The basics: bread and butter
In the words of French cartoon schoolgirl Madeleine: “We love our bread, we love our butter, but most of all we love each other”. We at SBS Food HQ also love cooking from scratch, and this butter recipe from O Tama Carey is a great place to start. All you need is a litre of pure cream (buy this in bulk and save your dosh) and a stand mixer… or patient whisking wrist! This recipe lends itself to tasty experimentation: add pepper, honey, mustard, garlic or finely chopped herbs from your garden.
When you make your own butter, you’ll also be blessed with buttermilk. The tangy liquid is commonly added to American desserts and batters (hello hush puppies), but if you’re feeling the pinch, why not use it in Paddy’s Irish soda bread? This simple loaf uses bicarbonate of soda and said buttermilk as raising agents instead of yeast. Dense, moist and firm, the bread pairs beautifully with fresh butter and perhaps a spoonful of homemade strawberry jam. (Tip: Save your pennies by buying fruit seasonally and in bulk from farmers’ markets.)
The most important meal of the day
Good-quality granola and muesli can be seriously steep, so if you if you’re happy to buy nuts, seeds and dried fruits in bulk, it’s always best to make your own. Anneka Manning’s granola (spiced with cinnamon and cardamom and sweetened with maple syrup) is less than $1 per serve.
If you’re prone to running late in the morning, here’s a breakfast-on-the-go that won’t break the budget: nutty granola bars. At less than 67 cents a serve, these almond-, oat- and seed-filled bars will give you the energy boost you need.
Another way to save dough: swap eating out for eating in
There are dozens of cuisines that don’t require exxy ingredients for extraordinary flavour. Sri Lankan and Indian curries, for example, are wonderfully economic once your spice cupboard is stocked. (Try this Sri Lankan pumpkin and peanut curry.)
Grow your own
If you’d prefer to keep your ingredients to a minimum – and preferably grown in the garden – draw inspiration from la dolce vita by planting the Italian essentials: basil and tomato. (For a full list of our how-to grow your own guides, head here.)
These two ingredients form the flavour base of countless recipes, perhaps most notably passata, which can be added to pastas, pizzas, stews and soups. Passata is best made in bulk, so unless you have a high-yielding veggie patch, get down to your local markets and grab a big box of ripe tomatoes.
This recipe from the food dept. also uses garlic, thyme, rosemary and bay leaves for extra punch, whereas Matthew Evans prefers to keep things au naturale, using only the juiciest, ripest tomatoes. The Gourmet Farmer says he’s kept jars of passata for up to 2.5 years without it losing quality.
Keeping with the Italian theme…
If you have a proclivity for good-quality egg pasta, stop buying from pricey providores and start making your own. Tama Carey’s recipe includes semolina, but you could just stick to pasta flour to make matters cheaper. It does require a bit of man power (and a pasta machine), but we think the family bonding potential is totally worth the effort.
Entertain without the expense
Catering for a crowd needn’t be costly. Spend some time planning a seasonal menu and preparing snacks from scratch. We love serving Matthew Evans’s spiced nuts with a jug of sweet iced tea on a summer’s afternoon.
Labna (or labneh) is another inexpensive (and truly delicious) appetiser. This recipe costs $3.15 to prepare, which is less than half the price of supermarket varieties. Made from Greek yoghurt, the thick, velvety cheese pairs wonderfully with bread or crackers – we recommend Anneka Manning’s olive oil wafers which have a ‘provedore’ feel, without the price tag. And when it comes to DIY dips, you can’t go past hummus. This recipe is spiked with garlic, lemon juice, tahini and a sprinkling of paprika.
If you're after more ways to cut kitchen costs, check out The Cheapskaters Club (an online hub of ideas and tips), locate bulk food stores and farmers' markets in your area, and scroll through our grow your own fruit and vegetable guides to start producing food at home.