As a family of 5, we spend anything between £40 and £60 on food shopping a week, and I know we are not as frugal as we could be. I reckon if we tried a bit harder, we could reduce that so it is never more than £40. It can be quite time-consuming to be a bit savvier when it comes to food shopping, but with a little bit of effort, it can be done.
11 ways to save money on food shopping
I say this, but is something I’m always forgetting to do. I know that when we have done this in the past, not only has it cost us much less and we have thrown less food out, but it has also made life a lot easier. There’s no trying to work out what to cook in that madness that seems to happen around 5pm. I know that Feed Your Family for £20 has an excellent meal planner if you don’t want to sit and make your own. Before you sit and plan for the week, look through your fridge, freezer and cupboards. I know I often get home from the supermarket and realise I already have two half used packs of frozen stirfry lurking in the back of the freezer. Utilise what you already have.
2. Use leftovers
Like 90% of people, we still haven’t quite got the hang of how much pasta we need to cook for one meal. We could probably invite the rest of the road for tea and still have leftovers. Instead of chucking the leftovers away, I stick it in the fridge in a lidded container. The kids sometimes like having a little tub of cold pasta to pick at as a snack, or I throw in some tuna and sweetcorn and lunch for the next couple of days is sorted. The same with bolognese leftovers. That gets frozen, and can easily be turned into chilli con carne by added some chilli powder and kidney beans, or a base for a lasagne. Leftover sausages get chopped up and added into omelettes. Get creative!
3. Go coupon crazy and save money at Tesco
I have a lot of admiration for those people who manage to get a weekly shop for £5 thanks to couponing, and whilst I can’t quite get motivated enough to spend a long time searching for Tesco discount vouchers, I do keep an eye out for them. dealsqueen.co.uk is a good place to look!
4. Stock up on your store cupboard
If you cook with lots of herbs and spices, instead of spending £1.50 or whatever on a small jar of them go to your local Asian grocery shop (they’re amazing!) and buy the bigger bags of them. They are usually cheaper for the big bag than they are for the small jars, and just refill the jars with them. If you eat a lot of rice and have the space, consider buying one of the huge bags. Things like that can work out a lot cheaper in the long run – as long as you do use it and have the space to store it!
5. Understand food dates
Best before dates are exactly that – BEST before. It just means that after that date the manufacturer can’t guarantee that it will be in it’s freshest, nicest state. Certain things last years after their best before dates. Use before is slightly different – but again, sometimes it’s common sense. I might not use meat more than a day or two after it’s use before date, but the next day – yes (as long as it smells and looks ok!). That piece of chicken or that egg doesn’t know what the date it. It doesn’t suddenly go ‘Oh, it’s midnight, I’m now going to turn bad’. Obviously, don’t use if you have any doubt though. If you freeze stuff before or on it’s use by date it will last for ages as well.
6. Bulk cook
If a staple, such as mince, is on offer, buy lots and cook it. A basic tomato sauce (tinned tomatoes or passata, a few herbs and blitzed vegetables) can make a base for bolognese, chilli, lasagne, tacos. Portion them into containers and stick them in the freezer. All you need to do then is defrost it and add a few extras and you have a super quick meal. If you’re making a curry or something similar, make double the amount. It saves on electricity or gas, and after while you will have built up a supply of homemade ‘ready meals’.
7. Reduced sections
Whenever we go shopping, we take a peek at the reduced section. Sometimes you have to be there as soon as the stuff is put out (and then it’s not worth it – some people are like vultures and will shove you out of the way for a pack of sausages!), but sometimes, you can pick up a few bargains. We pick up quite a bit of fish, which is expensive usually, and pop it in the freezer.
8. Own brands
We now shop at Asda and Aldi (they’re closest!), but when we were Tesco shoppers, we generally went for the own value brand. Some things we went a brand level higher – tea bags, bread and coffee, for example, but the vast majority were Tesco Value. If you’re not sure about going right down to that lowest level, start off by dropping down just one – if you buy the most expensive coffee, try the next brand down, and keep going until you find one you like and is cheaper. You may even be surprised – our kids prefer the taste of the own brand fromage frais to the Petis Filous ones!
9. Avoid snack packs
Manufacturers of kids snacks are crafty. They know busy parents will happily pay a fortune for something in a easy, snack sized pack – think things like boxes of raisins, fruit bags, mini cheeses, mini packs of biscuits. Instead of buying them, buy some small tubs from the £1 shop and make your own little snack packs up.
10. Try cheap cuts of meat
If you have a slow cooker, look at buying cheaper cuts of meat. When cooked on a low heat and slowly, it becomes really tender and tasty, especially for things like casseroles and stews.
11. Eke out meals
I was always a bit dubious about trying this, but I tried cutting down the amount of mince I used in bolognese and added some lentils and carrots to bulk it out. No one could taste the difference (they still have no idea!) and it was much cheaper and healthier. A tin of cheap baked beans added to a chilli makes it go further.
Bonus: Buy In Bulk
You don’t always have to buy food fresh. In fact, you can often save a lot of money on your shopping bill by ordering in bulk or going on a subscription. As options like Growli make clear, you don’t necessarily even have to go to the supermarket. There are now plenty of alternatives available via the mail.
What are your tips for saving money on food shopping?