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NEW GAZETTE COLUMNIST: The Frugal Foodie

Christine McAllister,  twins Evie and Robin and husband Ian.

Christine McAllister, twins Evie and Robin and husband Ian.

Are you one of the many who get annoyed when you visit the local supermarket and see that a frozen pizza and chips might cost £2.50 but to buy fresh fruit and veg would cost twice the amount? Are you sick of constantly popping to the supermarket for some ‘bits and pieces’ only to find that by the time you’ve got home you’re only carrying one bag and have very little change out of £50? One mum from West Thirston, near Felton, has had enough and has not only set herself a monumental challenge, but will be writing for the Gazette each week to encourage you to join in her quest. Christine McAllister, who calls herself The Frugal Foodie, runs her own busy property business, Harcar, and has five-year-old twins, Robin and Evie, and husband Ian to feed. When she’s not out working, looking after the kids or tidying up after her husband, there’s nothing she likes more than cooking and trying to do so as healthily and cheaply as possible. In March, Christine set herself the challenge of only spending £50 for the entire month’s groceries. Yes, you read that right – the month, not the week! While her friends all thought she was insane, she became even more determined to prove them wrong! This is the start of a weekly Gazette column, The Frugal Foodie, in which she will be sharing her secrets, tips, tricks and recipes alongside her £50 monthly budget challenge. To get involved in the challenge yourself, visit www.diaryofafoodie.co.uk, where you will also find a link to Christine’s Facebook page. Have a look at some of the recipes that have already been posted – you’d be surprised how far you can make your money go if you spend wisely!

HOW I’VE BECOME ADDICTED TO SPENDING JUST £50 A MONTH ON THE HOUSEHOLD FOOD BILL, by Christine McAllister.

Hello, I’m Christine. I’m a mum, wife and run a property management company, but my real passion is food.

Cooking it, eating it and growing it.

Last month, I set myself a challenge to spend no more than £50 for the month on food shopping. It was not easy but was manageable, you just need to get a bit creative. I managed it and decided to do it again this month. I’d barely made a dent in my freezer so I am now on a mission to empty it!

The Gazette has kindly allowed me to write a weekly diary for them so that hopefully you, the reader, will be inspired to join me on my frugal quest.

Saving money is addictive. Definitely the least damaging addiction that I have, which is a bonus! I’m always challenging myself to spend as little as possible on groceries and make meals out of food that we already have or would otherwise make it into the compost bin.

By using vegetables and herbs from the garden, eggs from my four hens, delving into a carefully-planned store cupboard and freezer and shopping that little bit more frugally, I managed to go the entire month without spending a single penny over budget.

I thought it was going to be really tough at first and my friends all told me that I’d never manage it, but that just made me more determined to prove them wrong.

We’re very fortunate in that we have a veg plot in the garden and hens that lay very tasty, fresh eggs. With a careful monthly planner, spending wisely and only buying the absolute essentials (and from a particular chain of supermarket - Lidl), I actually found that it wasn’t as tough as I’d originally thought. In fact, now I have told my friends and family what I have done, some of them have decided to take up the challenge, which has prompted me to set up a Facebook support group for them, where we share tips, deals and recipes.

I have been baking my own bread all month and worked out that a healthy and tasty loaf costs roughly 40p. Consider how much you spend on a loaf when you pop to the corner shop and I can guarantee that it’s also not as tasty as home-baked.

I have been blogging about all things frugal and gained quite a following - in the six weeks since I launched my blog, I’ve had over 3,200 page visits, with ‘frugal ways with stale bread’ being the most popular post so far. I have been overwhelmed by the response.

It seems that everyone wants to save money on their food bills and I’m so proud of the changes that people are making to the way that they shop and cook. And their enthusiasm is infectious - it really seems to have struck a chord with lots of people and they are posting regular updates and tips.

I love cooking and creating recipes and have always hankered after the idea of writing a cook book. I’m a cook-book junkie and like nothing more than sitting in among a pile of cook books on a Sunday morning, dreaming up a meal planner for the week ahead.

TEN TOP TIPS TO FRUGALITY

1. Plan your weekly meals from what you have, not what you fancy

2. Making everything from scratch including your own bread and pasta.

3. Make meals go further. Use a little meat to make a few big meals by bulking up with cheaper things like tinned tomatoes, chickpeas and breadcrumbs.

4. If you have a roast, buy cheap cuts of meat and get numerous meals out of the leftovers.

5. Buy veg wisely. Eg 1 stick of celery will give a nice base to at least 6 meals. Always have onions.

6. Use every last section of veg. For example, freeze the woody ends of the asparagus or the green bits of the leek to use in soup. I can make soup practically entirely from the freezer.

7. Always make stock from your meat carcass for soups and sauces.

8. Use ingredients that are very full of flavour without you needing to use much, eg chorizo and Parmesan.

9. Drink water.

10. Buy milk and butter in bulk and freeze

Whatever you can do to stay out of the shops will save you money as you won’t be tempted by impulse buys that you don’t need.

If you have to venture into a supermarket, choose the cheaper ones. And get wise with food life-span.

Use the things that go off first. I don’t throw things out because a date says I should. If it smells and looks fine, I’ll taste it and it’s pretty much always fine. Don’t take chances with shellfish or chicken but most dairy products literally last for months after the best before dates. Use your senses not just the marked dates.

 

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