How to save money on your weekly shop

My friends and I are often discussing how much money we spend week in, week out on food. Most are getting frustrated that they spend so much and want to reduce it to get some extra money tucked away for a rainy day or that summer holiday they've been planning for months.

As a family, we spend somewhere between £30-£40 a week. Every few months I may need to do a larger shop of £60-£70 to stock up on some of the items which take longer to make our way through like herbs, spices, washing powder and toilet roll, but pretty much, each week I'm spending £40. On tight months, when we really want to save every penny, I'm able to reduce my shop to £25. Those weeks take a lot of extra planning and the meal cooking is more time consuming but it can be done. Below I'm going to share my top tips for reducing the food bills - enjoy!

1) You can't save money and time

This snippet of wisdom will come out in some of the below tips but the basis is this: we need to stop relying on pre-packaged, pre-prepared food items and start home cooking. If you want to save some money then be prepared to be spending a little more time in the kitchen preparing your own food and cooking from scratch. I understand that it's not easy for all of us, especially if we have little children, are working long hours or simply are just too exhausted by the end of the day!, but, if you can, find the extra half an hour to be in the kitchen and your bank balance will thank you for it.

2) Go back to basics

Photo taken from Google Images
One of my main bug bears when people complain about the amount of money they spend is that they often are buying branded items that cost two, three, even four times the cost of the simple home brand item. If you're serious about saving money then strip it all back. Buy the supermarket own brand version of the product FIRST and then, if you really can't stand it, go up ONE level. (for example: tesco value then tesco then tesco finest then branded). It takes swallowing our pride a little and getting out of the mindset that, "it simply isn't the same unless it's X product". Some things, sure, you'll notice a difference and will want to change, but most things are perfectly fine and after a simple adjustment period you'll find yourself enjoying them just as much.

Not only will you save yourself a whole load of money, but, most likely, you'll be improving your health too. A well known UK programme called 'Eat Well for Less' found that more often than not, the supermarket own brand of food items contained less salt, sugar and saturated fat than the branded version.

3) Stop with the pre-prepared foods

Two-minute rice, pre-sliced mushrooms and grated cheese might be saving you precious seconds in the kitchen, but they are also costing you precious pennies too! Plan in some extra time and do the preparation yourself. Meal prep if this helps! One day a week prepare all your vegetables and store in air-tight containers to make it easier on the day. My Mum used to buy the block of cheese and then grate it ready for the week. There are simple methods to make cooking easier but not be spending all the money yourself on someone else doing it!

4) Make your own sauces

I don't remember ever buying a jar of pasta sauce. There is simply no need. Some chopped tomatoes, onions, mixed herbs and garlic make the healthier version of the sugar loaded, preservative ridden jar that they'll sell you for £2.50. Curry, white, cheese and tomato sauces are all easy to learn and, whilst the initial outlay of herbs and spices may knock you back a few £££, the overall saving (and health benefits!) will be worth it. Do a bit of research, give it a practise and you'll never buy a jar of sauce again!

5) Split your meat and bulk with vegetables

Photo taken from Google Images
For a typical family of four, a 750g pack of mince should do two meals. Same for a pack of chicken breasts or bacon. Making it stretch just requires some extra vegetables and sauce. For instance, whilst a typical lasagne recipe may call for only onion and pepper, I find myself adding mushrooms and courgette to bulk it out. Chicken pasta bake can have an assortment of vegetables (I literally use it at the end of the week to get rid of all the vegetables which are starting to turn) and my husband has made a chilli with 10 different vegetables in it before (he even grated carrot into it!). Most vegetables go into most things so stock up on peppers, mushrooms, onions, courgettes, carrots and sweetcorn.
It'll help you to up your 5-a-day too!

6) Cook vegetarian

It really is much much cheaper and so much better for you and the environment. I know some of you will be groaning right about now and wondering how to convince your carnivorous partner to eat a 'plate of lentils' but, most of the time, they'll barely notice. Mixed bean chilli, lentil dhal and root vegetable curries are easy entrances into the world of vegetarian and people will barely notice the difference! The trick with vegetarian is to not go for the 'meat replacement' products. Instead, switch to the whole food varieties like lentils, pulses, beans and vegetables as a cheaper alternative.

7) Meal Plan

On the days when I've forgotten my shopping list and are just wandering the aisles picking up the things I think I need, I always end up spending more. Not only that but I end up wasting food because I already had broccoli in the fridge, or looking like I'm preparing for the next apocalypse with three bags of rice and 10 tins of beans because I haven't properly checked the cupboards. Meal planning is your friend everyone! Have a look at your week, see what days you'll need to have cooked a meal and then plan in what you're going to have. When it comes to shopping, write a list of EVERY ingredient you'll need for each recipe, check your cupboards and cross off what you already have and ta-da! you have a list of all the products you need without stocking up on stuff you don't need! It will help you to be more organised, you'll be able to see what you go through more often (especially if you highlight the items you already have instead of crossing off) and it'll stop you from grabbing random things in the shop (as long as you can stop yourself that is!). It'll probably save you time shopping too as you'll already know which aisles you need to go down!

8) Never shop when you're hungry

This is one of my golden rules. If I'm hungry when shopping then, no doubt, I'll end up with 20 sausage rolls, a multipack of wotsits and half a dozen pot noodles in my trolley. Plan your shopping trips around meal times or have a snack before you go - just don't do it when ravenous!

9) Check out the reduced section
It's really not as gross as you think. Reduced food could be reduced for a whole host of reasons, and more often than not the food is totally edible. If you don't want to eat it straight away then freeze it or cook it up and store it to make it last longer. I use the reduced section as an opportunity to buy some items that I wouldn't normally like flavoured fish portions or branded yoghurts. Remember though, it only works out cheaper if you already buy the product, or it's cheaper than what you would normally buy. It's not a bargain if you've spend an extra £20 on non-essential items!

10) Think outside the box

None of these ideas are classed as 'frugal', but there are so many tips and tricks out there to make your food last longer and your pennies go further! Spend some time researching and you'll find hoards of advice from correct ways to store food to the more extreme methods of saving money like watering milk and re-using teabags. Whatever your budget, there will be tips out there to help you penny-pinch.

So there you go - my top 10 tips for saving money on your weekly food shop! Let me know how you get on! If you have any extra tips then I'd love to hear them - drop me a comment below!


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