Follow our five tips for saving money on your food bill and there will be more on your table and more in your pocket.
Coffee – Reuse the coffee grounds
If you drink coffee daily, you can save a substantial amount without significantly affecting the taste by using the grounds twice (or more!). Just add a small amount of new coffee to the old grounds. That old stuff still has some kick in it. This works best if you also use a permanent filter (wonderful thing!) instead of paper filters. You can store the used grounds in the refrigerator until the next day.
Milk – Powdered milk is not a dirty word
I buy the large boxes of the store brand (much less expensive than the name brands) and mix it up in a big sun tea jar with a spigot. Even if you can’t bring yourself to drink it straight, give it a shot for cooking.
And if you really do need to save every penny — some ways to enhance the flavor include: let it sit in the fridge at least 24 hours before drinking and drink it ice cold (add ice if necessary) or mix it with regular milk and ease into the powdered milk habit.
Side benefit: Recycle the boxes into magazine boxes. Cut, cover with decorative adhesive paper. They are a little flimsier but when you have several on a shelf together full of magazines they work quite fine.
There is not a thing wrong with day-old bread, yet the grocery stores usually sell it for 30-80 pence less. See if your store has a regular rack for day old breads, rolls, and donuts from the bakery. If you have a freezer, stock up. I buy 2-4 loaves of garlic bread and 4-6 bags of rolls on almost every shopping trip and stash them in our freezer.
Hint: If you use the microwave to defrost bread, take it out of its plastic wrapper, wrap it in a napkin, and defrost for only 30-45 seconds at a time — checking after each session. This will help avoid those hard edges that microwaves create on overcooked bread products.
Buy small apples and oranges instead of the larger ones for kids’ snacks and lunches. They are easier for little hands to grasp and there is less waste — especially with apples because my kids can’t usually eat all of those monster-sized apples.
Kids sometimes have a “thing” about eating bananas that have very brown skins — no matter how much you try to convince them that the inside is still good. For school lunches, peel the banana at home and put the pieces in a sealed plastic bag. If they never see the brown peels they won’t waste the banana.
Start saving money right now by making a date with your fridge! Just by opening the fridge door and checking the ‘use by’ dates on what’s inside, you can begin saving your pennies and pounds. How often do you find that the ‘use by’ date on a packet of ham or bag of sausages has been and gone and you end up throwing it away? Meat, fish and ready meals are often the most expensive things we buy, so it helps to get into the habit of regularly checking the dates on perishable items in your fridge. Move them into the freezer if you don’t think you’ll have time to eat them or cook them for tonight’s supper. Dairy products are often forgotten at the back of the fridge. Grate odd bits of cheddar and mix with breadcrumbs for a savory topping or stir into mashed potatoes. Use up your yogurts in fruit smoothies or as delicious toppings on breakfast cereals. The kids will love them.
When you get home with your shopping, it is a good idea to transfer as much as you can straight into the freezer. If you have large packets of chicken pieces or fish, divide them up and freeze individual portions.
Understanding food dates and what the ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ labels really mean is key to making the most of your fridge and freezer.
Try and keep your storecupboard and freezer well-stocked with a variety of canned, dried and frozen goods that you know your family love to eat. Tinned beans, frozen vegetables, meat and fish and dried fruit, nuts, pasta & noodles, rice & grains, are all essentials with a long shelf life – meaning you will always have the ingredients standing by to pull together a delicious meal or to jazz up your leftovers. The trick is to replace items once you have used them up. It helps to keep a note stuck on the inside of the cupboard door – scribble down items as soon as you have finished them and check it when you write your shopping list.
Use your storecupboard to create meals from leftovers. Any spare fresh tomatoes could be added to some canned ones to make a great topping for pizza. Rice would turn leftover chicken and wrinkly peppers into a delicious summer salad. Add a tin of lentils to your minced meat to make it stretch further.
Day after day we serve up basic staples – bread, rice, potatoes and pasta – at meal after meal, but large amounts of these carbohydrates end up going straight in the bin. Are you getting your portions right? For instance, a mug full of rice will serve 4 adults.
If you enjoy hot buttered toast, keep a ready sliced loaf in the freezer which can go straight into the toaster when you want a piece. Large whole loaves of bread can be cut in half and one frozen for later in the week. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to save money just by being more careful with your carbs.
It’s amazing how many meals you can get from one chicken! If you enjoy a roast on Sunday, the remains of the joint would make a great curry or a delicious risotto later in the week and you’ll always find enough for a sandwich. If you have time, the carcass can also be boiled up for stock and soups.
If you have some dinner left in the pan, bag it and pop it in the freezer as a ‘ready meal’ for one. Even the smallest amount could be pureed up for the baby or served as a kid’s portion for lunch the next day. Crusts and stale bread can be blitzed in the food processor to make breadcrumbs which can be stored in the freezer. The same can be done with cake or biscuits and used as a topping for crumbles and puddings. The last dregs of wine or beer can be frozen in ice cube trays and popped out into stews and casseroles when cooking. Cut the bruises off old apples and toss into the pan with your sausages. Don’t throw out those black bananas – mash them up and add cream for a super-quick pudding the children will love.
Being crafty with your food is the clever way to save those pennies – and it really just means thinking before you throw. With a little bit of thought, you can create some delicious surprises from your leftovers – they don’t have to mean second best.
Planning your meals is one of the most effective ways you can cut wastage and food bills. Start by checking your fridge, freezer and store cupboard, and before you go shopping, write a list, so you don’t shop for things you already have. Get the kids to help and to suggest what meals they’d like to have that week. Then you can work out a weekly meal plan.
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