Thursday 20 November 2014

Nine tips to keep your family food bill under €70

Post-redundancy, Caitríona Redmond applied her management skills to the kitchen.

Published 01/05/2014 | 02:30

Parents with daughter (9-12 months) in supermarket
Parents with daughter (9-12 months) in supermarket
Caitriona Redmond with sons Eoin and Fionn

Caitríona Redmond used to fill her shopping trolley with convenience food and microwave meals without a thought for the price or her health.

But when she was made redundant from her high- flying job in the property industry in 2009, her finances and lifestyle needed a radical makeover.

Now Caitriona has to feed a family of five on a food budget of just €70 a week – so she started applying her office management skills to the kitchen to serve up nutritious meals without waste.

While living on a tight budget can be draining, Caitriona says it is also extremely rewarding to nourish her family well.

"It gives me great strength to be able to take ownership of and responsibility for the food we eat and where it comes from," she says.

She's been sharing her tips for thrifty food on her blog and in her new book Wholesome: Feed Your Family Well for Less -

1. Stocktake

Treat your kitchen like a business with careful control of incoming and outgoing food. Take everything out of the cupboards, write down what you've got, and then put it back with most commonly used items and those nearing their use-by dates to the front.

This way you'll know what's in the cupboard and of overbuying or throwing unused food away.

2. Calculate your budget

She'd prefer to have €30 per adult and €20 per child for food, but Caitriona manages on €70 for food, with an extra €20 for cleaning materials and toiletries which she bulk buys on special offer. Set aside €5 a week for restocking less frequently used items such as spices and flour.

3. Make a list

Essential for budget meal planning. Use a whiteboard in the kitchen to note what's running low. Make your list in sections, such as dairy, meat, fruit and veg as that's how the items are stocked in the shop making it easier to resist 'bargain' aisle-end offers.

4. Store cupboard staples

The store cupboard is the 'Superman' of a frugal household as herbs, spices and dry staples such as chickpeas, lentils and rice mean you'll always have the makings of a meal. Asian shops are very good value for these. Pudding rice is a cheaper alternative to Arborio rice for creamy risottos.

Large bags of dried fruit are much cheaper than raisin snack boxes and are handy when fresh fruit is too expensive.

5. Batch cook

Frozen pizza, chips and nuggets are often the cheapest food in supermarkets, but cooking larger batches of healthier options is the way to match these prices and nourish your family. A single roast chicken can provide enough meat for two dinners, and you can make stock from it as well.

6. Healthy portions

Eat from tea plates for dinner and side plates for lunch to avoid overdoing it and get used to a healthy portion size.

Don't overdo expensive meat – half a chicken breast is plenty for one adult.

7. Meat-free days

Eat vegetarian options more often as they're cheaper sources of protein than fresh meat or fish. A portion of dried beans costs a quarter of the price of a fresh egg, which itself is a quarter of the price of a piece of meat.

Whole fish work out much cheaper than fillets – ask the fishmonger to remove the head if you're squeamish.

8. Discount food

Look for the yellow stickers when food near its use-by date is discounted – but make sure you cook or freeze it immediately. Eggs are often discounted a week before their 'best before' date, but will keep in the fridge for at least 10 more days. Battered tins, bashed cereal products or out-of-season products are other good bargain buys.

9. Freezer

Frozen peas and sweetcorn are great staples, while dairy freezes well. And freezing a discounted sliced pan and defrosting by the slice means you can always have fresh bread without waste.

Irish Independent

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