Keeping the cost down

Whether it’s picking up the basics like bread and milk, having a cup of coffee in town or finding lunchbox fillers for the kids, shopping for food is something most of us do nearly every day and the cost can easily add up! We all want to find good quality, healthy food at affordable prices, so check out our tips to see how you can get more for your money…

At homewriting a shopping list

Keep a store cupboard of non perishable items e.g. pasta, rice, cous cous, noodles, crackers, crispbreads, oatcakes, flour, cornflour, canned fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes and sweetcorn, kidney beans, baked beans, canned oily fish (e.g. sardines, tuna, mackerel), tomato puree, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, herbs, spices, garlic and ginger.  

Before you shop - plan.

  • Set your budget for food
  • Plan your meals for the week
  • Make a shopping list

General shopping tips

  • Don't shop on an empty stomach!
  • Stick to your shopping list and avoid impulse buys
  • Do a big weekly/monthly shop for bulk items and a daily shop for foods that have a short shelf-life, e.g. milk
  • For larger households, buy in bulk, e.g. large bags of potatoes
  • Check out supermarkets’ own brands – they are cheaper and the quality is normally just as good. Compare labels on products for salt, fat and sugar levels. Learn more about food labels here
  • When comparing brands look at the weight you get for the price
  • Look for useful special offers – but be careful – it’s only a bargain if it’s something you needed in the first place and if you can use it. Some items can be frozen in smaller amounts so you can defrost when needed
  • Supermarkets often sell food cheaply at the end of the day – check use by dates though
  • If possible, shop around. It may be more cost effective to go to a supermarket when doing a large shop
  • If buying sweets, chocolate or crisps, limit to perhaps one or two days per week.  Purchasing multi-packs may be more cost effective and offer smaller portion sizes

Meat, fish and eggs

  • By buying meat in a butcher‘s shop or at the meat counter in a supermarket, you get to choose the exact amount you want. As a guide, a serving of meat is normally about 2oz (60g) per person – the size of half a chicken breast, or the edible portion of a lamb chop
  • Mince is good value, very versatile and has little waste. But it can be quite high in fat. A good tip is to buy a smaller amount of leaner (and better quality) mince and bulk up your dish with vegetables.
  • Fish is quick to prepare and really nutritious. Mackerel, coley, herrings, fish fingers and tinned fish are all good value for money.
  • Eggs are good value, easy to cook and full of goodness. Boil, poach or scramble your eggs for the healthiest result

woman looking at a shopping listFruit, vegetables and potatoes

  • Fruit and vegetables can be cheaper in green grocers than in the supermarket
  • Potatoes are very versatile – steam, boil, mash, roast or make your own potato wedges or make your own chips. This is cheaper than buying ready prepared mash, wedges or chips 
  • Buy foods in season
  • Include some frozen, dried or tinned versions - they all count towards your 5-a-day. Choose fruit canned in its own juice not syrup and always look for the option with the lowest sugar and salt content when choosing tinned foods.
  • Frozen vegetables are super because there’s no waste with them. And because they’re frozen just after they’re picked, they’re normally full of flavour too
  • Remember when you buy pre-packaged fruits and vegetables you are paying for the packaging

When cooking

  • Eating ready meals and take-away foods can be expensive and they can contain large amounts of hidden fat/salt/sugar. Home-cooked alternatives are more nutritious and usually less expensive
  • Bulk up stews, casseroles and other dishes using extra vegetables and pulses. This will allow you to reduce the amount of meat needed. These can be bought dried or in cans.  Remember to follow the cooking and soaking instructions carefully
  • If using tomato-based pasta sauce, add a tin of tomatoes as an inexpensive way of making the sauce go further
  • Base your meals around starchy foods such as potatoes, rice and pasta. These foods are cheap and nutritious
  • Check your use by dates on the items in your fridge/cupboards. Many of us waste vast quantities of food because it goes out of date before we can use it. Plan your meals so it all gets eaten or frozen for future use
  • Cook once – eat twice! Make extra when cooking foods such as curries, stews and soups and freeze the remainder in individual portions. These can be useful for lunches or on evenings when you don’t have a lot of time

At work

  • woman with baby in a shopping trolley

    Invest in a lunchbox and make your own sandwiches at home to bring to work – you’ll save a fortune!
  • If you normally pay for tea or coffee during your working day, why not invest in a flask and bring along some of your own? Homemade soup will also stay hot for the day in a flask
  • Fill a cleaned bottle with fresh tap water each day and bring this to work instead of buying bottled water
  • Bring a grazing box to work. Fill an airtight lunchbox with healthy snacks such as fruit, nuts or homemade popcorn and keep at your desk for when hunger strikes