How to Eat Well on a Budget
Raising our children with only one income can be exhausting and we are all feeling the pinch. Learning to budget as far as food is concerned can actually be quite helpful as you become more aware of what you spend, what gets wasted, also being more aware that you are providing a healthy and nutritious diet for you and your family.
The best time of day to try and do shopping is towards the end of the day. This is when supermarkets and other retailers might mark down the cost of goods that need to be sold off, but don't be tricked into buying things you don't need just becuase they're reduced! Some reductions are only a few pence less than the original price, so make sure you're getting a decent bargain.
Shopping around and shopping locally is also a good idea. For instance, if your town has a good greengrocer, butcher, baker and fishmonger you will very often be able to get much better quality produce from them and save money. Meat and fish can be bought and frozen straight away; opting for cheaper cuts means cooking for slightly longer, but very often they have more flavour. Again, try to shop later on in the day, when prices can be reduced is a good idea.
If you have a freezer, make the most of it! Leftovers from meals can be portioned, labelled and frozen and then defrosted for perhaps, those nights when you are too tired to cook at all. Also, do not underestimate the power of frozen vegetables and fruits. They are a good budget conscious choice, keep very well, are easy to cook and store and great for bulking out meals.
If you can find the funds for it, invest in a slow cooker. These can actually be picked up for under £20 and can be used to cook cheaper cuts of meat, soups, stews, chillies and curries over a longer period of time. They are very fuel efficient and will help to cut down on the cost of running an oven. The other main benefit of slow cooking is that all the ingredients can just be placed into the cooker itself with no pre-frying, so a recipe is not always needed.
If there are allotments near where you live, see if you can involved, or get to know someone who has a vegetable garden. Gardeners often have gluts of vegetables and fruit and will be pleased to give away beans, courgettes, salad, apples and other produce, particularly if you'll help them pick it. In Autumn, blackberries can be found growing in many abandoned areas in cities, as well as in the countryside. And blackberrying is a great activity to do with the children. If you have the time, try taking on an allotment or sharing one with a friend.
Keep breakfasts simple. When in the supermarket look for deals on different cereals. Sometimes it works out cheaper to buy in bulk rather than once a week.
Porridge is a very simple and incredibly nutritious breakfast. Oats can be bought very cheaply and mixed with milk or water to make a very filling breakfast, fruit such as banana can be added in for extra sustenance. In summer you can eat it cold, like a kind of muesli.
Sandwiches are a good versatile meal for lunch. Plan ahead: If you’re having roast chicken for dinner one night, the leftovers can go into sandwiches the following day, as can the remnants of roast beef or pork. Tinned beans, spaghetti or soup are cheap, nutritious and filling to go on toast. Always try and include some fresh fruit or a glass of fruit juice which counts towards one of your five a day.
Main evening meals
To help you keep costs down and keep the stress levels down, it can be useful to plan meals in advance and prepare your shopping lists! We have created a 4 Week Menu Plan which may help, or you may want to devise your own meal planner. Side accompaniments such as vegetables can be changed according to what is in season and what the likes/dislikes of family members are. We have also provided a 4 Week Menu Plan - Shopping List for the meals in the menu plan.