How to eat well for less | Save money when shopping

How to save money on the weekly food shop with top tips from Loans 2 Go…

In our last article Want to save money but don’t know how? we looked at various ways in which we can save money. As we said in that article, one of the main monthly expenses for most families is food. So we thought we’d take a more detailed look in this article on how to eat well for less.

Here are ten things that you can do to cut down your food bills.

 

  • Set a realistic food budget

Most of us have no idea what we spend on food every month. So a good place to start is to keep a note of everything you spend on food for a month to see exactly where the money is going. You may well be in for a shock! It all adds up, from the large weekly shop to the day to day top up shopping – not to mention any other items such as coffees, lunches and takeaways.

Once you have a clearer idea of what you are spending you can then set the budget you would like to aim for. It may take 2-3 months to achieve it, by cutting back bit by bit until you are where you want to be; if you start to make small changes on a gradual basis it should not be too noticeable. 

 

  • Use cash

When trying to establish and stick to a budget it can really help to use cash for a while. So set aside in cash the amount of money you ideally want to spend on food for a week and do your very best to stick to it. This can be a very visual and effective method of helping you to focus on what you are actually spending, and can actively encourage you to think more carefully before you buy. 

 

  • Plan your food shopping

Most of us don’t bother to plan meals and just buy whatever we like the look of. But planning is a really effective way to save money so is well worth doing. 

The first thing to do is to check what you already have in your cupboards, fridge and freezer. This will help you to avoid buying stuff that you already have, and also to ensure that you use what is there rather than wasting it. You can plan meals using ingredients that you already have, so will only need to buy a few additional ingredients to go with them. 

Planning meals in advance can also help you to cut down on snack items such as fizzy drinks, crisps, snack bars, biscuits and cakes. It’s so easy to throw these into the trolley when you are hungry and needing inspiration. But if you have a list to stick to, you may well find that you stop buying as many of these non-essential items as you used to.

 

  • Cut down on waste

Planning meals carefully can really help you to save money and cut down on waste. It’s estimated that the average family with children throws away around £60 of good food every month, and that the overall amount of food wasted each year will rise by a third by 2030. This equates to 2.1 billion tonnes being either lost or thrown away – 66 tonnes per second!

So for all kinds of reasons it makes sense to try and really cut down on the amount of food we are wasting.

 

  • Shop around

We all tend to fall into shopping habits and either go to the same store every week or do the same online order. But it can really pay to shop around. Always be on the lookout for special offers, and also start collecting any coupons and vouchers that fit in with what you would buy anyway. Remember to make use of supermarket loyalty cards too, using them when you shop to gain more points then redeeming those points at expensive times such as Christmas.

There are various online resources to help you shop around effectively, for example MySupermarket.co.uk which enables you to compare the price of a basket of goods across various supermarkets and stores to show you where you will get the best value any particular week.

 

  • Time it right

Many stores are open longer hours – some even for 24 hours. And there will be times of the day when they reduce stock that has not sold. It is possible to pick up some really good bargains if you are able to go shopping at the right time. Most supermarkets have “reduced to clear“ shelves that are topped up regularly, and most also discount fresh items towards the end of the day. As long as you make sure that you use perishable items within the recommended dates you can eat well and save a lot of money this way.

 

  • Buy and cook in bulk

You can also save money by buying in bulk, if you do it wisely. But be careful to only buy items that you actually need and are likely to keep and use. For example tinned or frozen fruit and veg, rice and pasta. Otherwise a tempting-looking “3 for 2” or “BOGOF” (buy-one-get-one-free) deal can turn out to be false economy.

One way to make the most of bulk buying is to shop with a friend and divide bulk-buy goods between you. Then you both benefit from bargain prices and nothing gets wasted. 

Bulk buying can also be good if you then batch cook food. It is often not that much more expensive or time consuming to make extra quantities of meals, for example lasagne, casseroles or pies. You can then either freeze these for future use or perhaps swap meals with a like-minded friend.

 

  • Make the most of your freezer

We have already mentioned batch cooking and freezing meals, but your freezer can help you with your economy drive in various other ways too. Frozen fruit and vegetables can be much cheaper to buy than fresh and can be stored for considerable time in your freezer without losing quality. 

Also bread is one of the most wasted household foods and can be frozen in small-sized portions in freezer bags for convenience. Most toasters have a frozen bread setting so that you can use bread straight from the freezer. 

Similarly any unused food or leftovers can be frozen and used for lunches. 

 

  • Reduce portion sizes

As part of your quest to eat well for less, you may want to consider eating slightly less. This is not to leave anyone feeling hungry, but when you think of the amount of food that often gets left on plates it is possible to reduce portions and still keep everyone happy! 

If you serve smaller portions there is still the option for people to have seconds if they would like more, but it also makes it easier to freeze and reuse any untouched food. 

Also try weighing or measuring out pasta and rice when cooking to stay in control of portion size and reduce waste. You can also pad out dishes with pulses – such as beans, lentils and peas – if you think your portion sizes are looking a bit too small. These foods are very cheap, low in calories and fat but still packed with fibre, vitamins and minerals.

 

  • Drink in moderation

Many of us drink too much too often, and as well as the health implications this can cost a small fortune. Even if you do not drink alcohol, chances are that you may consume too many fizzy drinks or sugary juices without really thinking about it. 

So to save money – and also for health reasons – try just drinking water with meals some days of the week rather than a glass or more of your normal tipple. After a while you will begin to feel a lot better as a result, and will also notice the difference in your food budget.

 

If you follow the above tips, you will gradually save money on your food budget and be able to eat well for less.

 Check back here soon for more money saving tips from Loans 2 Go.