Budgeting your food might sound daunting and restrictive, but it doesn’t have to be! Use these easy steps to cut down on your food expenses today, and learn exactly how to save money on food every day from now on.
Is it really worth Learning How To Save Money On Food?
The stats are frightening really – according to an article in the Telegraph last year, the average household spends a huge £5000 on on groceries each year – the equivalent to around £412 per month – and then Lovefoodhatewaste.com states that we throw away around £60 per month of this food.
That’s a shocking 15% of our food – and money we spend on it – wasted.
Add to this the fact that our food is getting more expensive year on year – the Telegraphs article says it will have risen by nearly 19% over the next 4 years – and something has to be done to ensure that we don’t waste more money year on year.
We have to start taking control of what we spend, and be more aware of what we waste – and that’s where these money saving tips can really start to make that change for the better for you.
Just a few simple changes to how you use food and what you spend your money on can really make a difference – so let’s get started and make those changes start today.
Over 30 money saving tips for your food:-
#1 – Use Food You Already have
When you look at what you and the family are eating each night, then don’t forget what you already have.
In a recent Facebook question to the Organise My House page, people said that on average they had at least 2 weeks worth of meals sitting in their cupboards/freezer – and sometimes up to a few months!
If you simply had a “cupboard night” or a “freezer night” each week, then you could save easily.
Just think – one meal a week that’s basically already paid for adds up to over 7 weeks of ‘free’ meals over a year!
#2 – Use Before The Best before…
I’ve lost count of the number of times I have looked in the cupboards and found things that are past their best before date.
No matter how much I check, they seem to appear!.
If you can get into the habit of checking whats in the cupboards when you are deciding what’s for dinner, then you can catch food before it pasts it’s best before date, and eat it rather than waste it.
#3 – Bulk Shop (and cook) Your Food
When you cook a meal, bulk cook and freeze 2 or 3 extra meals ready for days that you either have no time to cook from scratch, or when you simply want a break from the kitchen.
Buying food in bulk and cooking it this way will save you money, you will use up more ingredients so waste less, and you have healthy alternatives in the freezer when you need them.
#4 – Time your shop Carefully
Most supermarkets will discount their fresh fruit/veg/bread etc… at the end of each day, and you will also find that they mark down items that are nearing their best before dates daily as well.
As such the best time to shop for these items is at the end of the day.
Timing your shop can immediately save a load of money, and planning your food around what you get from the supermarket can be fun too!
EXTRA TIP – Bread can be frozen, so can many fruit and veg so you can save on these things and still use them when you want.
It was only last weekend that we had planned to have a snack style tea of bread and cheese, and when we went to buy the bread right at the end of the day, we ended up with over £4.00 worth of bread for the princely sum of £0.48! – now that’s how to save money on food!
#5 – Check Out Reduced Food Sections
Many people avoid the reduced section when they shop for food because they mistakenly think that the food in this section has gone off and won’t be good to eat. However, this isn’t the case.
The food in the reduced section of your supermarket will be close to its use-by date, but as long as you’re able to incorporate it into a meal the same day or the next day, it’s absolutely fine.
Plus, the benefit of buying food from the reduced section is that you’ll save a lot of money.
Often, the reduced food items will be marked down to half price just because they need to be consumed soon after purchase.
Having a short time limit on your use of a product seems like a small price to pay (no pun intended!) for such significant reductions in price.
#6 – Food Offers are great
There’s nothing wrong in bulk buying things when they are on offer – yes, you spend more at the time, but when you are buying what you buy weekly anyway, then over time you are saving money on your staples.
The trick is to only buy things on offer if you actually needed them in the first place
#7 – Meal Plan Every Week
Just planning out your meals can drastically change how much you spend on your food every week.
If you plan then you can shop for exactly what you need, you can take into account leftovers and make use of them in meals later in the week, and generally cut what you need to buy.
If you only do one thing from this article – make it planning your meals!
#8 – Food Portion size counts
Now, it’s easy to concentrate on what’s in your shopping trolley each week, and trying to cut the amount you spend, but actually starting with how much you eat can not only have an impact on your wallet it can also give you a health boost.
Most of us eat far too large portions when we cook for ourselves (I am really bad at pasta portion control!), and just cutting back a little means that your food will automatically last longer, so you’ll need to buy less.
#9 – The freezer is your friend
Making your freezer a part of your meal planning, and freezing meals, bread, fruit and veg, herbs, milk etc… means that you can buy in bulk, use what you need when you need it – and generally make food last longer.
#10 – Create a Food shopping list
Alongside meal planning, when you have a plan of what you need to buy at the supermarket – and you STICK TO IT! – you can save a lot of money by not being sidetracked by offers on things you really don’t need.
#11 – Use Less Ready Prepared food
Bagged salad, ready grated cheese, mashed potatoes, frozen chips etc… are all items that you pay a premium for the fact that they have done a lot of the prep for you.
Yes, we all need quick ways to cook for ourselves and the family as time is short, but what about taking 1/2 an hour after a food shop to cut up and prep all the fresh food in one go?
