In the second of a two part series, new Mouthy Money blogger Shoestring Jane looks at 10 ways you can save serious cash on your weekly shop.
Whether you are on a reduced income, have debts to repay or are focussed on a particular savings goal, reducing your food bill can be an easy win. It just takes a little organisation.
Here are the second five ways to save big money on your groceries without compromising on nutritional quality. You can find the first five here.
6# Ready steady cook!
If you think you cannot cook, think again. Most of us aren’t pro chef standard, but we have learned through trial and error how to cobble some meals together that are enjoyable to eat.
Follow some YouTube videos, search for easy online recipes or ask someone who is more proficient to give you some lessons.
You can make an art of cooking, but – honestly – it really isn’t that difficult and you might even quite enjoy it.
Cooking for yourself means that you will be able to eat better and more cheaply than if you constantly buy microwave ping meals or takeaways.
7# Eat less meat
Substituting meat for vegetarian alternatives such as pulses, soya mince, cheese and eggs can save big money on your groceries. Decent quality meat is expensive!
You can also stretch meat by bulking it out with cheaper vegetable ingredients. For example, adding a cup of lentils to mince will make it go further without anyone noticing, and will also add more fibre to the dish.
Chucking a can of chickpeas or some pearl barley into your chicken casserole will do the same.
You could consider eating vegetarian meals once or twice a week. I don’t mean buying processed veggie food; this is just as expensive as eating meat, possibly even more so. Take a look at Meat Free Mondays for inspiration.
8# Get your five a day on a budget
You might think that eating loads of fruit and veg to get your five a day will be too expensive. However, it is easier than you think to do it on a budget.
Fresh produce can be expensive, but if you have a market it will be much cheaper than most supermarkets, especially if you go at the end of the day when they are desperate to get rid of stuff.
Check out the weekly specials at Aldi and Lidl too. They always have several items that are particularly discounted.
Frozen is another option, tending to be much cheaper, and don’t forget canned. These are just as nutritious and have the advantage that they won’t go off before you get round to using them.
9# Batch cook
Another way to avoid the lure of the takeaway or ‘ping’ cuisine is to have some of your own ready made meals in your freezer.
Some people spend a whole day a month batch cooking vats of bolognese sauce, soup, casseroles, etc, then portioning them up to use as they are needed. I prefer to just double up on the ingredients, then eat half of what I make and freeze the other half.
Make sure you label your batches though. You might think you will recognise a vegetable curry from a chicken stew, but they all start looking remarkably similar once frozen!
Batch cooking means you can purchase larger, bulk packs of ingredients, which will also save you money.
10# Forget best before dates
If you want to save big money on your groceries, please don’t be one of those people who looks at the best before date on a pack of carrots and chucks them in the bin if they are a day over.
Vegetables often last a lot longer than the date on the packet. And, yes, I have fished a pack of carrots out of the food waste that my lodger threw away. There was absolutely nothing wrong with them!
Best before dates are mainly for the retailers benefit, enabling them to push older stock to the front and not have it hanging around the store for too long. Use your common sense: if something looks and smells OK, it is doubtless still perfectly good to eat.
I am even quite blase about use by dates, which you will find on perishable items such as milk, yogurt, processed meat, etc. If something is just a few days over, looks and smells good, then I will risk it.
However, you do need to be cautious. I probably wouldn’t eat out of date chicken, because salmonella is not something I would want to experience.
Packets and tins will last for years. If they are much past their best before date, maybe they won’t taste quite as good, but they won’t kill you. The exception to this is where canned food has ‘blown’ – where you can press the top of the can and it will click – or where the can is badly damaged. The food inside is probably spoiled and you can even get botulism.