How can I eat good food on a budget?
- Make expensive ingredients - such as the Sunday roast - earn their place by using the leftovers to make more meals.
- Balance eating more expensive foods at some meals by eating cheaper ones at others - there are lots of cheap cuts of meat (lamb shoulder, pork belly, pork cheeks, stewing meat) that will produce great dishes.
- Eat seasonally - whatever is in season will always be cheaper and will taste better too. Strawberries in January taste of nothing, are expensive and don't make the best use of the world's resources. Make the best of ingredients when they are abundant - use summer apricots you've bought at a street market at the end of the day (when they are cheaper) to make jam which will bring the sun into your house in November; pickle cherries you've bought at a pick-your-own farm and eat them all year round with pâté and cheeses; turn a neighbour's surplus of cooking apples into chutney or apple jelly.
- Eat wild food - it's free. This doesn't mean becoming a funghi expert or buying a rifle. Anyone can pick blackberries, sloes, crabapples, damsons and wild garlic. Pheasant, even if someone else has shot it, is cheap at the height of the season and rabbit is cheap year round.
- Change your attitude to cooking - broaden the range of ingredients you use and plunder the home food of different cultures to find dishes that are exotic and delicious, but inexpensive. Be open-minded about pulses and grains. Grains in particular are positively chic and you don't have to stick to rice - there's also quinoa, bulgar wheat and faro.
- Conversely, there are staples we should spend more on. You can think about bread in this way. Good sourdough may cost more but it tastes better and lasts longer than a sorry pre-sliced loaf.
- Eat vegetable dishes as a main course - you don't have to have meat every day.
When I was growing up people took pleasure and pride in resourcefulness - it was enjoyable to look in the fridge, see a couple of things that needed to be used up and ponder what to do with them. Leftover roast beef went into a curry or a cottage pie. If we had roast chicken the carcass would be boiled to make stock for a comforting soup and the meat could be used, along with chopped leeks and some ham, to make a pie.
These days we tend to think in terms of 'one dish at one meal'. There isn't a 'flow' between meals. This isn't the case in other countries. The French call leftovers 'les restes' and pride themselves on using them. The Italians are simply brilliant with stale bread. They make little gnocchi with breadcrumbs, fried bacon and onion and serve them with melted butter. They sauté breadcrumbs with garlic, chopped anchovies, currants and pine nuts and scatter them over cooked cauliflower to make a main course which can be eaten on its own or tossed with pasta.
Shop carefully and open your mind to what it's possible to cook with the food you have bought. You will eat well and never feel you are 'going without'.
Do you have any tips about how to eat well without breaking the bank? Tell us any money-saving recipes from other cultures or give some suggestions that may be pertinent to your family.
Diana Henry is appearing on Woman's Hour on Monday 13 September to discuss how to cook well without breaking the bank.