Feeding your family on a budget

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With the cost of living sky high at the moment everyone is looking for ways to save money. I love cooking and with a family to feed I’m always on the lookout for ways to eat well for less so I’ve listed a few things that have worked for me.

Do an itinerary of what’s already in your cupboard

To keep costs down, take a good look at what’s already in your cupboard. Whenever I do this I’m really surprised about how many meals I can create from what I already have: a tin of beans, some chopped tomatoes and pasta can magically become a comforting pasta bake and some rice, a tin of tuna and some frozen veg can make a filling meal for the whole family

Create a flexible meal plan

Make a list of all your meals for the week. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. It’s good to keep your plan flexible in case your plans unexpectedly change during the week or you don’t fancy eating what you’d planned on a particular night.

Consider online shopping

Although you have to pay a delivery fee with online shopping it can actually make it much easier to stick to a shopping budget as you can keep an eye on your shopping total as you go. While it’s good to shop locally to support small businesses, you’ll usually find that shopping in ‘Express’ or Local’ versions of big stores costs more and they don’t stock as many cheaper own branded products.

Having access to the larger supermarket  means you’ll be able to make use of any deals or buy products in bulk which can cut down costs. If you’re keen to keep costs down further you could consider only having a shopping delivery every other week so that you can stock up on bulky items and do a smaller top up shop for basics the rest of the month.

Cook in bulk

If you are cooking a meal and consider increasing the quantity and freezing some for another day. Batch cooking is a quick and easy way to keep costs down and on busy days it can be so helpful to know you’ve got some meals in the freezer to defrost when you need them.

Invest in a slow cooker

Slow cookers are a lot more economical to run than ovens. Aside from that they are really handy too, as you can cook stews and one pot meals to give to the kids when they get home from school and then feed yourself later on in the evening. In winter I use mine 2 or 3 times a week to cook up soups, stews, curries and Bolognese. The great thing about slow cooker is that you can batch cook larger amounts of food to pop in the freezer for another day.

Stick to the basics

Base your meals around the basics: fruit, vegetables, lean proteins and carbohydrates. Once you start adding in pre-prepared sauces, ready-made products, breakfast cereals, fizzy drinks etc you’ll probably find your shopping bill increases dramatically.

Cut back on meat

Using meat in your meals can work out quite expensive. Substituting meat for other sources of protein can work out cheaper but if you really can’t face missing out on meat then can you consider cutting it back to use a few days a week instead?  

You could try using black beans in your fajitas instead of chicken or beef. Chickpeas make a great protein addition to curries instead of meat and lentils make a delicious alternative to mince in spaghetti Bolognese.

Make the freezer your friend

Many food items are a lot cheaper, and still just as good for you, if you buy them frozen such as: fruit and vegetables, fish and meat. Buy bags of mixed berries to use in crumbles and to top porridge and buy bags of frozen fish pieces or even fish pie mix to use when you need them,

Make better use of your oven 

If I’m using the oven to cook a meal I try to make sure I’m making the most of it by putting in extra food for lunch the next day, a cake or a batch of oat bars for after school snacks for the kids. It does take a bit more planning and prep but when it costs so much to heat up your oven at the moment it really is worth it

Is it cheaper to make your own or buy?

I love cooking and baking but with the current energy costs I’m sad to report that it does often work out cheaper to buy occasional treat items like cakes and biscuits rather than buying all the ingredients and making my own at home. 

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