Everyone could do with saving a bit of extra cash while food shopping. We all have things we could cut back on but identifying what needs to go is the hardest part most of the time.
What is your bad habit when food shopping? We’ve all got one (or a few) that we know aren’t helping our cash situation but we do them anyway. With the big supermarkets selling just about everything under the sun, it’s hard to avoid temptation.
Take a look at some of these simple tips on how to save money on food for your next shopping trip.
1. Create a strict budget - and stick to it
Let’s start with the obvious first step - set yourself a strict budget.
Do you know how much you’re going to spend when you do your weekly food shop? If not, it’s no wonder you’re overspending when you get there.
Having a realistic and manageable spending limit before you even set out to the store is a huge help. All you need to do is stick to it.
To come up with a good budget, it helps to look at any past receipts (if you still have them) to see how much you typically spend vs how much you need. Cross out the items you didn’t need and try to look for cheaper alternatives for the rest. You can use a budgeting app to help you manage your monthly income and outgoings.
2. Buy products in bulk
While a more expensive initial investment, in a lot of cases you can save money by buying in bulk. This might not be possible during your typical shop, but with a little research, you’ll be able to find places where you can buy items such as giant packs of pasta, rice, toilet rolls, soap, coffee and more.
3. Go vegetarian or reduce meat consumption
Meat is one of the most expensive things you can buy in a supermarket. While you may not want to change your whole diet to save some cash, you could save plenty by swapping out a few meals a week for vegetarian alternatives.
Gone are the days when vegetarian food was more expensive. Even vegan food has become cheaper and more accessible lately - so it’s worth trying out if you haven’t done already.
4. Try to meal prep and plan ahead
“What do you want for dinner?" This is probably one of the most common sentences uttered in households up and down the country. It’s usually repeated a dozen times before you get an answer and by then you’ve already started eyeing up the local takeaway menu.
You can get rid of this bad habit by meal planning. Some people do this by sitting down on a Sunday night to plan a week of meals, others like to keep it consistent and make Tuesdays a pizza night, Wednesdays a curry night and so on. That way, there are fewer decisions for you to make and less room for pricier/unhealthier alternatives.
If you want to go one step further and save some time too, you could also start meal prepping. This involves spending a few hours at the start of the week cooking up some, or all of your meals for the week. These can then be easily heated up on the night you want to eat them.
This makes you much less likely to fall back on ready meals or takeout food. It also saves you a lot of time during the week when you’d rather not cook.
5. Don’t be afraid of own-brand items
Buying own-brand items is undoubtedly cheaper and yet plenty of people avoid it. It’s often a myth that branded items always equal better quality.
If you haven’t tried this one already, start swapping out a few products to test them out. You might find you prefer them in the end.SupermarketOwnBrand rates own-brand against their brand name rivals.
6. Reduce alcohol intake
Having a few beers over a meal is a common way to wind down for the evening. However, the fact is that alcohol is the most expensive part of many shopping trolleys.
We’re not saying give it all up, but if you reduce your alcohol intake, you’ll save some money. It’s also a simple way to improve your health and waistline at the same time.
7. Avoid prepared food and ready meals
Pre-prepared food like bagged salad and chopped vegetables are a lifesaver when it comes to saving time, but it can put a bit of a strain on your wallet if you come to rely on them.
The same goes for ready meals. In most cases, these meals are boxes of sugar, salt and contain very little nutritional value. They also rarely taste better than the home-cooked version and yet they cost more.
The other big downside to a life of convenient ready meals is the effect on your health. Do you really want to be left with less money and less energy with these as a featured part of your diet?
A good way to eat convenient, yet healthy food is to freeze home-cooked leftovers or start meal prepping so you always have a meal on hand you can heat up if you’d rather not cook. The NHS has provided some guidance on how to store food and leftovers safely.
8. Buy your shopping online
While online shopping may be a weakness for many of us, there is a plus side for doing your weekly food shop online.
How many times have you been to the supermarket and loaded your shopping trolley with impulsive decisions, only to have second thoughts when you reach the checkout? How many times have you thought “never mind" rather than walk to the other side of the store to put everything you don’t need back?
When shopping online, you’re forced to look at the total before you buy and you can get rid of anything you don’t need with a simple click. No more surprises at the checkout. You know exactly how much you’ve spent and whether you could have made some alternative purchases to bring that total down.
Another plus to online food shopping is that it saves you fuel costs or public transport fares to get to and from the shop if it’s not within walking distance.
However, one downside to online shopping is that you don’t get access to any reduced items that are soon to go out of date - which is another great way you can save some money on your food shop.
9. Freeze reduced food
If your supermarket has a reduced food section, it’s usually surrounded by a group of savvy shoppers looking for a good deal. You never know what you’ll find here but there are huge savings to be made so it’s well worth a look.
However, the main reason why people avoid reduced food is that it doesn’t last long. Those tempting reductions don’t matter much when you’ve got a pile of them in the fridge you can’t get through before they go off. In this case, it’s a good practice to freeze what you can as soon as you bring it home.
10. Pick meals with simple ingredients you can use in several meals
We’ve all looked at recipes to see some kind of obscure ingredient that you buy in good faith, only to realise you’ll never use the rest of it up in anything else.
If you know you’re never going to use the rest of that fresh sage you’re about to stock up on, think again. Try an alternative recipe or tweak it to what you have in the cupboards - or better still, try using canned items or dried herbs, these last a lot longer, are cheaper and you often can’t tell the difference in taste.
Shop smart and save money
We hope these simple ways to save money on your food shopping have helped. In most cases with saving money, there isn’t a well-kept secret out there that will transform your finances. It’s all about making simple, often small changes together to save the cash that you have.
If you can use a combination of some of the above tips and simply become more conscious of everything you spend, you will be surprised at how much you can save.
mysupermarket.co.uk - Allows you to compare your shopping basket across 14 supermarkets. They also state that you could save upto 30% on your shop.
Budget Planner - Martin Lewis provides a step by step guide to budget planning.