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Frugal food tips....but be gentle with me!

(25 Posts)
bowbluebell Thu 25-Feb-10 19:19:34

Hello all,

Maternity leave is at an end (and I got a £400 electrician bill and a speeding fine yesterday...) so we are looking at ways of spending less money on our cooking and eating BUT still eat well (I absolutely cannot give up game pie or nice chocolate).

I'm a real beginner at being frugal with food but able to cook from scratch and will enthusiastically try any ideas you have for buying and eating more economically.

So far I've stopped shopping at Waitrose and made friends with our local butcher andfish van. I now do a monthly online shop for tins and other non-perishables and have bought lots and lots of lentils.

I know...I have a long way to go....please share anything that works for you, me and my bank account will love you for it!

nickytwotimes Thu 25-Feb-10 19:23:34

First thing to do is make a weekly menu planner. That cuts out any waste.

You are onto a winner if you can cook from scratch.

I find shopping weekly more efficient than monthly, but see what works for you.

Have you looked at the budget recipes on here?

Yzzil Thu 25-Feb-10 19:26:07

I'm a big fan of Riverford Organic veg boxes. Their roots and greens one in particular is great value. I find we eat less meat as the veg is so much nicer, we try to eat veggie at least twice a week and they have lots of yummy recipes on their website. When we do have meat it's a smallish piece with lots of veg to stretch it further or a stew with jacket potatoes.

Otherwise....make big batches of stuff and freeze, feed everyone the same thing (our toddler loves "grown up" food)and make soups and big lentil salads if you are eating lunch at home (or even for a lunchbox).

nickschick Thu 25-Feb-10 19:26:55

go to martin lewis money saving expert- theres loads of advice ad info on there.

hmm at game pie though.

nickytwotimes Thu 25-Feb-10 19:28:20

You could make the game pie from roadkill though... wink

Yzzil Thu 25-Feb-10 19:28:30

root veg crumble

spinach and mushroom lasagne

overmydeadbody Thu 25-Feb-10 19:40:16

Buy supermarket own brands of things, instead of big brand names that are often twice as expensive.

Compare prices when you are shopping. Paying less for something doesn't automatically mean you are getting a lower quality product, pricing is all about perceived value.

Check prices every ime you shop. The big supermarkets regularly change the prices of their products, so what might be the cheapest brand of, say, jam, one week might not be the cheapest brand another week.

If you have a freezer buying in bulk often works out cheaper.

If you have time, making your own bread is much cheaper than buying it (unless you are buying really cheap sliced bread).

If you want to, head to the supermarets late in the afternoon, that is when all their reduced prices come out of fresh food like bread, fruit and veg and meat.

Yzzil Thu 25-Feb-10 19:42:07

Drink less win (if it's anything like our house blush)

Yzzil Thu 25-Feb-10 19:42:52

oops, meant wine...I haven't started early, honest!

overmydeadbody Thu 25-Feb-10 19:45:03

I find keeping breakfast and lunch very very cheap means I don't mind a bit more of our daily food busdget going into a nice supper.

Making everything from scratch does work out cheaper, especially if you make double and freeze half.

30andLurking Thu 25-Feb-10 19:51:25

Come up with a few 'budget' meals so you can have one or two cheap nights each week (jacket potato with beans, veggie frittata etc) - they tend to be really quick and easy so good for when baby comes too!

If you buy mince, say to make a spag bol, then add in slightly more chopped onions/carrots/celery/peppers/whatever you'd normally use/than normal, and then freeze half the meat sauce (labelled) for lasagne etc. Cuts down on portion size, healthier, no leftovers hanging around, ready meals in your freezer for when baby arrives - everyone's a winner!

Don't buy bagged salad unless you're going to eat it that day. I reckon I throw pounds of the stuff away, and I throw virtually nothing away.

Porridge for breakfast. Yummy, practically free.

Baked rice pudding when you've got too much milk in the fridge, ditto.

If you still want a treat - e.g. some really nice cheese - then make a supper out of it with crackers and apple and salad etc, rather than just nibbling on it, so you get to really enjoy it!

