For many military families, groceries are the biggest monthly expense, so Army wife AJ Sharp, associate member of the Guild of Fine Food and Great Taste Awards judge, has gone back to basics to explore how we can all eat well for less…
Food from scratch
A great way to save money is to cook using simple ingredients rather than buying pre-packed or pre-prepared products and meals. It’s simpler than you might think and is something the family can do together. See right for a simple spaghetti bolognese recipe which costs just 54p per person.
When budgeting, proper planning is crucial. Each week decide what you are likely to need for seven days of evening meals, lunch boxes and breakfasts. You can always leave a few gaps for spontaneous meals.
Buying the right stuff
Ditch buying pre-cut vegetables – you can get a kilo of carrots for the same price as 150g pre-cut, which never taste quite right to me. Buy your meat and fish in large quantities and cut it up yourself – you can always freeze any excess.
The freezer is your friend
It means you don’t have to eat everything on the same day or throw it away, so grab those ‘reduced’ items and bung them straight in the freezer at home. Try to avoid frozen junk food, it’s low in nutrition and not as cheap as you think – although we keep at least a meal or two for ‘emergencies’!
Snacking away your pennies
Snacks like biscuits, popcorn, fruit chews and crisps can be hugely expensive, mainly because they’re demolished as soon as you’ve bought them. Your wallet will thank you for making the simple swap to more cost-effective fruit, toast or crackers when the kids come in from school – and make it healthy and protein-rich with nut butter or cream cheese. You can also buy un-popped popcorn, which is much cheaper, and flavour it however you choose.
Spaghetti bolognese is an easy, cost-effective meal to make, and a family favourite. I’ve added carrot and lentils to the recipe to bulk out the sauce, so it feeds more and is healthier too. You can adapt it to make a traditional mince by simply adding gravy instead of chopped tomatoes.
Ingredients (serves six for £3.23)
- 1 onion (10p)
- 500g mince (£1.49)
- 1 can of chopped tomatoes (19p)
- 4 carrots grated (40p)
- 1 tin of cooked lentils (55p)
- Optional flavourings: salt, pepper, garlic, oregano
- Spaghetti (50p)
- Peel and chop the onion
- Fry in a large pan on a medium heat with a little oil
- Add the mince and cook until it’s brown
- Add the tomato, rinsed lentils and carrot
- Simmer gently on a low heat for at least 30 mins to soften the mince
- Meanwhile, boil the spaghetti
- Serve with salad