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Cost-saving kitchen tips

Eggs are an affordable option for breakfast, lunch and dinner

Last week’s grocery tale of woe reminded me of one of my most embarrassing moments as a kid too.

I was about nine and my mum had taken me into Kitchens, a shop in Bristol, England, very much like the Chef Shop here. It was packed to the rafters with amazing crockery and kitchen kit and right in the middle, they had a huge mountain of coffee mugs. The mugs were assembled upside down on a table, in cone shape. So there was a big base of mugs, with others balanced on top to form a narrow peak. While my mum was occupied elsewhere, I spotted one that I just HAD to have and I picked it up to go and show her. As I turned, in the worst imaginable case of breakable mug Jenga, the mountain collapsed. Of course, without thinking, I’d pulled one out of a critical spot …. Cue immense smashing of crockery and the first time I heard my mum swear (at least in public).

Uggghh, the aftermath was intense. Lots of adults flapping, and panic as I tried to calculate the advertised mug cost, multiplied by what seemed like 1,000. I wasn’t sure there was enough pocket money on earth to cover it. My dreams of buying the next Bananarama album were dashed. Instant misery …. until the lovely sales assistant, said “not to worry, it happens all the time, we’re insured for this”. I was torn between disbelief that, if it happened all the time, why would they keep building breakable mug towers, and incredible relief that Bananarama was back on the cards. I’m sure my mum was more relieved than me as my savings would definitely not have covered it.

I grew up in a very normal household with two working parents, one full-time, one part-time. We were definitely taught the value of money early on and I remember how alarmed my mum became when our teens hit and we were going to eat her out of house and home. These days, as my own kids hit their teens, I realise what a stretch it is. Especially with such a huge rise in grocery costs lately. Between that and the rent prices in Bermuda, I know that most of us are feeling the pinch.

My grocery spend is a big priority for me. Because of my job and because I have personally experienced the life-changing difference that good nutrition makes, it’s something I am prepared to spend more money on. Sometimes it’s frustrating because I’m paying six or seven times more what something might cost in the States, but having worked behind the scenes at two grocery stores here now, I do understand the cost of importing groceries to our little rock in the middle of almost nowhere.

That does not mean I don’t have a budget though, I do. And it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stick to it. Over time I have found the following strategies really helpful so I have brought them back into gear. Hopefully you find this helpful too!

Think about nutrient density

First and foremost, the food you eat is supposed to nourish you. Remember, humans are animals … sometimes I think we forget that! This means that if you want a bang for your buck, you need to look for food that provides nourishment and value. Sure, you might be able to buy 50 bags of chips for a deal at a discount store, but they don’t nourish you in any way. Look for the value deals on something like plain almonds instead – that way you get vitamin E, protein and fibre as well as the calories.

Be smart about snacks for growing kids

Although most kids love junk, it doesn’t provide real nutritional value. If they try and meet their hunger with junk, their bodies will continue to send hunger signals as they seek out the nutrients they need for growth and development. If they are always hungry, maybe their nutritional needs aren’t being met. Try nutrient-dense snacks such as wholegrain toast or apple slices with nut butter. Carrot sticks and hummus work well as does full-fat yoghurt plus granola and a frozen berry or two. Smoothies with frozen fruit, greek yoghurt or protein powder work well if you can afford it. Otherwise, adding a heaped teaspoon of nut butter to a smoothie is good for calories and nutrients. Small bowls of wholegrain pasta and sauce can be a good snack, as well as cereal. The simple combo of fruit and nuts is always a winner too.

Frozen is fine

Frozen fruit and vegetables have great nutrient retention – way better than tinned. Frozen berries are often a great idea for avoiding the mouldy ones in the middle too! Use frozen fruit in smoothies or defrost it to use on top of oatmeal or yoghurt. Avoid boiling frozen vegetables as you can lose valuable nutrients that way. Instead, use a steamer insert and steam them in a pan. It’s quick and easy!

Breakfast can be basic

Cheerios, oatmeal, oatabix are all staples that are quick, easy and cheap for breakfast. If you can afford to elevate it, add some berries for antioxidants and nuts/seeds for protein. If you make a smoothie, you can skip the milk and mix it with water. I tend to think that alternative nut milks are expensive and not all that healthy anyway.

Eggs any time of day

Eggs are brilliant and affordable for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Just sauté an onion and some frozen veg to add to an omelette or scramble.

Be savvy with the leftovers

If you don’t need the whole onion, chop it all and freeze the extra for use later. Save your avocado by keeping the stone in, layering the empty half on top and wrapping tightly in cling film. Use wilted veg in stews and cook fruit that has gone over the edge into a compote. Freeze leftover wine (leftover wine?!) in ice cube trays for adding to stews or bolognaise.

Cook in bulk

As I mentioned last week, cooking in bulk and freezing portions is a great way to stretch your dollar and prevent overeating (pre-portioning works so well for this)! If you missed it, take a look at last week’s recipe for chipotle honey-roasted chicken. Remember to stretch your animal proteins by including lots of beans, lentils or veg in your dishes. A little can go a long way!

Catherine Burns is a qualified nutritional therapist. For more details: www.natural.bm, 505-4725, Natural Nutrition Bermuda on Facebook and @naturalbda on Instagram

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Published July 01, 2022 at 7:59 am (Updated June 30, 2022 at 5:17 pm)

Cost-saving kitchen tips

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