The news recently is dominated by the Free School Meals debate. And whichever side of the argument you’re sat on it goes without saying that saving money on family meals is a great idea! Raising kids is hectic, rewarding and EXPENSIVE! So here’s hoping these top-tips can at least ease your mind a little on one of those fronts & have you preparing healthy, filling family meals that don’t break the bank.
Invest in flavour
Ok, so the first point in a ‘money saving’ article shouldn’t be “spend some money,” surely? But hear me out: Stocking up on herbs & spices & seasonings can dent your weekly food budget initially but once you have them in the cupboard they last for ages & can turn any dull dinner into something much more exciting. Leftover spag bol? Add some cumin, chipotle, chilli, cayenne or paprika & a tin of kidney beans and…..Voila! It’s chilli for dinner tonight!
Having a cupboard of these goodies can also make it easier to cook more recipes from scratch; you already have the seasoning covered.
Cook more from scratch
Cooking from scratch doesn’t have to mean spending hours in the kitchen, (especially not if you have a slow cooker.) but it can be the difference between spending £2 on a jar of curry sauce versus 28p on a tin of tomatoes plus a couple of shakes of the spices in your store cupboard (About 6p if we’re keeping track.)
For recipe inspiration check out more from our blog, here.
Ok, this one’s a bit left-field so I’m going to give you 2 types of foraging that will save you money: Forage in the forest; or forage for bargains: Both are guaranteed to save you money & make you feel good too!
Foraging for bargains is simple: work out what time your local supermarket reduces items close to their sell-by date & make sure you coincide your weekly shop with this. While this is a great way to pick up bargains, it can also add to food waste so make sure you only purchase things you can either use in the next few days or put in the freezer.
Foraging outside can be even better because it’s completely free! Right now it’s blackberry season so why not take the kids out for a walk & get desert sorted for dinner tonight? (Hint: You can also make sloe-gin from hedgerow foraging as a treat for weary parents, or to give as Christmas gifts)
In the spring you can also find wild garlic locally which makes the most amazing pesto!
Go meat free
Meat & fish are often the most expensive ingredients in any dish so a quick and easy way to reduce your food bills is to cut down on your intake. It’s easy to replace the meat in most dishes with a more budget-friendly alternative. Eg Use chickpeas, pulses or beans instead of mince, tofu mushrooms or roasted cauliflower are a great alternative to chicken or fish on most dishes too.
Planning your meals for the week ahead saves you so much money! You do have to set aside a little time for it but it will pay you back in dividends during the week.
The first thing to do is take stock of what you already have in the cupboards & freezer, and especially what needs using up first (reducing food waste too). Next use that to write an intended menu for the week & a shopping list of what you’ll need to cook it all.
Not only will this save you time during the week, it will also stop you popping out to the shop for ingredients & inevitably spending money on things you don’t strictly need but that catch your eye while you’re there.
Spending a few hours making batches of healthy meals is so beneficial to family life. Not only can you save money by buying ingredients in bulk, you can also save loads of time during the week at mealtimes. If you’re working and/or entertaining the kids cooking a healthy meal from scratch can be impossible during the week; but cook in bulk at the weekend & stick portions of it in the freezer & you’ll be winning!
Love your leftovers
If you’re lucky enough to have leftovers in your house make the most of them! I’ve already mentioned how leftover bolognese can be repurposed into chilli, and last week I turned leftover mash & veg from a Sunday roast into spicy hash, popped a couple of fried eggs on the top & called it a dinner – it was ugly but delicious.
Leftovers can be used in packed-lunches the next day or saved for dinner. In the spirit of being prepared, it might even be worth cooking a bit extra on purpose so you know tomorrow’s meals are partially sorted.
Love food, hate waste is a great website for resources and recipes for making the most of leftovers or food that would otherwise be thrown away.