12 tips to reduce food costs and eat better
Looking for ways to ease those weekly food bills? Vicky Shaw seeks some simple suggestions
With budgets tight, many households may be looking for more ways to reduce mealtime costs.
With a bit of planning, research and forethought, it's always possible to shave some pennies and pounds here and there while eating well. These 12 top tips, from Anders Nilsson at myvouchercodes.co.uk, may just cut the mustard.
1. Create a meal plan for the week
On a Sunday evening, set out your meal plan for the week. You can write this up and stick it on your fridge, or print off a meal planner template which details what you and the family are going to eat that week, covering breakfast, lunch and dinner. You'll be more likely to stick to a plan and won't risk running to the shops.
2. Go with a shopping list
Scan the cupboards before you head out, and if you've got your meal plan set out for the week then you already know what ingredients and products you're going to need. This will stop you from adding unnecessary items into the basket, and double-buying items you already have at home.
Also, don't go to the shops when you're hungry - you'll end up buying treats you don't need.
3. Buy frozen rather than fresh
While you might like fresh onions, peppers and vegetables, it can work out cheaper to buy frozen. And you can use what you need and leave the rest for a later date - meaning there's less risk of food ending up in the bin.
4. Try going into stores rather than shopping online
By hand-picking items yourself, you may get better use-by dates and you have an easier comparison of alternatives if something is out of stock - keeping you within budget.
5. Buy in-season produce
Fruit and veg are much cheaper when they're in season, so take advantage of this (often better for sustainability too).
6. Pick a store's own brand or head to discount stores
Don't be a brand snob - instead, go for a store's own products. These are often a fraction of the price and taste just as good as the well-known brands. If you're set on sticking to a brand, why not head to a discount retailer, where you can pick up branded produce for a cheaper price?
7. Know the difference between 'best-before' and 'use-by' dates
You don't always need to throw food away just because it's reached its best-before date. Best-before dates are about quality. If a product is slightly over its best-before date but still looks and smells OK, it may still be fine to eat, despite not being as fresh as it once was. But use-by dates are about food safety. Foods can be eaten until the use-by date but not after. After the use-by date, the food could be contaminated, even if it still looks OK.
8. Learn to portion control
Avoid piling plates too high, which can lead to more food going in the bin. Start out small and get through what's on your plate first - you can always go back for seconds if you're still hungry.
9. Cook in batches
Batch cook meals such as cottage pie, chilli and lasagne and freeze what you don't eat for another time. Or make two meals from similar ingredients so you don't get bored of eating the same meal over a couple of days - for example, by adding kidney beans and chilli powder to leftover bolognese to turn it into a chilli.
10. Use up leftovers and fruit and veg
When you're using vegetables for a meal, blend any leftovers which are still usable and turn them into a soup. You can pop any spare in the freezer and have your own instant homemade soup to hand. Similarly, use leftover fruit to make desserts such as pies, sponges and banana bread.
11. Do a little research online
For more inspiration, make the most of free apps and blogs focused on feeding the family on a budget.
12. Grow your own
From sowing fresh herbs on your windowsill to raising fruit and vegetables in your garden, growing your own can not only save money but give you access to the freshest of ingredients, as well as teaching the kids about where food comes from.