We could all stand to save a little more on our grocery bill. Feeding the family can quickly become an expensive task if you don’t keep a close eye on the weekly budget. If you’re keen to find more cost-effective ways to shop, follow these tips and you could save yourself both time and money.
One of the easiest ways to stick to your budget is to plan your meals weekly. Get the whole family involved by deciding what to eat for the week – if everyone picks a dish, you’ll get the task done a whole lot quicker. Devoting an hour each Sunday to planning meals for the coming week means you’ll feel less frantic on weeknights and less likely to hit the takeaway, the cost of which can quickly add up. Plus, sticking to the meal plan means having a proper shopping list so you won’t end up over or under buying when you’re out at the shops.
The idea of meal planning might seem a bit rigid at first but there’s always space for spontaneity, especially for seasoned cooks. Have a general idea of what base you want your meal to have – for example pasta, rice, potatoes, bread, soup or a protein – then look for fresh ingredients that are on sale to create your meal. You might have a spaghetti bolognaise planned for Monday night but see bacon and cream on special at the shops – why not do a carbonara? Having flexibility means you can exercise a little bit of creativity.
Before you head to the shops, do your homework. Browse through catalogues to see what’s on special. This will give you an idea of prices and seasonality before you’re out deciding what to buy and will also help you plan your meals to be the most cost effective. Also look out for sales on non-perishable essentials such as cleaning products, toilet paper and soap, and buy them in bulk.
Buying exclusively from the supermarket can have a zombie-like effect on your shopping habits. Shopping around – going to the greengrocer, the butcher, deli, fishmonger, bakery – in addition to the supermarket, will force you to compare prices and get a sense of how much things usually cost. It might feel inconvenient at first but make it a habit to know your prices and you’ll soon feel much more empowered during the weekly shop.
Save money and time by cooking double what you normally do and freezing half. Don’t be afraid to apply the same theory to work lunches and kids’ lunchbox snacks such as cakes and fritters. You can freeze nearly everything – just remember to date each item so they get eaten in time.