Meet the expert: Christine Bailey is a nutritionist, chef and food writer (www.christinebailey.co.uk)
There might be no such thing as a free lunch, but there are corners you can cut to reduce how much you fork out for food each week.
Being a savvy shopper and knowing how to get the most from your ingredients could save you money without having to compromise on the flavour of your favourite dishes. And what’s more, choosing to go cheaper could actually be the healthier alternative, keeping down both lbs and £££s!
Love your freezer
As a country we throw away 1.5 million tonnes of food every month. Fresh fruit and veg make up a big chunk of the waste that goes straight from fridge to bin.
“Buy frozen fruit and veg instead,” says nutritionist Christine Bailey. “Contrary to what you might think, they’re still full of goodness and you can just use what you need.”
And even if you do buy fresh, freeze any spare ingredients you have leftover. “If you buy fresh herbs, chop up and freeze in ice-cube trays so you can defrost and have them to hand whenever you need them. Don’t forget doubling up your recipe and freezing the second portion is a great way to cut down on waste.”
Do your own thing
“Always tailor a recipe to suit what you already have in the cupboard rather than buying extras,” says Christine. “Instead of buying more herbs and spices, swap what the recipe suggests for something you already have, such as oregano in place of basil. The only time you need to follow the recipe to the letter is when you’re baking.”
The bargain way to buy five-a-day
When it comes to finding the best deal, supermarkets aren’t always the best place to find them.
“Supermarkets often offer ‘buy-one-get-one free’ offers on fresh items which are only useful if you’re going to use everything in one go or can freeze them. Instead, try your local market, especially at the end of the day when they sell things off,” says Christine. “Even if some of the fruit is very ripe you can use it for smoothies, ice-cream or even for a homemade banana cake, if you like.”
‘Pick your own’ farms are also great for getting cheap fresh produce. Take time to experiment with the seasonal veg you find to save money and improve the variety of your diet. Find a farm at www.pickyourownfarms.org.uk
“Try having a meat-free day at least one day a week,” says Christine. “Not only will it save money, it’ll also get more vegetables into your diet. Get protein from eggs made into an omelette or frittata – it makes for a good cheap meal on a no-meat day.”
Or if you really can’t give up meat, just try using a little less. So when you eat mince, use half the amount you usually would and substitute the rest with beans, pulses and more vegetables.
Swaps for Sunday lunch
Meat is one of the priciest foodstuffs we buy, but being more adventurous in the types of meats you eat could save you a fortune.
“Liver and other offal are not only packed with vitamins, they could also feed a whole family for less then £2,” says Christine. “If you’re doing a stew or casserole, choose stewing steak or a brisket, skirt or shin of beef to keep down the cost and up the flavour. For pork, try spare ribs or belly, and go for the shoulder, scrag or middle neck of lamb. And for a roast chicken, use the whole bird including the bones for stock, which can be frozen.”
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