#1 Meat isn’t a requirement. Meat, of almost every variety, is one of the most expensive ingredients one is likely to use in cooking. Whether we like it or not meat production is far more resource intensive than arable farming. There are, however, two ways in which one can negate the expense of meat. Firstly, when using meat make certain not to over-estimate the amount required. As a general rule 100g of meat per person will suffice. Secondly, attempt to cut down on the number of meat based dishes you prepare. Remember, pulses such as lentils can be adequate, and often superior, replacements for dead animals.
#2 Seasonality is both frugal and tasty. This may seem obvious, but buying ingredients when they are in season, and therefore in greater abundance, can save one an awful lot of money. Another advantage to buying in season is that the taste of the food will be noticeably better since it won’t have been forcibly grown or shipped in from an obscure part of the world.
#3 Treat yourself cleverly. Being frugal doesn’t necessarily mean that one must avoid pricey ingredients. Instead, showcase the attributes of each and every expense by using no more than one or two in each meal. There isn’t any need to disguise the delicious flavour of asparagus, for example, behind another strong flavour. It is also advisable to be able to recognise the flavour profile of each ingredient. For instance, parmesan cheese has a rather punchy taste and can therefore be used parsimoniously.
#4 It takes a little planning. By planning a weekly menu in advance you can avoid purchasing unnecessary items. Be wary of the allure of ridiculous supermarket offers, it is likely that you’ll end up buying food that will ultimately be wasted. There’s nothing more expensive or immoral than sheer waste.
#5 There’s nothing wrong with a little familiarity. By using similar ingredients in different meals throughout the week, one can save a little money by using up every last ingredient. Happily, this also avoids rather a lot of waste, since a lot of fresh ingredients may not sit around waiting to be eaten. It’s also worth being conscious of which fresh foods can be frozen, bean-sprouts for instance.
#6 Bulk, bulk and more bulk. Help make your food go that little bit further by bulking-up stews, casseroles and other one-pot dishes with lentils and finely chopped vegetables. A stick of celery or a handful of red lentils can go a long way and may help you squeeze an extra serving or two out of each meal. This can also be helpful if you have a busy day on the horizon.
#7 Cooking in advance goes a long way. Meals needn’t be prepared one at a time – producing double portions can go a long way to saving you time and money. It’s important to remember that buying in bulk is often cheaper, so plan what you’re going to make and take advantage of special offers and seasonal ingredients. Cooking one meal and then reheating it will also require less energy and time than preparing two separate meals. It can pay to plan ahead.
#8 Save your wage! Preparing lunch for the week can take as little time as 15-20 minutes every other evening. Why not whip up a little pasta salad, or a wrap full of carrot and coriander hummus? Time spent indulging in a little extra cooking could go a long way and save you in excess of £30 per week. In my case, that’s enough money to buy food for two weeks!
#9 Back to the drawing board. Every one of us submits to the temptation of ease from time to time. Supermarkets, for instance, are the height of convenience and can often seem like safe havens after a long day in the office. However, donating a little more of your time to preparing a meal from its constituent parts can pay dividends, I assure you – even commodities like peanut butter can be whipped up in a flash. Taking this tack also has the added benefit of allowing you to regulate what goes into your diet.
#10 Get baking! It’s necessary to buy bread and cake from time to time – life can often be unrelenting. However, knocking up some cakes for weekday treats, or baking a couple of simple white loaves of a Sunday afternoon can do wonders for one’s wallet. Go back to basics – you’ll find it tastes better and saves you money.
#11 The freezer is your friend. Naturally, cooking in advance (see #7) is likely to yield excess food. In this case, in particular, waste would make little sense and be violently frowned upon. So, as the title suggests, make use of your freezer and save yourself a meal for a later date. Besides you wouldn’t want to eat the same thing two nights on the trot!