36 Sneaky ways to save on your weekly shop
According to consumer group Which? food prices in the UK have risen by 12.6% above inflation over the last six years, and in a recent study of over 2,000 people, 41% of consumers said they felt stressed by rising food costs, with 78% concerned about how they would afford to feed their families in the future (1).
Whether food prices are a concern for you or whether you're so money-savvy that your weekly shop is an epic feat of budgeting and saving, prices rising don't give us an excuse not to eat healthily. There are ways that you can save on your weekly shop, and a lot of the time we don't do these things because we're busy, tired or simply lazy! With a bit of effort - and these 36 sneaky ways to save - you could enjoy a holiday with the money you've saved on your weekly shop, or just keep the cash for a rainy day.
#1. Look for meat-free protein sources
Meat eaters might find that buying meat regularly puts a dent in your wallet, but swapping meat for meat-free protein sources is a great move. Pulses, beans and even fish (try mackerel for an omega-3 packed option) are cheaper, and often healthier options. Lentils pack more protein and fibre and less fat than minced beef or steak and are great for soups, stews and curries - buy in bulk to save even more.
#2. Embrace fruit-and-veg boxes
Fruit and vegetable boxes can be delivered to your doorstep and could actually save you time and money, provided you choose a fairly local supplier. This prevents you from falling into a shopping rut and means you'll eat a variety of seasonal produce; plus you'll never be able to complain you didn't have time to shop for your five-a-day.
#3. Snack before shopping
Not only are you more likely to choose unhealthy options when food shopping on an empty stomach, you could also find you spend more. Have a quick, protein-rich snack such as some nuts or hummus and vegetables, to keep you satisfied whilst you shop.
#4. Make a list
This has to be one of the best ways to save on your grocery shop. Make a list and plan your meals for the week - this way you'll only buy what you need and be able to resist temptation and all those offers.
#5. Don't be tempted by BOGOF offers
That ice cream may be BOGOF (buy on, get one free), but do you REALLY need it? Not only is it loaded with fat and sugar, it's not on your list! Whilst it makes sense to stock up on essentials if they're on offer, avoid buying things that you don't need or making unhealthy choices just because something is on offer.
#6. Set yourself a budget
Withdraw as much cash as you want to spend and avoid paying on card and you'll quickly find it's easier to stick to a budget. Plus adding up the cost of shopping as you go is great for your brain too!
#7. Use supermarket scanners
Many larger supermarkets have hand-held scanners which allow you to scan you shopping as you go. Whilst this might be a hassle if you're shopping for a family of four, for single people and couples it's a great way to keep on track of exactly how much you are spending.
#8. Check out the discounts
If you visit your local supermarket near closing time or later in the day, you'll usually find many items close to their use-by date are discounted. This is a great opportunity to pick up bags of pre-prepared salad leaves and meat at discounted prices - you can portion the meat and freeze it to cook another day.
#9. Don't be afraid of budget brands
Supermarket value ranges are great value for money - ok, so value baked beans may not be as tasty as their more expensive counterparts, but value tinned tomatoes, spices and other ingredients for cooking are all of similar quality and can really help you to save when cooking recipes from scratch.
#10. Shop at the market
Lucky enough to have a market that sells fresh fruit and veg near your house? You'll often get great deals, particularly if you're buying in bulk for green smoothies or soups. Wait until later in the day when many traders are keen to shift their stock for the best deals - you could end up with a huge box of bananas for smoothies or a bag of mixed peppers (perfect for freezing and adding to cooking) for just a few quid!
#11. Try discount supermarkets
Stores such as Aldi and Lidl offer great deals on essentials and have some more unusual items on offer too. For example, Lidl stock almond milk for a really reasonable price! Cooking from scratch means you'll probably need to buy some ingredients in bulk - Aldi is a great place to stop off for pasta, pulses, chopped tomatoes and olives.
#12. Check your cupboards
It's a good idea to do a quick inventory of your fridge, freezer and cupboards before you shop, so you don't end up buying things you already have. Whilst this isn't such a big deal with non-perishables such as rice and noodles, if you accidentally buy too many eggs, some are bound to go to waste.
#13. Freeze meat and fish
Buying fresh chicken, fish or meat? Purchasing bigger packs which can be portioned and frozen for use later is a great move. You're not alone if you end up wasting money by forgetting about food in your fridge, and if it's past its use-by date, it ends up in the bin. If you know you've got a busy week ahead and won't have time to cook, move perishables to the freezer.
#14. Know your food labels
Think you know the difference between 'best before' and use by'? Think again. The 'best before' date doesn't relate to food safety - it's about quality. So that bag of salad or tub of Greek yoghurt will be fine for a few days after the best before date. Err on the side of caution with meat, fish and poultry - if it's more than a couple of days past its best before date, it's probably not worth risking it.
#15. Don't be loyal to one shop
You'll probably find that different shops are great for different things. Whilst bulk-buying spices, eggs and bread at Aldi, Lidl and Asda is great value for money, for speciality ingredients for your Thai curry, you might want to check out a local Asian grocers or your nearest Waitrose.
#16. Buy food that's in-season
Fresh strawberries are super-tasty in a smoothie or with your morning pancakes, but they can be hard to come by in the middle of winter! Any you find in your local supermarket will usually be more expensive as they've been shipped from warmer climes. Look for UK-grown fruit and veg; not only will you save money, but you'll also be supporting local growers and suppliers.
