoes to a casserole – the difference that I could detect was not worth the price hike.
- Estimate portion sizes as exactly as you can. We’ve had far fewer leftovers since I started weighing out the amount of pasta / rice / whatever before cooking. For help with this the Love Food Hate Waste website has some useful calculators.
- Plan to use leftovers. There are a lot of BOGOFs and offer prices if you buy in bulk, encouraging us all to buy more than we need – so cook more than you need and save for later, or serve up again in a different guise. Just remember, if you are planning to use some of what you’ve cooked tomorrow, take it out of the pot before serving it up to your family!
- Try different foods. I’ve discovered that I can serve up a vegetarian meal to the troops without anyone demanding their red meat! And yes, we do all like lentils, and the Pork Goulash which we’ve just had (made with Pork Cheeks at £4.49 a kilo) was so delicious I’m going to have to tell you about it some time soon.
– Do you have any other tips?
So this week I’m back to budgeting. The £20 menus were fine but at that cost it is difficult to include much meat. My husband is a true-blue-dyed-in-the-wool meat-eater so if we have too many vegetarian recipes he starts to mutter, so this week I’ve not been quite so strict and aimed for £25.
Do you have any favourite budget recipes?