Top chefs and food writers share tips for stretching your weekly shop further

It’s no secret that for many of us, money may be extremely tight this year.

While it’s inadvisable to skimp on the essentials, there is one area where costs can definitely be cut back more easily: your weekly shop. 

The Waste and Resources Action Programme reported in January that UK households waste 4.5 million tonnes of food a year that could have been eaten.

They state this resulted in a cost of £700 per year on food that could have been eaten for the average family with children. 

We asked some of the UK’s top chefs and food writers for their tips for stretching your weekly shop further.

James Cochran

James Cochran is the co-founder and head chef at 12:51.

‘I have a few tips for saving a few bob – and they’re all really simple, too.

‘I always buy whole chickens, which I cook at the beginning of the week. 

‘Doing this means you can use it in many different ways like in Thai or Vietnamese food or in sandwiches. 

‘You could even use the carcass to make a stock and use it as a base for soups or on its own as a nice broth for the colder weather.

‘I’d also suggest making a lovely mixed bean curry because it’s really versatile — once you get bored you can mash it down like refried beans and serve it with a fried egg and some grated cheese.

‘Bread gone stale? 

‘No problem, just keep it for a Sunday for bread and butter pudding for a wonderful winter dessert.’

Meera Sodha

Meera Sodha is the author of EAST: 120 Easy and Delicious Asian-inspired Vegetarian and Vegan recipes and a contributing food writer for The Guardian.

‘Most of the time I can buy fresh produce from the supermarket in units that I can use up in within a week – with the exception of fresh chillies.

‘If I tried to use a whole bag of Thai or Indian finger chillies in one go, I would have sweat pouring out of my eyes before long. 

‘So I use just what I need and throw the rest in a freezer bag – where they sit alongside other ingredients I frequently use them together with like lime leaves, curry leaves, lemongrass and ginger. 

‘To cook with them, I chop whilst still frozen and add straight into the pan.’

Simon Rogan

Simon Rogan is the multi-Michelin starred chef behind restaurants including L’Enclume, Rogan & Co, Henrock and Aulis.

‘I would suggest eating plenty of cauliflower because it is so versatile. 

‘Use the florets to make a lovely cauliflower cheese with a full flavoured cheddar cheese. 

‘Take the stems, finely slice, and make into a hot pickle to serve with cold meats. 

‘And you can fry the leaves with some miso for a nice umami rich dish to accompany any fish or meat dish.’

Helen Graham

Helen Graham is the head chef at Bubala.

‘Make use of any old citrus husks – dehydrate in a very low temperature oven. 

‘These can be used as firelighters and give off a lovely fragrance. 

‘Alternatively, they can be boiled up with water and sugar and mixed with sparkling water for a delicious homemade drink.

‘Another tip is to be sure not to throw away things like coriander stalks – this is where the flavour is! 

‘Blend with some oil, vinegar, and chilli for a great condiment.’

Marie Mitchell

Marie Mitchell is a writer, chef and co-founder of Caribbean restaurant and social club Island Social Club.

‘The pandemic has been incredibly challenging for many and the first lockdown was tough – like many I saw my income cease and so I had to think hard about keeping myself and my husband fed. 

‘One of the ways I’ve always cooked, with it becoming all the more important this year, is making sure I use up what I have. 

‘That can mean both using all the vegetables I’ve bought for the week as well what I have in my cupboard. 

‘I get a weekly veg box delivery and base my meals around what’s coming each week – you can find lots of videos of veg hacks online for ideas on how to use all of your veg. 

‘For broccoli, the stem is sweeter than the florets, so I reserve it to use in soups or stir fries. 

‘I freeze the harder green tips of my leeks to use in stews, soups or to make stock, with carrot tops saved for making stock too. 

‘I’ll throw cucumber that I’ve only used part of for a salad into a stir fry before it turns and it’s so good in a stir fry sometimes I’ll buy it for a salad knowing I can then find an excuse for a quick stir fry.

‘There’s only two of us to feed at the moment, so buying a pack of mince is always more than we need – I only buy meat once a month as we eat mostly veggie but bulk buying the meat makes it much easier to stretch. 

‘I’ll make the ragu for bolognese one evening, we’ll have leftovers the next day and then I’ll freeze a portion to make a lasagne another time. 

‘Meat only once or twice a week has made a massive difference to our food shop and eggs feature heavily in our week as a good protein source as do bean stews with delicious spices and vegetables.’

Tom Hunt

Tom Hunt is the author of Eating for Pleasure, People and Planet published by Kyle Books.

‘Green sauce is a forgiving, adaptable recipe – and a great way to preserve an excess of herbs or leafy greens and their stalks.

‘Although pesto is traditionally made with basil, it is perfectly enjoyable made with any leafy herb or green. 

‘Take a 100g bunch of mixed seasonal herbs, remove any thick woody stalks, then chop finely using a knife from stalk to leaf. 

‘I find chopping the herbs by hand creates a much nicer texture than using a blender. 

‘If you have one, pound the herbs in a pestle and mortar with an optional grated clove of garlic to bring out the flavour and help break them down. If you prefer to use a blender, cut the herbs into 1cm pieces or smaller first to avoid a fibrous texture.

‘Stir in 100ml of extra virgin olive oil, or enough to make the consistency you’d like. 

‘Add a squeeze of lemon or a teaspoon of vinegar if you like and season with sea salt and any store cupboard optional extras you might have in the fridge like, mustard, capers, chopped gherkins or seeds. 

‘Store in a sterilised jar for up to 1–2 weeks in the fridge.’

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