Lots of families are feeling the pinch of a faltering pound at the moment, and that means there’s no better time to start looking at your shopping list. Just a few minutes of planning could reveal lots of items that you could cut back on, or swap for something cheaper. You could feed your family for less within a couple of days.
Wanting to feed your family for less doesn’t mean compromising on the foods you and your family like. It’s all about thinking of savvy ways to dodge an ever-increasing food bill.
1. Plan ahead
This is the most important way to decrease your spending. Firstly, think about what you want to cook for the coming week, what ingredients might work well with a couple of dishes, and how food nearing its use-by date might be incorporated.
Secondly, take note of whether plans mean that some family members might be eating elsewhere. If they are, change your food quantities to prevent unused food sitting in the fridge.
Have a look at Love Food Hate Waste, a great resource for all sorts of foodie knowledge. It’ll show you how to make sure you cook the right size portions so no food goes to waste, and is jam-packed full of fantastic recipes for using up the leftovers in your fridge.
2. Make a shopping list, and stick to it
Those cream cakes you just walked passed on the patisserie counter – they might smell nice, and be glistening in the neon supermarket lighting, but do they feature in your recipes for the week? Are they a necessity item?
You can make up any answer you like, but if they’re not on the list they ain’t getting in the trolley. Being strict about this will stop you making impulse purchases and buying things you don’t really need.
When you’ve completed your shop, it’s always worth maximising your spend by adding points to supermarket store cards, like Sainsbury’s Nectar and Tesco’s Clubcard. Your points can save you money on future shops.
3. Compare prices
My Supermarket allows you to compare product prices and shop online between the major UK food retailers, including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Aldi, Iceland and Ocado, without having to visit each site separately. Now you can make sure you’re getting the best deal.
4. Use featured supermarket recipes
Some supermarkets have helpful food plans and cheap family recipes on their websites, with Sainsbury’s and Tesco providing lots of ideas for cheap eating.
Sainsbury’s Meal Planner sets out various meals according to theme. Themes include healthy, 500-calorie, weekend and vegan. There are lots of plans to choose from, and the ingredients and meals have been chosen so that your shopping for the week will cost no more than a couple of pounds per serving.There are also options to personalise the meal plan, allowing for special dietary requirements, feeding children under four, and varying family sizes.
5. Know the difference between sell-by and use-by dates
So many people throw away food prematurely by confusing the dates printed on the product. The sell-by date is just an indication to the shops to ensure the quality when customers make a purchase. It is only the use-by that should be taken note of. Saying that, quite often even the use-by dates are over-cautious.It’s always worth checking for yourself to see whether food can still be used after that date, though perhaps don’t chance it with meat and dairy products.
6. Buy cheaper cuts of meat and different types of fish
The most commonly used and popular types of meat and fish are also the most expensive. Try branching out from common fish staples like cod and salmon, and go for some much cheaper rainbow trout instead. Alternatively, buying a pack of salmon off cuts is much cheaper than a whole fillet, and works perfectly in pastas or risottos.
With meat, instead of going for the premium cuts like beef sirloin and rib-eye, look for cheaper cuts. Often they taste just as good, but need a little more cooking. Going for a brisket or fore shank will be cheaper, and great for casseroles and slow roasting. Meanwhile chicken legs and thighs work really well in all sorts of dishes and are much cheaper then chicken breasts.
7. Use local shops
Local butchers and greengrocers are likely to have more variety and cheaper prices than the supermarkets, and you can also get advice on what works well. Supporting local businesses is never a bad thing, as it will benefit your local community.
8. Embrace the humble vegetable
Even if you’re not a vegetarian, opting for a veggie meal twice a week can help cut down your spending, whilst making sure you’re getting those important five-a-day. This doesn’t mean you have to miss out on protein either. You can include ingredients like eggs, cheese and nuts in your meals, as well as meat substitutes like Quorn.
The Vegetarian Society has a fantastic selection of interesting and delicious veggie recipes, so if you get stuck for ideas it’s well worth a look.
9. Make note of what’s in season
Buying strawberries in December is never going to be as good as buying them in June. Firstly they will mainly taste of water after growing without seeing any sun, and secondly they will be much more expensive. If you stick to foods that are naturally in season, they will be cheaper, tastier, and give you much better quality for your cash.
To check what’s in season now, or what will be in the coming months. The BBC Seasonality Table has a month by month account of seasonal food.
10. Beware of special offers
Yes, it’s buy one get one free. Yes, getting a lot of food for half the usual price is very tempting. But if you never usually buy that particular item, and are unlikely to use it, then you’re spending unnecessary money.
It’s only a good deal if you were going to buy it anyway, otherwise stick to the above ‘shopping list only’ rule! Have a look at our article on sneaky supermarket tricks to make sure you outwit the supermarkets and their offers.
11. Don’t buy processed food
Processed foods and ready meals tend to have high levels of salt and sugar. Buying and cooking the raw ingredients yourself is healthier, and it works out cheaper in the long run. Opting to cook foods yourself also gives you the opportunity to get the kids to help out and learn to cook too, which they can’t do if the food just goes in the oven or the microwave.
12. Be recipe savvy
Do you really need that much meat, or could you take out a third and put in more vegetables? Could you add a bit of milk instead of all that cream? Would dried herbs do the same job as fresh ones? These are the types of questions worth asking when you’re cooking. Small changes and tweaks could result in massively cutting down on more expensive ingredients, and more often than not, the finished product will taste exactly the same.
For more ideas and advice on how to be thrifty with food, read our articles below: