Tips for Cooking Family Meals on a Budget
Creating meals from scratch may sound like a task and a half – especially when you have only got a limited amount of time available to you – however, put in the time and you can offer your family more than a nutritional meal. You can save money too.
Sure you will have to spend a bit buying the ingredients (or more than a bit with kosher ingredients!), but what is amazing about cooking from scratch is that these ingredients will make multiple meals across the week. Meaning in the long term, you will be saving the pennies and reducing your food costs.
Where do I start?
As I mentioned above, one of the biggest constraints we face as a nation is the fact that many of us have little time to cook. From long working hours to caring for our children, time seems to slip away from us leaving us with the options of processed foods, ready meals and take aways.
However with a little planning, you can cook on a budget and still eat healthy.
1. Cooking from scratch – I’ve already mentioned some of the benefits from cooking from scratch i.e. value for money (1 lot of ingredients can make multiple meals), but there are many more to consider.
– You know what you are eating. Did you know your average chicken nugget only contains 50% meat? Makes you wonder what the other 50% is. Cooking from scratch allows you to know exactly what you are eating, as well as cut out unnecessary extras.
– You can cook in bulk. If you are struggling for time, make enough for several meals and store it in the freezer.
2. Order in bulk – often the bigger the packet, the larger your savings. And this applies to many of your foods. So instead of buying a 500g packet of pasta, opt for a 1-2kg packet and compare the prices. You’ll soon see that the larger packet is cheaper per g.
You can also get better deals on meat when you order in bulk. I remember staying with someone for Pesach and she ordered one side of a cow for her family! A little gross but it sure lasted the whole Yom Tov.
Simply order and you can have them cut into your preferred portion sizes. You can even go as far as to order with a friend or colleague.
3. Forget processed foods – have you ever stopped to see what they contain? When you consider what manufacturers add to foods, and how little of the real meat/food you are getting, they are not as cheap as they appear.
Instead, have a go at making them yourself. For example, instead of buying crackers, make them yourself. Alternatively, swap your supermarket bread and chips, and make them yourself. Invest in a breadmaker or slice up some potatoes yourself.
4. Plan ahead – we often go to the supermarket with no clear idea of what we need. As a result we tend to buy foods we don’t really want or have already got. That’s why it is important to plan ahead, so you don’t overspend.
– Plan your meals for the week – take into consideration the ingredients you’ll need and in what quantities
– What have you already got in your cupboards – can any tins or leftovers from a previous meal be incorporated into a new dish?
– Keep your cupboards stocked with the basics – beans, soup, lentils, tinned tomatoes, tinned tuna, pasta, flour, rice, milk, eggs, cheese – all of these can be used to make multiple meals
– Write a shopping list – once you know what you need, write a list and stick to it. No deviations
5. Avoid wasting food – how often do you prepare too much, are unable to finish it and end up throwing it away? We’ve all done it, but did you know that most food will keep for up to 2 days in your fridge? Simply cool any leftover food as quickly as possible, cover and store in your fridge for the next day.
6. Use local shops – going to your local green grocer and market can save you lots of money, mainly because you do not have to pay for the packaging like you do at the supermarket.
7. Consider cheaper cuts – when it comes to fish and meat, just because it is cheaper doesn’t mean it doesn’t taste delicious. It is all about cooking it the right way. For example, it is possible to make a casserole from braising steak. Yes it may be fattier than other cuts of beef, but trim off the fat and slow cook for 2-3 hours and it can become incredibly tender.
The last thing you want is to make a nice family meal with succulent lamb chops only to spend all your time chewing the meat! A little preparation and care when cooking can go a long way.
And that is it! Give these 7 tips a try, and witness the difference they can make to your bank balance. With practice you can make your weekly shop a lot more affordable.