Thursday, July 30, 2015

How to save money in the kitchen

I think we all like to save money where we can. This may be so we can spend money in other areas, to prevent debt, or to save up for holidays or other big costs. I am fortunate to eat in a way that isn't too costly (unless I go to Whole Foods...) but still like to cut costs where I can. This allows me to periodically buy vegan desserts and chocolate (which any regular reader will know I value!) and put funds towards things that matter to me and Mr Bite.

There are lots of money saving tips out there and this isn't meant to be a definitive collection of ideas. Instead, it is a collection of things that I find worthwhile and which I find easy to implement.

I would love to hear your ideas too!

1. Have a few easy, cheap meals in your rotation.

I don't routinely calculate per serve costs for our meals. However, I am aware that a few of our regular meals are very cheap to make. Basic legumes and carbohydrates work particularly well and the following key examples come in at around £1 ($2) per person:



Chickpea flour pancakes with vegetable-bean fillings 

Estimated saving: If you have at least one cheap meal per week, £3 to £15 ($6 to $30) per person per month.

2. Look out for end-of-day discounts. 

Many bakeries and chain stores discount products at the end of the day. In the UK, Boots is particularly generous and often marks sandwiches, salads and other prepared meals down to just 50p ($1.00). This is a whopping discount from the £2 - £3 they cost at full price. Of course, you need to be able to eat the meal quickly but if you want an easy, light dinner they're an incredibly cheap option.



The above salad was a nice example of this (50p!) and also allowed me to try a new product, as this salad has recently been added to the Boots range.

Estimated saving: 50p to £2 per item ($1 to $4).

3. DIY cereal mixes.

There are lots of recipes out there for homemade muesli, but you don't have to go that far to see benefits. I no longer buy sultana bran (raisin bran to Americans) because it is 50% cheaper to buy bran flakes and sultanas/raisins separately and combine them at home. Sticking with 'basic' cereals (weetabix, oats, plain flakes...) and adding your own toppings can allow for creative bowls at a reduced price.


Estimated saving: £1 to £2 per box of cereal.

4. Be friends with carbohydrates.

A serve of our current home brand rice costs just 0.03p (0.06c) and the equivalent pasta is 0.05p (0.10c). If you round out expensive ingredients with these basics, your average meal cost will reduce dramatically.


Aubergine and pepper spaghetti bolognese

Estimated saving: £5 to £15 per person per month ($10 to $30).

5. Be judicial with brands.

We all know of examples where Brand A is immeasurably better than Brand B. Sometimes the taste is better, sometimes the product is healthier, and sometimes (as with cleaning or beauty products) the performance is superior. At the same time, there are examples where Brand A is equivalent to Brand B. Find out where you can choose home brand options and not notice a difference.

Possible examples? I always buy home branded tinned tomatoes, plain rice and pasta, soda water, Digestive biscuits and kitchen foil, among other things.


Estimated saving: £5 to £20 each week ($10 to $40).

6. Know where bargains can be found.

I don't think any of us want to visit four different shops each week or spend hours comparing supermarket specials. However, it's likely that there will be periodic specials that particularly benefit you, and certain supermarkets that can offer you a good deal.

We often buy chocolate and Linda McCartney veggie sausages from Lidl, for example, because they are substantially cheaper there. If I see cleaning products, nuts or dairy free ice cream on special, I'll also take advantage of them.

Estimated saving: £2 to £10 each week ($4 to $20).

7. Find a good fresh produce provider (and eat lots of fresh produce).

It's no secret that I love my local fruit and vegetable markets. While organic / small farmer's markets can cost more, I have been fortunate to find local markets that cost (by my estimate) about one-third less than supermarket produce. The fact they are fresh and local gives an enormous added benefit. If you have some near you, utilise them!

Fruit and vegetables are also cheap and vegetables, in particular, can round out more expensive protein-based ingredients.


Estimated saving: £5 to £10 each week ($10 to $20).


8. Avoid individually packaged items.

I buy them sometimes, as I'm sure we all do, but if you can make your own snacks or buy larger packs and divide them up at home, you're likely to save a lot. Most yoghurt brands are 25% cheaper if you buy large tubs instead of small ones, and snack products are often 50% cheaper if you step away from individual portions.

9. Work out what is cheaper to make at home and what isn't.

I know that if I make my own muesli bars, pizza bases or nut milk, I'll make substantial savings over commercial equivalents. On the other hand, if I crush my own tomatoes, it will probably cost more in fresh tomatoes than buying a ready to-go-tin.

Vegan muffins - cheaper at home

This tip isn't just about savings in money, but savings in sanity and time too.

