Mum of five Kellie has cut her food spending drastically in recent months with a combination of planning, research and savvy spending. Check out her easy tips and tricks that could help you to cut your food bill in half too – they really work!
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For us as a family of seven, our food shopping bill is one of our biggest monthly expenses and just last year we changed our shopping habits for the better by reducing our food bill in half.
At present we spend €100 every seven days, including our midweek top up, but it didn’t happen overnight. In fact, it was trial and error for a few months – but we got there in the end.
If you want to try cutting your food bill in half like Kellie, follow these simple tips and tricks to change the way you shop and you could cut your food shopping bill for good.
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How to Cut Your Food Bill
What’s On Offer?
Find out what the weekly specials are in your local food store before you make any plans for the week ahead. It does take time and energy to find the best deals, but you will reap the benefits long term.
Check Your Cupboards
Take a quick inventory of what you already have in the fridge, freezer and cupboards. The aim of this is to hopefully stop you buying duplicates and ending up with 5 jars of the same thing, but also so you can use up fresh items in the fridge and not waste them by throwing them out uneaten.
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Once you have discovered what fruits, vegetables and meats are on offer and in season, and made a list of what you already have at home, it’s time to start planning.
Keep a list of recipes and meals your family enjoy to hand, and alternate some family favourites each week. Don’t be afraid to get creative and tweak your meal plan to what you have or what you can get a good price. Include all meals, not just dinner, and don’t forget about snacks, treats and even picnics in the summer months.
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Make Your Shopping List
Take five minutes to make a shopping list of all the items you need – not only will you be able to distinguish what you really need, but it will also help you stay on plan and save time in the supermarket. The key to writing an effective shopping list is to write it in the order of the aisles you will be walking.
Fill Your Belly First
People do a lot of silly things when they’re hungry! If you want to maximise your chances of sticking to your shopping budget and the plan you have made, never ever shop on an empty stomach. Otherwise, you may find yourself opting for high-calorie, pre-packed snacks to curb the food craving on the journey home which, aside from not being a healthy choice, will also sabotage your shopping budget.
Shop At the Best Time
Try to shop on days your supermarket gets their food deliveries (simply ask the next time you are in-store), or in the evening when it is quieter and you can hopefully go without the kids.
Pick Up the Discounts
Similarly, if you know what time your supermarket discounts the perishable food each day (or sometimes the night before), that may be a good time to go and pick up meat, dairy, fruit and veg at a cheaper price.
I’m a sucker for those yellow sticker discount labels and think it’s a great way to add extra food items such as yoghurts and sweet treats to the trolley for pittance. Ask the floor staff or shop manager when they fill their sale shelf each day and be prepared to think ahead and optimise meals on the spot.
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Finding the best deals on food and household items will mean shopping around. Fruit and veg may be cheaper in one supermarket, while another offers better deals on other products. Work out a routine where you can divide and conquer to reap the best results.
In this case, bring your own bag! Always bring your shopping bags – not only is it good for the environment, but it will also save you a couple of euro each time you shop.
Use Store Rewards
No matter where you decide to shop, use reward cards and vouchers whenever possible – even if it’s a small shop to pick up milk and bread midweek. The points add up and can be used to cut your food bill when you have a larger shop to do, especially around Christmas time.
Avoid Fridge Chaos
They may be out of view behind closed doors, but it’s really important to organise your fridge, freezer and food cupboards. If you don’t know what you have or can’t find what you have bought, you’ll end up buying more of the same unnecessarily – and, most likely, throwing out food that has gone out-of-date.
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Try Own-Brand Products
Don’t overlook no-name or own-brand products, a majority of these store-brand foods are made by the exact same big brand companies that charge two or three times for the same item. Most of the time, the only difference is the label.
Beware of BOGOF
We all love a deal like buy one get one free, but if you get sucked into buying the stuff you don’t really need, did you really get a deal at all?
Avoid Convenience Snack Packs
Don’t buy snacks on the run or the convenience snack packs often made for lunch boxes. They are less healthy and significantly more expensive. For example, if your kids like cream cheese and breadsticks, buy some reusable pots and fill them yourself rather than buying the pre-prepared versions. Not only is it more pocket-friendly, but it is also a great way to get the kids involved in preparing meals and their own lunch box.
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Batch Cook Your Meals
An afternoon well spent brings a week of content! Soups, stews, curries, pasta sauces and all manner of dinners can be made in larger quantities and frozen for another day. Or, if freezer space is at a premium, you could keep leftovers in the fridge and transform it into another dinner – for example, use leftover bolognese again as a filling for jacket potatoes or in lasagne.
Preparation is Key
Spend some time once a week washing and/or cutting up fruit and vegetables. If you are peeling potatoes for tonight’s dinner, do tomorrow’s as well and keep them in a bowl or saucepan of water in the fridge.
Timesaving tips and tricks like this will help to speed up dinner and lunch preparations, make you less likely to opt for convenience meals, and provides healthy snacks that are ready to go.
SAVE OR SPEND?
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Eat leftovers for lunch. Invest in a food flask and bring pasta, soups and even noodles to work or school.
Plan Some Meat-Free Days
Meat-based diets cost considerably more compared to vegetarian and vegan diets, so it makes complete sense to cut your food bill by reducing the amount of meat in your weekly.
Be adventurous and try a sweet potato curry, homemade pizza with a creamy salad or a vegetarian lasagne for a change.
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Are Your Storing Food Correctly?
Have you ever considered that it’s not the shop’s fault that your berries don’t last? On average, UK households throw away roughly £70 of edible food every month simply because it has been stored incorrectly. Over the course of a year that’s a lot of money going straight in the bin!
Check the temperature of your fridge and freezer, and make sure all food is stored properly to keep it as fresh as possible – for example, ensure food is wrapped or packed airtight in the freezer to prevent freezer-burn.
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Grow Your Own
Add fresh flavour to any dish with herbs such as mint, parsley, thyme, rosemary and basil that are all relatively easy to grow. You don’t even need a garden for this one – you can grow herbs in pots on your windowsill!
If you have a little more space, try growing some fruit and vegetables. Tomatoes, carrots, beetroot, lettuce, peppers, spring onions and plenty more can be grown in your garden. Some will even grow in pots if you only have limited space or a balcony! Being able to pick your own veggies will really help keep costs down, and gives great satisfaction – plus, it’s a fun hands-on activity to do with kids.
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Make Your Own
Set yourself a challenge to try making something you would usually buy. Most of us spend a lot of money buying products that could be made at home, for example soup, sauces, pizza dough, cakes, biscuits, and even your own bread!
Making your own soup, as an example, is a great way to get more veggies into the whole family, but it’s also much cheaper (and tastier!) than buying ready-made.
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Other costs for the average family
And finally, one of the biggest expenses for families each week especially with babies is nappies, formula and baby food. However, we use cloth nappies, cloth wipes, my baby is breastfed and I make all her meals at home from scratch, in fact, I give her whatever we are having at all mealtimes minus the dressings, spices and salt.
If your family is following a strict budget and trying to save for a mortgage like us, it’s worth considering all of the above. You will be surprised how much you can actually save over the course of a year!
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What other tips and advice do you have to cut your food bill or general spending? Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!