The last few weeks have seen some pretty bleak predictions from those (apparently) in the know. Numerous energy companies going to the wall, lack of fuel, reductions in Universal Credit and predictions regarding the price of living means disposable income is going to be getting tighter for everyone. One of the easiest ways to save a few pounds is on food and I am going to share some top tips for making the most of mealtimes without breaking the bank. Here are some of our tastiest ways to make your money go further.
Food in season is not only going to be better quality but also better value. Ask any professional chef what drives their menus and if seasonality isn’t in their top 2 responses, then give them a wide birth.
Eat the Seasons is a great website for finding out what foods are in season. Not just fruit and vegetables but also meat, fish, and game. Eating seasonally will help you on your quest to make your money go further.
Make Some New Mates
Supermarkets get a bit of a bad rap. They have revolutionised the way we shop and the prices they can offer mean that the vast bulk of my shopping is done at a supermarket, so I am certainly not trying to beat supermarkets over the head, but there really is no substitute for a bit of specialist knowledge and skill. Your butcher, fishmonger and greengrocer will know not only what is in season but also what is fresh and good to go to help make your money go further. Butchers and fishmongers also have some pretty awesome prep skills so if you want your chicken spatchcocked or your fish filleted then these are the guys to speak to. They can also advise you as to what is coming in as most of them have really good direct links to the farms and suppliers that they use.
Knowledge is Power
Knowing what to buy is just the start. When your butcher has some great beef in, does that mean you are going to spend £100 on the centre fillet or prime rib? If you’re in the position to do that then great but the fact is most of us aren’t. Knowing a few better value cuts of meat will not only make your money go further but that your meals become tastier.
Generally, the better value cuts of meat are those that do a bit of work. They may take a little longer to cook but the results are those truly sumptuous ragùs, stews and casseroles that fill the house with those great wintery aromas. Knowing some basic butchery will save some cash too. If you can break down a chicken or bone out some chicken thighs, then you don’t need to pay someone to do it for you.
Below are some of the better value cuts of meat to try out
- Whole chicken – If you need a couple of legs or a couple of breasts, don’t pay the supermarket or your butcher to do the work for you. Buy a whole chicken and break it down yourself. Freeze what you don’t need for another day.
- Chicken Thighs – Found in every supermarket, these alternatives to chicken breasts contain twice the flavour for a lot less money. They can be bought skinned and filleted for cutting up into curries or casseroles but also with skin and bone on.
- Chicken Wings – A great snack to have to hand when people are coming round or just a great and cheap accompaniment to a decent beer. These are so cheap and readily available in most supermarkets. A bit of TLC makes an addictive treat for a night on the sofa
- Beef Short Ribs – These are my absolute favourite cut of beef. You might need to see a decent butcher to get these, but the trip is well worth it. Meltingly soft, intense beef flavour cooked low and slow and served with anything from a decadent mash potato to a sophisticated pasta. Have a look below at the recipe for short rib of beef ragu served with pasta. Proper stick to your ribs comfort food.
- Shin of Beef – Like the short ribs but not quite as strong in beef flavour. The big bonus with these though is the bone you get with them. Full of marrow and great for making stock too.
- Flat Steaks – Everyone loves a sirloin or ribeye but those are premium cuts that carry premium prices. Hanger, skirt or flank steaks are great marinated and grilled or put into fajitas or tacos and will leave a bit of cash left in your pocket too.
- Brisket – Available in every supermarket and a great value cut. Anything you would usually use mince for you can use brisket. Chilli con Carne, Bolognese, Cottage Pie all work well with brisket. You will need to skim a bit of fat during cooking and cook it in the sauce for a bit longer than mince, but it is worth it.
- Shoulder of Pork – Better value cut of pork and the star of the now ubiquitous BBQ Pulled Pork. Although it is great smoked and pulled, it can also be used as a better value alternative for a roasting joint. Keep it low and slow but instead of smoking and smothering in BBQ sauce serve with crispy roast potatoes and apple sauce. Keep the fat for next week’s roasties too.
- Pork Ribs – Again, most famously associated with the BBQ scene, some people are put off of these by the ratio of meat to bone and the toughness of the meat when people try to cook them too quickly. Have a go at my BBQ Rib recipe below for fall of the bone sweet and sticky tones of the deep south.
- Pork Cheeks – Can be hard to get as the butchers generally take these as perks (they know their stuff). Pork cheeks are fab braised low and slow in a tomato-based casserole or ragu.
- Pork Belly – I defy anyone not to like this sumptuous cut of meat. In my humble opinion the best recipes for pork belly end up with a crispy skin and a melting fatty meat. There are some fab Chinese recipes and some great marinades like chilli and lime that bring out the best of this family favourite.
- Breast of Lamb – Usually sold as a rolled and tied joint, the breast of lamb is a real favourite of those who know their stuff. Succulent and an intense lamb flavour it is a real alternative to the 10 times more expensive leg of lamb roasting joint. On a personal note, the recipe I used for this dish is really simple and was given to me by none other than Michel Roux Jr after a brief message exchange on social media. If it’s good enough for him…
- Scrag or middle neck of lamb – The finest cut of lamb for curries in my humble opinion. Good fat content and not nearly as expensive as the best end of neck, these cuts braise beautifully.
Waste not want not
UK Households waste 4.5 million tonnes of food every year. This amounts to £700 for an average family with children.
There are some simple things you can do to make your money go further by avoiding waste on items that can usually be found in the bin at the end of the week.
- Bread – Blitz to breadcrumbs and freeze to use as a coating for chicken or fish. A great recipe to use up breadcrumbs is below. Pangrattato is a herby and lemony alternative to the traditional parmesan on pasta and is always well received.
- Cheese – Put off cuts of cheese in a Tupperware container and freeze. Add to soups and sauces as required
- Wine – It may be a little bit of a foreign concept for some (the wife) to have left over wine but don’t throw those dregs away from the end of the bottle. Put in ice cube trays and freeze and add to sauces and ragùs straight from the freezer
- Pasta – Jar and keep all the little broken bits of pasta from the packets. Use them in soups like minestrone to add a bit of bulk.
The Power of Social Media
Have a look on social media for cooking groups. There are lots of people out there with a load of ideas and recipes for you to take advantage of. I am always looking for new meals to keep dinner time interesting. If I get bored with my repertoire then that’s when I start to reach for the takeaway menus and quick (expensive) fixes from the supermarkets.
Speculate to Accumulate
There are a few things that will make your life easier when it comes to making delicious meals to make your money go further. The items below are relatively inexpensive and in some cases are regularly found in charity shops.
Slow Cooker – Put stuff in. Turn on. Leave. Eat. Slow cookers really are that easy. Try to avoid minced meat in the slow cooker as it breaks down into a sandy texture but stews, and casseroles work brilliantly
Casserole dish with a lid – ironware is expensive (Think Le Creuset) but there are some great alternatives out there. Use them on the hob to seal meat and bring out that sweetness and then transfer to an oven to finish off low and slow.
Food processor – Blitz breadcrumbs, grate cheese and puree sauces in seconds.
This article was written by Daddy Dino.