Let’s face it, times are tough right now! And No one is feeling it more than families. Being part of a family of five, with 3 forever growing boys (that eat me out of house and home) and being extremely aware of the importance of what we eat is a challenge that is palpable on a daily basis. After all “we are what we eat”.
However, what we eat is also dependent on more factors than we would all like. The price of food, cost of living, making time to cook and how tired we are from life outside of the home.
Despite all these factors, we manage. Sometimes only just. Sometimes at the expense of something else. After all, something has to give but we manage all the same. After a patient asked how we manage with food at home, it got me thinking “Ye, how the hell do we manage?”. So I thought I’d share some thoughts on how it’s possible to feed our family well, in manageable and economic ways.
Sounds too good to be true right?
What I’d encourage is giving some of my economical family cooking tips a go and then you can give me your verdict.
We are what we eat
Would you ever put diesel in a petrol car? Probably not…
However, as a species we don’t always apply this thinking to what we fuel our own bodies with.
Unfortunately due to the high availability of heavily processed, sugary and extremely low nutrient, harmful foods and drinks, it’s no surprise that these end up forming a large part of our diets.
The catch with this is how our body has the clever ability to compensate how we treat it. It means that we can continue in this dietary fashion until our body eventually screams “NO MORE” and gives us signs of being unwell.
This is a subject I feel I could discuss for a long time. But for the purpose of this I’d like to highlight how you can buy good quality food by making a conscious effort with what you buy and how you cook – while saving money by the time the meal gets to your table. That’s a win win!
If you don’t read this entire article, take note of this…
Here are some broad tips on what to eat:
This is not a definitive guide, however, it will create a strong foundation for stocking your fridge and cupboards for success.
Choose Nutrient Dense Foods
These are foods that are high in vitamins and minerals such as:
Whole Grains and Pseudo-cereals – Quinoa, Spelt, Buckwheat, Rice
Seafood – Salmon, Mackerel, Sardines.
Legumes – Lentils, Chickpeas, Black Beans
Organic food is grown and processed without using synthetic chemicals, pesticides, fertilisers, antibiotics or genetically modified organisms. This reduces the exposure to toxins that are potentially harmful, increases the nutrients in the food, creates a better environment for animal welfare and in my opinion, tastes better. The price is higher, but if you’re getting more nutrients out of it while eating cleaner then arguably it’s worth it.
Visit Your Local Butcher
I’ve seen organic whole chickens priced at £20-24 in supermarkets which, for me, is a little on the “DAMN that’s expensive” side. You can get better deals at your local butchers. If you didn’t want to spend that much anyway at least the butcher knows where the meat was sourced and how they were looked after. This can make a huge difference on the quality of the meat. In our area I’m a big fan of both Cowdrey’s in Cookham and the Meat Hook in Marlow (it’s a little pricier but also very good).
Go back to the old school: Source A Milk And Eggs Delivery
Farms are finding it increasingly difficult to keep their stock and supply to the supermarkets. You can easily find regular delivery of eggs, milk and bread from local producers.
Variety Is The Spice Of Life
Continually varying what we eat keeps our gut happy. Cornflakes every morning, does not.
Reduce Your Sugar Intake
Sugar isn’t great for us (Spoiler Alert!)! It increases our weight, puts us at risk of type 2 diabetes, rots our teeth, increases risk of heart disease, increases inflammation, affects our mood, makes us tired. In fact, our body does not require any extra sugar to function. Imagine if we stopped buying sugary foods? Chances are we’d save a bit of money and improve our health as a nation.
These tips all boil down to one point. If you are in a position to, don’t skimp on decent, good quality foods. Instead, cut back on the stuff that our body doesn’t need or particularly like.
Now lets see if we can save a bit more in the process of cooking.
Tips For Economical Cooking
How we cook can sometimes be just as important as what we buy. If we’re able to make the way we cook more economical, there’s more left in the kitty to go towards better quality foods.
1. Batch Cook Your Meals
This is my number 1 tip for economical cooking for many reasons. You usually only really use one pan or appliance. If you’re having to cook something anyway why not do a larger quantity so your cooking eventually becomes reheating. Spend a bit more time now to save a shed load of time later. You can do a couple batches in a row, leaving you with enough variety in the freezer to keep you going for weeks. Best of all, this means I can actually hang out with the family more instead of constantly cooking up something fresh every meal.
