We all go through times when cash isn’t as abundant as we’d like. Sometimes it’s beyond our control, and sometimes it’s self-imposed. Like me at the moment – saving for a trip to New York City.
Last year some of the most popular and controversial articles on Stonesoup were where I met the challenge to eat for $2 a day. While it was fun rising to the challenge, I’m certainly glad I haven’t had to be so cost focused with my cooking since then.
I really enjoyed the discussion and tips that arose from the article. So this year I’ve decided to create a series of recipes called $5 dinners. To help with my own savings and for those of you who also need to keep an eye on expenses.
We covered most of the obvious tips for keeping our food bills to a minimum last year. So today, to celebrate the inaugural $5 dinner recipe, I thought I’d challenge myself to think of some more unusual tips. And I’d love to hear in the comments if you have any tricks of your own!
7 unusual tips for reducing your food costs
1. use everything you paid for
Oil from the tuna (see recipe below!), canning liquid from the beans, broccoli stems, beet leaves, bones from the Christmas ham – all these and more are sources of flavour and nutrition that are often discarded.
2. minimise your waste
One of the biggest costs can be the food we throw away. Fresh produce is probably the most common offender here. It might actually be cheaper to use frozen rather than taking the chance that you won’t get around to cooking the fresh veg before they expire.
3. know when it’s OK to eat things past their best before dates
I still know people who think that everything has to be thrown out after it has expired. It doesn’t have to be like that! If you’re a little unsure, have a look at my insiders guide to use-by dates.
4. question your habits
We all fall into habits with our everyday lives. Taking the time to be objective and question whether we really need that coffee or other little ‘treat’ or could we bring filtered water from home instead of buying bottled can make a difference to our savings over time.
5. think about your energy costs
Last year I read M.F.K. Fisher’s The Art of Eating. During her essays on food and cooking during the war years, I was intrigued by the idea of being frugal with your energy for cooking. Until then I hadn’t really thought about the costs of having the oven running for hours. Fisher spoke at length about different ways to fit as much as possible in the oven to make the most of the precious heat. I wonder what her thoughts would be on modern refrigerators and freezers?
6. conduct your own taste tests
After conducting taste tests professionally on an almost daily basis as a winemaker and a product developer, I do miss critically evaluating things. Fortunately my Irishman also loves to test his taste buds so we often have little experiments at home testing different brands of tinned tuna or olive oil or potato chip or which butcher has the best sausages. The interesting thing is that the most expensive item is often not the one we most prefer. This often leads to future savings when we switch to the less expensive preferred option. Nerdy but fun ;)
7. be aware of pricing
I used to think that if I was cooking for myself, I was saving so much more than eating out. I figured it didn’t matter how much things cost. My $2 day exercise got me thinking about food costs and how by just being aware, not necessarily obsessive I can make changes that will make a real difference to my savings.
video version of the recipe
The next few weeks are quite busy at The Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School. This weekend Make Luscious Ice Cream Without a Machine kicks off for fellow Ice Cream fanatics.
And our first 4 week class for the year, Reclaim Your Waistline will be online from the 19th Feb.
Tune in on Thursday for your chance to win a chance to reclaim Your waistline.