How to slash your food bill

I am on a challenge to dramatically reduce our food bill. It has been slowly creeping up. I want to save more money than ever in the run up to Christmas. If you want to slash your food bill too, read on!

It is all about being organised. I want to get it as low as possible whilst eating a nutritionally good diet. Here is how I intend to do it. I will let you know how I get on!

slash your food bill

Give up on the major supermarkets

I spend so much less on our weekly shop if I stick to Aldi or Lidl. Of the two, I prefer Aldi as I find their own ranges excellent and their fruit and vegetables of better quality. However, Lidl is round the corner and has better parking so I do pop in their too.

Iceland is another good budget supermarket. Although I avoid their huge range of ready meals, the prices are very good for plain meat, fish and vegetables. Even some of their tinned goods are good value.

Approved Food is also worth keeping an eye on. However, you need to factor in the delivery charge of £5, but if you spend over £55 on your first box you get it free. It’s worth combining an order with a friend. Be careful though – it is easy to fill up your basket with chocolate and treats! A good one for Christmas maybe.

Buy fruit and vegetables at the market

Most towns have a market. Ours isn’t the best, but we do have a couple of decent fruit and vegetable stalls selling at way below supermarket prices. If you go at the end of the day on there are likely to be huge reductions on perishables.

Look out for food bargains in places like Poundland, Home Bargains and B&M.

Eat less meat and fish

There is no doubt about it, meat and fish are expensive. I don’t eat meat anyway, but I do often go for fish as an easy option. I tend to buy frozen or tinned, which is much cheaper. Mr S and my daughter are confirmed carnivores. However, I intend to cook meals just twice a week with meat or fish at the centre. Let’s see how long it takes them to notice!

I will continue to use tinned tuna, sardines and anchovies as these are flavoursome, nutritious and inexpensive. Pulses will begin to feature more in our dinners.

Planning, planning, planning

It is worth repeating! Meal planning saves loads of time and money. Keep a running shopping list and make sure you always take it with you when you go grocery shopping. Be aware of how much items cost. If you don’t, how do you know when you are getting a bargain?

Some folk keep a price book so that they know where they can buy each item cheapest. I don’t have the time to go to lots of different shops, though, so I don’t think this would work for me.

Shop from the larder

This is really important if you want to slash your food bill. Be honest, how many times have you gone shopping and duplicated items you already have rammed at the back of your cupboard? How often do you go through everything in your fridge, freezer and larder and plan your week’s meals using what you already have? It is surprising how little extra you have to buy when you shop from the larder first.

Cook every meal from scratch

Cooking from scratch saves lots of money. Home cooking doesn’t have to be complicated. A cheese omelette with home made chips and some frozen peas is one of my favourite meals. Quick and easy too! Keeping it simple is essential for me. I don’t have time for fancy cordon bleu style cooking.

There are other advantages to cooking from scratch. If you make a spaghetti sauce you know exactly what is in it. You can control salt and sugar levels. What you make will contain minimal additives. You can even get a warm, green glow because when you quit buying convenience meals you will bring a lot less packaging into your home.

Keep it simple. I avoid recipes that insist I go out and buy lots of things I don’t usually use. Miguel Barclay’s book FAST & FRESH One Pound Meals: Delicious Food For Less is good for inspiration. He has a new one
Miguel Barclay’s FAST & FRESH One Pound Meals, which is on my Christmas wish list.

Make soup

This is where your end of day bargain vegetables from the market come into their own. Or if you grow your own and have a glut. Make soup!

I make a huge vat at a time and freeze it in old yogurt and margarine containers. This makes lunches for pennies.

Soup isn’t difficult to make. You don’t need a recipe most of the time. I find a base of chopped, sauted onions and celery means pretty much anything can be thrown into your soup. A decent veg stock such as Marigold is worth buying, but supermarket stock cubes will do. For a nice thick soup, use some potatoes.

