With food prices on the rise and household incomes becoming squeezed, meal planning and budget shopping has become a big topic everywhere. TV programmes such as Eat Well For Less, Save Money, Good Food, and campaigns such as Love Food, Hate Waste, are encouraging us to spend less, waste less, plan our meals more and try cheaper alternatives to get the very most out of our families budgets.
With a large family of 7, including 3 teenagers, it shouldn’t be any surprise that we go through a lot of food, and the cost is something that we pay close attention to. According to the Office for National Statistics, £56.80 is the average family of 4’s weekly spend on food and non-alcoholic drinks (this does not include other household items such as cleaning supplies/toiletries etc.). Based on these statistics, you would expect our expenditure to be almost double that figure, around £100 per week. However, our weekly grocery bill, including all toiletries, cleaning products, the kids packed lunch supplies, and even food & bedding for our pet Guinea Pig, Jemima, actually averages at just £65 per week. But it wasn’t always this way…….
As our family has grown, so have our weekly shopping costs. At it’s peak, we were spending close to £150 per week, pushing £200 at seasonal times such as Christmas/Easter/Birthdays. We knew that something needed to change, so set ourselves the challenge of slashing our grocery bills, the less we spend on groceries, the more we have to spend on other things like Holidays and Family Days Out.
So how do we keep costs so low?
Below I list some of the ways we’ve reduced our weekly bills.
For us, this saves us a lot of money. We are self-confessed impulse buyers. Whenever we physically go shopping, we ALWAYS spend far more than we planned to, and come home with things that were most definitely NOT on our shopping list. If we have any of the kids in tow, then this gets even worse. By ordering our weekly shop online, we avoid impulse purchases and being lured in by ‘special offers’, are easily able to filter costs by price ‘low to high’, making sure we get the cheapest variety available, and if we change our minds on something, or decide we’re spending too much, it’s far easier to just delete the item/s from our basket than it is to go trekking back around the shop to put it/them back! We save even more money by subscribing to Tesco’s Delivery Saver. We pay £7 a month for prime delivery slots, saving us on average £28 per month in delivery costs. It’s also pretty convenient having someone else actually doing our shopping and delivering it to our door!
Educating Ourselves on ‘Best Before Dates’
Too much food is unnecessarily wasted by people being confused by ‘best before’ dates. Best Before dates have nothing to do with safety, food that is past it’s best before date is still perfectly safe to eat, and most items will be fine for months past this date. Things like canned goods, cereals, crisps and sauces will look and taste exactly the same as those that are ‘in date’. We do an Approved Food shop approximately quarterly, and will stock up our cupboards with short-dated or past it’s ‘best before’ date foods, at often hugely discounted prices.
Things like fresh meat and vegetables can be expensive, but often the frozen versions are considerably cheaper and will reduce waste by keeping for far longer. Stew’s made with defrosted frozen meat and vegetables make up a staple part of our diet. We also buy our whole weeks worth of bread with our one weekly shop and freeze most of the loaves in our 2nd freezer, generally getting a loaf out to defrost each evening, ready for the next day. This saves on repeat shopping trips and it’s also far cheaper to buy bread from the supermarket than it is to buy it from the local corner shop!
Supermarket Value Ranges
Often far better quality than people assume, the supermarket value ranges such as Tesco’s Everyday Value range, Sainsbury’s Basics range, and Asda’s Smart Price range, are usually far cheaper than even the other supermarket’s own brand labels. Not every value item is good value for money, we don’t always like the cheapest versions of something, so a bit of trial and error is needed to find the level you’re happy with, but the savings are certainly worth it. As a general rule, we will ‘start at the bottom’, and if we don’t like that item, will keep trying ‘the next one up’ until we get to the one we’re happy with. For example, we’re not fans of Tesco Value Teabags at 25p for 40, but the next one up, Tesco’s Red Label Teabags at £1 for 80 are perfect. Some items really don’t need to cost anymore, below are just a few items of the Tesco Value range that we love and see no point spending anymore money for :-
- Yogurts. 4-pack of Chocolate Mousse at just 20p per pack.
- Frozen Pies. 4-pack of Chicken & Vegetable Pies at just £1 per pack.
- Frozen Chips. 1.5kg bag (which for us will do 2 meals) at 75p per bag.
- Cereal Bars (for the kids packed lunches). 6-packs, come in 3 different flavours, at 70p per pack.
- Spaghetti. Just 20p for a 500g pack.
- Baked Beans. No need to pay more than 24p per can.
- Individual Apple Juice Cartons (for youngest son’s lunchboxes). 3-pack for just 45p.
- Crisps. At just 66p for a 12-pack Variety Bag, and they’re nice and crunchy too.
- Fruit Squash. 42p for 750ml, we buy 4-6 bottles a week.
- Wheat Biscuits. 24-pack for 75p and the kids love them with some hot milk for breakfast.
There really is no need to spend more.
Every week I check what I have left in before I order the shopping. I will plan meals around ingredients I want to use up, for example; this week I have half a box of frozen burgers left in the freezer, so I have ordered another box (as we use 1 and a half boxes at a time) and the other ingredients needed for a ‘make your own burgers’ dinner. Last week, I had a jar of leftover mint sauce in the fridge, so I ordered lamb mince for making a Minted Lamb Shepherd’s Pie. I look at what we have going on, busier days will require quicker meals, and what we have in and will write a detailed list before I start ordering the shopping. I don’t order more than we need and if we do have an ‘oops day’ and fall into a takeaway, then any leftover meals will just roll into the next weeks meal plan.
Using Up Leftovers
I absolutely hate having to throw away any kind of food so will regularly check what we have to make sure things that are going to reach their ‘Use By’ (not ‘Best Before’) dates, are used in time, or frozen to preserve them. I also have a range of meals that are great for using up leftovers at the end of the week. Jacket potatoes are a typical meal for us the day before our next shop is due, and we will serve them with any leftover stew, chilli, salad, cold meats, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, beans, pretty much anything we have left in. Another great meal for using up leftovers is my Leftover Pie.
These are just some of the main ways we are slashing our grocery bills and I will be adding more specific posts and recipes within this section on an on-going basis. If you have any money savings tips or budget recipes that you’d like to share then we’d love to hear them x
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