As prices rise faster and faster, one lovemoney.com writer shares his top tips for saving on food bills.
If you're fed up with paying through the nose for your food, here are my own inflation-busting top tips for battling food bills -- every one tried and tested!
1. Plan ahead!
When you shop, try to base your shopping list around a planned series of meals. That way, you lessen the odds of impulse-buying food that you don't need, and that might go off. What's more, planning ahead increases the chance that you'll deliberately seek out a cheap meal.
2. Look for 'reduced for quick sale' items
The exception to this 'meal planning' principle are meals planned around 'reduced for quick sale' (RFQS) items. Get into the habit of making the RFQS counters regular stops on your shopping trips, and develop an eye for a bargain. Meat, fish and most chilled or ready-cooked meals can usually be frozen -- but so can bread, pastries and rolls.
Real RFQS aficionados need lots of freezer space -- so make sure yours is running economically (do regular de-frosts!) -- and not cluttered with stuff you're not going to eat. So, either eat it, or (as a last resort) throw it. Freezer space is too valuable to waste!
Take a look at the eat the seasons website and weekly e-mail service that tells you what's in season, and provides handy recipe ideas. My own top tip: make even bigger savings on 'in season' produce by buying from a greengrocer or market stall, not a supermarket.
4. Cheap meat
Buying cheaper cuts of meat can make a real difference to the weekly shop. Cheaper cuts of meat typically need to cook for longer, and those readers without Rayburns or Agas might like to look at slow cookers. Check out these delicious slow cooker recipes.
5. Cut out the middlemen!
Farmers' markets offer good quality food at better prices than you'd pay elsewhere. If you can't get to a farmer's market, at least buy a sack of potatoes at the farm gate. (Hint: most farms sell half sacks, too -- and if you don't pass many farm gates, you'll sometimes see sacks of spuds offered for sale at places like truck stops, country petrol stations and the like.)
6. Buy in bulk
Bulk buying can offer genuine savings, especially if you share out the produce among friends and neighbours. Sacks of rice, for example, are absurdly cheap from Asian grocers -- simply divvy up the sack to make substantial savings.
7. Free food
Food doesn't get much cheaper than free. Nettle soup is real favourite in our household. If you need a recipe, TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has a wonderful nettle soup recipe to try out!
Rachel Robson rounds up five ways to cut your food bills.
8. Grow your own!
Our greenhouse and garden keeps us supplied with runner beans, broad beans, tomatoes, chillies, beetroot, radishes, courgettes and squashes.
If you’re a little unsure of how to get started with growing your own fruit and veg, you can find a range of ‘growing cards’ here which will give you all the information you need!
And if you don’t have a garden, you could try calling your local council to see if they have an allotment free, or you could help to grow a local community garden. Check out the Federation of City Farms & Community Gardens for more information.
9. Look for 'deep discounters'
'Deep discount' retailers Aldi and Lidl are a firm favourite in our household. The prices are generally excellent, and the quality surprisingly good. German housewives, where both chains hail from, won't put up with poor quality! If you're an Aldi or Lidl fan, you'll know what I'm talking about -- if not, check it out!
And if you can't get to a deep discounter, be adventurous at the main chains and check out their "value" ranges -- especially for staple foodstuffs where the 'value' has been created by pitting suppliers against each other, rather than through low-cost recipe engineering.
Rice, butter, tinned tomatoes; basic commodities like these are often just as good in the value range, and the savings can be considerable. To find out which supermarket offers the best deal, read The cheapest supermarket Value range.
10. Be ambitious!
Why not set yourself a challenge and see if you can feed your family for less than £30 a week! If you want some inspiration, pop into your local Oxfam charity shop or similar -- they often have books on soups, casseroles and even cooking with leftovers. Alternatively, post a question on our Q&A tool and ask other lovemoney.com readers for tips.
And here's a bonus tip: check out Asian cuisine. While you're at the Oxfam shop, look to see if they have any books on Indian vegetarian cooking -- oddly enough, our local shop often does. Cheap and nutritious meals can be very readily made from pulses, vegetables and spices. If Oxfam don't have one, try the public library or car boot sale.
This is classic article which has recently been updated.
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