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How to save money on food bill (& energy)

104 replies

NewMamma21 · 12/03/2022 04:31

Sparked by reading a few other threads I’m wondering how you save money on the food shop / cheap meal ideas & how you save money cooking?

Things like egg & chips (what else would you put with this?), beans on toast, padding meals out with lentils.

Another thread also got me thinking about the energy used to make meals. We love a hot baked roll in this house (the kind you buy pre packaged part baked) but that means turning the oven on just to cook 2 small rolls to go with soup.

I have no idea if it’s more economical to steam veg in the microwave, bake in the oven or steam/boil on the gas hob.

What are you doing to save money cooking?

OP posts:

DockOTheBay · 12/03/2022 05:20

A halogen oven is great for things like 2 rolls. Its like a tiny oven which runs off a halogen light bulb. Much cheaper to run and heats up really fast. I keep meaning to get mine out but it's not easily accessible!

Slow cooker or pressure cooker is also an economical way to cook.


vodkaredbullgirl · 12/03/2022 05:45

I have a foodie ninja, use it instead of the oven. It's a 7 in 1 and does alsorts.


QuebecBagnet · 12/03/2022 06:46

Started shopping at Aldi.
Using the air fryer rather than the oven
I don’t buy oven chips, I make chips from potatoes in the air fryer but you can use the oven and some frylight.
Thinking I need to meal prep more


658Doyouknowwheremysparkis · 12/03/2022 07:18

My non brand air fryer ( cost 40 pounds) does marvels for just the two of us, par baked rolls ( usually when they are reduced) cook really well in 8 mins, same with bacon, sausages etc… my wall oven has become a kitchen ornament. We are outside the UK now, but energy pricing is increasing here ( despite record profits and the fact we produce most of our electricity from natural/ renewable sources) plus peak rates are fairly expensive, so we are careful.

Jacket potatoes, 10 mins in microwave … 20 mins at 200 for a crispy, fluffy easy dinner
Welsh rarebit
Homemade veggie samosas ( bit of a faff but worth it)
Steam all veg in microwave and also do a lot of stir frys - air fryer is also great for a ‘tray bake’, plus cooks things really fast.

I do curries, beef in the slow cooker ( again non brand slow cooker that I’ve had for a fair while)

When we use the oven I tend to do roasts and a pudding ( roast meat tends to last us a while - not doing the MN chicken lasts 10 years boast - but we do larger joints and I simply put them into other meals for a few days) ….

If you are able, and have a garden, growing your own veg/ fruit works really well. But I also have the time to fuss and coo over it and grow from seed …. Not everyone has that luxury … I grow the expensive stuff like soft fruit ( bottle it for crumbles/ jam I buy sugar when on offer hoard it to use during the summer)

Right shutting up now as sound really irritating … apologies… but an air fryer is cheaper on the electric bill especially if you have a smallish household.


TheChild · 12/03/2022 07:23

Meal plan, write your shopping list and make sure you check your cupboards so you know what you need to buy for your weekly meals and what you already have. Shop in a smaller shop (we shop at Aldi, those huge Asda Superstores stress me out, doing a food shop there would be my worst nightmare!) I 2rite my shopping list whilst mentally walking round the shop so I don't miss anything and my list is in order.

Try and find more vegetarian meals you like eg cauliflower cheese, cauliflower curry, paneer curry, Aubergine parmegiano. We have omelette once a week as our cheap meal.

If you have time cook from scratch, it costs more initially to get things like stock cubes, spices etc but then making a curry sauce or tomato sauce is so much cheaper (and tastier, I think!)

For cutting energy cost, I need to do this more so will hang around for tips 😁


carefullycourageous · 12/03/2022 09:18

Do you want to cut your costs as much as possible or keep quality up without spending more?

Making your own bread for example is not the cheapest option but is cheaper than buying good bread, even with fuel factored in.

Length of cooking time is a consideration - couscous instead of brown rice must be a big saving.

One pot things are more efficient.

Batch cooking.

Cheaper ingredients and swaps for seasonal stuff.

