A little over one year ago, our grocery bill was HUGE. We easily spent £500 per month on food, including takeaways. To add insult to injury, our diets were poor, our bad planning meant we spent a lot of time shopping, and we wasted a lot of food. However, all of that changed when we finally figured out our finances. A year later, our grocery budget is below £300, we’ve transformed our diets without spending too much time or energy in the kitchen, and operate a nearly zero-waste household.
After a series of trial and error, we found a system that works for us. I shop online once per week, using Click and Collect. We spent in the region of £50 per order, and coupled with a takeaway or two, I finally feel like we’ve nailed our grocery budget once and for all.
Here is how we are doing it, with my five ways to save money on groceries.
1. Plan, plan and plan some more
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail, the old adage goes. This couldn’t be more true for groceries, and without a plan, you are going to waste a lot of money on things you don’t need, and forget to buy a lot of things that you do need.
Firstly, put aside some time to write a meal plan for the week. My ultimate recommendation is that you plan for one large meal that you can make several portions of (like my easy-peasy chicken pie) and then plan a few smaller meals. To score points for budgeting, health and fun, you could pencil yourself in for Meatless Monday or plan a create-your-own-omelette-night where everyone gets to choose their fillings.
Once you have your meal plan, you can make a list. I like to shop online so I can store my core list on the supermarket websites I use and just alter them as necessary- it saves so much time. But whether you choose to shop online or in store, be sure to stick to the list and don’t be swayed by BOGOFs, deals or reduced items unless they are actually on there (if they aren’t, it’s not a bargain!).
2. Stick to one food shop per week
Which brings me to shopping! Hands down, one of the worst budget fails we all succumb to is doing top-up shops. Top-up shops are a complete false economy- we always end up buying extras, compared to buying everything on your list all at once. So use your list, stick to it, and tell yourself that once you run out of something, you can only replace it on the next day you go shopping.
There is an easy way to incentivise the ‘one shop per week’ rule for yourself- swap your shopping time for self-care! Think about it- we are all time strapped, so don’t waste your time shopping! How much would you benefit from using this time to relax, work out, spend time with a friend or just get something else done? Look at this as time you’re getting back that you would have otherwise spent overspending!
3. Use apps/cashback
Don’t forget to optimise apps and cashback sites as much as possible when you are shopping. Here is a quick guide to a few apps out there that help you save. Hands down, my favourite is Shopmium! They offer a lot of free groceries and discounts and I’ve saved a fortune on this site, with a rapid reimbursement via Paypal afterwards. For some apps and cashback ideas, Katie from Student Skint gives you the full rundown here.
If you are shopping online, check if there are any offers for free groceries. Sainsbury’s, for example, have multiple offers for free products and competitions so don’t forget to add these to your basket!
And finally, make sure you check for vouchers when shopping. For example, Tesco regularly send me coupons for money off my shopping, and I use these when I can. If you are new to online shopping, there is a world of new customer offers out there and you could easily save £30+ this month on your shopping by tarting around the major online supermarkets this month.
4. Meal prep like a bawssss
When you’ve stocked your cupboards, now is the time to start meal prepping. This is where your one large meal comes in handy, because you can easily prep one thing that you can have for a few dinners (you’ll thank me on the second day when you can just chuck your dinner in the microwave and save yourself from having to do loads of dishes).
Beyond dinner prep, prepping breakfast, lunches, homemade coffees and tea will save you a small fortune in what you would otherwise spend throughout the day. This can sometimes be a little tedious to plan, I know, but it’s a lot healthier than eating out. Think about it this way- if you spend £5 per workday on lunch and coffees, you’ll save yourself £1,250 this year by prepping at home (or you can enter your specific spends in the Money Saving Expert Demotivator Tool to see how much this costs you over time).
5. Eat your leftovers
Remember the ‘one shop’ rule? Yeah well, this is where it really comes into play. Leftover night is a relatively new concept in our house and we love it (who would have thought?)! This is the night where the leftover veg gets thrown into a Pad Thai, or the end of a roast gets chucked into a pasta bake, or sometimes we just have toasties and soup (you can head here for some inspiration). And you know what? It’s awesome not having to cook a huge meal and use up leftovers at the same time!