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While many of us have enjoyed the sunshine and scorching weather this summer has brought, it has also wreaked havoc throughout the farming industry. Many areas of the U.K went without rain for up to fifty days and this of course had a hugely detrimental impact on both crops and livestock and will in turn cause rising food costs
So far, the worst affected products are lettuce, strawberries, carrots and wheat. It’s predicted that the price of a single lettuce could rise to as much as £3 in the coming months and the farm gate price of carrots has also risen by 80%. The hot weather has also affected dairy farmers whose cattle have been unable to graze and therefore are having to buy in extra feed. The cost of this is then passed onto the customer meaning we’ll also see an increase in the price of milk. Finally wheat crops are struggling and this of course affects a variety of products, many of which are household staples such as bread, cereals and oats.
Overall the cost of food as risen by 1.9% in the last few months and while this is below the rate of inflation it could still see an increase of around £7 per month to our monthly shopping bill. Over the course of a year that comes in at almost £80.
With many families already struggling to get by and the economy facing an uncertain future due to Brexit, even this small increase could have a huge impact on some peoples already tight finances.
Here are my top ten tips for keeping down the price of your weekly shop by beating rising food costs.
1. Shop Online.
I’m the first to admit that shopping online can be a bit of a double edged sword in terms of money saving. Supermarkets are notorious for getting us to buy things we don’t actually want and when shopping online they can track what we buy and try and temp us with special offers which we might not have normally bought. Of course this can also be true of shopping instore.
For me the biggest pros of shopping online are:
- Taking advantage of new customer discounts – at the time of writing Waitrose have £20 off your first five shops of £60 or more. Yes, Waitrose is a little more expensive than some other supermarkets but they do match their branded products against Tesco so if you love the big brands this could be a great way to save.
- Easily being able to search for the cheapest products – for example of shopping at Asda just type in ‘Smart Price’ in the search bar and it’ll show you all the smartprice products in one place.
- It’s easy to keep track of how much you’ve spent – while you can take a calculator to the supermarket with you shopping online makes this really easy.
- There’s no children or partner to add random bits to the trolley so sticking to a list shouldn’t be a problem.
As with anything there a few negatives to shopping online as well. .
- No yellow stickers – reduced items, especially meat, is one of the biggest ways I save on my shopping.
- Delivery. If you need a more expensive delivery such as a Saturday slot then the cost could negate any savings.
2. Taste It Don’t Waste it
The average family throws away as much £30 worth of food each week and some of the biggest culprits here are fresh fruits and vegetables. Soft fruit in particular goes off very quickly if not used and is rarely cheap to buy in the first place. Try to make sure it’s eaten before it becomes a horrid mushy mess and if it’s on the turn it could made into a delicious smoothie.
Vegetables that are on the turn can be peeled and made into soup, herbs into pesto and frozen and so. It’s also worth remember the difference between best before and use by – they’re not the same thing and even some use by dates can be taken with a pinch of salt. Remember, food doesn’t suddenly become inedible at oneminute past midnight on it’s use by date. Use common sense and take a good look, feel and smell of food before deciding whether to bin it!
3. Frozen is Actually Fresher
There always seems to be a bit of a stigma around frozen food – that’s it’s not as healthy or as good as it’s fresh counterparts. However, what we need to remember is that frozen food is often frozen within an hour or so of beeing picked, caught or killed. Fresh food on the other hand, can be hanging about for days while it’s packed and then transported to the supermarket giving it more time to begin to deteriorate.
You may also be surprised to learn that some supermarket products marketed as fresh have actually been previously frozen, particularly in the fish and bakery sections. Often they will have a label that says ‘Not suitable for home freezing’ even though it might well be something you’d would normally freeze.
Frozen veggies are almost always cheaper – in particular greens such as spinach, peas and green beans where you get far more for your money. Frozen fruit is usually cheaper too – perfect if you use it for smoothies or baking.
Frozen fish is often not only cheaper, but fresher too – see this post for more details.
