I don’t need to tell you the speed at which the cost of everything is rising. Everything from fuel to coffee is getting more expensive. Wallets are being squeezed! As with most people, our food shopping is one of the most expensive line items on our budget, so I’m always trying to find ways to keep within our monthly allowance, despite the rising costs. So I thought I’d share some tips, in the hope that you can reduce your grocery bill too.
This list is not about traipsing around 3 or 4 different supermarkets, comparing prices to ensure you get the best possible deal on blueberries. Or buying 5 kilos of porridge oats at once to ensure each bowl costs you mere pennies. These are realistic, actionable tips, that you can start using today. No matter how time (or space) poor you may be.
Here are 10 things we do, (and have done for a long time) on a weekly basis, to ensure we aren’t wasting money on our food shop. I hope they can help you reduce your grocery bill.
1. Eat the Food you Buy
Sounds ridiculously simple, no? Well, actually, no. Statistics show that the average household wastes between £250 and £400 on food a year. To avoid food waste, you’ll have to be a bit organised. It means writing a shopping list in your kitchen, where you can check what you already have to hand. Also, it means taking that list to the shop and not deviating from it. It can mean freezing bits which you know you won’t eat in time. As well as getting creative with the ingredients available in your cupboard.
Get good at knowing what things can be substituted for others so you’re not buying whole packs of things only to use one of them before the rest go out of date. If you are buying things with a short self life (I’m looking at you bagged salad) try to incorporate them early in your meal plan so you use them before they go bad.
2. Only Shop Once a Week
It is my aim, to only set foot in the supermarket once a week. I challenge myself not to go again, for anything. If I forget something, can I go without it for a few days? Or is there something at home I can substitute for the item I’m missing? To achieve this goal, I keep my shopping list to hand throughout the week, so I can add things to it as they run out. (This is especially useful for store cupboard items, spices, oil etc that I don’t regularly buy and am more likely to forget.) We all know if you pop into Tesco for some milk you come out £20 lighter, so only shopping once per week helps me save on these little ad hoc trips. You can find a printable download of a meal plan in this previous post.
As with the point above, get creative with substitutes if the supermarket doesn’t have an item on your list, don’t go elsewhere for it, instead buy something similar. Sweet potatoes instead of butternut squash, dried herbs if they’re all out of fresh, lemon instead of vinegar in dressings. You’ll be able to find something that works.
3. Get Comfortable with Repeating Meals
Who decided we had to eat something different every night anyway? A key way to reduce your grocery bill is by doubling up recipes and eating the same meal for two nights in a row. (Added bonus for the energy saved by cooking fewer times). I first started doing this because bed time with my children was taking so long, I’d have lost any motivation to cook by the time I got downstairs. We’d be reaching for the easy (and often less healthy) options, exhausted and bleary eyed.
To combat this, I started batch cooking two recipes on a Sunday, which gives us 4 nights of easy, healthy meal options to get us through the week nights. This means over the course of 7 week nights, we eat 5 different meals, which we don’t find a problem at all. Buying fewer ingredients can help reduce your grocery bill.
4. Buy a Treat Meal
You just know that there will be a night during the week where it just all goes wrong. You’ll have got home late or maybe the kids are ill, whatever the reason, there will be a night where you just don’t want to cook. Instead of calling for an Indian, make sure you have some pizzas or ready meals, or whatever it is you find tasty and satisfying, in the freezer.
5. Do Some Meal Prep
As mentioned above, doing a little bit of meal prep, can really help your week run smoother, and have you making fewer impromptu trips to the supermarket. I don’t pre-prep all our meals, but I spend 90 minutes each Sunday making two batch cooks for our evening meals during the week. In addition, I make either a big salad or a soup for our week day lunches. I make one batch of lunch on a Monday morning and one batch on a Wednesday morning which covers us Mon-Thurs. Then Friday lunch is a free-for-all.
Finally, most weeks I will get the ingredients to bake something with my son. This is great because its a lovely activity to do with him, plus it gives us some snacks to eat during the week. None of this takes me that long, but a little bit of effort in advance ensures we eat healthier, and reduces our grocery bill.
6. Eat Less Meat
Not always the most popular tip, but it’s here for a reason. It’s no secret that meat is expensive. Alternatives, are not. Can you go one or two nights a week without meat? A chickpea curry makes for a delicious substitute for chicken at a fraction of the cost. Black Bean fajitas are just as tasty as their carnivorous counterparts.
7. Eat the Cupboards Empty
During the last whole week of every month, I challenge myself to eat as much as we can from our cupboards. Inevitably there will be items left from your previous meal plans. Perhaps the pack had more than you needed, or for whatever reason you deviated from your meal plan. This has resulted in some weird and wonderful combinations, but so what? This is not a restaurant. Doing this on the last week of the month is great, if you’re over budget on your food, it can bring you back in line. If you were within budget, you might find some money to save that can be used towards something fun. It also means you can start the new month with nice fresh cupboards and ingredients.
8. Get Creative with Snacks
Nothing can bust my budget like the snack aisle. Especially when I’m trying to buy ‘healthy’ child-friendly snacks. I’ve already mentioned that we try and make one snack from scratch a week. But I also give small pots of cereal, handfuls of frozen peas or grated cheese & carrots. Random bits and bobs which aren’t necessarily pre-packed snacks, but work just as well and really reduce your grocery bill.
9. Reduce Variety
This tip is borne out of our need to maximise space in our small kitchen, but I find it also saves us money on our groceries too. You don’t need 6 different varieties of pasta, rice, cereal etc. Pick one or two and stick to those. No-one is going to suffer if you eat penne instead of spaghetti with your bolognaise. (Unless perhaps you’re Italian).
10. Down-Brand to Reduce Your Grocery Bill
I’m not suggesting that everything has to be from the basics range, but decide which items you don’t care about too much (and the one’s that you do), and down-brand them. If you can save 50p each on 10 items per week you could save £260 a year. It all adds up!
There you have it, my 10 top tips for reducing your grocery bill. I’d love to know if you try any of them, or if you have any of your own you can share.