While the coronavirus lockdown continues, we need to make sure we can keep food on the table. Stretching out food supplies, cooking in bulk and shopping on a budget are things we can all do. Here are our quick top tips:
1. Make a meal plan
The key to eating well for less is being organised. By writing a meal plan for a week, we know exactly what we need to buy to keep food on the table. If we need to stretch this out, we can plan out another week and rotate the two weekly plans for as long as we need.
Lorna Cooper, who runs the fantastic ‘Feed Your Family For £20 a Week’ (fyf20quid.co.uk) website has some great advice on meal planning. She also has a handy meal planner to download and fill out. Read the advice and download the planner.
2. If possible, buy in bulk
Yes, there’s a lot of panic buying going on. No, we don’t all need five hundred toilet rolls to get us through. But, to get through the lockdown, we are going to need some basic items in our food cupboards. Pasta, rice and couscous are cheap and go a long way as the basis to many meals. Tinned tomatoes, fish, and vegetables like sweetcorn and peas are cheap and long lasting. Reports are now filtering in that difficult-to-find items like tinned tomatoes, pasta and rice are now being stocked again in many supermarkets.
Back in 2018, we put together a guide to building up a ‘Doomsday Cupboard’, an emergency food cupboard with enough to last a month. It’s full of great tips and delicious recipes. Download the plan here.
3. Stretch the leftovers
Each year in the UK, households waste a massive 6.5 tonnes of food. Loads of this could have been put to use. A big part of reducing food waste is using leftovers from previous meals. This is key if we’re trying to make sure we stretch our food as far as possible.
Love Food Hate Waste is a charity that campaigns to reduce food waste. They’ve got hundreds of great recipes, all made with leftovers, over on their website. Get some inspiration here: lovefoodhatewaste.com/recipes
4. Shop for food online
Although there’s been a big backlog in getting a food delivery slot, many supermarkets are now getting on top of the situation. Buying food online is a lifeline if we are unable to leave the house for a period of time. It’s also a great way of making sure we control how much we spend if we’re on a tight budget. This is because we can see how much we’re spending as we fill up our virtual shopping trolley. Sadly, the food price comparison site mysupermarket.co.uk closed at the start of March. But we can still flick between the supermarket sites to get an idea of the best deals.
Different supermarkets have different minimum prices for online shopping. Some are £25, others are more. Also, delivery costs vary – this article at Lovemoney.com gives a few pointers to when the cheapest delivery slots are for each supermarket.
People who are ‘shielding’ and more at risk are being given first dibs on delivery slots. If we’re at high risk, we can contact the supermarket, sometimes by phone, to be added to the list. Otherwise, we can shop to a budget this way and opt to ‘click and collect’. We pay up front, then go just to collect the order.
The NHS advise all food deliveries are left outside to stop transmission of coronavirus.
5. Batch it Up
It’s always good to have something easy to knock up for dinner or lunch. Even more so we’re hard pressed for time (or energy). This is where batch cooking is a life saver.
We’re not all going to become the Batch Lady who has batch cooking down to a fine art. But by making a couple of portions extra and freezing or sticking it in the fridge, we’ve got easy meals lined up. Stews, sauces, curries all store well and can be reheated when we’re not in the mood to cook a full meal.