I’ve always shopped on a budget and learnt to create tasty, nutritious meals out of pretty basic ingredients. For many, working out how to feed yourself and your family well when money is tight can be a real nightmare.
I’m going to share which ingredients I’ve always made a beeline for in three of the most essential spots in the supermarket to keep my costs down. Hopefully this will help you in creating a shopping list full of basic, adaptable ingredients for the least amount of money possible!
Tins, glorious tins
Honestly, if your cupboard is fully stocked with tins you can’t go wrong. There’s definitely some kitchen snobbery around tinned food but the fact it’s cheaper, more widely accessible and very convenient for quick, basic cooking.
Just because your food comes out of a tin doesn’t mean you have to miss out on basic nutrition; tins can be a great way to get healthier food into your life without spending lots of money on fresh produce that goes out of date every week. And don’t forget, some of the nation’s favourite foods – soups, baked beans, and even fish – are commonly found in tins!
Chopped tomatoes. The most cost-effective and essential basis of so, so many meals.
Beans. Black beans, kidney beans, baked beans – they all count as one of your five-a-day!
Soup. With a chunk of delicious crusty bread, soup is the perfect winter warmer.
Potatoes. Tinned potatoes are pre-peeled (YAY!) and only take five minutes to cook – stir through some butter and mixed herbs, you’d never know the difference.
Mixed vegetables. The most convenient way to get your five-a-day.
Peaches. Tinned fruit usually sits in syrup which whacks up the sugar, but hey, it’s still fruit! Drain them off and enjoy some sliced peaches for a fraction of the cost.
Lentils. Tinned lentils can be used just like beans to bulk up meals as they’re super filling and nutritious.
Eat your vegetables
You might want more variety than the tinned aisle can offer, or simply prefer fresh fruit and veggies – and that’s fine! But the problem for many of us is that these ingredients can be more expensive.
However, if you know where to look you’ll find plenty of low-cost options. I’ve picked up some right bargains before, and most fruit and vegetables that regularly make my shopping list are cheap, versatile crowd-pleasers.
With fruit, you can usually find decent-sized bags of apples, pears, bananas, peaches, nectarines and oranges for under £1 but, if you’re trying to save money, you’ll probably want to avoid melons and berries as these are often the most expensive fruits on the shelves.
With vegetables, you can stock up on carrots, onions, lettuce, cucumbers, courgettes, tomatoes, mushrooms, cabbage and parsnips without breaking the bank; however, you might want to think twice about avocados (I know they’re technically a fruit but whatever), celeriac, sweet potatoes and sugar snap peas because of their price tag.
For the carnivores
I don’t eat meat myself anymore – one of the reasons being it’s too expensive! – but it was part of my regular shopping list for years, so I know what it’s like to hunt down the cheapest cuts in the supermarket.
Buying meat does tend to hike up the price of your shop but, for some, it’s part of their diet that does need to be catered for. Unfortunately, most cheaper options are the least healthy, being higher in fat or more “processed”; however, if you look after yourself you can still work these ingredients into a healthy diet.
I always had three main meats that got me through the week and still stayed within my budget.
1. Sausages. A staple of working class diets for donkey’s years, and with good reason. Sausages are reliable family favourites and you can pick up sizable portions for very little – especially if you venture down the frozen aisle.
2. Mince. Is there a more wonderfully versatile thing than a pack of mince? It’s much cheaper than other cuts of beef and can go into endless meals – a winning combo!
3. Chicken thighs. Chicken is one of the UK’s most popular meats, but it can be pricey. Chicken thighs give the best bang for your buck, and are more flavoursome than other cuts too.