10 top tips for saving on food

From meal planning to cooking in bulk, these 10 top tips will help you save on food, and on stress

1 Start meal planning

A weekly planner with meals neatly jotted down is a beautiful thing. It might not sound that thrilling but a little forward planning will save you time and money. Think about what you’re going to eat for dinner throughout the week and how this might be repurposed for lunch and plan accordingly. If you cook a roast chicken on Sunday night, think about how you could use any leftovers on subsequent nights for things like sandwiches, risotto or wraps. Think about what’s in season and draw up a few meals that celebrate this produce. Not only will it be cheaper but it will help you be more creative with your cooking. Consider which shopping items will cross over to more than one meal – can you use those carrots in both a soup, a salad and a bolognese, for example?

Be flexible with a meal plan. If you find some great discounted meat that doesn’t match your original plan, just adjust it to suit.

2 Go for discounted items and use coupons

If you’re on a budget, look out for specials at the supermarket or price lock-downs on key items. Many supermarkets have mail outs with weekly specials which you can receive by email or mail. Cut out any coupons or vouchers and use them when shopping. They might not have huge savings but smaller discounts add up. Arm yourself with your supermarket loyalty card too, such as your Countdown OneCard.

3 Cook in bulk

Cooking more than you need and saving or freezing the leftovers for a rainy day will not only save you money, but time as well. Knowing there’s a single serve dinner waiting in the freezer will put an end to those spontaneous trips to the shop that can end up in impulse purchases and overspending. A good way to approach this is to spend an afternoon in the kitchen focusing on one protein, for example those chicken breasts that were on special. Prepare it in a variety of ways and save the meals for later.

4 Add some vegetarian options to your repertoire

Go vegetarian for some meals. A good target to meet is two meat-free meals per week. Not only does this cut down on cost, with the price of meat on the rise, but it eases the pressure on the unsustainable meat industry. Plus, vegetarian meals are vibrant, colourful and down-right delicious. Check out our collection of vegetarian meals here.

5 Use cheaper cuts of meat

Rather than rib eye, eye fillet or sirloin, try out cheaper cuts of beef like flank, skirt steak and flat iron. Restaurants in the know have been serving skirt steak, expertly grilled and cut into thin strips for a while now. Brisket, chuck and shin are cheaper cuts that can produce delicious flavours when cooked correctly.

Lamb shoulder is cheaper than a leg of lamb and is stellar roasted slow and low or as a casserole cooked in a slow cooker. Chicken drumsticks can be cooked in beautiful spices until the meat is falling off the bone, or deep fried and served with mash for a good old fashioned comfort meal. Chicken thigh has a lot more flavour than more expensive breast and can be baked, barbecued and slow-cooked.

6 The freezer is your friend

As long as food is stored properly you can preserve leftovers, vegetables, herbs, bread and much more instead of throwing it away, meaning you’re wasting less and saving more. Other items that freeze well are curry pastes, pestos and stock which can be added to your cooking when needed. You can even freeze wine in ice cube trays to add to casseroles or braises. Freeze any leftovers in containers with clear labels so you can have dinner on the table in a flash.

7 Keep fridge and pantry basics at the ready

Have the pantry and fridge stocked with items that come up time and time again in cooking.

A good cook’s fridge will have staples such as butter, milk, eggs, cheese, sauces, pickles and seasonal fruit and vegetables. A well-stocked pantry requires cooking oil, vinegars, stock, soy, spices and dried herbs, pasta, noodles, rice and grains, tinned goods, flour, sugar and yeast. Work at slowly adding to this list of pantry staples. To save money it’s a good idea to buy in bulk, or to head to a specialised store such as a spice store for herbs and spices or to buy fresh produce from the supermarket when it’s in season.

8 Make a shopping list and stick to it

Just as heading to the supermarket hungry can result in a two litre carton of ice cream, a 12-pack of Cheezels and a bag of cream buns in your basket, the same principle applies when shopping without a list. Going to the supermarket armed with a shopping list helps you stay on track and avoid collecting items you don’t need. Either write it down on good old fashioned paper, or put a note in your phone. Be sure to do a quick skim of your fridge and pantry so you don’t double up on anything.

9 Stick to a weekly shop

Studies have shown that the more frequently you shop, the more money is spent on unplanned purchases. Stick to a weekly shop to match your weekly food plan and budget. Online shopping is another option if you can’t be trusted to avoid the temptation of the supermarket specials’ shelves.

10 Spend with cash not card

There’s nothing like handing over a bundle of bills to make you realise how much you’re spending. A good way to stick to this is to budget for a certain spend and only take that much cash with you – you’ll be forced to stick to it.

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