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Smart ways to save money when you cook

With energy costs and food shopping bills continuing to rise, we’re all looking for tips to save money when cooking at home.

To buffer the increasing cost of living, we’ve put together some smart ways to cook more economically and feed your family on a budget. Whether that's by making food go further or planning meals ahead, we’ll help you eat well for less.

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Meal planning

Meal planning is a great place to start when looking to reduce food shopping bills and avoid food wastage.

It might seem obvious to some, but planning meals in advance not only helps to give structure to your week, but also means that you only buy the ingredients that you need. If you’ve got meals planned ahead, you’re also less likely to spend money on convenience or takeaway food.

Simply set out a plan for the week, write a shopping list and buy your ingredients. If you plan well, you’ll use all of your fresh food up first and any leftover or partially used ingredients (such as cream or fresh herbs) can be used in future meals.

Before going shopping, check your fridge, freezer and cupboards to note down what you already have. You can then plan your meals around these items, avoiding wastage or rebuying the same ingredients. Top tip - always keep an eye out for reduced items that can be stored in the fridge or freezer and used at a later date.

Using freezer and store cupboard essentials

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When it comes to cutting costs in the kitchen, your freezer will be one of the most useful appliances. Freeze pre-made meals and keep your produce fresh and ready to use - storing ingredients such as bread, fresh herbs, vegetables, meat and fish.

Adding frozen fruit or vegetables to meals is also a great substitution in recipes instead of ‘fresh’ varieties. The freshness is locked in when they are frozen, meaning that you can add colourful, healthy ingredients to your favourite meals straight from the freezer.

Store cupboard ingredients are also essential for cooking on a budget and are often available to buy from lower-cost supermarket ranges. Food items such as chopped tomatoes, pulses, canned fish, dried pasta and rice are all nutritious ingredients to cook with, and have long expiry dates. It’s useful to keep your cupboard stocked so you can create a last-minute meal, too.

Batch cooking basics

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Batch cooking is a popular way to pre-prepare several meals and save time and energy whilst you’re doing it.

Why not set aside a few hours and make larger portions of your favourite meals? Foods such as soups, curries, chilli con carne, lasagne etc can easily be made in larger portions and often taste even better after a few days when flavours have developed. Many recipes can also be bulked out with vegetables such as grated carrot, mushrooms, or beans, for a more filling and nutritious meal.

Using a food processor when batch cooking also makes food prep so much easier, helping you to chop, grate and and blend larger quantities of ingredients in minutes.

You can then store the meals in the fridge or freezer and reheat them. This is especially useful after busy days at work or simply when you don’t want to cook. Top tip - when cooking for the freezer, always ensure food is thoroughly cooled before it’s frozen, and ensure food is piping hot when reheating it.

You can invest in small containers or thicker plastic bags to store meals in the freezer - just remember to label and date them for future reference.

Cooking with a range of proteins

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Cooking with a range of proteins can really help cut down on food shopping costs, especially if your family usually eats a lot of meat or fish products.

Plant-based proteins tend to be cheaper and are equally nutritious - so why not try cooking with lentils, beans, peas, grains or tofu? A fantastic way to get an extra protein punch is also to add seeds and nuts to stir fries, salads and curries.

You could start by introducing one or two plant-based proteins a week into your diet, as well as bulking out meat-based dishes with other proteins so that you use less meat. Cooking a ragu or stew with meat and then mixing in lentils or borlotti beans would be a delicious combination.

Our pumpkin dhal and sweet potato tacos recipes are all packed full of flavour and make a delicious meat-free alternative meal for all the family.

Visiting supermarkets near closing time is also a useful opportunity to buy reduced price meat and fish that can be frozen and used at a later date, too.

Energy-saving meals

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With the cost of energy rising, ‘low cook’ and energy-saving meals are becoming more popular ways to prepare food.

You don’t need to spend hours cooking over the stove or oven to create a hearty meal, with options such as soups, stir fries and pasta dishes that can be made with low cost ingredients and minimal cooking time. Also, by cutting ingredients into smaller and more consistent sizes, you can reduce cooking time - such as making sauces with diced or grated veg using a food processor.

Whilst they have initial upfront costs, more energy-efficient appliances such as microwaves and slow cookers are great additions to your kitchen. These appliances reduce the time needed to cook and heat food, and use less energy too. Microwaves in particular are really efficient for heating up meals, as well as cooking and even baking. Nutrients are also preserved in food due to the shorter cooking times needed.

Simply putting the lid on your saucepan when cooking reduces the amount of energy used, as the lid keeps the heat in the pan and speeds up cooking and boiling time. Using your kettle may also be more efficient when boiling water to cook pasta or vegetables, especially when using a powerful, fast boil kettle from our Dawn range.

If you own a Kenwood CookEasy+ or Cooking Chef XL , why not try making a meal from scratch? This delicious vegan thai curry is ready to serve in under 30 minutes, and our carrot soup is a perfect winter warmer.

Making the most of leftovers

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Using up leftover food is also a clever way to make your food go further and avoid food waste. Make it your mission to use up any leftover food for lunch or if you’ve planned your meals for the week, cook with leftover ingredients the next evening. By adding leftover meat, fish or dairy to soups, curries and pasta dishes, you can create a delicious tasting meal with very little effort required.

If you find yourself with leftover eggs or butter that need to be used before their expiry dates, you could even make a simple cake batter or pastry to form part of another meal.

Supermarkets, shops and restaurants are becoming more committed to reducing food wastage. Buying your fruit and veg individually (rather than pre-packaged) helps you to not only buy what you need, but it's often less expensive, too. Several mainstream supermarkets now offer ‘wonky’ fruit and veg that wouldn’t otherwise be sold, at lower prices, which are brilliant for cooking, making smoothies or snacks.

Food waste apps are also tackling the problem head on by enabling food vendors and individuals around the world to share leftover food or products for a small fee or free of charge, which helps you save money and be more sustainable.