Eat more frozen & other food budgeting hacks

I was really pleased to team up with Birds Eye and Iceland to discuss their new research with radio stations across the UK today. We’ve been looking at how much people can save money by switching from fresh to frozen.

In fact, we’ve put a number on it: £1500 a year!

This was based on a study carried out by Manchester Metropolitan University late last year, where 20 families swapped their fresh ingredients for frozen and the savings were then mapped across a whole year. Not only that, but the research found we could also reduce food waste by as much as 48% when we switch from fresh to frozen.

This is crucial as we start to think about life post-lockdown. Lots of our eating and shopping habits will have changed for the better, and one silver lining of this grim time is that we’re all thinking much more carefully about what food we buy and eat. It’s particularly encouraging that a quarter of generation Z are buying more frozen food, with 31% seeking out new types of frozen food so they can maintain a plant-based diet.

With that in mind, I’ve been inspired by the campaign to produce these really handy tips for anyone keen to cut food costs AND reduce food waste. Here are my top tips for making your food budget go further, even as we ease lockdown…

  1. Get your 5-A-Day from the freezer

Frozen fruit and vegetables are often less expensive, but just as nutritious (if not more) as their fresh counterparts and they still count towards your five portions of fruit and veg a day. Some of my favourites are frozen peas or baby carrots. They are so easy to pop into just about any dish to add some nutrients, or can be cooked in minutes for a tasty side dish.

Plus, frozen fruit and veg has a much longer shelf life so you can just grab what you need without worrying it about food waste which helps to save money too.

  1. Stick to ‘capsule’ cooking

Much like a great ‘capsule’ wardrobe, aim to buy classic ingredients that you can easily mix and match in different meals, such as vegetables, fish, meat or meat free alternatives. This will make meal planning far easier and make your food budget go much further. Following recipes to the letter can be expensive and leave you with lots of leftover exotic ingredients that are hard to use in other meals. Have a basic repertoire of 7 meals, with lots of variations to keep things interesting.

  1. Get freezer-savvy

Think about buying more frozen ingredients to add to your cooking. Vegetables, fish and meat are all great options that can be kept in your freezer for when you need a quick dinner or can be added into delicious home cooking.

The freezer can also help you cut back on the amount of fresh food that is wasted – after all, throwing away food is essentially flushing money down the drain. Grated cheese can be frozen and sprinkled onto pizzas or toasties without being defrosted. Most fruit and vegetables including spinach, blueberries, carrots and avocados can all be frozen and used for smoothies or popping into cooking.

  1. Buy in bulk

If you spot a good offer or bulk buy deal on your food shop, then make the most of it. The freezer aisle is great for picking up larger packs of your favourite food items for a great value price.

This will help you save money in the long run and mean you’re not ever faced with an empty freezer or cupboard again. You can also save on petrol by taking fewer trips to the supermarket too. Just make sure you’re only buying the things you use regularly – it isn’t a good deal if you don’t use it!

  1. Be brave about best-before

via GIPHY

Many of us are unaware of the difference between a ‘use-by’ and a ‘best before’ date, which leads to perfectly edible food being thrown away. If a product is past its use-by date, it should usually go in the bin as it’s potentially dangerous to our health. But a better solution is not to chuck stuff away if it’s approaching its use-by date and instead, pop it in the freezer to cook at a later date. Even a reduced-yellow sticker item can be frozen on the same day and eaten a month later.

On the other hand, the ‘best before’ date usually refers to when the product is at its optimum quality but the food itself is usually fine to eat in the days after this date.

  1. Being organised is being in control

Organisation is really your best friend when it comes to saving money on your food shop. Having a clear layout in your cupboard, fridge and freezer will ensure that you know what you already own, hopefully stopping you buying duplicates. It’s a good idea to keep an up-to-date list of what is in your freezer, as some items can often get pushed to the back and forgotten about.

  1. Get inventive

Don’t get too hung up on a celebrity chef’s recipe or what you see on Instagram. So long as you follow a few basic rules you can endlessly be creative with what you’ve got. Don’t be afraid to adapt recipes to suit your budget by swapping out ingredients for what you have in the freezer. Try swapping out mange tout with frozen green beans or bulking out meat dishes with frozen pulses, rice or vegetables. The beauty of cooking is there are no right or wrong and you never know, you may end up creating your own culinary masterpiece.

  1. Make a meal plan

Courtesy of That Clean Life blog

Preparation is key when it comes to sticking to your weekly food budget. In my experience, the most wasteful food shops are always those were I have walked into a supermarket or shop very hungry with no idea of the meals I want to create that week. Spend your Sunday night planning out meals for the week to ensure you only pick up the foods you need. And it doesn’t stop there either, being aware of the food you’re throwing away throughout the week and asking yourself why it’s happened, will help you spot money leaks in your food shopping patterns that you can quickly fix.

I hope you’ve appreciated my tips. Please note that while I worked with Iceland and Birds Eye on their campaign, they have not sponsored this particular blog.

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