If you’re careful with your money, you can have your cake and eat it, too.
Nobody knows how to balance ambitious cooking with responsible spending better than the stars of The Great British Bake-Off, the lighthearted overseas competition that has recently found a passionate fanbase in the U.S. (There are six seasons, or “collections,” available on Netflix under the title The Great British Baking Show.)
Though producers reportedly cover some expenses for ingredients, most contestants end up shelling out a lot of cash to test their recipes at home. They’re also all experienced cooks when they’re not on TV, so they know their way around grocery-store deals and discounts.
MONEY asked seven of the show’s stars what their best tips are for saving money in the kitchen. Here’s what they said.
“Write shopping lists when you can so you don’t end up wasting lots of ingredients and buying things you don’t need. Also, if buying spices, go to an Asian supermarket rather than standard supermarkets, as they will sell spices for much, much cheaper.”
“My advice to you about how to cook and bake on a budget is quite easy: Shop with your eyes. Don’t decide to make something from a book and then go buy the ingredients. Consider a few options and shop with an open mind, taking advantage of food on offer.
Buy seasonal foods, fruit and veg. This keeps the cost down, and large amounts can be purchased and batch-baked or cooked.
Think tomatoes in the summer: large amounts of fresh tomato sauce or tomato soup, dried in a very low oven with rock salt and rosemary for delicious ‘sun’-dried tomatoes. Apples in the autumn: apple pies, but how about serving it with English custard? Or, as a real alternative, a wedge of Wensleydale cheese?”
“I like to keep it simple in the kitchen, and this normally translates to savings in the pocket. One-pot meals are my favorite — either a chicken biryani [or] a fish Kedgeree. All of that can be squeezed within £5 [about $7].
My top tip learned from a chef is freeze … I love freezing fresh herbs (normally curry leaves) and egg white cartons (for meringues, macaroons, etc.). Defrost the night before, and it delivers the same taste.”
“Heat and meat are the two things I try to economize in the kitchen. This is partly for financial reasons but also for environmental reasons. Unfortunately, of course, baking is one of the most high-energy methods of cooking so this makes life tricky! However, what I often do is try to double up my baking. So I’ll bake multiple things at once or, if they have to be at different temperatures, bake them concurrently.”
“Learn how to make basic bread. This recipe can make one large loaf or 12 bagels or four small pizzas, depending on how you use the dough.
The recipe costs about 50p [$0.66]. If you make the pizzas at home, it will cost around £5 [$7] for four small pizzas — the equivalent takeout version would cost £20-30 [$40]. My method of cooking it, called the frying pan pizza, overcomes the problem of the home oven not being as hot as a commercial pizza oven, thereby using less energy and fuel costs.”
“Byproducts, baby! Making hummus? Keep the liquid. [It] works as an amazing egg replacer for making protein-rich fluffy meringues. Just make sure you get the unsalted ones [chickpeas].”
“If you need a piece of equipment, try looking in a thrift shop first. Some of my best bargains have been bought this way. You would be surprised at what folk buy and never even take out of the packaging before passing it on two a thrift shop.
Always shop around. There are so many free papers that list the bargains of the week. You can plan a route around the supermarkets to buy the bargains — make sure the mileage isn’t more than the bargains cost.
If you need a large piece of kitchen equipment, always wait until the sales. Often you can buy the previous year’s color or style cheaper than this year’s. But it doesn’t matter. In a year’s time, this year’s model will be out of style, too.”