Food prices are expected to rise in the weeks and months to come, following a year of extreme cold and hot weather. Economists have warned that food prices could be raised by around 5 per cent, so many of us will have to become more savvy shoppers to make sure we get value for our money.
Amy Sheppard, author of The Savvy Shopper’s Cookbook, has shared her top 21 tips for reducing food bills, from planning meals to eating vegetarian when you can.
1. Plan Your Meals
Sheppard says that meal planning is the number one way to save money. All you need to do is write down seven dinners for the week and put together a shopping list based on the ingredients you’ll need for each meal. If you plan meals that share some of the same ingredients, you’ll also reduce waste.
2. Do Your Shopping Weekly
Planning for any longer than a weekly shop can become difficult, as fresh fruit and veg goes off and life sometimes gets in the way of our plans. This means you’ll end up running out to the store to top up your groceries, which costs more in the long run.
3. Buy Frozen
Frozen veggies, chicken and fish are as good for you as fresh. They are also cheaper, longer lasting, and you only need to defrost enough for the meal you have planned.
4. Make Your Own Lunches
You’ll save a lot of money if you plan your lunches with foods that are easily eaten on the go, and buy an insulated mug or flask to take coffee to work. This will save you money on expensive takeaway lunches and drinks. If you have leftovers from the previous evening’s meal, they often make a great lunch the next day.
5. Grow Your Own
Unless you have a large garden or access to an allotment, it’s often not possible to grow your own fruit and veg. Those short of space can grow herbs and salad veg, which can be grown in the smallest of spaces. With fresh herbs on hand, you won’t spend a fortune on packets of herbs that go soggy or wilt in the fridge.
6. Make a Note
Make a note of what foods you seem to find yourself throwing away each week. We often buy the same food out of habit each week, but if you’re not using it before it goes bad then it’s a waste.
7. Eat Vegetarian
Meat is expensive, so try to eat veg-based dishes when you can. A lot of meat substitutes can be cooked from frozen, so are great for whipping up a quick midweek meal after work.
8. Check Your Bank Statements
Looking at exactly how much you spend each week and month on food can be a real eye-opener. All those extra trips to the shops due to lack of planning can soon add up. You need the full picture of your spending habits to help you be more aware of your shopping, and you can choose a budget to stick to.
9. Make Extra Food
Cook extra portions of rice, pasta, potatoes and chicken for use later in the week. Cooking like this will save you time and money
10. Check Prices
We are often so busy and treat shopping so habitually that we stop checking prices of regular grocery shops. Supermarkets change their prices daily, as they rely on us not paying attention. 10 minutes extra of checking the prices can save you money.
11. Go to Markets
Most towns have a weekly market with fruit and veg stalls, and they’re a good way to save money. Their produce can cost up to 35% less than the supermarkets, and there is the bonus of less plastic packaging and usually more choice.
12. Try Tinned Food
Tinned fish, different varieties of beans, chickpeas, and lentils all last for many months in a tin and are much quicker to cook than fresh. They also cost much less.
13. Avoid Special Offers
Offers may seem tempting, but if you weren’t going to buy those items in the first place, how are you saving money by buying them? Will you even use them? Think very carefully about special offers before you buy.
14. Set a Budget
Set a realistic budget and stick to it. Write your list and take a calculator shopping with you. If you reach your limit before you’ve bought everything on your list, look inside the trolley and ask yourself if you need everything you have in there. If you do, you’ll need to adjust your budget to make things more manageable.
15. Switch Brands
Changing brands is one of the easiest changes to make, and can save you up to £1,500 per year. Many branded and own-brand products are made in the same factory, so there is no difference apart from the packaging.
16. Only Buy What’s on Your List
It can be tempting to buy things that aren’t on your list when you come across them in the supermarket. You must be firm and only buy the things on your list, with no deviations.
17. Change Supermarkets
Shopping somewhere just because you always have done or because it’s nearest doesn’t always make sense. If you compare the cost of your trolley with an online comparison site, you may get a shock! It can be hard to change to a new supermarket, but it can save us a lot of money.
18. Weights and Measures
The best way to compare prices is to look at the small £ per kilo price on the shelf ticket, as things like cheese are all different weights. By looking at the kilo price, you can choose the cheapest one.
19. Buy Loose Veg
Loose fruit and veggies are almost always cheaper than the wrapped kind, and you can buy only what you need. You can also buy cheap boxes of wonky veg that many supermarkets have started selling, and they’re perfect for soups and stews.
20. Batch Cook
Cooking large batches of food to freeze is a great way to save time and money. Think about meals you can double up on, and food you can prepare ahead of time.
21. Buy Cheaper Cuts of Meat
Swap expensive chicken breast for legs or thighs, and change an expensive beef topside for some rolled brisket. Cheaper cuts of meat often need longer to cook on a low temperature, but the flavor is so intense. A slow cooker is a good investment to make tougher cuts of meat meltingly tender.