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WHEN it comes to making dinner, it can often feel like a battle between ‘tasty but expensive’ or ‘budget but boring’.
On top of that, if you have kids it is instantly obvious if they don’t like the dish they’re given, so there’s even more pressure to get it right to not waste money.
Maddy Alexander-Grout runs her own money saving tips TikTok account, and is CEO of money saving site, My VIP AwardsCredit: Maddy Alexander-Grout
Thankfully, there are tricks to keep costs down AND create appetising meals for the whole family.
CEO of money saving app My VIP Awards, Maddy Alexander-Grout, 38, has two children, Ben, six, and Harriet, three.
She spends between 80p and £1.50 a portion on each meal she makes, and runs her own money saving TikTok, @maddyaboutmoney, which helps parents with budget tips.
She set up the page as she knows first hand what it’s like to struggle financially, saying: “I have lived on tinned tomatoes on toast, and I was previously in £40k worth of debt before having kids.”
Here, Maddy shares her top tips to create budget meals for the whole family.
Failing to plan is planning to fail
It’s all very well buying cheap ingredients, but if you don’t plan your meals in advance you are likely to end up throwing food out – which is why a meal plan is a life saver.
Maddy says: “We have a meal calendar we use and I also get a lot of budget meal ideas on TikTok.
“I have an inventory of what we have and what we are making which helps me to keep track of what we need.
“I have a staples store cupboard that I stock up with stuff like pasta, lentils, rice, chickpeas, tinned tomatoes , tomato purée, and dried herbs.
“I make sure I always have bags of frozen veg, which you can chuck into any one-pot type of meal.
“Chilli powder, fajita seasoning and Italian mixed herbs are essential, then I buy cheap cream cheese or own brand chicken stock for base sauces.
“I buy off-cut bacon, it’s loads cheaper and great for putting into pastas and risottos. It’s £75p in Sainsbury’s for a 500g pack.
“Also, freeze bread to make it last longer and just toast when you need it.”
Savvy yellow sticker spending
Maddy is also queen of yellow sticker buys, and attributes this savvy spending hack partly for how she got out of debt.
She recommends: “In terms of yellow sticker buys, don’t buy stuff for the sake of it.
“Make sure it fits with your plan otherwise you just waste food.
“I tend to go about 7pm as it’s close enough to the end of the day to get reduced and there is generally a better selection.
“I only buy sausages when I find them in the yellow sticker section, and I go about four times a week.”
Maddy is a pro at ‘yellow sticker’ shopping – but says don’t just buy items for the hell of it, as you will probably end up throwing them outCredit: Maddy Alexander-Grout
Get the kids involved – but only with cooking
While getting the kids involved with the cooking can be a great idea, Maddy says avoid taking the kids to the supermarket at all costs, if you can.
Maddy says: “One of my biggest things about saving money is don’t go with the kids if you can help it.
“They always want stuff and I find it so much harder to stick to budget if they are with me.
“Stuff sneaks into the trolley!”
Maddy also recommends, if you have the time, shopping at different stores for different products.
Maddy says: “I’m a huge fan of Sainsbury’s, mainly because I always get great yellow stickers there, but also Nectar points which I save up for my Christmas shop.
“We get our petrol there too so the points do add up, and we don’t buy clothes for the kids anywhere else which means we already have £210 in nectar points saved this year!
“And if we have any points left over after the Christmas shop, which we usually do, we use them in January to help with the weekly shop.
“Also people often think M&S is really expensive, but they do great yellow stickers.
“I think places like Lidl and Aldi are good but I find the veg isn’t as fresh.”
Maddy’s top ‘under £1’ meals
- Bottom of the fridge soup – sounds gross but just left over veg that are about to go out of date. Blend it all together, with a couple of potatoes.
- Pesto pasta- you can get pesto for £1 a jar in Sainsburys or Tesco and you only need a little spoonful so it should last a couple of meals.
- Humous and roasted veg wraps – even cheaper if you make your own humous!
- Creamy pasta with bacon
Budgeting doesn’t mean you have to go without, and Maddy still always makes a roast on a Sunday.
She says: “It costs about £7 total to make, sometimes less if you find yellow sticker meat bargains and freeze.
“I eat whatever we had for dinner the night before as leftovers for lunch the next day.
“We have been super creative! So for example if you have pork on a Sunday as a roast, we have pork stir fry with noodles on a Monday, and spicy pork wraps on a Tuesday.”
Build up a base
Finally, the key to cheap cooking is always having the basic ingredients lying around.
Maddy says: “Build up the store cupboard whenever you go shopping – I don’t think I have bought anything pasta or staples wise for about four months which is really helping us financially.
“The slow cooker is a total life saver too!
“You can get really inventive with different meats and different veg. Just make sure you have stock cubes handy.”
Build up your dry goods cupboard, so you only have to buy fresh veg produce weekly to make your mealsCredit: Getty