The usual recipe requirements, easy, healthy and tasty, have now been joined by another: cheap. Cost of living and food prices going up and up and up are a worry for most people: about three-quarters of Britons.
Even those on higher income are concerned, naturally, especially that with the inflation and interest rates as they are, they are simultaneously watching the prices getting higher and their savings diminishing.
But it’s young families on low income that feel the squeeze the most, and the worry is that when they put food into their baskets, they’ll be looking at cost rather than nutrition, sustainability, eco packaging and all that stuff that is all very well to worry about when your pantry is full.
Healthy food is expensive, without question, but I can’t help but agree with the MP for Ashfield who said that people who cook properly never need to use food banks. Not being able to cook, use up the food you buy frugally and shop sensibly costs you an awful lot of money.
There are no cookery skills involved in mixing a huge tub of muesli. A 500g box of a good quality brand costs about £3.50 while rolled oats are 90p for the same amount. Dried fruit and nuts marginally add to the price, but still, making a tub of muesli at home is a no-brainer saving. The same goes for granola, with a minimally greater effort. Serve it/have it with whole milk as well, which is the same price as low fat but actually cheaper since - again, no brainer – it’s not watered down. It will keep you full longer because of higher calorie content and recent research shows that it is not less healthy.
There are similar savings on snacks. A tray of 16 bars of orange and ginger flapjack made at home will cost you £1.90 including the orange that, zest removed, you can juice and drink with the flapjack. The cheapest (and infinitely less tasty) shop-bought Sainsbury’s works at £3.20 for the same amount. The same goes for cereal bars and oatcakes.
Pasta sauces are my bugbear: a jar of nastiest tomato (and a tonne of salt) pasta sauce costs about 30p per 100g; good, tinned tomatoes – a third of that. Add to that a pound of beef mince for 50p per 100g and you can beat any supermarket’s beef Bolognese. And the nutritional value benefits can be taken for granted.
If your family are meat eaters, make the meat go further than a one-day chicken roast. Not just chicken – any leftover roast will make good sandwiches, it only needs the effort of picking the remaining meat off the bone or chopping it up. If there’s a sizeable amount, mix it with rice and stuff into peppers or wrap in tortillas to make burritos, enchiladas or quesadillas. Tortilla wraps cost about 15p a piece and the supermarkets’ own brands are completely decent.
Some things cost next to nothing or are given free, like chicken carcasses at the butcher’s. They will make a vat of fantastic chicken soup and there will still be some meat to pick off the bones and mix with cooked couscous for a wholesome main course salad.
If you don’t bake bread, at least try your hand at pizza dough, it’s sensibly easy. And the cost of 3 large pizzas made at home, with proper mozzarella as well as olives and Parmesan (and even allowing for you not being bothered to grate your own) is £3.50 in total, with almost enough remaining ingredients to repeat the following week. Compare that to the cheapest Domino’s deal of ONE pizza for a tenner. I rest my case. Have a good cooking week.
All cost calculations based on Sainsbury Online prices, with items sorted by price, low to high.