Top Tips for Cheap Eats

I find it really annoying the supermarkets are still trying to get rid of all the leftover treats and nibbles before they use-by date. WE DON’T WANT ANY MORE! WE WANT HEALTHY FOOD (well I do!) I want BOGOF’s on fruit and veg, not 36 packets of crisps! Why is it always so expensive?! Having said that, I guess we shouldn’t worry why healthy food is costly, but why processed food is so cheap!

January is also one of those stressful months when our bank account seems to empty before we get to payday . So here are my TOP 8 TIPS that will help us save a few pennies and get everyone one on-board the boat to healthiness without going into the red or stretching our waistline.

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Eat at home!

Although the cost of an average pub meal has gone down, we are spending more than ever before on eating out. Yes it’s great when you can’t be bothered but not so great for the piggy bank. Added to this, restaurant meals are often more calorific and we eat 20%-40% more calories when we eat out compared with eating at home! So plan some tasty dinners the whole family will enjoy and the bank will thank you for.

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Plan

This may sound dull but can make a big difference. Do a menu plan for the week and then write a shopping list. This way you are more likely to just buy what you need and you can also plan in the use of leftovers. Plus you can ensure you eat a range of foods over the week so get your quota of fish, lean meat, rice, pasta, potatoes and different vegetables etc.

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Shop around!

I am a serious bargain hunter and refuse to pay for overpriced food. The battles going on between supermarket continue but seem to be doing us a huge favour when it comes to driving prices down. Economy ranges have grown and the likes of Aldi’s Super 6 offers on fruit and veg are fantastic! 59p for a pineapple or bag of kale sounds great to me.

Also by going shopping an hour or so before they close, especially before a bank holiday, supermarkets have to get rid of perishable produce so practically give it away 🙂

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Don’t go shopping with the Cookie Monster!

Don’t ever EVER go shopping when you are hungry. This is a BIG MISTAKE!  You lose all sense of rationale and become an impulsive shopper – you’ll only end up throwing loads of junk in the trolley (or eating half of it on the way round) and it will only be when you get hoe you realise there is actually nothing proper to eat! Unplanned spending can mean a shock at the checkout!

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Go seasonal!

Seasonal veg is often cheaper. Check out my last blog here to read more about the health benefits of seasonal food.

Having said this, you don’t have to stick to fresh – there really is not much difference in the vitamin and mineral content of fresh, frozen or tinned produce so go with what suits your budget and storage space.

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Bulk it up (with beans)!

Protein, especially meat is expensive so bulk out your meals with nutritious beans and vegetables that will make your dinner tasty and satisfying.  Plus your meals will go further. Add chickpeas, kidney beans, cannelini, borlotti, haricot beans or lentils – in tins are fine and really cheap.  All these are high in protein so a great alternative to meat, even if you don’t want to be a vegetarian.

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Cook slowly

Slow cooking is a great way to use cheap cuts of meat and make them into a mouthwatering meal.  Stewing, braising steak or oxtail for example are very affordable and chuck in a load of veggies or beans as above and you’ll be able to feed the 5,000!  Better still, you can set your dinner off before you go to bed / work, it will do it’s magic and dinner will be ready when you need it.

This is also a no hassle way to batch cook – portion up the meal / leftovers into freezable containers and you’ll always have a fall back plan so you’re less likely to pick up the phone and get a take-away or nip out cos you haven’t got the time / energy.

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Get creative

Give yourself rules when the cupboards get low at the end of the week. See it as a challenge to rustle up something edible for tea with just a few ingredients – a bit like ‘Ready Steady Cook’ if you have ever watched that. I’ve done this at home with my husband. It suits our competitive natures and we have had a lot of fun. I think only once (when my husband cooked) it was inedible so don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!

I’d love to know if you think any of these will be useful for you 🙂

 

 

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Cutting the Costs

People can’t afford to eat healthily

It’s still in the news this week – with the continued rise in food costs, less disposable income and tightening budgets we are really struggling to conform to healthy eating guidelines, particularly if you are a student! Are you getting your 5-a day?

