Welcome to episode three of my recap of ITV’s Save Money Good Food series two. If we are saving for a big goal like a house deposit, this programme shows us how to get better value for money on food by using up leftovers, and avoiding overbuying in the first instance.
My first posts were mainly property-focused, but I wouldn’t have been able to buy my first house without setting some spending priorities. Getting the best value for money from food was one of the areas that made a bear-sized difference.
I thought I was already the budget queen in the kitchen, but this show taught me lots of extra tips to last a lifetime. It’s also a good place to start if the only mixing you do normally is in a cocktail glass.
Here’s what I’ve covered below:
The Problems: Quitting Takeaways!
Recipe #1: Strata
Recipe #2: Homemade Fish and Chips
Recipe #3: Chicken Chow Mein and Szechuan Pork-Filled Lettuce Cups
How to Get Better Value for Money
Taste Tests: Shortbread
I explained the premise more in the episode one recap. Basically you should find this useful if:
- You want to spend less than £1 or £2 on each dinner
- You want to know how to batch cook, freeze, and reuse meals
- You want to know how to cook flexibly without exact recipes
- You don’t want to spend too long cooking
- You want nutritious food without getting a PHD in food science first
- You want variety without blowing a budget
I am not a nutritionist, or talented with a spatula, and I like to spend as little time as possible cooking. I’ve learned how to make quick cheap meals without having a death wish, so I don’t see why anyone else shouldn’t benefit from this knowledge. While the volunteers on the programme are families, we can use the same lessons if we’re only feeding ourselves or a couple.
Want to save in other areas of food and fitness?
Try these recent posts:
Save Money Good Health Series 2 Recap
Save Money Good Food 2.3
The Problems: The Cookes from Wolverhampton were having three or four takeaways at £70 per week. Originally they were intended as a one-off. Momma Cooke now had type 1 diabetes which put her daughters at higher risk. They were spending £180 per week including their other food shopping, or nearly £10k per year.
Susanna and Matt found whole packets of carrots, tomatoes and more past their best before and not even opened yet, so they were buying fresh with good intentions but not using any of the ingredients.
Brits have £240m of unused herbs at home. The Cookes are a good example of this as they had three jars of cumin!
Tip! Take a photo of the fridge and inside your cupboards before you go shopping to avoid doubling up.
Recipe Ideas for Takeaway Lovers
Chopping board and knife
Large bowls for mixing (or use a spare saucepan)
Recipe #1: Strata
Bacon or chicken
Pint of Milk
Besides the eggs, they didn’t specify quantities. The point is to use up whatever you’ve got and experiment. Stick to portion sizes, and follow the recipes as loosely as you like.
- Dice bacon or chicken and fry with onion
- Grate half the block of cheese in a bowl
- Cook frozen spinach in the pan
- Chop the broccoli including the stalk
- Whisk the eggs and milk with the cheese
- Cube white bread
- In a dish layer the meat mix, bread cubes, and egg mix then put cherry tomatoes and cheese on top
- Bake then serve with veg such as carrots
Total cost: £6.17 for 7 portions, or 88p per portion. They would normally spend £20 on a meal, so this was a significant saving for the Cookes. For the side they stewed carrots with their large supply of cumin, and olive oil and salt.
Jokes about rocks aside, strata is a bit like the pies/tarts, risottos, pizzas and cannellonis of the first series. The principle is to just build up layers of whatever needs eating up, so anything goes for the filling.
Recipe #2: Homemade Fish And Chips
Frozen white fish
For the tartare
- Cut the sweet potato into wedges and bake for 25 mins
- Dust the fish in flour and fry
- For the tartare, finely chop the baby gherkins and parsley
- Grate the lemon
- Mix the gherkins, capers and parsley in Greek yoghurt with mustard and lemon
- Serve with peas or green beans
Total cost: £6.68 or 95p each portion, saving £15.32 versus shop-bought, or £796.64 per year.
It cost them 40p for 400g of loose skin-on sweet potatoes versus £2.60 for the same quantity of fish shop chips.
Recipe # 3: Chicken Chow Mein & Szechuan Pork-filled Lettuce Cups
For the Chow Mein
Boneless chicken thighs or prawns
- Season the thighs and cook skin side down in an pan with oil (or cook prawns)
- Cover with foil and sit another pan on top as a weight to slowly cook the chicken through
- Remove chicken from pan
- Fry onions and green peppers in the juices
- Remove and warm beansprouts in the same pan after
- Heat the noodles then throw everything back in together with oyster sauce and soy sauce
Total cost: £3.50 versus £10 from their Chinese takeaway
For the Szechuan-Pork
1/2 tsp Chinese 5 Spice
- Heat the pork mince in oil and don’t let it bunch up
- Add the sesame oil, soy sauce, a lime squeeze, Chinese 5 Spice, coriander and sweetcorn
- Add chillies if you like it hot
- Fill fresh lettuce leaves with the mixture
Total cost: £7.10 including the chow mein versus nearly £20 from the shop.
