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Woman cooking stir fried vegetables

When we live through such uncertain times, it's natural to look around and see where you can start to save some money.

One area where everyone spends a good chunk of their expenses is on the weekly food shop, and this means there are plenty of savings to be found by carefully planning out what you buy.
Food substitutions are a great way to budget cook, and you can find they don't take anything away from the enjoyment of eating.

Instead, what you will discover is that they help you make significant savings on your food shopping, which can add up over the weeks and months.

Here's how you can use food substitutions to save money in your home cooking.

Create a Meal Plan

One of the things that will make finding food substitutions much easier is having a weekly meal plan. It's really hard when you're out shopping to think on your feet and remember every ingredient you need while also thinking about substituting different foods in and out. It's much easier if you make a meal plan, and then write a list of things you need.

Creating a meal plan is also a good way of making sure you're only buying the items you need. It's easy to get drawn into buying lots of things you don't need when you go shopping, but your shopping list makes it easier to keep the costs down.

A lot of saving money is about planning, and it's no different when you go food shopping.

Buy Cheaper Brands

Big companies work very hard on their advertising, and we often find we're drawn to big brand names rather than their alternatives. Sure, in some cases, own brands don't taste as good, but many times, you will barely taste a difference, and you'll find you save yourself some money. Whatever you're buying, you've got plenty of options to choose from, so try out some of the lesser-known brands and see how they are.

When you're doing a big shop, saving 25p on every other item you buy can add up to a significant saving, and purchasing the lesser-known brands can help you do this. If you can do this to help you save £20 a week on your shop, that's over £1,000 across an entire year.

Consider Cheaper Cuts of Meat

Meats are generally some of the most expensive things you will buy in your shop, but there are ways of bringing the price down. One of the ways you can do this is by going for a slightly cheaper cut. For example, if you're using chicken in a recipe, it's not likely to matter if you use thigh meat rather than breast meat, and the thigh meat will often be quite a bit cheaper.

The same thing applies to beef. Many of us are used to buying cuts like fillet mignon, but there are lots of other options that can be much cheaper without losing out on taste, such as teres major.

Of course, you can also limit the amount of meat you buy, and replace it with cheaper fruits and vegetables, but the point is, meat is an area where you can make big savings.

Replace Meat with Beans in Recipes

One easy way to lower your spend on meat is to use less of it in your recipes. Say you're making a chilli con Carne, with mince and kidney beans. It's easy to half the amount of meat you put in and replace it with the beans. You still get what the meat brings to the dish, and the kidney beans are high in protein, making them a healthy replacement.

For the meat lovers out there, it's not ideal, but as meat replacements go, beans are a very good one, and the savings can speak for themselves.

Buy Fresh Fruit and Veg Instead of Frozen

Buying fresh fruit and veg that's in season is another good way of making some savings. When you buy out of season fruit and veg, it's had to fly all over the world to get to you, and this adds to the costs. If you buy in season though, your fruit and veg can come from just down the road, keeping the price down.

If you've got a strict meal plan, then there's less need to buy frozen, because you know you're going to use all the fruit and veg you buy. This means you can buy cheaper without wasting food, helping you with your budget cooking.

Change the Fish in Your Recipes

Fish, like meat, can be expensive, but again, there are plenty of substitutions you can find. There are so many types of fish, and to the undistinguished taste bud, many of them taste the same, so it's quite easy to switch the fish in your recipe out for something cheaper.

The other thing with fish like salmon and tuna is that they still taste really good when canned. This represents a considerable saving, and while you might not be able to replace a tuna fillet with some canned tuna, you can mix it into different recipes such as a tuna salad.

As long as you keep planning your meals, there are lots of food substitutions you can do with fish, and over the weeks and months, they can save you plenty of money.

Drink More Water

So, this might not be food, but drinks make up a big part of your shop as well, and there are significant savings you can make here.

Cutting back on the amount of alcohol and fizzy drinks you buy is a way to make a lot of savings, especially when you replace them with water. Granted, a glass as water doesn't have quite the same appeal as a nice cold bottle of beer, but if you want to save some money, then this is an easy place to find some savings.

The more you can drink water instead of an alternative, the more you're going to save money.