It takes a lot less time, and then you’ve got all the prepped fruit/veg etc… in the fridge when you need it for the entire week.
Plus you’ll have saved money!
#12 – Shop around For Deals
If you do have the time then shopping around can really pay dividends on what you spend on food.
You may find that certain places are better value for certain products – farmers markets vs. supermarkets etc…..
Alternatively take a look at mysupermarket.co.uk as a good place to compare what your shopping would cost at different places.
#13 – Create your own food on the go
Grabbing a coffee everyday can soon mount up in terms of costs – so have you considered investing in a travel mug and making your own coffee before you head out the door?
Even buying a nice coffee maker for your home can save you money over the long term.
For example – a takeaway coffee costs around £3, and a coffee machine is around £90. Let’s say a coffee pod costs £1 (and you can get cheaper or reusable ones of these to save more). You’ll be in profit after a couple of months even if you only have one cup a day! (plus you get the benefit of a decent cup of coffee at home too!).
#14 – Try own branded foods
Often the supermarkets have their own branded products that can compete with the brands for a lot less cash.
If you’re brand loyal then you may find that changing one thing each time you shop to a supermarket branded product and taste testing it for that week may just mean that the unbranded becomes your new favourite going forward – not least for the money saved!
#15 – Use loyalty cards In Supermarkets
So many shops now have their own loyalty cards that can give you money off, or vouchers or other incentives – and if you use these each time you shop along with a credit card that gives you money back when you spend, then you may find that you can save enough for the larger shops of the year.
At present I’m saving my money back on one store card for my Christmas shop – that way Christmas won’t hurt quite so much!
NOTE – Please only use credit cards in this way if you pay the balance off each month, otherwise the interest you pay will negate any savings you make.
#16 – Try different (Cheaper) cuts of meat
Cheaper cuts of meat can be just as delicious as the more expensive ones, so an easy way to save a little each week is to use cheaper cuts in your meals.
Why not try slow cooked meat like pulled pork in sandwiches, or stews and casseroles.
#17 – 1/2 and 1/2 works!
I bought the wrong amount of minced beef one week for a lasagne recipe, and so substituted red lentils for the remaining amount required, and it worked beautifully.
It’s worth taking some meat out of your recipes and using lentils as it adds the bulk, is healthy, and honestly you wouldn’t even notice in meals such as lasagne or spaghetti bolognese.
Try it next time you cook!
#18 – Make your own And Take With You
Alongside the trick of taking your own coffee with you each morning, you can go one step further and make your own of many things – saving you each and every time.
Some ideas would be smoothies, bread, sandwiches for packed lunch etc….
When I was still working at IBM I used to regularly pack a tupperware box of the previous nights leftover pasta and a quick blast in the microwave gave me a very cheap and filling lunch.
You can also get fantastic little flasks where you can keep food hot for a few hours – especially useful if you don’t have access to a microwave where you are (no excuses!).
Just a little thought about what you can make yourself can make all the difference.
#19 – Go seasonal With Food
Fresh fruit and veg is often a lot cheaper when it’s in season – and it’s easy to forget what is in season and what’s not when everything is so readily available in the supermarkets now.
This site is a great one to check for what’s best to buy now, and you will often find that it tastes so much better when in season as well as being cheaper!
#20 – Go veggie part time
Meat is usually the most expensive part of the weekly food shop, so it stands to reason that cutting down slightly on how much meat is eaten will make an impact to your wallet.
Why not try a veggie meal once a week and see how you go?
#21 – Use your garden To Grow Food
However much outside space you have, whether it be a huge garden or a window box – you can use it to grow some of your food and save money this way.
A great way to get started is to have a herb garden. Most supermarkets sell herbs in pots and planting them means you can get loads of herbs on tap whenever you want them (and you can freeze them as well).
This alone can save loads on buying herbs as and when you need them, and adding herbs to your food can really give your taste buds a treat.
#22 – Buy the longest lasting foods
When you buy any foods try and ensure you get those on the shelf with the longest best before date.
That way you can have more time to use them, and will waste less.
#23 – Buy frozen Food Where Possible
Frozen fruit and veg is usually a lot cheaper than the fresh equivalent, and usually has more of the nutritional value as it has been frozen when picked so hasn’t had time to lose vitamins and freshness.
If you get into the habit of buying frozen then you can have your 5 a day much more simply!
TIP – Frozen spinach is great to add to omelettes and sauces – and buying the equivalent in fresh form would take up most of your fridge! You can use frozen berries in baking and in smoothies – and frozen peas are fantastic to add into many dishes…
#24 – Check Food unit prices
On most price tags in the supermarket they add in the equivalent for that i.e per 100g or per unit etc… and this is worth paying attention to.
Usually we think of the larger packets of foods being better value for money, but (especially when things are on offer) this doesn’t have to be the case.
In my last online shop I was pressing BUY NOW on our usual large box of muesli and then looked at the smaller boxes which were on offer. Buying 3 of these worked out at much better value, so it’s always worth checking.
