Did you know that the average UK household spends £3,150 a year on groceries alone? Wowzers. While we can’t cut this necessary expense out of our budgets altogether (and who would want to, anyway?), the good news is that food is one area of your budget where real savings can be found. With the right tips and tricks, you can dramatically reduce the amount you spend on your weekly shop. With that in mind, here are 5 IDEAL ways to save money on groceries.
LEARN TO COOK
Cook at home and you’ll soon notice how easily ready meals (not to mention takeaways!) can be made fresh for a fraction of the price of ordering in. For example, delicious pizza can be made for a few quid as opposed to £20 from Domino’s, and chilli can cost as little as £1 per portion instead of £5 for one from the ready meal fridge in Sainsbury’s. By cooking at home the savings will start adding up fast. Not only that, but when you make your own meals you can throw in extra veg and use less salt, making them healthier than store bought alternatives.
It’s not about pretending you’re on MasterChef; you just need to master the basics. Dishes such as a hearty spaghetti bolognese or even a stir fry can be made in minutes using low-cost ingredients and are incredibly satisfying. With a little practice, you’ll find plenty of tasty meals that can be thrown together quickly and easily even when you’re tired after work. Leftovers can then be frozen or taken into work the next day for a delicious, co-worker envy-inducing treat.
Seasonal produce is tastier and often cheaper. However, you won’t get all the fruit and veg you want all year round. It’s important to note that if you eat strawberries in winter, for instance, they’ll be more expensive, in worse condition and will have travelled from further afield. Bad for your wallet, your belly and the environment, then. Instead, seek out the seasonal stuff. Farmer’s markets are a great way to source local fruit and veg which is at its peak and recently picked.
It’s no secret that there’s a clear difference between the likes of Tesco’s, Morrison’s, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose compared with Aldi and Lidl in terms of price. It’s imperative, then, that you shop around and compare prices to get the best results.
Using My Supermarket to compare prices, take a 1.5kg bag of own-brand flour; Aldi and Lidl’s versions both came in cheapest at 45p, while Waitrose’s costs a whopping £1.59. It might not sound like a huge difference but when you take into account every item you buy over the course of a year, it’s clear to see how food costs can spiral at some retailers. To channel the ethos of one of the major players; ‘every little helps’.
PLAN YOUR MEALS IN ADVANCE
Although planning your meals takes effort, most meal planners would agree it’s time well spent (and money saved). Try to buy ingredients which can go into 2 or 3 meals (e.g., a whole chicken to first roast, then turn into homemade chicken soup), so there’s no waste and you can spread costs further.
By planning your meals out for the whole week, you can keep your spending in check. After all, we’re more likely to buy ready meals or fall back on that Tesco meal deal if we don’t have anything to eat and we’re hungry.
GET MEAL PREPPING
Along the same lines of learning to cook and planning your meals in advance, meal prep is also an excellent way to save cash on groceries.
Meal prepping involves cooking large batches of food and freezing it for later. This way, you can take advantage of sales (e.g., buying multiple packs of meat at a discount) and you’ll always have something ready to eat in the freezer so you’ll be less tempted to order an expensive takeaway.
Some people take their meal prepping to the extreme and cook weeks’ or even months’ worth of food at a time. You can mix things up by creating several dishes so that there’s always something you will enjoy in your freezer. From soups, stews, chilli, shepherd’s pie and even protein pots – the dishes you can meal prep are endless and can be tailored for all dietary requirements.
DON’T SHOP WHEN YOU’RE HUNGRY
Who doesn’t like an excuse to snack? Before you do the shopping, have a meal or snack to make sure you’re not hungry when walking down the aisles. This inevitably leads to bad decisions. Not only are you more likely to fill your cart with unhealthy treats when you’re hungry, but you may also end up buying too much food and wasting your money.
Being hungry also leads to a lack of concentration, making it harder to stay on top of what you’re spending. Before you know it, you’ve bought 8 boxes of Jaffa Cakes and a new coat from the clothing section even though you only came in for something for tea.
Another tip when you’re out shopping is to use the calculator on your phone to add everything up as you go along. Sounds tedious, we know, but it means no nasty shocks when you get to the checkout. And remember to bring your own bags whilst you’re there so you don’t pay extra for bags.