Welcome to ten stages of frugal family cooking.
Growing up I always thought of my dad as tight. He always had a wad of money in his wallet but never really seemed to spend any. I used to love counting the money he had and he would often have about £700 in his wallet and this was in the early 90’s so it was probably worth a lot more in 2016.
When I confronted him about being tight (I think I was about 12 at the time) he simply told me that he was tight in the right way and only spent money when it was important.
We would chase the special deals in restaurants, if someone forgot to charge him for something he would never remind them and when it came to grocery shopping he would always have a go at my mother for buying brands that he felt was really expensive.
As a result my dad was able to retire at the age of 50 and ever since then (he is 63 now) he has enjoyed his life to the limit and is living off his savings interest. My Grandad on the other hand died 3 years ago and had nothing to show for his life. He was in management, earned well, but felt the urge to “keep up with the Jones”. He would spend for the sake of spending, lived to his means and never cleared his mortgage.
I have learned very valuable lessons from both my Grandad and my Dad and as such, whenever I can I follow frugal living when it comes to cooking and life in general. I chase coupons, I love charity shops and my grocery bill is cheaper now than it was in England back in 2000.
But with us all being on the backend of a recession and with their being better things to spend our money on, I felt it would make a great feature on the blog to talk about how to go more frugal, but not lose the quality of the dishes in what we make!
#1 – Shop as normal
The best place to start if you want to go frugal is to see what you’re buying right now and see how you can improve on it. Buy everything you would normally buy and keep a copy of your receipt so that you can compare notes.
Also keep an eye on how much food waste you have and how you can improve on that.
#2 – Follow The Martin Lewis Approach
There was this guy on British television (around the time the recession got bad) and he proved that we could all reduce your shopping bill by just dropped down a brand. Therefore if you usually buy mainly brands drop down to the supermarkets premium brand produce. If you normally have supermarket premium produce, drop down to the no frills style food.
Often we pay at least 40% more for branded labels and just buy dropping this for supermarket options can easily knock at least 20 pounds off our shopping bill.
Go and buy the exact same as you did last week, but following this brand rule and see how much you end up spending.
#3 – Ditch Processed Foods
When you think about processed foods is mainly made up of brands. Those crisps you buy the chocolate, the baked beans, the gravy granules, the jars of tomato sauce and even the yoghurts you buy.
It is full to bursting with brands. Stop buying processed foods (or limit it by 90%) as it is really not good for you and it is far from cheap.
Make your own yoghurt – get a huge tub of Greek Yoghurt and mix it with 100% chocolate and some honey and you have a really nice dessert. Make it even tastier by adding some fruit and you have heaven in a bowl.
A month’s supply of this would cost you the same amount as a pack of 12 branded yoghurts and if you’re serving them to your kids you know exactly what is in them!
#4 – Reduce Food Waste
I used to love watching food waste shows and how you can combat this problem. They would start off with a family that seemed to have everything leftover and that spent $150 a week on food yet they ate out six times a week.
Well since watching these shows we have never had this problem and I can’t remember the last time we threw anything out. That is apart from our teenager that seems to think if he has too much cereal that he should throw it in the bin with loads of milk and create a mini-flood.
But look at what you waste and see where your problem is. If you’re left with loads of spare vegetables don’t buy as many, if the same applies to fruit reduce what you buy and you’d be amazed by how much money you’ll save.
#5 – Plan Your Dinner Menu
One of the best ways to save money on your groceries and reduce food waste is by planning what you are going to eat, so that every bit of food that you buy is accounted for.
If you want to save even more money, you can plan a couple of vegetarian nights and you can also look at what meat and vegetables you need so that you don’t end up buying too much.
#6 – What Did You Do Last Month With Your Turkey?
Last month was Christmas = the time of year when we are all buying those huge turkeys. We then spend what feels like a lifetime on turkey sandwiches until the turkey is completely gone.
However if you’re like me you will have made a huge variety of meals (and sandwiches) out of it and will have got true value for money.
A lot of people wouldn’t have been able to afford a turkey, but I am sure more people could have afforded it, if it was their only meat for the month and it made a lot of recipes.
Here is what we got out of our Christmas turkey:
- Christmas day meat
- Turkey gratin
- Turkey frittata
- Turkey bubble and squeak
- Coconut turkey bake
- Turkey lasagne
- Turkey soup
- Turkey pasta
- Turkey sandwiches
- Turkey wraps
- Turkey stock
- Turkey tapas
This is 12 things off one meat. Altogether we ended up with 50 meals out of it and if we had just had sandwiches for a week we would have needed other meat for our real meals. Then we get really excited come Easter time when we find an old ready meal that we had forgotten about and it feels like we are enjoying Christmas all over again.
You could also apply this same rule each time you have a roast dinner to make sure that your leftovers are going to excellent use and that you’re not wasting food.
#7 – Bulk Everything With Vegetables, Pasta & Potatoes
Back with number 6 and the turkey and without pasta, vegetables and potatoes there is no way that one turkey would have stretched to so many meals.
You don’t need much meat in a stir fry because you have all those noodles and all those vegetables taking centre stage.
You could make a delicious pasta bake with the majority of the food being pasta and a sauce that you’ve made.
I can make a tuna pasta bake with two small cans of tuna. Then after adding vegetables, pasta and sauce I have enough to feed six people. This will usually result in dinner for the four of us and another meal batch in the freezer.
#8 – Buy Your Meat Monthly
Talking about the freezer we buy our meat monthly and then freeze it. We will freeze the meat into portion sizes so that we have plenty for a variety of meals. A kilo of mince will be split in four bags of 250g mince and will be the perfect size to go into a Bolognese.
I will separate a pack of bacon into four rashers so that it is perfect for adding to a pasta dish. Then I will also portion up stewing steak, sausages, chicken breasts and then throw my whole chickens in as they are.
Then I will have some pork shoulders, ribs, chicken wings and chicken thighs as well to finish off our monthly cooking plans.
Occasionally there will be the odd other item but this will be it.
Because they are being bought in bulk and measured into easy portion sizes, not only are you saving on food waste but you’re also making sure that you’re saving money as you go.
#9 – Are You Overeating?
The reason for the majority and their obese lives is overeating. They are eating too much and not exercising enough.
But over the years portion sizes have grown way too much and we have often ended up eating more than we should without even thinking about it.
We often end up with way too much pasta on our plate or eating off a large plate and not feeling satisfied unless we finish the heaped portion in front of us.
In reality we shouldn’t be eating more than a cupful of pasta and we should eat off smaller plates.
Look at how much you’re eating and if it is too much then look at a gradual reduction.
#10 – Plan Leftover Meals
I like to plan for leftover meals. I always aim that at least one meal a week will result in a freezer portion. I will think to myself that today’s meal will be a nice pasta dish and then I can have at least two left over for the freezer.
Or I might make a casserole and as I have vegetables that need using up, I will purposely make a little extra than I actually need so that I have some spare.
Our grocery shopping costs a lot less than anyone else we know and it is all down to the above. We’re careful with what you spend and are careful to make sure a big portion of meat has multiple uses. We still buy salmon and other premium products, we just follow my Dad’s rule of spending money in the right way!