A waste-conscious cook is rustling up delicious inflation busting meals by seeking out yellow sticker deals so she can still make gourmet dishes for less than £ 1 per head and cheat “apocalyptic” food prices.
Keen to share her bargain bagging tips as inflation has risen by nine per cent – the highest climb in 40 years – therapist Clare Rice, 33, says she and her partner Shaun Guillan, 34, who works in customer support, eat like kings on a tiny budget.
By finding out when food is reduced by the supermarkets and shopping at night when prices are slashed, she will spend as little as £ 15 on the ingredients needed to produce 21 meals including showstoppers like duck a orange or a full roast dinner.
Keen to recruit more converts to her frugal food program, Clare, of South Shields, Tyne and Wear, hopes that, by taking her lead, more families will find ways to enjoy delicious dinners without busting their budgets, saying: “Cooking on a shoestring can be difficult, but it can be done.
“Seeing the way prices and the cost of living is soaring, it’s never been more important to find ways to save money.
“But food isn’t just important for sustenance, it’s also a big source of happiness, as it can be therapeutic and sociable, so I want people to make sure they can still enjoy it.”
With the war in Ukraine and Covid hitting places like China again, this week Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey warned of food prices becoming “apocalyptic,” while the Office for National Statistics announced that inflation in the 12 months to April 2022 rose by nine per cent – the highest it has been since 1982.
And while Clare, who feels privileged to be living in a two-income household, was initially inspired by environmental concerns over food waste to create her Instagram page called Whoopsie Cooking in mid-2019, where she showcases some of her amazing cheap meals, she now hopes her money saving tips can help people who are struggling to survive.
Dubbing her frugal project the “MasterChef mystery box of the reduced section,” she has since dished up thousands of mouth watering meals and polished her skills in the kitchen.
She said: “It’s not just not even just about eating, reducing waste and saving for me now.
“I love cooking, I love sharing and I think that’s so important.”
A super-savvy shopper, Clare says that by waiting for the yellow stickers showing food has been reduced to be put on by supermarkets, she saves between 50 per cent and 80 per cent on every trip.
She said: “Yellow stickers have become so important in these times and now more and more people are looking into this way of shopping.
“I would love to be able help people who might be struggling to find ways to cook great food without breaking the bank.
“It can be quite daunting to see prices rising and wondering what you can afford to make, but by shopping this way it really is possible despite inflation.”
Ironically, it was not a budget show or cookbook, but the rich offerings on Masterchef Australia which she watched on satellite TV that first enticed Clare to start savvy shopping and improving her culinary skills.
She said: “I was watching Masterchef Australia and they have a mystery box, which gave me the idea to try and mix my love of being frugal with creating something exciting.
“It started as a personal challenge to improve my own cooking and after watching the show I wanted to push myself.”
She added: “But it has grown into so much more. It’s about reducing costs and waste, it’s about showing how we can do more with food.
“My cooking skills have improved hugely since I started doing this and I think I have realized that you can enjoy a wonderful meal on a budget.
“I think we all deserve to eat well, cost of living crisis or not.”
In order to find the best bargains, Clare usually shops in the evening, so she can bag yellow sticker bargains and says not knowing what she will get is all part of “the buzz.”
She said: “It’s about being resourceful with what you have and seeing it as something that’s quite fun.
“I love experimenting and I’m obsessed with cooking magazines and cooking shows.”
She added: “I just look at what we have and then decide how to make it work.
“I go shopping quite late sometimes, at around 8pm, when things are about 75 per cent off, but there is less choice.
“Once, ages ago, I got pickled herrings for 90p instead of £ 3 and they sounded disgusting, but I made a salad using them, which was really nice.”
She added: “I’d never have bought them normally, but they were so discounted I decided to try them.
“I Googled pickled herring online and saw that you could make a potato salad which was really surprising.
“I made a German sausage stew a while back using frankfurter sausages and topped it with sauerkraut and red cabbage which was absolutely delicious, after being inspired by a recipe I saw online – all for £ 2.24p for four portions.”
She added: “I also remember buying yoghurt, pomegranate and crunchy nut cornflakes to make an acai berry smoothie bowl for just 72p for four portions.
“Shopping like this makes me far more adventurous and gives me a challenge.”
And Instagram has given her the perfect platform to share her discoveries with fellow diners.
Recently, Clare cooked up an entire turkey for a Sunday roast with all the trimmings for eight people for just £ 17.
Also, the leftovers lasted all week, as she turned the remaining turkey into a pie, sandwiches and salad and used the carcass to make stock for a tasty soup.
Clare is also a great advocate for using the freezer.
She said: “Your freezer is your best friend. If you see any good deals on meat you should just get it and freeze it immediately, even if it’s going out of date that day.
“As long as you freeze it and defrost it properly it will be fine, even after being frozen for a month.
“I try to have at least some meat in the freezer at all times, so there’s always some protein to use which just needs to be defrosted.”
- Do not go shopping when you are hungry.
Some of Clare’s best dishes have included a fillet of cod with thinly sliced potato “scales,” with a potato and parsnip purée, topped with spinach and mint oil and pickled radishes, which cost just £ 2.70 for two hefty portions.
And for just 60p per portion, she was able to make a pulled BBQ chicken burger with salt and pepper chips and coleslaw, which she swears tasted better than any restaurant burger she has eaten.
Clare said: “As a child, I was given £ 10 to go to the shops and I’d always see how far it would stretch.”
“It’s the same now. I don’t go to the supermarket with a plan. I just see how it all pans out.
“Once you realize it’s possible to find bargains and cook nice food, it becomes a less stressful experience.”