Thursday 13 January 2011

Can I eat frugally and eat whatever I want?

Like many people, I need to be more frugal nowadays. I find it quite easy to make sure I am cooking and eating fabulous food when expense is not an issue: I buy the best cuts of meat and the freshest fish, I can shop daily, according to my whims and I improvise and experiment without worrying too much about waste. 

This year, I have set myself a challenge: to see just how much money I can save on our food budget without compromising on taste, variety and quality. Having been a student, I know how to eat cheaply without putting much thought into it: there's pasta and toast, baked potatoes and mince and...umm-mm... more pasta. And although I love all of those things and often fancy them,  limiting my diet to the same foods week in, week out eventually backfires, however budget friendly they are. When I feel I don't have a real choice, I feel deprived...and when I feel deprived I end up diving head first into the metaphorical biscuit tin.

It is in this context that I have taken up the challenge of feeding myself (and my family) with food that will satisfy us on every level: physically, emotionally and financially! I have surprised myself by really enjoying it as I find cunning new tricks for interesting and varied meal planning, come up with ingenious shopping 'strategies' and experiment cooking with ingredients I'd never considered before.

As I sat down to plan my menus last week, I knew that I wanted a 'meat & 2 veg dinner' and fish of some kind and something really cheesy. In the past, this would have meant a succulent rib-eye steak with some baby greens of some sort, a luxurious fish pie with salmon and scallops and that amazing camembert with truffle butter from Waitrose which weighs in at a hefty £5.49 for a decidedly measly 180 grams. Not food choices that are within my budget - even if we eat baked potatoes and pasta on the other nights. 

In the end, I made some fabulously juicy mustard pork chops with mustard mash and broccoli on Tuesday and a deliciously smoky and mooreish kedgeree last night. The (huge) chops I picked up at the butcher's for a fiver and the lovely piece of smoked haddock I used for the kedgeree cost just under £4. Tonight, my (dairy intollerant) partner is out and I am looking forward to a scrumptious Welsh rarebit made with a beautiful (albeit tiny) piece of designer cheddar I picked up at the little organic shop on Kentish Town Road. All in all I have saved about £30 on the meals I would have originally gone for whilst satisfying my meaty, fishy, cheesy cravings with delicious, organic, seasonal food. I even made a really quite gorgeous steamed chocolate and marmalade sponge pudding (marmalade courtesy of my fabulous marmalade making sister) which cost me no more than a pound all in.

Oh, and we'll be having some pretty scrumptious penne amatriciana tomorrow. Because, you know, we're eating frugally.

If you want a hand with getting organised in the kitchen and cooking up some scrumptious (frugal!) food, check out my Kitchen Fairy website and watch out for Menu Planning Parties with the Kitchen Fairy coming soon to various locations across London.


  1. I find cooking from scratch is the most wonderful self care. I was utterly thrilled when I discoverd that Lidles sold artichokes in oil quite cheaply and I could indulge without feeling guilty about the cost

  2. I go through phases of planning meals and shopping frugally and other times when I shop chaotically and end up throwing items together in a panic at meal times .. I know which I prefer but can't always get it together ...
    I'd be interested to see how long your new regime lasts!

  3. Try or or or my favourite

  4. Oops forgot some ...

  5. Shuttlers - wow! many thanks for all the great sites - off to browse.

    But before I go to Chaotic Cook: the great thing about doing things 'Beyond Chocolate- style' is that there are no 'regimes' (yipee!) so no wagon to fall off. I take one day at a time and experiment keeping what works and ditching what doesn't. If it feels like it's a regime I know it won't last so I make sure it never becomes one! It's the whole thing about not being tempted to vow that 'from now on I'll only ever shop and cook 'budget' food...I've just set myself a challenge to see how much money we can save this year. So far about £30 so even if it's just that, I've won the challenge already!


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