I have read many, many articles, cookbooks and pieces of advice on living cheaply. Most of them turned out to be nonsense. Most weeks my food budget is £20 for 3 people –that includes toiletries and household products –some weeks it’s less. If my questionable maths is correct, that’s 95p per person per day. As a consequence I’m a highly creative cook, and I hope this blog will show an honest representation about how people on a low budget cook, some tips, and actual meals by someone who knows how much things are (have you seen how much smoked salmon actually is, Jamie Oliver?)
So, I thought I’d start with my top 8 tips:
I used to plan a loose menu when I was a student, and everyone thought I was crazy. I now plan menus meticulously, that’s not to say things can’t change if I find something better, but I more of less know what I’ll be eating all week. I know someone who spends over £100 a week to feed a family of four, she just throws everything in a trolley when shopping and wonders why she spends so much.
2) Learn to cook
I know this sounds obvious, but if you learn some basic dishes – like a tomato pasta sauce – you can customise it and take those skills to other dishes.
3) Stay away from leftovers
My biggest vice has always been picking at leftovers. Tell yourself strictly that leftovers are for the following days and even hide them from yourself if you have to.
4) Only buy what you need
If you’re one person and you’re making a salad – buy one tomato. If you’re not going to use them, then you’re wasting money on a pack of 6.
5) Colour is tasty
I used to know someone whose ‘budget dish’ was potato waffles and super noodles. She would swear by the bizarre beige gloopy mess, whilst I will sit and judge eating my student budget dish of choice – baked beans and pasta. Mine may not have been any better, but at least there was colour in my dish. I stand by colour always being better – throw in tomatoes, or add green veg on the side.
Every good thing comes from trial and error, can you stir fry parsnips? Not really, but hey I tried and found out. This comes back to knowing some basic skills – the more you know, the more confident you’ll feel to play around.
7) Know where to spend money
I’d much rather spend money on higher quality meat than the value equivalent – I once saw Tesco value chicken wings which were so feathered, I thought they were going to start flapping. Similarly, if you know that you like a certain brand of something that you’re not willing to replace – I’m very fussy over sweetcorn – then spend the money on what you’re going to eat.
8) Learn to recognise deals which are actually worth your while
7 kilograms of potatoes for £5.Can you use 7kilos of potatoes before they go off? With meat deals and fruit, you can freeze what you don’t need. Be wary.