Five ways to save money at Family Meal Times this Autumn

With Christmas just around the corner, lots of us are looking to cut down our spending to save for the indulgent time of year. We were shocked to read last week that most people in the UK eat only one portion of fruit and veg every day – and all too often the reason is cost, according to research by the National Charity Partnership.

While food is always top of the agenda in the Chiappa household, we try to make the most of seasonal ingredients and we hate waste. Thank goodness for Autumn…there are tonnes of delicious seasonal fruits and vegetables around when it comes to getting your five a day and there are plenty of ways to make fruit and vegetables go further. We’ve put down some of our top tips for getting the most from your veg (as well as keeping the pennies in the wallet!) Plus the bonus is it’s also great news for your health too – saving room for all the Christmas treats!


Make the most of ALL your veg! 
As a nation, we chuck away a massive proportion of fresh food and we can make a start at combatting this just by using vegetables in their entirety. Even the stalks of certain vegetables that would normally be thrown straight out (beetroot, Swiss chard and kale, for example) can be made into a delicious side dish or a snack. Simply blanch them in boiling water, drizzle with olive oil (or butter) and add some cheese of choice (our favourite is Parmesan), then roast or grill in the oven until softened and golden. So tasty and unbelievably easy.

As for the bits that are unpalatable or past their best, try whipping up some home-made stock. I use any rubbery carrots and tired-looking celery that is lurking in the fridge. Another tip is to freeze potato peelings, onion skins and butternut squash cuttings as and when, ready to throw into the stock pot after your next roast. Pour over cold water, bring to the boil, lower the heat and go about your day.

Pick your own. 
This time of year is perfect to go along to a fruit and vegetable farm to pick your own produce in bulk to be stored in the freezer. Or you could just find your nearest blackberry bush….FREE fruit! As a family, we love heading out to the local farm to pick these autumnal jewels. Then, when we come home, it’s just a matter of cleaning them and storing them in bags in the freezer. Likewise, if you can get a bulk-load of tomatoes, it’s easy to make delicious, fresh tomato sauce and store in sterilised jars for an all-year supply. This might take a bit of organisation and a pan to wash up, but it’s exactly what my mum and grandmother always did and saves so much time and energy later. The sauce can be used over pasta, as a pizza topping, spooned into a soup, for a risotto… its uses are literally endless!

Check what’s in season.
It’s apple season right now and luckily we have so many in the garden. If you don’t, however, it’s not difficult to get access to somewhere that does. These can be prepared by stewing them and freezing for a later date, whether it’s in your Sunday crumble, a topping for Greek yoghurt or pancakes, or even an apple sauce for roast pork. Just recently I’ve made apple jam, which keeps very well in jars and can be stored in the cupboard. Apples are a natural sweetener so fantastic for kids as well as adults.

Go local. 
We often visit our local greengrocer through the week. He not only creates fantastic weekly vegetable boxes which are in great demand, but also ‘misfit’ boxes at a cheaper price, for those fruit and veg that aren’t quite as pretty! Some supermarkets offer a similar range of interestingly shaped produce. It’s exactly the same veg, but just a little wonky at the end of the day – and so often it goes to waste because it’s unwanted. These little beauties are perfect for soups, stews and purées and cost just a fraction of the price of the ‘normal’ fare.

One family, one meal! 
We sisters pride ourselves on this motto. Our book, Baby At The Table, is all about feeding the family healthy yet inexpensive food that everyone can enjoy. Cooking food in bulk for the entire clan not only makes life stress-free for parents, but it’s so much quicker and easier than taking separate orders from picky eaters. It’s cheaper to purchase all the ingredients by eating this way and you are far less likely to have waste and leftovers from a meal planned for the whole family, providing ingredients are used correctly. Win win.

Image copyright © Danielle Wood.

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