Friday, August 16, 2013

Review: Buying Food on a Budget!

Let's just say i've been living on much more of a strict food budget lately. This summer i gave up my chef-ing work to focus on my work placements/ and on my last year of uni, and am hoping (surviving on savings and a student loan) to survive my third year of uni without having to get a part-time job.  This means until i get a job after graduation (July next year), I'm needing to be strict about budgeting, and over the last couple of months have already been eating economically. Firstly, here are a few hints (which may be common knowledge to older individuals, but as a student beginning to actually think about budgeting their food costs, these recently noticed tips do help with my spending).
1) Look at the per kg price- O.K, so something may be £1, and you think, ah, it's only a pound, it's cheap- WRONG! When shopping, and even when purchasing 2 for 1 deals, look at the "per kg" price, and you may notice it is more expensive than you think. I've been generally keeping to a "Under £10 per kg" rule, which means I can buy most things to be honest. May have to start being stricter with this already. Just by looking at this, i've noticed that most beef and lamb cuts are too expensive (mince is ok) for my budget, fresh herbs and chillies are ridiculously expensive, peppers seem extortionately priced compared to other fruit and veg, and (this surprised me) fresh salad is VERY expensive.

2) Buy in bulk- when your only feeding yourself, or like me, only feeding two, sometimes buying in bulk amounts (particularly fresh items) can be a bit more difficult. However, when it comes to dry items, such as rice and pasta, buy in as large amounts as you can. Most shops sell 1kg bags of pasta/rice/cous cous, and most sell 2kg bags of potatoes. If you have one near you, Asian shops are very good for this sort of thing- you can get 10kg sacks of rice for almost nothing! Again, with most items, if you look at the per kg price of items, you will notice that products in larger amounts tend to be cheaper. If you happen to be lucky enough to be a member of a catering wholesaler (such as Bookers Wholesale), you can  get some seriously good bulk catering purchases- sometimes you may find you have a mate who does event work/catering work that has a members card, that might let you borrow it for a little bulk shop.
3) Use your freezer to it's full potential- If you have a freezer, then even if you are by yourself, you can still cook meals for 4, but just freeze three other portions once you've made it. Also there are a lot of budget supermarkets that do very good deals on cheap frozen food, like Aldi, Lidl or Iceland (although I guess us Bathonions are kinda food snobs- we don't have an Aldi or a Lidl, and we do have an Iceland- but i never go in there, haha! Maybe this needs to change!).
4) Check out prices of your local fruit/veg stall/greengrocers/butchers- Make a note of the cost of a few things in your usual supermarket, and then checkout any local business around you and see if they may be lower. I know for a fact that a fruit and veg stall near me has much cheaper prices than in my supermarket. The butchers near me is fairly cheap, but it depends which cuts you are buying. The bakers on my street does deliciously amazing bread, but at a hefty price.
5) Buy tinned items, frozen veg, and dried pulses-  There are certain things that are always in my cupboard/freezer, because they are such good value and they are good for use in loads of different recipes. Tinned tomatoes are a must, as they can be used in anything- from a pasta sauce, to a curry, to a soup. Frozen veg, of all varieties, are cheap and good value. Personally I always have frozen peas in my freezer. It's good also to have mixed frozen veg (a mix of carrots, green beans, sweetcorn and cauliflower normally) because that can be made into a quick healthy dinner really easily- without loads of prepwork. Dried pulses, if you have time for preparation, are one of the cheapest filling nutritional things you can buy. Ok so they take an hour boiling, or overnight soaking, but in the end it's totally worth it- often you can make at least 4 meals from a pack of dried pulses for less than £1 for a packet. And all of these, of course, have a massive shelf life.

6) Make your own lunches- If like me, you have to bring a packed lunch into work, skip on spending loads of money and make your own! Often a packed lunch can easily be made from leftovers from the night before, or if, like me, you tend to have pasta, rice, or couscous in the cupboards, it's really easy to whip up a quick salad for the next day.
 7) Reduced to Clear- Normally, once a week, I do a "reduced" shop- basically i buy a load of (freezeable!) reduced items and chuck them in the freezer, defrosting whenever I fancy. I use this strategy mostly for reduced ready meals, and reduced meat. Remember also that a lot of reduced fresh items, such as fruit, veg, potatoes, pre-made things that can't be frozen, can be made into soups, sauces or full on meals, and then again frozen. The reduced labels and the freezer are meant to be best mateys! Often reduced items are dotted around the place, but most supermarkets have a reduced section- sometimes a chilled one and a dry one, find where they are! Another good note is to go to the shop about a couple of hours before closing- the baking section, and the butchery/rotisserie section are usually completely full of reduced items at this time.
8) Vouchers- or as our lovely American  neighbours would put it, become a "Coupon-Clipper"!! You'll find them everywhere, in newspapers, in magazines, in in-store brochures, on the actual packets of the food you purchase. Increasingly you will find vouchers online, not just websites, but if I were you I would "like"companies on facebook and you'll find all sorts of offers- printable vouchers and things, as well as giveaways, for people who follow them.

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