Right now, we understand that times are tough, both financially, and emotionally. While there are glimmers of hope on the horizon regarding the ‘cost of living crisis’ things will unfortunately get worse before they get better.
With inflation skyrocketing, disposable income shrinking, fuel prices rising, and energy prices out of control, we’re really feeling the pinch financially here in the UK. In fact, it isn’t so much of a pinch, but more so a blow to the face with a sledgehammer.
One of our main causes for concern is food and drink prices. We need to eat and drink in order to survive, but with food prices rising, along with everything else, not everybody has the finances needed to feed themselves and their families like they used to. The good news is that there are ways of saving money while food shopping, and making meals and ingredients stretch further.
Here are 8 cheap food hacks you simply won’t believe.
Bulk your meals out with cheaper ingredients
One of the best food hacks for anybody looking to save money is to bulk your meals out with cheaper ingredients.
If you’re making a chicken stew for example, as chicken is pretty expensive, to make the stew stretch further so you don’t have to use as much chicken simply go ahead and bulk your stew out with cheaper ingredients such as tinned potatoes, butter beans, lentils, or pearl barley.
Use that leftover mash!
Okay, so suppose you had a Sunday roast the day before, or bangers and mash even, and you got carried away and made too much mashed potato. What to do you do with what’s left? Scrape it into the bin? Don’t you dare, get creative with it, and use it frugally.
Even if it’s just a few tablespoons worth, leftover mashed potatoes can be used in a whole bunch of different ways. ‘Bubble and Squeak’ as an example, is the perfect illustration of this as it was a meal designed for poor people looking to make use of all their leftovers without wasting anything. Simply take any leftover mash, veggies, and possibly meat, mash the mixture together, shape it into patties, and gently fry it until piping hot and crispy on the outside.
You can use leftover mash to make miniature pies and pasties, or you can simply add it to existing meals to bulk them out and make your ingredients stretch further.
Okay, to some people, offal might not sound that appealing, but if prepared right, it can be delicious. It’s also cheap, and very good for you too.
One of the best food hacks out there is to purchase and use offal for your meals. Liver for example, is full of iron, is cheap, and is wonderful in casseroles or in the classic liver and onions dish. If you’ve any leftover mash like we spoke about before, it also goes great with this.
Kidney is delicious in pies, and haggis, despite tasting amazing, is unbelievably cheap.
Buy dried ingredients in bulk
Buying in bulk can be intimidating for a lot of people, because you’re paying a lot of money up front. If you work it out however, and compare it with buying items individually, buying ingredients in bulk works out much cheaper and is one of many popular food hacks.
If you eat a lot of rice for example, rather than buying individual bags of 500g or 1kg, why not pick up a 5kg bag instead? The rice can be stored safely in an airtight container in a cupboard for months at a time, and it works out cheaper than buying 5 x 1kg bags of rice.
Whether it’s pasta, oats, rice, lentils, or any other similar dried ingredients, if you know you definitely get through a lot and buy them in bulk, it’s much cheaper than buying them in small quantities whenever you visit the shops. It also makes life easier because there’s less chance of you running out of them when you need them.
Try to fill your oven
When talking about food hacks, people often focus on the foods themselves. The problem at the moment is the fact that not only are food items getting more expensive, but it’s also costing us more to cook them.
Rather than cooking one item in the oven, taking it out, then cooking another, try to fill your oven so everything cooks at roughly the same time. Basically, the longer your oven is on, the more energy you’re using, so obviously it will cost more, and vice versa.
Buy your meat in bulk and freeze it
Without a doubt, meat is considered one of the most expensive ingredients on anybody’s food shop, regardless of the cut. Just like with dried ingredients however, if you buy your meat in bulk, it works out much cheaper. A 5kg pack of chicken breasts for example, works out much cheaper than buying 10 x 500g packs of chicken breasts.
Meat will only stay fresh for a few days in the fridge, so to get around this, bag it up in freezer bags and freeze it. Now your meat will keep for at least a year, and you’ll have a large supply to rely upon.
Butchers often offer value meat packs and hampers marketed as things such as ‘meat for the week’ or even ‘meat for the month’ and if you plan ahead and have the freezer room, you can store the meat for a very long time, and have it last a long time. You’re also saving a bit of money on fuel because you’ll need to make fewer trips to the supermarket.
Prep your meals in advance
Meal prep isn’t just for those annoying fitness “influencers” on Instagram, it’s also one of many great food hacks designed to help make life easier and save money.
If you prep your meals in advance you can use up every single ingredient without wasting a single one, and store them accordingly. You can keep a few in the fridge for a couple of days, and freeze the rest.
By having meals ready to go, you can make them healthier, use cheaper ingredients, and you’ll be less likely to order in or eat out.
Swap your fresh veg for frozen
People often turn their noses up at frozen veg because it is wrongly believed to be less healthy than fresh veg, when in fact this isn’t the case at all.
Frozen veg is often frozen straight away, when it’s at its freshest, meaning that it retains more of its nutrients. Fresh veg could be days old by the time you buy it, and even older when you get around to cooking it.
Frozen veg can be every bit as tasty as fresh, it’s still full of nutrients, and it is much, much cheaper than fresh.