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How to save money on food: 10 things you need to know!

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One of the simplest money-saving hacks you can get under your belt is learning how to save money on food! You can manage your spending without surviving only on a diet of beans on toast!

Number 1: Plan your meals.

Planning your meals is an excellent habit to get into, and having apps on our phones which make taking notes, writing lists and sticking to a budget easy, there really is no excuse! It is one of the easiest ways how to save money on food shopping.

If you think of a meal you fancy during the week, or your children have been asking you to cook the usual lasagna, compile these ideas on a list. When you start planning your week of meals you’ll have some ideas readily available. 

Designate a day where you can sit down for five minutes to write out your meal plan. If you’re stuck for ideas, websites such as BBC Good Food and Pinterest have a wide range of free recipes. 

Once you’re happy with your plan, get started on your shopping list. Make sure to check what you already have in your store cupboard and freezer to prevent doubling up. Do you already have the ingredients you need? Consider leftover ingredients from recipes, are there meals you can cook up with them? Using leftovers will decrease your food waste, getting the most out of the pennies you’ve spent. 

Over time you will have an idea of what your basic food necessities cost you. With that, you can work out a budget that you can stick to. For example, allocate a £20 a week food budget for your meals’ staples or £100 a month food budget. The extra cash you save could go towards savings and investing.

Number 2: Stick to your shopping list.

Now that you have invested time into planning your meals for your week stick to the plan! 

Remember that supermarkets, convenience stores, and online shops want you to spend money. They will host a variety of deals but don’t be fooled. 

If a deal has caught your eye and you can’t stop thinking about it, for example, a two for one sale on branded popcorn, and you think having a bag of popcorn to eat on the sofa for movie night would be great, have a look around the store. There are likely cheaper alternatives available.

Bulk buying is often cheaper but buying food that you don’t need is an extra cost. How to save money on food for one person can be easily achieved by bulk buying items for your store cupboard or products that can be frozen to be used at a later time; making economies of scale work in your favour affords you more for your money. 

Number 3: Shop own brand/discount stores.

In 2020 Which? compared supermarket prices of a trolley full of 85 items, including food, drinks and household products. Aldi and Lidl topped the charts as the cheapest supermarkets at £78.50 and £79.46 respectively. Waitrose was on the other end of the scale, coming in at £122.47. 

The difference between Aldi and Waitrose is almost £44. A total saving of £2288 a year if you were to save £44 a week by switching from Waitrose to Aldi.

Budget-friendly doesn’t always equate to low quality either. Both Aldi and Lidl have won awards for their products. In 2020 Aldi won 3 Good Housekeeping Awards, including one for ‘Favourite Premium Supermarket Range’ and Lidl Bakery was Reader Recommended by Good Housekeeping in 2021, along with multiple awards for their wines and spirits.

How to save money on food

Deciding to shop own-brand products can also help shave off a few £££ on your receipts. For example, 500g of Sainsbury’s Fusilli pasta costs 55p, whereas 500g of Napolina Fusilli also stocked by Sainsbury’s costs £1.30. Shopping own brand would save 75p, getting you more for your money!

Or, in case you prefer to leave the aisle shopping to others, the cheapest online food shopping UK can be found at Asda with delivery costs starting at £1 and a minimum spend of £40. If you have a smaller budget, Iceland’s delivery costs start at £2 for a minimum spend of £25, or free delivery if you spend more than £35. Do not feel tied into only shopping with one supermarket chain; some offer discounts on first-time customers and orders. 

Number 4: Check out the reduced aisle.

Larger supermarkets may have a dedicated aisle or fridge section filled with products they are selling at a discounted price. Smaller stores may use a small section of a fridge towards the end of a day.

Keep an eye out for the yellow stickers; they are often used to mark reduced items.

Ask yourself if you need anything. Are you able to freeze the products if they are close to their use/sell-by date? By how much are the items reduced? Is it worth it? 

Number 5: Shop the ‘world food’ aisle.

As daunting as some of the products seem, this aisle is an absolute haven full of goodness and flavour. Prices are often cheaper in this aisle, with savings of up to 75% on larger packets of herbs, spices and sauces. These items are often more authentic, but their brands are not usually known hence the cheaper price tag. 

Adding a range of herbs and spices to your stock cupboard gives you the freedom to create tasteful meals rather than buying more costly pre-seasoned meat and vegs.

Number 6: Buy seasonal fruit and vegetables.

