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Home Economics

Save money on your grocery bill: YOUR tips

Delicious and inexpensive recipes, clever ways with the shopping list… and some creative uses for household items.

LAST WEEKEND, brought you some tips from the author of a new book called Feed Your Family on Less than €10 a day. Then we turned the issue over to you.

Here were some of the excellent money-saving tips you had to reduce grocery bills. Good to check through them before you embark on the weekend grocery shop!

Ailis McKernan: One recession tip is definitely grow your own fresh herbs and just snip as you need because they end up being very costly especially when you might not get to use a whole pack. I grew parsley, chives and basil on my window sill and they have given me a constant supply this year. Out in the garden I have chocolate mint and ginger mint, lemon thyme and common thyme, rosemary, dill and fennel, the hardier stuff, plus I was growing salad leaves until the weather wrecked them, but they were saving me packets before that, I would spend a lot of money on bags of salad.

Also buy frozen veg like peas, cauliflower and broccoli, they taste grand, last longer and you will end up using every bit of them and freeze bags of fresh spinach. The latter so easy to use then, straight from freezer, crush the leaves and then open the bag an sprinkle straight into a sauce to enrich it. I always mix it in with black eye beans and homemade tomato garlic sauce, yum!

Michelle Maddock: I like to keep a good stock of tinned tomatoes in my kitchen as well as a good array of herbs and spices (which you can gather relatively inexpensive by picking one or two up with your shopping each week). This allows me to jazz up any leftovers very cheaply. Also on the last few days before I do a big shop, I’ll try to make a simple stir fry or pasta dish out of any spare veg I’ve left over. It cuts down on any waste and it’s a healthier and cheaper alternative than getting a take away when there’s “nothing” in the fridge!

the truth hurts: Cheap and delicious… Sausages wit stir fried garlic and pasta wit a can of chopped tomatoes.
Stir fried liver with onions, chilli beans and rice.

Sheila Byrne: Cut up smoked collar rashers, really, really small, crushed garlic, cut up white onion, really small. Cook in olive oil. When ready, pour in cooked spaghetti into the pan. Turn/fold in altogether. So tasty. So cheap. Add cut up cooked broccoli at the end. For a family of 3/4 costs about EUR6.

Damocles: Always do your list, plan your meals and do your shop a week in advance.  Buy your meat in bulk from a farmer, I buy half a lamb once in a while.

Sinabhfuil: Three-day chicken Day 1 roast chicken; Day 2 make chicken stock (bones, 2 onions, 3 carrots, 1 bay leaf (bay plant costs €3 in Avoca), snips of various herbs, 3/4 fill pot with water, simmer for 2 hours) – make lentil soup (chopped peeled onions, carrots, celery handful of lentils, bay leaf all simmered in butter, dose in a load of stock, cook till carrots are soft, add big handful of chopped parsley & cook 5 minutes more, take out bay leaf & then whizz or eat with veggies whole); Day 3 risotto (simmer chopped onion, celery, courgette in olive oil while separately thawing frozen shellfish mix by cooking in butter; add handful of arborio or carnarolli rice to veggie mix and fry till covered and glossy; add hot chicken stock and stir; stir every now and again, keeping adding in more chicken stock until rice is soft, not chewy; now add liquor from shellfish mix and cook till risotto is the texture you like – soupy or more solid; last, add cooked shellfish and stir in, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

Harry: I would add though, from my experience, local green grocers/butchers are just as competitive as Tesco, if not better.

LesEnfants Perdu: Chinese food is extremely economical, quick and healthy. You need to visit a Chinese supermarket though for cheap rice, noodles, spices and sauces. After that it’s fresh Irish vegetables, fish and meat all the way.

Mark Dennehy: And learn to make the stuff from scratch. It’s not hard, and it’s a damn sight cheaper; for about the price of one jar of black bean sauce from Tesco, you can get the ingredients to make all the black bean sauce you’ll eat for the next year and it’ll taste so much better that you won’t believe it (and all it is, is black beans – take a tablespoon from the jar, rinse them, add them to the stir-fry. That’s it, that’s all there is to it, but you’re paying through the nose for that in a jar…)

Caítríona: Eat less meat. We need far less protein than society would lead us to believe… Do a regular store cupboard stocktake… Make your own treats… Always eat a full meal before going shopping… Never shop when tired or stressed… Set a budget, stick to it by withdrawing your available cash outside the store then only using cash to buy purchases… Bring your own shopping bags!

Nellysroom: Home economics should be a mandatory subject at school . Alot of people simply do not know how to cook so go for expensive ready meals or takeaway .

Donal McCarthy: Buy cheap cuts like chicken thighs, actually the most flavoursome part of the bird… Buy a gammon or a fillet of ham and use this for the sandwiches, much nicer and far cheaper than the packets.

Eimear Smith: I reckon the key is double portions so if I’m making say, lasagne or chilli I make twice the amount and freeze one half. We also got an allotment recently and while there was an initial outlay on seeds, raised beds etc it’s now giving us a great return. We go up with the kids bring a few buckets and spades for em and a beer or two for ourselves…it’s very chilled and a great thing to do with the god forbids!

