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Get savvy with your weekly shop

The past year has seen a steady rise in food prices, with the cost of everyday staples like bread and butter going up. With more of us feeling the squeeze on our weekly budget, yet obesity rates continuing to rise, we look at some of the things you can do to be more savvy with your food shopping.

Buy what you need

You know what it’s like: you go to the supermarket with a list of what you need and you end up filling a basket or trolley with spontaneous items. Trouble is, not only does that end up putting a strain on your finances, it can result in you buying unhealthy snacks just because they’re on offer. 

Also, if the food you buy is fresh, a lot of out-of-date products will go in the bin at the end of the week. According to the campaign group Love Food Hate Waste, we’re guilty in the UK of dumping a total of almost one million tonnes of milk, bread and potatoes every year. That’s food that goes into landfill and breaks down into methane, which is bad for the environment and contributes to climate change.

So, the tip is, plan ahead and only buy what you need.

Shop local

There’s a common misconception that shopping in local greengrocers, butchers and bakeries is more expensive than the supermarkets – but this isn’t always the case. When you shop at a greengrocer for fruit and veg, for example, the items are often loose, so you only buy the amount you need. This means you cut back on waste, as well as needless plastic packaging. 

Likewise, a trip to the butcher can save you money too. Cuts like pork and beef cheeks, oxtail, brisket and shin are cheaper than more popular cuts of meat, and are packed full of flavour, particularly when slow cooked. Also, butchers generally offer better quality cuts of meat, which have less fat and a lower water content than many supermarket options. If you’re unsure what to buy, ask – the butcher will advise you on the different cuts available and what to do with them. 

Make the most of leftovers

During the Second World War, when food was rationed and resources scarce, us Brits became pros at using up every scrap of food we had at our disposal. Bubble and squeak, made using leftover potatoes, cabbage and scraps of meat, was a firm family favourite.

Today, with an abundance of food options to choose from, people are less savvy at using up their leftovers, opting to buy something completely different for each night of the week.

Save money and food waste by using up what you’ve got at home. A Sunday roast chicken carcass can be used as a base for chicken soup or stock; leftover rice or pasta can be eaten cold the next day in a salad; and stale bread can be whizzed-up in the food processor into breadcrumbs, which you can then freeze and use when needed as a coating on fish or as a pie topping.

Head to BBC Good Food for some more leftover inspiration. 

Go (almost) veggie

According to research from data experts Kantar Worldpanel, one in four of the meals we eat in the UK are meat-free. Not only is this better for our health, it’s better for our wallets, too. Yes, fresh fruit and veg can be expensive, but tinned beans, pulses, pasta and rice are not. They can provide bulk to a meal without breaking the bank. Plus, they make great store cupboard staples as they have a long shelf life.

Visit Eating Well for a range of healthy veggie recipe ideas on a budget. 

Choose your products wisely

The key to savvy supermarket shopping is knowing where you can make savings. Supermarket own-brand items tend to be cheaper than original versions, so do a bit of homework and find out what shopping list items you could swap without compromising on taste.

The Sun newspaper carried out an investigation in 2017 that found many big-name grocery manufacturers actually make supermarket clones of their products. See which products you could switch to and save money

Also, beware supermarket deals and special offers. Often the biggest discounts and BOGOF deals are on unhealthy snacks and junk food, not necessarily items that we need. If you do see a good deal, make sure it’s competitive by checking the price of similar items on the shelf. A good tip is to check the cost per 100g/100ml written in small print on the shelf label.

Loyalty cards and coupons can be a useful way to make savings, particularly if you shop regularly at one particular supermarket. Head to finance website Love Money to see their guide to the best supermarket loyalty schemes.

Expert tips

We asked two popular money saving bloggers their top food shopping tips: 

“One of the best ways I know to save money shopping is not to go into certain shops at all! What you don’t see you don’t want and that’s one of the best ways of saving yourself money day to day.

“Keeping yourself out of the expensive supermarkets and shopping in the cheaper ones is a good way to keep food costs down. Buy as much as possible raw; look for the marked-down items and keep them in the freezer for later; cut down on meat and fish and replace with more vegetarian options for cheaper (and often, healthier) meals.”

Financial expert Jasmine Birtles, founder of MoneyMagpie.com

“Meal planning is a great idea, as this ensures you only buy exactly what you need and avoid waste. Don’t shop when you’re hungry or in a hurry, as impulse buys can add to the expense. Also, learn to love your leftovers and look up some great leftover recipes online so you absolutely maximise the use of the food you cook.”

Parenting and lifestyle blogger Becky Goddard-Hill, founder of Family Budgeting

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