A very long time ago, I promised to share various tips to cut down on housework and expenditure. Well, finally, I’m coming out of the laundry – just as far as the kitchen. This write-up assumes that you own or rent a place of your own, and cook your own food.
To really save money, long term, on food you need to make the following appliance investments to begin with:
- A fridge/freezer – essential for families. Singles can make do with a freezer compartment, but don’t do without.
- A microwave oven
- A toaster.
- A crockpot/slow cooker is also useful, as it cooks food slowly at low temperatures, but beware – if you work non-standard hours and don’t know when you’ll be home, don’t bother, since even a crockpot can overcook and a mushy mess is seriously non-appetising. It usually leads to a cash blowout on takeaways.
The other essential appliances are:
Also you ought to have at least the following equipment:
- 1 large stock-pot.
- 3 non-stick saucepans: large for cooking starches, 2 smaller for vegetables etc. 1 should be a 3 part stacking steamer system
- Non-stick frying pan
- Chopping board
- Wooden spoons, to preserve your non-stick surfaces.
- Mixing bowl
- Non-stick bakeware
- Casserole dishes.
The absolute key - BUY ON SPECIAL!
- Have a list, and stick to it – no impulse luxuries. You don’t need to be specific, but you should list Meat, bread, milk etc and choose the actual items on the basis of specials.
- Tinned and dry items can always be stockpiled. Buy lots.
Noodles and pasta are quicker to cook than rice – angle your starches towards these, it’ll save money on cooking
- Buy larger quantities of meat and freeze if you have a freezer. If you don’t, buy only what you need for a meal, price per pound/kilo may be cheaper in bulk, but if you can’t freeze, you’ll either eat more or it’ll go off
- Buy vegetables in season, if you can’t grow them
- Go for packaging that you can re-use – Margarine and ice-cream containers, glass jars etc make good storage/freezer containers. For items like cereals, go for bagged rather than boxed – you are paying for the cardboard, and cardboard is trash. If you have bulk food stores, where you can buy flour, sugar, pasta and cereals from bins, these are usually cheaper, and you may even be able to refill your own containers with items like cooking oil.
- If you are really broke, don’t be ashamed to use a foodbank – they’re there for a reason.
- Don’t use the oven unless you can fill it – cook extra items for freezing while you are doing the daily meal, or bake cakes for lunches. It wastes money to heat empty air, and if you have meals frozen and ready in the freezer, it’ll save time later.
- Cook a double quantity of any meal and freeze – but chuck the extra in the freezer immediately, don’t be tempted to second helpings.
- Stir-fries are quick and therefore cheap to cook, but take a while to prepare.
- Check out what parts of vegetables are edible, and eat them all – the greens from beets and radishes are food, not waste.
- Prepare a big pot of soup in the winter, and keep topping it up with more vegetables through the week – soup gets better as it goes on, and if bulked out with noodles or mashed potatoes can make a good nourishing meal on its own.
- Use a spray to put oil on frying pans – it’s healthier, and you’ll use much less.
- Always boil the bones of chicken etc to make soup stock – even when it looks like there’s no meat left there is, and plenty of flavour. Stock can be frozen and used at need.
- Providing you are using the “fill the oven” or crockpot method, stews, casseroles and pot-roasts are a brilliant way to use cheaper meat. Add interest with dumplings.
- If you use a steamer, one ring will cook three items.
- Cook extra pasta or rice, and make salad for lunches or to go with tomorrow’s dinner.
- Reduce the quantity of meat you eat and increase the vegetables and carbohydrates – Yorkshire pudding etc is tasty, filling and cheap.
- Once items are at the boil turn the heat down This will save money twice – you’ll use less power/gas, and burn less – so the washing up will be easier too.
- If you drink a lot of coffee, you can top up still damp grounds with only half the usual quantity and use again. If you drink less, undrunk coffee less than 24 hours old can be reheated in the microwave without damaging the flavour.
- Only put as much water in the kettle as you need, don’t boil water you won’t use.
- There is no such thing as a left-over – just ingredients for another meal. Use them.
- Change the nozzle on your dishwashing liquid bottle for a narrower one – most of us use far more than we need to get the plates clean, because it’s difficult to dispense sufficiently small quantities.
- Rinse all plates, dishes and cups immediately you finish eating to save scrubbing later.
- Soak dishes with baked on food in boiling water.
- If you’ve rinsed plates, you can save the washing up until you’ve got enough to make it worth doing the dishes.
- Stains on cups/teapots can be removed without effort by soaking in a solution of biological clothes washing powder – but remember to rinse well afterwards.
- Cook milk based items like porridge, white sauce and custard in the microwave, direct in the jug or bowl – no more saucepans to scrub.
- Let plates etc. dry in air – more hygienic than a tea-towel and much quicker. If you mount an open plate rack above the sink, you can put them away and still allow them to dry
- Always cut/roll out items on a chopping board – it cuts down your cleaning and saves surfaces from damage.
- Make lunches for the following day while you are waiting for pots to boil when you cook.