Don’t Let Food Costs Eat Away at Your Budget

Most British families are constantly looking for ways to save money, and saving on food costs ranks high on that list for many of us. As prices continue to rise for most goods whilst salaries remain somewhat stagnant, eating well on a budget is an ongoing challenge. But with a little planning and creativity it is certainly possible.

Quit Paying Exorbitant Prices For “Convenience” Foods

With many families having both partners employed, it is tempting to serve prepared foods rather than taking the time to make meals at home. But stop to compare prices of those meals against the cost of ingredients to make them. You are paying for someone else to do the actual preparation, plus the cost of the fancy packaging that makes these dishes so appealing in the store. There are plenty of ways you can serve your family delicious homemade meals without spending half your evening after work cooking.

Prepare Meals on Your Day Off

It takes almost as much time and effort to make a single meal as it does to make ten, twenty, or even fifty days’ meals. The cost will likely be much lower than those prepackaged dinners, and the quality of the meals will almost certainly be better. One hint: If you’re making and freezing many days’ worth of meals, one of those vacuum sealers is a great investment. It doesn’t take long for the sealer and bags to pay for themselves, and your foods will stay fresh and delicious for a month or more without getting freezer burned.

Buy Frozen Rather Than Fresh

There is something particularly appealing about serving your family fresh foods, but some foods, especially out-of-season fruits and vegetables, can be quite costly. Opt instead for frozen items, which are generally a good deal cheaper. And in many cases, the frozen goods will actually taste better than their “fresh” counterparts, since most will have been frozen within hours or days of harvest. Many fresh fruits and veggies, on the other hand, will not appear in the store for several weeks after harvest. Apples in particular might actually take a year to make it to the stores.

Make Friends Who Have Pressure/Slow Cookers

Slow cookers are a godsend to the time-challenged homemaker, and they can be used to make many dishes besides stews, soups, and pot roasts. Recipes are available from multiple sources online. You simply toss the ingredients into the cooker in the morning, set it, and come home to a delicious, nutritious meal. And you can turn even cheap cuts of meat into succulent, tender meals.

Pressure cookers have long been cherished for their ability to cook foods quickly, lock in flavours, and tenderise even the toughest cut of meat to the point where it literally falls apart. They got a bad rap, mostly because the older designs were prone to “surprises” that could be incredibly messy, if not life-threatening. The cookers are much better today than they were in your gran’s day. Modern pressure cookers have multiple safety features that render them virtually incapable of exploding and splashing culinary shrapnel across the kitchen. If the idea of making a pot roast or a rack of ribs that melt in your mouth in less than 30 minutes sounds appealing, a pressure cooker might be just the thing for your family. As with the slow cookers, there are all kinds of recipes for pressure cooking available on countless websites.

Have Meatless Mondays

Since meats are one of the more expensive items on your grocery list, consider going meatless one day a week. There are many food items that offer delicious tastes and textures that are appealing to meat-eaters, but which cost much less. If going meatless, even for one day a week, doesn’t appeal to you, consider preparing meals in which meat is an accent, rather than a main course. In Asian stir-fry dishes, for example, a satisfying meal for four people will often contain about the same amount of meat as a single serving in other recipes. In addition, a stir-fry meal is very quick to make, perfect for the busy professional.

Food Waste – A Huge Problem

Food waste isn’t just a problem for your own household. Collectively and cumulatively it is an enormous problem in Britain and all over the developed world. You can minimise the amount of food you throw away by coming up with creative ways to use leftovers when planning meals. For example, there might not be enough leftover baked chicken for another meal, but by adding potatoes, onion, vegetables, seasonings, and a quick crust, you can turn that leftover chicken into a pot pie large enough to feed your family, and tasty enough to have them pleading for you to make it again soon. The same general approach can turn leftover roast beef or lamb into a delicious shepherd’s pie.

It’s really no exaggeration to say that when you learn to effectively manage your own food consumption, you’re not only benefiting your own household, you are also contributing to a better world. Those are some pretty powerful reasons to improve your shopping and eating habits.

Paul graduated in 2001 with a degree in Finance. Since then he has gone on to work for several of the UK's most well-known financial institutions.

An avid blogger and a huge football fan, Paul is here to guide you through the ins and outs of personal finance and perhaps save you some money in the process!

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