I think, one of the main things that put people off trying new foods is the cost. Food is expensive. So, a lot of us choose to stick with what we know. Making meals that we know how to budget for and we know everyone will enjoy. After all, who wants to spend a fortune on ingredients for something new, only for it to end up in the bin when the kids don’t like it?
You can eat healthily on a budget by being careful and planning, and there must be a million “how to eat well on a budget” type articles out there, but, can you eat interesting meals? Or do you have to stick to the same things all of the time?
I like to think we have a pretty varied diet while trying to stick to a food budget. I’m not great at planning, so I couldn’t tell you how much we spend on food. On weeks where I do an online shop, that’s usually around the £40 mark, but, then there are trips to the shops in between for bits and bobs. Or whole meals when I’ve been terribly prepared. We’re also quite bad at changing our minds. I’ll shop for certain meals but then end up in Asda looking for something else when I don’t fancy it.
So, perhaps I’m not the right person to be passing on this advice! Instead of How to Eat Well on a Budget, it should perhaps be entitled “How to Sometimes Eat Well on a Varying Budget”, but that won’t pull the readers in, so, here’s how you too, can eat well on a budget!
Cook in Bulk
I cook absolutely huge meals. If I make a cottage pie, I make two at the same time and either freeze one or have it the next day (we really really like cottage pie!) same with any pasta dish. It’s much cheaper to cook this way, but it also saves you time in the future. If ever me and husband fancy a date night, there’s something in the fridge I can quickly give the kids!
I freeze after I cook in bulk, I buy things on offer and freeze for later, and I also freeze when I’ve bought something, realise it’s only got a few days life, and I’m not sure when I’m going to use it.
Also, buy frozen! It can save you a fortune. While obviously buying some things frozen defeats the point of cooking from scratch, there is a lot you can buy ingredient wise. I often buy frozen chicken breasts. If you’re putting them in a sauce or marinating them, you can’t really tell the difference. I also buy frozen veg. I like some things fresh, but peas and corn especially are great frozen and brilliant to have in ready for a turkey dinosaur and chips tea.
Today I bought frozen butternut squash pieces. I want to make a soup this week and have shopped online. When I order something like a butternut squash online, they have a habit of sending one that’s bigger than Bobsy. Which I then have to chop and prepare. Buying frozen is cheaper, the prep is done, and you know what you are getting! You can even buy frozen chopped mushrooms and peppers!
Fill It with Veggies!
Filling a meal with vegetables makes it go further, adds flavour and makes it healthier. I try to pack as many vegetables into my meals as I can. Most of my pastas have peppers, onions and mushrooms and any pies have at least carrots, peas, and onion. Soups are great for this too, just throw loads in!
Find Out When the Reduced Gold Rush Happens
I love the reduced bit of supermarkets. You can get some great bargains (which last ages if you freeze them as soon as you get home) and it’s also an excellent way to try things that you wouldn’t normally.
All the supermarkets seem to put the reduced stuff out at different times of day, so try to find out when this is.
Try Wonky Veg
Wonky veg boxes are incredible. The veg looks funny, so a lot of shops won’t sell it, but tastes perfect. This is another way to try new things. I really enjoy getting a random box of stuff and having to think of a recipe. Makes me feel like I’m on Ready Steady Cook (the Fern years!).
Add Lentils and Beans
Lentils are brilliant; they seem to take on the taste of whatever you are cooking. We’ve made some veggie meals with only lentils, which were great. But, if you still wanted to add meat, using lentils stretches a meal. You could make two cottage pies without needing extra meat to fill it out. They generally also count as one of your five a day!
Use Cheaper Cuts of Meat
You might want to use more expensive cuts for certain meals. But, if your meat is an ingredient and there’s lots more going on, you can barely tell.
Don’t Take Recipes as Gospel
When I read a recipe, I often think “what can I change?” either to make it more interesting, cheaper or more accessible. Experiment with what you’ve already got in the cupboards instead of rushing out and buying every ingredient on the list. Especially when it comes to herbs, spices, and vegetables. Mix it up!
How do you eat well on a budget? Or, do you find it hard to get everything you need without getting carried away or over spending?