We’re all looking for ways to reduce our rocketing weekly food bill and Instagram-famous chef and best-selling author of the One Pound Meals books, Miguel Barclay, is the go-to man for money-saving tips. The budget chef believes the key to saving cash is to plan your meals in advance, make your ingredients go further and avoid unnecessary waste.
“If you want to save money, the main thing to remember is to avoid any kind of food that is convenient,” says Miguel who has over 250k social media followers.
“Don’t leave meals to the last minute or you may be tempted to order a takeaway or buy a microwave curry. That also means avoiding any chopped vegetables or anything that’s been prepared by a human or a machine, as it will cost more. I cook everything from scratch and all my recipes are simple, easy to follow and are made from basic, everyday ingredients.”
Read on for Miguel’s top tips...
Don't overlook canned goods
According to Miguel, tinned produce is a cupboard essential and can be turned into tasty meals in minutes.
“I could live off tinned tomatoes dishes, as they’re cheap, nutritious and I love the texture.” he says.
“They’re great for pasta sauces, tomato risotto and chillies. Tinned chickpeas are versatile too. They’re great in curries or you can roast them to make crunchy chickpea tacos. Just add olive oil, cumin, salt and pepper to the chickpeas and roast for 25 minutes. Alternatively, add them to salads or coleslaw. I also use tinned potatoes to make gnocchi, which tastes delicious. Just drain the potatoes, squash them with a fork, add a bit of flour, seasoning and pan fry. Don’t overlook tinned fruit either, it’s ideal for desserts, and you can make a simple crumble for the topping with butter, sugar and flour.”
Plan each week to be resourceful
Whether you live alone, with friends or family, Miguel says the key is to forecast each week’s meals ahead of time.
“To really save money you must be organised. At the start of the week, get an A4 sheet of paper, write down the days and plan your meals for each day,” he explains.
“Start with your non-negotiables, so if you want a Sunday roast, write that first and work around it. With the leftovers, you can turn them into a pie for Monday evening. Just chuck in the cooked veg, the meat and make a white sauce with a little bit of butter, flour and milk. Add salt, pepper and oregano, put some pastry on the top and you have a lovely pie. With any leftover pastry, you can make a tart the next day. From just one meal, you have three days’ worth of food. Even if you have sausages left over, you can chop them up and put them in a risotto. If you don’t plan, you don’t have much chance of saving money.”
Take advantage of supermarket wars
While buying groceries from local supermarket branches on the high street might be easier, Miguel advises shopping inside the bigger stores whenever possible as that’s where you’re likely to find better deals.
He says, “It’s a fact that the local stores have higher prices because they are convenience stores. All the supermarkets compete on price for everyday items like rice, milk, olive oil and Cheddar cheese, so take advantage and shop around. Avoid pricey cheese like Manchego and Brie and choose mature Cheddar as it has extra flavour, which is good for cooking. Visit the world food aisle as that’s where you can find a 10kg bag of rice, which works out at 7p per portion. Use own-brand ingredients where you can and avoid grabbing random items that are on offer as it will take you away from your weekly meal plan. You must stick to your plan to make it work and avoid any waste.”
Try these store-cupboard staples
Miguel believes you can bulk up meals and make them go further by adding heaps of flavour. Here are his key staples...
DRIED OREGANO: This is my number-one ingredient as it has a strong flavour and it lasts forever. Unlike some herbs, the dried version is better than the fresh variety. I honestly believe that if you have any ingredient in the world, soak it in oregano, fry it, add fresh salt and pepper and it will taste fantastic.
OLIVE OIL: Always buy the basic, own-brand version from budget supermarkets as it’s competitively priced.
CURRY POWDER: Not only can you make all sorts of curries, it adds a good, strong flavour to lots of basic meals.
RICE: It’s the most economical food you can buy and very filling. Fried rice is very popular, just break an egg into your rice and add peas and soy sauce for a hearty dish.
MUSHROOMS: I’m a big fan as they contain vitamin D and are a great meat substitute. Since I started my One Pound Meal books, the price of meat has gone up a lot so it’s more difficult to make meat-based meals. Plant-based recipes are often cheaper, healthier and better for the environment.
FROZEN PEAS: These are my favourite vegetables to have on standby. They’re economical as there’s no waste. You can throw them in to your cooking while still frozen as they only take seconds to defrost.