Food shopping, while a necessity, can be an expensive task at times. With so much competition from supermarkets, local shops, restaurants, along with promotions at every turn, cutting down your food bill can be somewhat of a minefield. If you are finding yourself paying over the odds for food, see our roundup of money saving tips below.
Plan and budget
Making a budget and sticking to a plan is the first step in saving money on food. When shopping, it can be very easy to overspend. The amount of deals, promotions and other offers seen in stores – especially supermarkets – can have a big impact on your wallet. The savvy shopper will carefully select the most suitable offers and bypass the rest. Remember: establishing what your financial limitations are can help a great deal how and when you shop. Of course, a treat is necessary now and then, but first purchase what you actually need. Eyes greedier than belly equals less cash to spend on other activities. Making a list before heading out works wonders.
In-store promotions are an excellent way to save on shopping, but not all offers are what they first appear. In some cases, store promotions only amount to a small saving. Consider whether you actually need two products for the price of one, and be sure to keep a close eye on pricing trends. It is not uncommon for stores to hike up prices before a discount – so it pays to be on your guard. That said, promotions can cut pounds off your weekly shop and it is foolish to discount them completely. The key is picking the right moment for your circumstances.
The major supermarkets may hold the largest share of the grocery market, but discount shops are becoming increasingly popular. Unlike in years past where quality was at times suspect, popular discount supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl are now competing on quality as well as price. This even includes great deals on brand name items. There are also some excellent fruit and vegetable deals to be had at the cheaper retailers, including staples such as bread, eggs and milk.
Do you find yourself purchasing brand name products only? Significant savings can be made by switching to supermarket own brands (or opting for a cheaper, lesser-known brand). In many cases the quality will more than adequate. Common own-brand products include breakfast cereal, beans, cheese, soup, bread, and more. In fact, most large supermarkets have a store alternative to nearly all products available. Try this: One common method is to drop down to a cheaper brand and see if you can tell the difference. If you are happy with the change, it’s money well saved.
Eating out in restaurants or grabbing a bite to eat in town for lunch can prove expensive, especially if you end up doing this on a regular basis. Cutting back on eating out is a simple and effective way to save cash. While eating out now and then is a nice treat, if you are intending on saving, try not to go overboard. Saving time cooking is one thing, but consider the financial consequences. Remember, if you do want to eat out, be on the lookout for “happy hour” deals and vouchers that can cut the cost.
A number of stores operate member schemes where you get rewarded for your continued loyalty. Although significant savings can be made, these schemes can often be a double-edged sword. The best savings are possible if you find yourself shopping at the same store, thereby clocking up multiple “points”. These can then be exchanged for money-off your bill. However, there are some disadvantages with loyalty schemes, the most prominent being: you may do less shopping around for deals and head to your preferred store to generate additional points. Multiple store cards can get highly confusing, so it is good practice to try and limit yourself to one or two loyalty schemes (ideally for your most regular store).
Vouchers are a popular and reliable way of saving money on food shopping. They can be found in numerous places, such as the local newspaper, online via voucher sites, or in supermarkets when you complete a shop. It can be very worthwhile scouring the local papers and advertising leaflets for the latest discounts. A savvy shopper is a diligent shopper, so search out those money-off coupons.
How would you like to try a spot of gardening? If you have access to a garden or allotment, growing your own fruit and vegetables can be a fun and rewarding pursuit. Although it may take a bit of practice, this is a great way to get outdoors and save money in the process. Apple/pear trees and greenhouse tomatoes are popular choices for home growing, but many people are now trying carrots, potatoes and more. Do a bit of research and give it a go!
Some large supermarkets now operate a “price match guarantee”, which means if a comparable grocery shop at a competitor was cheaper, they will refund the difference. There are some limitations to this. Firstly, there is often a small time window to establish a claim. Secondly, you are usually required to visit a website and enter details of your shopping bill – sometimes a time consuming process. Having said that, many people regularly take advantage of price match. If you have the time, it could save a few pounds. Points can often be redeemed against fuel, e.g. Nectar Card for Sainsbury’s and Morrison’s Match & More card. So if you drive, remember to scan your card when filling up your tank.
Buying food in bulk is a time-tested way to save money and make meals go further. Produce such as rice and pasta are cheap and highly versatile, especially when purchased in large quantities. Often the domain of students, buying large packs means more bang for your buck so to speak, so be sure to consider this when planning your weekly meals.
With the massive purchasing-power of supermarkets and their ability to drive down prices, shopping locally is often seen as expensive. But while local, independent shops often struggle to compete on price, this does not automatically mean you should avoid local shopping completely.
There are some compelling reasons why it could become part of your overall shopping strategy. For one thing, you will likely save money on fuel if you happen to drive a car. Local shops try hard to keep prices competitive while maintaining excellent quality. For a little more expense, you could buy a far more healthy and tasty product. Produce in local stores can often be easily traced back to their original source – something many people value after recent meat scandals.
Savvy shopping requires a broad approach and by comprising both local and supermarket grocery shops, plus taking advantage of promotions, you can usually find the best value for money. Try a few of our tips on your next shop and see what you can save.