I had never given much thought to how much money we spent on groceries, until recently. Our weekly grocery shop (plus maybe a mid-week top-up) seemed to be getting more and more expensive, and so I looked through the bank statements for previous months and totalled up how much we had used our debit cards in the supermarket. While there are always small cash transactions as well, I thought the electronic record would give a general enough estimate of how much we were spending. I was absolutely horrified!
I would be embarrassed to admit the number publicly, needless to say it was more than we spend in any other area of our lives. Now, I know that food is a necessary expense, it’s not like choosing a luxury item that we don’t really need. We all HAVE to eat, and feed our children. But how much does it really take to feed a family of 5? This is the soul searching question for me. So, I decided to purposely find ways to cut down the bill. It’s an evolving system, and there is a wealth of knowledge online about how to be thrifty when grocery shopping. But using these techniques I’ve managed to take an average of 20% off our grocery bill.
- Drop a price band in 3 NON FOOD PRODUCTS. Eventually, I hope to drop the price brand on many of the items on my shopping list, but its a case of trial and error, not everything will suit our tastes, so its good to do it gradually. By starting with non-food items, it will ease you in gently (after all, none of us really likes change lol). For me, I bought Tesco own brand bleach, rather than the usual leading brand. Also, my shampoo & conditioner and antibacterial spray. I didn’t go for the absolutely cheapest versions, but one price brand lower than my usual. It’s surprising the difference it can make.
- Stock up your freezer with some frozen vegetables. I know they aren’t to everyones taste, I personally prefer fresh veg, but there are certain things we cook that it makes little difference to the taste. For example, I like to make a pasta bake with sweetcorn and peas. Frozen sweetcorn and peas are a fraction of the cost of fresh, but taste exactly the same. The same goes for a chicken and broccoli bake, you may have to cook it slightly differently but the broccoli will taste just the same.
- Get familiar with the discount areas in your supermarket. Now before you judge, just hear me out! I know we often think that discounted food MUST have something wrong with, after all, you get what you pay for, right? Sometimes, yes we have to pay more for quality. But very often when it comes to discount sections, it is a lot of good quality products that have reached their Best Before date on that particular day. I always get a bargain on fruit and veg, because its the first place I look at when I start shopping. At this time of year, berries can be so expensive. Particularly strawberries, which my children LOVE. And I love that they enjoy healthy food, but at a cost of £2 for approx 10 strawberries, its just too expensive. Although very often in the discount area, I get them reduced to £1, and the children enjoy them as an after dinner treat, that day or the next day.
- Remember that Best Before dates are different from USE BY. When you see BEST BEFORE think of it as a suggestion, not a hard and fast rule. Don’t forget that there will be discounts in different areas in the store, including the bread/bakery section, chilled, and fruit and veg. Don’t be afraid to have a look. Some days I get nothing from these areas, but other days I do nearly all the shopping there! It fills up the freezer and makes me smile because I know I have saved a lot of money. Last week I got 3 packets of these from the chiller, popped them in the freezer and they defrost in 2 hours. I couldn’t make them for this price – thats how I know they are a bargain.
- Forget the jars of sauce, invest in some jars of spices, stock cubes, tinned tomatoes and coconut milk. These sorts of basic ingredients form the basis of many jarred sauces, and are very easy to make. Use the internet to help with recipes. When it comes to curry, I make it up depending on what ingredients I have in the cupboard. For tonight I have prepared a chicken curry (recipe to follow), popped it in the slow cooker and it smells delicious, simmering away while I’m typing. Not to mention, it will go very nicely with my bargain naan bread.
- Buy in bulk, if it’s a product you frequently buy. Personally, I only have the space to store a certain amount of dried food, but things like pasta, rice, tinned tomatoes, beans, pulses, and legumes are items we eat all the time, so it makes sense that I stock up on them, because it works out cheaper to buy them in bulk. I have also found that buying raw meat in bulk from a local butchers is much cheaper (and tastier) than supermarket meat. Yes it takes time and energy to start splitting up 20 chicken breast into freezer bags but it saves a fortune and keeps me stocked up on chicken (our family favourite) for a couple of weeks.
- Make a menu plan for your week, and a shopping list to match. It seems obvious, but having a clear plan of what you NEED from he supermarket before you go can stop the impulse buying.
- Shop without children, were possible. Children are impulse buyers, and are easily drawn to beautiful displays and advertising. I know i always spend more when my children are with me.