2. Plan Your Meals
Create a weekly meal plan and make a grocery list accordingly. Knowing what you’re going to be stirring up in the kitchen helps avoid buying unnecessary ingredients and reduces food waste.
3. Bulk Buy
For your non-perishables, consider bulk buying these when stocking up the cupboards. Things such as rice, pasta, and canned goods are often cheaper when you buy them in bulk.
4. Cook From Scratch
The only real way to know what’s really going into your food is to cook from scratch. Avoid buying pre-packaged or pre-cooked meals. They’re usually more expensive, lower in quality. Take back control of your ingredients, portion sizes, and finances!
5. Use Cheaper Cuts Of Meat
Cheaper cuts of meat does not necessarily mean lower quality. Chicken thighs and beef chuck, can be just as flavorful as the more expensive cuts. Look for sales and discounts on meat to save money.
6. Get More Out Of Your Meals By Using Leftovers
Don’t throw away leftovers! They’re fantastic for creating new meals or used as ingredients for future dishes.
7. Change With The Seasons
Purchase fruits and vegetables that are in season as they tend to be cheaper and fresher.
8. Look For Cheaper Protein Sources
Getting more protein does not have to mean eating more meat. Incorporate plant-based protein sources, such as beans, lentils, and tofu, into your meals as they are often less expensive than meat.
9. Store Leftover Food And Ingredients Properly To Avoid Waste
Store food properly to prevent them from spoiling. And remember to use up ingredients before they go bad.
10. Ready, Steady, Cook!
If anyone was to come into my kitchen the first thing they’d notice is the amount of appliances on the surfaces. However, these appliances are very functional when it comes to cooking for the family. Not only can it save time cooking but it can also save money.
Make your cooking experience more efficient and ready to go.
My Go To Economical Cooking Appliances
Saving money when cooking is not always down to what we buy. It’s also impacted by how we cook! These are my favourite cooking appliances when i’m considering how to cook more economically.
1. Slow Cookers
Slow cookers are one of the most economical appliances for cooking. They use a low amount of electricity and can cook food over a long period of time, which can save you money on energy bills. They are also versatile, allowing you to cook a variety of dishes from soups and stews to casseroles and roasts.
2. Pressure Cookers
Pressure cookers are great for cooking meals quickly, saving time and energy. They use less water than conventional cooking methods, which means less energy is needed to heat the water. They also retain more nutrients in the food than other cooking methods.
3. Toaster Ovens
Toaster ovens are an energy-efficient alternative to a conventional oven. They are smaller and can cook small meals, making them ideal for singles or small families. They also heat up quickly, which saves time and energy.
4. Induction Cooktops
Induction cooktops are more energy-efficient than gas or electric stovetops. They use an electromagnetic field to heat up the cookware directly, which means less energy is wasted on heating the air around the cookware. They also heat up faster and are far easier to clean.
5. Air Fryers
Air fryers are a healthier and more energy-efficient alternative to deep frying. They use hot air to cook food instead of oil, which means less oil is needed, saving you money on oil and reducing your calorie intake. They are also quick and easy to use and clean up. Many brands have the option to bake and roast also making it cheaper to do so due to the size of the appliance.
6. Rice Cookers
Rice cookers are very energy-efficient and can cook rice perfectly every time without wasting water. They can also be used to cook other grains, such as quinoa and barley, and some models can be used to steam vegetables and cook soups and stews.
7. The Kids
Right, so technically they’re not an appliance… however, what I say is “don’t be afraid to get the kids involved!”. It may take a bit of time to hover around them whilst using everything but I think it’s important for children to learn the importance of food, how to make good food and to enjoy the process of doing it.
Eventually you end up having kids excited about providing a lovely meal for the whole family, whilst you put your feet up and decide what appliance you’re next going to ask for Christmas.
Small Changes, Bigger Impact
So there you have it, my top tips when it comes to eating better nutritionally, and cooking more economically. I hope there is something in here you can see yourself trying next time it comes to cooking up a family meal.
If you have any tips of your own, i’d love to hear about it next time you see me in the clinic.
Thanks for reading and enjoy your food!
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