Keeping down the scary costs of food.

store cupboard

Hello Dear Reader,

It really seems that food prices are rising every minute and it’s getting harder and harder to keep the costs down. That means we all have to keep our eyes open for every deal, for every offer and make sure that we don’t waste a single mouthful. Now that might seem extreme but it’s never the money you spend you need to worry about but the money you waste.

There are ways to make sure you only buy what you need and that you avoid impulse buying. I know some of you have big store cupboards, chest freezers and can make the most of offers but if you’re on a finite budget (I know I am, my budget is THE budget because there is no more!) or you haven’t got the storage facilities then you need to buy exactly what you need and nothing more.

My starting point is always a stock check or a quick count. How many tins? How many packets? What condiments do you have? How many jars of pickle? How many bags of flour? What’s in the freezer? If you have a chest freezer, make sure you empty it out really quickly with someone else writing down what’s in there as you just call out the contents one by one. How many stock cubes or pots do you have? Spices? Dried fruit?

Most people will have a sizeable list of food already in the house. Here’s the first way you save money and wastage.

Eat that food first! If you can, keep eating that food before you buy anything else. Use of the fridge today or tomorrow, then work your way through the freezer and then onto the store cupboard. If you have tins of beans such ask kidney beans, haricot or butter beans then look for beany burger recipes, for dip or vegan pate recipes and add them into the week’s menu.

Remember all the time, I’m talking about what I would do and I’m only making suggestions and no one has to do as I do.

  1. Stock take and use what you have.

Next, and I think this is the most essential thing to do is to make a menu plan for the week. If you can, do this with the family or in my case, I do it myself as neither of us really care what we eat so long as it’s tasty. There are lots of ways to do this: a chalkboard, a note pad in the kitchen, a spreadsheet, a write on board or you enter it into outlook on your phone. I just use a note pad by the kettle. In that menu plan, I plan three meals a day plus snacks. Our snacks are mainly apples and bananas as those fruit are always on offer or at least affordable.

2. Create a three meals a day meal plan.

Now you know what you have in the house and you’ve created a meal plan incorporating as much as you can from the stock you already have, you can write your shopping list. I make sure, I don’t rush this as it’s easy to forget something. I check the bathroom, do I have toiletries? I check the ‘utility room’ (my porch and downstairs loo where I keep all the cleaning and laundry supplies) to check for cleaning products. I also think, will that last another week?

3. Write a really good list of everything we need.

I’m a budget supermarket shopper. I shop in Lidl, Aldi, Farmfoods and Asda as I find them the cheapest. I also rarely buy brands unless there is not alternative such as stock pots. I’m not a food snob and I shop for nutrition and price. Most supermarkets have stopped doing their very bottom priced products and have just regular branded items. I now have to buy these instead. As I mainly cook from scratch, I don’t buy biscuits, cakes, pies, ready meals anyway so I don’t feel I’m missing out in any way.

4. Compare the unit price!

Whilst I’m in the supermarket, I don’t let them confuse me with baffling unit pricing! They try this all the time and I think it should be utterly illegal! They will try and sell you: each item, an example would be a swede or melon that they don’t sell by weight. If that’s the case, simply find the biggest and there’s the value for money. Some packets of cheese or cooked meat, they will try price on the shelf by 100g – if that’s the case, multiply they 100g unit price by 10 to get the price per kilo. Look at the cheese and find the price per kilo in your budget (in my case, I always go for the lowest price per kilo of mature cheddar – we don’t eat cheese on its own and add it to something as a flavour so I want a mature cheese with lots of flavour)

My issue with unit pricing is that supermarkets deliberately try and con you into thinking you have a bargain, with a multi buy and sometimes the unit price is higher. It’s important that you know what you’re paying for.

5. Stick to the list.

Don’t be duped by offers. They supermarkets use clever psychology to dupe you and convince you with: lighting, product placement, end of aisle offers and blatant bullshit to sell you stuff you don’t need! If you’ve already got some, if you can’t afford it, if it’s not on the list, if you’ve no room in the freezer, store cupboard, if it’s unhealthy, high fat, sugar filled rubbish then I just don’t need it. Remember again, I’m not telling you what to do, do what you like.

6. Rotate your stock.

Pull your old stock forward and place the new items behind. If you have a chest freezer, you could eat from left to right. If you have a small under counter freezer and could decant what you have into two of the three drawers and the new stuff goes into one drawer. Personally, I pull the food I already have to the front of the drawer and place the new behind that and then eat front to back.

