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Cutting costs and keeping healthy during the cost of living crisis



The cost of living crisis is affecting so many people from different walks of life. Food banks are overwhelmed with supporting families putting food on the tables. In April, statistics from the Food Foundation showed that 1 in 7 adults either went hungry or were eating smaller portions, forgoing food in order to pay bills..


As food prices rise, the ability to afford healthy nutritious food is increasingly difficult and the desire to eat quick and easy processed foods has increased.

While this serves as a short term solution, ultra processed food is detrimental to health and can lead to problems, such as cardiovascular heart conditions.


Ultra-processed foods typically have five or more ingredients. They tend to include many additives and ingredients that are not typically used in home cooking, such as preservatives, emulsifiers, sweeteners, and artificial colours and flavours. These foods generally have a long shelf life. REF British Heart Foundation


Processed foods are appealing because of their ease and affordability. As a society, we have become used to instant gratification and have lost the enjoyment of cooking. However, there are ways to save money, prepare a quick and easy meal, and eat healthily, all at the same time.


Slow cookers are one low-effort way to make meals. Although they take some time to prepare, all you have to do is put in all the ingredients and leave it cooking while you do something else. Then, you have a nutritious meal - or a batch of meals - ready and waiting for you when you walk in the door. Batch cooking like this can save both time and money.


Multi-cookers are another great resource as they not only offer the slow cooker function but also have an air fryer and pressure cooker, enabling food to be cooked quickly and cheaply due to the effective manner of a pressure cooker and therefore using less energy.


Meal planning

Planning meals ahead can make a huge difference to the cost and ease of cooking, as well as avoiding wasting food at the end of the week. Instead of choosing what to buy at the supermarket, try to plan your meals ahead of a weekly shop. Once you have decided what to cook, it all becomes easier; it’s deciding that is the difficult bit.


Left overs - Avoid food waste

You can also save a lot of food waste by planning ahead. On average, £60 a month is wasted in food being thrown away per household. There are a variety of reasons for this. Often, families cook too much food each night and it is thrown away instead of being saved in the fridge or freezer. In some cultures, there is a stigma about using the fridge and freezer and food is cooked fresh each day, which is great as long as the right amount is cooked and no excess thrown away.


Making the most of leftovers is a great money saver. You can use leftover dinner for lunch or an easy meal the next day. Remember that food can left for about 2-3 days in the fridge, longer in the freezer. Invest in some tupperware tubs and label what meal they contain and when it was made.


Reading Food Labels

Best before and use by labels are confusing and often result in food being thrown away, even if it’s still okay to eat.

  • Use by labels: This means that the food must be eaten by midnight of that date. It can be frozen before the expiry date, but then it must be eaten as soon as it’s defrosted

  • Best before labels: This is a guideline instead of a rule - use your judgement or learn to trust your nose.

Storing Food

Remember that some food from the supermarket is packaged for transportation and shelf life not so much for storage at home. Here are some hacks for keeping food fresh:

  • Salad leaves are one of the most thrown away foods as they go off so quickly due to getting too moist., Adding a piece of kitchen paper helps to reduce the moisture and and they will last so much longer,

  • Mushrooms are also prone to too much moisture. To help with this, take them out of their plastic packaging and place them in a paper bag that works like kitchen paper absorbing moisture.


Appliances

We take it for granted that fridges are doing their job, but often they are running at a higher temperature than they should. Fridges should ideally be set to 5 c or below. A higher temperature will not keep food fresh and it will deteriorate quicker.


The freezer can become your new best friend. Not only is it great for storing leftovers and batch meals to be defrosted and heated up, but it can also be used to store frozen fruit and veg that are cheaper than their fresh counterparts and last much longer. They are also often pre-cut which means that you can easily add a few handfuls to your meals and save time. Frozen fruit and veg is also more cost effective. For example, frozen spinach goes much further than fresh spinach and you don’t have to worry about it going off after a couple of days.


So what meals are cheap, enjoyable, and easy to make?


It is always a great idea to invest in a cupboard of staples so that you have the base ingredients to make meals from scratch. Some useful staples include:


  • Tins of beans (cannellini beans, black beans, kidney beans, butter beans)

  • Lentils (red, green, black, either tinned or dried)

  • Tins of tomatoes

  • Pasta, rice, and noodles

  • Salt, pepper, and a few spices (paprika, cumin, coriander, turmeric)

  • Stock cubes

  • Frozen fruit and veg


Cooking with rice

Rice is so versatile and can be used in a variety of ways.

  • Risotto is an easy meal that seems daunting but is cheap and easy and can be made with any veggies (use those frozen veggies in the freezer!) or meat leftover from a roast

  • For a meal packed full of protein, add some lentils to rice with some frozen veg and spices

  • Make a savoury rice baks: soften some veggies and add them to cooked rice with a tin of tomatoes and a splash of soy sauce. Put into an oven dish and top with cheese, then bake in the oven for 20 minutes.


Pasta

Pasta is another key staple and can be used for many different dishes. If you make too much, you can save some and use it for a pasta salad.

  • Make a simple tomato sauce: blend together a tin of tomatoes and a bag of frozen roasted veggies for a quick tomato sauce. You could also use this sauce as the base for homemade pizza!


Lentils and beans

Lentils are a great staple and base ingredient for meals as they’re cheap and they’re full of fibre, protein, and iron. There are different types of lentils that have slightly different flavours and textures and can be used in different meals. Beans are also full of protein and can be very versatile.



  • Red lentils are great to use in soups and dhals

  • Green lentils are meatier and are a great meat substitute in lasagna and chilli

  • A few tins of beans, a tin of tomatoes and green lentils, and chilli powder makes a wonderful veggie chilli

  • Chickpeas can be added to stews or blended with tahini and lemon juice for homemade hummus

  • A tin of black-eyed beans with spices and tomatoes makes a wonderful dish


Flour

Flour is a very cheap ingredient and can be used for so many things that typically taste better made at home and aren’t as tricky or time-consuming as you might think.

  • Simply mix flour and water to make a base for homemade pizzas

  • Make your own tortillas, again just with flour and water

  • Try making your own bread, it’s not as hard as it sounds!

  • Make your own pastry for homemade quiches and pies



Have fun and enjoy playing in the kitchen. Cooking food from scratch is not only cheaper than buying ready-made food, it's healthier too!













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