1. Meal planning
One of the most effective ways to save money in the kitchen is to plan what you're going to eat in advance.
It may sound obvious, but many don't do this, and even those who do don't always stick to their plan. If you ensure that you plan sensibly and only buy the food that you need, then it should help you to ensure that you don't waste money or food.
I've written a separate guide to meal planning which sets out how to plan efficiently and effectively.
2. Buy in bulk
We all have store cupboard food items and non-food things that we use and buy regularly. For things like this that have either a long or no shelf-life it's often beneficial to buy them in bulk. It's common knowledge that if you buy a multi-pack of something it's normally cheaper than purchasing them in individual units (but do double-check as surprisingly it's not always the case!)
Another option is to buy in bulk when individual items are on special offer – either as a buy one get one free or on a three for two offer. Again, do check that this offer is better than their normal multipack prices.
Special offers on fresh food items are also worthwhile if you can ensure that you will really use all that you buy. Some products bought fresh can be frozen on the day of purchase and used at a later date. This particularly works well for meat and some ready meals.
If you can't make use of the special offer yourself then it could be worth sharing the offer with a friend, neighbour or family member instead.
3. Energy efficient cooking
Have you ever counted how manu times you boil the kettle in a day? Or how many times the oven, hob or microwave go on? Cooking food and making hot drinks require energy, but many of us are actually quite wasteful when it comes to this.
If you're making a cup of tea or coffee then you really should only boil the amount of water you need – no more. For two cups of coffee, just put two cups of water in the kettle. Also, try not to step away from the kettle when making a hot drink. Otherwise you end up coming back ten minutes later and just boiling it again – very wasteful.
When switching on the oven try to think about whether you could use it more effectively whilst it is on. Could you cook all the components of your meal in there at the same time. Or maybe you could make a cake whist it is on, rather than doing so later and having to switch it on again.
Saucepan lids are very effective at helping water come to the boil so much sooner on the hob and if you're cooking rice, pasta or vegetables using a lid will reduce the cooking time and therefore reduce the energy used.
A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to win an energy monitor and I have found that using it has really helped me to visualise just how much energy is used when the oven or kettle is on.
4. Ditch the cookbooks
I'm pretty sure I'm not the only person with a shelf full of cookbooks which I don't make full use of. In some books there might only be one recipe that I regularly used.
Rather than keep all these books sitting on the shelf you could instead sell them. Any favourite recipes could be copied out, or even photographed, so that you don't lose them totally.
Books can be sold online via either eBay or Amazon, but if you want to avoid postage costs for heavy books then selling via a local Facebook items for sale group might be a better option. If you have a lot of books then a car boot sale could work well, especially if you have other things that you could sell at the same time.
5. Try out some new recipes
Whilst this may seem completely at odds with tip number 4, please bear with me on this.
Most people know roughly how much they spend on a week's food shopping, but not many of us know how much each meal costs to make. If you were to work it out I think you may be surprised at the variation in costs. Once you've done this you could try to save money by replacing some of the more expensive meals in your cooking repetoire with cheaper ones.
There are millions of recipes available on the internet and some sites have even worked out for you the per portion cost of their meals. One such site is A Girl Called Jack, who has a whole section of 'Below The Line' Budget Recipes. We've tried out several of these over the last month and they have been delicious as well as cheap. Adding just a couple of these recipes into my weekly meal plan actually brought the shopping bill down considerably.