7. Batch cook.

A whole chicken is often cheaper than buying chicken pieces so I’ll roast all of it and we’ll eat a roast meal two days in a row. A pack of beef mince will feed four if I was making cottage pie so I’ll make two pies and freeze one for another day.

8. Buy tinned and frozen.

We use frozen fish, tinned fish, frozen and tinned fruit and vegetables so they don’t go off and there’s no waste. The price is often cheaper than fresh too.

We all have to extremely savvy shoppers as the prices in the supermarkets seem to be rising daily and it’s getting harder and harder for some families to even feed themselves at all and that’s why number nine is optional for anyone and not even possible for many families.

9. Pay it forward.

Shop, if you can, a couple of items a week for the local food bank. We have collection points at the back of the tills in our supermarkets. The food banks always need protein, fruit, veggies and something to fill up a child’s belly. They always need tinned meat or fish, rice pudding, tinned fruit or veg as there are families who no matter how hard they try just don’t have money enough to eat at all.

10. Stock up.

Protect yourself from that bill, that breakdown, that week of shorter hours and less pay. Try and have your own stock of tins, dried goods and expensive items such as tea and coffee. You can’t plan for every eventuality and help yourself by just having a little buffer to keep you going.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xx

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25 thoughts on “Keeping down the scary costs of food.

  1. Hi, as much as possible I try to cook seasonally, and have stopped buying fresh food from abroad, so we eat home grown fruit and veg , this time of year people are selling their glut of fruit and veg on the road side this includes eggs, it’s usually cheep and very fresh.I also like to take stock of the pickles and chutneys from last year out of fruit and veg I collected from my garden and the roadside, these I use in stews and Christmas presents a well matured chutney gose down well in my house.I think that food and household good are about to get stupid, so being self sufficient as much as possible is more of an essential.

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  2. Thank you for this post. Thought it was just me finding it harder to get good healthy food at a price I can afford. Also thought it was the supermarkets where I’ve recently moved that stocked no cheap own labels. Thanks again Pam

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  3. Agree with this sound advice along with the opinion of eating domestic/locally and seasonally. Here in the US, there are signs up that due to the recent hurricanes, produce is scarce and prices reflect this. I am stockpiling some basic veg as a result: canned and frozen. I also suggest taking advantage of marked downs or yellow stickers as you call them. I already have my Xmas ham as well as 3 turkey breasts for the upcoming Thanksgiving and months to follow. Starting in Sept, I roast one turkey/month, providing planned overs, sandwich fillings, soup stock. It’s currently very hot (Indian Summer), so while many are shopping the grilling foods of the meat section, I am scooping up the more Winter foods for the freezer. Only 4 more weeks left for the city’s farmer’s market, as our growing season isn’t that long here in New England. I do see prices climbing, and not just produce. Butter has become very expensive. I am starting to see the Fall baking promotions being set up, it’s a good time usually to stock up.

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  4. A really good post.
    Now that there’s just the 2 of us at home I’ve found it easier to reduce meat consumption, choosing alternatives, which reduces the shopping bill by loads. I’m trying to veer towards veganism – baby steps!

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  5. Another really good, sensible post Frogs. You are so spot on, in that prices are climbing and it’s not just by a few pence, in some cases 50 pence. Butter is one example. I can’t eat margarine or those pretend butters. I’ve always been a butter tramp and gone to where the supermarket sells it at £2 per pot but not now. The cheapest I can buy it for is £2.50.

    I’ve recently read an article about supermarket own branding being simliar to branded goods and little if no variance in ingredients. Aldi do Norpak butter which has same ingredient mix as Lurpak but is £1.75. BIG difference. Have done a test on my 2 crumpets of a weekend and it’ll do for me in future.

    I used to monthly meal plan and then weekly top up but DH thinks I shop with a siege mentality so now I’m shopping weekly for a while and only from Aldi – for main shop/ Iceland – fab for frozen fish and after all, as some ‘fresh fish’ on supermarket counters carry a sign saying the fish was previously frozen so why not just buy it that way in the first place and save the money in your own pocket. Home Bargain for toiletries and cleaning stuff and odd biccies for DH.

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  6. Thank you for the wonderful blog. Every time I read one of your posts I feel that I don’t have to keep up with anyone. I like that you include basic meals without the “frills”.

