Look to the past to save money
Red Cabbage chef-owner Scott O'Sullivan. Picture: Astrid Volzke/The West Australian

Back in the days when West Australians lived in smaller houses on "quarter-acre blocks", most of the family's fruit and vegetable needs were met by produce grown in the backyard and an abundance was shared among relatives and neighbours.

These days the blocks are smaller, the houses are bigger and people have forgotten how worthwhile a veggie patch and a couple of chooks can be.

Maintaining big yards can be labour intensive, but Perth chefs insist a small garden will more than suffice a family's fresh produce needs - and be kind to the hip pocket.

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Many chefs are proudly creating gardens to supply their restaurants with a variety of fresh ingredients.

Instead of using ingredients flown in from around the world, their menus change with the seasons, which enables them to cook with Australian-grown produce packed with flavour.

"There are more restaurants all over Perth and Australia and the world that have the same food philosophy, which is the way forward with eating - it's seasonal, local produce and that's the way that people should eat," says former Greenhouse co-owner Paul Aron.

People have become accustomed to buying their fruit and vegetables from supermarkets - often unaware that it may have been imported because it is out of season locally.

Shoppers pay a small fortune for the luxury of cooking with produce that is available year-round, but chefs say learning more about the seasons will help families save money.

Award-winning chefs Matt Stone, Scott O'Sullivan and Stephen Clarke say one of the best ways to save money is to cut out as many middlemen as possible - opting either for farmer-direct produce or establishing relationships with experts such as reputable butchers or greengrocers.

"By buying straight from farmers you'll cut out the middleman and you'll find produce is fresher because it hasn't been sitting out in some warehouse for ages and they'll be able to pass the savings on to you," O'Sullivan says.

Chefs say top butchers will be more than happy to part with invaluable advice about cheaper secondary cuts and the best way to cook them to ensure maximum flavour.

Offal may be inexpensive, but the reality is not everyone is a fan - no matter how delicious it tastes - which is why secondary cuts of meat are a better option.

Speak to your butcher about bulk-buying meat and either freeze it or consider sharing the cost with friends.

"Buying in bulk is a great way to save on meat costs," Clarke says.

"With a little bit of knowledge in cookery there are so many dishes in that one beast."

The West Australian

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