In winter, it’s pretty easy to stretch your grocery budget. Cheap cuts of meat are perfect for wonderful stew recipes, filling soups can be made out of nothing but vegetables and potatoes, and cheap starches are the perfect accompaniment to a warming sishebo or casserole. In summer, it’s a little bit harder. Chicken, sausages and fish replace beef shin and other cheap meat cuts. Everyone’s a little bit more active so they’re eating more, and food goes off more quickly, so wasted food is a much bigger problem. With a little bit of pre-planning and thought, your grocery budget can still get you far more than you expect – and you can even cut back your bills a little if you do it right. Here are our top tips for making the most of a limited grocery budget.
Try “gourmet” instant noodles
Instant noodles are one of the cheapest foods around, and are a student staple not just in South Africa, but in many countries. They can get a little boring by themselves, and lack nutritional value. However, instant noodles are an excellent base for a whole lot of quick recipes for dinner. The options are endless. You can boil them in a pot with some frozen vegetables, use stock cubes instead of the seasoning package for boiling, put in some cheese of your choice, crack an egg into them at the last minute for basic ‘dropped egg soup’, and even add strips of chicken, beef or bacon. Or, you can do all of these at once!
Make a list of meals you’re going to make for the week, and only buy those ingredients. Try to stick to simple recipes and have ingredients feature in more than one meal. For instance, have chicken and vegetables for dinner, then use the leftover for sandwiches and a pie, and use the bones and carcass for stock. You can even use the stock to cook your gourmet noodles in! Roast vegetables in bulk and serve them with lunch the following day.
Avoid wasting food
If you see that vegetables are going to go off, you have three options. Cook them right away, freeze them raw, or cook and then freeze. The same goes for meat. If you have freezer space, buy some zip lock or freezer bags. Vegetables can be frozen in portions to roast at a later stage, and meat can be either made into a meal and then frozen, or frozen as is. By ensuring you don’t throw away any food, you’ll make the most of your grocery budget. Just remember to use the frozen leftovers up before your next shopping trip!
If you find that your vegetables often go off, buy frozen vegetables. Many people believe that frozen vegetables are less healthy than fresh, but this is not true. Frozen vegetables actually often are healthier as they are frozen before they start to lose their nutritional value. Plus, you can buy them pre-cut. They’re quick, convenient, and allow you to always have vegetables on hand, which means that you can bulk out your meals and stretch your budget.