Irish Food,  Opinion,  Recipes

Eating Frugally

This is a short one with just a couple of tips on how to save your food budget a bit, eating frugally and make the food you have stretch further. I’ve included my stocktaking template for you to download and print off as many times as you like.

  1. Treat your larder like a stationery cupboard, do regular stocktakes.  Try and keep a written record of what you have and what you don’t have so that you know what you can afford not to buy. You can download and print off my stocktake template by clicking Wholesome Ireland Stocktake.
  2. Make your larder fun for the kids.  1 day a week let them choose 3 savoury items from the cupboard and cook a meal with them.  They’re more likely to eat it then!
  3. If you grow your own food invest or acquire a chest freezer.  Once your vegetables are in season and you have a glut spend a day blanching and bagging them.  Freeze once cool and they will last for months.  They are also very handy when you need a meal in a hurry because they don’t need to be cooked, just reheated. On chest freezers you can often pick them up for free on the likes of jumbletown or dublinwaste.
  4. When peeling spuds, peel twice as many as you need.  Boil double the quantity in the pot.  Mash the half you don’t need immediately, scoop into a washed takeaway tray and freeze once cool.
  5. You would be surprised how little protein you need on a daily basis to stay healthy.  2 chicken breasts for dinner should spread to 3 adults or 2 adults & 2 children.  You can make them stretch by making your own homemade goujons, risotto etc – anything that requires you to cut the meat into chunks.
  6. Likewise for cereals.  Modern cereal bowls are massive.  Weigh your cereal out into the RDA size in the mornings.  You will make your cereals last longer, and you won’t be eating loads of hidden calories by mistake.

Finally another tip on portion size.  The Irish psyche  that has been drummed into us is “clear your plate” and there’s “starving children in (insert 3rd world country here)” etc.  I don’t know any child of the 70’s or 80’s who isn’t familiar with these phrases.  There’s nothing wrong with clearing your plate if your portion size is right.  The problem is that most dinner plates are too big.  If you fill a dinner plate with food then you are more than likely eating far too many calories, but you’re also wasting food because you are plating food that could be used at another meal. Consider dining from a Tea Plate instead!

Here is a picture of a typical 26.5cm diameter Dinner Plate made by a well known manufacturer:

And here is a typical 20.5cm diameter Tea Plate:

The Tea Plate fits inside the dinner plate

I'm an Irish mother to 2 boys, born & bred in Dublin, Ireland. I like to cook simple & fresh food for the family, with the family on a budget.


  • kathryn

    Just back from Sweden where dinner plates are MUCH smaller and food is placed in the centre of the table for everyone, including small children, to take themselves. Result at the dinner tables I shared was that everyone took small portions of everything, cleared their plates, then took second helpings of what they liked best. No waste. I didn’t see a child turn down anything – quite amazing after life here, the UK and the USA. Family meals I was part of were fairly simple though they ranged from roasts to Janssen’s temptation. Lots of simply steamed veg, boiled potatoes, lightly pickled veg, cold cuts and salads

      • Irmhild

        Yes, I grew up with food in the middle of the table, too!
        And in addition to the meat, spuds and veg we always had apple sauce (stewed apple, no sugar), a favourite with the kids and older generation, and a salad, there usually was soup before the main, and always some kind of dessert!
        But there were my mum and my grandmother cooking, and cooking for 7-10 people most days, I wouldn’t be able to dish up that kind of variety every day myself!
        A lot of the salads and fruit dishes were homegrown and canned in jars, we wouldn’t have had the money to buy it all fresh. Yellow bean salad, green been salad, sour kraut, red cabbage, apple sauce, canned cherries, plums, pears…

  • kathryn

    On the chest freezer v upright issue I find it is essential to have both a stock book and a map for chest freezers so you don’t finish up with dead food at the bottom. I now have a clip for stock book and pencil sugrued onto mine, which is out in the shed. And I’ve got two small and one large upright in the house. I find I can afford organic meat if I buy a year’s supply at a time. Works out cheaper than conventional from the supermarket but you have to factor in the cost of the freezer and electricity. Sugru also mends broken fridge and freezer shelves 🙂
    And dead chest freezers make brilliant apple stores

    • Wholesome Ireland

      Very true. We got a small upright and I had a map along with list of meals/dishes. It’s nearly empty at this stage, ready to be filled again and I rotate in the half/half fridge/freezer in the kitchen.

  • Nono

    Great post, full of common sense tips and clever ideas to make a meal last longer. I already do the 2 chicken breasts to spread over 2 adults and 1 child. I buy mine at Courtney Meat, a wholesaler that has a great choice of meat for a good price. My chicken breasts are 1 euro a pop and I buy them by 20, freeze them by 2 and that lasts me about 3 months…

  • CatherineAnn Minnock

    Love this. I’ve been working on my portion sizes lately. Most weight-loss tips are for people who eat nothing but fatty foods, but I didn’t really know what those of us who already eat relatively healthy foods would do… I’ll definitely try the smaller plate, it’s the most reasonable idea I’ve heard yet, aimed at real people!

  • Judi

    Rather that allow small blocks of cheese to fester in my fridge, I grate them and pop in a freezer bag. I use it in mashed potato (I also freeze that for shepherds/fish pie) and cheese sauce. If you have pickled gherkins left over, taking up space, in a huge jar, chop into slices and freeze (easy to defrost and have on hand in burger cooking months!) Another tip I find very useful. When you make crumble, make enough for more than one and freeze the rest in separate bags to use when you’ve got some old apples hanging about. I also do this with breadcrumbs, made from all the ends of loaves or stale baguettes. There’s nothing like these for gougons. I’ve also frozen digestive biscuit crumbs for cheesecake too…..Love your tips. Thanks Judi.

    • Wholesome Ireland

      Oh yes. I do the same with cheese, crumble and freezing biscuits, mash the lot. I’m a massive fan of making the most of the freezer to preserve your food! I’d not thought of doing that trick with gherkins, definitely going to try it out. Thanks Judi.

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