30andLurking Thu 25-Feb-10 19:52:47

Sorry, misread you OP, thought you were just going onto maternity leave and therefore going to be cooking more. Still, the quick'n'easy logic holds good!

taffetacat Thu 25-Feb-10 20:05:09

- menu plan - buy only what you need for the menu plus storecupboard items out of stock
- buy reduced meat/fish whenever you see it in the supermarket - and freeze for when you want it
- agree with 30 re spag bol reducing mince amount I have a gorgeous recipe that uses only a small amount of mince ( but quite a lot of wine and bacon..... but you can use plonk and basics streaky)
- a lot of the basics range in supermarkets are perfectly good, even the Waitrose essentials are a reasonable price. I notice their butter is very cheap
- make your own pizza dough. its great fun, really easy, very cheap and you can freeze it. also make dough balls with it.
- quesadillas is a great cheap fave here. homemade pesto (can be cheap if you grow your own basil) and cheddar yum, made with supermarket own brand wraps/tortillas. Takes 5 minutes.
- grow your own veg and herbs from seed. cuddle up to a gardener friend for some freebie seeds.

Ponymum Thu 25-Feb-10 21:46:14

Develop a repertoire of several good cheap meals, then complement with one or two more special meals. But always, always look at the prices! Some of my special meals actually cost very little too. And the number one rule is to meal plan, and shop to your plan. Don't waste anything.

A few ideas for super cheap meals:
- Soup and bread. We like spiced carrot and butternut squash soup. Onions, garlic, chilli flakes, curry powder, homemade stock, and add the veg. Two nice garlic baguettes from Sainsbury's for £1, or make your own bread for even cheaper. If you make a big batch put a spare soup meal in the freezer. The garlic bread freezes too, so really quick and easy.
- Cous cous and roasted veg. Make the cous cous tasty with stock and herbs. Roast root veg like parsnip, carrots, etc along with red onion and whole garlic, and add some green beeans near the end (fresh ones really expensive but you can buy nice frozen ones which are perfect for this). Garnish with plain yoghurt and/ or sweet chilli sauce.
- Veg risotto costs next to nothing. Butternut squash is tasty, and you can add a real yum factor with addition of a tiny bit of grilled thinly sliced parma ham.

Ideas for nice meals:
- Chilli prawn pasta. One pack of taste the difference frozen prawns costs £1.99. Defrost and toss in a hot pan with loads of finely chopped chilli and garlic with generous amount of olive oil. Add a large amount of small chopped broccoli. When cooked toss through cooked fettucine and add some parsley (from your herb pot - did I mention you should grow herbs?). Feels like a restaurant meal but amazingly cheap.
- Roast duck legs with nicely cooked potatoes and veg. Buy when they are half price at £1.99 and put some in the freezer for a ready supply.

Other tips:
- As a rule, don't buy chicken breasts. Chicken thighs are much tastier and half the price, even if you only buy free range like us.
- Pay attention to the price difference between fillets and pieces too - you can always skin and bone the pieces yourself if e.g. you want to make a curry, and you save so much money.
- Never throw the bones away. Put cooked bones in a zip lock bag in the freezer and when you have enough make a big pot of stock with some fading veg - I do it the same week I make a risotto so the other half of the celery never goes to waste. Freeze the stock in handy portions for use in soups, risottos and casseroles.

Question everything you spend. When you can cook a whole meal for a couple of pounds a little jar of something from the deli for £4 starts to look a bit silly.

I am passionate about this as I have been through a similar journey from high-spending gourmet to sensible budgeter. I feel so proud when I produce tasty meals for so little. Good luck with it!

silverwoodhelpdesk Fri 26-Feb-10 09:18:39

Bacon is wonderful stuff. It makes vegetarian (cheaper) meals much easier to handle for a confirmed carnivore like me.
Pot roasting your sunday roast keeps all the juices in and reduces shrinkage so your meal stretches further.
Also cheaper cuts of meat such as stuffed and rolled breast of lamb mean that you don't need to forgo the sunday roast.
Make a pot of tea when making tea for more than one, as it can be cheaper than individual tea bags.
Grow your own veg. Even if it is just herbs on the windowsill (in fact, seeing the price supermarkets charge for herbs I should say "especially herbs").

stanausauruswrecks Tue 02-Mar-10 15:58:55

I am in the same situation - last 3 months of mat leave, so no money coming in on my sidewink Go to Aldi and stock up as their products are great quality. For example, tinned tomatoes are 33p a tin and contain 60% tomatoes compared with napolina which have 65% and costs 3 times the price, marmalade has 45g fruit per 100g compared with Sainsbos own label which has 30g per 100g. Their fruit and veg are lovely and fresh and lasts well. They also do great antipasti - jars of artichoke, sun dried tomatoes or roasted peppers for £1.19. Their premium sausages and bacon are really good too and I'm really fussy!!
Check out your local farm shop as well, as they do good quality meat at a resonable price, as well as big bags of potatoes(£1.79 for 5kg)