#25 – Shop less For Your Food
Just going to the shops regularly means you have more chance to impulse buy and spend more than you really need to, so it’s definitely worth cutting down on how many shopping trips you make – unless you’re VERY disciplined!
#26 – Buy Only The Food you really need
Never go to the shops when you are hungry as you are more likely to spend money on things that you fancy, rather than things you really need.
Stick to your shopping list, don’t fall for things on offer unless you really do need them, and your wallet will thank you!
Also – remember to take account of what you’ve already got…
Do A Kitchen Inventory
How many times have you bought something at the supermarket only to come home and find that you already have it in your fridge or pantry?
Many of us have been in this exact position more times than we’d care to admit, and it can be really frustrating to feel as though you’ve accidentally wasted money.
Luckily, there’s an easy way to prevent this from happening: do a full inventory of what you already have in your kitchen before you do your weekly shop.
Ideally, you should do this while you’re in the process of making your shopping list.
Before you write down an ingredient that you need for a meal, double-check your fridge and cupboards to make sure you don’t have it already.
#27 – Eat out / takeout less
It stands to reason that home cooked is cheaper than takeout or eating out – so why not try to do both less often and save more this way?
You can bulk cook and use these meals instead of a takeout – so you still don’t have to do more than heat something up, or you can create the feel of eating out by lighting some candles and creating the ambiance of a restaurant.
I’m not saying never eat out – but cutting back a little will help.
TIP – A lot of restaurants and cafes offer money off at specific times of the day or days of the week. Check these out because you could still get the odd meal out but pay a lot less than you usually would.
#28 – Learn To Bake!
Getting into the habit of baking a cake each weekend (or once a month) then freezing slices (or muffins/cupcakes etc…) can save you money as you can simply grab how many you need when guests come over.
Another great trick is to make cookie mixture and freeze.
Defrost as you need it and bake, then you have gorgeous freshly baked cookies for a fraction of the price, and your home is filled with that lovely freshly baked smell when people visit.
It’s also a great way to get the kids interested in cooking.
#29 – Ready made Food is a false economy
Ready made meals are often not very satisfying and are far too expensive to have often.
The better way of doing ready made is to freeze your own home made meals in portion sizes so you can have what you want when you want it. This is much cheaper and healthier.
#30 – Go collecting!
Right – this ones a bit cheeky – but why not grab what you can when out and about. Condiments at cafes and restaurants etc.. can all be used for packed lunches or simply for when guests come over and want something you don’t tend to buy larger versions of.
For example – We don’t eat mayonnaise but if we have a couple of sachets in the fridge then when someone asks for it then it’s there without having to specifically buy a larger tub of it for maybe one meal.
#31 – Stock up On Food
Have you ever been caught in a traffic jam or on a long journey and had to pop into the services for something to eat/drink?
If you have a stock of snacks and drinks in the car / in your gym bag / anywhere that you are likely to need them – then you’ll automatically save money by not having to pay premium prices.
#32 – Elongate The Week To Save Money On Food
Now, we all know a week is 7 days – and most of us who do a weekly food shop will have the habit of shopping on the same day each week.
This is convenient and will work well for most people, but those who can be a bit more flexible can save big money by doing one simple thing – elongating the week a little.
Let me explain…
Shopping every 7 days means 52 shops a year – at say £150 a week this adds up to £7,800 per year.
Shopping every 8 days means 46 shops a year instead – and at the same cost per shop of £150 this adds up to £6,900 per year.
Making your shopping last that one extra day per week means a saving of around £900.
Not to be sniffed at I’m sure you’ll agree.
This means that there will be a little more money at the end of the year for a bigger Christmas shop, presents or a holiday – without having to budget too much.
I LOVE this idea, and it makes total sense really as long as you can be more flexible with the day you shop. You could shop online and get it delivered to help with this as well.
TIP – if you prefer to use the same shopping day each week, what about missing a week every 8 weeks for a similar saving
But What About Eating On That Extra Day?
One thing you may be wondering though is that it’s all very well saying to eek things out an extra day – but how does this work in practice?
Here are a few ideas for making food last that little bit longer:-
- Most of our cupboards have enough stock to feed us for a few weeks – so designate one night a week to cupboard items
- Use leftovers wisely – create a soup from a chicken carcass for example for a tasty, fresh and healthy quick supper
- Shop the sales – use food that is cheaper when you go shopping and you can easily buy a little more at the same overall price for the weekly shop that will last a little longer
It’s about being more proactive about when you shop and what you buy, and using up everything you have that will make the most difference to your pocket at the end of the year.
I really hope these tips have given you some ideas for how to save money on food shopping going forward – so let’s take it one step further….
Are you ready for the money saving tips challenge?
My challenge to you is simple – try and use as many of these tips as you can over the next month, and consciously see how much you can save on your usual food spending.
The money saving tips may just make your bank balance a little more healthy going forward, and that can only be a good thing!