Make The Most Of Your Money: Food Shopping 2

Written by Katrina Lawrie

As a single parent of three kids, I’ve had to learn how to make my money stretch. One of the ways I’ve managed to make massive savings is by cutting the cost of my weekly shop. In these times of “austerity” everyone is feeling the pinch, so this piece is basically to share with you all some of my ideas and introduce you to some options you may not have considered.

Whilst we’d all like to be like the sanctimommys (or daddys) and bake our own organic gluten free goji berry flapjack fingers, let’s face it…. few of us have the time. It is often cheaper to buy your kids’ snacks than it is to bake your own. Don’t beat yourself up that baking is an occasional craft and embrace the BOGOF on Lidl own brand chocolate fingers.

Every budgeting guru to grace our tv screens has one rule: make a shopping list. IGNORE THEM. Yes, have a rough idea of what you’d like to cook this week (and/or what your little cherubs will actually eat) but be flexible. Don’t be afraid to put something back on the shelf if you find a better bargain further round the store, and take advantage of the “whoopsies” section.

It’s where I head first. Most fresh items will need eaten within a couple of days, but we’ve just eaten the last of a bag of potatoes bought over Christmas, reduced to 5p for 2.5kg because of the date on the bag, and you can freeze a surprising array of food without impacting on quality. If you time it right, you can save up to 90% on the original ticket price.

I have a catering size freezer (it makes quite a feature in my living room) and whilst I appreciate not everyone has room for one so large, you can pack a great deal into a standard freezer with the aid of a marker pen and a roll of freezer grade food bags. Anything in a box will contain air – i.e. wasted space. Cut out the cooking instructions and write the product name and the best before date on the reverse. Pop it (and the box contents) into a freezer bag with the name and date facing outwards. You’ll find you’ll save loads of space, which you can then fill with 10p loaves of bread (makes awesome toast, but may not be ideal for sandwiches).

Don’t be afraid of best before dates. Whilst I wouldn’t recommend ever using anything past its use by date, “best before” is simply a guide – a guarantee of quality up to that date. A tin of soup is not going to magically go off at midnight on the date stamped on the top, and an entire industry has sprung up around near-date or past-date goods.

One such company which I personally use regularly is Approved Foods. Based in Sheffield, they deliver groceries by courier and the savings are massive. Each item on the website displays its best before date, so you can make an informed decision before purchasing.

Following the success of “Hugh’s War On Waste” on the old telly box, food co-ops have sprung up all over the country. We have one in my home town which I have yet to visit, but they tend to work on the same premise. You pay a couple of quid, have a brew and a biscuit and then pick a couple of bags of groceries. These bags comprise goods that are perfectly edible, but were destined for landfill due to being deemed past their shelf life (items like in-store baked bread). Instead of paying to dump this food, many supermarkets are now donating it to food co-ops and there are many bargains to be had.

Another way to save money on your food bill is to reassess your takeaway. Here, google is your friend. There are literally thousands of “fakeaway” recipes on the internet, with everyone from Slimming World to The Hairy Bikers jumping on the bandwagon. Nine times out of ten it is healthier than ordering in as well as cheaper, and most recipes are designed to be quick and easy. Win… win… win.

Shop around. Many household and grocery items will be cheaper in pound stores and the likes of Home Bargains. The pack sizes may be slightly smaller but on the whole you will find the comparitive pricing (99p per 100g etc) shows you are saving overall. If you have room to store it, bulk buy. It will usually be cheaper to buy a 15kg sack of dog food than 15 boxes at a kilo each. I store ours in a dustbin.

Finally, brand swap. Whatever brand level you buy, go down one step. For example, if you buy a named brand, swap for a supermarket premium brand. You should save money. If there is no discernible difference you can either stick, or twist and take another step down to a supermarket regular or economy brand. Often the only difference is the packaging (and if you shop online you don’t need to worry about Mrs Bucket at number 46 spotting you with a trolley full of Smartprice).

If you CAN notice the difference, just step back up. In my experience there are certain things that can’t be scrimped on (HP Sauce and Kellogg’s Cornflakes) – the saving isn’t worth it for the huge drop in quality – and certain things like eggs from caged hens that I won’t buy for ethical reasons. However, other items can easily be swapped out. My kids have been eating economy ketchup for over 2 years without comment because they never see the bottle.

I hope this piece have given you some ideas, and I’d be really interested to hear what savings you make if you try any of the things I’ve mentioned.

Katrina Lawrie 

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