Frozen veg often saves money over fresh - if you already have the freezer on.

I'm going to buy a slow cooker or Remoska I think.


NewMamma21 · 12/03/2022 23:37

I’ve been interested in an air fryer for a while but we don’t have much counter space, this may a reason to go ahead & get one anyway. I must admit I’ve never considered which appliances use more energy than others before.

We make chips ourselves but haven’t been great at making meals from scratch lately with a young baby. I think we need to get better at meal planning, one pot meals, some cheap meals like omelette etc.

For ease we had been getting Tesco deliveries but I think we’ll be switching back to Lidl for most things.

What are your go to cheap meals?

OP posts:

madamegazelle1 · 13/03/2022 00:55

We have a ninja 7in1 and barely use our oven any more. It has a large capacity and airfrys, roasts and bakes, slow cooks, pressure cooks, sautés, steams and grills. Cheaper to run than the oven and food tastes so much better than the oven- even oven chips!


pawpaws2022 · 13/03/2022 01:01

I batch cook and freeze stuff. Got some containers off eBay which are fab, they're Pyrex with plastic lids and no orange stains Grin

Eggs are pretty good for cheap so egg chips and beans or ham egg and chips, omelette
I use frozen jacket potatoes as I prefer them to normal microwave ones
Soup is good with garlic naan too

If you have cupboard space then (I say this on every thread!) buy what you use, when it's on offer or cheap. So if you always eat the same brand of beans, don't walk past them on BOGOF because you don't "need" them that shop, buy them! If you do this with everything that stores well, you end up not running out of stuff and always paying the cheapest price


QuebecBagnet · 13/03/2022 07:10

Dh and Dd are vegi which I think helps. I make a lot of one pot meals like veg curry, or a stew thing with chickpeas, sweet potatoes and coconut milk. I’ve recently bought a packet of coconut milk powder which you make up yourself, not sure what it will be like.

Even though I’m not vegi I’ve started using quorn chicken pieces for stuff like fajitas. I can’t really tell the difference when they are in spices or a sauce. It’s cheaper. And because it’s a bag in the freezer I’m not wasting anything, just take what I need.


Kitkatandcoffee · 13/03/2022 10:31

My cheap meals are chicken. I buy a chicken. Take of both breasts. That is turned into 2 meals for two. Chicken stir fry with one breast add whatever spices you like. Get another two meals with the rest.
Chicken curry, chicken pasta bake, roast chicken, chicken breast stuffed served with gravy. Homemade stuffing is cheap. Lots of different ideas on line.
I boil the bones for a wee bit to get a good stock. Add lentils, yellow split peas, carrot, swede, onion, or leek. Filling soup.
That gets divided into portions and frozen.
Macaroni cheese, omelette, baked beans with baked tattie.
Baked beans on whole meal toast.
Liver and bacon with onions.
Mince and tatties. Really bulk out the mince with carrots, swede, onions.
This is great to batch cook then freeze.
Spaghetti bolognaise heavy on the veg. Then you can use this sauce for lasagna or add beans and chilli.
Don’t throw out leftovers. I had leftover potatoes and cabbage so bubble and squeak with a fried egg for dinner the next day.
Lentil soup batch cook and freeze. Cheap cheerful and tasty.
Sausage casserole, add loads of veg, tinned tomatoes. You can add beans for sausage and bean casserole.
I make my own savoury rice, cheaper than buying.
I serve with homemade sweet and sour. Or add chicken and spices.
Mushroom risotto.
I mostly batch cook in the slow cooker. I have a large family size slow cooker there is only two of us in the house so amake a large batc and freeze so lots of meals out of one cook.
I have a 5 in one cooker for things like homemade oven chips. Or heating sausage rolls.
I make sausage rolls and freeze, but you can have some bought ones in the freezer so a quick lunch if it will stop you buying a takeaway.


ComtesseDeSpair · 13/03/2022 10:42

Electric pressure cooker. Uses relatively little energy and you can turn e.g. cheap cuts of meat and cheaper ingredients like lentils and beans which take a long time (and therefore more energy) to boil into several portions of a meal really quickly and easily.


