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!
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.
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 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.
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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