ITV’s Save Money Good Food series two shows us how to get better value for money on food by using up leftovers, and how to avoid overbuying in the first instance.
I recapped series one recently, and this post is the first in a series of seven covering all the episodes from Save Money Good Food series two. Presented again by Susanna Reid and chef Matt Tebutt, I found the show useful when I was saving for my first house.
If we are saving for a big goal like a house deposit, we can tackle our essential spending areas like food as well as looking at where our “disposable” income goes. Many of us end up buying more food than we need, or we’re sucked into paying more for certain brands or ingredients when we could eat well on half the budget.
Here’s what I’ve covered below:
The Problems: Picky Eaters
Recipe #1: Salmon Carbonara
Recipe #2: Hidden Vegetable Meatballs in White Sauce
Recipe #3: Chicken Tacos
How to Get Better Value for Money
Taste Tests: Cheese and Onion Crisps
Save Money Good Food series two: the premise
In each episode, Matt makes four or five meals from items the volunteers already have forgotten in their kitchens. One of these recipes is often a fakeaway, or a homemade meal to replace a takeaway for a big saving.
Whether you feel you’ve already mastered your grocery budget, or you don’t know where to start cutting that bill down, I hope you find the timeless tips from the programme helpful.
Also in each episode are taste tests of supermarket own brands to demonstrate we can get something that still tastes good, but costs less.
Most of the guests are families, so Matt aims to keep the majority of the meals under £5. If we are cooking for one most of the time, we can still use these tips, as per portion it makes dinners under £1 or £2.
Who Save Money Good Food series two can help
If you are in a food rut, don’t like to spend too long in the kitchen, and want to eat well on a budget, then I think the information below is for you. I’ve also struggled in the past with how to have a variety because if you’re only buying ingredients for one or two people, you don’t want to go overboard stocking up. However, there are lots of ways to preserve food so that you don’t have to survive on one recipe until it makes your tongue get up and leave.
Some of you will find their tips and mine obvious. That’s supreme because it means you’re probably already pretty savvy at saving in the kitchen. A lot of the habits that are instinctual for me today weren’t always so.
We all have to start somewhere, and if you’ve either never learned how to cook flexibly, or you like cooking but can’t find time for it, then it only takes a small push to move in a direction that makes you happier and healthier. Do jump in the comments if you have anything to add.
The other thing to remember is that a chef is interested in getting the most flavour possible. If your tastebuds are satisfied by less, or you just like to get eating out the way, then you can get away with fewer ingredients in your seasonings.
Want to save in other areas of food and fitness?
Try these posts:
What I’ve added to this recap
Where it’s not been mentioned on the show, I’ve added in where you should be able to safely freeze extra portions, or take them to work the next day for lunch, or even have dinner for breakfast.
If we don’t have every single ingredient in the example (and you’re less likely to if you’re usually shopping for less people), then that’s fine too because the whole point is to experiment with what you DO have.
While I mention it, the “recipes” are rough guides rather than an exact blueprint. Cooking with whatever we can find and learning to improvise removes a lot of decision paralysis. Cooking isn’t complex. We make it complex by telling ourselves we have to rigidly follow recipes to the letter. Trust me, if I can feed myself despite my complete lack of skill and coordination, then anyone can.
I’m not a nutritionist. My aim is to never make any health claims without pointing to evidence. I’ve tried to make it clear below what’s come from the show and what’s my two-bits. I also don’t think we should all have to get a PHD just to feed ourselves! I’ve queried the nutrition in each episode from a layman’s perspective to challenge the notion that this is the first thing we should sacrifice to eat cheaply.
All of the maths below comes from the show also by the way too, so if there’s anything that doesn’t add up, let ITV know! They came up with the prices based on ingredients from supermarket budget ranges, regardless of what brand the participants already owned.
Under their recipes, I’ve added how to get better value for money from their ideas. This is not always the cheapest shopping. We already know fresh air is free! The cheapest recipe is often the one that strips out meat, fish, or our favourite flavours…
We need to balance cost and nutrition too, otherwise it’s a false economy. It’s pointless existing on three ingredient beige meals if we then get ill and spend on pills and potions instead to feel better. The best value for money means finding ways to make ingredients go further, or simply buying them in a cheaper format.
I’ve also included for each episode the equipment required and any ways around this as a cheap recipe should extend its value to the tools needed. A well-used blender or food processor can be an investment, but there are fixes if we don’t have one of these.
Save Money Good Food Episode 2.1
The Problems: The Ockendens from Kent were a family of picky eaters. This included a dude who wouldn’t eat any veg, a child who would only eat cheese if it was on a pizza, and another child who’s only vegetable of choice was cauliflower. (Interesting choice).
