Food budgeting through the credit crunch

It’s never been so timely to start looking at ways to cut your food bills, as household spending continues to increase.

Food budgeting through the credit crunch

Food prices are accelerating at their fastest rate since records began, fuelling a rise in the average family’s shopping bill of £750 a year. It’s never been so timely to start looking at ways to cut your food bills, as household spending continues to increase. The organisers of British Food Fortnight, which takes place from the 20th September - 5th October 2008, have put together some tips on eating good quality British food during the credit crunch, and making savings while you’re at it.

“Now more than ever people want the best value for money - but value is not just about price, it is also about quality,” says Alexia Robinson, organiser of British Food Fortnight. “Good food is one of the great pleasures of life and shouldn’t be something we deprive ourselves of in these harsh economic times. After all, food is more than merely fuel for our bodies because what we eat affects our health and mood. So shop smart and seek out the best food you can afford - not just the cheapest!”

1. Eat seasonal produce

When food is in season there is usually an abundance of supply and therefore seasonal produce is often on special offer. During September for instance, look for broccoli, courgettes, sweetcorn, plums and blackberries. Look for Buy One Get One Free and money off offers on seasonal produce in your local shops.

2. Cook from scratch

Buy raw meat and fresh fruit and vegetables rather than expensive ready-made meals. Adapt your recipes to what is on special offer - in some instances it may be a case of substituting one type of meat for another, for example chicken for pork or lamb for beef.

3. Buy cheaper cuts of meat

Some cuts of meat are less ‘fashionable’ and therefore cheaper than others. This does not mean that the meat is of a lesser quality. We tend to equate eating quality with tenderness and succulence so it is important to use the correct cooking method for that cut of meat. Tougher cuts benefit from longer, slower cooking whereas tender cuts can be cooked quickly at a higher temperature.

4. Make the most of things

Buy joints or full carcasses of meat and use all of it imaginatively. Buy a whole chicken rather than chicken breasts, or a leg of lamb rather than lamb chops, and use the bones to make stock for soups and the leftover meat for sandwiches, curries and stews. Historically a family would have a roast joint for lunch on a Sunday, cold meat on the Monday (the day traditionally set aside for household chores) and the leftover meat would be used to make a dish such as shepherd’s or cottage pie on the Tuesday.

5. Quality pays

Don’t shy away from paying a few pennies more for quality. Nine times out of ten you will be buying a product that is more economical in the long run. For example, good quality bacon and chicken shrink less when cooked, as less water will have been added to the meat. Spending the same amount of money on a small piece of flavoursome cheese as you would on a large, blander piece of cheese, means that you will need less of it to satisfy your taste buds.

6. Buy nutrient-rich foods

Buy foods with high nutritional content to get more for your buck. Did you know that potatoes are the largest single source of vitamin C in the UK diet? They also contain potassium, magnesium, zinc and copper - minerals essential for life - and there is more iron in a serving of new potatoes than in a portion of steamed spinach or a pint of Guinness. So pad out your meals with British potatoes, rather than pasta or rice.

7. Shop imaginatively

Break out of the routine of your normal weekly shop to explore different shops that carry different special offers. Buy locally - building a relationship with the shopkeeper, butcher or grocer means you are more likely to be kept up to date with what is good value when you visit.

8. Read the label

Look at the label as well as the price. With so many price offers in shops at the moment it is easy to ignore the rest of the information on the label. It’s worth looking. Many British food products are part of assurance schemes that specify the standards to which they are produced. Sourcing products that are part of these schemes is the best way of buying quality produce that is fully traceable to the producer.

9. Shop locally

Get the most from your local supermarket. Most supermarkets have a comprehensive stock of British food but there is a huge discrepancy between what is stocked in different stores. See the ‘Want to buy British’ pages of the British Food Fortnight website for information about British food available in your local supermarket and don’t be afraid to ask the manager of your local store to consider stocking new ranges.

10. Pick your own

What is better or healthier than being able to enjoy fresh fruit and vegetables that you have selected and picked yourself? Most ‘Pick your own’ farms are competitively priced in comparison with local supermarkets during the height of each crop’s season.

11. Grow your own

Eating food you have grown yourself, even if it is just a lettuce, is immensely satisfying. Potatoes, herbs and carrots are easy to grow and you don’t need much space to do so.

12. Forage for your food

British Food Fortnight is the ideal time for blackberry picking. Also look out for juniper berries, which are particularly good with game, and elderberries, which are lovely added whole to apple pies. Britain is a green and pleasant land so even in towns and cities there are plenty of spots away from roads where you can forage.

British Food Fortnight is the national celebration of the diverse and delicious food that Britain produces. For more information on buying British food, seasonality and money saving tips, visit: