10 tips for food budgeting
A few easy tweaks when it comes to the big food shop can save you a lot of money over the course of the year. And none of them involve going without.
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Is food shopping eating up too much of your family budget? With a lot of us feeling the pinch recently, it pays to look at cutting costs. Ensuring there is no food waste and planning meals in advance are just a few top tips. Read on to find more ways to save and make your pennies go further week in and week out.
1. Make a shopping list and plan your meals
Save money on food by spending just a couple of minutes itemising what you need will really help focus your mind and save money! Buying food in bulk is an excellent way of saving money especially on canned and dry goods and household items. Planning your meals week by week is another great tip that will ensure that you do not buy unnecessary items which will end up as food waste. Click here for lots of great recipes for inspiration! Having a plan of action reduces the chance of impulse buys, saving you time and money!
2. Try buying online
Supermarket delivery slots are hard to come by, but if you can manage to get one then it’s a great way of keeping impulse buys to a minimum, as you won’t be tempted by goodies on the shelves. And as the total is added up with each new item, you can set yourself a limit and then review what you’ve got in your basket, removing one or two less important things if you go over your budget.
3. Make clever comparisons
Make sure you compare like for like instead of automatically reaching for the cheapest. Two boxes of cereal or blocks of cheese may look similar but check the price per weight to be sure that each contains the same amount. It should be displayed on the shelf price ticket, and the lower the price per kilo, the better value it is.
4. Eat before shopping
If you’re hungry when you go to the supermarket, you’re much more likely to overspend on food shopping. If you followed the previous steps and planned your weekly meals then eating before you go food shopping wouldn't even be a thought! All those little treats in the supermarket will be much less tempting if you’re full and in the long run will help you to manage your spending better.
5. Assess your spend
Reviewing your food expenses is another important top tip. Keep all your food receipts for a month and track your spending by running down the list, focusing on the pricier items. Which of those could you live without? Consider cheaper alternatives for the future and create a more realistic food budget with these alternatives.
6. Check your fridge
What really gets used each week and what gets binned? For example, if you always end up with half a bottle of flat fizzy drink, it might be better value to buy small cans and use a little at a time, even if a bottle seems more cost-effective.
7. Know your dates
There’s a difference between ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates on food packaging: ‘use by’ means it may be harmful if you eat it after this date; ‘best before’ means that the quality won’t be as good if consumed after this date.
People often make the mistake of throwing food away once it has passed its ‘best before’ date, thereby getting rid of perfectly good food. If you’re happy with the quality of your food and it’s only just passed its ‘best before’ date, there’s no need to replace it.
8. Store it well
Most food needs to be stored in the fridge once the packaging has been opened. For maximum preservation, the ideal fridge temperature is 0-5ºC. Make sure cooked food is stored in airtight containers, and reseal packaging to keep food at its best for longer. Basically, you should avoid to throw away food and wasting it.
9. Rely on leftovers
A great way to create savings when cooking is to make a little extra and then freeze it for a later date. Soups, pasta sauces and curries are all perfect for freezing in bags – just make sure they’re properly sealed to you don’t have to clean up leaks! If you allow them to freeze whilst flat you will be able to layer them up and utilise your freezer space to the max.
Always label up food bags before you freeze a meal – frozen food can be really hard to decipher! Include what it is, the date it goes into the freezer and how many it will feed (i.e. 1 x adult or 2 x kids). Many a quick kids’ meal can be organised that way.
They make for a handy meal when you’re in a hurry, and will be much cheaper (and healthier!) than a preservative-packed ready meal. It’s more cost effective to cook a little bit extra than to buy fresh ingredients and start from scratch again.
10. Avoid special offers
Admit it, we’ve all been tempted at one time or another by the mountain of promotions and offers on food items in supermarkets - but is this really helping us to save?
When you’re walking around the supermarket and you see a tempting sale, remember that a lot of food items on sale are due to that item going out of date soon. Sometimes these foods spoil before you get a chance to use them which wastes your money and creates more food waste.
You’ll be amazed how much less your shopping bill comes to each week if you stop spending money on 'sale' food items and instead take time to review your weekly expenses, plan your meals and save leftovers! For more tips on how to live well on a budget, see our article on the one rule you need to know to save money.