It’s at times like this I miss school dinners. Maligned as they often are in some quarters, at least you know the kids are being fed and boy oh boy, does your food bill start to rocket in the summer holidays.
Writer, cook, and activist Jack Monroe recently tweeted a reminder to give generously to food banks as many are running short and we should all look out for those who may be struggling to feed their kids this summer.
All of which leads me to list a few reminders to help us all save the pennies and help do something, ANYTHING about the scandalous levels of food waste in the country.
We may not be as bad as America. Did you know that Americans currently throw away as much food as they eat, to the tune of approximately $160 billion a year? I have written before about how terrible we are at using all the spuds we buy and how many of us are guilty of jettisoning bags of salad we find lurking in the salad drawer in the fridge?
Saving money on food during the summer holiday can be very difficult for a number of reasons. The children might be home all day, or need to bring packed lunches and snacks if they go to day centres or other activities.
And if you’re at home then you will all need three meals a day. This can seem like torture if the weather is hot. It’s equally problematic if you go on a self-catering holiday. You’ll still need to stock up on meals and snacks if you want to avoid spending even more at local restaurants and pubs – although the local economy will thank you.
Fortunately, there are several ways to save money on food during the summer. Here are some ideas.
DON’T Eat Fast Food
Pound for pound, it is a lot cheaper to make your own food at home, and it will be healthier too. Experiment in making your own healthy special sauce, or a great homemade pizza, and you can save a bundle.
DON’T Order Takeaway
This is also much more expensive than making it yourself. But you knew that, didn’t you?
DO Learn How to Make It Yourself from Scratch
This summer, go through the menus you usually order from and highlight your favourites. Next, head online to look recipes similar to those you love.
If you go to any popular chains like Jamies, Prezzo, Nando’s, look up “copycat recipes” to get an idea of how to make your favourites.
Go shopping for the ingredients. Follow the instructions carefully. Cook the recipe exactly as is the first time, with no changes or substitutions.
Taste the dish. Then make notes on how you and your family might want to change it in the future. Cook together as a family and have fun.
One other consideration: if you are watching your weight, you could try to come up with healthier versions so you don’t need to deprive yourself of the foods you love.
DON’T Waste Leftovers
You work too hard for your money just to throw it away. It also ends up rotting in landfills, affecting greenhouse gases and climate change. Learn how to use your fridge and freezer properly and you’ll save a bundle.
DO Plan Your Meals
The whole family can get involved in meal planning so you can cut down on waste. Plan meals around a central protein, such as a whole chicken or a pork tenderloin.
Eat one meal hot, and stretch the rest of the protein into tacos, burritos, a stir-fry, and more, with the help of some vegetables.
DON’T Make Only Enough for One Meal
It is often just as easy to make 8 or 12 portions as it is to cook four if you plan ahead. Bulk cooking will mean you each have one serving, and parcel up the rest into two more meals for four, or individual portions like TV dinners.
Make-and-freeze meals are a form of bulk cooking, with the recipes formulated so all the ingredients can be frozen.
You can go to the supermarket, bring home your food and start cooking, which will save time compared to putting all the groceries away. Depending on the size of your family, you could cook several weeks’ worth of food in a single day.
DON’T Rely on Cold Cuts
Cold cuts for sandwiches can be very expensive per pound and are also very unhealthy. They are full of cancer-causing chemicals like nitrates and nitrite and full of salt.
You can make your own chicken breast, turkey breast, roast beef, or ham by roasting your own and slicing it. It will mean having the oven on, but you could cook it in the early morning or evening, which are the cooler parts of the day.
Make the most of vouchers
Finally, DO shop the sales, use coupons, and shop at warehouse clubs to get the best deals.