So, you’re a foodie. You love food. And you like to try to provide a varied and interesting diet for your nearest and dearest. But you’re on a budget. A strict one. And you don’t know how you can balance quality with value for money this month. Well, have no fear, there’s an easy way you can keep control of both your diet and your purse strings: by Shopping Like a Frugal Foodie.
Let me break it down for you:
Shop in the sales/reduced section
All our big supermarkets use yellow stickers when they want to reduce food; unfortunately, there’s no hard-and-fast rule about what time of day they do their reductions, but there is usually a reduced section (a few shelves and/or a cold area) where they store the items they want to get rid of that day. There is nothing wrong with these items – they usually are approaching sell-by dates and so on. But, if you’re clever and pop things in the freezer as soon as you get home, then you can save big on food stuffs that you would perhaps buy anyway.
Couponing can get a bit extreme (as the famous TV show taught us). To make the kinds of huge savings you hear about in the press you really need to invest a lot of time into tracking down the right deals at the right time. And then you need to think about how much that time is costing you.
But couponing can be great for everyone to use now and then, as a way of saving extra money on your shop. The next time you pay in a supermarket and the cashier gives you a voucher for money off your return visit, don’t just lose it in the bottom of your handbag – pin it up somewhere where you’ll see it and remember to use it!
Check online for new customer discounts
Most British supermarkets offer voucher incentives to entice you to choose them over their competitors. Offers such as ‘£15 off your first £50 shop’ are quite commonplace and so it’s worth checking the website before you do a big shop or try somewhere new.
Downgrade a scale
I’m not talking about selling out just to save money here, but I do think that downgrading your shopping habits can sometimes be beneficial. If you usually go to Marks & Spencer or Waitrose for food, then try one of ‘the big four’ instead for a while. You might be pleasantly surprised. If you usually shop in Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s or Asda (the big four) then why not get your staples as Lidl or Aldi instead and just purchase your favourites from your regular store as normal? And if you usually use Lidl, Aldi, Iceland etc. then why not:
Consider ‘basics’ ingredients
There are some things you simply do not need to pay more for: think cupboard staples like rice, spices, dried pasta etc. If you’re going to cook from scratch anyway (see point #1) then you’ll be adding amazing flavour to your food and basic pasta will fare just as well. Supermarket own brands or even ranges of ‘essentials’, value’ and ‘basics’ are nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, you can gloat because your food will be tastier AND cheaper!
If you’re trying hard to curb your spending, then you should also take a looking at so-called ‘ugly’ fruits and vegetables; many British supermarkets now sell misshapen produce that once would have been tossed away. Sure, it won’t win any vegetable beauty contests, but if you’re going to chop it up anyway…
Get a store loyalty card
I regularly shop in either Tesco or Morrisons, depending on where I am, so I have loyalty cards for both of them. Not only do I earn points on what I spend so I can redeem them back in store or on experiences, but I also get sent regular offers in the post which regular shoppers don’t get access to. The vouchers and offers are a great way to save money on items I buy every week and they let me know about upcoming sales events too. If you regularly shop at the same store, then check to see if they have a loyalty programme in operation.
Buy in bulk
In the UK, Costco is our means to bulk-buying our food, whereas in the US, Walmart offers the same service. The idea is that you purchase your food on a much bigger scale (e.g. restaurant-sized quantities of store-cupboard staples) and save money because you don’t pay for all that extra packaging/processing. In some stores, you can even take an empty container and fill it up yourself with pasta, rice, oats, spices etc., to save even further.
You usually need a membership card to shop there and sometimes there’s a small membership fee too, but you easily make that back on your shop. The downside of bulk buying, of course, is storage, and so more and more communities are clubbing together to bulk buy, and then sharing out in more manageable quantities, once home.
Beat the supermarket ‘systems’
Supermarkets aren’t dumb. They know that you need to buy essentials like bread every time you shop, so they deliberately place them at the rear of the store to make you walk through all their lovely displays of tempting goodies. Before you know it, you’ve got three Easter eggs and a new frying pan in your trolley – and you only went in for milk! They’re also really sneaky with their product placement on shelves; did you know that premium brands are always displayed at eye level, while budget brands are usually hidden away at the top or bottom? Result? You’ve guessed it: people tend to reach for what they see first and end up paying over the odds.
But now you know how clever they can be, you can be even cleverer by not letting supermarket selling tactics dictate your spending. Make a beeline for that milk and make sure you look around to check you’re getting the best deal on the shelf.
Buy cheap cuts of meat and just cook them slower
Remember your grandmother going on about rationing during the war? Mine always used to tell me about the ways she saved money on her shopping, particularly how she would buy a bit of beef brisket; of course, I never wanted to touch it (give me a fillet steak any day!), but then I realised…slow cooking is the answer!
My husband’s favourite thing is pork belly and we’ve come up with numerous ways to use it over the years – even as canapés – but the best is still when it sits in the oven, low and slow. The smells coming from the kitchen are simply divine and the meat just falls off the bone as you eat it.
The cheap cuts of beef are: flank, brisket, chuck, skirt, shin and silver side;
The cheap cuts of lamb are: chump, shoulder and scrag;
The cheap cuts of pork are: belly, spare ribs, chump and cheek/neck.
Try them in casseroles and in your stock pot. And go and thank your grandmother
Take cash, not credit
If you want to know exactly what you’re spending week to week then you don’t want to be hit with a surprise credit-card bill. Instead, withdraw cash from the machine on the way into the store and only spend from that.
Shop with a list – and not when you’re hungry!
Going to the supermarket without a decent shopping list is asking for trouble – you’ll most likely end up forgetting things and panic-buying items you really don’t need. Furthermore, when you’ve written a shopping list to be proud of (with ONLY what you need), then don’t shop hungry! If you do then you might as well tear up the list as you’ll be tempted by each and every little thing any all your hard work will have been for naught.
If you want more help and advice on saving money and becoming a frugal foodie, then why not join SMART Meals for Busy Cooks over on Facebook?! We’re spending November discussing this – and more – in our Money Month. Get ahead with your food and finances, just in time for Christmas! Join Now!