Saving Money and Improving your Food

Some quick ideas on how to save money on simple food.

  • Plan what you are going to eat, and when buying fresh produce only buy what you need for your receipts.
  • Skip that take-away, and learn to cook that meal yourself. It will end up healthier, and probably taste better as well.
  • Skip the ready meals, and cook your own. You will end up with something that taste better, and is cheaper for the same thing, but my guess is that you will want to improve the quality rather than cut the price.
  • Buy produce that are in season. The price of fruit and veg can vary greatly between when they are in season, and when they are out of season.
  • Learn what alternative ingredients to use, which are cheaper, or help make your meal more filling.
  • Beer & Wine, leave that for the weekend, and drink water during the weeks.

Best savers:

  • Take away Pizza, will very often set you back around £20 for a family of 4, but if you make that pizza yourself, it will cost you less than £5, give you more ingredients on it, and most likely taste better. With regards to the quality, I am comparing with places like Pizza Hut, Dominos etc, rather than you authentic Italian pizzeria (which in Sweden at least will very often give you a better pizza than most people can do at home). So, lets say that you today have Take away Pizza on average twice a month, and you are a family of 4, that should save you £30 per month, or £360 per year, just for spending a little bit of time making it yourself.
  • Chips (or French Fries for non Brits), the markup on them is phenomenal, same on the soft drinks. Your normal burger bar, don’t actually make their money on the burgers. The money is in the soft drinks, and the chips, and for the greedy places that charge you for condiments, in those as well. So if you have to go to the burger bar, only buy the burger there, skip the drink and the chips. You will be healthier, and you will save money. Check out the film “Super-size Me” on the big burger chain.
  • Meat, buy buying cheaper cuts of meat, and changing the way you cook slightly, you can eat well, and still have money left over at the end of the month. Instead of buying Chicken Breast and cutting them up for whatever dish you are making, try Chicken Thighs, which often is at around a quarter of the price or less, and just about as good. Yes it requires a little bit of work, but once you get the hang of it, it works fine. Also in these summer days, when you want to have a BBQ, go for Rib-Eye rather than Sirloin (much better for BBQ, as it has some fat in it), and for Shoulder Chops, rather than Pork Chops, or Tender Loin  if you are after Pork. With Lamb I would go for Chum Chops, rather than Neck Fillets (though I am very biased towards Neck Fillets when it comes to making a Souvlaki). With some of that, you should be able to cut your meat costs in half.
  • Fish, a bit trickier saving there, as most people are getting more and more conscious of the origin of the fish, and the sustainability. You can however chose cheaper fish versions, which taste almost as good (I use almost, as it is very hard to beat the real thing when it comes to fish).

The more you cook yourself, the more you will discover what you can save on.

I have been making our Jams and Apple Sauce, partly to reduce the sugar content for the children, but realising that it actually saves us quite alot of money. Previously we went through a jar of Bonne Maman conserve in under a week (at £1.50 to 2.50 depending on variety, that is quite a bit of money in a year). Now I will buy a batch of fruit (frozen), or apples and make our own. I make it around once a month, and we normally spend less than £4 for that. It saves us somewhere between £30, and £80 a year, just from Jam and Apple Sauce.

You can save money on most foodstuff, but the hardest thing to save money on is actually bread. In alot of countries the bread is the loss leader, the way to get the customer into the stores, which means that the margins on normal bread are basically non existing. However specialty breads like paninis, focaccia etc, come at a premium, so there is still money to be saved there.

Alot of people might say, “we don’t have time to cook food”. Consider how much TV you watch every day, and then if you don’t have 20 minutes, or 30 minutes to spend on making your average meal, I guess you will have to find other ways of saving :)

So, that is my take on saving on food.

Next week I will look at holidays, and ways of doing it on a budget.

/Fredrik Sohlberg