1. Get your 5-A-Day from the freezer
Frozen fruit and vegetables are often less expensive, but just as nutritious (if not more) as their fresh counterparts and they still count towards your five portions of fruit and veg a day. Some of my favourites are frozen peas or baby carrots. They are so easy to pop into just about any dish to add some nutrients, or can be cooked in minutes for a tasty side dish.
Plus, frozen fruit and veg has a much longer shelf life so you can just grab what you need without worrying it about food waste which helps to save money too.
2. Stick to ‘capsule’ cooking
Much like a great ‘capsule’ wardrobe, aim to buy classic ingredients that you can easily mix and match in different meals, such as vegetables, fish, meat or meat free alternatives. This will make meal planning far easier and make your food budget go much further. Following recipes to the letter can be expensive and leave you with lots of leftover exotic ingredients that are hard to use in other meals. Have a basic repertoire of 7 meals, with lots of variations to keep things interesting.
3. Get freezer-savvy
Think about buying more frozen ingredients to add to your cooking. Vegetables, fish and meat are all great options that can be kept in your freezer for when you need a quick dinner (like fish fingers or coated fish) or that can be added into delicious home cooking. Plus, frozen food can offer a 30% cost saving in comparison to fresh so you’re saving money from the outset.
The freezer can also help you cut back on the amount of fresh food that is wasted – after all, throwing away food is essentially flushing money down the drain. Grated cheese can be frozen and sprinkled onto pizzas or toasties without being defrosted. Most fruit and vegetables including spinach, blueberries, carrots and avocados can all be frozen and used for smoothies or popping into cooking.
4. Buy in bulk
If you spot a good offer or bulk buy deal on your food shop, then make the most of it. The freezer aisle is great for picking up larger packs of your favourite food items for a great value price, if you have room.
This will help you save money in the long run and mean you’re not ever faced with an empty freezer or cupboard again. You can also save on petrol by taking fewer trips to the supermarket too. Just make sure you’re only buying the things you use regularly – it isn’t a good deal if you don’t use it!
5. Be brave about best-before
Many of us are unaware of the difference between a ‘use-by’ and a ‘best before’ date, which leads to perfectly edible food being thrown away. If a product is past its use-by date, it should usually go in the bin as it’s potentially dangerous to our health. But a better solution is not to chuck stuff away if it’s approaching its use-by date and instead, pop it in the freezer to cook at a later date. Even a reduced-yellow sticker item can be frozen on the same day and eaten a month later.
On the other hand, the ‘best before’ date usually refers to when the product is at its optimum quality but the food itself is usually fine to eat in the days after this date.
6. Being organised is being in control
Organisation is really your best friend when it comes to saving money on your food shop. Having a clear layout in your cupboard, fridge and freezer will ensure that you know what you already own, hopefully stopping you buying duplicates. It’s a good idea to keep an up-to-date list of what is in your freezer, as some items can often get pushed to the back and forgotten about.
7. Get inventive
Don’t get too hung up on a celebrity chef’s recipe or what you see on Instagram. So long as you follow a few basic rules you can endlessly be creative with what you’ve got. Don’t be afraid to adapt recipes to suit your budget by swapping out ingredients for what you have in the freezer. Try swapping out mange tout with frozen green beans or bulking out meat dishes with frozen pulses, rice or vegetables. The beauty of cooking is there are no right or wrong and you never know, you may end up creating your own culinary masterpiece – like a winning fish finger sandwich
8. Make a meal plan
Preparation is key when it comes to sticking to your weekly food budget. In my experience, the most wasteful food shops are always those were I have walked into a supermarket or shop very hungry with no idea of the meals I want to create that week. Spend your Sunday night planning out meals for the week to ensure you only pick up the foods you need. And it doesn’t stop there either, being aware of the food you’re throwing away throughout the week and asking yourself why it’s happened, will help you spot money leaks in your food shopping patterns that you can quickly fix.