Eat cheaply and well for next to nothing

There’s nothing like a deep and lasting recession to provoke formal and informal study of how to feed yourself for less.  The use of food banks has grown apace since 2011, with numbers doubling in 2012 and tripling in 2013.  Analysts blame the upsurge on both economic factors (stagnant wages plus 30% increase in food prices) and political changes (welfare reform), and note that food banks have become so ingrained in the national survival model that their use is recommended by the Department for Work and Pensions’ Jobcentres.

Remember the food banks are available if you need them, but if your budgeting drive is somewhat less pressing, you can take advantage of a multitude of savings tips suited to the thrifty and intelligent eater. Alternatively you may consider help from to boost your bank balance which will allow you to make essential purchases.

Save when you dine in

Short-dated foods.  Buy short-dated foods from online vendors.  It’s common knowledge that dated food survives past, sometimes well past, its official limit.  Some tinned products (smoked fish, potted meats) remain edible for years after the fact, as anyone who’s ever eaten the contents of a forgotten box of storm supplies can attest, although vegetables packaged in metal often do not as the cans rust and dissolve.

Know the difference between a use-before date and a best-before date:  the former indicates a foodstuff that will spoil (milk, meat, or fish) and the latter means the food may lose colour, taste, or texture if eaten at a later time.  Always respect the use-before date, and feel free to exercise your own judgement in regard to the best-before date.

No ready-sliced bread.  Your two best choices are large but inexpensive bakery loaves (whole grains promote health) or bread of your own manufacture.  If you find yourself enamoured of your own homemade breads, locate a used stand mixer with a dough hook.  You’ll be delighted with the textural enhancement resulting from better gluten development.

Find cheap shortcuts to add flavour.  For instance, you can buy large units of salt, whole peppercorns, and spices, plus a one-quid mortar and pestle, and start pounding.  If you can find dried produce in restaurant sizes, like mushrooms and tomatoes, or even the standard dehydrated onion and pepper shakers, that will vary your cooking.

Build your own low-cost menu to make and freeze so you can eat the moment you walk in the door.  One excellent list of hearty dishes can be found here, with suggestions like fish cakes, bean salad, sausage pasta, and custard baked apples.  If you start exploring the realm of cheap curry recipes, you may never cook anything else.

Grow your own.  Even if you have no garden, you can manage a few pots for herbs and perhaps a vegetable or two (chillies are easiest to grow, and watching them ripen will make you feel quite the farmer).

Save on dining out

Ethnic takeaway.  Everyone loves cheap Indian, and the usual runners-up are Chinese and Middle Eastern.  Eating exotic foods will present you with fresh ideas on constructing your own cheap dishes for dine-in nights (perhaps chickpeas and tinned tomatoes spiced with cumin and coriander, or vegetarian shepherd’s pie with large carrots cooked tender and sweet potatoes).

Double cheeseburger from McDonalds.  This much-reviled standard gives you about 400 calories for £1.30, although you should eat these sparingly due to their fat and salt content.  A similar meal can be had at the chipper, with the same caveat.

Enjoy samples at the supermarket.  Depending on the size of your local market, you’ll be offered everything from fruit to foreign cheeses on toast to wines.  Second option:  at markets with stalls, some vendors sell cooked portions of the foods on sale quite cheaply (often as meat sandwiches).

Eat breakfast any time of day.  Look for the word “cafe,” because it’s synonymous with low-priced meals consisting of eggs, beans, toast, bacon or sausages, chips, and even grilled tomatoes.  The Albion Cafe in Exmouth is a representative example of the breed, supplying customers with four-pound breakfasts and five-pound lunches.

About the author:

She writes for the SEO copywriting firm, SEO Content Solutions. Her passion is helping businesses connect with their current and potential customers while obtaining a highly visible position in the search engine rankings.