    Deb

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  7. Brilliant advice thank you. I am a single mum of a teenager and have really noticed the prices creeping up over the last few months. I have followed your advice and just completed an inventory of all the food etc I have in store, from that I have managed to work out a 2 week meal plan totalling £52, that includes all food, drink, toiletries and cat litter. Impressed with that so thanks again for the good advice x

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  8. Thank you so much for, in my opinion, one of your best posts ever! My husband and I are both in our 70’s. I have been (from your advice) making a 2-week menu before I go shop at Aldi (35 miles away). That has helped me save better than anything and don’t have to make my nearly daily stop at the local grocery store to pick up something I need to make a meal.
    Thank you again, and PS…….I like your quilting post!! Pat from Central Texas USA

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  9. Great post as always. My friends and myself to have all noticed prices going up on everything. I am planning carefully and buying one extra item for my Christmas wicker basket. I will be eating seasonally and buying meat on special buys and freezing it. It feels like hard times are upon us. Your great posts will help us all get by.

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  10. Really good post Froogs, I often wonder if people who have massive bulk buys and huge storecupboards do actually eat all of it in the end or get to twelve months later and go ugh we are never going to eat that chuck it out, and start again same with massive chest freezers. The key is have no waste and stick to your budget, with meal plans start off with things all the family actually like to eat so they dont notice if it comes round again in a couple of weeks or even days.

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  11. This post is really timely. I am cooking a meal for work colleagues soon and thought I would cook a small gammon joint in the slow cooker. Until I looked at the price! When did it become so expensive?! It would have to be a very special event/ treat to buy at that price. I left it in the shop and came home to consider plan B.
    Thanks for assuring us we’re not alone Froogs – it helps.

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  12. Goodmorning Froogs,
    Such a great post, I love the sentence “it’s never the money you spend you need to worry about but the money you waste” so very true. I aim for no waste every single week, I only buy what we need for the week ahead and make sure everything is used up. Have a lovely week.
    Fi

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  13. I agree with all comments in your post and these replies. I have begun to donate to my local foodbank, but not food. I add toiletries and sanitary products. I remember when we had 4 children under 7 and choosing between food and ‘luxuries’ like shampoo, toothpaste etc. I know you can wash your hair with washingup liquid in half a bowl of warm-ish water, but I hope my small contributions can help some harassed Mum or Dad wash themselves and their family with ‘nicer’ stuff! Small ‘luxuries’ can often seem very big when they’re not available.

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  14. I have noticed a jump in food prices here in Oklahoma as well. Your blog really helps.me
    Stay on track. There used to be a list of the recipes. I cant seem to find it anymore is it still available?

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  15. My job is to change the labels in the supermarket where I work. Over the last few weeks I have noticed prices slowly creeping up only by a few pence at a time but it all adds up. I have also noticed that where you previously bought six items in a pack you now buy five items in a pack but for the same price as six, also the weight of the packages has gone down e.g. 500g now 475g. How many people are noticing these changes. Before a pack of socks used to be five in a pack now there are only four pair in a pack.

    Most of the suggestions that you have stated above I also do. Hate wasting food. Occasionally I have to do a stock take as I do forget what I have. Do love getting tips from you frugal queen.x

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  16. A really informative post, thank you Froogs.
    Lots of handy tips as usual.
    Hadn’t thought of donating to food banks but will certainly do that now.
    I shop at Aldi mainly but find I can’t get absolutely everything from there but they are getting better. You certainly notice the price difference when shopping elsewhere!
    I got two bags of shopping from Tesco for £22 – then went to Aldi – and filled a trolley for £42!

    Keep up the good work – love reading your posts. 😀

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  17. Great information here as always. Such a useful reminder to run through when you do posts like this. I use your posts as reminders and comparison. You are good at this.x

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  18. Gosh but I’ve just had to buy clothes for the first time in a couple of years or more and that was an even bigger shock than the creeping food prices. Because I’ve not been watching I’ve not been aware of just how big the jump has been.

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  19. Hello Jane. In Australia prices are also rising quicker than you can blink. I recently read that Australians currently spend 17 per cent of household income on food but 50 years ago the amount spent was 30 per cent. I believe figures are similar in the UK (and perhaps this goes some way to explaining why we waste more food today than we did when I was growing up).

    My question is, if food expenditure is so much lower today why are many people having such a hard time making ends meet? In Australia housing is certainly less affordable than it used to be and I also think technology has added costs to the budget that really add up. I’m wondering what the main financial pressures are for people in the UK if food Isn’t using up the portion of budget it used to.

    Madeleine

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  20. Great list. I’ve definitely found that using what we have in the house can make a massive difference to our food costs that month. Last night I made chilli con carne using black eyed beans rather than kidney beans, because that’s what I already had. My husband didn’t even mention the switch!

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