ComtesseDeSpair · 13/03/2022 10:43

And the pressure cooker itself doesn’t need to be a fancy expensive Instant Pot or whatever - I saw an own brand one in Wilko the other day for £40 and I doubt it’s much different.


Unescorted · 13/03/2022 10:48

A well stocked spice cupboard does wonders. I spend an hour a month making up the different mixes we use (Fajita, BBQ rubs, garam masala, quatre espice, five spice, berebare, old bay spice mix et al). It gives the convenience of ready meals / cooking sauces without the expense.

2nd the freezer liberation for lunch idea - not paying £3.50 for a rubbish sandwich, crisps I could do with not eating and a drink I am not bothered for is a huge saving.


Unescorted · 13/03/2022 10:56

Slow cooker stand ins - either a thermos flask or a saucepan wrapped in a fleece in a cool box both work well. Just don't be tempted to open either to have a look as you will lose the residual heat. They also make for handy camp cooking methods.


Carpediem15 · 13/03/2022 11:05


And the pressure cooker itself doesn’t need to be a fancy expensive Instant Pot or whatever - I saw an own brand one in Wilko the other day for £40 and I doubt it’s much different.

I have an Instant Pot plus a cheaper one from the Range which I take on self catering holidays and it is fine. Always do overnight soak on beans etc which are cheaper than canned ones then cook and freeze.
I cook pasta, veg and sauce all in one in the cooker and enough for 2 meals each, add mince if you want. If you each meat a 3lb chicken will cook in about 20 mins.
There is veg and lentil soup in the cooker at the moment which will do us today and tomorrow and cheap and tasty.

merryhouse · 13/03/2022 11:27

Stuffed lamb hearts cooked with red wine in the slow cooker, mash, veg and gravy made from the cooking juices.

I know people balk at eating hearts but we get enough for the four of us for £2.70ish. Just remember not to try to eat the top tubey bits and it's actually quite tasty, and meatlike in texture nothing like liver or kidney.


Nnique · 13/03/2022 11:50

Every time you cook a meal like chilli, pasta sauce, curry, stew, etc, cook x 4 of the sauce you need for one meal. So if you’d normally use 250g for two people (that’s about right, actually - 100g protein each for adults per meal), cook a kilo of meat instead. Your bigger packets of meat are better value than smaller ones (as long as you have the budget to buy them, of course!), plus you can then freeze 3/4 of it in individual meal portions, saving you having to cook 3 times for every time you cook. That’s presuming you have enough freezer space. It also saves on oven/hob use. I do this routinely and it saves me time and effort, plus reduces my mental load as I know there is always a selection of meals in the freezer.

Frozen veg is brilliant, if you have enough freezer space - doesn’t go off and you can use as much or as little as you want without anything going to waste. I always have a good selection to hand such as spinach, chopped onions or leeks, Mirepoix if I can find it, mushrooms, peppers, petis pois, Brussels sprouts. They’re not exactly the same as fresh but they’re just as good in their own way, and likely higher in nutrients so it’s a win-win as far as I’m concerned.

I make soups with every scrap of fresh veg that needs using, every week or two - you can even cook lettuce/salads this way and it turns out really well. Something in the vein of a minestrone. I literally just slice/chop and pile in whatever needs using and it’s always delicious.

Chorizo is brilliant - highly flavoured so you only need a little bit for a meal - I buy it from Aldi where we do most of our shopping, and use half for one meal, then freeze the other half to use another time. You can even use 1/3 at a time depending on what you’re making, making it even better value for money. Chorizo, butter bean and spinach stew is really nice. Crusty bread on the side. Frozen spinach is brilliant - get the kind that’s whole leaves.

Chicken thighs are cheaper and much more tasty than breasts.

A whole chicken makes three meals for us - not the proverbial MN chicken, I hasten to add...But it’s quite easy with two people to get one roast dinner (leg or breast each), plus one further meal (chicken Caesar salad, or club sandwiches, chicken and peas in stock, or pasta bake for example), plus a soup with the bones/carcass and the bits of meat left on it. If we needed to we could take our portion sizes down to make an extra meal out of it and if it comes to that we’ll do it happily without feeling deprived.