So here is my baker’s dozen list on how to eat more healthy and not break the bank:

1. Don’t be a food snob.

I admit I was…..but I’ve been converted!  Aldi and Lidl offer great quality food at very cheap prices. The fruit and veg especially! If I had been shopping at these stores since they arrived in the UK I probably would have saved enough money to go on a luxury holiday by now! I really cannot taste the difference between the expensive brands and the ‘I’ve never heard of that make before’ brand so wish I had moved camps ages ago. The fruit and veg look no different, you just have to chop them up yourself 😉

2. Happy hour shopping

Pick you moment to go shopping and get the pick of the reduced section (meat,  fish,  fruit n veg – don’t go near the ready meals!). By going shopping an hour or so before they close, especially before a bank holiday, the shops have to get rid of it so practically give it away 🙂

3. Plan your meals

Do a menu plan for the week and then write a shopping list. That way you are less tempted to throw whatever looks tempting into your trolley and just buy what you need. Plus you can ensure you eat a range of foods over the week so get your quota of fish, lean meat, rice, pasta, potatoes and different vegetables etc.

4.Don’t go shopping with the Cookie Monster

Don’t ever go shopping when you or the kids are hungry. This is a BIG MISTAKE!  You lose all sense of rationale and become an impulsive shopper – you’ll only end up throwing junk in the trolley or eating half of it on the way round. Trust me I know!

5.Set some ground rules

Give yourself rules when the cupboards get low. My husband and I take it in turns to rustle up dinner when we are getting towards the end of the week. We are not allowed to buy anything to supplement or accompany our meal. This suits our competitive natures and we have had a lot of fun. I think only once (when my husband cooked) it was inedible so don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!

6. Invest in a bread maker

I bought one last October and without a doubt it is the best gadget I have ever bought! We use ours at least every other day and I am pretty sure we’ve got our money back already. A 750g loaf only costs about 40p to make and what’s even better, you can show off you made it yourself, people will be so impressed! You also know exactly what’s in it – you can control the salt and there will be far fewer additives and the smell as it bakes!………and you just can’t beat the taste of warm, fresh-out-of-the-‘oven’ bread mmmmm 🙂

7. Bulk it up!

Protein, especially meat is expensive so bulk out your meals with nutritious vegetables that will make your dinner tasty and satisfying and your meals will go further. Add different beans (chickpeas, kidney beans, cannelini, borlotti or haricot beans in tins are fine) or lentils as these are high in protein so a great alternative to meat.

8. Batch cook

When you are making a meal,  particularly if it’s a one pot wonder,  double the quantities, portion it up and stick it in the freezer. That way you’ll always have a fall back plan so you’re less likely to get that takeaway menu out the kitchen drawer. It also helps if everyone in the family eats the same thing. Cooking different meals for the kids is not only time-consuming but often more costly.

9. Cook slowly

If you have a slow cooker lurking at the back of your cupboard – dig it out! Slow cooker are a great way to use up cheaper cuts of meat.  Stewing or braising steak or oxtail for example are so much cheaper.  Then if you add a load of veggies etc. you will be surprised how a little goes a long way. You can set your dinner off in the morning and it will be perfect by the time you get home – no hassle, minimum mess.

10. Be inventive with your leftovers

We throw away too much foods – this is simply money down the drain. Think how you can reuse your leftovers and make a new dinner – see tip 5! Soup is always a winner. Just chuck it in the pot and play soup roulette 😉 It also really makes a difference if you watch the portion sizes so you don’t have to waste food unnecessarily. Try these websites for some inspiration!

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Love food hate waste – leftover recipes

11. Take a packed lunch to work.

I know this can be a tricky one. Who has time to make their lunch in the morning. Well I don’t either so I do it the night before……or I ask my husband very, very nicely and I am lucky enough that he will make mine. I take leftovers or homemade bread / sandwiches with some soup roulette. I bet if you added up how much you spent on bought lunches per week,  per month and per year you would be shocked!

12.  Grown your own

Birmingham has the largest provision of allotments of any Local Authority in the UK with 115 sites and nearly 7,000 plots.  If you are lucky enough to have, or know someone with an allotment space you probably know how great home-grown produce is.  But you don’t need an allotment to grow your own.  You don’t even need a garden! If you have a window sill you can get started, even if it’s just herbs. Here are some ideas 

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13.Make time to cook!

One of the main reasons people eat a lot of processed food (apart from the low cost) is that we simply don’t make the time to cook and now we seem to have forgotten how to cook. My last suggestion is ask someone you know who is a good cook to help you out or teach yourself! A good way is to get a bunch of friends together and cook together. Why not have a simple cooking night when you can make a main course and dessert each. You can set the rules so it’s healthy and support each other in healthy eating. You’ll be on ‘Come Dine With Me’ in no time!

If these tips work, or the eat4cheap tips on the NHS Choices site, go onto the Health unlocked website and share with others how much money you saved in a week.