Guest blogger Penny Golightly shows you the most effective ways to save money when you go food shopping.
Forget supermarket loyalty points, coupons and free gifts – these are the biggest ways to reduce your monthly supermarket grocery bill.
Make a menu
Planning your meals for the week can save you a small fortune, and it’s easily one of the most effective ways to minimise your food budget. Start by checking your diary to see which days or evenings you’ll be out, then look around to see what you already have in your fridge, freezer and food cupboards to see what you can use up.
Top menu tips:
- It’s easier to eat healthily on a budget if you plan ahead
- Try to have a mixture of simple and complicated dishes
- Scheduling in favourites makes you look forward to dinner time
- Home cooking is cheaper than most convenience food
- Cook double portions sometimes and freeze for home made ‘ready meals’
Take a shopping list
Supermarkets are very clever at selling us things we might not really need. It’s easy to be taken in by special offers that don’t offer real value, and a shopping list can help you avoid making impulse purchases. It can also help you get around the supermarket much faster if you’re shopping in person, which is a real bonus when the shop is busy.
The other great advantage of a shopping list is that you’re much less likely to forget something – having to make return trips to the supermarket can lead to further impulse purchases, so that’s good to avoid.
Learn new ways to avoid food waste
According to food experts Love Food Hate Waste, the average British person throws away 120kg of food each year, most of which is wasted needlessly. This makes a huge contribution to your regular food bill, with about £480 being wasted per person per year.
In families with children, this means about £50 is being wasted each month. That’s far, far more than you could ever save with loyalty points or coupons.
Fortunately there are many simple, effective ways to reduce this waste, such as:
- Portion control (only cooking what you need)
- Careful refrigeration and other storage
- Freezing leftovers and knowing how to safely re-use them
- Regularly checking the use-by date of food in the fridge
If you’d like to know more, have a look at Love Food Hate Waste.
Have zero brand loyalty
It’s human nature to stick with products that we know and like. The big brands know fully well that we’re creatures of habit, and they price their goods accordingly.
Fortunately most bestselling branded groceries have now have supermarket own-brand equivalents, and the majority of them are remarkably similar in taste while being significantly lower in price.
Buying new products might feel risky, but it’s easy to research them and find reviews online. Try consumer websites to see lots of people’s opinions, or visit a specialist review site, such as this one which has been set up by a food critic who says “it’s not cheap if you can’t eat it!”
Other ways to save by shopping around:
- Many ‘value’ ranges are great, especially for rice and pasta
- Avoid supermarket own-brand luxury ranges
- Use budget supermarket chains sometimes
- Buy fruit and vegetables at street markets or indoor markets
Avoid paying tax on your groceries
Well, we couldn’t have an article that didn’t mention tax in some form, could we? It’s important to remember that many foods and drinks have 20% standard-rate VAT added to their sale price, which can bump up your grocery bills considerably. Eat and drink less of them, and you’ll make big savings.
What’s on the 20% VAT list? In summary:
- Alcoholic drinks
- Crisps and savoury snacks
- Home-brewing and wine-making products
- Hot food and takeaways
- Sports drinks
- Items sold in catering such as ice cream, soft drinks and mineral water
Most of these taxed products aren’t good for you in large amounts (apart from water), so saving cash here might also make you healthier.
For the full list of food that attracts standard-rate VAT, see the HMRC official website.