This is a guest post by Laura Dove who blogs over on fivelittledoves.
Being a mum to a large family, food is a never-ending expense that can cost the earth. Laura shares her tips and advice that helped cut her food bill in half, and how you could too.
Over to Laura…
As a family of 6 one of our biggest expenses has always been the food bill.
I used to listen in amazement when other Mums told me how they could do the entire shop for a fraction of what we were spending, assuming that they must be eating poor quality foods and living on smaller portions.
Yet last year when our weekly bill crept up to over £150, I decided enough was enough!
6 months later, having made a few simple changes over the year, our weekly food bill has halved, and I’m here to show you how!
Plan Your Meals
It’s common sense to plan your meals so you only buy what you are going to eat. Yet not having a meal plan, or not sticking to it, is a mistake that so many families make.
The easiest way to do this is with a good old pen and paper. Note down your ingredients on one side, and the meals they’ll make on the other.
Then just cross off the items on your list as you pick them up.
Shopping list blue box:
You’ll find most supermarkets put the fresh fruit and veg at the front of the store, so try to pick up all your fresh ingredients in one go.
It’ll save you time, so you won’t have to trek back when you’re at the other side of the store, nosing through the bakery section!
It sounds simple, but instead of scanning through the whole list, I put a little dot next to anything on my list that is fresh fruit or veg. Bananas, peppers, spinach, fresh herbs…you get the picture!
You’ll get all the veg in one go, and can get your shopping over and done with that little bit quicker!
Once we started to stick to a strict meal plan, we found that not only did we see our food bill drop, but that we wasted far less food too.
Bulk cook and use leftovers for lunch
We soon realised that, even with a family of six, we could bulk cook a large, healthy meal (the slow cooker is amazing for this!) and still have leftovers for lunch the next day.
Not only does this mean a nice quick and easy lunch, but we also saved money on buying lunches on the go at expensive deli’s or fast food outlets.
A simple way to make sure you have enough for lunch is to just double the ingredients – you’ll make 2x the meals in the same time!
Ditch the takeaways
A huge downfall of ours was enjoying a takeaway a couple of times each month as a Saturday night “treat”.
There’s nothing wrong with one now and again, but take a look at your next takeaway receipt and you’ll soon realise it ends up costing a small fortune.
As an alternative, we discovered that a supermarket pizza was just as tasty as one from our local Italian, or an Indian Meal For Two pack was just as delicious as an expensive curry.
Supermarket pizzas can cost as little as £3 for something a little bit fancy.
Stone baked, meat, veg and mozzarella…don’t mind if I do!
Compare that to your £15.99 Domino’s, and each pizza you swap can save you £13! (It’s a lot healthier too!)
Introduce Meat Free Mondays
As a family who loves to eat meat, we realised that a huge percentage of our weekly food bill came from our carnivorous cravings.
We didn’t want to cut it out completely, so as a thrifty compromise, we’ve introduced meat free Mondays.
Every Monday we enjoy a vegetarian dish – like a tomato-based pasta or a vegetable lasagne, and in time we plan on increasing that to three meat free days out of seven.
Drop a brand level to drop your food bill
The next time you shop, try swapping each item to something just one brand level lower.
So if you usually buy big named brands, like Heinz baked beans, switch it up for the supermarkets own brand. And, if you can’t tell the difference, stick with it and make a saving!
This has worked really well for us, although there are some items I refuse to cut costs on.
You can’t win them all, but that’s okay as we cut back in other areas.
Time your shop perfectly
Timing your weekly shop could end up saving you a huge amount thanks to ‘yellow sticker items’, reduced to clear at the end of the day.
Based on experience the first yellow stickers tend to appear mid-morning, and the huge price reductions begin early evening, when stores cut prices by 75% and more.
Doing this will save you a packet! The food is usually fine (although check it first!) and can normally be frozen to use later on (which is exactly what I did with these avocados!)
Things like loaves of bread for 9p, punnets of fruit for 5p, 2 avocados for 18p – the savings are enormous!
Most supermarkets offer introductory discount vouchers to new customers when they first shop online with them.
Big savings are common to get you onboard – like £20 off your first £50 spend, or X% off your first shop, but this only works the first shop each store, so consider it a one-off.
Another benefit to shopping online is that you’re less tempted by items you don’t need.
As you’re not wandering round the aisles with an empty belly, you’re less likely to grab all of those sweet treats – hard to resist when you’re faced with them in store!
Also you get your food delivered to your door, at a time that suits you.
There’s no need to face the crowds or queue up at the till – just select your groceries, book a delivery slot and let the supermarket do all the legwork!
Bonus 8th tip
This one is courtesy of Mark (hello!)
There are a bunch of apps, tricks and sites that I use to get free and discounted food every time I shop, which have got me free ice cream, chocolate, beers, sweets, yogurts…and the list goes on.
They’re routine ways I save a little bit of money on every single food shop…and it all adds up!
Even if you only follow a few of these tips, you’ll be sure to save a few quid on your food bill.
And like most things, the more you can plan and organise your shop, the more you’ll save.
Let us know your grocery saving tricks and how much you’ve saved in the comments below.