Savvy Bloggers Offer Their Best Budget Food Shopping Tips
Whether you're pinching the pennies or just looking to change your spending habits, compiling the contents of your kitchen cupboards from a stricter budget is easier than you might think. Just a few basic changes can make all the difference, drastically reducing spend and wastage in the process.
Tightening the purse strings and the autumnal months seem to go hand in hand. This is the season where bulk-buying, one-pot meals and hearty food reigns supreme, and a keen eye for budgeting is key to surviving these darker, colder months.
We've asked some of our favourite foodie bloggers for their most valuable tips on how to budget the food shop. From meal plans to buying raw, we'll help your food and money go that extra bit further, presenting a different kind of autumn budget as we head towards the end of the year.
Don't forget about the bare essentials; the crucial cupboard necessities you can build your meals around later. Think root veg, beans, fruit and breads. These are the foundation from which you can make some superb meals, and they won't break the bank.
Jasmine Birtles, of Money Magpie, offers: "The number one rule for food-shopping on a budget is to buy raw as much as possible. If you have time, it's even worth buying bread flour and yeast to make your own loaves and rolls. They will definitely taste better than the supermarket products! Use your local street market, particularly towards the end of the day when they often sell a box of fruit or veg for a couple of quid. Get friendly with them and haggle them down where possible."
The DIY approach is definitely one our bloggers swear by. Along with Jasmine's bread, Heather McCurdy of Real: The Kitchen and Beyond ditches tinned beans in favour of making her own: "Cook them, then freeze in the quantities needed for various recipes." Jane Clark from Frugal Queen also makes meals from the ground up: "Cook from scratch. It'll taste better, be better for your health and your budget." A few fundamental meals you can easily make changes up your shopping habits in an instant.
Similarly, Ellen of E.L Feelgood's Vintage believes pre-packaged food to be a no-go: "Loose fruit, vegetables, meat and cheese are much cheaper than their pre-packed counterparts. You can often get great prices at the deli counter, that's where the best deals are." Likewise, those expensive snack packs can often be a drain on your funds. Ellen prefers to make her own to keep costs down: "You can also control what snack you give your child, avoiding all the nasties that often come with such items in the process."
Buy in season
Seasonal autumn grub is a thing of beauty. If your timing's right, you can snap up peak produce at rock bottom prices.
Heather offers: "One of my favourite ways to save on produce is to buy it in-season when it's at its peak quality and most affordable. Just pull out your FoodSaver, seal and freeze for year-round use."
Caroline Taylor, of All That I'm Eating, agrees, noting "One of the quickest and easiest ways to make a change is to start eating seasonally. Plenty of fruit and vegetables are cheaper when they are in season. This is also a good way of making sure you're keeping things varied and not buying the same things week after week."
Buy food as it's going out
You can get some real bargains when you buy food nearing its use-by date. Be judicious with 'best before' dates and use common sense, after all, they're only there as a guide. There's serious money to be saved when you buy food on the threshold of its use-by date, as our bloggers mention.
Jasmine noted that pre-prepared foods should be ignored, unless they're majorly marked down – you can freeze them for later to increase their shelf life (another money-saving essential). Similarly, she also recommended Approved Food – a site full of non-perishable, non-seasonal items at supremely low prices that are past their 'best before' date but still perfectly edible.
Likewise, Ricky Willis, of Skint Dad, pointed us towards the CheckoutSmart app, a handy little essential that's great for finding cheap (sometimes even free) food from supermarkets across the UK.
Pretty much everyone we spoke to mentioned the importance of planning out your meals when it comes to budgeting. Ricky suggests basing it around big supermarket offers: "Whether it's Aldi's Super 6 or Lidl's Pick of the Week, have some recipes to hand that can use fresh (cheaper) ingredients."
Frugal Queen's Jane offers a holistic approach: "Create a menu plan for the week and incorporate what you already have. In that menu plan, be realistic about all meals, packed lunches and snacks." She notes the importance of sticking to your plan: "The budget is the budget", don't be swayed by impulse buys or any demands your kids might have. Cook in bulk and freeze meals for later in the week: "This helps on those 'I fancy a takeaway' nights when you just don't fancy cooking."
Becky Goddard, of Family Budgeting, also mentioned the health aspect of meal planning, saying: "Knowing the plan for your weekly meals and making these healthy and nutritious, keeps you on target as you shop. It means you won't end up ordering a calorie-packed, unhealthy takeaway at the last minute. So, plan your week of healthy meals and shop accordingly and to budget; you'll avoid waste and eat well."
In the quest to find the best bargains, consider casting your net further afield from the places you usually visit. All That I'm Eating's Caroline says: "Another way to save money on your weekly shop is to change where you shop."
Money Magpie's Jasmine is an advocate: "If you have specialist Asian or African shops near you, buy their spices as they are often cheaper than the usual bottles and packets you get in ordinary supermarkets." For Skint Dad's Ricky, he recommends the rustic allure of farmers' markets: "They always have great deals on fruit and veg so try to shop local from time to time."
Likewise, Caroline recommends the local approach: "I often find that my local market, farmers' market and butcher are cheaper than supermarkets." Take a trip at the weekend and you'll find plenty of wonderful wares the chain supermarkets don't offer.
Enjoyed this article? Be sure to check out the FoodSaver blog for more tips on saving money and making your food go further. Or, for an innovative solution to food storage and waste reduction, browse our full range of vacuum sealing systems.