There are many ways that you can reduce your food and cooking bills. I have already blogged about cooking utensils to save you money, cooking methods that reduce your fuel bills and how to be a money conscious food shopper. In the fourth and final part of this mini series on reducing your food bills I look at planning:
How many times have you got in late, there’s nothing in the fridge and you find it’s all too easy to ring for an expensive take-away? With a little forward planning this problem can disappear and you can save those takeaways for that special Friday Night in!
Top Planning Tips to Reduce Food Bills
1. Meal planningI have seen many people do this and who swear that it reduces the risk of not having a meal ready or the ingredients in for a tasty supper. The idea is to plan a week’s worth of meals in advance so you know what you are cooking every day and you can plan the time needed to prepare it.
2. Weekly meal preparationSome people like to go one step further and cook all their meals for the week in one hit and freeze them. If this is taking organisation just too far for you (and also some meals just do not freeze) it is well worth having a few ready cooked meals in the freezer so you are never caught out. A home-made quiche for example can be reheated in probably less time than it takes to choose, order and receive a takeaway!
3. Batch cookingBatch cooking is where you cook several of the same dish and freeze some for future use. If the oven is on for one lasagne then make a couple more to freeze. A full freezer is more energy efficient than an empty one too. Cakes and bread are perfect for batch cooking but there are lots of other dishes that freeze really well. Get yourself a freezer cookbook or have a nosy round the Internet for recipes you like. Just remember that most dishes need to defrost before reheating and will need taking out of the freezer in advance.
|Batch cooking bread|
4. Freezer log bookIf you have a freezer, keep a logbook of what's in there and that way you shouldn't end up with items lurking uneaten at the bottom for several years. 7 year old worcesterberries hiding in the bottom of my freezer were an all time record but I am sure someone could better that! And talking of frozen food make sure you label things clearly. Apple pie and mash never was a good combination!
5. Well stocked kitchenHave a well stocked cupboard of basic ingredients so you can always throw something together quickly rather than being tempted by a takeaway. A jar of pesto, some pasta and a few mushrooms can be prepared in minutes and well before that take-away could get delivered.
6. Meals from left-oversGet savvy at making meals out of left-overs. These are often my favourite dinners – e.g. that left over roast meat can be minced and topped with left-over mashed potatoes for the easiest, quickest and cheapest of shepherd’s pies. Then simmer the bones with some veg and pulses for a warming and tasty soup. Not wasting a scrap of food helps us to win 2 World Wars. Now it can help us to save money whist still eating well.
7. Cook extra on purposeWhere possible cook more than you need so you have ingredients cooked ready for another meal at no extra energy cost – e.g. extra boiled potatoes for a Spanish tortilla or extra pasta for a salad (stir in a little olive oil to prevent it going sticky). Make sure you cool the extras quickly and store them in the fridge in a covered container.
8. Portion controlIf you find making meals from left-overs is not for you then get good at preparing meals of exactly the right portion so there is no waste.
9. Look in the fridge/cupboardThere is often a meal lurking in the ingredients in your fridge/cupboard but it just needs a bit of imagination (or a search online) to work out what it is. Get imaginative and don’t be afraid to try something new.
What do you find is the best way to plan your meals and have you got any more tips to add to this list?