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How to save money on food shopping

Money saving tips from Fair Finance...

In our last Fair Finance article we looked at how to create a budget and stick to it. In that article we mentioned that food shopping is one of the biggest expenses that most people have, once all the household bills are paid. So in this article we are going to look at ten ways you can save money on your food shopping.

Make a shopping list

Did the UK lockdown earlier this year cause changes in your shopping habits? Before lockdown, most of us were used to being able to buy food shopping any day and pretty much any time. But during lockdown, our movements were restricted and many of us began to do a big weekly food shop instead of day to day shopping. And an estimated 88% of us also began to make shopping lists.

This is important for saving money because it helps us to buy only what we actually need. The best thing to do is to check your cupboards, fridge and freezer before you go shopping so that you know what you already have. Then try to think of meals that can use those ingredients and a few other top up ingredients that you can buy. This is less wasteful and will save you money.

Pay cash

You may head to the supermarket with the best of intentions but still end up spending more money than you planned. One way to avoid this is to take cash instead of your card. This ensures that you cannot overspend.

In case you are worried about not having enough money and being embarrassed at the checkout, if you use a supermarket with a self scanner you can keep track of what you are spending as you go round. You can also remove unnecessary items if you exceed your cash limit. Then if you pay at one of the self checkout machines, it is fine to use cash even during Covid-19.

Shop around

It’s easy to get into regular shopping habits and just go to the same store every week. But it can really pay to shop around. Depending what you are planning to buy, you may be able to get it significantly cheaper in one store than another, depending what offers they have on. So it’s worth checking local supermarket websites before you go to see what special offers are available.

Also remember to collect coupons, vouchers and loyalty points from everywhere that you shop, and use them to get further offers when you can.

Shop at the best time for discounts

As well as deciding where to shop, also choose the best time to go. Many stores are open long hours - some even for 24 hours. So there will be times - perhaps early evenings or Sunday afternoons - when they reduce stock that has not sold to get rid of it quickly. It is possible to pick up some really good bargains if you know the right time to go shopping.

Most supermarkets also have permanent "reduced to clear“ shelves that are topped up regularly. So check these shelves a few times during your shop to see what is being added. Time things right and you could save a lot of money.

Shop online

Online shopping became a godsend for many people during lockdown, and a high proportion of those people are sticking to it. It can also save you a lot of money if you are careful.

The advantage is that you have to plan your shopping and once your order is closed (usually late the night before your delivery) you can’t add in last minute items just because you fancy them. Just be careful not to add in impulse buys or offers such as 3 for 2 items during your shop, unless they are things that you will definitely use.

There is generally a small delivery charge for online shopping, but when you consider that you save on fuel and time, it is well worth it. If you are online shopping with a particular store for the first time, you may also find that there are special offers for new customers.

Buy supermarket own brands

You can also save a lot of money if you are prepared to be flexible about the brands you use. It’s easy to become used to a particular brand, but most supermarkets have their own brand versions of products which are often just as good - if not better - than the more expensive brands that you normally use. So it is definitely worth giving supermarket own brands a try to see how much you can save.

Bulk buy

We’ve just mentioned 3 for 2 offers, and they can be great offers if it is stuff that you can definitely use. But guard against over buying just for the sake of it. If you just need one item and can’t use another one or two, especially if they have early expiry dates, then just buy one. You are not saving money if you buy things that you don’t need, even if the unit price is cheaper.

But do consider bulk buying essential items. Things such as household cleaning, toilet and kitchen rolls, toiletries, tins, jars, drinks, pet food etc. You can often get these kinds of items a lot cheaper when you buy in bulk, whether from a supermarket or a wholesaler such as CostCo. After a while you will learn more about the rate at which you tend to use these items, so will get into a good routine about how much and how often to buy.

Batch cook

When you plan your shopping list, why not also plan to make double quantities of one or two meals? For example, curry, casserole or lasagne. It often doesn’t cost that much more to make two lots than one, as you can stretch out the ingredients. You can then either freeze the extra portion, or perhaps arrange to trade meals with a like-minded friend.

Use everything

Another advantage of batch cooking is that it gives you the chance to use up leftovers that you have lying around. It’s estimated that UK households waste around 4.5 million tons of food a year, worth £14 billion. This works out at around £700 per year for an average family with children. Money that you could save.

So make sure that you use up everything and don’t waste it. Check your fridge and cupboards regularly to see what needs using up. You could use leftover vegetables in a casserole or curry, or ripe fruit in cakes or puddings or desserts. There are websites such as Love Food Hate Waste that can help you to do this.

Use shopping apps

There are also a variety of shopping apps that can help you save money by giving you cashback on your supermarket shopping. If you like using apps, it’s a good idea to download as many as possible as they are all likely to have different offers at any given time. Then before you go shopping, have a browse through them to find out what deals are available.

In most cases you simply buy the product as normal, then scan your receipt into the app afterwards. The cashback will then be credited to your Paypal account.

Here are a few of these apps, but more apps are always being developed so it is also worth regularly checking the Apple App Store and Google Play Store for new additions.

  • Shopmium
  • Checkout Smart
  • QuidCo ClickSnap
  • GreenJinn
  • TopCashback Snap & Save

We hope the information above is useful and helps you to save money on your food shopping. You’ll probably find that the more you get into it, the more creative ways you will find to save. Good luck!

If you need any financial assistance along the way then do always feel free to get in touch with us at Fair Finance.

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