Become a Master of Budget Cooking

Category B-Tox money saving, personal finance, how to save money

When you think of budget meals, does the image of beans on toast spring to mind? Luckily, times have changed and there are now hundreds of ways to cook delicious food when money is tight - from meal planning and cooking at home to finding the best deals and ditching bad habits. It’s time to get thrifty with food so check out our top tips on how to manage your budget and become the ultimate cost-effective cook.

Make Meal Planning Your Mantra

How many times have you opened the fridge to find it uninspiring or empty? Instead of reaching for a takeaway app, pick up a pen and start scribbling…

It only takes about 30 minutes to sit down and plan out your meals for the week, plus you’ll be more likely to cook up dishes that are balanced, healthy and filling if you follow a plan. Your weekly shop will take a lot less time too and will even cost less, as you’ll know the exact ingredients you need – farewell, impulse buys! Just remember to write a shopping list and stick to it. You’ll soon see a big difference in your spending and may even reduce your food waste.

Meal planning is easy and stress-free but if you’re a beginner, there are plenty of brilliant apps out there to help. Meal Plan Magic has a great guide on how to store certain ingredients, like cooked chicken or raw fish, while these top apps can help you create, shop for, and prep budget-friendly meals like a pro.

Shop Locally

Buying different things from different places may seem like a slog at first but it’s a great way to find the best deals and get your ingredients for the best prices. The advantages of shopping locally are incredible and it’s not just you and your family that will benefit – you’ll be helping to support the community too. The produce you buy will be fresh, coming from small local producers, and of course, you can easily trace the origin.

Next time you want a roast chicken for Sunday lunch, head to an independent local shop, whether it be a butcher, greengrocer or farmers’ market. Get involved in your community and don’t be afraid to ask questions – for example, food prices depend heavily on seasonality so be sure to find out what’s in season for your area from those who will know. Eating out of season can really stretch your budget, so keep up to date and you’ll be sure to eat the freshest budget-friendly food available.

Go Veggie for a Day

We all know meat and fish are expensive no matter where you buy it from, so try eating a few more vegetarian or vegan meals each week. Plant-based diets have soared in popularity over recent years and there are now 3.5 million vegans in UK – that’s 7% of the population! Reducing the amount of animal produce we eat (mainly meat and dairy products) has proven health, environmental and economic benefits, as well as helping to maintain a budget-savvy lifestyle.

"Recipes are guidelines not rules so have a flick through some cook books or look online for inspiration."

It may be a total lifestyle change for you and your family so ease yourself into it. Start off with Meatfree Mondays and, for one day a week, swap your meat for grains and your dairy for dairy free milk and yoghurt. Gradually learn the basics of plant-based cooking and you’ll soon notice the benefits, both physical and financial. It’s super easy to shop vegetarian and vegan these days, with well-known restaurant chains and large supermarkets increasing their vegan offerings.

Get Creative in the Kitchen

Cooking the same meals week in week out can become mundane – unleash your creativity and let your imagination run free! It doesn’t have to be Michelin-star to be fabulous; pick a few of your favourite dishes and get experimenting. Follow these tips to up your culinary game on a budget…

Broaden Your Horizon

Recipes are guidelines not rules so have a flick through some cook books or look online for inspiration. For recipes that pack a punch and push the boundaries of veggie food, check out Rebel Recipes, Deliciously Ella and Lazy Cat Kitchen. BBC Food and TV chef Jamie Oliver never disappoint, while Half-Baked Harvest and Bon Appetit have become a go-to for foodies everywhere.

Two’s Company

Eating meals has always been a bonding experience and cooking should be the same. Turn meal prep into a social activity and create something with others – didn’t you know food tastes best when it’s cooked with love? Assemble your team of mini chefs and get cracking on some fun recipes for children.

Variety is the Spice of Life

Herbs and spices are cheap, long-lasting and have the power to totally transform any dish on a budget. Discover the best combinations using this handy herb and spice chart – you’ll never have to worry about eating bland, boring food ever again.

Share Your Creations

Food is a universal language so start sharing your recipes and foodie photos and communicate with people all over the world. Whether you’re giving or receiving advice, sharing ideas or simply showing off your newly improved baking skills, your passion for food will sky-rocket.

This blog is a bit of fun and not intended to influence your decisions in any way. The content of the blog is reliable at the time of publishing, but we can’t guarantee that it is neither error nor omission free, beyond our knowledge. The links are there for you to explore if you wish, but we don’t have any connection with the third party sites, nor responsibility for them or their content.