Food is something that we all need to live, and it can be a great source of pleasure too, whether you’re cooking for yourself or for other people. We are often told via advertising and brand marketing that to have the best, healthiest, tastiest food you need to pay more but that doesn’t have to be the case. There are some simple ways to make your food go further, save money and still enjoy all the taste too!
The term ‘seasonal food’ is often bandied around on cookery shows and in recipe books and has somehow generated the idea that it’s more expensive. In fact, seasonal produce that is local to the UK will be cheaper than anything that has been imported, as there is more of it and it has not had far to travel. Keeping an eye on what is seasonal – and what grows locally – is a great way to expand your food knowledge and reduce your food bills. During autumn look out for seasonal delights such as pumpkin, kale, celeriac, apples, cabbages, swede and wild mushrooms, as well as meats like venison.
Go (a bit) vege
Meat is probably the most expensive ingredient for most of us and so vegetarian meals tend to be naturally cheaper. You can make your food budget go further by planning for a couple of days of vege meals during the week or even having a vege month once in a while. There are some fantastic vegetarian recipes out there that involve so much more than tofu and beans – the secret to great vegetarian cooking 90% of the time is seasoning, herbs and ingredients that enhance the taste of vegetables, such as a dash of wine, cider vinegar, butter and mustard. If you can’t face a wholly vegetarian meal then reduce the amount of meat you put into a dish and replace the missing bit with something cheaper – for example, if you’re cooking a cottage pie for the family use half the amount of mince and bulk up with cheaper beans.
Grow your own
Ok, so most of us don’t have access to an extensive acreage on which to start planting row upon row of delicious vegetables but that doesn’t mean you can’t grow your own. Pots of herbs and chillies can be grown on a windowsill, tomatoes, peppers, radishes and green beans can all be grown on the tiniest of balconies and if you have a compact outside space then invest in some planters for potatoes, carrots, beetroot, salad leaves and salad onions. You may not be able to grow a vast amount but what you grow you don’t have to buy.
Make it last
In days of old we were much more economical with the food that we cooked and ate and nothing would ever go to waste. Every part of an animal butchered for meat would be used, from the bones for stock to offal such as the liver to make up a dish such as liver and onions. Now, we tend to pick off the best bits and then throw the leftovers away but by thinking ahead you can make your meals last much longer. For example, roast a chicken on Sunday and make a chicken curry with the leftovers on Monday, a chicken soup on Tuesday and boil up the bones for stock on Wednesday. If you’ve had jacket or roast potatoes with a meal then pop them in the fridge and fry them up the next day as sauté potatoes or wedges that you can dip. Use stale bread for a stuffing or make it into a delicious bread and butter pudding. And if you’ve got a lot of tired looking vegetables then put them into a pan with 500ml water, herbs and a stock cube and you’ve got instant soup.
As mentioned, meat is a seriously expensive cooking ingredient but if you can’t give it up then you don’t have to. Some of the cheaper cuts of meat have a lot more flavour than the more expensive options. For example, swap your fillet steak for a flatiron steak (normally about half the price), choose a shoulder or neck of lamb instead of a rack or chops and go for chicken thighs instead of breast. Test out your local butcher too – you’ll often have much more choice when it comes to the cheaper cuts and you can ask for exactly what you want, whether that’s just 100g mince or a small lamb chop.