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Save Money by Cooking Homemade Meals

By: Sarah O'Hara BA (hons) - Updated: 1 May 2014 | comments*Discuss
Money Budget Meals Ingredients Kitchen

As food prices rise and many people’s budgets shrink, a lot of folks are returning to cooking homemade meals from scratch in a bid to save money.

Cooking homemade meals is generally healthier than eating processed convenience food as well. By cooking from scratch you’ll know exactly what ingredients have gone into your food.

Cooking from scratch doesn’t mean that you have to be chained to the kitchen, although by making homemade meals many discover a newfound love of cooking.

Getting Started

Some people who never cook and are used to cooking frozen food or eating takeaways can be a little daunted by the idea of shopping for ingredients and making various meals.

The best approach is to start small. Perhaps decide that you are going to cook one or two meals a week from fresh ingredients. Think of a ready meal that you enjoy, something you would like in a restaurant or a particular takeaway dish that you are partial to. Find a recipe. You don’t have to spend any money – there are loads of free recipes online.

Shop for the ingredients that you need and follow the recipe closely. Allow yourself plenty of time for cooking your first homemade meals and don’t beat yourself up if it isn’t perfect just yet. Once you have mastered a couple of recipes, try out another and so on. Soon you’ll find you have enough recipes to cook homemade meals most nights of the week.

Don’t over-face yourself with budgets, ingredients, recipes and techniques at first. If you need a night off cooking, have one. Saving money and eating healthily is about changing your habits the majority of the time – but you don’t have to do it all at once.

Dishes to Start out With

If you can’t think of what meals to start cooking with, here are a few ideas for dishes that it’s hard to get wrong. Once you have these down, the sky’s the limit:

  • Spaghetti bolognese
  • Shepherd’s pie
  • English breakfast
  • Vegetable curry
  • Pasta with chicken or salmon and crème fraiche
  • Soup

You could then move onto thinking about dishes such as:

  • Casserole
  • Roast dinner
  • Fish and chips
  • Paella

Stock your Kitchen Cupboard

The key to cooking from scratch is having a core set of ingredients that can form the basis of many of your homemade meals. You’ll need to gradually stock up your kitchen cupboard and freezer.

These are some basic items you’ll need:

  • Oil
  • Flour
  • Mustard
  • Ketchup
  • Tomato puree
  • Soy sauce
  • Salt and pepper
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Garlic
  • Rice
  • Dried Pasta
  • Dried herbs and spices
  • Tinned beans
  • Canned tomatoes

You can then buy the extra ingredients that you need for each recipe as you need them.

Handy Tools for Cooks

As well as the kitchen cupboard ingredients we’ve mentioned, as you get going with cooking you may find a few pieces of kitchen equipment helpful.

Slow cooker: Using a slow cooker or crock pot, your evening meal can be cooking while you’re at work and ready for when you get in. Crock pots are also great for ingredients such as cheaper cuts of meat as the slow cooking tenderises.

Bread maker: If you want to make your own bread, a bread maker makes even and attractive loaves easier. Modern ones also make food such as pizza bases and rolls.

Freezer: No doubt you already have a freezer – it will come in handy as you start cooking from scratch. Freezers are great for freezing extra meal portions for a lazy evenings and for preserving ingredients for later use.

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In light of recent news concerning the great difficulties faced by people on low incomes in trying to feed their families. It's a sad shame that little emphasis is put on helping them to really cope. Food banks are all very well, but education in how to care for a Family, and how to budget for, buy, and cook food is surely the best way to address the current situation. I grew up in relative poverty, yet my childhood was a very happy one. I consider myself blessed, as have never suffered real hunger. Our well-being, education and feeding us all properly were my Parent's main priorities. Our Family of 7 lived in a 2 bed Council home, my Mum and Dad both cooked (and taught us all to do the same) In this age of instant gratification - you could choose to buy a takeaway for dinner tonight. Or for less money you could buy a large chicken, streaky bacon, cheap (ie muddy) potatoes, green and root veg, some rice or pasta, value tinned tomatoes, oil, curry powder and seasonings, stock cubes, flour, yeast, milk, eggs, jam, squash, and a few "past sell by date" treats. This WILL feed an average family for a week............But only if you know what to do with it.
babbet - 1-May-14 @ 11:06 AM
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