When living on your own you discover all these new things you have to do that you didn’t really think about before (yes, the “stuff” your parents took care of). After rent, bills and transport you also have to buy food before knowing how much money you have left to spend as you wish.
What if just like rent and transport, you knew how much you were going to spend on food each month?! This would make life so much easier we can hear you whisper. Well what if we told you, you can?
With the following tips you will become a grocery shopping expert, and being on a budget won’t even feel like a burden. It will feel like a game.
Know when to shop and be prepared
The first rule, and most important rule, when it comes to grocery shopping is this one: never go food shopping on an empty stomach. This will lead to buying more than you need, more than what is on your list and a lot of unhealthy things. In the end you will spend a lot more money than you should have, which is not what you want.
Also remember to never go shopping without a bag. Forgetting those reusable bags will add extra pennies to your bill each week, which we don’t want either.
Get those loyalty cards
The second thing you want to do is sign up for loyalty cards. Most big supermarket chains offer loyalty cards that will allow you to collect points on each purchase or offer targeted discounts on items you often buy. They are usually free so you have nothing to lose signing up.
After shopping a few times, you will have gathered enough to get vouchers on future purchases. It may not seem like a lot, but a £2 voucher, a double points voucher or a targeted discount on specific items does make a difference when you’re on a budget.
Compare, compare, compare
Sometimes, a lower price does not necessarily mean that the product itself is cheaper. To make sure you get the best price, you need to check the price per millilitre/litre. One pot of tomato sauce might seem cheaper than the others, but the quantity you are buying is smaller. In this case you are spending more money.
Same goes for offers. Sometimes you think you are paying less when you buy something on offer, but you’re not. Always compare prices of items on offer with items in the “normal” aisle.
Speaking of offers, also compare prices between supermarkets. Always keep an eye on their website, or in store offers. You will also notice that supermarkets don’t put offers out at the same time.
This means that if Supermarket A has an offer on rice today, it’s more than likely that Supermarket B will have an offer on rice next week. You might have to shop in several supermarkets but you will save money and always get the best price.
Target big supermarkets
It is always super tempting to pop in a convenience store just because it is on the way home. Unfortunately, convenience stores are small, so almost always sell the bigger brands (a.k.a the expensive brands), or sell the same items than the bigger version of the store but at higher prices. It is sometimes worth walking five more minutes to get to a larger store that will have generic brands and smaller prices. Remember, no savings are small savings and a longer walk is good for you. Bonus.
Shop big quantities online
Living in town, living on a small wage or being a student makes having a car difficult. Thus when you go shopping, you can only carry a small quantity of groceries. Food cupboard items are often expensive in convenience stores and heavy, so you are more likely to buy the smaller packets. Which means spending more money.
When ordering online, you will get a wider variety of brands, prices and deals. For foods such as rice and pasta, you will find out that the bigger the packet, the more you save money in the long run. So you will be able to order big quantities and have enough until the end of the month.
Use your freezer
Fresh items are perishable. How often have you bought a 1kg bag of carrots and forgotten about it in the cupboard, until they are all rotten? That £1 offer doesn’t look like a bargain anymore… We’ve all been there. What we recommend is that you buy the bag of carrots and cut them up in chunks and freeze them in freezer bags as soon as you get home. This way, your carrots won’t go off and they will be ready to cook when you’ll need them. The same goes on for all other fruit and vegetables.
Cook in large quantities
Whether you are a student or a young professional, we all have one thing in common: we need to make our own lunch and dinner. The temptation to buy ready-meals is always so big when we are busy and lazy. Yet, keep in mind that more often than not they are expensive, full of preservatives, fat, sugar, and salt. Your body doesn’t want that.
Using two of our previous tips, we recommend that you make a big batch of a particular meal that you’ll separate in lunch boxes and freeze. Cheap, homemade, all natural and healthy. Plus it will take you as much time to cook 1 portion than to cook 5 portions.
Only shop what you need
Yes this means not buying those cookies, crisps & sweets. First of all because prices add up real quick and second because they will not fill you up. So in the end you will have a cupboard full on unhealthy foods, which will have cost you a good portion of your weekly budget and will leave you hungry 1h after eating them.
This doesn’t mean making all your meals for the week in one go (unless you want to), but making a list before you leave the house. Check the freezer to see what meals you already have, what foods you do or don’t need to stock up on, and write down what you fancy cooking and eating during the week. If you cook in bulk you will find out that you actually don’t need to cook every night and buy a lot every week.
We’ve got some tasty vegan recipes that you can prep the night before – and they’re perfect to take to work the next day.
Treat yourself times to times
It isn’t a bad thing to treat yourself, if you do it wisely. This can mean buying a £1 “treat item” a week, going for the slightly more expensive pasta sauce once a month, treating yourself to a special cut of meat or anything you might fancy. If you have managed to stick to your budget like a King or Queen, you can also use that £5 voucher to buy that weekend treat meal without making a big hole in your budget.
Shop “reduced to clear” items
Always remember to check the “reduce to clear” items. Buying these could seem like buying items you do not need, but always check this section before leaving the shop, you could find items you usually buy or need for that new recipe you wanted to try this week.
To make it worthwhile, freeze whatever you buy from that section that you won’t be eating in the next couple of days. However don’t get too carried away. Remember you only need to buy what’s on your list.
Now you know everything there is to know about grocery shopping on a budget without feeling deprived. If you use all of these tips combined we guaranty you that you will love grocery shopping and chasing those bargains like you would during the sales. We also guaranty that after a few weeks you will know how much you will spend approximately before going shopping. In the end it all comes down to one thing: balancing and comparing.
A final small tip that could come in handy: if you already have a defined budget use a calculator. Add up everything while going around the shop. This way you won’t be surprised once you get to check out.