Over the past six to nine months I've noticed the food bill each week for shopping going up and up. The budget that we used to use has been easily exceeded, so we've had to employ some rules.
Each week we found that we were having food left over and wasted in the fridge. In particular this would be fruit and vegetables that hadn't been used in any meals and then passed their best. These items of course end up in the bin, but the other problem is they clog up your fridge. When you empty out the lost food there usually isn't much left in there.
Simple steps to save money on the food shop
Freezer Check & Make a Menu
Each week we now do a number of things differently. First off is to find out what you have in the freezer. So, we have to do a stock check. I know that this seems very business like, but if you don't do it you'll end up with meats and other food stuffs lingering in the freezer which never get eaten. Next we draw up a table, days down the left and lunch and dinner for the columns. Each meal is then decided, using the freezer list, at which point we have a starting point for the shopping list. There's no point in doing a shopping list if you don't know what you are going to be eating.
Make a Shopping List
The shopping list is then constructed around the recipes going to be used, so I check all ingredients are present in the cupboard. I find it very annoying to start preparing a meal and realise I am missing an ingredient. If any are low then a replacement will be put on to the list. This is also a good time to have a look at a new recipe to try to change things a little.
Once you've finished the list I normally notice that there is not all that much on there. I cook a lot from scratch there's generally a reasonable amount of fruit & vegetables on there, a few tins and meats/fish. Regarding the vegetables I try to only buy what's needed for the recipes, I won't buy the 'four pack' of courgettes if I only need one for instance. The usual staples such as milk and bread normally make an appearance too of course.
Tackling The Supermarket
I'm then ready to attack the shop. Armed with my list, and a pen, I only buy what's on the list with one exception! The bargain reduction chiller. These are meats that will be close to their end date, but still perfectly good meat. If there are big discounts to be had I'll put those in the trolley. These are not planned for this week, but as soon as I get home I will be getting them into the freezer for the following week. This saves loads of money, sometimes I'm getting meat at half their original price. This is a big saving!
Be careful when you are buying the so called 'special offers'. I've noticed that you must look at the price per weight on all items. Sometimes it's more expensive to buy the 4 pack that it would have been to buy four individual tins, for example chopped tomatoes was cheaper by the tin I noticed the other day. A quick bit of arithmetic to work out which is better can save quite a lot over the course of a few weeks. Also, never buy off the end of an aisle. These promotions are put there for a reason, you can't compare the price to the other products on offer. The offer item will still be in the normal aisle next to all of the other products. Just wait until you get there. If you are not great at maths, take a calculator.
Preparation is key to saving money on your shopping. Without a plan or food management you'll be throwing away food like it's going out of fashion. You'll find that you can see the back of the fridge too, because there will only be food that is going to be eaten in there. There are deals to be had at supermarkets, or when you are out just browsing in local butchers and veg shops. Just think before you buy though 'do I have room to freeze it' or 'will I cook this before it goes off'.
I think you'll find if you stick to your plan the supermarket will become a more pleasant experience because you'll be finished quick and save money at the till. Happy shopping!
- Written by Stuart Edge
- Category: Techniques and Tips
- Published: 31 March 2012