The average weekly grocery bill in the UK has risen by £38 during lockdown,* and despite the lockdown measures easing, we find ourselves amid the summer holidays with kids who seem never to be full up and are constantly scanning the cupboards for snacks.
Reducing your grocery bill, yet still providing tasty, healthy meals that your children will love, might seem challenging. The good news is that even if you are watching what you spend there are some great tips and healthy recipe ideas that will go easy on your wallet and still satisfy your growing children.
Bulk out meals with vibrant veggies
Adding extra vegetables to meat-based meals will help your dinner stretch further, and provide additional fibre, minerals, and vitamins for the whole family. Add either fresh or frozen vegetables to dishes such as lasagne, cottage pie, or pasta bakes for a tasty budget-friendly meal.
If your kids are not a fan of veggies, then there are lots of cunning ways in which to hide them in meals. A helping of this pasta sauce includes all five of the recommended five a day fruit and vegetable portions – and they won’t even know!
The sauce contains celery, carrots, leeks, and peppers simmered down and blended with tinned tomatoes, which can simply be stirred through cooked pasta. (Let the kids choose their own shape of pasta to get them involved with the meal preparation).
You can also save time by making a bulk batch of the sauce as it’s suitable for freezing. It can then be used as a base for a lasagne or spaghetti bolognaise later in the week.
Cheaper cuts of meat do not mean less flavour
Buying cheaper cuts of meat doesn’t make your meals any less tasty. By cooking meat such as shin, shoulder or braising steak slowly either on the hob or in a slow cooker, you’ll get all the flavour at a lower cost.
By cooking meat slowly, the fibres in the cheaper cuts are broken down gradually and the result is tender, melt-in-the-mouth meat that can be used in a variety of recipes.
Pork belly is an inexpensive cut of meat that can be transformed into a sticky and sweet crowd-pleasing meal. As it’s a rich meat, a little goes a long way and is finger-licking good when served with a green salad and new potatoes for a midweek family dinner.
Longer lasting fresh fruit and veg
The average family throws away £50 worth of food every month**, which over the year adds up to a whopping £600.
Much of that waste is fresh fruit and veg, but with some clever management, you can make your groceries last that little bit longer and reduce your food waste. Onions and potatoes are best kept in a cool dark place, rather than a fridge and if they are wrapped in paper (rather than plastic) they will stay fresh for longer. Plus, you’ll use less plastic which is good for the environment too.
Other vegetables should be kept loose in the fridge on the middle shelf. If you don’t want your bananas to ripen too quickly, invest in this stylish bamboo banana hook from The Range.
Stock up on store cupboard staples
A good kitchen store cupboard should always contain some basics that can be turned into a quick, easy and healthy meal. Tinned tuna and mayonnaise spooned over a jacket potato is a nutritious lunch option, or for a quick supper whip up this tuna and broccoli pasta bake in less than 30 mins.
Canned fruit will keep for a long time and can be used in a variety of main meals and desserts. Tinned pineapple is a great topping for a home-made Hawaiian pizza. Kids love creating (and eating) their own pizzas, so it’s also a fun activity for a rainy afternoon.
Tinned peaches can be turned into a peach melba dessert – and provide one of your five a day with hardly any effort. Dried fruit is another handy store cupboard addition that can be used to make fruit scones for an afternoon tea treat, or as an after school snack for the kids.
Make snacking cheaper and healthier
‘I’m hungry,’ is a familiar phrase across the country, with kids finding it seemingly impossible to stop snacking throughout the Summer holidays. Shop bought snacks, biscuits and crisps are expensive and are often not the healthiest choice.
Stretch your budget and improve grazing habits by making your own snacks. Crisp addicts will love these homemade Cheese Dorito style tortilla chips, which are baked for a healthy treat.
For those with a sweet tooth, we love this homemade Twix bar recipe, which is suitable for vegans and contains a caramel made from dates and no refined sugar, yet still manages to taste amazing.
Don’t fancy cooking? Eat out for less
If you want an evening away from the kitchen, then August is a good time to eat out. The government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme runs until the end of the month, with selected restaurants offering 50% savings on food and soft drinks between Monday and Wednesday.
If you have a supermarket loyalty card, the points can often be doubled, or even tripled and swapped for restaurant vouchers that will reduce your final bill. Just be careful to read the small print as some date and time exclusions apply.
Groupon is another source for finding the best deals on eating out, especially for a special occasion or celebration meal.
Spend less, eat well
Our tips show just a few ways in which you can reduce your food bill, yet still enjoy nutritious family meals. Remember to shop with a list (and stick to it) and never visit the supermarket when you’re hungry – the temptation to add treats to the trolley will be hard to resist.
** Source: BBC