Making ends meet until payday: frugal cooking

By
Helen Barker-Benfield
Added
26 January, 2017

While many have jumped on the frugal food bandwagon – and we think there’s room for all of them if they save us money on our shop – Cooked author and food writer Fiona Beckett’s book Frugal Cook, first published in 2006, was one of the originals. We asked Fiona for her top tips if you need to make substantial savings on your food bills.



What are your top three tips for being a frugal cook?

1. Shop two or three times a week, rather than rely on one big shop. Plans tend to change during the week and you don’t want to be stuck with food you can’t use. Plus, it’s too easy to buy more than you need.

2. Have at least one fridge-forage day a week. It’s that day when you think you need to go to the shops but you hold off. No stopping off for a sandwich or going to a restaurant either.

3. Have a monthly freezer or storecupboard weekend where you live off what’s in the house. It will help you break that stockpiling habit.


What are the three things you always have in your fridge that mean you can create a meal without hitting the shops?

Parmesan cheese, eggs and lemon, which lifts everything


What is your go-to frugal dish?

Spaghetti Carbonara every time. Mainly because I love it, and I’ve also got eggs and Parmesan in the fridge…


Is there one indulgent ingredient that might surprise people how good-value it is?


Sourdough bread because it has real flavour and you can use it in so many ways. Sliced two or three day old bread makes a good base for simple snacks, like this Grilled tomatoes on toast. Then, you can then make croutons and fresh breadcrumbs with what’s left. And stale bread can be whizzed in a food processor to make dried breadcrumbs.


As someone who eats and drinks fine food and wine as part of your job, what's been the hardest lesson you've had to learn about cooking frugally?

Not to impulse buy new products! This is the discipline I’ve found hardest to stick to. I get totally over-excited about good ingredients, especially in markets and invariably buy more than I need – or at least I used to. Supermarkets are also brilliant at making us part with our money. Just because a product is new, doesn’t mean you have to try it.


While we may buy budget items when we're trying to save money, what is the one ingredient that is always worth trading up for?

Authentic Italian pasta - it has a much better texture and flavour than cheap own-brand pasta.


Finally, wine. Many of us are cracking open the wine again after dry January, do you have one frugal tip for wine shopping?

Look out for 25% off six bottle offers then you can buy your favourite wine at a good price. (Band together with friends or neighbours if that stretches the budget a bit).


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