How to chop your food bill
Food is one of our biggest expenses and one that’s easy to get carried away with. As we’re staying at home so much more these days, there’s never been a better time to give your food bill a bit of attention. Here are my top tips…🤑
🍅 Understand how much you’re spending on food
It’s easy for your food spend to creep up with top-up shops so the first place to start is to see how much you’re really spending. Hit ‘View’ (top right of the home screen), then go to the 'Categories' tab to see a summary of ‘groceries’ for each month.
Flick through the last few months. Run through the ‘general’ category to make sure all your transactions are correctly allocated to groceries. According to the Money Advice Service the average family food bill is £60 per week – though that’s likely to be a bit higher now we’re spending more time at home.
🌽 Use tools to help you meal plan
It sounds obvious and you’ve probably heard it before, but it can make a real difference to how much you spend. If it feels like too much, start off small and just plan weeknight dinners.
Try a meal planning app like Big Oven, Mealime or Yummly. Simple pen and paper might work too – if so you could try these meal planning notes from Amazon. Whatever works for you and helps you stick to it! It’s also worth organising your fridge well. If you can clearly see what you have, you’re less likely to overbuy and will make fewer trips to the shops.
🍓 Try the downshift taste challenge
If you automatically reach for the big branded products this one’s for you. While it’s tempting to think pricier items will taste better this isn’t true. According to MoneySavingExpert most families can save 30% on their food bill by dropping a brand level – most importantly without noticing the difference. The four brand levels are premium, branded, own brand and value. Drop one brand level down and see if you notice the difference.
🥑 Time when you shop to get big discounts
Here’s a rundown of when you should shop at each supermarket to bag the big discounts.
- Aldi: In the various articles I analysed, the general view is that you'll see 50% off stickers starting appear on the shelves around 7-8pm ⌚
- Asda: Most blogs say you'll need to be heading to Asda about 7pm to pick up a bargain. Leave it until 9pm and you'll miss the boat 🚢
- Co-op: No real consensus on this one, but one report suggested Co-op 'reduce to clear' around 4 hours before the store closes ⏰
- Lidl: The general view is that Lidl tends to have a steady stock of 30% reductions throughout the day 👍
- M&S: This one seems to hinge on closing times. If it's closing at 7pm, you want to be bargain hunting about 6.30pm. If it's shutting at 9pm, 8pm is prime time 👀
- Morrisons: Conflicting opinions on this one. But it seems there are bargains to be had in the mornings. Some say first thing. Some say late morning ☀
- Tesco: From what I can gather, Tesco starts with smaller discounts in the morning and around lunchtime, with bigger discounts on the shelves 7-8pm 🛒
- Sainsbury's: Reports suggest lunchtime is when the bargains start, with another spike in reductions early evening ⌚
- Waitrose: Looks like slimmer pickings for Waitrose customers looking for deals. Your best bet is to try just before closing (30 mins or so). But don't hold your breath! 😏
🍌Don’t waste food – know your best before dates
Not only is food waste bad for your pocket, it’s bad for the planet too, so it’s always good to avoid it. The date that you really need to watch for is the use by date. This is the date that you must use it by - after that it's only good for the bin.
However, best before dates are more flexible. These aren’t about safety but when a manufacturer thinks food will be at their optimum. Quite often you can eat these products after the best before date. Just make sure you smell or even taste a small amount first to get an idea of whether it’s safe.
🍉 Pick up discounted food past its best before date
As I said above, food is often safe to eat even after a best before date has passed. And in fact, one online shop sells it at hugely discounted prices. Approved Foods specialises in surplus and short-dated stock which is still perfectly good to eat.
Examples of deals you could pick up when I checked include 10 packets of Walkers crisps for £2, 30 Jaffa Cakes for £1.99, Kelloggs Fruit & Fibre for £2. Delivery is free if you spend over £55 or £3 for packages under 25kg.
🍕Try budget supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl
Shops like Aldi and Lidl stock less choice but can often beat the larger supermarkets on certain basic items. Recent research has shown Aldi's steaks, cake mixes and Greek yogurts to be popular as well as its fresh olives, Thai fish cakes and chicken tikka ready meals.
🥕 Use your freezer to slash costs
Frozen fruit and vegetables can often be much better value than buying fresh and can be just as, if not more, nutritious as items are picked at their freshest. For example, a fresh bag of 250g spinach costs £1.03 but for £1.50 you can get a whopping 900g of frozen spinach.
It’s also worth knowing what food freezes well. Milk, grated cheese, sliced bread, par-boiled potatoes are all good options. Some less obvious choices are avocados, bananas, butter, ginger, grapes, herbs, hummus and nuts!
I hope these tips helped. Got a brilliant food bill tip you want to share? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll make sure I share it.