Caitriona Redmond had no idea about the price or her health when she filled her shopping trolley with convenience food and microwave meals.
However, it is after becoming redundant from her high-flying job in the property industry in 2009 that her finances and lifestyle needed major reforms.
Caitriona currently has to feed her family of five on a food budget of only €70 every week after she began implementing her office management skills to the kitchen to prepare nutritious meals without waste.
Although living on a tight budget can be straining, Caitriona admits it is also extremely rewarding to nourish her family well.
She said it gives her great strength to take up ownership of and responsibility for the food they eat and its source.
She has been sharing her tips on economical food on her blog and in her new book Wholesome: Feed your Family Well for Less.
1. Take Stock
Take care of your kitchen like a business by controlling incoming and outgoing food. Remove all foods in store and note them down, and then put it back arranging the commonly used ones to the front.
You will always know what is in the store and avoid overbuying or throwing away unused food.
2. Calculate Your Budget
She recommends €30 per adult and €20 per child for food, but Caitriona uses €70 on food and €20 on cleaning material and toiletries. Put aside €5 every week to restock frequently used items like flour and spices.
3. Draft a list
Drafting a list is important for budget meal planning. Note everything that is running low. Your list should be made in sections like meat, dairy, fruits and veggies.
4. Store cupboard Staples
The store cupboard is ideal for economical households including herbs, spices, and dry staples. Go for pudding rice which is cheaper than Arborio for creamy risottos.
Huge bags of dried fruit are cheaper than raisin snack boxes and are available while fresh fruits are costly.
5. Batch cook
Although frozen pizza, nuggets, and chips are the cheapest food in supermarkets, cooking larger batches of healthier meals will cut down on the expenses and nourish your family. A single roast chicken can be served for two dinners.
6. Healthy portions
Use tea plates for dinner and side plates for lunch to avoid excessive meals as you become used to a healthy portion size.
For an adult, half a chicken breast is plenty.
7. Meat-free days
Vegetarian diets are cheaper sources of protein than fresh meat or fish. Instead of fillets, go for a whole fish.
8. Discount food
Buy foods with yellow stickers but ensure you cook or refrigerate immediately. Most foods are discounted few weeks before their ‘best before’ date but can remain in the fridge for at least 10 more days. Other good bargain buys include battered tins, bashed cereal products, or out-of-season products.
Great staples include frozen peas and sweetcom, while diaries freeze well. Consider freezing discounted sliced pan and defrosting by the slice will ensure that you always have fresh bread with no waste.