How you can eat better quality food and save money

This may sound like an unusual statement as quite often better quality or organic food is more expensive, but here are fourteen ideas to back it up.

Number 1 - Size matters
Less is more.  Most of us overeat and many people over buy. Buy a little less food and you'll have more money to spend on better quality food.

Number 2 - Shop around
In Gloucestershire, we're surrounded by rural homes and farms selling their produce and some at bargain prices.  Foraging is even cheaper.  I gather all sorts of things including damsons, wild garlic, hazelnuts, mushrooms, chestnuts and stinging nettles.  I remember the first time I saw blackberries for sale in a supermarket - I actually laughed.

Foraged wild garlic (spring)

Wild garlic and nettle soup

Number 3 - Outside the box
A friend said that he had stopped using a certain supermarket.  He and his wife were throwing away food because it was so flavourless.  They now shop at what is commonly thought to be a more expensive place but he says that they spend the same because they eat everything, rather than having to buy more to replace the 'inedible' food they used to throw away.

Number 4 - Spend to Save
We've all done it - found half a tin of something nasty lurking in the back of the fridge.  We've felt a bit guilty as no one likes waste, but it didn't cost that much so it's not that bad...Yet, how often have we thrown away something expensive? Almost certainly less frequently because it cost us more money.  Therefore, the more we spend on food, the less likely we are to waste it.

Number 5 - Seasonal is Reasonable
Eating foods in season is often cheaper and healthier.  I'd rather eat strawberries once or twice a year and have an extraordinary experience than eat bland, disappointing fruit all year round.  Oh, and if it's not an organic strawberry, then you're probably eating a concoction of up to 40 pesticides.

Summer berries from the garden

Number 6 - Rescue me
Save it!  Stale bread can be turned into breadcrumbs, (keep a bag in the freezer and keep adding to it, then you'll have some handy breadcrumbs next time a recipe calls for some).  Slightly iffy milk can be transformed into a cheese sauce.  Smoothies need over-ripe  bananas and they're good mashed in porridge too (this means you don't have to add any sugar if you prefer your porridge sweet).  Bung slightly tired looking veg into soups. 

Number 7 - Green fingers
Grow some of your own fruit and vegetables.  Even if it's just a few herbs.  You'll have complete control over what goes into your produce and you can forget food miles, you'll be measuring food inches.  Rocket is one of the easiest things to grow and once established, it self-seeds.  We eat a lot of this in the summer and save a fortune, plus there is no plastic packaging.

Rocket in our back garden

Number 8 - Let your creative juices flow
There are recipes galore to help you use up the waifs and strays in your fridge.  Or just experiment.  You should see some of the meals that we have...I call it fusion food, although it has sometimes been referred to as confusion food, however, some of these ideas have been so good that they have been purposely produced again. Love food hate waste is an excellent site.  If for example you have a surplus of carrots, you can search 'carrots' and it will bring up lots of recipe ideas.

Number 9 - Bog off
There are all sorts of things that people buy that they don't need.  Special offers (BOGOF) are a great example.  Stick to your list and don't come home with a load of extra bits you didn't need and probably won't use.  By reducing the number of items you buy, you'll waste less and have more money to spend on things you will actually eat.

Number 10 - Convenient ready meals?
Processed foods are often expensive and can be quite bad for you or the planet, often harbouring ingredients such as palm oil. The Guardian has several articles on palm oil too.  Cooking from scratch needn't take as much time as you may think, especially if you cook extra and freeze it for later.  Try making your own baked beans - they are so much better than bought ones which usually contain an enormous amount of sugar.

Home-made baked beans

Number 11 - Meal share
Why not consider meal sharing with a neighbour?  For example, you cook every Monday and they cook every Wednesday.  It gives you both a day off and you may try new cuisines.  You could get to know your neighbours better too.  I used to share the veg box with my mum and later when she wasn't well, I would cook all the meals and she would come round for tea every day.

Number 12 - Plan
A lot of our meals are based on what comes in the veg box (ours is a fabulous 'you get what is in season' rather than one where you choose what goes in it, which means that we eat a much more varied diet).  Planning is crucial to avoid waste.  We decide what has the shortest shelf life and use that first, for example in the summer it would be corn cobs and salad when vegetables such as potatoes and onions will keep longer.  We will also have an idea of what will be made into what and  if there is an aubergine I may think about making ratatouille, the addition of parsnips and sprouts will probably mean some kind of roast or a glut of winter mushrooms will possibly produce a risotto or a mushroom pie.  Whatever is left can be experimented with.

Locally grown, organic veg box. New Zealand spinach (grown here!) on the right.

Number 13 - Food share
Why not ask a friend or neighbour if they'd like to go halves on a butternut squash or a big bag of potatoes?  If you've grown, bought or been given too much, Olio is an excellent app where, rather than waste any excess food, you can flag up any items that you have and they will be collected by locals who can use them.

Number 14 - Transparency
If you set up a separate food account, you'll be able to see exactly what you're spending and you may well be surprised.  By ditching junk food and swapping to wholesome organics, we actually spend less than we did before.  Here's a reminder form a previous blog about how to be food-waste free.

You don't have to do it all at once, just change one thing at a time, perhaps switch to organic pasta or sow your own lettuce next spring. 

What's the weirdest thing you've eaten recently?  I decided literally, to spice up my porridge by adding a mashed banana, some mixed spice and half a teaspoon of hot curry powder - the verdict...? It was certainly different :)