When it comes to cooking, I love being in the kitchen. What I don’t love? The bill at the end of the grocery shopping. With food and energy prices rising, it’s never been more important to stick to a food budget, you’ll see that eating well doesn’t have to cost a fortune. A few small tweaks can make a big difference and help your money go that much further.
From making the most of store-cupboard staples to buying wonky fruit and veg, I’ve put together the ultimate budget grocery list with recipes, top tips and tricks to help you shop smart, cook clever and waste less.
Make a list
First up, set yourself a realistic grocery shopping budget. Then plan your week’s meals and create a shopping list based on that – this way, you’ll only buy what you need. It also helps prevent those inevitable impulse buys that can add up. It also gives you a bird’s-eye view of what you plan on eating for the week so that you can make sure that you’re getting plenty of healthy foods in the mix. You can also keep costs low by planning your meals around budget-friendly ingredients.
Stock up on store-cupboard staples
Keep your cupboards stocked with ingredients that will last for a long time and that you’ll use again and again. Try cooking with tinned food – like tinned tomatoes and chickpeas – and make the most of oats and dried pasta. These store-cupboard essentials will seriously deliver on the flavour front with minimum fuss. I love to add a tin of mixed beans or lentils to any beef/ turkey mince dish I am making to make it stretch a bit further. They’re also delicious to throw into soups or salads. If you’re a bit more savvy in the kitchen, dried beans are even cheaper than canned. Just make sure you soak them the night before you want to use them! Is there anything more comforting or delicious than a bowl of warm, buttered pasta? Stock up on your favourite noodle when it’s on sale. Dried pasta can last in your pantry for years. Dried fruit, here is another item that you can use for tons of different applications. Toss into a salad or eat by the handful. I particularly love apricots and dried cranberries.Porridge oats, give you a huge dosage of fibre, and you can use them in so many different ways. Make your own oat milk, create a new granola combination, make cookies or protein bites, or use it on its own for a hearty breakfast.
Shop smart and strategically
Kilo for kilo, buying a whole chicken and portioning it up is much cheaper than buying chicken breasts. A complete bird goes much further too; leftovers from a roast chicken can be used for a pasta bake, risotto or stock for a soup. Similarly, pick up a whole side of salmon when it goes on offer in the supermarket, then chop it up into fillets or chunks and freeze it. It’s much cheaper than buying individual packs of fillets.
Look out for cheaper cuts of meat
Meat can be pricey, but you can choose cheaper cuts that will offer you better value for money while still packing in plenty of flavour. The next time you’re at the supermarket or butchers, opt for budget cuts like chicken wings or thighs, lamb shank and neck; and pork chump and cheek. While there are certainly more prime cuts, if you are marinating or slow cooking, you may be able to save money by choosing a more traditionally tough or fatty portion. Why not try my delicious air-fryer honey sriracha chicken wings.
Opt for different varieties of fish
Some types of fish are cheaper than others – so how about trying something new? Mussels and sardines are affordable and super-easy to cook with. Be open to trying new dishes and recipes with fish you would not normally consider.
Use swaps for uncommon food ingredients
Find a new recipe online that you can’t wait to try? If there is an ingredient in the dish that you know that you only need a small amount of and that you won’t use frequently after (such as an unusual spice), look to see if you can swap a similar ingredient that you already have to save money and reduce waste (or clutter) in your fridge or pantry.
Save Money On Snacks
We all still want to eat well in between meals. Fun and delicious snacks are much easier to make affordable than you may think. Instead of reaching for the shiniest and most colourful snacks on the shelf, add some of these options to your grocery list when you’re on a budget. One of the most effective ways to save money on snacks is to make them yourself. Homemade snacks like my natural treat bars, popcorn, trail mix, and veggie sticks with Hummus dips are often healthier and more affordable than pre-packaged options.
Embrace wonky fruit and veg
Misshapen fruit and veg are often sold at a discounted price in supermarkets but are just as delicious and nutritious as the more regular-shaped ones we’re used to. Whether it’s a crooked carrot or a knobbly potato, you can enjoy produce in all its shapes and sizes.
If you regularly buy certain ingredients, buying in bulk is often better value and means you save money in the long run. For example, buying big bags of rice and pasta works out cheaper per kilo. You could buy bigger packs of dried chickpeas and beans instead of tins, and if you cook with lots of spices, buy bigger packs instead of the smaller jars.
Make friends with the freezer
Frozen veg is a great way to save money and reduce waste. Not only is it packed with nutrients, as it’s picked and frozen at its best, but bags in the freezer mean you can easily portion out what you want whenever you want it, without having to worry about food going off in the fridge. Your freezer can also help you stretch ingredients that little bit further and reduce food waste. Commonly wasted foods like bread, fresh herbs, fruit and veg can all be frozen, and they are also usually prepped and peeled in advance, meaning you’re cutting down on time spent in the kitchen.
Look for discounts on foods that are close to their expiration date
Many grocery stores will have sections set aside for food that is nearing its expiration date. These items, most often found in the meat and dairy sections, are great options to save a little extra money, especially if you are shopping for ingredients for a meal that same day (or the next!). Also, don’t be hesitant to pick up food that is closer to the expiration date — this is a label that the producer provides for consumers to let them know when food will be at its best quality.