This is what I do with all food - I’ve just always been of the mindset that I absolutely will not waste any of it. It’s a precious resource that many people in the world don’t have easy access to.

I don’t buy artisan bread anymore - we bake our own now and much prefer it that way, plus it’s far cheaper. We do keep a sliced supermarket loaf in the freezer which we use for breakfast toast for DH. Any scraps of bread are saved and used for bread crumbs.

We’re going to get a pressure cooker (that’s always been on the cards, tbf, just haven’t got round to it yet) for cooking dried legumes and pulses. We’re also now looking into a small halogen oven or stove top multi-oven if we can determine conclusively that it will save us on electricity costs. Does anyone know, off hand, if it has saved them significant money?

I don’t buy specific cleaner products anymore. I’m going back to old-style cleaning - white vinegar, lemon, bicarbonate of soda, soda crystals etc. I’ve got to learn more about this tbf as it’s a recent decision.

‘Special’ meals will become a rarer thing - I love cooking and love using a wide variety of ingredients. But we don’t need to eat that way multiple times weekly. One more elaborate meal every weekend or two is plenty. Simple, basic meals are just as delicious in their own way.


beautifullymad · 13/03/2022 12:08

I only buy raw ingredients for making meals. This includes spices and herbs that I'll mix in a jar for chilli con carne, gyros, kebab etc. the jacket mixes are expensive and so easy to recreate.

I shop in Aldi or Lidl if I want to keep overall costs down.

Lidl do a veg box at the tills with split bags and almost out of date food for £1.50. There is normally up to £8 worth of food in it.

I put bread, wrapped in the top of my fridge. A loaf last really well for 10 days this way.

Milk lasts for ages if it's supermarket with long dates, it's cheaper to buy the 6 pints than smaller quantities.

I base my meals around whatever is on offer or reduced. You have to be disciplined and always shop after you've eaten! Otherwise £20 of extras jumps into the trolley.

It's easy to bulk out beef mince using red lentils. But I find cooking from scratch is pretty cheap anyway. Chick pea curry with a tin of coconut milk is yummy and so much cheaper than meat.

If you are in a big main supermarket it's always worth looking in the 'food around the world' isle as often staples are half the price of the main isles.

Cooking in a slow cookers is the most economical. You can do jacket potatoes in these. Or an all in one stew or a whole chicken . You don't lift the lid whist it's cooking, put a tea towel over it to make it less interesting to family. It's pennies to run.

If you are lucky enough to have solar panels you can run a dish washer, washing machine or dryer free in turn, of charge using generated electricity.

Most of Lidl comparative products are as good as big brands and lots cheaper.

If the children are missing a fizzy drink treat I use the 17p fizzy spring water and squash.

The hob isn't that expensive to use compared to heating an oven .

I try to use the oven once a week and fill the available space. Then chill down and refrigerate meals ti be reheated on the hob or in the microwave.

Try the library method of freezing foods. It means your freezer is accessible so you know what you have in, it also minimises air gaps so you pay less to run it.

I use rectangular cooking dishes to maximise space in the oven. It will all take longer as things need to come up to temperature and you need to check things are cooked.
I'd put a roast chicken on one shelf with baked potatoes wrapped in foil around it. I'd make a macaroni cheese, chilli, cottage pie, chickpea curry or a lasagne and then after this was ready make scones, cheese straws, biscuits and a quick cake.
We then have meals and treats for the week to be reheated.

Our heating is off completely and has been for a month. We use layers, and fleece blankets under the duvet at night.


Sunnyday321 · 13/03/2022 12:15

I do a double dinner roast . By that I mean buy a slightly bigger joint / chicken / veggie meat equivalent . Scale up on vegetables & potatoes, do your Sunday roast as per usual , and then plate up double your plates so if usually for 3 then 6 etc . Don't put gravy on the extra ones, cool and then cover and put in fridge for next day or day after that . Ok it might be a bit samey , but it makes a substantial , quick easy dinner later in the week and no oven , just microwave.


