My family have been living off one pay packet a month for over 2 years now and over that time I have had to learn a thing or two about living frugally. Life is expensive and I love finding ways to ease the financial pinch, no one likes that scary moment in the shops when you don’t know if your card is going to be declined or not. One of the best and simplest ways we have been able to keep to our strict monthly budget is by saving a big chunk of money on our weekly food shop. There are so many ways you can cut the cost of your food shopping: buying supermarket own brands, making your own bread in a bread maker (you can even make your own cakes and treats in certain bread makers!) and swapping certain foods for cheaper alternatives, to name but just a few.
Today I am sharing all my tips and tricks on how to slash not just pennies but serious cash off your family food shop. I see some people spending hundreds of pounds on food each week and, if you shop smart, it really doesn’t have to cost you a small fortune to feed your family healthy and nutritious food every day.
Here is my full list of 20 tried and tested easy ways you can save money on the weekly food shop, leaving you with more cash to do some of the things you love (or pay the boring bills with!).
20 easy ways to save money on the weekly food shop
- Meal plan – A necessary evil if you want to save money. Decide in advance all the food you want to eat that week and don’t buy anything else.
- Write a list – write down everything you need for your meal plan, all the other household bits and pieces and do not deviate from your list when you’re in the shop.
- Don’t shop hungry – if you dare to shop when you’re feeling peckish then you will without a doubt deviate from your list. I am often found sneaking pastries and biscuits into the trolley if I shop on an empty stomach, just don’t do it.
- Take your own bags – using old carrier bags and bags for life is not only great for the environment but also helps to avoid all those 5p charges for plastic bags when you get to the tills.
- Switch supermarkets – Are you still shopping in Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s or one of the other big name supermarkets? You’re wasting money people! We shop in Lidl or Aldi and we save at least £25/£30 a week by doing so. I was snobby about budget supermarkets for years when really I was just being a fool, you get so much more for your buck and the quality is just as good.
- Check your cupboards before you hit the shops – There have been so many times I’ve been in the shop and thought ‘do we need apples?’ , for example. I’ve bought the apples to only realise when I’m unpacking everything at home that we already have a fruit bowl full of apples and there’s no way we are going to be able to eat all these apples before they start to go mouldy. It’s always worth double checking what you actually have in your cupboards/fridge before you set off as you don’t want to end up wasting money and having too much food for you to actually be able to eat before it goes bad.
- Don’t be a brand snob – Yup, Heinz beans are great, as are McVities chocolate Hobnobs or Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut Corn Flakes. Switching from the big name brands to shop own brands though can save you loads of money and most of the time you can’t even notice the difference. We rarely buy well known branded food these days and I really don’t feel like we are missing out because of it.
- Cut down on meat – The thing that is always guaranteed to ramp up the total of our food shop is meat, it’s so expensive! When I meal plan I make sure we have at the very least one meat free meal a week: veggie pasta, jacket potatoes with cheese or beans, something on toast. They may not be the most exciting meals but they are food and they’re cheap and there’s nothing wrong with a bit of a cheat tea once or twice a week.
- Make your own treats – A £1 packet of biscuits would probably last a day in our house, we are a bit biscuit mad. BUT a bag of flour, sugar, butter and a pack of eggs will last much longer, we can make our own cakes and biscuits at a margin of the cost. Once you have paid out for the bags of ingredients, you’ve got weeks of biscuits and treats waiting to be made, think how many £1 packets of biscuits you’d buy in that time.
- Check to see what you’re wasting – When you’re skint, seeing food go to waste is sort of heart breaking isn’t it? For months I was always putting mushrooms on the shopping list and every week I was throwing out an almost full pack of mushrooms that had gone slimy and brown. I kept buying them out of habit though until one day I was chucking out another pack and realised no one actually likes mushrooms that much, why am I wasting money on them like they are some kind of kitchen staple? If you find yourself throwing away the same mouldy food week after week, just stop buying it, you obviously don’t need it.
- Go booze free – Crazy, I know. Alcohol isn’t exactly cheap or an essential though and if you are on a tight budget can you really justify spending money on bottles of wine or cans of lager? I totally understand cutting it out altogether may be a bit extreme for some, just by cutting back the amount you drink though can really make a dramatic change to your food bill.
- Make you own – After the initial splurge on kitchen equipment, making certain things yourself can help you save money on your food shopping. Use a blender to make your pasta sauces out of veggies and herbs, use a bread maker to make your own yummy loaves of bread, use your hand mixer to make big bowls of fresh and healthy soup. Making certain things from scratch can not only save you a quid or two but is also healthier as you can see exactly what has gone into your food.
- Assess your portion sizes – At the end of each meal are you finding yourself scraping a load of left over food into the bin? If you are buying and cooking more than you need then you are basically throwing money out in to the rubbish along with all your left overs. Maybe experiment with slightly smaller portion sizes or, if it’s possible, freeze your leftovers for another day or pop in the fridge for tomorrow’s lunch.
- Batch cook – Cooking up a load of meals in one go is a great way to use up fresh ingredients before they start to go bad and means you are less likely to give into the temptation of a take away as you’ve already got a meal cooked and ready for you.
- Choose your meat wisely – Spend £12 on 3 separate packs of chicken, or buy one large whole chicken for a fiver, cook it and spread the meat out over 3 days worth of meals? We do this most weeks and for our family of four it works out perfectly. We also buy big packs of mince and split that up into meal size portions, instead of buying lots of smaller packets.
- Avoid the tempting deals – Whaat?! Think about it, buy one get one half price might sound appealing but do you actually need that extra one? It might be half price but that’s still extra money. The same goes for get 4 for a £5 or similar deals where in reality you only save a few pence and you probably don’t need four of whatever it is anyway. Always say yes to a BOGOF though, obviously.
- Snack smart – Or even better, don’t snack at all. I am a sucker for an evening of bingeing on chocolate whilst bingeing on boxsets but I am not actually hungry, it’s just a habit. We spend a pretty penny on chocolates, sweets, crisps and so on for snacking on in the evenings, by cutting out the unhealthy munching you can also cut down the total of your food shop too.
- Switch to frozen – Not everything is just as good frozen but lots of things are and they are often cheaper too. Bags of frozen vegetables work out much cheaper than the fresh alternatives and last much longer too.
- Don’t succumb to the ‘special buy’ aisle – Aldi and Lidl shoppers will know what I mean: the middle aisle of random stuff that is full of deals on things that you probably don’t need. So, stick to your list and don’t go wandering down the middle aisle, unless you desperately need some new fishing gear or a speciality coffee making machine. The same goes for the clothes department and the entertainment aisles in the bigger supermarkets, just don’t even go there if you have no will power (like me!).
- Be strong – Write your list, stick to your list and don’t give in to temptation. It is all too easy for ‘Oh, I will just get this bottle of wine’ to turn into, ‘Oh, I will just get this bottle of wine and this big bar of chocolate and these tins of coffee that are on buy one get one half price. Maybe I will just get some biscuits for the kids too and a new DVD for us to watch this evening’. You have to have will power when sticking to a budget but that doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself, just don’t do it every week.
Next time your cupboards are empty and it’s time to head to the supermarket again, I hope you will keep these tips in mind and manage to save some money on your food shop. If you have any brilliant money saving tips for keeping your grocery costs down, I would love for you to share your wisdom in the comments.
Disclaimer: This post is written in collaboration with Panosonic, All words and opinions are my own.