I’m always out for a bargain and hate waste! With a family of five, food shopping isn’t cheap, plus I’m rubbish at meal planning in advance. So here are my top tips for frugal food-shopping and limiting waste without the need of in-depth organisation:
- Check other areas of the supermarket for the same products, as they are sometimes cheaper! I only discovered this while shopping online as the products were displayed together on the page. If you buy dried fruit and nuts in the ‘snacking’ section, it is usually more expensive than the ‘baking’ section even for the same sized packs. Plain tortilla wraps are smaller and more expensive when bought in the ‘Mexican food’ section and cheaper and larger in the bread aisle. The products are the same but in different packaging!
- Avoid snack packs. They may be convenient but are hugely expensive per kilo of product. From the weaning stage, we’ve all got loads of little pots floating around the cupboard, USE THEM!! It takes seconds to put a few raisins, a spoon full of hummus or a biscuit in a pot- it will save a lot of money, I promise!
- Switch from raisins to sultanas. Mine didn’t even notice the swap and sultanas are so much cheaper!
- Try frozen fruit and veg, they are cheap, quick to use and keep (in the freezer!) well. You can just use a little at a time without wasting with large fruits like pineapple, melon and mango, which are generally quite expensive when bought fresh. Also, frozen berries are much cheaper too and again, if you only shop once a week, these keep much longer than fresh. Check out my post for breakfast ideas using frozen fruit. All frozen fruit and veg hold their nutritional content well. Peas, sweet corn, corn on the cob and soya beans are all fab. Frozen spinach is my latest, great find, it’s blanched before freezing so once defrosted, it’s ready to use (or hide!), and saves you having to steam and prep.
- Bake your own ham. When you compare the price of sliced ham per kilo to a gammon joint, it’s staggering and, with a large family, we were going through packets of the stuff! Sainsbury’s gammon joints have recently been on offer for £3/kg (half price) but even £6/kg is fab compared with £8-£12+/kg for packet ham (they usually price per 100g instead of per kilo to make it look cheaper). Plus, by baking your own, you know that it is just meat and not all the added stuff they put into sliced ham. I have to admit, the kids took a time to get used to the baked ham in their sandwiches but we got there in the end with improved knife skills for thin slices, and making sure any sinews were cut out.
- I rarely buy the branded products. All our breakfast cereals are the supermarkets ‘own brand’ and they taste the same. However, we did try the budget versions and that was a step too far! Some budget products are great, like biscuits, chopped tomatoes and flour. Budget mild cheddar was good in Sainsbury’s but not in Tesco, so I guess it’s down to personal taste and shopping around to find the cheapest version that you are happy with. There are odd products like tomato ketchup and baked beans where, I’m afraid, ‘it has to be Heinz’ 😉 but again, personal taste!
Top tip: Decant branded products into Tupperware or jars so they don’t see the box/ packet and make their decision before even tasting the product (this also improves shelf life). I do this mainly for breakfast cereal (it even worked on the husband!!), cheese, sweet and savory biscuits and pasta. I managed to swap them to wholemeal pasta with this trick!
- If you are rubbish at meal planning like me, just make sure you know what you’ve got and when it needs to be used by. Plan the day’s meals around what’s going to go off first.
- Never throw away leftovers! Use for tomorrows lunch, freeze or reincarnate into a new meal- I always over-cater so I can do exactly that. It saves time the next day if my lunch is already made or next week if I’ve got a few Bolognese portions in the freezer for a ‘healthy in a hurry’ dinner!!
- Use your senses rather than just abiding by the ‘use by’ dates. Don’t throw out a punnet of raspberries because there are a few squishy ones with a little something extra growing on them, pick them out and wash and use the rest. Smell meat but if in doubt, chuck it out. If you buy from a butcher or green grocer or grow your own, you wont get ‘use by’ dates anyway.
- If fruit is getting over-ripe, smoothie, cook or freeze it. Bananas freeze really well, if you peel first, you can whizz them up from frozen into instant ice-cream or add to other ingredients for a chilled smoothie. Freeze them in their skin and then once de-frosted can be added to cakes or batters, any cooked recipe requiring banana. Over ripe pears or apples can be stewed and frozen. Plums, peaches and nectarines can be brought back to life with 30 seconds in the microwave and a drizzle of honey, served with yoghurt for breakfast or desert. Any fruit or veg can be whizzed into a smoothie, I love our Nutribullet, which is great for this! Spinach that is no good for a salad anymore is still ok for a smoothie for another couple of days.
- Ooh and don’t forget your shopping bags!!
Do you have any top tips on budget food shopping? How do you make use of your leftovers? Are you a planner or do you ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ when it comes to meal times (like me!)?!!