Total savings: £5148 per year if they continued to cook this way.
How To Get Better Value For Money On All The Recipes
Many of us throw away broccoli stalks, but these are perfectly edible. Just cut the stalk very fine if you find it bitter. I think frozen broccoli is cheaper more often, but if you prefer fresh for some reason or find it in the yellow sticker section, then using the whole vegetable is obviously better value for money.
They found frozen pollock for 37p per portion vs £2.20 to buy pollock from the chippy. Instead of cod, fishmonger Robin suggested another white fish coley. This is much cheaper than cod at around £1.25/100g. Cod cheeks are cheaper than cod fillets otherwise and go well in soups, stews etc.
For the chicken chow mein, if you use more beansprouts than noodles, you should save. Fresh lettuce is cheaper than bagged salad and for the Szechuan Pork you would want a fresh lettuce anyway as the leaves are shaped ideally for filling.
For the cheapest places to find common ingredients, try these pages:
In the series one recaps I’ve compared fresh versus frozen, prechopped versus loose etc.
Unless you are one of the nation that likes to eat takeaway leftovers for breakfast, I think these have lunchbox potential only.
Freeze away! (Without the lettuce…) Series one used a lot of rice which makes freezing leftovers slightly more effort. So far there has been no rice in sight for the sake of an easy life.
Frying the fish in flour is designed to be more nutritious than using batter. For the same reason, they chose sweet potato fries instead of chips, and tartare with yoghurt instead of mayo.
Nutritionist Pixie Turner talks about the distinct benefits of white potatoes and sweet potatoes in this post for B-Fresh. Basically they’re not a straight swap nutritionally (almost no food is), and it’s oversimplistic to say sweet potatoes are “better.”
Sweet potatoes also cost around double per kilo easily. I reckon aim to eat a bit of both. (Unless like me, you actually don’t like white potatoes that much! Flavour is a whole different story).
I was also misled to believe that sesame oil (and some other oils) were better as dressings because of the smoke point i.e. if it’s cooked at high temperatures, it turns toxic. Pixie’s Instagram also has a post about fearmongering over oils. Pixie is generally a mythbuster, so look her up if you’re ever unsure about nutrition fact vs nutrition fiction…I don’t want to belong to the camp of bloggers that are trying to write The Da Vinci Code but with food.
Would it be sacrilege to make strata with brown bread since white bread has far less fibre? Bread and butter pudding can be made with brown bread after all, and that’s contrary to tradition really…
73% of Greenwich market testers chose Asda in the first test against Aldi and Lidl.
These three cheapest shortbread were 49p/210g or 23p/100g.
In the second test against Walkers (84p/100g), 80% of testers still opted for Asda.
What’s the difference? In the first episode from series one, it was suggested that a cheaper shortbread might use margarine instead of butter. Look at the ingredients to compare if it makes any difference to you.
Save Money Good Food Series 2 Episode 3
That’s a (lettuce) wrap! Ba-dum-dum-tsh!
The big savings this episode were:
- Just step away from the fricking takeaway
- Don’t obsess over ingredients e.g. chicken, bacon, prawns are often interchangeable
- Take a photo of your cupboards to stop buying duplicates of herbs and spices
- Switch to lesser known fish for a price cut
- Besides breadcrumbs and puddings, use up bread in Strata
- Bulk out meals with the cheaper ingredients e.g. beansprouts
So what do you think? I found this episode priced a bit high again compared to series one. As with the previous episode, this was because the family involved were spending so much on takeaways. Swapping these for “fakeaways” saves money in comparison, but we can save even more by not trying to replicate takeaways too closely in the first place.
Then again the idea of fakeaways is still that you would only eat that way now and again. On an ordinary day, most of us only need one dish (like the strata with veg), rather than trying to organise a homemade buffet. Would you swap takeaways for these recipes, or do you never touch a takeaway anyway? Let me know in the comments.
Do you want to save more?
As ever let me and any other readers know too if you’ve got the Save Money Good Food book and made any significant savings there.
Episode four is about using every last leftover, and includes recipes for Cheese and Tomato Pastry Spirals, Thai Green Curry, Chocolate Rice Balls and Moroccan Tagine.
If you want to go back, episode two was about quitting gourmet ready meals, and included recipes for Chicken Corden Bleu, Salmon Fishcakes, Molten Chocolate Pudding, and Steak with Potato Gratin.
Episode one [link] was about picky eaters and included recipes for Salmon Carbonara, Hidden Vegetable Meatballs, and Chicken Nachos.
This page has all the series one recaps, and links to other Save Money Good…shows like Save Money Good Health.
I’ll be recapping the rest of the episodes, so join the mailing list if you want to keep up with all the Save Money Good Food series 2 recipes. I’m also sending out other tips to rocket your savings and earnings in the emails for the timebeing.