Interest rates have increased for the first time in what feels like forever (it’s actually since March 2009), and while it is in itself only a small change, it can have a big impact on a family’s budget so perhaps it’s time to be frugal.
Eating out has become one of the nation’s favourite ways to spend leisure time, as has cooking more elaborately at home. There’s no doubt that food is very important to us……
One of the largest portions (if you’ll forgive the pun) of an average family’s monthly out-goings is on food, whether that be in a supermarket for the weekly shop or as a leisure purchase in a restaurant. It’s third only to housing and transport in terms of costs.
So, while the bank may be taking that extra .25% of our cash, how can we make sure we use the remaining food spend wisely, both at home and out and about?
At home, planning is everything. Set out what you’re going to have for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for a week and buy only what you need. This helps cut down on food waste and saves last minute dashes to the supermarket after work to buy the ingredients for dinner – and where your head is likely to be turned by the biscuit aisle and other impulse purchases you don’t really need!
Batch cooking can also help – cook more than you need and either keep the leftovers for lunch or freeze them for use another night. Make stocks from vegetables and carcasses and freeze those until they’re needed.
Use your leftovers or fridge contents wisely – think about making a minestrone soup or vegetable soup with leftover veg and fruits which are about to be past their best can make a lovely compote or smoothie.
Eating lots of healthy beans and pulses can also keep the costs down, especially if you couple them with cheaper (but just as delicious) fishes such as mackerel or less expensive cuts of meat such as beef shin.
Or why not go all “Good Life” and consider growing your own herbs, vegetables and soft fruits? It’s certainly cheaper and it’s really rewarding to prepare your meals using ingredients fresh from your own garden.
After all that frugality at home, it’s time for a treat. Restaurants (even fine dining and high end ones) often offer really good deals for set menus and mid-week lunchtimes as well as “early-bird” menus so do your research on what’s available locally. For takeaways, lots of companies offer discounts for signing up to their newsletter, so again, check online for what’s available.
Here’s a recipe for a cheap and easy curry. Using inexpensive lentils and many stock cupboard staples, it serves two:
- 8 oz (225 g) red lentils
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 4 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
- 2 level teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 level teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 level teaspoon turmeric
- 2 potatoes, peeled and diced
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 large onion, peeled and sliced
- 1 small green pepper, de-seeded and chopped
- 1 level teaspoon Madras curry powder
- Fill a saucepan with 850ml of water and bring to the boil. Add a teaspoon each of turmeric, ginger, cumin and salt.
- Stir in the lentils, let it come back to a gentle simmer and cook for 5 minutes, then add the diced potato. Stirring occasionally, cook until the lentils are soft.
- At the same time, heat the butter in a separate pan. Over a relatively high heat, fry the onion and pepper until the onion has browned before lowering the heat. Then stir in the Madras curry powder (you can add more if you prefer a hotter curry) along with the garlic, the remaining ground ginger and the chopped tomatoes.
- Cook for a minute before adding the lentil mixture. Season with more salt if needed and cook gently for a further 5-10 minutes (stirring occasionally). Serve with rice and yoghurt/naan bread if you wish.