Whatever your budget, the smart money is on staying on top of your grocery bill
- Eat with the seasons. When there’s plenty of something around, the price goes down; if it has to be flown in, you’ll be paying the airfare.
- Processing and packaging add cost, too; a plain round lettuce will be cheaper than bagged salad, for example.
- Go for the biggest bags of staples like rice, pasta, flour and sugar that you’ve got room to store. The price per 100g will usually be less but the initial outlay will be higher. Do it if your budget allows but otherwise simply buy the best value pack in a particular range. See my extra shopping advice here
- Check your cupboards– right to the back – before you go shopping. This will stop you buying duplicates of things you already have in, and may provide the makings of another meal. If you’ve got a tin of tomatoes, an onion and some smoked paprika, you’ve got smoky tomato soup.
- Batch cooking saves money and time, or you can buy lots of one thing and use it in several recipes. A big hunk of smoked haddock will do kedgeree for tonight, and provide some chunks to freeze and add to a fish pie. Bear in mind that, once again, the initial outlay will be higher but, over 2-3 weeks, things will balance out, so try to budget accordingly.
- Think about going meat-free at least one day a week (lots of people favour Mondays) and try cooking dishes that use small amounts of meat as a garnish rather than the bulk of the meal; many Asian dishes work this way, but pack a delicious punch with warm spices or chillies.
Grains and pulses
- Grains and pulses will naturally make a meal go further. Dry beans are cheaper than canned but you’ll need to factor in the energy costs too. If you have a slow cooker, beans can be prepared easily after boiling first. Look out for value rice – it tends to be a bit starchier, so rinse well first and don’t be surprised to find a few broken grains in the pack. They won’t affect the flavour but you’ll need to cook the rice in plenty of water so it doesn’t become stodgy.
- Look deep into the freezer. The quality of frozen shellfish, fruit, veg, meat and fish can be just as good as fresh, and having it on standby cuts the likelihood of a trip to the takeaway. And “make one, freeze one” is a good habit to get into, especially if you are trying to use your oven less. Fill it up when you use it to make the most of the energy you are consuming.
One for all
- Get everyone to eat the same meal, if you can, even if it means taking one portion of pasta out before the sauce goes on, or serving the bits that not everyone likes separately at the table. Eating the same basic meal at the same sitting makes the best use of your time, fuel costs and food budget.