Nov 21, 2013

Top 10 budget-friendly kitchen secrets

As your family grows, your grocery bill grows too, right? Not so. If you’re savvy with your choices in the kitchen you can make great savings. Club editor Faye James shares her top 10 budget-saving secrets.

Being a mum has taught me many useful things and frugality is one of the most important. That said, I still want my family to eat healthily so through trial and error I’ve managed to achieve both while keeping my hubby, toddler and baby happy. Here are my top 10 secrets:

1. Meatless Mondays

One thing about going meat-free is that it’s cheap as well as healthy. If you serve up at least one vegetarian meal per week you can ensure your shopping bill is reduced and provide your family with proteins other than meat. I feed my family plant proteins such as lentils, chickpeas and butter beans, all which make great curries or accompaniments to salad, and are easier to digest than some meats. You can buy a tin for as little as $1.

2. Leftovers

If you want to get more bang for your buck, while encouraging your family not to overeat, try making dishes that you can use the leftovers for another dish the following day. For example, save roast chicken for a lovely hearty chicken soup or turn your leftover pasta into a tasty frittata. Leftover mash also makes a great topping for fish or Cottage Pie.

3. One-pot wonders

Never underestimate the power of a one-pot wonder. If you have a slow cooker, just pop the ingredients into the cooker in the morning and come home to a fragrant, melt-in-the-mouth stew. I don’t have a slow cooker so often make casseroles when I get home from work and simmer on a low heat to serve up next day. One-pot wonders are great because you can use cheaper cuts of meats, they’re easy to make and are healthy for the family.

4. Simple tuna recipes

You can buy a can of tuna for a few dollars and make a plethora of healthy dishes for your family. Canned fish is high in omega-3 fats and you can mix with salads, curries or yummy patties, which are extremely popular with toddlers who might not otherwise like fish.

5. Make your own pizza

Ordering takeaway pizza seems like a budget-friendly option, but you can easily make your own homemade one for a third of the price (around $5 as opposed to $15). I pile mozzarella, tomato, ham and rocket onto pita bread for a cheap and quick meal. If you have more time, you can make your own dough with your little ones and whip up some Mini Pot Pizzas. My daughter loves to make hers with smiley faces. A cheap, healthy, tasty and entertaining meal!

6. Pack lunch

If you buy lunch every day you could be spending on average $10 a day, which totals up to more than $200 a month. Pack your own lunch and you can save heaps. Homemade soups, salads, wraps or tortillas cost on average $2 a day to make, which totals up to just $40 per month. That’s just $480 per year as opposed to $2,400! Take note, working parents. (Particularly my husband!)

7. Keep a stocked pantry

Do your good intentions to cook five staple meals a week go out the window when you open the fridge and discover there’s ‘nothing to cook?’ Keep a well-stocked pantry full of staples such as tinned tomatoes, chickpeas, tuna, pasta, quinoa or rice, and you can always whip a last-minute, nutritious creation without too much effort or expense.

8. Eat with the seasons

Avoid opting for recipes that require out-of-season produce. Not only will you end up paying extra, but also they won’t taste as nice. In-season produce is tastier, and easier on the pocket.

9. Shop online

I swear by shopping online because it allows me to track what I’m spending as I’m dropping items into the basket. I can browse for specials, search for recipes and plan ahead for weeknight meals. I can also track what I bought in the previous shop and do an educated inventory of my pantry. I definitely save time and money by shopping online – and I think I shop ‘smarter’ too.

10. Buy in bulk

Check the specials and buy non-perishable or goods with a long shelf life in bulk, such as cereal, rice and pasta. You’ll save heaps of money and time. There’s nothing worse than realising you’re spending extra dollars and wasting time by buying last-minute small packets of pasta when you could streamline your shop by planning ahead and buying big, especially when these items are on special.

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