In a bit of a twist, this article is about spending more money in order to spend less. It’s not about deprivation, but the elevation of our day-to-day activities.
By spending less, we are able to redirect a greater share of our income into savings and investments. So this article is really about having the best of both worlds – excellent fun in the present, and financial prosperity in the future by spending less on food and by saving on kids clothes.
Having a great time in the evenings and seeing friends on our own terms is something we can all agree is a key part of a happy life.
But when we frugally create a monthly budget, socialising is often the first category of expenses to be reduced or banned entirely. Entertaining ourselves is a luxury, we decide, and therefore it is rational to draw the purse strings to a close when times are tight.
But if we can find better, cheaper ways to fulfil this desire, we will remove the need for willpower or resistance against peer pressure at all. We will find ourselves steering clear of budget-defying restaurant meals and nights out, simply because we don’t need them anymore. They will be obsolete.
The reason that draws many of us towards these expensive activities is that we do not have a compelling alternative to offer to our friends and family. Personally, I have definitely felt that my homemade efforts simply weren’t up to scratch.
By becoming savvier with food and hosting, you can out-compete expensive alternatives and feel proud of your achievements at the same time. Consider the following three tips which will help you achieve this:
1. Upgrade your cooking ingredients
Instead of eating out at a restaurant, invest in stocks of high-quality ingredients (in greater quantity) to upgrade your homemade dishes on special evenings such as Friday night. Whether you’re selecting produce from a high-end retailer or various costco locations, you can be sure to find excellent ingredients to elevate your dishes.
Many of us have attempted to replicate a restaurant favourite at home, only to fall flat when we try to reproduce the magic with our own hands.
Most of the taste difference comes down to the seasoning, herbs and spices and the fats, all of which are used generously by chefs.
In addition to fresh herbs, treat your taste buds to higher qualities of red chilli, lemon, garlic, salt and pepper, olive oil & butter. All of these will help create a plate which could have emerged from a professional kitchen.
Don’t constrain your ideas to your hob – barbequing or deep frying may give a far more authentic finish to the centrepiece of your dish than a non-stick frying pan ever could.
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Move the dial on all of these fronts to quickly close the taste gap.
Look for all the help you can. Several YouTube channels exist which give step by step guides on how to recreate well-known restaurant dishes such as Nandos-style chicken or even that pub favourite; sweet potato fries. You don’t have to be an expert to produce food that will ‘wow’ an audience.
2. Create events around your favourite foods and TV
Why go to the cinema or the pub to watch something on a screen, if you can have great fun with friends and family in your own living room?
Create events by tieing in delicious food with your favourite TV and film.
Perhaps it’s taking afternoon tea with a Downton boxed set or scoffing homemade muffins during The Great British Bake-off season. You could even emulate a US tradition by introducing Chicken Wings or Nachos Night to raise the spirits of a sports audience!
By elevating a film night or a TV show to the level of a special occasion, you give everyone a reason to spend more time together and spend less money together.
The weekly pattern of TV makes it an excellent excuse to see plenty of your friends without incurring the high costs of having an active social life. Plus, so many shows are improved tremendously with the right commentary!
Try creating your own tradition this week.
3. Dodge the stigma of leftovers with a buffet mind trick
In the interest of reducing food waste, as we come to the end of a food week, let’s end the practice of working towards an exact recipe or an established table classic.
Instead, try working backwards from what’s actually in your fridge, even if this produces quirky results.
If in doubt – throw an assortment of veg in a roasting tin with herbs and turn them golden brown. Use leftover cheddar to add a luxurious topping to pasta sauce, potatoes or even salads.
When you work from individual ingredients and cook them in a way that brings out their best flavour, you may find that all these disparate elements of your meal do not officially complement each other.
So what? Have you ever noticed that elements on a buffet often have zero thematic or flavour connection whatsoever and yet nobody raises an eyebrow?
Use this mind trick to your advantage by presenting your mix and match meal in serving bowls at the table to create a mini-buffet experience for your family.
Don’t leave this money-saving idea on the table – try it out for yourself!