In times of financial crisis we’re all looking for ways to get savvy with our spending. With almost 20 per cent of the average household budget being spent on food and drink, generating cost savings by creating an organised kitchen is the perfect place to start.
Here are 10 organising tips that will help you save money in the kitchen.
1. Organise your food cupboards
Everyone thinks bulk buying saves time and money. It’s true, but these benefits can literally end up in the bin if you bulk buy so much that the food goes out of date before you’ve had a chance to use it.
Only buy what you need and organise so you can see what’s in there. Group like items together and put shorter date items at the front, so you can prioritise what to use.
2. Plan your meals
Meal plan – know what you’ll be cooking and eating each week – as it will help you manage your budget and reduce waste.
Start your meal plan based on what’s already in your cupboards. Always factor in ingredients that need to be used up before they’re wasted so you don’t end up spending to replace them.
Add energy efficient meals to your plan. Meals that can be cooked quickly on the hob, or popped in the slow cooker (which is significantly cheaper to run than a conventional oven) will use less gas and electricity, saving money on energy.
Always consider adding in a day for using up leftovers. This may be extra portions of completed meals, eating leftovers for lunch or just using up scraps of vegetables to make a soup. Less food waste means less money wasted.
When you’ve created a shopping list based on your food plan, stick to it. Don’t be tempted to add in non-essentials or fall for special offers on things you don’t need.
3. Use cost effective ingredients
Reducing the cost of ingredients going into meals doesn’t mean you have to skimp on quality. Often we buy certain products out of habit, so shop around for a while and buy cheaper where you can. It may take a bit of effort and forward planning to do cost comparisons, but your efforts will pay off.
Meat is an expensive ingredient, so go veggie once a week by introducing Meat Free Mondays, or half the meat used and bulk up with cheaper alternatives like lentil or beans. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are often cheaper than those out of season, and don’t forget frozen veg can be bought much cheaper too. Organising ahead in this way can be really cost-effective.
4. Batch cook to save time and money
As well as cutting down the amount of time you’ll need to spend in the kitchen, batch cooking for the weeks and months ahead will save costs too.
Buying ingredients in larger quantities is most often cheaper than buying little bits at a time, so you’ll save money straight away.
Make the most use of appliances by cooking larger meal quantities, bigger portions of bases and sauces and freezing them makes to make best use of energy. It’s much cheaper to microwave pre-cooked food when needed than to reheat all the main appliances and start from scratch again.
5. Create a freezer system
If you’re freezing batch cooked food and leftovers, be sure to label containers with their contents and the date you made them. Group items in a way that works for your household. You can group by date, type of ingredient (e.g. meat) or by the style of food (e.g. Indian, Italian etc.).
Level up by keeping an inventory of what’s in your freezer. A magnetic white board stuck to the outside of your freezer (or even a simple pen and pad of paper) is ideal for keeping a track of what you’ve got inside. Then you can plan ahead without a rummage into the unknown!
Always keep a quick and easy go-to meal in the freezer. It will stop you panic buying expensive convenience food or a take away when time is tight.
6. Defrost ahead of time
It’s much more energy efficient to defrost food naturally, than it is to put something in the microwave to defrost. You’ll also waste money on energy cooking meals from frozen when it’s not necessary.
As part of your organised kitchen systems add planning ahead for the next day’s meals to your evening routine. What do you need to get out of the freezer to defrost ready for tomorrow? Can anything else be prepared more efficiently ahead of time?
7. Have a ‘use up’ container in the fridge
Pop a clear container in the fridge where you put items that need to be used up first. Items with short use-by dates, packets that have been opened or left overs can all go in here. Then when you go in the fridge, always look here first and make using these ingredients your priority.
Use a sharpie pen to write dates on jars that once opened have a use-by date. We all know time flies, so making this more obvious will reduce food waste and help you prioritise when meal planning.
8. Check the dates on your food shop
I mostly order my food online for delivery every Sunday. It’s just a habit I’ve got into because it sets me up for the week ahead. But there’s nothing worse than planning a meal for Thursday only to find out that half the ingredients are past their date when the time comes.
Always check the dates on the things you buy – whether in-store or in a delivery. If you have a choice in-store go for the longest date possible. If you have to go with what you’ve had delivered, cook and freeze before the expiry or switch the days around on your meal plan. It will save you wasting food and having to spend on replacements.
9. Keep your shopping bags handy
Don’t end up paying for shopping bags, just because you forgot them. Keep a stash easily accessible in the kitchen that you can grab when you head out to the supermarket. I’d also recommend keeping a handful in the car and bag for that emergency dash to the shops. All the pennies spent on single use plastic bags soon add up.
10. Keep vouchers handy
How often have you arrived in a shop, only to remember you had a coupon or voucher at home, or haven’t brought your store card to maximise points? Find a way of storing these in the kitchen drawer, your wallet, purse or handbag, so that these are always available when you need them.
Benefits of an organised kitchen
The biggest impact you can have to save money in your kitchen is to make it somewhere you want to spend time. If your cupboards are crammed full, it’s disorganised and you have no systems in place it’s likely you’ll want to avoid the kitchen at all costs. Not wanting to face the kitchen means money spent on convenience food, takeaways and eating out. Food will get wasted, appliances will become neglected and money ends up being spent unnecessarily.
Invest time in sorting out the heart of the home. Declutter cupboards, organise your pantry, simplify the space and set up a few simple systems. An organised and efficient kitchen can transform a negative space into a fun and creative one. Your kitchen is a place you can enjoy living in, where energy is used efficiently and costs are kept to a minimum.
Want to know more?
If you live in South Wales and want advice and support on organising your kitchen so it works hard for you, I’d love to hear from you. Arrange a free consultation and subscribe to my email list for more hints and tips.