10. Grow your own herbs.

This applies regardless of outdoor garden space - it is a rare flat that doesn't have scope for at least one pot plant. Even if you struggle to keep herbs alive, buying potted plants generally costs no more than buying a pack of cut fresh herbs, but will give you substantially more use.


Estimated saving: £2 to £10 per month ($4 to $20 - depending on how many herbs you use).

So tell me - how do you like to save in the kitchen?

19 comments:

  1. great ideas here. Heh, the only real new money saving tip I've been doing lately is rather scummy... I got a packet of chai flavoured teabags and I've been re-using the teabags a second time as they're still quite strong! My herbs always seem to die no matter how much advice for "don't kill your herbs" I follow. A smallish bunch from the big supermarkets is $3 but a big bunch from an Asian grocer is about $1 here. So I like shopping at smaller stores like that when I get the chance. Also for raw cashews I always get raw broken cashews as they're lots cheaper than raw whole cashews.

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    1. I have been known to reuse teabags too :D Small Asian grocers can provide great bargains and it sounds like your herbs are a nice example.

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  2. Great tips Kari, no matter where you live.

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  3. It really takes a blog post before we realize we've gotta be serious about saving up on food yet maintaining a healthier plate! Thank you for the tips, we need this!!

    Julie & Alesah
    Gourmet Getaways xx

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  4. Great tips. I love growing my own produce. I'm especially thrifty with things that can be re grown from what I might buy at the supermarket. I'm using shallots I planted from a store bought bunch still several years later! Ditto celery, Rosemary, and any produce I find sprouting like potato, sweet potato etc - into the garden it goes. I've even been lucky enough to grow pumpkins from my compost but that was an accident!

    My other tip would be to eat seasonally. I try to cook with what's in season because it's certainly cheaper when there is a glut of produce!

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    1. Your re growing efforts are really impressive! Eating seasonally definitely makes a big difference too - not to mention the produce tastes better :-)

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  5. Great tips! And many that we stick to here as well.
    It definitely pays to know where to shop for the best deals because we find stores can vary heaps.
    I definitely think that eating basic grains, legumes, & veggies is a substantially cheaper way to live! I can't get over how much we save on our grocery bill compared to other families that I chat to about it.
    We use lebanese flat bread for our pizza base and I can't make my own for cheaper than $1 for a 6 pack!
    And there are definitely some brands of milk that I would rather pay a small fortune for and have in a cup of tea as opposed to home-made milk! It's good to know all these bits and pieces that are essential!
    I really enjoyed this post :-)

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    1. Thanks so much Sandy :-) And yes, your lebanese flat bread sounds like a bargain!

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  6. I always suggest to people to try the cheaper brands and see if they can taste the difference. Some brands are worth paying for, but others aren't.

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  7. Agree with all the tips there. The classic 'don't go shopping when you're hungry' is one that makes a huge difference for me - a difference between coming out with food I need, or food I need plus loads of biscuits, chocolate etc!

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  8. Just today I was reflecting on how I used to curse that thyme was one of the few herbs I could grew but I have followed a few recipes using it lately and been really pleased that it has saved me money. Now if only I could get parsley to grow wild!

    Like you I have some pricey foods I love and cut costs elsewhere to make it possible - we have herbs and citrus in the garden, vegetable scraps for stock in the freezer and sourdough starter for good cheap bread in the fridge. However when it comes to buying food I think there are so many issues of ethics and nutrition to take into account that cost is not always uppermost in my mind.

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    1. You're absolutely right - there is financial cost but of course also ethical / social cost. I found that more challenging in Australia I think, as I was mindful of not wanting to support the duopoly of Coles and Woolworths but was torn between saving at those stores or spending more at independent grocers. There are certainly still brands I avoid and for things like Mr Bite's tuna, we will pay more for sustainable options.

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  9. This is a very good and comprehensive list, Kari. I do think I could put in more of an effort when it comes to growing things - it's amazing how expensive a little bunch of herbs is and I seem to buy them almost daily. Growing my own would be such a saving. I also try to have a few inexpensive meals in the weekly rotation and like you, one of mine is vegetable soup; it's so good at this time of year and we enjoy it with a crusty loaf of bread xx

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    1. I do think there's something lovely about homemade soup and crusty bread in winter :-)

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  10. Really useful tips Kari! I find that most of our meals are super cheap to make... especially things like Curries/Dal/Chapattis/Rice, which literally cost a few pence per person. I always try and go into Waitrose last thing to buy fresh bread. Their large wholemeal loaves are often discounted to 50p and I find they last so much longer than the ready cut loaves in plastic bags (plus they have way less ingredients!)

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