With the price of food sky rocketing and many of us facing financial dire straits, spending less on food (with wise choices) is an important way to keep our heads above water. Here are my top tips for spending less money on food.
How to spend less money on food
1. Check your stocks
Know what you have stored in your cupboards, fridge and freezer and make
an excel spreadsheet a note of it, then make use of it. There's no point having a well stocked cupboard full of pasta and tinned soup if you're never going to eat it.
2. Never shop hungry
This is such a cliche but it is worth mentioning because I know a lot of people fall down with this one. You have to have some serious willpower to enter a
cathedral of food supermarket with a growling stomach and come out without at least two unnecessary items added to your basket. Even if it means eating an apple before you leave, make sure you don't do battle with your food shop when hungry.
3. Meal plan
Planning out our meals works really well for us here at Thrifty Towers and it saves us a good amount of cash. We usually plan out meals for 5-6 evenings a week and are able to change them about fairly easily with basics like spag bol can easily changing to lasagna or similar. However if things are really tough that month we plan out every single meal and try our hardest to stick to it. It can feel a bit hard going but it certainly saves money.
4. Write a list and stick to it
Again a basic tip but one well worth remembering. Never enter a shop without a list in hand and don't add a single extra thing to your basket unless y'know you spot fillet of beef marked down to £1.
5. Don't browse
Window shopping for food? Really? This sounds like torture to me. If you're struggling don't torture yourself further. Get in, get what you need and get out. If you can't afford to buy crisps, don't torture yourself with that aisle in the supermarket.
6. Try a new supermarket
Drop down a rung on the supermarket ladder or even try a budget supermarket. Aldi and Lidl are definitely our favourites for weekly shops, we tend only to shop in the 'big four' once a month for things we can't track down in the smaller shops.
7. Skip the branding
Move on from branded food and start eating no name or supermarket versions. I prefer some products in the value ranges to the higher priced branded foods. Maybe I should do a post about that at some point?
8. Grow your own
Even with very little space you can grow some of your food in pots. At one point we lived in a flat with no outside space and grew tomatoes and courgettes in pots next to the sunniest window. We spent about £5 on pots from pound shops, £2 on seeds etc., £2 on soil and about 50p on canes and string from which we gleaned about £40 worth of food and have gone on to use the pots and canes year after year. We now help out on our friend's allotment and in return we take home fruit, vegetables and eggs each week.
This might seem a little outdated but honestly we forage a decent amount of food throughout the year. It's imperative you know what you're picking so you'll need to do a little research, I highly recommend Alys Fowler's The Thrifty Forager and Food for Free for swotting up.
10. Make your own bread
Even what we here at Thrifty Towers call 'plastic bread' can be incredibly expensive at the moment so I highly recommend baking your own bread. You don't need a fancy bread machine (although I often see them on Freecycle, so well worth a look if you're low on time) just your two hands and a few basic ingredients. We make a loaf on a Saturday morning along with a batch of rolls we can freeze individually and take out one at a time for sandwiches so they're not wasted.
If you do buy discounted bread in the supermarkets make sure to slice before freezing so you can take it out a slice at a time for sandwiches or toasting.
11. Make meals
Don't buy meals, buy ingredients and make meals. I know if you're in a cycle of not doing this it can seem a big waste of time but the amount of money you save will be huge. Learn to make basic meals and soups then slowly stretch your imagination. If we're going to be stretched for time during the week we'll have a big roast on a Sunday and use the leftovers to make quick meals like stir fry and curry during the week. We also make up a basic beef strew and freeze in batches of two portions, so we can pull it out and turn it into something interesting in under 20 minutes.
12. Buy spices
Don't buy those packet mixes sure they seem cheap and easy but in the long run they're not. Invest in one spice per week and gradually you'll have a nice collection of spices which you can use to create dish after dish of exotic and interesting tastes on the lowest of budgets. Maybe I should do a post on our favourite and most useful spices too?
13. Beans and lentils are your friends
Not only do they bulk out a meal but they're delicious. A favourite of ours is lamb neck curry with puy lentils and chickpeas. Lamb neck is a super cheap cut of meat but we stretch it further by using one person's serving of meat between two and adding extra chick peas. The flavour is still there and it is plenty filling. It also works great the next day in a pitta for lunch. (I've since blogged the recipe for this lamb and lentil curry)
14. Shop local
Sometimes the supermarkets might seem the best option (and sometimes they are due to the hours we work etc.) but it is well worth trying your local markets, greengrocers and butchers. The prices might seem a bit steep sometimes but often you're getting a larger amount of food for the price and you'll find the fruit and veg doesn't go out of date nearly as quickly as it does from some supermarkets. When we take the time to shop at a market once a week we can easily shave £5-7 off our already fairly lean weekly shopping bill.
15. Keep your receipts
Keep every single receipt for everything you buy during the month and work out exactly how much you're spending. This will hopefully make you realise that when you nip to the shop for milk you're also buying a packet of crisps and some bacon without really realising. Make sure you know where every penny is really going.
16. Always have something sweet in the house
This might sound an odd one if you're struggling to make ends meet but I've often discovered that completely cutting back on anything nice can weaken you to a point of no return. We try to always have our cake tin stocked even if it is just with rock cakes or simple cookies. They usually cost no more than 50p to make and save us crumbling and dashing to the nearest shop to buy a piece of crap cupcake covered in so much icing it doesn't really resemble a cake anymore.
17. Know the difference between need and want
When the financial doodah hits the fan it comes down to need and want and yeah it sucks and it isn't going to be pretty for a while but realising you don't need meat with every meal can end up saving you a good amount of money. I often hear women talking about this topic and saying their husband can't eat a meal without meat (or those expensive meat-free but look and taste like meat thingies) in it. I understand that it can be a hard transition but when you're in that tight a bind it's a serious conversation you need to have. If cutting meat from 3 meals a week means you can have lunch this week then it isn't a conversation you can afford to avoid.
18. Keep a spreadsheet
Sure I'm crazy when it comes to a bit of Excel but having a running total for each month and being able to compare previous months is really helpful. I wouldn't be without our speadsheet now. We keep our spreadsheet on Google.docs so we can both access it from anywhere when we're not at home. It makes it easier to update and check which ingredients we need to prep or pick up. Life is so much easier this way.
19. Don't waste anything
We throw out a lot of food in this country which I really struggle to get my head around, especially with ever increasing food prices. Keep an eye on everything in your house, if you really struggle - make a note of anything that will go off (going off an going out of date are very different in my mind) in the next 3 days and keep it on your fridge door. If you can't use it up pop it in the freezer. If it can't be frozen in its current state then cook it so it can be frozen/canned/pickled or otherwise used rather than wasted.
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