Recipe Ideas for Picky Eaters
Chopping board and knife
Large bowls for mixing (or use a spare saucepan)
Recipe #1: Salmon Carbonara
Cheese (recommended 70g for 6 portions)
There are no quantities specified for everything because the point is to use what you have, and/or stick to recommended portion sizes.
- Fry the bread crumbs and chorizo
- Poach the salmon in boiling water
- For the carbonara, beat a whole egg, two yolks and cheese
- Stir the eggs into the pasta quickly on the stove so it doesn’t scramble
- Add frozen cauliflower
Total cost: £4.22 for six portions if using frozen salmon. The family were normally spending £9.79 per mealtime, or £185pw. The national average was £122pw for six people.
Recipe #2: Hidden Vegetable Meatballs in White Sauce
- Grate carrot, courgette and onion, and keep some aside in a pint of peppered milk to soak
- Squeeze out any excess water from the main vegetables (so that the meatballs won’t fall apart later)
- Add to the mince with an egg to bind and roll into balls
- For white sauce, separately melt 50g of butter and add 50g of flour
- Add the milk through a sieve so that the vegetables are strained
- Add bit of grated cheese and whisk until smooth
- Fry the meatballs for a few minutes to brown
- Put into a baking dish and pour over the white sauce to bake
- Serve with cauliflower mash
Total cost: £5.29 for 6, or 88p per portion. They priced it up at £7.29 if nothing was made from scratch.
Recipe #3: Chicken Nachos
Tortillas (stale is fine)
Or tomato salsa
- Mix a tsp of cumin and 1/2 tsp of paprika to coat the chicken thighs
- Sautee the meat until brown
- Add sliced peppers and onion
- Cut the tortillas up with scissors
- Spray with a little oil and bake
- For the salsa mix sweetcorn, chopped onion and coriander
- For the tomato salsa mix chopped tomatoes with chilli, lime and jalapenos
- Pile it all together with shredded lettuce, or serve buffet style
Total cost: £6.71 (51p for the salsa and 70p for the tomato salsa). This house would normally only eat a roast together for £11.71, so this was still a significant saving for them.
If they continued to eat this way, they were predicted to save £2041 per year, or one fifth of their current food spend.
How To Get Better Value For Money On All The Recipes
The show’s tips
Susanna found ready made baked potatoes in the freezer. These can cost £2 a pop, but Susanna checked and buying fresh potatoes to bake was only 80p.
They also found a lot of Dolmio carbonara in the cupboard. Recipe #1 therefore was to show that it’s easy and cheaper to make our own versions of big brand sauces. It cost them 73p to make 156g of homemade sauce, versus £3.44 for a jar.
For the breadcrumbs in recipe #1, we can just tear up any bread that’s on its way out.
Poaching the salmon only takes five minutes, so it’s much quicker than baking. Another thing to keep in mind when cooking is how to use less energy, so anything that doesn’t require the oven on for ages is a win.
Everyone ate the salmon carbonara, partly because they refused to tell the children what vegetables were in the recipe until after they’d eaten it. This mainly works if you’re making food for other picky eaters, but try not to write off meals without trying them first just because you’re wary of one ingredient.
Papa Ockenden couldn’t taste any veg in the meatballs either, or cauliflower in the mash, so this is a cheap way to bulk out meals and get more fibre without being put off by anything within.
Adding vegetables to the mince in the meatballs made them £2.11 per 800g. They costed it at £2.94 for 800g of meat-only meatballs.
Recipe #2 also made 750g of white sauce for 86p versus £3 to buy it off the shelf. This would have saved them £210 per year because they were buying four jars of white sauce per week and spending £400 a year.
They made nachos in recipe #3 because Susannah found tortilla wraps in the cupboard. These dry out once opened, so this is a way to use them up even if they’re a bit stale.
I’ve already written in detail about the cheapest way to source most of the ingredients featured in the series one recap.
I’ve also since started a page of 100+ Best Value Food Ingredients, so see if that doesn’t save you money on your shopping besides these recipes!
I’m sure you could throw the strained vegetables from the meatball recipe into a creamy soup right away too (anything dairy-based since they’ve just been in milk).
No breakfast potential unless you fancy salmon carbonara the next morning! Save Money Good Food series two kicked off with a lean number of recipes compared to some previous episodes.
Recipe #1 and #2 should survive a trip to work though, as would recipe #3. Keep the nachos separate to stop them going soggy and invest in some tupperware.
I’m interested in sustainable alternatives to plastic food containers. Let me know in the comments what you swear by for storing and transporting food.