Save any scraps of mashed potato, cooked rice and pasta and leftover vegetables in the freezer. When you make your next batch of soup, throw them in! A simple hand blender is a useful investment if you are going to start making soup. However, you don’t need a fancy soup maker.

Batch cook

Batch cooking takes a little organisation and time, but pays dividends in terms of money saving. If you tend to buy lots of jars of spaghetti sauce, for example, you can save loads by making your own in big batches and freezing. I will be making a simple sauce of tinned tomatoes, onions, garlic and herbs this weekend in a huge pan. To this I can add minced beef or Quorn mince to make a bolognese, use it for lasagne, turn it into a veggie stew with the addition of pulses and chopped vegetables, add curry spices and chicken or lentils and have it with rice. I  might even have it as it is on pasta with some grated cheese.

Other good things to batch cook are curry, casseroles, pastry, bread rolls… there are loads of dishes that freeze well.

Head for the supermarket value brands

I don’t have the money for any brand loyalty. If you want to slash your food bill, then switch to the supermarket value brands. If you don’t like those, move up to the supermarket own brands. One will suit and I bet no one notices.

Shop at weird times

Ilona over at Life After Money is the maestro of the yellow sticker bargain. I am in awe! She knows exactly when to visit each supermarket in her area for the best reductions and does her shopping in the evenings near closing time. She doesn’t worry about best before or even use by dates. I am going to do some more shopping in the evenings to see what I can find. About 3.30 on a Sunday seems to be a good time at my local Asda.

Ilona is a huge inspiration – if you don’t know her yet and want to save money, you must pay her a visit! Incidentally, you can read my interview with her here.

Use up leftovers and don’t waste food

If you waste food, you are throwing money down the drain. I did a whole post on this here. Being organised, meal planning and eating from the larder will all help you to reduce your food waste and save lots of money.

Buy in bulk

Buy large packets of non perishables, as they are always cheaper. For example, the basmati rice in the world foods section seems to come in huge bags and works out much cheap gram by gram, as do dried lentils and pulses. Iceland is good for large bags of frozen fruit and vegetables.

Grow your own to slash your food bill

For the past few years we have had two small vegetable patches, a greenhouse and lots of fruit. This year we haven’t had the time or energy to grow our own. However, all is not lost. It seems our friends all have a glut at this time of the year. We have had runner beans, salad items, courgettes, beetroot, aubergines, tomatoes…all the things we usually grow.

I have also seen people selling their gluts outside their houses very cheaply. it is worth stocking up to freeze or make soup.

We do have fruit still and have a freezer full of redcurrants and blackcurrants, and now the plums and apples are on the way.

Go foraging

At this time of year blackberries are everywhere, free for the picking. We already have some in the freezer. We have picked sloes, cherries, nettles and apples in the past, all growing wild. If you want to get really good at finding food for nothing, invest in a copy of Richard Mabey’s classic book Food For Free .

Drink more water

I am talking about tap water, which is pretty much free. The more water you drink, the less tea, coffee, fizzy drinks, juice, squash and alcohol you will need. A much healthier option. Don’t buy the bottled stuff though as that won’t save you money and creates a lot of plastic waste.

Frugal food bloggers who can help you slash your food bill

There is a lot of information on the internet to help you slash your food bill. You could try some of my Favourite Frugal Recipes! Thrifty Lesley is another blog I go to for frugal cooking inspiration. There are loads more on my Best Frugal Blogs post.

What are your ideas to slash your food bill?