Buying seasonal fruit and vegetables is not only a great way to bring variety into your diet but also decrease your carbon footprint. Non-seasonal fruit and vegetables often have to be imported, and therefore their air miles are reflected in the price.

How to save money on food and eat healthily can be found here by following this easy seasonal guide to British fruit and veg.

Number 7: Did someone say free food?

Apps have been developed to connect neighbours and businesses to reduce food waste and make couponing and claiming cashback accessible. Why not have a look and see if you can take advantage of any of these:

  • Shopmium is a cashback app that allows you to save money on products that you already buy. Check out their ongoing offers to see if any of your products match, take pictures of your receipts and upload to the app, receive 100% cashback via PayPal or bank transfer.
  • Shoppix keeps all your receipts in one place and collects rewards. The app also has short surveys you can complete to collect more tokens that are exchanged for rewards. The rewards are vouchers or cash back via Paypal.
  • Olio is a free sharing app that connects people in the local area who are giving away free food and household items. The app aims to save waste, and you may come across some great finds to replenish your store cupboard or fridge for free.
  • Too good to go is another app aiming to reduce food waste. It allows businesses to sell items at a reduced price rather than throwing them in the bin. Perhaps your local bakery has some bread rolls left that they haven’t managed to sell, or you’re in town and fancy a panini from that one high street cafe; it is worth checking the app to see if any nearby shops are selling reduced items and make a saving. Although you won’t know what you’ve bought until you’ve received your ‘Magic Bag’, it does add to the fun, and you’ll be surprised at how much you get for your money from certain stores, as a single person you might struggle to get through the bag on your own!

Food shopping vouchers and loyalty points are made available by supermarkets too; make the most of these if you’re a regular shopper at these stores!

Number 8: Easy wins when eating out – how to save money on food without cooking.

If you have the time, check if there are any deals or discount vouchers available for the restaurant of your choice. A restaurant or bar’s social media is an excellent place to start and deal websites such as GrouponWowcher, and LivingSocial occasionally have offers for bigger chain restaurants/barsOr take advantage of schemes you may already have a subscription to through insurance websites such as Meerkat Meals.

A restaurant/bar is more likely to have deals midweek when it is quieter, so why not move date night to align with your favourite restaurants unlimited chicken wings on so-called ‘Wing Wednesday’. Alcohol can quickly become the most expensive item on a bill when eating out; look out for happy hours and make the most of it.

Number 9: Sell-by and best before dates. You can still eat these items!

Best before dates are about quality. Food items can be eaten past the best before date; however, the food may lose some of its flavour, texture and quality. They often include frozen foods, dried foods, and tinned foods. Please don’t waste money by throwing away these items; they can still be eaten and probably taste as good as new!

Sell-by/display until dates often also appear on packaging. These are instructions for retailers rather than consumers. 

Not to be confused with use-by dates. These dates are for food safety and must be followed. Foods can be eaten up to this date if stored correctly as per the instructions. Make sure to freeze your food before the use-by date if you don’t think you will be able to eat it beforehand. Once defrosted, consume within 24 hours. 

Approved food is a UK website that sells food and drinks at a discounted price near or past their ‘best before’ date, claiming to save their customers around £60 on their monthly food shop compared to high street prices. 

Number 10: Don’t go shopping hungry.

We are all guilty of this; our eyes are bigger than our stomachs, we pile everything and anything we like into our trolley only to feel that itch of regret at the till when you have to pay. 

Having a plan can curb these impulse buys; better yet, going to the supermarket without craving a full 3-course meal also helps. As a quick last-minute fix, keep some nuts or muesli bars in your car to tie you over if you ever find yourself in this position. They are also a good emergency snack if ever need.

How can I spend less money on food?

By introducing a few of these tips into your lifestyle and sticking to them, you should be able to spend less money on food and be more conscious about your purchases.

How much money a week should I spend on food?

Once you have planned your meals and completed a few grocery shops, you will have an overview of roughly how much money you are spending on food. This will set the precedence of how much money you need to spend on food. Make little tweaks if you wish to be more frugal and apply some of the tips set out in this blog post.

If you find yourself unable to afford the food you need to maintain a healthy and happy lifestyle, there are many charities and local foodbanks there to help you. Citizens Advice provides information on how you can access food banks working together with The Trussell Trust.

Whilst FareShare has been working together with their ambassador Marcus Rashford to help vulnerable children and fight hunger. Every community and local area will have a charity/trust that understands your difficulties, and they are there to support you.

Thank you for reading this post, if you have any questions or suggestions feel free to leave a comment below, I would love to hear your thoughts.

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