While visiting several Slimming World related Facebook groups, I’ve seen the same argument over and over again – eating to the Slimming World plan is expensive – far more expensive than people have been used to.
I’ll be honest – whenever I see that, I shake my head with a wry smile on my face, then I try to set them straight, because I find it exactly the opposite – it’s a very cheap healthy eating plan to follow if you do it right and follow a few common sense tips:
1. Check Out the Cheap Stuff
Many of the supermarket own brands, and even their super-cheap versions, are made in the same places and by the same people with almost identical ingredients to name brands. When it comes to basics like pasta, you may be better off buying from the basics range. And if they don’t taste quite as rich as the bigger brands, they can be made to do so with minimal adjustments to recipes, such as adding a little tomato paste, herbs and spices to a basics range pasta sauce. To be honest, though, your own homemade sauces will taste out-of-this-world gorgeous – way better than anything you can buy in a jar – and you can make them syn-free, leaving your syns for treats.
And don’t be afraid to check out the food that’s nearing expiration date. If you can use it (or freeze it and use it) within the expiration date, then you may be able to pick up premium range items at knock-down prices.
2. Divvy Up
As soon as you get your groceries home, divide all your perishables into individual portions and freeze them! I mean it – as soon as you get in! This way you will only ever need to cook exactly what is required and will have far less waste. Just take out what you need the night before and let it defrost overnight on the bottom shelf of your fridge. Come dinner time the next day, your food will be ready to cook.
3. Make Lists and Rotate
Regularly check the expiration dates on everything in your cupboards and move those nearing the end to the front for soonest use. Do this every week the day before you do your grocery shopping and you will always know what you have and what you need. You can now plan your menus for the coming week and only buy what is required – you’ll save a fortune when you don’t wander round aimlessly picking up whatever catches your eye.
4. Cook in Bulk and Freeze Portions
Whenever you’re cooking a big meal, cook one or two extra portions and freeze them for future use. Get yourself some of those tin foil cartons with cardboard lids and you can write on them the contents and the date it was made. They also stack really well in the freezer so you get maximum storage usage. And if you have a friend with similar tastes, swap one night a week. Agree several recipes between you and a specific night of the week, then cook an extra portion on top of your own one, then swap a meal. You’ll get a bit of variation and a night when you won’t have to cook from scratch. A crock pot or slow cooker is great for this kind of thing!
5. Buy Frozen!
When it comes to veg, fresh is lovely, but for things like peas and sweetcorn, just grab a big bag of frozen stuff (from the basics range – it’s exactly the same, I promise!) and chuck it in your freezer. Same with berries – fresh ones will go mouldy very quickly, but with frozen produce, you can take out what you need, seal the bag back up, and leave the rest for another day – no waste! And if you’re not wasting food, you won’t have to buy so much more of it, will you!
6. Buy Local
Check out your local butchers and green grocers if you have them – you’ll often find they have incredibly good prices on produce that is of a much higher quality that in the supermarkets, and with far less wasteful packaging. I’m so lucky in that I have a Premier Meats in my town, and I can get almost a kilo of incredibly lean beef mince (we’re talking 2-3% fat here!) for just a fiver, and lovely chunky chicken breasts at a fantastic price! I then refer you to point #2 – I portion everything up as soon as I’m home. I usually get two of those £5 bags of mince and then portion them out to six or seven bags – each of those will do us (a family of four) for one meal, unless I’m making burgers, then it’ll take two of those bags. Chicken breasts also get individually wrapped (so they don’t stick together) and popped in a resealable bag.
7. Pad things out
Meat can be pricey, but delicious as it is, it doesn’t have to be the main part of a meal. I pad out all my meals with loads of speed veg, especially when I’m using mince – onions and mushrooms bulk things out nicely, but throw in a handful or two of lentils while cooking and you’ll suddenly find your mince stretches to an extra portion. They also help thicken up sauces very nicely, so anything from bolognese and lasagne, to chilli con carne, to cottage pie are fantastic with this addition, and even most picky eaters will hardly even notice them. Try out some vegetarian meals once in a while too – we should all really be trying to cut down on our meat consumption anyway, so you’ll be doing your body good as well as your wallet. Beans are another great non-meat source of protein that will pad things out very nicely – try different kinds, be adventurous!
8. Cook from scratch
I know, I know, we’re all pushed for time these days, what with work and kids and, well, just life in general, but cooking doesn’t have to take long, and cooking from scratch is way cheaper than using convenience food – and much tastier too! If you don’t already have a slow cooker, please do go and invest in one – you can pick a basic model up for under a tenner – and all you need to do is chuck everything in it first thing in the morning, switch it on, and you have dinner ready and waiting for you when you get home. And taking just one day every month to do a BIG batch cooking session (see tip #4) you can make dozens of meals to pop in your freezer and you’ll have those meals ready for you every time you’re short on time – they’ll be ready in less time than it would take for a take away to arrive.
9. Plan, Plan, Plan!
Seriously, planning is the key to success. Sit down with a recipe book or your recipe cards and put together menu plans. Then I refer you back to tip #3 – honestly, it will save you a fortune!
10. Grow Your Own
If you have even a tiny patch of land available to you, try growing some of your own food. You can get great crops out of small container gardens, or if you can get yourself an allotment, DO IT! Not only will you have an abundance of fresh produce that you know exactly where it came from (and if it’s organic, etc!), you’ll be getting exercise working on it. Even if you go halfers with a friend or family member, you can save a fortune. At the very least, grow some herbs on your kitchen windowsill – there’s nothing quite like your own fresh herbs to use in your cooking! And if you have room to keep a few chickens, you’ll have eggs that are out of this world! If there are things growing wild near you, don’t be afraid to go foraging when they’re in season. There is an abundance of wild blackberries near us and we pick kilos of them every year. Loads get eaten fresh, and loads get made into puddings and jams, but still more get frozen to use when they’re not in season. Blackberries cost a fortune in the shops, but I get them for free!
So, there you go – it’s not rocket science. Ten very simple tips that really will save you money.
And when it comes right down to it, to those who complain about paying £4.95 every week to weigh in at class, you’d spend more than that on one take away meal which would have a million syns, and if you have a good consultant and a supportive group, they’re worth so much more than that anyway!