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Delia's advice on frugal eating


In her book, Frugal Food, first published in 1976, Delia offers advice to those who want to save money on food while, at the same time, eating well. We have reproduced some of her ideas here, and added a few more money-saving tips.

Mixed mushrooms* Eat foods that are in season. As Delia says, ‘Nature is perfectly capable of providing us with a varied and interesting diet throughout the year, and by buying things in their natural season you’ll be getting them at their most plentiful and therefore at their cheapest. In June, a few ungraded asparagus spears can be far cheaper than imported celery; in December, home-grown celery is much less expensive (and has more flavour) than a pound of imported tomatoes.’

* Use the freezer wisely. Delia cites a report in a consumer magazine which pointed out that, very often, freezer families spent more on meat than other families in order to justify the freezer. However, the freezer can save you money if you grow fruit and vegetables and have a glut. 

basil* Stock up on herbs and spices. Even freshly ground black pepper and good-quality sea salt will make a big difference to the flavour of your food. Spices can lift humble ingredients into the realm of the heavenly and, if you like herbs, why not grow your own on the windowsill? They will be fresher than shop-bought ones and cheaper.

*Find alternatives to wine. If a recipe calls for wine in its ingredients, you can often substitute dry cider instead. Although cheaper, it will still give a good flavour.

Giblet Stock* *Make your own stock. * Home-made stock tastes much better than any commercial variety and is simplicity itself to make with the carcass of a chicken or some meat bones. Freeze it for later use if you don’t need it all at once.

* Make sure you always have eggs in the house. That way, you will never be without a quick and easy meal. Delia’s ‘How to…’ section of the site tells you how to make the perfect poached, scrambled or boiled eggs and how to make an omelette, so there’s no excuse! 

mackerel* *Try cheaper fish varieties. * Cod, plaice and haddock are no longer cheap, but if you like fish you should try herrings, mackerel, pollack and sardines, which are often great value for money.

* Learn which meat cuts to buy. Meat is generally expensive, but the cuts that lend themselves to slow cooking are much cheaper, as is offal. Choose shoulder of lamb, neck fillets or shanks; belly or shoulder of pork; chuck, braising, stewing steak or oxtail, and chicken thighs and drumsticks. All these cuts are full of flavour and, cooked properly, are just as good as more expensive meat. And don’t forget good-quality minced beef and lamb, and sausages.

* Introduce more vegetables and pulses into your diet. As well as being good for you, they are cheap to buy, especially if you buy vegetables in season, or when they are on special offer.

kidney beans* *Take advantage of ethnic supermarkets. *If you live near to Indian or Chinese supermarkets, you will be able to buy vegetables much more cheaply than in the supermarkets, and a whole bunch of herbs will cost less than a few pre-packed sprigs. They are also a good source of spices and exotic ingredients such as tamarind, lemon grass and lime leaves.

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