The average family spends more than £50 per week at the supermarket. That’s £2600 per year. Nothing to sneeze at by any measure. If there’s a bright spot, however, it’s that food costs are typically some of the most flexible of our essential expenditures. All that’s really needed to reduce the amount we spend on meals is a little imagination, a bit of flexibility and a willingness to try new things. These kind of saving can also help if money is tight. With so many people having credit card debt and many other types of debt to pay off every penny counts.
In this post we’ve compiled some of our favourite meal time saving tips.
Reassessing Your Approach
People tend to have a straightforward relationship with food, especially when it comes to meals prepared at home. They go to the supermarket, peruse the aisles for things that look good, wind up cooking the meals they always cook and leave leftovers in the fridge until they’re no longer edible and need to be tossed. We’re going to suggest you reassess this approach and then put some or (ideally) all of the following tips into practice. We’re confident that if you do you’ll save money and eat better.
- Buy in Quantity – If you have a large freezer always buy larger quantities of meat. For instance buy whole chickens instead of individual parts (legs, breasts etc). In fact buy 3 chickens and freeze 2 for later use (just make sure you use them). Buy a 10kg bag of rice instead of a 1 or 2kg bag. Buying in quantity is slightly different than buying in ‘bulk’ but we make the distinction because not everyone has access to one of those fancy-schmancy supermarkets where bulk is all the rage and the cashiers smell of patchouli oil.
- Plan Out Your Meals for the Week – By knowing what you’re going to be cooking you can do a more targeted shop when you finally get to the supermarket. If you shop without purpose you’re bound to pick up items that will languish in the vegetable draw until they’re soggy and black. When you know what your meals are going to be there’s less chance of purchasing items you’ll never use.
- Practicality: Thy Name is Slow Cooker – The slow cooker will let you get the most out of less expensive cuts of meat like roasts and bottom rounds. If you don’t have a slow cooker you should invest in one pronto. They’ll turn those once tough pieces of meat into something that will melt in your mouth.
- Increase Your Veggie Consumption – Meat is typically the most expense item in any recipe. If you swap out meats for plant based proteins once or twice a week you’ll enjoy significant food savings and be doing yourself a massive diet-based health favour at the same time.
- Show Your Leftovers Some Respect – Leftovers rock if you give them half a chance. Most of the time that leftovers fall flat it’s because they’ve been incorrectly stored. Instead of just gathering a bunch of leftovers onto a plate and then covering it loosely with tin foil and putting it in the fridge, invest in some of those nifty airtight plastic storage containers. This will keep the food fresh as can be for days.
- Don’t Cook Too Much Food – Hey everyone loves to present a bountiful table but sometimes it’s just a waste of food. Cook only enough for the people you know are going to be at the table and if someone else shows up, augment the meal with some of those nice fresh leftovers from your new airtight storage containers.
- Cook Down the Pantry – While this sounds like the title of a Country and Western song it’s actually an approach to food consumption wherein you challenge yourself to create meals using only what you have on hand. Chances are you’ve got the makings for several good meals sitting on your pantry shelf and in the back of your freezer. Put them to use once a month or so in order to save money and keep your food stocks fresh.
- Shop Sale Items – Something is always on sale. Before you get into the real meat of your list (pun intended) go check out the loss leaders to see what the supermarket would like to move. You’re likely to find at least some items that dovetail nicely with your meal plan and others that are close enough that you can just tweak a meal or two to make them fit. Always take advantage of sale items with long shelf lives like mustard, as long as those items are things you actually eat. If you hate mustard then obviously you’ll want to give it a pass.
- Eggies! – Now that we know eggs aren’t liable to kill you as easily as was previously thought we need to put them to good use. Eggs are a kind of miracle food really. Veggie omelets are a winner any time of day, egg sandwiches are a great little snack and a hard-boiled egg added to your salad provides a welcome shot of protein while being low in calories. There are few foods that are as versatile and affordable.
- Don’t Shop Hungry – An awful lot of what winds up being eventually tossed from the refrigerator started its relationship with you as an impulse purchase. And most impulse purchases are the result of shopping when you’re hungry. If need be eat a banana or a poached egg on toast before shopping. The tiny bit you spend on that snack could save you big on impulse purchases you would just wind up throwing away.
- Discount Cards! – Most supermarkets offer discount cards for their regular customers. If you shop in the same supermarket every week and you don’t have one you’re throwing money away.
Saving money on meals isn’t rocket science. But it can help you become more financially independent. It’s common sense and careful planning. It’s tossing out your set in stone way of doing things and looking at meals from a practical point of view. If you follow the above tips there’s a good chance you’ll not only save money, but you’ll have a more interesting and well balanced diet as well.