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14 thoughts on “How to slash your food bill

  1. Tap water free? Ho Ho Ho, Jane. We live in the most expensive tap water area in the country, our monthly bill is over £70 for water, and we’re careful with it, too! But joking aside it’s still cheaper than bottled water and who in their right minds buys fizzy drinks these days? We do have one bottle of sparkling water a week as a treat, as we don’t drink wine, but mainly it’s tap water, which is lovely chilled with some ice in it and perhaps a slice of lemon.
    Sadly, our town doesn’t have a market, only Totnes has a market on Fridays and I don’t go because it’s packed and car parking is difficult and stressful.
    I, too, am in awe of Ilona and her bargain yellow sticker buys. However, those ‘use by’ dates are there for a purpose: not all things which look or smell or even taste OK are safe to use, especially dairy products, so care should be taken when eating them, especially items which have previously been opened. We might think these days that the nanny state has gone too far with Sell By and Use By and Best Before dates, and they have perhaps created more waste in the process, but we really do need to take care when eating things ‘past’ these dates.
    I would also say not to give up on eating fish unless you are totally vegetarian (i.e. not eating anything which has a face.) It doesn’t have to be expensive fish; for example tinned sardines or pilchards. These mightn’t be to everyone’s taste, but they’re a good source of protein and minerals.
    Yes, we often cook from the larder, but these items need to be replaced in due course. This could be considered a temporary saving, for when funds are really being squeezed.
    Re making soup, I have sometimes been surprised how many ingredients I require to make some soups, so for example while leek & potato soup is cheap, quick and easy, making pestou soup or minestrone soup, both of which require a lot of vegetables, can be quite expensive.
    But, as always, a very good list of recommendations on slashing food bills, Jane.

  2. Brilliant post and very timely as I was thinking of exactly the same especially staying away from the larger supermarkets like Tesco as their books are a big temptation for me despite me using the library weekly and I have just done a big declutter and trying to spend less to build up the savings pot. Also going to use our local veg shop to support local shops. I have got some great ideas from today’s post. Thank you. We are thinking of buying a small freezer as we have a fridge freezer and very little room for freezing batch cook meals which will be a massive help.

  3. Lots of good tips there.
    My food bill has been going up too. August is always expensive with 2 birthday meals within 10 days of each other (this year a 21st so a bit more effort thrown in!), and everyone home for the holidays, but come September 2 will be off again and I’ll be back down to 5 to feed!
    We never have any leftovers as 5 of the 7 of us are male!

    Not counting any eating out, I try to stick to less than £100 a week (all in, including household), but it’s crept up to around £115 a week now. It actually started to go up when Aldi & Asda opened as now I visit twice as many supermarkets each week as I did when all we had was Sainsburys and Iceland, despite Sainsburys prices since coming down in response! :/ I’m sure it’s not all down to price increases – it makes sense that the more shops you go to, the more you’ll spend, even though I’m still buying much the same things I have always bought!

    My carnivores have become used to Quorn mince and Cauldron sausages now and don’t bat an eye anymore. So all I buy is a £5 bag of frozen chicken breasts from Iceland once a month or less.
    Since sending one of the fussier eaters off to uni last year we’ve been eating more meals based around chickpeas and lentils, so it’ll be interesting to see how the son who has just finished uni copes with it as we’ve been eating “student-friendly” meals all summer!

  4. My, now much more efficient kitchen, will be getting more of a workout come September as I will be sticking to a very strict budget going forward. I’m hoping that local produce will bring down the cost of some items soon as some are still outrageously expensive at the moment – and combine that with trying to boycott US produce (bit of a tariff war going on at the moment) and fruit & veg are very pricey. Think $5.99/pound for New Zealand Apples!
    I do most of my shopping at the “No Frills” store in my neighbourhood (that’s the actual name – it’s the lower end, own brand version of the parent store – Loblaw – which is the biggest grocery chain in Canada). I am signed up for their Loyalty Card program, which also includes the largest Drugstore chain in the country, and I match my weekly offers with the weekly store sales whenever possible. The high end version has its own brand known as “President’s Choice” and the No Frills stores have the yellow can “no name” versions – the difference in costs can be substantial.
    I have discovered 50% off meat – meat that is labelled as “eat that day” but mostly I freeze it for later use and it has made a difference. But – I am also eating less meat, more fish – although mostly tinned or frozen as fresh fish is VERY expensive here – and many vegetarian meals or at least meals where veggies dominate and meat is a bit of flavouring rather than the star of the show.
    We have Farmers Markets all over the city but I find that they tend to be on the trendy and very expensive side so not the bargains they used to be.
    I am longing to be able to make a big pot of soup but it is still much too hot here – it will be another month at least before that happens.
    I do batch cook as it saves time and money and I make good use of the freezer space above my fridge – no room for a freezer in my small apt. I’m afraid but friends do laugh at how organized my freezer compartment is and how much I can get in there! Right now there is a couple of items in there that need to be used up before the end of this month and then I will go through it again to be ready for September.
    After a Summer of assembling meals rather than cooking I’m looking forward to getting back to both cooking and a bit of baking! Roll on Fall!

