Social media’s best money-saving food shop tips
We asked and you told us. Yes, on Twitter and Facebook we challenged you to reveal the ways you save money when doing a food shop or preparing meals – and you answered in your droves. Now, we’re sharing seven of the best...
Make soups with cut-price veg
Why we love this tip: Whether you want a hearty winter-warmer or a chilled summer soup, all you need is some vegetables. Just cook them in stock, blitz if you want a smooth soup, then either eat then and there or freeze for a ready-made future meal.
Why stop there? Make stews and casseroles too. It’s not just about finding ingredients that are reduced in price due to being close to the sell-by date, look for odd-shaped veg too. “Wonky veg, reduced items and slightly damaged packaging doesn’t necessarily mean the food is bad. Wonky vegetables will cook the same great-tasting meals. Reduced items can be frozen if they’re not going to be eaten on the day of purchase (which will likely also be the same as the use-by date)”, says George Charles, spokesperson for Money Saving Heroes.
Get on the sauce
Why we love this tip: Whether you’ve had friends over for dinner and shared a bottle or you’re trying to cut back and don’t want the pressure of having to ‘use up’ that wine, this is a great solution. What’s more, you’ll save money when a recipe calls for a small amount of wine and you don’t have to splash out on an entire bottle.
Why stop there? Use ice-cube trays to freeze other ingredients too. “If you’ve got fresh herbs – either pre-cut in packs, or in tubs in the garden – you can chop them up and mix them with oil so you’ve got a ready-to-go flavoured oil when you’re cooking”, says Naomi Willis, co-founder of Skint Dad. “You can also put lemon and lime slices in ice-cube trays with water and freeze so you’ve got them ready for drinks”, she adds.
Plan, plan and plan some more!
Why we love this tip: This was suggested by quite a few people and that’s because it works! By thinking ahead about what you’ll eat when and writing a meal plan, you won’t be tempted by ‘deals’ you don’t need or to buy more dinners than there are days in the week, which means less food waste.
When we asked for your tips on Facebook, Francesca Chittock had a great idea for saving money when meal planning: to use the same base ingredients for more than one meal...
Why stop there? Set a food budget. “Look at your monthly bank statement, find out where you are spending the most money and work backwards from there. Set a monthly food budget that covers your supermarket shop, eating out, snacks, the works. Then factor in if there is a special occasion that might cost a little more”, says Deborah Vickers, personal finance expert and channel director at Moneyguru.
Do your food shop online
Why we love this tip: Another popular choice is to not take your list to the supermarket, but instead shop online so you’re less likely to come face-to-face with products you don't want to be tempted by.
Why stop there?: “There’s also a price comparison site, where you input your food shopping list into it and it tells you which supermarket is cheapest for your ingredients”, says Naomi Willis.
If you’re going to the shops, you can still use tech to make your shop cheaper. If the shop has a handheld scanner, use it so you can keep on top of how much you’re spending.
Why we love this tip: When writing your shopping list, it’s easy to think about what you want to eat and forget about what you have at the back of the cupboard. If you add a reminder of what you have to your list, you’re more likely to get around to using that tin of butter beans you keep meaning to cook with.
Why stop there? “Before going to the shops with my list of what I’ve already got, I come up with meal plans incorporating the ingredients, so I’m focused when I get to the shops. I first do an audit of the cupboards, fridge and freezer, then think about what meals I can make without buying anything and go from there. It really helps me prioritise what I’ve already got”, says Naomi Willis.
Why we love this tip: We’re all about cutting down on food waste, and buying frozen can help you do this as well as being cheaper, because even if you forget about that vegetable for a week or two (or three), it’s still as good as new!
Why stop there? “Think about how you cook with your frozen ingredients. You don’t have to use your cooker or stove, there are alternatives, like using your microwave – which uses less power and so could lead to a lower electricity bill”, says Naomi Willis. She adds: “Label and list your items and the date you’re popping them into the freezer, so you know how long you’ve got to use each ingredient and you’re less likely to forget what you’ve got at the back of the freezer.”
Why we love this tip: As you know, we are BIG fans of recipes. But adapting them to suit your budget or use up leftover ingredients is a great idea!
Why stop there? “I always make a couple of recipes a week where you follow a basic recipe but can chuck almost anything in”, says BBC Food Editor, Emily Angle.
“Soup is the best for customising with what you have. If it’s a smooth soup, I throw in things similar in colour to avoid sludgy results. So peas, leeks, spinach, rocket, kale, etc, go together. Chunky soups such as minestrone can use up lots of different veg, plus leftover cooked pasta or even pasta in its tomato sauce. Leftover cooked rice and potatoes (mashed or boiled) can go in smooth or chunky soups – they’ll add body and heartiness. Same with partial tins of beans and scraps of leftover cooked or uncooked meats. You won’t need a recipe once you get the hang of it."