Since deciding that enough was enough and that I really had to pull in the purse strings, I’ve managed to cut the amount I spend on groceries by half, and what’s more, I know I can cut it back even further.
If you’re in the same boat as I was, generally finding yourself left with too much month at the end of the money, the following tips for saving money on grocery shopping may just help.
- Use a list. As obvious as this may seem, take a look next time you’re at the supermarket and you’ll see just how few people actually use one. Keep a list handy and write down the things you need as and when they occur to you. By doing this you’ll find your weekly grocery shop will not only be cheaper, but easier too.
- Check your stock. Check what you already have available. I find it’s easiest to keep a running list of everything I have and then tick it off once it's used, adding it to the list if I need more for the coming week or so. Staple supplies such as coffee, sugar, flour, yeast etc are always added as I start to get low.
- Clear out your fridge. Do this before you make your final list. Get rid of anything that’s past its use-by date or that looks/smells as if it ought to be. Check these items off of your stock list and add what needs replacing to your shopping list.
- Plan a menu. Using your stock list, plan a complete menu for the week ahead, adding to your list any items that you don’t have available. Browsing the aisles for meal ideas just leads to impulse buying and unnecessary doubling up on stock.
- Use raw ingredients. It’s always cheaper to cook from scratch so try to avoid pre-prepared foods.
- Keep a quick-meal stock. Sometimes life gets in the way of even the best laid plans so keep a stock of supplies that can be used to make a quick meal when the planned meal isn’t suitable. Far cheaper than nipping out to buy a frozen meal or a take-away.
- Have a budget. Decide beforehand how much you intend to spend on your groceries and stick to it. Make a tally of your list and should the items needed for your menu bring you over budget, re-jig the menu.
- Don’t shop while you’re hungry. We’ve all heard this but like many others, I did it and I paid the price every time. It’s just too easy to pick up a little something here and little something there because everything looks so darned delicious! And then there’s the snack for the journey home. Avoid it if you can.
- Stockpile. The one and only time you should deviate from your list is if the store is offering a product you use regularly at a discounted price. Don’t buy discounted items just because they’re cheap though – you actually have to need them.
- Keep receipts. I use a spreadsheet to keep account of the cost of every item on my grocery list. That way I can easily compare prices and check where I’m getting the best deal. One supermarket may say they’re cheaper than another, but that may not necessarily be the case for the products you’re buying.
- Use less meat. Not only is meat production bad for the environment (see my earlier post on the subject here), it’s also expensive. If you eat meat every day, try to ration yourself to two or three times a week instead. Fish makes a healthy meal and there are plenty of veggie recipes around.
- Stop making one-item trips. By planning ahead, those one-item trips should all but disappear. If you find yourself constantly heading to the shops for more milk, consider having a milkman deliver instead. Few people actually buy just one item once they’re inside the store. I know I rarely did.
- Watch the till. Cashiers regularly make mistakes so keep an eye on what’s being rung up. If you see a mistake being made, catch it. Why should you give your money away? They're making enough profit as it is.
- Use your freezer. Contrary to what many believe, freezers aren’t just for storing shop-bought frozen meals, ice-cream, and bags of chips. Use the space to store freezable items that are on offer and home made food like pasta sauce which works out much cheaper than buying it ready made.
- Don’t take the kids. Not one I need to worry about any more, granted, but I remember it well. When children are with you, they pester for the latest cereals, turkey shapes, ice-lollies and goodness knows what else until you finally relent and buy something to keep them quiet.
- Make comparisons. One jar of mayonnaise may appear cheaper than another but packaging can be deceiving. Check the volume/weight to make sure you really are getting the better deal.
- Use cloth bags. Once again, this is better for the environment but now that stores are gradually starting to introduce payment for plastic carriers, it makes economic sense too.
- Use club cards. Remember that those club card points are already built into the store's prices so you may as well get them back. Don’t use the money-off vouchers on products you wouldn’t normally buy though.
- Shop around. You don't necessarily have to buy everything at the supermarket. If you have time, visit your local market, farm shops, or Asian stores (particularly good for rice, pulses, spices and the likes) and similar.
- Shop online. Although it’ll cost you between £3-5 extra for delivery depending on where you shop, if you really aren’t able to stick to a list once the lure of shelves lined with every mouth-watering delight under the sun meets you, it might be worth shopping online instead.
Once upon a time, Richard used to be in charge of the household grocery shop and did it on a more or less daily basis. It was his ‘alone’ time, he said. I could understand he needed to get out on his own, but I’m sure it was costing us much more in the long run than by sticking with a plan, and him popping down the pub for a swift one and a game of darts instead ;)
It took a while for me to get back into any kind of shopping routine but I got there in the end. I’m still trying to keep some kind of check on my dry goods but with the lack of storage we have at the moment, it isn’t easy when things are piled on top of one another and kept in various parts of the kitchen. But as I’ve said before – I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again. I have saved money, but I’ll save even more.