How to beat the cost of living crisis
Careful planning can help you change habitual shopping and cooking behaviours, and make healthier choices, whilst spending wisely.
We have devised some hints and tips which may help you along - essentially you may need to choose which ones work for you, and remember changing habits takes time.
Choose a day to prepare a weekly menu and another to prepare and cook.
Decide on a budget and stick to it.
Try to avoid shopping when hungry as temptations may lead to buying items, not within your budget.
Shopping online can also make it easier to stick to your budget.
Tips for Shopping smart
Do a quick stock check of your fridge and freezer.
Check cupboards too – read use-by dates and shelf lives to see which products need to be used up first – try and plan meals around these.
Make a shopping list and stick to it!
Focus on seasonal items which may be more budget-friendly.
Meal plan to focus your spending.
Try and buy what you need - waste comes at a cost.
Buy loose vegetables rather than pre-wrapped options - reduces waste.
Pick meat cuts carefully and buy whole fruit and vegetables - pre-prepped fruits, veggies, meat, and fish are often more expensive than a whole chicken for example which can often, with some careful planning, feed you and the family more than once.
Choose value food formats over convenience for the best price.
Batch cook and freeze to reduce costs.
Batch cooking can save both time and energy cook double or triple if you have big enough equipment - portion and freeze, so your budget stretches further.
As mentioned already seasonal vegetables and fruits can reduce waste, save on costs, and often taste better.
Your freezer is your friend
Food items close to their best before or use by dates can be popped into the freezer, reducing waste, see the suggestions below, a quick google search or through a little trial and error, you may discover there are many more food items that can be frozen, just ensure to wrap them properly to avoid any damage!
Cheese: Grated and stored in an airtight container, can be used frozen on top of a pizza, or defrosted.
Milk and dairy-free milk: Once frozen it stores for months. It expands slightly when frozen needing plenty of time to defrost. The same goes for plant-based milk, it may go a bit grainy – strain it through a fine sieve after it has thawed if needed.
Eggs: Don’t freeze your eggs in the shell. Break them in a bowl and beat until the yolk and egg white is just about blended. Put the mix in an airtight container and label it with the date and number of eggs used.
Vegetables: Mushrooms, avocados, spinach, rhubarb (yes, it is a vegetable!) beans, carrots, and broccoli can all be frozen. Cook first before freezing.
Cooked rice: Rice can be frozen but be sure to freeze it as soon as possible after cooking. Pack the rice into a microwavable container or Tupperware as soon as it’s cooked. When the rice has cooled, seal the container, and put it straight into the freezer. Reheat thoroughly so it’s piping hot before eating.
Mashed potato and sweet potato: You can freeze cooked potatoes and mashed potatoes once cooled. For mashed potato, transfer all of it into a freezer bag/container or scoop out portions individually like ice-cream scoops. Freeze these on parchment paper for about an hour and then transfer them into a freezer bag/container from there.
Cooked pasta: Slightly under-cooked pasta is best for freezing.
Bananas: Remove from skin and slice. Use frozen bananas to make a healthy alternative to ice cream or use them in a smoothie.
Butter: To thaw it quickly, you can grate it or microwave it…or go slow and let it defrost over time in the fridge.
Tomatoes: Blitz before freezing and keep in a sealed container. You'll have tomatoes for sauces ready at all times.
Bread: Slice it before you freeze.
Berries: They may go a bit squidgy when defrosting. Sprinkle them on top of your porridge or pop them in a smoothie
Chopped chillies and herbs: Seal in a clip lock box to avoid frostbite. Some herbs don’t freeze so well.
Cooking smart – Energy saving has to fit in with people's lives
Microwaves, slow cookers, electric pressure cookers and air fryers all consume significantly less energy than ovens.
Ovens are not well insulated; you may end up heating the whole kitchen.
Plan when the oven goes on and ensure it's used smartly. Roast meats, vegetables, or baking potatoes all at once for example.
If you do use the oven, try turning it off 5–10 minutes before the end of the cooking time specified in the recipe; works well with dishes such as casseroles, pies, roasted vegetables, shepherd’s pie, and lasagne, although not suitable for cakes, bread, and biscuits.
When the oven is on spend time in the kitchen and turn the thermostat down in other rooms.
Microwaves are useful for defrosting and reheating and cooking vegetables, but they’re not suitable for cooking a joint of meat or roasting chicken, for example, these are much tastier and more tender cooked in a slow-cooker or pressure cooker.
Slow-cookers may be a worthwhile investment, equivalent in energy using a microwave with the bonus of meals being ready the minute you walk in the door - this can take planning.
Electric pressure cookers are also amazing because they considerably shorten the cooking time.
Both slow-cookers and pressure cookers are ideal for cooking curries, stews, and soups, which need long slow cooking.
Many suggest air-fryers are more energy-efficient than your usual cooker – costing as little as 14p a day compared to 87p a day for an oven. Most can bake and roast, often resulting in super crispy food in no time using less oil than if deep-frying. They heat up and cook food quickly and evenly. Think about the size of your family and the air-fryer you buy (if you’re thinking of buying one).
Different types of air fryers:
Basket style: These have slide-out baskets or trays that slot into place inside. As they tend to be smaller, and you will have to occasionally rearrange or toss the food around. Some fryers will cut out automatically when you do this, some will need to be paused if you want accurate timings.
Rotisserie air fryers: These are designed to produce evenly browned but moist cooked chickens, roasted much quicker than in the oven.
'Mini oven’ types: These models use convection or fan technology to cook food on flat, slide-in trays. As well as roasting, their extra air frying functions circulate hot air around the food for more efficient crisping. The same size as an average-sized microwave. Some may also include rotisserie elements.
Interior paddles: Unlike ‘basket’ models, the oil stays in the pan rather than draining away, so sauces, rice or casserole-type dishes are all good here.