  5. I am always so inspired when I read your blogs and this one is very motivational. I read the tips and it sets me on a trail of saving money and eating healthily. I didn’t take much notice of meal planning then a few years back when I accidentally came across Shoestring Cottage I never looked back. Yes isn’t Ilona an inspiration to us all, bless her. We have a great market in our town always lots of lovely fruit and veg. Aldi what would I do without this shop. I save well from shopping there. The next big buy is the conservatory which is on its last legs, nearly there with the pennies, so satisfying to know we don’t owe anybody any money. It can be done, I can remember my dear mum with her tins marked up with electric, gas, food, etc, the money was put in them each pay day, she was so proud of always affording the basics in life and a bit to spare. My dad with his huge allotment supplying everything fresh and then they were able to buy a freezer which made them completely self sufficient those were the days, how wonderful were they.

  6. I’m an omnivore on a keto diet, and my main sources of nutrition are pretty expensive. But, it’s possible to cut on those, too.

    First, one of our staples is bone broth. Beef bones are pretty cheap, plus I add some meat to those. Once the broth is ready, I freeze it partly and use for all-family soups, or as a electrolyte replenishment for myself. The meat goes into salads or just as the main course.
    Plus, I go for cheaper, fatty meat cuts which are perfect for roasting and keto diet.

    Second, I buy whole chickens. They are cheaper than chicken parts and one chicken makes a meal for the whole family, as well (and the leftovers are also mine the next day). For instance, I buy the whole chicken, 1-1,2 kg, for a little bit over 1 pound (I live abroad, so, the prices are just for the general comparison) while the package of skinless chicken breasts, 0,8-1 kg, costs 3-4 pounds.

    As for low-carb bread, I got some expensive, widely used in recipes nut flours, but our local flax seed meal provides better results and costs about 1/10 of the nut substitutes, so, I’m sticking with it from now on.

    Soups, yes. They are really nourishing. They’ve been an essential part of the low-cost home cooking for years here. Traditionally, soups in Russia are cooked during the cold months with the tubers that store well at room temperatures, like beets, carrots and potatoes. Onions and cabbage are the usual soup ingredients, too.

    And I ferment a lot of inexpensive vegetables. We have a small garden and supplies us with cucumbers, tomatoes, berries and the above mentioned veggies. So, I often have sauerkraut, kimchi and different pickles to go for fresh vegetables in winter (when they become very expensive), which, to top it all, improve gut health and boost immunity.

      • Definitely! And the organ meats are really undervalued, too. My grandma is a master of no-waste. My favourite example is her use of milk. Her neighbour owns a cow and grandma buys a 3-litre jar once a week. While she carries it home, the cream separates and moves on top. She divides milk and cream at home and makes sour cream. Then she pours about 1/3 of the jar into a separate one and uses it throughout the week for porriges and coffee. The rest of the jar is used to make the cottage cheese. The buttermilk then goes into bread. So, one jar is good for 4 different dishes and provides my grandparents with a week worth of breakfasts.

  7. I live on porridge, some fruit, free range eggs, and dhal type, or vegetable, soups, in winter. Occasionally make granola. All economical and nutritious. I don’t understand people who buy sauces and bits and pieces for just 1 meal.

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