The cost of living crisis is showing no sign of slowing down. With further rises expected, families are doing what they can to cut back.
Whether it’s reducing energy consumption or cutting back at the supermarket, struggling shoppers are looking at what changes they can make to help their money go further. As well as comparing supermarket prices each week, we’ve been sharing tips that people are using to keep costs down.
Here are the five most popular that we’ve come across so far.
Use the whole oven
If you’re going to put the oven on then make use of it – all of it. Instead of turning it on for just one meal, families are cooking food in advance to avoid wasting energy.
So if you’ve got a chicken in the oven, why not stick some other stuff in for the next day – or cook some more meat to freeze for another time. Most food can keep for three days after cooking as long as it’s stored correctly.
Bulk out those meals
This was a tip we shared last month when shoppers were reminded of a centuries old tip for reducing the cost of family meals. Budget food blogger Lorna Cooper, who runs the popular Feed your family for about £20 a week Facebook page, has been telling people how to make their meals go further.
With meat often being the most expensive part of a meal, she advises bulking meals out with lentils, chickpeas, beans, barley and oats – just like Yorkshire puddings and dumplings are used to fill people up.
Followers of savvy Lorna, who has also published books about budget cooking, praised the idea, with many saying they had given it a whirl and their families hadn’t noticed the difference. Read more here.
Another tip shoppers are sharing is to use the slow cooker. It might be on all day, but it uses much less energy than the oven and you can often get away with using cheaper meat as it softens while it’s cooking – generally the cheaper the meat, the better it cooks.
You can also save money by cooking things like gammon and using the leftovers for sandwiches, which often works out cheaper than pre-cooked packaged ham.
Soak your pasta
Another hack from last month was a mum who shared her ‘game changer pasta alert’ to help families cut down on their energy bills.
Instead of cooking it from scratch for around 10 minutes on the hob, it can be soaked in cold water first and then it takes just a couple of minutes to cook as it’s already soft. It’s a tip Sarah Hyland saw online and she decided to give it a go herself.
She was so impressed with the result that she decided to share it with others in the Reduce Your Supermarket Spend Facebook group.
“Omg GAME CHANGER PASTA ALERT,” she wrote. “I tried it. Soak pasta in cold water for a few hours. Yes it looks hideous gray and grim. Empty water. Add boiled water from kettle to cover pasta. Boiled for literally a minute. Pasta perfection.”
It was a photo from Reduce Waste Now which Sarah spotted being shared. It stated ‘old me’ with a photo of a pan on the boil for 10 minutes, next to the words ‘new me’ and a tub of pasta soaking in cold water.
While the post suggested soaking it in water overnight, Sarah did it for just a few hours and others have said it takes even less time, depending on how you want your pasta. Read more here.
Finally if you’re struggling to keep up with your gas and electric bill then you’ll want your oven on as little as possible and cooking meat for long periods might be out of the question.
That’s why some people are tuning to frozen meat to make things a bit cheaper. Not only is the meat itself cheaper – both Tesco and Aldi are selling a 340g of chicken slices for £1.69 – but it’s cooked already, so essentially you’ve just got to heat it up, and that’s a lot quicker than cooking it from raw .
Frozen meat was also what made feeding a family four for £50 a week possible when we tried out Asda’s budget Smart Price range, with the 650g bag of beef and onion mince for £2.65 enough to make a Bolognese and a chilli.
If you have a money-saving tip to share – whether it’s a way to reduce supermarket bills, or a device or appliance to save energy at home – then let us know in the comments here, or email [email protected]
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.