Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Twenty ways to save money on food

It's low-spend January here, as it is elsewhere in frugal blogland. We're making extra specially sure that we're not frittering money away - no unnecessary expenditure is allowed this month and it's all about saving. There's the stuff that has to be paid for: all the utilities, the boring old mortgage, the petrol, the kids' stuff like swimming lessons and music lessons, and how come so many of our friends seem to have birthdays in January? But one of the places where there is some wriggle room is the food budget.

Below are some of the ways we're saving money on food this month. You probably won't find anything new here - as well as using my own common sense acquired over a lifetime of frugal cooking, I've picked up a gazillion good ideas from other frugal blogs along the way and try to implement them, not just this month but all the time. Sometimes I miss a trick though, so I thought I'd run my own revision session, for myself as much as anybody else...Here goes!


  • Look out for the good old orange sticker. Our local supermarket has specific sections set aside for its reduced items, and there's always a queue for the fridge shelf bargains!





  • Go for the Simply Value range, or whatever it's called where you shop. 




  • Compare prices on the same product. I always spend ages working out which cheese is cheapest per kilogram. Currently, this grated cheddar works out cheapest in our Co-op. (Cheese is even cheaper at our local Tuesday market; shame I'm at work and can't get there).
  • Set a budget for food spending and sticking to it. Another way I curb my food spending is to shop on foot with a bag or my trusty shopping trolley, so I really can't get more than I planned to because I physically won't be able to carry it.
  • Use up what we've got. Our kitchen is too small to build up huge supplies but even so, there are loads of things lurking in the freezer and plenty of tins to fall back on.
  • Get your pulses racing...In the last week we've had yellow split pea dahl (thanks Nigel Slater!), tomato and lentil soup and veggie sausage casserole with kidney beans. Pulses are dirt cheap: the split peas cost 55p a packet and the recipe only called for half a packet - that makes 27.5p for a protein which served four of us - can't grumble at that!

  • Following on from pulses...vegetarian meals will often cost less. I'm a lapsed vegetarian and tend to serve a lot of veggie meals anyway, so nobody has noticed that we haven't eaten much meat this month.
  • Make sure you use up the leftovers. I haven't been very good at accounting for my waste on the blog recently, but the food waste here has been fairly minimal. Quite often there is one portion of a meal left which we all fight over for our packed lunch the next day. (And it's packed lunches for everybody here this month - way cheaper).
  • Use up food from outside too; we are still foraging apples from our tree and spinach from the allotment. And our ex-batt chickens are getting good at laying lots of eggs.
  • Buy flour in bulk and make bread. (We use a breadmaker - this can either be seen as either lazy or environmentally friendly (not heating the whole oven to bake a loaf)! I prefer the latter.) For good quality bread, making your own always works out cheaper. We also regularly use the breadmaker to knock up dough for homemade pizzas.
  • Make full use of loyalty cards etc. I've been enjoying my member coupons at the Co-op this month - two '£5 off if you spend £20' vouchers represents a decent discount.
  • Bulk up...base meals around pasta, rice and good old jacket potatoes)....
  • ...and eke out...for example a few sausages stretch further in a sausage casserole than if you served them on their own with mash, and things like olives go further if you finely chop them, rather than add them whole to sauces and pizzas (and of course we're talking the cheap olives in brine not posh olives).
  • Look for cost-cutting ways to make sure you get your five-a-day. Bags of frozen veg can work out cheaper than their fresh counterparts.

