How do you give your family good quality, healthy meals each day but stick to your budget at the same time? Thanks to our wonderful members who have sent us their favourite recipes, we’ve amassed a great collection of meals that won’t leave you rummaging through your children’s piggy banks at the end of the week…and we don’t mean chicken nuggets and pizza every day.
We’re talking food that children like (all recipes have passed the stringent Netmums kiddie test, i.e. our own fussy children!) and that won’t blow the budget.
Save money on food bills
Here are some easy ways to help you save money on your food bills and still make cheap yet tasty family meals.
Cook from scratch
This is the big one! Cooking meals from basic ingredients will make a BIG difference to your weekly spend, especially if you’re used to buying pre-packed, oven ready meals. The best thing about it is it gives you more control over your budget and you can opt for cheaper and healthier ingredients.
Plan your weekly meals
Fill out our meal planner to decide what your family are going to eat for the coming week then use it to write your shopping list.
To help with inspiration for next week’s meal planner try using some of these delicious budget meal ideashere.
Love your leftovers
Recent research has shown that each of us throw around £600 worth of food each year so a nice saving to be made! Using the meal planner will help but there are other things you can do:
Keep fruit and veg in the fridge so that they last longer.
Think about portion size when serving up meals – are you continually scraping food into the bin? A mugful of rice will serve four adults so if you’re feeding two children and two adults, you’re likely to need around two thirds of a cup.
Use left overs carefully and think before you throw – even the most basic of foods can be creatively brought back to life in soups, casseroles, sauces or stock. With a little imagination (and a helping hand from our ideas for left over meals) you can rustle up all sorts of exciting new meals from family left overs.
Better food management
Use your freezer – it’s always useful to have a stock of healthy freezer food for those days when you’ve run out of fresh veg. Use your freezer to make use of any supermarket special offers to cut costs.
Know your use by and sell by dates – stick to the dates printed on packaging and if it’s likely to reach it’suse by date before you have a chance to consume it, don’t buy it. Food might last a little longer if you freeze it but you should always follow food labelling/ instructions carefully to avoid health risks. Get into the habit of checking dates regularly so you know what to eat up and when.Storing fruit and veg – This is often the biggest group of food wasted but by simply storing them correctly you can keep them for longer and avoid tipping the pounds into the bin.Divide large packets of food (especially chicken & fish) into different containers and store it in the freezer or fridge. Splitting it means you’ll only have to defrost the required amounts at any one time so the pack will last a lot longer.
Store-cupboard essentials – keep a good selection of tinned and packet foods that your family love such as baked beans, dried fruit, pasta and rice. Most of these ingredients have a long shelf life which means you can rely on them to create quick delicious meals, or use them as a basis to mix in leftovers. Replace them once they’ve gone to ensure the cupboard remains fully stocked (you could keep a list on the inside of the cupboard as a reminder).
Your daily loaf– bread is one of the biggest culprits where food waste is concerned and we throw millions of slices away in the UK every day. To keep your loaf alive, freeze it and take slices out when you want to toast it. Big loaves can also be split in half and frozen/kept in the cupboard, depending on how soon you’re likely to eat it.
Turn veggie (or part veggie)
Be a clever shopper
Buy in season
Seasonal food usually costs less as they are grown naturally, in local farms without the use of artificial chemicals or expensive green houses. Seasonal food also tastes better and since it’s grown in the immediate community, there are no air-miles meaning it’s great for the environment too.
Click here to find out more about seasonal food.
When the sun goes down supermarkets often decrease their prices to half if not more of the original cost. Take a trip to the store around 8pm and you’re guaranteed to find some good bargains that you can either eat quickly or freeze to extend its shelf life.
Buy loose fruit and veg
Loose fruit and veg can save you a few precious pounds over time, as you’re likely to get just the amount you need. Large bags of fruit and veg are fine if they’re going to be eaten up but if you have no plans to use them immediately, they may go off and end up costing more than they’re worth.
Buy own brands
A recent report has shown that the big brands are putting their prices up more than the supermarket own brands and economy ranges are often not putting their prices up at all.
By using online shopping facilities you tend to stick to your shopping list rather than getting side tracked by the ready meals and cakes in the next aisle.
Tips for cheap cooking