Budget cookery: When re-inventing the wheel is a waste of time and money

An Oriental-style buffet

Everyone knows I believe that homemade is generally cheaper and much tastier. I stand by that view in almost all cases. I make make a delicious pizza loaded with toppings for under £2 a person so why would I buy it readymade? I’ve got a tight budget to consider. It takes very little time and money to prepare a tray of vegetables to bake so buying pre-prepared ‘Mediterranean’ vegetables is just a waste of money.

There are a few instances though where I do think it is cheaper to buy readymade products. The obvious instance is something like Thai curry paste. If you look at the list of ingredients needed to make a green curry paste, it seems never ending. Many of the ingredients are hard to find if you don’t live in a multi-cultural area and, added together, the cost of the ingredients can easily add up to £15. This is not great if budget is your top priority. However, you can buy an authentic Thai curry paste on line or at a specialty store (if you are lucky enough to have one nearby) for around £2.50.

Another sauce which I think is cheaper to buy pre-made is satay sauce. A Chinese or Singaporean sauce will taste so much better and you do not need much of it to make a vegetable and noodle stir fry taste fabulous.

Like Mary Berry, I would never dream of making filo or puff pastry from scratch. It is not good for the budget or one’s sanity. Supermarket pastry is absolutely fine and, at around £1 a roll, it is cheap. And the time saved is worth it.

Since I embarked on my budget food project feeding our household of 4 adults, I have started really looking at the cost of making certain things. I offset the cost of a pre-made paste or sauce by cutting down on meat and increasing the amount of vegetables I use.

I can buy 48 pork dumplings at my local Asian superstore for about £6. I couldn’t buy the ingredients for that amount. Even if I had the time and skill to make the dumplings, I just don’t think it is worth it.

If you have the time and money and want to make something from scratch, then go for it. More power to you. But I try to spend my money as carefully as I can to get the most bang for my buck. If a good quality pre-made paste or sauce means that a meal tastes so much better, then I think it is worth it. I know my housemates do!

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