  • Substitute expensive ingredients for cheaper ones. I found a spicy prawn and rice recipe that I wanted to try this week but prawns are expensive. A sea food collection (lurid pink crab sticks and all) is much cheaper. Spicy prawn rice, spicy sea food rice? It's all the same to me! Fresh coriander at £1 a pop or dried coriander leaves that have been sitting in a jar on my herb rack for years? I'll take the old coriander leaves thanks!
  • Minimise the choices; in our house people have learned that porridge or shreddies to choose from at breakfast is perfectly acceptable - we're not living in a hotel so we don't need a huge menu to choose from. Likewise, Christmas is over so it's time to wean ourselves off the sugary treats; back to plain after school snacks - such as fruit, toast, malt loaf, rich tea biscuits, oat cakes or crumpets.
  • Cook from scratch. It's a frugal no-brainer - making your own meals will reduce both cost, excess packaging and is likely to be healthier. I'm no great chef but even when time is short, it's not hard to rustle up something - pasta and passata or tinned tomatoes with a sprinkle of herbs and some grated cheese (or even ketchup...), scrambled egg on toast etc.
  • Menu planning will help ensure that you are using up what you have or making a shopping list for things than you need rather than whatever tempts you in the supermarket. It will also help you to see where you may need to get ahead with any preparation to fit in with your timetable.
  • If it's cost-effective shop in the budget supermarkets like Lidl and Aldi or place an order with Approved Food. I use my local supermarket, the Co-op, which may be more expensive for some items but doesn't incur any petrol costs. I save Lidl and Aldi, which are both several miles away, for when I'm passing, rather than making a special trip there. Another advantage of using my medium-sized supermarket is that it has no clothes section, no shoes, no housey things, no gardenware, no toys, no CDs etc so therefore there's no temptation to buy extra stuff on a whim.
  • When it's gone, it's gone. Not everything needs replacing immediately.
Over to you! What have I forgotten?

23 comments:

  1. Great ideas!! I meal plan and that really helps!! :)

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    1. I totally agree. I try and meal plan during the school term when we're all busier but have time off for spontaneity during the hols!

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  2. So sorry I haven't sent your book yet. I will get it to you this weekend.

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    1. No rush Sarah, I've got a huge pile of unread books on my bedside table!

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  3. Good tips - this month I am focusing on minimizing the choices. I choose from cereal, oatmeal or toast for breakfast and don't want to be tempted by more variety! And am definitely weaning myself off the holiday sweets.

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    1. I reckon minimising the choices makes life simpler all round - it's another reason why I like my smaller local supermarket - I don't have to stand for ages trying to choose between loads of different brands of tinned tomatoes...

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  4. Looks like a great list, Sarah!
    To make cost comparisons easier, I keep a calculator in my purse, so that I can unit price and compare. Most grocery stores have unit pricing on the shelves, but the type of unit isn't always consistent. And when I shop at the wholesaler, there is no unit pricing at all.

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    1. The supermarkets are pretty good on unit pricing here, but I could have done with a calculator in the health food shop (which doesn't have unit pricing) the other day - the maths on flour was too complicated for my old brain!

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    2. I used to bring my highly portable "calculators" with me shopping. But sadly, all 3 of them are now beyond the "shopping with mom" stage. Those young minds can be really quick!

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  5. Good list. It was fun to read with all of your different names for things. I am trying to go to the grocery store only twice a month now. One for convenience and another to cut back on expenses. If I'm not in the store, it's a lot harder to impulse buy. We'll see how this works out for us.

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    1. I agree, it's easy to fall into the trap of going into the shop for a pint of milk and coming out with a bag full of stuff!

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  6. I like you tips and it is always good to have a reminder.

    Re: the glut of January birthdays - that's down to their parents who used the Easter holiday to work on their own version of the season of bringing forth of new life....especially if it was a chilly one that year too....lol!

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    1. Lol! :-) And, as someone new to cat owning I've enjoyed a browse around your blog!

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  7. Thanks for all the tips. I love the bargain section of the supermarket :) Especially for meat, which I can just put straight into the freezer until I need it.

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  9. Great stuff! - one hint - large cuts - I can make a chicken go to at least three meals so it is much more economical than chops etc. It can be a roast, then a stir-fry or casserole or hash and finally a good stew or fricot. Turkey, on sale, is even better. A roast beef is similar or ham or gammon - seems expensive when you buy it but it goes so much farther with all the meals you get from the cut!

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    1. Thanks for sharing that tip Linda! You've reminded me that I've got some cooked turkey and ham in the freezer left from Christmas!

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  10. We love thses saving ideas on food!

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  11. I always want some coupons, but they are usually items I don't need or just the lack thereof.

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