publication date: May 19, 2008
author/source: Fiona Beckett
With food prices rocketing I thought it might be helpful to suggest some ways in which you might cut the cost of your staples, starting with pasta which has gone up a staggering 81% in the past year.
The figures are based on the products that were available in my local Sainsbury’s yesterday (May 18th 2008) but a similar strategy would apply to the other supermarkets. Don’t overlook local Italian delis either which sometimes have good prices on dried pasta.
Switch to the cheapest range
In Sainsbury’s case that’s the ‘basics’ range. Best buys currently are 19p for 500g of penne, 23p for spaghetti and 32p for lasagne sheets. Only downside it tends to be softer than authentic Italian pasta. Check how it's doing a couple of minutes before the end of the recommended cooking time.
Buy a larger pack
In general 1kg packs are cheaper than 500g ones but check the labels on the shelf underneath the product for the unit cost. Sainsbury’s own brand penne is £1.39 if you buy a kilo, £1.58 a kilo (or 79p a pack) if you buy 500g. (Interestingly that makes it more expensive than the De Cecco pasta below, even though it’s one of the products recommended in Jamie’s Feed Your Family for a Fiver campaign. It also seems to have gone up 12p a pack since the campaign was launched last month when it was 67p!)
Look out for BOGOFs
In other words ‘buy one get one free’ offers, on the big Italian brands which tend to have a much better flavour and texture than the supermarket own brands. Sainsbury’s has currently got a 2 for 1 offer on De Cecco at £1.25 for two 500g packs. That works out at 62.5p a pack or 12.5p a serving. Other good pasta brands are Buitoni and Barilla.
Try wholewheat pasta
It’s better for you (it contains more fibre) and you may find it more filling. Sainsbury’s is currently selling 500g of wholewheat spaghetti for 41p for example (but watch out, wholewheat penne is rather more at £1.49 a kilo. Spaghetti is often cheaper than pasta shapes)
Don’t cook more than you need
100g (a fifth of a standard 500g pack) is a standard-size portion. With a pasta bake with a creamy sauce you could get away with 75g a head. Weigh it out or use on of those pasta portion calculators rather than trying to judge it by eye.
Make a pasta salad or pasta bake with any leftovers
Assuming you don’t follow the advice above and end up with some left over! Or deliberately cook more pasta than you need. The key thing is to tackle your leftovers as soon as you’ve finished your meal. Add some oil or pasta sauce to your cooked pasta so it doesn't stick together then throw in whatever other ingredients you’ve got to hand and you’ve got a no-effort lunch or supper for the following day. (Try this pasta recipe with tuna, lemon and parsley which turns into a tuna pasta salad)
Finally it goes without saying that dried pasta is cheaper and keeps better than fresh. Which is why the greatest pasta-eaters in the world, the Italians, cook with it for preference.