Looking for ways to cut the cost of your food shop? We consider some alternatives.
1. Discount supermarkets
Do your main shop at discount stores. They may not offer the huge range of brands you are used to but are good value for money. Buy your basics here – many items cost about a half or a third of the regular price. Fresh vegetables and fruits are good quality, so keep an eye out for half price offers.
2. Savings at big supermarkets
If you need specialty items that you can’t get at a discount store, buy supermarket own-brand or value items. They are often just as good as name brands and cheaper.
3. Shop later in the day
Try going just before the store closes. Foods like bread, baked goods or other perishables are marked down as they need to be sold that day. But stick to things you really need or can freeze.
4. Shop from the outside, moving in
Go around the perimeter of the store first. This way you fill your cart first with healthier items like fresh produce, bread, meat/fish and dairy foods, leaving less room for the less healthy, nutrient-poor impulse buys!
5. Buy loose local produce
Many cities and small towns host weekly or monthly farmers’ markets. Local farmers bring their wares to specific locations, typically open-air street markets, and sell fresh food directly to you, often for less than you’d pay in the supermarket. If you go towards the end of the market, some vendors may sell their remaining perishable items at a discount.
If you have any green grocers left in your area, they are usually good value for money for fruits and vegetables and may also support local producers.
6. Use ethnic markets for your basics
These are well worth looking into. Many of them feature an impressive, affordable selection of fruits and vegetables, as well as some other basic food products for your store cupboard.
7. Keep a list of food prices
Doing this for regular items means you know when foods are genuinely a saving.
8. Buy in bulk
It’s almost always cheaper to buy in bulk if it fits into your budget and you have the storage space. Good bulk purchases are non-perishable items such as dried beans, grains and tinned fruits and vegetables. You can freeze perishable items such as meat, milk and bread in smaller portions to use as they are needed. You can also think about starting a food buying club with others in your area – this means cheaper food for everyone!
9. Buy in season
Foods that are in season are usually cheaper. Check out Eat the Seasons for seasonal food information. Remember, though, that fruits and vegetables you count towards your five-a-day don’t all have to be fresh – frozen, tinned, dried and juiced fruit and vegetables all count.
10. Watch your waste
Remember food not used is a waste of money (£50 a month to be precise!). Always store your food properly to maximise its shelf-life, but make sure you understand best before and use by dates so you don’t take any unnecessary risks.
These meals from leftovers might also come in handy if you’re looking for inspiration to prevent throwing food away.
Kathy Cowbrough is a Dietitian and Public Health Nutritionist