Whether you are trying to follow a strictly vegan diet, or a plant-based diet, or you see yourself as a flexitarian or you just want to cut your food bill down some, this article is for you. While I am going to be writing from a plant-based diet perspective, these principles can be applied to pretty much any diet you chose, maybe with the exception of Atkins and Keto.
Everyday vs treats
Most people see a steak or a lobster as a special treat. Why not think about meat substitutes such as Beyond and Impossible in the same way? The same goes for any other kinds of special occasion ingredients – just like you wouldn’t splurge on a slab of meat daily, you wouldn’t use truffles every day. The fun part is that you can still have a great burger patty or a sausage whenever you want to, but rather than spending a fortune, opt for a lentil or bean one. Not only it tastes very similar and offers comparable protein and fibre which is not present in meat.
Build up a pantry
A blogger I like from Utah has this saying – one for now, two for later. I adjusted it to fit my world of not having half a dozen kids or a whole room for a pantry and I go with one for now, one for later whenever shelf-stable ingredients I use frequently are at a good price. If something is on a really good sale, then I stock up properly.
As example, I go through 1 litre of almond milk per week. UHT almond milk lasts up to a year. The brand I usually buy costs £1.80 – I usually buy 2 litres with every shop until I have a handful in the pantry. However, if they happen to go on sale for £1.20, I stock up and get 6 to last me for the next month and a half. This in my case goes for all sorts of canned products too from beans to chopped tomatoes to coconut milk. For items such as dried pastas I hunt for 2 for £1 deals and there usually is one every month.
Learn the base recipes
Basic ‘cream’ sauce has cashews, garlic powder, water and a pinch of salt – add mushrooms for a strogonoff, dress it with spinach and pour over pasta, add mustard for a vegan potato salad dressing . Basic patty and sausage recipe has lentils or beans, onion, garlic, nuts or grain and herbs and spices of your choice. Shape a burger, wrap it into puff pastry for a sausage roll or make a vegan meat loaf. Understanding the basics opens the door for two things: innovation in the kitchen which means you might be more inclined to cook at home and not spend money eating out, and ability to substitute ingredients from your pantry so that even if you forgot to buy something it’s not an excuse to go to the shops again. And both of these go a long way in keeping your budget in check.
Plan your meals around in-season ingredients
You know how omnivores plan their meals around chicken, fish or other dead animals? Well…plan your means around a seasonal ingredient which you can use in many forms. As example, we’re nearing the pumpkin and squash season which will make them more affordable over next two months than they will ever be again. Baked pumpkin, stuffed squash, pumpkin soup, spiced squash curry…you get it, in season ingredients make for a lower grocery bill. If a particular food is your favourite, get some for your freezer while it’s affordable too.
Check what you have before shopping
This last piece of advice is for everyone, regardless of your dietary preferences. Before stepping a foot out of the door, or even before planning your meals before you plan your shop, check what you have in your house. Look in the fridge, snoop in the freezer, take a gander in the pantry. What needs to be used up? What’s there that you fancy cooking with? What is overflowing and what is running low? Once you take a stock of your ingredients, decide what to make. This is particularly useful when you’re moving from good times into lean times, for most people known as the second half of the month, and you just don’t have that much money to spare. And since the food which we throw away is by far the food that costs us the most, planning around what you have not only helps to stretch your budget, it has the added benefit of ensuring you are not wasting your money.