Updated: Mar 15
With the cost of bills soaring many of us are looking for ways to save money wherever we can. One area we have made huge savings is food. So we have pulled together our top tips that can help you save when it comes to your food shopping. First tip is a simple one: we try have a no spend week every month. So no spending in anything other than essentials and using things up, we shop our own cupboards and get creative with what we have. The money we save can be then used in subsequent weeks or saved for something specific. The Store Cupboard: We then do a cupboard stock take: give the cupboards a good clean, pop things into airtight well labelled containers jars. We think about what is important to make a meal for us; a few herbs and spices can really transform basic ingredients into something scrummy. Think about what works for you but this is what is in our basic stock cupboard. These do not need to be expensive or branded. Some of the things I always find make a meal taste more enjoyable are dried garlic, ginger, chilli flakes, cumin, paprika, turmeric, cinammon, basil and oregano. We also grow fresh mint, rosemary and thyme. Other than that we have salt, black pepper, lemon juice, tomato puree, gravy/stock, flour, oats and pulses (dried red lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas etc) so we can usually pull a meal together that is tasty and cheap. There's always some coconut oil around for eating (or using on skin), some peanut butter and honey which can be used for sweet or savoury, some sugar and some cocoa powder. When it comes to oil, most vegetable oils are rapeseed oil so if you follow a recipe asking for this, no need to buy the small expensive bottle, just check the ingredients of your low cost one. You might also want to add some apple cider vinegar and sunflower oil to your cupboard for dressings, sauces etc. You can often find these at specialist supermarkets and markets. Some large supermarkets have a World Foods aisle and this is where you will find the larger packs or zero waste shops will allow you to buy just enough of what you need at a low price. I also tend to add things like Worcestershire sauce, BBQ sauce and an obligatory bottle of mayo. These basics, chosen carefully should not set you back more than about £10 so just get your favourites or the ones you need to use for specific recipes you regularly eat.
The Fridge: We have a few tips and tricks for the fridge to help food last longer and make sure there's as little waste as possible. Check the temperature of your fridge: reducing the temperature of your fridge to below 5 degrees can massively reduce food waste. The average UK fridge temperature is set at at least 2°C too warm. This means a family of four wastes £60 every month by chucking food away and the average UK household could make seven extra meals every week if it said goodbye to unnecessary food waste. Some easy tips are to use a thermometer and keep an eye on the temperature, shut the door as much as possible to stop the temperature rising, cool food to room temperature before you put it in the fridge or use a cool bag to transport refrigerated foods home from the supermarket and store food in the right part of the fridge ( check this out for more top tips https://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/article/love-your-fridge-and-waste-less ). Also, take fruit and veg out of packaging and store for maximum longevity by using the A-Z of food storage: https://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/article/food-storage-a-z In our house, we also have an eat me first drawer/box for ensuring we don't miss foods that are close to their use by date or need eating quickly. The Freezer: Repeat after me. The freezer is your friend. Make the freezer your friend. I'm not talking twizzlers, nuggets and frozen chips, I'm talking batch cooks, fruit and veg and free food. So what do we do? We freeze food that is going to go out of date, including free food; stuff we've grown, foraged, got through Olio or other food waste sharing apps and sites and we use up leftovers in other dishes. I used to hate the term batch cooking but batch cooking doesn’t have to mean cooking all day for the week ahead or eating the same thing over and over. When you are cooking dinner make extra and freeze one for another day or bulk cook a base (chicken, mince, veg etc and portion out for different meals i.e. fajitas, curries, stews, soups etc) and freeze in dump bags to be cooked up or finished later on.
Plan Yourself! If you aren't meal planning you're missing a trick; read my blog, do an inventory of your fridge/freezer/cupboards, create a plan from what you have and write a shopping list of just the bits you need and don't be tempted by the extras. Don't forget to make your own price index; this is a guide to how much things you often buy cost and where from so you know where the value is. A top tip is to check the price per kg / unit - as special offers aren’t always as good as they seem.
Shop Smarter: We rotate our shopping too; we shop smart rather than shop around; week 1 we do an online shop of basics- week 2 we go to our community grocery and Olio to top up as much for free, week 3 we go to our local shop within walking distance, then week 4 is either a different supermarket or our local shop for essentials if it's a no spend week. This way we get the best prices and variety of products without being tempted to overspend. So why not go to a different shop each week instead of 4 different every week? This saves us time and we still get the diversity we need in our food shopping.
Fake it til you make it! We love a fakeaway; it feels like a treat without the cost. We try to go homemade wherever we can; it means we can make sauces from scratch and tailor it to our family's taste, bulk out meat dishes with grains, pulses and extra veg and eat as seasonally and locally as possible (seasonal fruit and veg are cheaper and if you want something out of season buy frozen or tinned). It also means we can get the kids involved in cooking and what goes into their meals which is teaching them some valuable skills along the way. These are just some of the things we have to done to save money and because we love food and HATE waste. Do you have any others?