#17. Stay focused
The supermarket shop can be a tempting, stressful experience, so leave your other half and the kids at home and go it alone. Focus on getting in and out as quickly as possible and stick to your list to avoid temptation (2).
#18. Shop online
Ordering your weekly shop online reduces your risk of impulse buying and it's easy to setup a favourites list. You'll save time and money, and with delivery costs starting from just £1, it's so convenient! This also encourages you to be more organised.
#19. Love your discount vouchers
Shopping regularly at one specific supermarket means it's probably time you got yourself a loyalty card. Most major supermarkets have their own cards which provide you with points to collect and money-off vouchers. Many supermarkets also operate a price-match system, so if you could have bought the same items cheaper elsewhere, they'll give you a voucher for the diference.
#20. Don't buy pre-packaged
It's usually cheaper to buy items loose rather than pre-packaged, so head for the deli counter for meat, cheese and olives. Avoid ready meals - not only are they more expensive, but they're also loaded with sugar, salt and additives. Pick up fresh fruit and vegetables to cook some of our recipes from scratch instead.
#21. Choose 'class two' products
Buying organic or 'finest' ranges isn't always necessary. For example, Asda Smartprice bananas are cheaper because they're not all the same size. If, like us, you really don't care about the size and shape of your bananas, pick them up and watch the savings add up!
#22. Beware of 'express' stores
Be aware that prices can fluctuate between stores - your local Tesco Express may be more convenient than travelling to bigger stores but prices can be higher. You could save on your weekly shop by going to a larger branch, where there will also be more choice.
#23. Try out the cash-and-carry
If you're buying in bulk or have a large family to feed, cash-and-carry stores such as Costco and Makro are perfect. You'll need to get a membership card - or find a friend with one - and you'll find many branded products available, as well as excellent fruit and vegetables.
#24. Think about food waste
Did you know we throw away around 3.6 million tonnes of food every year in England and Wales? The average family throws out between £400-600 of food a year (3), so make sure you're not buying more than you'll eat.
#25. Be leftover-savvy
Instead of binning that leftover brown rice or those bananas that are past their best, use all your leftovers to minimise food waste and save money. Brown bananas are naturally sweeter, ideal for baking or adding to smoothies and protein shakes. Leftover rice can be used to create a healthy stir-fry or kedgeree dish with some flaked fish, frozen peas and spices, for a great omega-3 boost!
#26. Avoid squeezy bottles
Ever noticed that products such as mayonnaise and ketchup cost more in a squeezy bottle? Choose glass bottles wherever possible to save money - as an added bonus, they're recyclable too!
#27. Avoid 'snack pack' foods
Mini boxes of raisins and snack packs of cashew nuts inevitably cost more than bigger bags as they're packaged for convenience. Buy bigger bags and a few small tupperware tubs so you can divide your snacks into smaller portions at home.
#28. Don't be afraid to complain
If you open a punnet of plums or a bag of bananas to discover a couple are inedible, don't be afraid to take them back to the store for a refund or swap - the store deals with issues like this all the time and will usually be happy to help.
#29. Don't buy what you can make at home
Jars of pasta sauce and tins or cartons of soup can be expensive, and they can be loaded with artificial ingredients. It's so easy to make your own tomato pasta sauce at home and soup can be whipped up in minutes with a blender, some stock, herbs, spices and the vegetables of your choice.
#30. Avoid 'Finest' ranges
Many people buy 'Finest' ranges in the supermarket, assuming that they're cheaper than branded goods. In fact, they could be even more expensive, so make sure you compare prices.
#31. Compare the cost per unit
When shopping, don't just choose the lowest priced item - make sure you compare the cost per kg/packet/unit to make sure you're getting the best value for money. It might seem like you're making a saving buying a smaller tub of cocoa that costs less, but if you're likely to use it up quickly, a larger tub could save you money in the long run.
#32. Compare deals online
There are websites you can use to compare supermarket deals and discounts before you do your shop - so you can find out what the offers are in advance, as well as website which compare prices across the major supermarkets.
#33. Avoid the 'top-up shop'
Heading out mid-week for a 'top-up shop' could make a dent in your wallet; we're all guilty of this at times. Blowing your weekly food budget on the top-up shop is all too easy, which is why it's important to make a list before you shop, so you don't forget anything. If you do run out of essentials such as tea or milk, pop to your local corner shop. It might cost a little more, but you'll avoid the temptation of the supermarket.
#34. Embrace the pound shop
For cleaning products, pet food and storecupboard essentials such as crackers, pasta, lentils and tinned pulses or beans, your local pound shop offers great value for money and shouldn't be overlooked!
#35. Don't shop when you're tired
We all know that tiredness can lead to poor food choices, so make sure you don't shop when you feel exhausted. Going to the supermarket or market on a Saturday might mean you have to take time off socialising, but you'll be less likely to pick up sweets and crisps than if you shop after a hard day at work.
#36. Buy frozen and tinned fruit and vegetables
Fresh fruit and vegetables are super-healthy, but tinned and frozen ones also count towards your five-a-day, and on those weeks when payday still seems like a distant dream, frozen and tinned fruit and veg are a budget-friendly option that can help you to stay healthy. Defrost frozen berries to add to pancakes or add them frozen to your smoothies - frozen vegetables can be blended into soups or chucked into healthy stir fries.
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