ComtesseDeSpair · 13/03/2022 12:30

Agree with others on on doubling or trebling every time you cook. I’m always amazed that so many people cook something entirely different from scratch every single day! I’m influenced entirely by laziness rather than money saving, but I’m not especially food motivated and can happily eat the same thing for lunch and dinner for a week if I batch cook in the pressure cooker. I can make 10-plus portions of something like stew or curry that way for little more than a fiver in raw ingredients and two minutes in the microwave to heat up.

DP often cooks with the oven and hob whereas I’ve used each about twice in the two years we’ve lived here. He’s been away this week and the power consumption has drastically dropped off compared to usual week.


Clockbookbeast · 13/03/2022 12:35

Many years ago I bought a second hand slow cooker in a charity shop for £2.50 it had been pat tested too.
I use it to batch cook and freeze things like chilli, spag bol, Spanish chicken, curry, meat joint, casserole, stew, mince and potatoes. All work out pretty cheap. I also buy cheap baked beans to bulk out things like chilli, add lots of vegetables. I also buy rice/pasta in large quantities.
Cheap meals I do are egg/beans on toast, left over meat with chips, soup and a roll, hot sandwich and salad, cheap pizza or pitta pizza and salad add extra meat or veg leftovers.
I used tesco delivery as I'm disabled. I bulk buy items if they are on offer, meal plan every meal and all snacks. Have a very tight budget of £40 for 1 adult, 3 teens a week for food and is doable if I'm strict with planning meals.


AdaColeman · 13/03/2022 12:37

Some good ideas on this thread already, but these are some cheap meal ideas from me….
Things to make from left over roast chicken ….
Chicken & mushroom risotto
Chicken pie with shortcrust pastry and added mushrooms or peas carrots leeks or sweetcorn, made with white sauce or leftover gravy
Chicken & mushroom Supreme served with rice
Pasta Alfredo
Chicken & mushroom vol au vents
Asian style chicken & vegetable soup, quick to make with homemade stock or a tin of consommé, you can add little dumplings to make it more filling
Chicken Caesar salad
Coronation chicken

Other cheap meals…
Cassoulet with sausages rather than duck
Spanish omelette (frittata) great for using up leftover vegetables
Homemade pizza
Boston beans & sausages
Sardine pasta
Spaghetti carbonara made with eggs not white sauce as in the ready-meal version
Pasta primavera

To go back to the original post, apart from mayonnaise, the only thing to serve with egg 🍳 and chips 🍟 is bread & butter for those hot chip sandwiches! Wink

Serving soup as a first course will help fill hungry people up, but for those not doing a manual job, using smaller servings on smaller plates will help make your food budget go further. The same goes for wine, use Paris goblets rather than trendy huge wine glasses.


Newnormal99 · 13/03/2022 12:42

If you shop at sainsburys use smart shop - you get smart shop only prices. It's ge really on things I buy anyway and they are multi use so I stock up.

Sometimes if lucky they also cross offer with the nectar points list.


Newnormal99 · 13/03/2022 12:52


Agree with others on on doubling or trebling every time you cook. I’m always amazed that so many people cook something entirely different from scratch every single day! I’m influenced entirely by laziness rather than money saving, but I’m not especially food motivated and can happily eat the same thing for lunch and dinner for a week if I batch cook in the pressure cooker. I can make 10-plus portions of something like stew or curry that way for little more than a fiver in raw ingredients and two minutes in the microwave to heat up.

DP often cooks with the oven and hob whereas I’ve used each about twice in the two years we’ve lived here. He’s been away this week and the power consumption has drastically dropped off compared to usual week.

Agree. I have occasional Sundays where I will just cook a ton of stuff. Usually stuff that crosses over ingredients. So I'll cook up a large amount of onions and peppers then mince and chicken and mix and match with various sauces. I'll usually end up with about 30-35 meals which we eat over the week / freeze.
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