We waste so much money on food – UK households spend £12.5 billion on buying and then throwing away food every year, that’s around £700 a year that each household could save simply by smarter shopping and avoiding waste. If you need to significantly cut the cost of your food spend, without going hungry, then these tips will help you to save some serious cash.
Buy it when it’s cheap, not when you want it
While you don’t have to buy everything on special simply because it’s on special, if you have a list of items that you regularly purchase (rice, pasta, baked beans etc) then stockpile these when they are reduced. Leave some room in your weekly food shop for flexibility – if your family eats meat three times a week then buy whichever meat is on special that week, rather than what you want to eat. With some clever cooking you can make anything taste great.
Have a vegetarian week
Meat is the most expensive component in many a meal and you could save a significant sum by having a vegetarian week once in every month, or even just a “meat-free Monday”. The range of vegetarian options is now vast – with lots of meat substitutes as well as pure veggie dishes that taste great without any help from meat copies. Best of all, everything is cheaper when you take meat out of the equation and many experts believe that this could have positive health benefits too.
Use an app
If you’re serious about slashing your grocery bills then there is plenty of technology to help you. Apps such as MySupermarket compare prices of all the items that you regularly use to show you where you can buy them cheapest. You’ll be surprised at the difference in price between one shop and the next and with this clever piece of technology you’ll be able to cut your food bills just by changing where you shop.
Drop a brand level
Packaging and advertising are hugely effective when it comes to selling food but there may often be very little difference between what’s inside a premium brand product and what’s inside a cheaper variety. To dramatically cut the cost of your food bills, drop a brand level – you could literally halve the cost of something like a store bought pizza or cake by doing this, with little or no compromise on taste.
Explore the baking aisle
Whether or not you’re a devotee of the Great British Bake Off, the baking aisle may well be your best friend. Baking products are not subject to VAT in the UK, which instantly makes them a cheaper option. We’re not suggesting you start snacking on royal icing but this is a great place to get nuts, dried fruit and household basics such as sugar for less than elsewhere in the supermarket. Just FYI, tortilla chips are VAT free as well so make these your crisp of choice and you’ll reduce your spending as a result.
Cook it yourself
Ready meals have received some pretty bad press in recent years for their sugar and salt content and the lack of nutrition many contain. They also have another downside and that’s the cost. If you’re relying on ready meals to put food on the table then you could be dramatically slashing your spending if you cook yourself instead. While many of us believe we don’t have the time to prepare something from scratch, simple soups, sauces, rice dishes and baked meats and fish take less than 30 minutes to prepare and when made from scratch are not just cheaper and better for you but taste better too.
If only the world considered it cool to go to work or school with Tupperware full of leftovers then we would all be much better off. In fact, you can save so much from taking leftovers for lunch that it’s worth sacrificing being ‘cool’ as that’s a whole meal a day covered from what you cooked the night before. Prepare a little more, or eat a little less, of the original meal and you are essentially eating for free the following day. Plus you avoid being sucked in to paying for shop bought lunches, which can be as much as £10 a day.
Grow your own
You may not have a huge garden, or even an allotment, but you can still grown your own to help cut the cost of your food spend. Herbs are particularly simple to grow – and expensive to buy at the supermarket – and tomatoes, chilies, lemons and lettuce are just some of the produce you can grow even if you don’t have much space.
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Oliver Jones has written for Solution Loans since 2016. His passion for personal finance comes through in the 200+ blog posts he's written since that time. His talent for explaining all things money means he's covered topics as diverse as...Read more about Oliver Jones