The average British household spends about 10 per cent of its income on food or almost £90 a week. That makes the weekly shop one of the biggest targets for people wanting to save money by cutting their outgoings.
Even though we’re getting better at only buying what we need, waste continues to be a major problem for people wanting to save money on their weekly shop. The average UK household throws away between a quarter and a third of all perishable foodstuffs that it buys each year.
However, with careful planning and by being smart when you are shopping, it’s perfectly possible to cut your grocery bills in half, dramatically reduce the amount that you throw away and still eat healthily at the same time.
The best ways of eating well on a budget
- Stop buying ready meals. Ready meals and other highly processed foods all have an enormous effect upon both your waistline and your wallet. Many ready meals – particularly curries and Chinese dishes – contain high amounts of sugar and salt which are additives that the British eat far too much of. Ready meals are much more expensive than buying the raw ingredients to make a similar but healthier dish from scratch.
- Make a shopping list and stick to it. The supermarkets are masters at tempting you to buy food items that you don’t actually need. Remove the temptation by making a shopping list and sticking to it.
- Use farm shops and markets for fruit and vegetables. The supermarkets often mark up fresh fruit and veg substantially. You’ll save money if you use your local market, farm shop or farmers market for fresh produce shopping and you’ll probably be able to buy local produce as well.
- Buy supermarket own brands. Cupboard staples like breakfast cereals, marmalades, mayonnaise and dressings don’t come cheap, particularly when you only ever buy those from the big brands. But you can save a lot by buying supermarket own brand equivalents. For instance, a 200g jar of Marmite costs £2.35 in Tesco but the supermarket’s own brand 225g of yeast extract costs just £1.75.
- Practice portion control. We all eat too much food, particularly at the weekend. When you cook, how much food is left over? Or how ‘over-full’ do you feel after a big meal. Try cutting your family’s portions by a quarter to reduce the amount of waste, the bloated feeling and your grocery bill.
- Buy less expensive cuts of meat. Our grandparents were not obsessed with ribs, steaks and fillets. They couldn’t afford them and so bought cheaper cuts and cooked them slowly leading to tender and moist roasts at lower cost. Try topside, silverside, brisket and chump if you want to save money on your meat bill every week.
- Buy fish. Oily fish is good for your heart and wallet and can be particularly cheap if you live close to the coast and have a good fishmonger nearby. Mackerel is one of the most delicious of the oily fishes and also happens to be one of least expensive.
- Buy grains in bulk. If you eat a lot of rice or other cereals, then it’s much cheaper to buy very large bags of these and store them in airtight containers. Brown and basmati rice, in particular, can be bought in 15kg bags in many of the largest supermarkets.
- Cook multiple meals at once. Try cooking a large amount of food at the weekend and then either freezing or refrigerating portions for meals later in the week. Using ingredients in this way is cheaper than repeatedly preparing and cooking individual meals every night of the week.
- Use leftovers. Didn’t eat all the meat from the Sunday roast? Still got a cooked chicken carcass in the fridge? Get yourself a curry or stir fry book and turn those meat leftovers into something delicious the second time around. Learn how to make stocks, broths and soups from leftover meat by adding herbs, spices and other ingredients and slow cooking over a period or hours. You should be aiming to get two, three or sometimes more meals from one large joint of meat. Only throw the bones away when you’ve made a stock which you can freeze to turn into soup later.