Fed up with paying through the nose just to keep your family fed? Then follow these ten easy tips...
About a week ago, I popped into my local Sainsbury's to buy a packet of Kellogg's Special K. Ideally, I wanted a discounted brand rather than Kellogg's, but unfortunately as the supermarket was so small, I didn't have a choice.
So I grabbed the cereal and headed to the checkout. It was then that the horror of what I was doing struck me - I was forking out £3.19 just for a 500g packet of cereal! What a rip off!
A trip to the supermarket can often leave you feeling like you've just been robbed. So if you're sick of paying a fortune for your food, here are eight tips to help you slash your food bills.
1) Plan ahead
It's always a good idea to draw up a list of meals you're going to cook for the next week. Plan your shopping list around that and stick to it! Don't be tempted to impulse buy and end up with a cupboard full of stuff you don't actually need.
2) Ditch the big brands
As I said above, I usually tend to avoid the big brands and instead plump for a discounted version.
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The thing is, cheaper brands don't necessarily mean poor quality. And ditching the big brands really can bring down the size of your bills. For example, instead of buying a packet of Kellogg's Special K, Tesco sells a discounted brand called Country Barn Special Flakes - a 500g box costs just £1.39. Similarly, ASDA sells its own version, Vitality, for £1.68 for 500g.
And in my opinion, these cheaper brands are just as nice, if not nicer, than the big brands.
If you're not convinced, a nifty website to take a look at is Supermarket Own Brand. This tells you how certain products compare in both cost and taste - so ASDA's Vitality, for example, is given a score of 8 out of 10 for taste. Not bad!
And don't forget that buying 'value' items for basics - such as flour and rice - can also be a good option. To find out which supermarket offers the best deal, read The cheapest supermarket Value range.
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3) Shop online
Shopping online not only means you can avoid crowded supermarket aisles and trolley injuries, it can also work out to be cheaper.
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Although you will have to pay a delivery charge for online shopping - and this is usually more expensive at the weekend - you will often find fabulous voucher codes online which can chop several pounds off your weekly shop. For example, if you have a look on websites such as HotUKDeals, vouchercodes.co.uk and myvouchercodes.co.uk, you're bound to come across vouchers for free delivery or discounts on your groceries!
It can also be worth signing up to supermarket websites even if you don't shop with them, as supermarkets often send out discounts via email. Usually, they're trying to lure you back to shopping with them if you haven't booked an online delivery in a while. So try to vary who you shop with, so that at any one time at least one supermarket is desperate to tempt you back.
Finally, I think the really great thing about shopping online is that you're less likely to be tempted to buy things you don't need!
4) Look out for reduced items
Usually if you do your supermarket shop towards the end of the day, the discounts will be greater. Most supermarkets have a 'reduced to clear' shelf so this is always worth a browse. Just be careful as these items will probably have a short 'use by' date on them, so either eat them quickly, or freeze them if you can.
5) Go local
Local greengrocers and markets can work out far cheaper for fruit and veg than supermarkets. Similarly, you'll also save the pennies by eating the seasons. And of course, you could always try a spot of pick your own, or even grow your own fruit and veg in your back garden.
6) Deep discounters
Deep discounters such as Aldi, Lidl and Netto have rapidly grown in popularity over the past couple of years. Because they keep their shop overheads low, they can offer lower food prices than the major supermarkets. So they are definitely worth a look if you haven't already become a fan.
7) Ditch the kids
Children can be ever so good at persuading you to buy items you don't need. So if possible, leave the kids at home!
8) Supermarket traps
Over recent years, supermarkets have started to try to convince us that shopping in a supermarket is a great way to spend your entire day.
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As a result, in have come the Starbucks cafes - allowing you to wile away the hours, enjoying a cup of coffee, or perhaps a spot of lunch, before continuing to amble along the aisles. You might even be lucky enough to walk around listening to relaxing music. All of these tactics are designed to help you let your guard down and throw a bunch of extra stuff into your trolley on impulse!
Changing the store layout is another cunning ploy to encourage you to spend more. Even if you think you know where everything is, one day you're bound to walk into your local supermarket to find everything has been moved around - meaning you have to walk up and down every aisle searching for what you want and wandering past other tempting items.
Watch out for product placement too. Often, cheaper items will be on the very bottom or top of a shelf so you will really have to look for them. Meanwhile, the more profitable items will be 'conveniently' placed at eye level so they are easy to find.
And finally, the smell of freshly baked bread wafting down the aisles is also a great way to encourage you to add some to your shopping basket! And what about all those delicious looking sweets sitting at the checkout? Pretty easy just to add them to your trolley, isn't it?
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9) Earn cashback
OK, so technically this isn't a way to slash your food bills... but it does allow you to buy the same amount of food for less. I'm referring, of course, to cashback credit cards. Hand over one of these cards at the supermarket till and you could earn up to 5% cashback. This could potentially save you hundreds of pounds over the course of a year, far more than any supermarket loyalty card scheme. Read more
10) Make the most of special offers
Again, if you shop online, this is easy to do. Most supermarket websites have a special offers section, where they list their top offers that day. Have a look:
You can also find details of special offers easily on mySupermarket.co.uk.
Don't be tempted into spending more because you're 'saving' more, however. For example, yes, 'buy one, get one free' deals can work out to be a good bet - but only if you're going to use the items. So buying three bags of satsumas for the price of two might be ok if you've got a family of four to feed, but if you live on your own, chances are the satsumas will start to go off before you get a chance to eat them. In which case, you're literally throwing money away.
So there you have it, ten easy ways to slash your food bills. And don't forget to check out our Frugal Food blog for more inspiration.
This article has been edited and updated from an earlier version published last year.
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