Every Friday I publish “Frugal Friday!”, an open-ended series with some of the simple and best ways to really save you money both now and in the future.
This week I’m focusing on short, sharp tips that could save you hundreds of pounds over the course of a year while food shopping.
Never Shop on an Empty Stomach
You know the drill. It’s early evening, you are tired from work, starving hungry and find no food in the house. By some miracle you resist the temptation to ring the local Indian delivery folks, and instead shuffle back in your car to visit your local supermarket. You have nothing in mind particularly beyond getting home again, and as a result end up massively overspending. Your hunger did your shopping, rather than any conscious plan you may have had.
Eat before you go shopping. If you are not hungry when you go, then tantalising offers that are not already on your shopping list will likely be easily ignored. Which neatly brings me to my next point…
Write a List
Going shopping without a list is a disaster waiting to happen. You buy loads of things you don’t need, forget half the stuff you do, and get loads of “extras” on the side.
To combat this, work out a meal plan for the week ahead and everything you’ll need to buy to make it happen. If you are going to do some batch cooking in the week, see what you already have in the store cupboards before adding them to the list.
If it isn’t on the list – don’t buy it!
And leave the pen at home… adding it to the list afterwards is cheating.
Calculate a Budget
Much like having a list is important for not over-spending, so is having an idea of where ‘overspending’ would be in the first place. Everyone will have their own idea for a budget, but £50 per person per month is not unreasonable to aim for if you have the time to batch cook. That is my own personal food budget, and mostly, I manage to achieve that these days.
Slow Down & Scan
The items on the shelves at eye-level are the most profitable products. You see a jar of pasta sauce the moment you walk into the aisle and grab it, throw it in your basket and zoom off to the next item in the list.
You just fell for the oldest marketing trick in the book. Next time slow down and study the prices. Scan the entire shelf from top to bottom and look at the cost per unit calculations most supermarkets provide in the super-small-print on the shelf labels. If you take a moment to compare prices you can save upwards of 100% on the purchase price of some items.
Downshifting isn’t about suffering a cheaper product, it is about finding a cheaper product where you cannot honestly tell the difference between it and a more expensive brand. If you have a habit of always buying “Finest” or “Taste The Difference” or some other premium product, try a brand name instead. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, try stores-own. You’ll often save pounds per product doing this and likely won’t notice a shred of difference when cooked.
Some premium brands and stores-own are even made in the same factory. The only difference is the packaging and the price.
Shop at Reduction Hour
My father makes a killing doing this. He very rarely goes shopping before 8pm, which is precisely when our local Tesco begins doing the final knock-downs on things that are going out of date the next day or so. It is not uncommon for him to come home with bagfuls of items at 10p here, 20p there where the original cost would have been pounds here and pounds there instead.
Anything that will not be eaten or turned into a batched meal gets frozen until it is needed and remains just as good and just as flavoursome as the full priced equivalent.
Never Turn Down ‘Free’
Quite regularly my mother will include me in meals she makes for herself, or my father will invite me out to lunch to catch up. Never turn down these opportunities, as it’s a great way to spend extra time with friends and family, and shave costs from your food bill as well.
Happy Friday, and Happy (Cheaper) Shopping!