There are lots of ways to save money on food shopping, from clever budgeting tricks to extending the shelf life of your groceries. Read on to find out how you can cut the cost of your next food shop.
Rising food prices are putting a squeeze on household finances across the UK. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the increasing cost of your food shopping, you’re not alone. Although food prices can seem out of our control, there are many ways to cut costs and save money on your grocery shopping. From tips on planning your food shop to tricks on finding cheap deals, we share exactly how to save money on food shopping.
Planning your food shop
Work out what you currently spend on food: Looking at your bank statements will help you see how much you currently spend on your food shopping. Many mobile banking apps allow you to look back at what you have spent in previous months by category, including money spent eating out and at different supermarkets. This could help you identify areas where you are spending the most money.
Set a spending limit: Create a budget to work out how much you have to spend on food shopping. This can be broken down weekly or monthly depending on when you buy groceries. Then set a spending limit on how much you will put towards food.
Check what you already have: Always have a look through your kitchen and freezer to check what you already have. This helps you avoid buying food and products that you don’t need to save money.
Plan your meals: You can cut the cost of your food bill by planning your meals in advance. It will give you a better idea of the ingredients you need to buy and help you find cheaper alternatives.
Write a shopping list: Always write a list before food shopping at the supermarket or online. It helps you stick to your budget and avoid impulse purchases.
Cut back on luxuries: One of the easiest ways to save money on food is to cut back on luxury items you don’t need. You could also try recreating your favourite treats and snacks at home instead.
Finding the cheapest food prices
Compare prices: Price comparison apps and websites, such as Trolley and My Supermarket Compare, can help compare thousands of groceries to find supermarkets with the cheapest deals.
Try budget supermarkets: Discount supermarkets, such as Aldi and Lidl, could offer cheaper food prices than traditional retailers. You could also save money using online food suppliers such as Approved Food, which sells items close to their best-before date (that are still perfectly good to eat) for a fraction of the price.
Use loyalty schemes: Supermarket loyalty schemes, such as My Morrisons Card, Sainsbury’s Nectar card, and Tesco Clubcard, are a great way to earn points and rewards that can be used to save money on your next food shop.
Get a discount: Money-saving websites, such as SuperSavvyMe and VoucherCloud, offer discounts, which could help you save money on food. Supermarket magazines and receipts are also great places to find deals or discount codes to get money off of your shop. Supermarkets such as the Co-op and Morrisons also offer money off to shoppers with a valid student card.
Consider going meat-free one night a week: Meat and fish can be more expensive, so having more vegetarian meals during the week could help you save money. Websites such as BBC Good Food and Meat Free Monday offer many meat-free recipes if you need inspiration for your next dish.
Saving at the supermarket
Switch to budget brands: Choosing cheaper brands or the store’s own brands at the supermarket (also known as downshifting) could help you cut your food shopping bill and save you hundreds of pounds a year.
Beware of special offers: Supermarket offers such as buy one get one free can help you save money, but it’s important to make sure you need the items and will use them before they expire. It’s also worth seeing if you can get cheaper alternatives instead.
Avoid ready meals: Ready meals and pre-cooked food are usually more expensive than if you bought ingredients and cooked from scratch. You can also create your own home cooked ‘ready meals’ by batch-cooking in advance.
Shop seasonally: Seasonal produce tends to be cheaper and can help you save money on your food bill.
Try frozen foods: Frozen fruit, vegetables, meat and fish usually cost less than buying them fresh. They also have the added benefit that you can use what you need to cook the meal, avoiding food waste. Iceland, which focuses on frozen foods, offers a £1 value frozen range.
Check the reduced section: You could bag yourself a bargain in the reduced section of your supermarket. In addition, you can freeze items that are close to expiring to make them last longer.
Time your shop: Try food shopping at different times of the day to find when your supermarket is most likely to start reducing items. Some retailers may start reductions in the evening, while others may do them first thing in the morning.
Buy in bulk: Larger multipacks tend to be cheaper than buying smaller quantities, so where possible try to buy in bulk. But again, be mindful of the product’s use-by date to ensure you will use the larger quantity.
Check unit prices: Unit prices help you compare similar items that are sold in different sized packaging so you can get the best value deal. They’re usually given by weight (grams and kilograms), by volume (litres or millilitres) or price per item.
Avoid shopping hungry: Shoppers are more likely to overspend when they’re hungry so, where possible, try to eat before hitting the supermarket or do your food shop online.
Look at the bottom shelf: Supermarkets use lots of tactics to get you to spend more, but items placed on the bottom shelves tend to be cheaper and could help you save money on food shopping.
Bring your own bags: Always bring your own bags to the supermarket to avoid paying more money for them at the till. That 15p here and there can add up throughout the year.
Limit your supermarket trips: Being disciplined with the number of times you visit the supermarket can help you avoid overspending and save money.
Use supermarkets for big shops: Local convenience stores tend to be more expensive, so try to save larger food shops for big supermarkets to save on food.
Shop online: Shopping online can help you limit your spending and avoid being tempted by deals for products you don’t need in the supermarket. You can also benefit from using cashback sites while you shop online.
Use a shopping service: Navigating supermarkets in store or online can get trickier as you get older, but you can still find cheap deals and save money on food shopping by using a local shopping service provided by charities such as AgeUK.
Try a prepaid card: A prepaid card could help you stick to a food budget and save money. You can only spend the money you load on to a prepaid card, which could help you avoid overspending. Unlike credit cards, prepaid cards don’t offer section 75 payment protection. If there are any issues with your purchase, you might be able to get a refund using a scheme called chargeback instead.
Get cashback: Cashback apps and websites, such as Shopmium, TopCashback and Quidco, let you claim money back on groceries from certain retailers, which could help you save money for your next food shop.
Track your spending: Keeping track of your food spending in a spreadsheet or using a budgeting app shows if you are sticking to your budget, helping you save money in the long run.
Split the cost of your shop: If you live in a home share, you could cut the cost of your grocery bill by splitting the cost of your food shop between everyone. This could be particularly handy if you shop online and want to share the delivery cost.
Making food last longer
Invest in reusable containers: Reusable containers are cheaper for storing food than single-use storage, such as sandwich bags and cling film.
Use leftovers for lunch: Saving leftovers from your meals for lunch or dinner the next day can help your food shop last longer, saving you money.
Store food correctly: Always follow the storage instructions for food on the packet to avoid it going off sooner.
Keep an eye on use-by dates: Organising your cupboards and fridge so that the use-by dates are clear can help you avoid wasting food and save money on buying replacements.
Freeze food: Most foods can be frozen to make them last longer, for example, you could put sliced bread in the freezer and take out slices when needed.
Regrow food from scraps: You may be able to grow your own vegetables, such as spring onions, celery and lettuce, using the stems or roots of ones you already have, which could help you save.
Try food waste apps: Apps such as Too Good to Go offer food from businesses such as supermarkets and restaurants that would otherwise be thrown away, at discounted rates.
Where to get help with food
If you are struggling to afford food, there still could be options available to help you put food on the table.
Charities, such as The Trussell Trust, Bankuet and the Independent Food Aid Network, can help you find food banks in your local area. You’ll need to be referred by one of the following before you can use a food bank:
- social worker
- Citizens’ Advice
- GP, health visitor or another medical professional
- Jobcentre Plus
- children’s centre
- police or probation workers
It’s also worth checking whether your child qualifies for free school meals, if you receive government benefits to help ease the pressure on your food budget.
If you are struggling with the rising cost of living, read our guide on how to deal with the rising cost of living for further tips to save you money.