Here's a super clever guide to reducing the daunting weekly food cost
- Buy the vegetables that are on special offer. You know yourself, two supermarkets in particular do a special selection of cheap fruit and vegetables every week. Try to base your meal planning and shopping list around what is the best value.
- Meal plan. I can't emphasise this enough. It is so important. It helps reduce waste, gives your week some structure, and means you are less likely to call a take-away. If I've gone to the bother of defrosting chicken fillets I'm not going to let them go to waste. I usually plan about four meals and then decide on the rest based on meat and vegetable special offers on the day.
- Let your freezer be your best friend. Leftover lasagne or Shepherds Pie? Freeze a portion. You can use it for a dinner during the week, or defrost it the night before and bring it to work with you for your lunch. I found that I was wasting a lot of bread. I now freeze half the loaf and when I need bread towards the end of the week I just take it out to defrost. The alternative is throwing out half of a sliced pan, and buying another one which will also only be half-used. I like fresh bread. The same goes for berries. We love blueberries in this house but I find they have a very short shelf life. So I freeze them and take a little hanful out each day for putting in porridge or for my 1 year old to snack on. Simple but really effective. No waste and we always have blueberries. I've even frozen sweetcorn. I would open a can and use a handful only to let the rest sit in a bowl in the fridge for days before being dumped. Now I freeze the remaining sweetcorn in a little freezer bag and it is so handy to have it available to me to throw in to a curry, stew, pasta dish or omelette.
- Bulk buy when things are on special offer. This applies to dishwasher tablets, washing powder, toilet paper etc. It might not seem it at the time but you will be saving in the long run.
- Got some sad looking vegetables in the fridge? Rather than let them die and end up in the bin, throw them in to an omelette, curry, lasagne, or make a soup out of them. I never ever throw out vegetables these days. There are just too many ways to use them up. I've been known to make up a pasta sauce with lots of vegetables in it and then freeze for future use.
- Decide on a day you will get a take-away. I find that this helps with giving the week structure and ensures you stick to your meal-planning as well as having something to look forward to. It also means you are less likely to get a last minute take-away some random evening.
- Make big portions. If making spagetti bolognese, stew or curry, make extra so that some can be frozen for a rainy day or a handy lunch to take to work. Which reminds me, bring lunch to work instead of buying it. Not strictly related to saving money on your shopping list, but it will save you money. It will also make you more inclined to use up the bread, salad, yoghurts etc that you've bought in your shopping. Less waste in that regard too.
- Buy a slow-cooker. Seriously, this has been a God-send to me. It's so easy to just bung lots of veg, meat and a tin of chopped tomatoes in to. It is magical. You can add whatever meat or herbs and spices that take your fancy. The house smells devine and it's a really healthy and time-saving way to cook. It's also great for batch cooking big portions of stews and curries.
- Make a shopping list. Sounds obvious right? And yet so many of us don't do it. Without a list you will probably buy 20% more than you need, leading to you wasting money and inevitably wasting food. I look in the fridge, presses and freezer and take some time to really work out what we do and do not need. It makes a huge difference and all of these savings really add up.
- Avail of the vouchers that can be found in various newspapers. We had one this week for €10 off a €50 shop. €10 is a huge saving, particularly when it's in a supermarket that already has fantastic special offers. Make it your business to pick up the newspaper to get the voucher and make a plan to shop there this week. Yes it's marketing, yet it's clever, and perhaps you wouldn't have shoppped there or bought the paper otherwsise. It's saving you money though, and for me that is the priority.
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