Linda Duncan was an accountant for 25 years before turning her budgeting skills to writing a best-selling series of cookbooks, called The World’s Easiest Recipes.
All her recipes are designed to have just a couple of steps, and use common, everyday ingredients you usually have in the pantry and fridge.
Linda’s hope is to make cooking as easy and affordable as possible, and crucially, with minimal wastage.
She’s got a heap of ideas for keeping the grocery bill down. Her top tips include only shopping once a week; aiming to spend $20 under budget so you have wiggle room if you run out of something during the week, and also to never purchase an odd ingredient that you’re only going to use in one recipe.
Lynn speaks to Linda Duncan about her tips and shares her recipe for ‘Four-Ingredient Shepherd’s Pie’.
Linda Duncan’s top tips for spending less on food
1. Shop once a week and stick to your budget, less $20. This will give you a little extra money during the week for when you realize you have run out of something you need.
2. Never purchase an odd ingredient that you’re only going to use in one recipe
3. Fruits and vegetables are expensive at the moment. However, think about this. Yes, a cabbage may be $6, but one cabbage goes a long way and will keep in your fridge for a couple of weeks. Use in coleslaw, stir-fries, or fry in a little butter along with some fennel seeds, salt and pepper. delicious! A bag of carrots will keep for weeks and can be eaten raw as a snack, grated in salads, coleslaw, or roasted with a little oil and honey.
4. Ask the deli at the supermarket for a ham bone. You can use it in soups where there will be twice as much meat as a bacon hock for around the same price or cheaper. You can also use it in sandwiches, quiches or as a pizza topping.
5. Never shy away from frozen vegetables. They are picked when at their prime and are inexpensive.
6. Wrap fresh herbs in damp paper towels and store in a plastic bag in the fridge. They will last for a couple of weeks like this.
7. If you’re using your slow cooker go for the cheapest cuts of meat possible. You’ll be surprised how succulent and tender these cuts become when slow cooked.
8. Make your own toasted muesli. Try my 10-minute fry pan recipe – you don’t even need to turn your oven on. You can customize it to your liking and control exactly what you put in it. You’ll see this recipe on my website and in volume 3.
9. Try to eat a couple of meat free meals a week. My recipe for Herby Vegetarian Meatloaf (I have almost been beaten up for using the term “meatloaf” by vegetarians in this recipe) is on my website or in volume 1 and believe it not you’d swear it was made with mince. It’s very economical and tasty.
10. Don’t shy away from entertaining because you don’t think you’re a good enough cook or don’t have the time or money. Ask everyone to bring a dish, people don’t mind this. Remember, it’s not just about the food, but about being together. People will just appreciate being asked about.
11. When grocery shopping don’t just look at the products at eye level. Some of the best deals are on the bottom and top shelves. And I think we all know not to go grocery shopping on an empty stomach for obvious reasons!
12. I know we’ve all heard it time and time again, but meal planning is key when trying to cut your grocery bill. Always buy fruit and veges that are in season and check what’s on special before you go shopping.
13. Invest in a set or two of bag sealers like Magic Seal these are great for sealing opened packets of pasta, frozen veges/berries, nuts, almost anything. Will keep food fresh for months.
14. Make mince go further by adding lentils or bulgur wheat. My Mince and Lentil Bolognese in volume 2 is a great example of this.
15. Analyze your personal spending over the course of a year. It will surprise you no end where you are wasting money.
16. Never beat yourself up if you’ve fallen off the cliff eating bad food for a day. Remember, tomorrow is another day and we are all guilty of this.
17. Join Frugal and Living Cheap Facebook page or similar budgeting pages – great cost saving ideas from members
18. Don’t shy away from home brands. For instance, the difference in price for just one liter of milk can vary by up to $1. This can add up to quite a saving over the course of a year when catering for a family. Despite contrary belief it’s the same milk and has been processed in the same factories.