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Curbing the cost of living: Chef George Clegg's top five tips

Top tips on curbing the cost of livingLe Cordon Bleu Brisbane culinary trainer George Clegg knows all-too-well that the cost of living is having an impact on everyday Australians, including himself. 

“With a young family and two boys who are progressively starting to eat an unfathomable amount of food, and the cost of ingredients constantly rising, it’s time to tighten up and get smart with what we do in the kitchen,” he says. Here are Chef George’s top five tips on saving some money and being better organised in the kitchen at home:

1. Meal plan

Chef George recommends coming up with a plan for the week or period that you are shopping for. “A little bit of practical menu writing is good for budgeting and good practice professionally for any budding chef or pâtissier,” he says. “I come up with my plan while looking through the specials catalogue for my chosen supermarket.” He says his family always tries to assign one night a week that is a left-over day. “There always seems to be something to finish in the fridge and one night as a vegetarian meal which is an economical and sustainable choice for us.”

2. Preparation is key

When you go shopping, be prepared by having a list – and do not go hungry. “Just like the kitchen, it is all about Mise en Place,” Chef George says. “You will be able to shop more efficiently…at the same time, be on the lookout for specials on things non-perishable that you always buy and grab an extra if you have the budget.”

A little bit of practical menu writing is good for budgeting and good practice professionally for any budding chef or pâtissier.
3. Shop seasonal

Chef George suggests sticking to what is in season and available. Weather events in Australia can make serious impacts on produce availability and push the prices up. “A cyclone around Mackay in Queensland will double the prices of broccoli, broccolini, corn and tomatoes, so it’s important not to get hung up on certain ingredients,” Chef George says. “Variety is good for nutrition and creativity in your meal planning.”

4. Bulk cooking

When things are cheaper or on special, Chef George likes to do some bulk cooking of pasta sauces (passata), jams and pickles. “It’s a great activity to do with friends and family…my children love it, and it is much cheaper than buying pre-made from the supermarket,” he says. “We’ve also got into the habit of baking our own cookies, muffins and protein balls for lunch boxes and snacks…they taste much better than store-bought, are better for us and give us much better variety.”

5. Cook smarter, not harder

Chef George’s fifth and final tip is to learn to use leftovers. “It’s a great skill to have for the rest of your lives, and a background in the hospitality industry should elevate it,” he says. “I was taught by my grandmother, who was a baker and had nine children - she could create a meal from anything.” He says in his household, if making roast chicken on a Sunday, the leftovers will become a pie on Monday with the addition of a little pastry. The bones will be turned into a stock and become a risotto on Tuesday. The same rules apply for leftover takeaway food. “Make sure you finish it or bulk it out with a little more vegetables and turn it into a whole other meal.”

Feeling inspired by Chef George? Explore Le Cordon Bleu Brisbane's Culinary Arts and Sciences programs

George Clegg has been a chef for more than 20 years and has worked in several kitchens across the globe, including Canada, South Africa and the UK. He is now putting all his energy into training the next generation of chefs at Le Cordon Bleu in Brisbane.