Thursday, 2 February 2017

How To Spend Less Money On Food

Since I stopped working full time we have needed to be smarter with our money and one of the ways we have done this is to spend less is on food. When I looked at our monthly outgoings food was our biggest expense after the mortgage! We all love food and realistically we are going to keep buying good quality meat, treats and convenience foods, but I have found I can cut our food bill by 25% by changing the way we shop, cook and store food.



Meal Planning

I love the idea of meal planning, but I can’t make it work for me in the traditional sense. I never know what I am going to want for a particular meal so I struggle to sit down and plan out all my food for the week. Instead I work out how many meals I’m going to need to cook each week and for how many people. Most meals there will be Little and Me, some dinners there will also be M and at the weekend there might be all of us around for lunch and dinner. G is home late on weekdays so he eats separately and normally has a different meal. I then have a target number of meals I need to buy for. 

Shopping List Of Staples

There are some foods I always like to have in the house because they can be used with fresh ingredients to make a huge range of meals. As soon as we are running low on any of our staples they are added to a shopping list (we have an online shared shopping list).
Store cupboard staples include: rice, pasta, noodles, tinned tomatoes, beans, cereals, flour, suet, sugar, herbs, spices, oil, stock cubes, butter, frozen peas, frozen sweetcorn and tinned tuna.
Fresh staples include: bread, milk, eggs, potatoes, garlic, onions, cheese.

One Big Shop A Week

Using my target number of meals and my list of staples I do one big food shop for the week. Where possible I do this online so I can add items to shopping trolley whenever I have a few minutes.  I find it easier to compare prices with an online shop and I am also less likely to be sidetracked into buying clothes, home furnishings, toys and other exciting products they have in stores these days. As an added bonus my receipt (from Ocado) tells me which fresh foods need to be eaten by a particular day in the next week helping me plan the order food should be eaten in.

Look For Deals

Buying large amounts of items you don’t need is a waste, but if products you use are on offer it will save you money in the long run, even if it makes that shop more expensive. I always keep an eye out for discounts on any of my store cupboard staples or items which will freeze as I know they will get used.

Buy In Bulk 

Packaging costs money so it’s normally cheaper to buy larger packets of food. It doesn’t always make sense to buy large amounts if it won’t be used, but anything with a long shelf life or which can be separated into smaller portions and frozen is worth buying in larger packs. When buying meat for instance I will look at the price per kilo to get the best value (making sure I consider the impact of bones or higher fat levels).

A black aluminium tray with a large frozen piece of beef steak on
Freeze meat to make it last longer

The Freezer Is Your Friend

Does anyone else wish they had space for a chest freezer? I am lucky that I currently have a big freezer, but I would still love more space. There are lots of reasons you might want to freeze food e.g. if you can’t use it before it goes off, batch cooking or leftovers. I find freezing in small portions makes me more likely to use the food and it’s faster to defrost. I also speed up the time food takes to defrost using a special tray. I used to place the frozen item on a baking tray, but I have found the Defrosting Tray (which I received from Qwerkity) works even better as it has feet to raise it off the surface and circulate air. 

Budget For Fun Foods

There is no way we can avoid treats so instead of cutting them out we have a budget for fun things we don’t really need, but which we want. This is for the products we see and think “Ooo that looks good”. 

Choose Meat Carefully

We have saved a lot of money by changing the type of meat we eat. At the moment pork is much cheaper than beef or lamb so we are eating more of that. We also choose cheaper cuts of meat (with high welfare standards) which often need slow cooking to soften them and are great for comforting winter dishes. Offal such as liver is incredibly cheap too.

Cherry tomatoes on the vine shown half in a green plstic fresher for longer bag
Store fruit well to help it stay fresh longer

Store Food Well

While I always eat, freeze or throw things away by their use by date, best before dates I am more relaxed with. I have found by storing things effectively, particularly fruit and veg, they are edible well beyond their best before date. I remove vegetables from the plastic bags they come in as it tends to get damp and rotten in them and I keep everything other than potatoes, onions and squashes in the fridge. Fruit I put in the fruit bowl a few at a time so they can ripen and be at room temperature for better flavour. 
I have recently started using Fresher For Longer Discs and Fresh Food Saver Bags after being sent them by Qwerkity which make my fruit and veg last longer (always helpful if shopping only once a week). Both the bags and discs work by removing the the ethylene gas which ripens the fruit and makes it go past it’s best. I have found these are a great way to reduce the amount of fruit and veg we throw away (or compost).

a bowl full of strawberries and raspberries with a green circular piece of paper on top which says "fresher for longer"
This disc absorbs gas to make the fruit last longer

Avoid Top Up Shops

Have you ever bought a pint of milk which costs £6? What about a £12 onion or a £30 loaf of bread? I know I have. Sometimes I will go to the shops to buy just one or two things and £20 later I have a whole bag full of items I didn’t really need. Supermarkets spend a lot of time trying to tempt people into buying more with their special offers and layouts, and it really works. I’m not very good at avoiding the temptation of an impulse buy and my partner is even worse so the best way of preventing accidental spend is to avoid shops. If you go into the shops each day to buy top up items and each time you end up buying a couple of extras it quickly adds up.

Disclosure: I was gifted a Sub Zero Defrosting Tray, Food Saver Bags and Fresher For Longer Discs from Qwerkity. I have found them really helpful in preventing food waste and making the money I spend on food go further.
You Baby Me Mummy
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17 comments

  1. Fantastic ideas and great advice....
    I love meal planning. I do it every week and it really does save money and waste too x

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    1. It definitely pays to be organised

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  2. We do a lot of this already (the meal planning is soul destroying though) but these are great tips! I like the look of those discs and bags, I might look into them as we're awful for letting fruit go off.

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    1. Thank you. The bags and discs just give you that little bit longer, as long as you still remember to eat them.

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  3. I feel like when I get my own house and I have to do all of these things I think that my freezer will be one of my best friends because I love to cook but I never have time so I think that it might be possible. I love the idea of these discs because of the the fact Jess loves fruit.

    Charlotte

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    1. I love to cook too and I think it is so great to have really tasty home cooked meals available in your freezer.

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  4. There are some great tips there :)

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  5. Those fresher for longer discs are a great idea - I'm forever throwing mouldy blueberries and raspberries away! Thanks for the tips!

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    1. Some fruit goes off so quickly doesn't it? It's great to get a few more days

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  6. Some great tips here we waste a fortune on food we don't need and end up wasting loads!

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    1. I hate food waste, but it happens all the time if we don't take care

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  7. Totally agree with your last point, I ALWAYS nip to the shop to get one or two things and end up spending sometimes £40. Slightly ridiculous.

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    1. If I was a millionaire I think I would shop every day, and have to donate half of it to a foodbank

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  8. Haha live the £6 pint of milk - we are so guilty for that!

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    1. It's a great concept isn't it? I wish I could remember where I originally heard it.

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  9. I love menu planning.We went from being carnivores to veggies to vegans to save money after I became a single mum.I keep meaning to write up my tips but never got round to it.

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