Cut the cost of feeding the family

With the children back at home with no school meals, and the rest of the family either working from home or on furlough, your food budget may be heading through the roof.

If money is already tight, you may be looking at ways to cut back. But it need not mean going without good food, or the dishes your family love.

There are plenty of ways to bring your food spending back down to earth – and eat better too.

Shop around

There are plenty of places to buy your food. You don’t have to go to a high-end supermarket. It’s very often the packaging that determines the price rather than the taste or quality of the contents. Try going for supermarket own brand, or a discount brand. Lidl and Aldireally do mean low food bills, even if it does mean some unfamiliar labels on your favourite items. Watch out for the weekly offers and if you want to order a delivery use the phone appsto get what you want direct to your door.

If you have an old style street market in your town, look at the fruit and veg stalls. The chances are everything is really fresh, and cheaper than even the keenest priced discount supermarket.

Don’t Buy Pre-Prepared

Grated cheese, chopped carrot, shredded lettuce. Ready salads. Pre-prepared snacks. They all save time, but you pay much more for the actual food. You are paying extra for the packaging as well as the preparation, and if it has been through a factory before it got to the supermarket shelf, it will never be as fresh.

It doesn’t really take long to grate that cheddar or slice and dice the ingredients of a salad. Cooking from scratch is not only cheaper, it’s healthier and more rewarding and it will taste better too. If you are not a confident cook, you can find some easy recipes here.

Buy Frozen

Fresh is best – but not all supermarket food may be as fresh as you think. Frozen food is frozen as it is picked, unlike ’fresh’ food which may take days or even weeks to be transported to supermarket shelves. This means it is still full of nutrients – and it tends to be much cheaper than the ’fresh’ alternatives. Choosing frozen salmon, for example, rather than fresh can mean saving up to half the cost. Iceland often have bargains – and you can look online.

Buy in Bulk

When you buy bigger, it costs less. Look out for catering size packs of everything from chicken legs to fruit. Freeze what you don’t use the first day.

Try to bulk buy store cupboard staples when they are on offer and have an arsenal of favourite recipes to make when time and money are tight.

Experimenting can be fun. Stock lentils and dried beans for adding to soups, salads, curries and stews. Keep frozen veg such as peas, sweetcorn and spinach. Tins, and dried foods such as pasta, rice, noodles and oats should be on your shelves. They will all be waiting for you when cash is at its shortest. There are some delicious ways to make meals out of storecupboard staples here.

Make food last longer

Finally, there is no point wasting money on food that you don’t eat, and the astonishing fact is that we throw away almost 20% of the food we buy. The average household creates up to £50 worth of food waste per month, which equals £600 per year.

Keeping food fresh for longer can mean big savings.

Keep potatoes and onions in a cool, dark place rather than in the fridge, but not together as they produce gases that can damage each other. They can be wrapped in paper. Keep other veg in the fridge – not at the bottom as fridges get colder the lower you go – stored in plastic bags with holes in them. Wrap cheese in a resealable bag to prevent it from drying out.

The doors are the warmest place in the fridge and best for foods containing preservatives.

Meat and fish? If you don’t eat it quickly it will spoil. Consider buying frozen.

Have a supply of plastic tubs with lids for leftovers – you can often make two meals out of one.

A well organised freezer – look online for bargains - could be one of the best food money savers of all!

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