...tips for people who (like me) really love god food.
1) Meat is not compulsory!
I must say that I have never really been a massive meat eater. I'm not vegetarian by any means, but I find big slabs of meat pretty dull. If you are used to building your meals around large portions of meat, then reducing it might be a challenge. Eating meatless meals a few times a week is a huge money saver. Pizza, pasta and sauce, egg and chips, are all everyday, meatless meals. Lentils and beans are great alternatives to meat. When you do eat meat, use it as a seasoning rather than a main ingredient. For instance, a bit of bacon can go a long way to add flavour to a risotto. A little chorizo can pack a flavour punch in a pasta bake. A slice of ham can top a pizza.
2) Indulge in simple treats.
Just because you are eating frugally doesn't mean your diet needs to be bland and tasteless, just move away from the idea that treat foods have to be expensive. A bowl of English strawberries at the height of summer isn't going to cost much, but wow, what a flavour! Make meals special. A bowl of homemade soup can be served at a candlelit table and savoured every bit as much as a fresh lobster! Take care with the preparation and presentation of food, and make it feel special every day.
3) Learn your craft.
Cooking well isn't rocket science, but it does take a little practice. You can save a lot of money by learning how to cook well. By that, I don't mean that you have to have the skills of a professional chef, but make sure that you can make your favourite things.
4) Don't you love it when a plan comes together?
Cooking and eating well and frugally does take a bit of planning. Don't leave yourself in the position where you have no other option than a last minute dash for a ready meal or take away. I usually plan out my week at the weekend. I'm not keen on having strict meal plans, but I think about what sort of activities I have to fit in, and try and shop accordingly. So, for instance, if I know I'm going to be late in, then dashing straight out again for an evening meeting, then I'll make sure I have something really quick and easy like pasta and pesto. If we have the sort of night where we might all be needing to eat at different times, then I'll get a casserole into the slow cooker for that day, so we can help ourselves when we need to. I also check what I have in the kitchen before I shop, so I avoid food waste wherever possible.
5) Get ahead wherever you can.
When you make a meal, makes two. Put one in the freezer, and you have an easy dinner for another night.
Prep as much in advance as you an, when you have the time. Last night I peeled the potatoes and chopped the veg for tonight's dinner before I went to bed.
Cakes and treats, especially good quality ones made with 'real' ingredients, can be very pricey. Baking your own can save money, and really impress your friends and family. I have maybe five or six faithful recipes, that I can produce quickly and easily time and time again. These include a basic muffin recipe which can be flavoured any way I like, a lemon drizzle cake, a flapjack type bake, and a million variations on tiffin!