cheap family recipes 

feed a family of 4 for (just over) £100 a month

I don’t eat rubbish meat but I do lean towards cheaper cuts. It doesn’t mean that they are in any way less safe or nutritious than the rest of the animal, just means Jo(e) Public doesn’t favour them.

F’instance, if roast beef dinners are part of your repertoire, buy brisket rather than silverside or topside. Put your brisket in a lidded casserole pan, add about half a pint of water, cook slowly in the oven at Gas 2 or equivalent. Hoick it out to rest before carving and make a good rich gravy with a couple of stock cubes and a touch of flour. Food of the gods, according to my guests.

Brisket is much cheaper than silver or topside and in now way inferior if you let it cook slowly. Same is true of many other joints eg shin beef for casseroles.

You can get a brisket joint with change from £10 and that will serve 2 people for one day hot and one or two days as cold cuts, depending how hungry you are.

It’s always good to look at “peasant-y” cuisines for your recipes as they will be hearty and economical. You don’t want to be having to add lots of premium-priced ingredients or it’d soon be cheaper to eat at a restaurant.

I don’t know how much time you can spend food shopping, or what kind of shops are within reasonable distance (I live in a city centre and am blessed for choices) but even if you can only do one store once a week, look for where they keep the “whoopsies”. you’ll get grin-from-ear-to-ear bargains at silly prices, only a few pence.

Definitely check out independent shops like greengrocers, butchers and fishmongers as well as the local market. Indy traders have a hard time of it and are usually pretty competitive. Plus they’re a fount of knowledge if you’re contemplating cooking something new and not sure how the heck to do it. Indies sometimes sling a freebie into your order and if you become their regular customer, this is even more likely. You’ll never get that at Sainsbugs or Mr T .

I’d suggest checking the smaller chains like Lidl, Aldi and Netto. Also, don’t sneer at Iceland, as they have fresh food as well as frozen, tinned and packaged stuff and they are very competitive. Iceland had 4-packs of Crosse and Blackwell baked beans for £1, which is about half the price other chains want for them.

Poundstores and 99p stores have food items too, often very keenly prices and sometimes v. famous brands. FarmFoods will sell you 2 loaves of sliced Hovis for £1.25 or 2 lots of 4-pints milk for £1.50.

If you have a car and drive thru rural areas, you can pick up bargain sacks of spuds, carrots and other goodies in season at farm gate and cottage gate sales, so keep your eyes peeled.

Unless you have a very small and utterly fixed weekly grocery budget, buy as many of some regularly used item when you see it on special offer, up to the limit you can store them. Milk and cheese can be frozen but a surprising number of people don’t know this.

Get the stores’ reward cards and work those points; they can add up usefully over time. My new p.js were Mr T vouchers + £2.

Definitely look at the non-food items which are on the till receipt. You can live perfectly well without kitchen roll or wipes for any kind of surface. Just about anything can be cleaned with a squirt of washing-up liquid in hot soapy water. If you add soda crystals to the list for heavy duty greasies and perhaps a cream cleanser (Mr T’s Basics at 32p is excellent btw) you should be able to clean just about anything. Oh, and loo roll; downscale until you hit the comfort zone.

Lots of ways to cut down on spending… here are a few that work for me:

Shop in a small supermarket (in my case Aldi) and do it quickly when it is empty. Hours in a large Tesco cost a fortune!

Go down a brand and try own labels. If it’s awful don’t do it again: if not you’ve saved money.

Try to shop once a week and not ‘top up’ between times.

Buy fruit and veg in a local market – It’s often cheaper and usually better quality.

Menu plan: do an inventory of your cupboards and build meals around them. Start with fresh stuff (veg in fridge, etc.)

Make soup – you can throw in stuff at the end of the week and freeze it in mugs/containers to reheat for packed lunches

Make your own – yoghurt (get and Easiyo yoghurt maker), bread (mixes are great but doing from scratch is cheaper) and wine (a big money saver and great fun) Use a slow cooker – cheaper cuts of meat are delicious and it’s lovely to come home to a hot casserole

Grow your own: I’m not much of a gardener but spuds are easy, as is lettuce, some herbs (rosemary, parsley and chives) and garlic

If you like spreadable butter make your own with sunflower oil in a food processor. It’s lovely and much cheaper than Lurpak etc.

Join Costco if you can – bulk shopping for some things saves money and their meats are good

Get on friendly terms with your local butcher/greengrocer. Ask for tips, what’s in season, etc.

but most of all – do not waste food! If you’ve bought it, eat it… Look on here for ideas.

I stock up on BOGOFs and half-price offers if it’s something I’d use anyway, for example I’ve got 4 boxes of Yorkshire Teabags in my cupboard ‘cos they had 100% extra free.

I check my fridge to see what I can use in a meal before I go shopping and menu plan for the week.

I rarely throw any food away, if it’s near it’s use by date then I freeze it if I can, or use it in a recipe and then freeze that

Your local butcher can be as cheap as the supermarkets so worth using one if you can.

if you’re near several supermarkets it’s worth visiting them all if you can to pick up any special offers in each (I know it takes time but I work full-time and still manage to do this)

I agree Iceland are brilliant, they have lots of non-frozen foods at good prices. I don’t buy much of their frozen foods TBH as I like to cook from scratch

Look out for Grabbits on MSE, I’ve picked up loads of bargains thanks to the canny shoppers on here! Only on Friday I bought a pack of 56 Fairy dishwasher tabs for £3.50 ish instead of £12.95 ish from ASDA , I was looking out for them and got the last pack but wouldn’t have known about it without MSE ‘cos the shelf wasn’t marked. I try and keep my store cupboard and freezer full, then every few weeks you can have a cheap week, buying just a few essentials.

Written by Weezl in 2010

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