How to cut down the cost of cooking

Doing a thing a day - adding extra cheap stuff such as veg to a meal to make it go further, finding a thrifty recipe, watching portion sizes to cut your food waste, will cut your food costs dramatically.

We know, is saving a quid here and there worth the effort? Well, spending just a fiver a week less on food tots up to £260 a year, which is a tasty (see what we did there?) amount.

Big tip

Beware of UFOs (Unidentified Frozen Objects). Keep a pen and some stickers handy to label food before you fling it in the freezer, otherwise you’re at risk of playing meal roulette. Hmmm… is that brown stuff curry or spag bol?

What should you do with your extra money? Now that you’ve saved a few quid, we’ve a few ideas that will get you saving. Try them out here.

How long it’ll take: A few minutes a day

Equipment needed:

    • Freezer bags, plastic boxes, labels and a pen
    • Storage bags
    • Recipe inspiration from cookbooks, magazines, food blogs and websites
    • Meal plan with the meal ideas you used for your shopping list

1. Get friendly with the freezer

When you unpack your food shopping, pop as much as possible in the freezer rather than risk it going off in the fridge. Divide big packs of fish or meat into portions, put in freezer bags or plastic boxes and bung them in the freezer.

Keep a sliced loaf in the freezer and take out individual slices for sandwiches or toast. Even cheese can be grated and frozen (sounds bonkers, works brilliantly).

Got a tiny freezer? We recommend dusting up on the computer game Tetris to improve your ‘squishing in’ skills.

2. Cook in bulk

Cooking in big quantities can save time as well as money. It doesn’t take much more effort to make twice as much bolognese - then you can take half as a packed lunch or freeze it as a home-made ready meal.

3. Try a use-it-up meal

Check your fridge and cupboards, see what you’ve got and get creative.

If you’re no Nigella or Jamie and struggle to come up with ideas, try out a tool such as SuperCook (although there are loads to choose from). Just enter the food you do have, and it will come up with recipes based on the items you already own.

It’s not what’s on the outside… Look, we aren’t saying you should be eating mouldy bread and stinky fish (this isn’t The Walking Dead), but just because something is looking a bit dodgy on the outside, doesn’t mean it’s not perfectly fine to eat.

Cook in bulk - Cooking from scratch can seem like a hassle, but it really doesn’t have to be a huge amount of effort, especially if you do it in bulk - saving time and money.

If you’re time short, invest in a slow cooker (it’s a game changer!). With it, you can use cheap cuts of meat and some models use as little energy as a light bulb. Sling it all in in the morning, and in the evening, you’ll have a home cooked meal waiting for you!

Also, rather than shelling out on expensive takeaways - embrace the fakeaway. Tickle your taste buds and save a fortune trying some of Skint Dad’s or Jamie Oliver’s fakeaway recipes which taste just as good as the real thing.

Get office cooking - Scarred by the memories of soggy sandwiches? Make the most of the office microwave and kettle and widen your options. Pinterest is packed full of inspiration – from wraps to rolls, pasta to pittas, soup and salads.

Grow your own - Even if you only have room on a windowsill for some herbs or a tomato plant, you can still save money compared to buying plastic-wrapped packs in the supermarket.

Bulk up with veg - Add extra veg to stretch more expensive meat out, like chucking in carrots, onions and broccoli to a stirfry - and you know what, a tin of beans added to a spaghetti bolognese or shepherds pie is a brilliant way to bulk it out.

Be careful about cooking too much of the carby stuff too, as we also often end up throwing away any uneaten bread, rice, potatoes and pasta. It all adds up!

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