As a foodie and someone who is careful with money, eating well for less is a topic close to my stomach and my wallet.
The good news is that many of the ingredients that are most nutritious for us are, generally affordable. We’re looking at the price per kilo generally under a fiver and the typical price per portion well under the £1 mark. Sounds too good to be true? Not really. These are not secrets, I will give you plenty of examples, and of course there are numerous recipe books available for cooking on a budget. We can all eat well for less!
The bad news is that if you really want to take advantage of these ingredients and really eat well for less, then being able to source from the right places and cook these foods is critical. This means putting in some time and effort, but you will certainly eat well for less and cut waste too.
Convenience is expensive – whether you shop for ingredients or ready-meals from your corner shop or buy meals from your nearby takeaway, you will always pay a hefty premium for convenience. If you want to make your money go a lot further, then you need to combine cooking with being savvy shopper. Check out 100 days of real food.
I like eating out as much as the next foodie, be it a takeaway or a restaurant
The reality is it will always be much cheaper to cook and eat at home. In general, whatever you eat in a restaurant will generally be about 3 to 4 times (or even more) more expensive than eating at home. Like a steak and chips? We’re looking at shelling out at least £15 in a restaurant, whereas you can make this at home for under £5.
Why pay more when you don’t have to?
As for takeaways, it will still be about half the price if you cook and eat the same meal at home. Thinking of the typical portion of takeaway fish and chips at around £7.50 per portion. For the same amount of money, you can buy more than enough fish for three people and plenty of chips (potatoes can be found for 60p per kilo).
We can make small budgets go a long way
If we think back to the time of our parents and grandparents, so from the 1950’s onwards, we often had families with lots of mouths to feed. This meant that home cooks had to be adept at making a small budget go a long way. These family recipes were handed down from generation to generation. In many ways, we have lost, forgotten or not learnt these generational cooking skills and replacing them instead with convenience, because for various reasons, we are of course a lot ‘busier’ nowadays, or perhaps just can’t be bothered.
Cooking good nutritious food, does of course take some time and effort
but it’s much less than you think, with many meals being ready from scratch in well under 30 minutes and much less in many cases. Once you learn or re-learn to cook, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is and be relieved at no longer being dependent on crutches of the high cost of convenience.
When you learn cooking skills, nobody can take these away
They are yours to keep and build on forever – that’s powerful! Cooking good, nourishing food, be it just for yourself or for others, can also be very satisfying and rewarding. Better still, if you are looking after a family, getting your school children to help out with preparing meals (as appropriate), can be a fun family experience. There is also a learning in the ‘ doing’ element. In passing on these learned skills, it becomes an intuitive and natural part of their lives when they grow up and have their own families.
It pays to be flexible and adaptable. If you go food shopping and find a substitute ingredient at a bargain special offer, then be prepared to switch, especially if the saving is considerable. Would you be upset if the beef mince in your shepherd’s pie was swapped with lamb mince if the price was right? Being able to adapt a recipe with substitute ingredients can be a great way of stretching your food budget further. While many supermarkets have numerous special offers at any time, make sure it is special to you and that you will use it.