Come on, admit it, the world is worried about the rising costs that we are all suffering, and aside from energy bills, food is at the very top of the inflation mountain. Cutting costs, saving that extra pound, euro or dollar just somewhere in your food budget is one of the ways (as hard as it is to resist that yummy-looking dessert in the patisserie you have your eye on) to cut costs.
Having been a chef at both ends of the scale from line cook in the early days to Michelin Starred establishments, I certainly know the difference. Keeping costs down frequently means not buying your favourite brands, or going for a cheaper white label product – hence the meteoric rise of the Aldi’s and Lidl’s of this world.
Finding savings while grocery shopping at discount stores
Having taken my daughter-in-law to Aldi’s only the other day, I have to say, I was pretty astonished at the price comparison. Her ever-increasing family could not exist without supermarkets such as these, as a youngish couple with 2.1 children (currently 8 months pregnant), economising is essential – your health, however, does not need to be compromised. So, I set myself a task, to at least decrease their weekly food budget by 30%, to get ahead of the inflation game. (In the UK it’s around about 21%, currently, with predictions of 24% by January 2023!).
My son however, is somewhat a food snob (the perils of being the offspring of a chef!), so he would be hard to convince – or so I thought. Like me, he loves a good old cup of tea, but it has to be ‘good tea’ – there normally is a difference. We drink the same tea normally and buy 180 teabags at a time, normally coming in at just under £5 currently. ALDI ‘red label’ tea for the same quantity – £2!! What’s more, they taste even better, which I didn’t think would be possible.
Anyway, back to the nitty-gritty – my mission. Boy, did I find a lot of things wrong here guys. Having already stated ‘put aside any food snobbery’, there was an element of cookery classes that went into this. I know as a youngster, in a family with a very low budget to eat with, I learned from my mum. If your mum isn’t much of a cook, then you will have to do it without them!
The ‘quick and obvious’ tips
You have probably heard these before, may have tried them, or got bored with not being able to do what you want to!
- Do plan and do use your budget
- Don’t go off plan, just because you ‘fancy’ something
- Bend to the bottom – supermarkets tend to put all the things they want you to buy and of which they make the most profit, at eye level, so it’s the first brand you see.
- Buy in season – it can save you buckets. If you do, you can buy more, prep it and freeze the remainder.
- Use your microwave to a minimum. It’s the most expensive thing in your kitchen to use
- Make more use of your slow cooker – stews, soups etc. If you have an air fryer, use that instead of the usual way with oil – so much cheaper.
- Serve sensible portions – if someone really needs more they can
- Use vac-sealing or zip locks when freezing – don’t just wrap something, it will go past being good a lot quicker
Now the harder stuff to do!
- ‘Buy Bigger’
Change your food budget for the first, at least, two weeks. Trust me, this works. If your budget is ‘X’, add another 25% to it. Don’t leap up in horror, there is a method in my madness. Increasing your budget in Week 1 will enable you to buy larger packs of items, which will increase the number of days/meals you can make out of it, but for a lower cost per head. If you are on monthly wages, this is easier to do than if you are paid weekly. But do try – honestly it works. Store cupboard items in larger resealable packs are obvious, but items such as chicken and beef mince also work really well. I would say that it will extend your food days to 17 rather than 14, as long as you follow the rest of the helpful tips.
- Can you bear ‘not to go organic’?
It pains me to say it, but are many of you aware that you don’t need to buy organic ‘everything’?. In the Western world at least, anyway. Every year, the EWG (Environmental Working Group) publish ‘A shoppers guide to Pesticides’. It lists all the non-organic foods that are safe to eat and those that aren’t. It’s interesting to see all the fruits and vegetables that we can eat, at a lesser cost and non-organic. Their parameters are strict in choices and levels that are acceptable. This tip can save a lot of money on unnecessary expenditure on organic foods.
- Think before throwing
Have a really good think before ditching what you think is for compost only! Turn the last of spinach or rocket into pesto for instance – you can even add carrot tops to it.
- Tetchy subject – any meat, make it an accent rather than the star of the show. You can still get enough flavour by using less meat.
- Freeze your herb stalks for adding to anything – they give masses of flavour
- Store potatoes with an apple – they won’t sprout or go bad quickly
- Peel garlic and store in freezer – they are then preserved and easier to slice or chop! Or, perhaps pickle them?
- Batch bake, batch bake, batch bake – and don’t use the oven for just one thing at a time.
- Like making soup? If you want to make your own, don’t throw away the remains. When you make it, make it more concentrated then freeze it in ice cube trays. Then, you can just take it out of the freezer, add the appropriate liquid and viola! More soup, quick and ready to eat!
- Put ripe fruit in the fridge – it extends its life.
- Left over strips of puff pastry can be made into croissants
The problem I have is I could go on forever with money saving tips, but I don’t have enough space to do so! Try all or some of these things, and you really should save money – not just on product, but preventing waste.