CUTTING your food costs is one obvious route to saving the cents in these new hard times.
Whether you're a dab hand in the kitchen or enjoy dining out regularly, there are plenty of ways to chop the cost of eating without compromising on quality, taste or nutrition.
Budget cook books
Cooking on a budget has always required some imagination, but now there's plenty of help. There's been a sudden explosion in new cookbooks designed to help you make good food on a tight budget.
Among the latest is 'The Kitchen Revolution', written by Rosie Sykes, Polly Russell and Zoe Heron. It offers a number of tips to help you save money.
The main message is to consume all the food you buy by using up the leftovers, but the book also includes tips like buying vegetables and fruit that are in season, as they will cost less and taste better.
Students are often forced to be creative when cooking on a budget. It doesn't have to be all beans on toast or bags of chips. I remember using a great book called 'Grub on a Grant', by Cass Clarke, but a more recent publication is 'The Student Cookbook', by Beverly Le Blanc.
Delia Smith's publishers have re-issued Delia's 'Frugal Food', a classic tome first published in the 1970s. How about some oxtail hotpot, kidney-stuffed onions, braised pork with prunes, kipper quiche and herrings fried in oatmeal? There is also a chapter of "pauper's puddings" which features spiced apricot compote, spotted dick and gooseberry pie.
If you are truly living on a budget and don't have the cash to spend on new cookbooks, there are websites on a similar theme.
A good place to start is www.cheapeats.ie, a recently launched blog about eating well in Ireland while getting value for money.
Set up by web designer Jean O'Brien and freelance journalist Peter McGuire, it features all kinds of information to help you eat good food on the cheap, including the best reasonably-priced places to eat out, supermarket price watches, recipes and tips for food shopping.
Some of the recipes from the book 'The Kitchen Revolution', can also be found on the authors' website www.thekitchenrevolution.co.uk, or even their Facebook page.
An easy way to help you use up all or most of the items in your cupboard is to check out www.cookingbynumbers.com. This is a site where you can tick a list of all the items in your fridge and cupboard and it will come up with a list of possible dishes you can make with all or some of these ingredients.
Grow your own fruit and vegetables
When food prices rose sharply last year, there was a big rise in interest in growing fruit and vegetables at home or in an allotment.
But seasoned vegetable growers will tell you that the other main reason for this activity is because some fresh produce has become harder to get. As well as saving money, your veg is guaranteed to be fresher and tastier than that in the supermarket.
Trying starting with pots of herbs, such as parsley, sage, thyme and rosemary, which are all very easy to grow.
Prices for starter plants are usually between €3 and €5. Once potted in, they require little more than the occasional watering.
You can grow beans, tomatoes, carrots and even potatoes in pots and tubs. If you are not inclined to become green-fingered anytime soon, some gardeners recommend fruit trees or bushes, such as rasperries, as an easy way to grow fruit.
For more information, Carol Klein's BBC series 'Grow Your Own Veg' has spawned a similarly named handbook, as well as a section on the BBC TV gardening website.
Bring your own
Bringing lunch to work was a tip by consumer guru Eddie Hobbs long before our new obsession with saving pennies. Say you spend, on average, €10 a day on takeaway lunches and teas/coffees, five days a week. That's about €2,400 a year (based on 48 weeks in a working year).
You can cut that to about €20 a week if you make your own sandwiches and bring a flask of coffee or tea. That's a saving of about €1,500 a year.