Regards the two yolks in the carbonara recipe, Matt said freeze the whites to make meringues another time. They made these in episode two of series one. They are actually easier to make if you freeze the whites first anyway.
I’d expect the salmon carbonara and meatballs to be good for a freeze and a reheat. For recipe #3 the nachos won’t want freezing after making. However, tortilla wraps can be frozen if you’ve got an open packet that won’t get eaten within a few days.
Try and separate the wraps from each other e.g. put wax paper into between each wrap to stop them sticking together.
The benefit of making sauces especially at home is that you get to control what’s being added. The emphasis in this episode was also on adding as many plants as possible without feeling like you’re turning into a rabbit.
Some researchers think we should be eating 10 A Day instead of 5 A Day, so this would go some way to achieving that without breaking the bank.
Cheese and onion crisps
Greenwich market visitors chose the following ranking of budget versions:
1st: Tesco (14p per bag)
Joint 2nd: Aldi and Lidl (both 12.5p per bag)
These were the three lowest priced cheese and onion crisps at the time of filming. The top vote was then tasted against Walkers. Every tester except for one person preferred Tesco as cheesier, not soggy, dry, or too salty etc.
Save Money Good Food Series 2 Episode 1
That’s a (tortilla) wrap! I crack myself up. Like an egg.
So the big savings in this episode were from:
- Making easy sauces instead of buying readymade jars
- Using frozen fish instead of fresh
- Bulking out mince with vegetables
- Using up stale bread items for the breadcrumbs and nachos
- Freezing leftovers like the egg whites from the carbonara sauce
- Buying meat in its cheapest format e.g. chicken thighs versus breast
What do you think? Do you already shop this way, or will you try to make any of these changes? Let me know in the comments!
The ITV Save Money Good Food recipes used to be on their site. Since they’ve redone the website I think they whisked them away, so I hope you find the above useful as a foundation for improvising.
There is a Save Money Good Food book full of recipes too. I’m interested to hear from anyone who has the book and whether it’s saved them money in the long term.
Episode Two is about whether there’s any such thing as a healthy ready meal. Recipes include Chicken Corden Bleu, Salmon Fishcakes, Molten Chocolate Pudding, and Steak with Potato Gratin.
Here are the links to my recaps of the first series if you want to go back in time:
Episode one if you want to go back was about using cupboard staples. Recipes included Cajun Chicken with Pomegrenate Salad and Tuna Fishcakes, Broccoli Seafood pasta (and Tea Fruit Cake), Chorizo Frittata, One Pot Chicken and Chorizo Rice, and an Indian Fakeaway of Pork Curry, Lentil Dahl, Roasted Spiced Cauliflower and Chapatis.
Episode two was all about entertaining guests. Recipes included Salmon Piperade, Gammon with Sage Roasted Veggies, Meringues, Leftovers Pie, Lamb Shoulder, and Tiffin.
Episode three was about making leftovers from leftovers. Recipes included Toad in the Hole, Shakshuka with Flatbreads, Shakshuka Prawn Pasta, Lemon Possets, Chicken and Sweetcorn Soup, Egg Fried Rice, Sweet and Sour Pork, and New York Cheesecake.
Episode four was all about premium foodie alternatives for picky eaters and included recipes for Red Pepper and Bacon Frittata, Chicken and Leek Pie, Pie Risotto, and Japanese Katsu Curry with Fritters and Miso Soup.
Episode five was all about freezer-friendly alternatives to ready meals and included recipes for Smoked Haddock Fishcakes, Chicken Kievs, Tomato Pilau Rice, and an American Diner Style Fakeaway of Veggie Burgers, Milkshakes, and Banoffee Pies.
Episode six – food ruts! Chicken and Vegetable Pizza, Beef and Bean Stew, Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni, Pad Thai, Thai Basil Pork, and Lemon Sorbet.
Episode seven – feeders and leftovers that are just as good the next day (Black Olive and Feta Stuffed Peppers with Broccoli Pasta, Fish and Lentil Curry, and a Mexican Feast).
Episode eight – food for sharing (Chicken in Tarragon Sauce with Hasselback Potatoes, Bread and Butter Pudding, Ham and Cheese Tear and Share Bread, Party Food – Tomato Bruschetta, Mini Burgers, Tapas of Meatballs, Polenta, Patatas Bravas, and Churros)
Join the mailing list if you want to keep up with all the Save Money Good Food series 2 recipes as I’m recapping all the episodes. Subscribing is the best way to know when I’ve updated the blog. I’m also sending out other savings tips in the emails at the moment.