Money Mondays – How to Save Money on Your Food Bill

Today is the start of a new guest post series “Money Mondays” and we kick off with Jane from Shoestring Cottage. Shoestring Jane blogs about living a fun and frugal life. She writes about healthy eating on a budget, frugal gardening and growing your own food, making extra money and finding the best bargains.

Money Mondays - How to Save Money on Your Food Bill

Christmas is coming! The geese might be getting fat but my wallet is already getting slimmer as I get ahead with the festive shopping. I am looking for ways to spend less on everything else in the run up to Christmas. Cutting down on grocery costs tends to be a quick win for me. If you also need to slim back your expenses between now and December, here are my tips on how to save money on your food bill.

It’s so easy to overspend on food and end up wasting it. I do my best to avoid this – I don’t want to throw money in the bin. There is a lot of temptation in the supermarket, especially when you are tired and hungry.  A bit of advance planning can make sure you stay within budget.

Use up what you have

Before you do anything else, look in the fridge, freezer and cupboards. Are there perishables that need eating quickly? I am using up what I have, which also means eating any tins and packet pulses. These are a cheap form of protein and good for you too. I always have some tinned tuna and sardines in for the same reason. Some canned veg is handy to have: tomatoes, obviously, but also potatoes, sweet corn and maybe mushrooms. These are all easy to include in meals. I will also be examining some of the frozen stuff my old lodger left at the back of the freezer to see if that can be incorporated somewhere. For some reason I have two cans of coconut milk so I feel a curry coming on!

Meal plan

If you want to save money on your food bill, meal planning is essential. Think about what you are doing each day and plan a meal to fit in with your activities. For example, if you are likely to be home early you can spend more time cooking. However, if the kids have clubs after school and you will be home late, plan something quick and simple. This way you are less likely to give into the temptation to get a MacDonald’s or a takeout on the journey back. When you have done a tour of your food resources, as described in the previous paragraph, you can make sure some of those ingredients feature in your meal plan.

Write a list

It may sound obvious, but I see a lot of people in the shops who are clearly shopping on the hoof. Write a list based on what is in the cupboard and needs using up and what is on your plan. I stick to my list fairly strictly unless I see a huge bargain. I tend to shop straight after work, which isn’t the best time for a good yellow sticker discounts so I can’t rely on them, but if I do spot something I change my meal plan to accommodate it.

Eat more frozen

I buy frozen quite a lot and this can certainly save money on your food bill. Vegetables tend to be cheaper this way and there is no waste. Frozen meat is also cheaper. Beware the frozen ready meal, however. This type of convenience costs a lot. Having said that, the odd freezer dinner if it is just me eating does little damage and is still cheaper than the aforementioned takeout.

Eat less meat

We eat a lot of chicken as that is good value I find. I might buy and use some cheaper meat like braising steak and put it in the slow cooker. Generally we are eating less meat though. A vegetarian dinner a couple of times a week is great for helping you save money on your food bill.  I frequently dig out my old vegetarian recipe books for inspiration and feature quite a lot of veggie recipes here.

Learn to cook

I am no chef but I can cook, so we don’t eat ready meals very often. With the plethora of TV cookery programmes and You Tube videos there is no lack of instruction – so no excuses. Anybody can learn to cook; it doesn’t have to be cordon bleu! I always have eggs in for a quick omelette dinner or eggs on toast. Egg and chips is one of my favourite meals, very easy to make and so cheap! Cooking is like anything else – the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

I quite often batch cook things like soup, casseroles and pasta sauces for the freezer. These are great for a quick dinner if we get home late.

Shop at discount supermarkets

I love Aldi and Lidl! When all the family still lived at home I reckon I saved at least £30 a week on the family shop. This is a sizeable saving over the course of a few months. The food is good quality, not just cheap stuff. I also like the fact that they tend to be smaller spaces and I can get round them in far less time. There is also a lot less temptation!

Buy out of date food

I know – sounds terrible… However, I am not talking about food that is past its use by date (although I will risk perishables a few days out of date, as long as they look, smell and taste good).  What I mean are the best before dates you find on non-perishable items. I don’t object to the odd short cut as I work full time, so usually have a jar of casserole or pasta sauce lurking. I buy these in bulk, along with items such as pasta, rice, stock, flour, etc. from Approved Food. Items are massively discounted.

However, be warned that there is lots of temptation in the form of crisps and chocolate! I like the fact that they sell items near or past the best before dates when previously these might have been thrown away. What a criminal waste. I usually ask my daughter if she wants to share an order and split the delivery charge.

Grow your own

You can easily save money on your food bill by growing a few salad items, herbs, fruit and vegetables. We are blessed with a large garden and have a greenhouse and big growing patch. We are by no means self-sufficient but we grow quite a lot, especially in the summer. If you have just a balcony or patio you can still grow some tomatoes and lettuce in pots, or have some parsley on your window sill.

What about you? Are you trying to stick to a low budget lifestyle in the lead up to Christmas? If you are, I hope these tips help you to save money on your food bill.

If you have a blog yourself and want to take part in this weekly series, get in touch and let me know your ideas.

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