Celtic Lady: Buy mince beef. Make large pot basic mince, onions, garlic, two tins tomatoes and a squirt of tomato puree. Monday: use one third, serve with pasta. Tuesday, use a second third: add chili powder and some dried kidney beans you soaked overnight. Serve with rice = chili con carne. Wednesday: Add frozen peas and/or fresh carrots to last third and brown with bisto or similar. Make a pot of mashed spuds. Layer up to make a shepherd’s pie. Three days of different mince dinner all from the same basic sauce. Cheap and healthy.

Dixie Wixie: When buying fresh ginger – peel it and then wrap in tinfoil and freeze. You can then grate it really easily into any dish. You can also freeze yr fresh herbs in a little water in an ice cube tray – really handy and they keep their flavour. I also spend a few hours on a Saturday about once a month and cook up large pot of chilli and a load of soups. I freeze them in portions so they are there for Friday nights and lunches. A bag of oven chips in the freezer too – they’re much cheaper than takeaways and go great with yr chilli. Bulk up meals like bolognese and curries with cheap healthy veggies like celery and carrots and use beans and pulses instead of meat sometimes – much cheaper and v healthy.

Dean Hutchinson: One thing I’ve found here locally (in Canada, not sure if it’s the same in Ireland), is to avoid buying meats and produce at the major chain retail grocery stores unless they’re on a very good sale price. Instead, try to find local produce or meat/butcher shops, often you’ll noticed a price difference as they don’t have as high of an operating cost (smaller store, less staff, no “shareholders” hunger to continuously feed profits to, etc, etc).

If all those tips didn’t whet your appetite, our friends at and Sarah Noel of Frugal Village this week mentioned creative uses for some everyday household items. See what you think – and tell us if you have other good ones:

Save money on your grocery bill: YOUR tips
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  • Used teabags

    Feet deodoriser - Try soaking your smelly soles for about 30 minutes in enough black tea to keep them covered. About three bags boiled in a third of a litre water should do the trick - add cold water to cool. (Pic: Jason Cartwright/Flickr)
  • Old yoga mats

    Frugal Village reader Tanya has some pretty savvy ideas for salvaging old yoga mats: "We have found a lot of uses for our old mats, including putting one under the cat box. The cat jumps out and the litter in her paws sticks better to the mat than any surface I’ve used. Just vacuum up when litter begins to cluster (or roll up and shake into bin)," she writes. "We’ve also used an old mat under heavy items (like weights in the home gym) on hardwood floors, to avoid denting the wood. Use one as a doormat from the garage into the house. Old mats can be cut into any size you find useful." (Pic: luluemon athletica/Flickr)
  • Metal spoons

    Before you trade in your tired old flatware for something shinier, give those spoons a second chance. "Metal spoons have multiple uses," says Noel. "You can use several to make a wind chime or garden markers, or use one as a little shovel for houseplants or small digging jobs in your garden." Toss a pair in the freezer and apply to puffy eyes in the morning. (Pic: David Goehring/Flickr)
  • (Unused) kitty litter

    Mobile phone saver. If your phone gets wet, "try saving it by drying it in a container of cat litter," Noel says. "Remove the battery and SIM card, then dry the phone off and slide it into a sock. Tie the sock closed and put it in a container filled with cat litter. After three days, check to see if there’s any moisture left on the screen. If so, put it back for another couple of days. The litter is more absorbent than uncooked rice, which is often recommended to help save wet phones." (Pic: Andrew Parsons/PA Archive)
  • Baby wipes keep gadgets clean

    Baby wipes are probably the most versatile product on this list, as you can use in them in everything from household cleaning to keeping sticky fingers at bay. Before you go out and purchase pricey electronics cleaners, keep in mind baby wipes work just as well. "Use a baby wipes to clean your keyboard, the top of your mouse, your desk, television remotes or game controllers," Noel says. (Pic: Adam Peck/PA Wire)
  • Hydrogen peroxide is a stain wizard

    It's a shame the bleach blonde craze of the 90s left hydrogen peroxide with such a bad rap. Commonly used as an anti-septic, use it to disinfect countertops or as a makeshift stain remover. Alternatively, turn it onto a cheap pet shampoo with Noel's DIY recipe: "Combine one-third litre of hydrogen peroxide, 1/2 cup baking soda and two teaspoons dishwashing liquid. Wet your pet’s fur and lather the mixture like shampoo. Leave the mixture in for 10 to 15 minutes and rinse." (Pic: bark/Youtube)
  • Cereal bags are cheap alternative to Ziplocks

    Ziplock bags cost a fortune and the store-brand stuff is rarely worth its weight in flimsy plastic. Try recycling your used cereal bags instead. "You can use them to store baked goods or a sandwich, apply breadcrumb coatings to meat, fish and poultry, roll up cookie dough logs, contain ingredients to be crushed with a rolling pin, or as a trash container in your car," Noel says. (Pic: Tom Ray/Flickr)

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