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With food costs rising and many of us facing financial hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on businesses, we will be thinking about how to reduce our outgoings in 2022.
For most households, one of the biggest expenditures is food. Is there a way to cut your food bill while maintaining a healthy, varied diet without skipping all your favourite treats? Check out our top tips for saving money on your food bill next year.
- Start Planning Your Weekly Meals
Meal planning is a simple and effective way to stick to a food budget. If you’ve never tried it before, now’s the time! You can use a shop-bought planner or sketch out your own plan for the week. If you have a whiteboard in the kitchen, this is a great way to use it — you’re more likely to stick to your plan if it’s highly visible every time you start cooking.
Plan all your meals for the week ahead. Consider your schedule — there’s no point planning an elaborate, labour-intensive dish on a day when you’re working late or have an early evening commitment. Set yourself up for success by planning simple, quick and easy meals on workdays, or whenever you know you’ll be pushed for time, and save more time-consuming recipes for the weekend.
- Write a Shopping List (and Stick to It)
Like anything in life, if you hit the shops without a plan of action, you’ll soon be drawn off course by “shiny object syndrome”. A special offer, a new range of tantalising goodies or a free sample of a new chocolate flavour can tempt you into making impulse buys that you don’t need (or possibly even want).
Go prepared with a shopping list that aligns with your meal plan for the week. There’s nothing wrong with the occasional spur of the moment purchase. For example, if one of your staple everyday foods is on offer, you might decide to buy double your normal quantity. But try to avoid frivolous purchases bought on a whim as these are much more likely to lead to waste.
- Stop Mini in-between Shops
We all have to stock up on basics such as milk and bread from time to time, but frequent mini-shops can increase your food bill significantly. When doing your weekly shop, be sure to factor in a few treat items. This will help you resist the temptation to pop out for a chocolate bar or a packet of crisps (and return home with a bag full of non-essential shopping).
- Reduce Food Waste
Wasting food is not only bad for the environment; it is no better than throwing money on the fire. If you spend your hard-earned cash on food, make sure it is something that you will eat before it perishes. Many people make the mistake of over-buying fresh products, especially at prime health kick times of the year like January. If you do want to up your intake of fruit and veg, make sure that you have factored in time to do some batch cooking that you can freeze. Or, buy a mix of fresh and frozen foods.
- Look out for Deals
Whether you shop online or in person, every supermarket has special offers. As well as in-store deals on full-priced items, one section is often set aside for reduced produce nearing its “best before” date. These items are perfectly safe to eat and can be a real bargain! You can even time your shop to coincide with the time items are typically removed (generally not long before closing time).
However, be careful not to use special offers as an excuse to over-buy or to purchase items that you don’t want or need. It can be hard to resist a too-good-to-be-true deal, but this can lead to a kitchen cupboard full of items you never eat and ultimately throw away (more food waste).
- Get Creative with Leftovers
How often have you discovered some forgotten ingredient in the back of the fridge or ended up with a glut of post-party leftover food? Don’t throw anything away that is still edible. You just need to learn to be a little creative with your meals.
If you have some past its best, rather uninspiring veg to eat up, throw it all in a pot with some stock and herbs to make a tasty soup. Factor a “leftovers night” into your meal plan. On this night, gather all the ingredients that need using up and invent a new dish! You can add flavour with herbs and spices or make a basic leftover meal more interesting by adding a luxury ingredient, such as hand-crafted cheese. Treat yourself to a cheese subscription to ensure that you never run out.
- Shop Online
Ordering your weekly food supplies online can help you resist unnecessary purchases as you’ll only be searching for the items on your shopping list. Most major supermarkets and many smaller grocery stores offer home delivery.
The added benefit of online shopping is the time and hassle it saves you, especially during busy periods like Christmas. Avoid the crowds and stock up on essentials without leaving the comfort of your sofa.
- Stay Stocked up on Affordable Staples
Make a list of the ingredients you often use, and replace these frequently. Canned pulses and lentils are a healthy, affordable and easy way to bulk out meals. Tinned tomatoes and coconut milk add flavour and richness to any meal. If you always have these items to hand, you can quickly and economically create a large, tasty and wholesome family meal at a moment’s notice and use up any leftovers.
Prioritise foods that have a long shelf life, such as tinned and frozen goods, which can make a meal more filling without significantly adding to the cost.
- Switch to Supermarket Own Brands
We all know that when we buy a big name brand, it’s their reputation (and their marketing bill) that we’re paying for. Unless you have a strong preference for the taste of a particular brand’s product, give the supermarket own-brand version a try. These are typically much more affordable, and there is rarely much difference in the quality and flavour.
- Buy Fruit and Vegetables When They Are in-Season.
In-season fruit and veg are generally much more affordable, and some supermarkets frequently offer discounts on these items. Buying in-season is a much more sustainable way to shop too, so that you can buy your veggies with a clear conscience.
If you’re looking to reduce your outgoings next year, reducing your food bill is one of the simplest and most effective ways to do so. There are lots of ways to save money on food shopping. The above is not an exhaustive list, but it should set your mind thinking along the right lines and give you some pointers for getting started. Reducing your food costs doesn’t have to mean depriving yourself and living off monotonous budget meals. It just requires a little planning and shopping/eating more mindfully. You’ll probably discover that doing so not only saves you money but also helps you to eat more healthily and sustainably.