At destitute gourmet we have identified 3 main principals for eating well on less, they are shop smart, eat healthily and in season and make a little bit of something luxurious go a long way. The principles work because it’s not like following a diet – each household has different tastes and needs, the principles are framework – you fill in the details, allowing you to choose the things that are most important to your individual household. You’ll discern between a need and a want, and still accommodate treats and special occasions. Sticking to these principals can save you thousands of dollars a year.
Before you begin you need to establish what you are currently spending on groceries – Look up your bank or credit card statements for the last month and write down how much was spent on groceries, not just in the “big shop” but including any other smaller trips where you may have picked up one or two items. Total them up to get a true figure of your week’s grocery expenditure include lunches, coffees out and takeaways too as they are part of your food expenditure. A lot isn’t it.
10 Top destitute gourmet tips for eating well on less
1. Identify the essentials - Keep an essentials list in the pantry, start with fresh fruit and veg, include staples like flour, rice, eggs, cereals and spreads, basic canned and frozen items, dairy products and seasonings. List everything the household needs to survive. Not what they like, just what they need. Make sure you include cleaning products and toiletries. Essentials will vary from one household to another as age; life stage and personal taste differ hugely. House brands can save you lots of money here, with several quality levels on offer, use the basic range for staples like flour, milk etc and the Supermarkets “named” range for other items. You may need to experiment a bit.
2. Make a list of Luxuries - everything your household likes, but is not essential. Ice cream, wine, chocolate biscuits, fancy cereals, dangly things for the loo, packet meals, kids foods like nuggets or lunch box bars…are organics a luxury or a necessity for you? This is where you decide – not in the supermarket aisle. Your lists establish quite clearly your priorities, putting some boundaries in place. Make a little bit of a luxurious ingredient go a long way, a handful of berries, a scattering of pine nuts, a drizzle of really good olive oil can transform an everyday dish into something special.
3. Try not to buy anything you can realistically make yourself. Ready prepared meals are expensive and nutritionally limited. Decide now not to buy anything you can realistically make yourself. Much convenience food is simple everyday stuff. Curries, gravies and seasoning mixes, salsas, dips and pastes, pizzas and soups, vegetable gratins, baked goods and breads. All are easy and cheap to make. There are brilliant convenience foods-tinned tomatoes, Baked beans, pasta sauce, sweet corn, stock, tomato paste and basic frozen veg are inexpensive and versatile, just be selective. Spend less time shopping for food and more time cooking real food.
4. Make a menu plan - For busy people, menu planning is an essential household management strategy, saving you a bundle in last minute takeaways and dashes to the supermarket. As well as reducing the “Yuk, I don’t like that” dinner table conversation.
Plan around supermarket specials and seasonal variations, allow for cooking double batches to freeze, quick meals for the busiest nights , even factor in some baking or a head start on tomorrow’s meal – easy when today’s is under control. Track which were your most expensive Menu’s and why and get a household nutritional overview at a glance.
5. Eat in season – peak of season produce is the cheapest, freshest and tastiest. Make nourishing meals by combining fresh produce with staples, such as flour, rice, eggs and seasonings. Fresh produce yields more for your money than frozen or canned, and you can do more with it. Think soup, curry, frittata, pizza, Samosa’s, pasta bakes, crumbles, tarts… Use vegetables to extend a meal, an extra potato, carrot and kumara in a favourite casserole will give you at least one extra serve from the recipe and a healthier ratio of meat to veg. ½ the evening meal should be vegetables.
6. Shop around the supermarket is not always the best value for fresh produce and meat. Find a local supplier for these items, the savings over a year more than make up the extra driving and time, we’ve done the maths! Meat is easy to cost compare, as we tend buy the same cuts each week. Compare the price of lean beef mince and boneless chicken breast in your supermarket with the price offered by a wholesale butcher. If you a freezer and a menu plan you won’t have to go every week.
7. Only shop once a week: you are deluded if you think you can pop to the supermarket for 2 minutes and buy one thing. 20 minutes later you’ll have bought 5 or 6 things. There are subtle strategies operating to get you to part with the “maximum spend” while in there. Everything from the layout to the lighting has been considered in terms of its impact on separating you from your money. Shop once and only top up with fresh stuff at the fruit and veggie shop if you need to. Freeze milk and bread so you don’t get caught out.
8. Draw your grocery money in cash: Having established what you actually, really, honestly spend on food, each week to draw that amount in cash – yes, it’s a lot!
Research regularly shows people shopping with cash spend roughly 20% less than people shopping with plastic. We don’t like to part with the folding stuff! Follow these principals and you‘ll have cash left over each week! Tuck the “grocery surplus money” in an envelope or account and use to clear debts. When you are in the black, channel the surplus into “quality of life stuff”, family activities, education, shoes and handbags…
9. Make a little bit of something luxurious go a long way. Buy only one or two items from your luxuries list a week and take care how you use them. Use good parmesan or gruyere cheese in an inexpensive dish like soufflé, risotto, pasta, pizza, gougere or gratin. Use sparingly and lovingly. With meat go for quality over quantity a few “made from actual meat” sausages will make a lovely cassoulet, risotto, sausage and onion tart, hot pot, or pasta… Good chocolate, with house brand eggs, sugar and cream… lean beef with cheap carrots and broccoli in stir fry…
10. The weekly shopping list. Don’t attempt to shop without it. Look at your menu plan, consult your essentials list, and write on the weekly shopping list everything needed to make the meals on the menu plan. Check the ingredients are in season; are the meals you have chosen affordable? Are you including any fish or meatless meals? Have you thought about at week’s worth of breakfasts, lunches and snacks? Do you really need all those fancy cleaning products? Make serious choices about what is goes in the trolley and you’ll have money left for other important stuff in your life.