Chil1234 Tue 02-Mar-10 16:53:00

BEANS!!!! grin

Get a 500g packet of dried beans or chickpeas, soak and cook according to the instructions on the pack, then drain well, allow to dry and freeze in a thin layer so that they don't stick. You now have about 1.5kgs of lean, mean, protein for about 69p... all cooked up and ready to throw into...
chillis, curries, soups, broths, casseroles, bakes, pasta dishes, salads, beanburgers, you name it they are very versatile

TIP.... to make cheap, simple food like beans, root veggies, grains etc taste excellent invest in plenty of herbs and spices.

meatntattypie Tue 02-Mar-10 16:56:46

Dont buy lunch, take packed lunch with you, get dp/dh to do the same.

bulk cook, cook big and freeze half, this makes a "free meal" the following week.

use cheeper meats and poultry, i use chicken drummers in my slow cooker, the meat falls off and i then make a huge curry.

MEAL PLAN cant stress this enough, then only shop for what is needed on the list...nothing else.

midnightexpress Tue 02-Mar-10 17:01:37

As silverwood says, some of the really expensive fresh stuff from supermarkets is dead easy to grow - salad leaves, for example, which you can grow in a windowbox or at the back door in a pot as a cut-and-come-again crop (ie cut off leaves as you need them and they'll keep growing). Also tomatoes if you have a sunny spot - you can get trailing varieties that you grow in hanging baskets. Herbs are good, as silverwood says, and also some fruit if you have a little space - strawberries grow well in pots or hanging baskets, blueberries in pots (with ericaceous compost), and I have 12 bulbs of garlic happily growing in pots outside my back door.

And obviously, if you have more time/space, there are all sorts of things you could be growing!

bowbluebell Thu 04-Mar-10 21:41:02

Wow! There are loads of fantastic ideas here to be trying. I've got a menu plan for the week and I am going to replant some herbs in tubs now spring is here. I made a lovely smoked haddock and spinach pasta bake for littly and me today. A huge portion of haddock from the fish van was only £1.30! He does mussels for £2 per kilo and Cromer crabs for jusr £2.50. I have also discovered that the going rate for a pheasant is £2.50- at the moment as it's the end of the season- so looks like game pie is on the menu!

Shopping locally, seasonally and buying fewer, better ingredients really does work!!

I've put a cheapish breadmaker on our wedding list.

Anyone make their own yoghurt,or is this a bridge too far? Is that on the first step on the path to knitting with dog hair?!

Thanks again ladies, you've really helped me out

TheHouseofMirth Sat 06-Mar-10 12:18:48

Yoghurt making's easy. Lakeland do a machine or you can make yoghurt in a wide necked thermos. here.

Lemonycorkscrew Fri 17-Jun-11 10:35:34

Try this one There is a downloadable meal plan and a frugal food forum as well

alana39 Fri 17-Jun-11 13:52:56

A good joint of meat is pork shoulder. Probably needs to be from a butcher, as in supermarkets I always see it stuffed. It's good value, and a 1.5kg joint will do a good roast and give you generous leftovers to shred up and put in the pan to heat up at the end of stirfrying some cheap veg. And maybe even something for sandwiches.

I was in a similar situation to you last year, and have surprised myself by spending less on food even though I signed up for organic box scheme because I plan ahead, and have to be more imaginative with veg which has been a revelation (helped by the River Cottage Everyday book, maybe you can get it from the library or suggest it to someone as a birthday or Christmas present?).

You'll also need a load of spices to cope with those lentils! Buy whole spices and grind them, so they keep longer and you can take advantage of buying in bulk.

rockinhippy Fri 17-Jun-11 14:33:11

Don't waste left overs - re use - & freeze

for example our Sunday roast leftovers become

"Sunday Curry" - throw all the veg (& meat in your case) into a large pan with a bit of oil, add tinned chopped toms & large chunks of onion & curry powder & any extra curry type spices you like, such as extra chilli - dollop of greek yoghurt/creme frais & if you like corriander at the end -

serve with rice Freeze with rice for home cooked healthy cheap ready meals

TooTiredToArgue Fri 17-Jun-11 18:59:25

Some great ideas on here.

Taffetacat can I have your spag bol recipe?

Sorry to hijack.

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