I don’t know about you but in warmer weather, I don’t really fancy heavy dishes like stews and cottage pies. They served me well in Autumn and Winter when I was cold and wanted something comforting. And because they’re so cheap to make in bulk and freeze multiple portions, I had them A LOT. If you’ve seen my post on meal planning, you’ll know why.
But now that the days are longer and it’s getting warmer, I’m craving fresher ingredients and lighter dishes for dinner. The question is how to do that without the food bills soaring?
Well, here’s my guide for meal planning and keeping food bills low in Spring and Summer.
It’s easy to plan meals in the summer months if you just have salad with everything but it’s not cheap. Particularly if you buy ready made boxes or ready washed salad leaves.
Instead, buy unwashed spinach or lettuce heads, and every other ingredient individually in its rawest form and do the work yourself.
Another way to save money on salads, is to go simple. It’s very easy to load up the salad bowl with every vegetable known to man but the best salads often have only 3-4 ingredients. My all time favourite is rocket, diced red apple and pine nuts. YUM.
Plan your meals
Aside from the price, the other downside of fresh ingredients is that they don’t last very long. So, plan your meals for the week so that you eat the same fresh ingredients on consecutive nights and you’ll avoid food wastage and spending extra money.
Find cheap alternatives to carbs
If mash is off the menu until September/October time, don’t use expensive bread to fill you up instead. A head of cauliflower seasoned and blitzed in the blender or couscous (which can be bought very cheaply in bulk from most supermarkets) are much more wallet-friendly options. Or just stick to your boiled potatoes or pasta but let them cool first. Isn’t it funny how some foods seem more summery when they’re served cold??
It’s possible to have a modest barbeque
If you’re fortunate to have a good barbeque, then you may want to use it to cook all your meals in the summer. That’s fine if you exercise some restraint and don’t roll out the obligatory bbq dishes of burgers, sausages, ribs and chicken legs EVERY TIME. Just go for one simple piece of meat per meal, with a simple salad. Yum.
Check your sauce cupboard
Before you go out and buy lots of salad dressings, barbeque sauces, vinaigrettes and marinades at great expense, check your cupboards. It’s likely you still have all of that stuff from last year and guess what, this stuff takes AGES to go off.
Cruise the bargain bin
Every supermarket has a yellow sticker ‘bit’ where the produce is just shy of the best by date so they need to flog it at a discount. Make sure you have a good rummage around there every time you visit the supermarket as you could find some fantastic fish or meat options and if you buy too many, they can always be chucked in the freezer for another day! Forget about keeping food bills low – this could cut them in half!
Grow your own
Quite possibly the best way of keeping food bills low is to get food by free by growing it yourself. Fortunately, April and May is actually a really good time of the year to start gardening! Would you believe that by buying a few seeds now, you could very soon have the following growing in your garden or on your kitchen window sill:
What are your guilty pleasures food-wise in Spring and Summer? I’d love to hear and maybe I can suggest a cheap alternative!