4. Become a Reduction Aisle Raider To Beat Rising Food Costs
One of my favourite ways to save money is raiding the reductions aisle late at night for all the best bargains. Doing this has helped me significantly reduced my food bill – for the entirety of 2016 I was spending just £50 a month. While rising food costs have meant I’ve needed to up my budget since then, it was still an eye opener and we really counted every penny and watched every item that went into our trolley or basket. You can read my updated food budget for 2018 in this post.
It’s amazing what you can find in the reduced aisle – it can take a bit of time to establish the best times to visit and some supermarkets start reducing food as early as midday – but it can also be a lifesaver if you’re on a tight budget.
Here are my top tips for getting the most out of reduced food:
- Only buy items you will genuinely eat. Seeing all the cheap food can send people into a bit of a frenzy but remember you’re not saving money if you wont end up eating it!
- Knowing what can and can’t be frozen means you’ll get the best out of what you’ve bought. See this post for ideas on making the most of your freezer space.
- It’s not just fresh produce that gets reduced. Look out for everyday items that might be changing packaging or are end of line.
- Christmas Eve, New Years eve and the week in between are particularly good for reduced bargains. Also the Saturday before Easter Sunday.
5. Buy in Bulk
Something I’m guilty of is not buying things in bulk. I tend to grab small packs of pasta most weeks, rice every couple of weeks and so on. While I know buying huge bags of potatoes or carrots from a farm shop just wouldn’t work for us as we wouldn’t use them I really need to make the effort to buy other things in bulk to save money.
If you use a lot vegetables, the Christmas period is a great time to stock up. Many supermarkets have surplus and last year were giving bags and bags of them away for free. Vegetables can easily be blanched and frozen or made into dishes such as soup and vegetable patties, both of which freeze well. See this post for details on how to prep vegetables in bulk for the freezer.
6. Meat Free Wednesday is the New Meat Free Monday
Ahhh Meat Free Monday. It sounds like such a good idea in practice. However, Monday night is not the best the night of the week to go meat free. Even though only 1 in 5 brits now have a roast every Sunday, that’s still 20% of the population. Monday night should be all about using up tasty roast leftovers and re-purposing them into something delicious. From classic bubble and squeak to a winter warming chicken and vegetable soup make sure every last scrap of that Sunday lunch you spent hours slaving over get eaten up. Save the meat free fun for later on in the week.
7. Do Not Stick To The Status Quo
Despite meal planning in an attempt to save money, like many families we do find ourselves cooking the same meals over and over. In some cases it is because they are cheap, others are our favorites and some because we know everyone likes them (hello pizza night!). However, they do say a change is as good as a rest. Shaking things up in the kitchen could mean you discover new meals that are cheaper to make or that help use up leftovers. See this post for some of my favourite cookbooks that will hopefully give you some inspiration to get started.
I know all to well how easy it is to put the same old things in the trolley week after week. However a few small changes could make a huge difference.
- It can often be almost the same to price to buy a whole chicken as it is to buy two breasts. Simply buy the whole bird and remove the breasts yourself. Then use the remainder to make another meal, or even two.
- Pork and Turkey mince are much cheaper than minced beef. For something like bolognese or Chilli you could try 50/50 beef and pork.
This could also apply to where you shop. While both Lidl and Aldi continue to gain popularity some folks are still very nervous about shopping at these discounts giants. Rather than attempting a whole weeks shops it might be better to try them for a mid week top up while you slowly get to know your way around and become more familiar with where everything is.
8. Bulk Out Meals To Spend Less
Bulking out meals can help save money and make sure everyone in your family leaves the dinner table full up while still saving money. Adding things like a bread basket to the table or vegetable soup as starter mean that everyone is getting more to eat but there’s no need to make more of the main meal which is likely to contain more expensive ingredients such as meat. See this post for how to bulk out meals for growing families
9. Look At Other Cooking Costs
While food is of course one of the biggest costs we face, it might also be worth looking at how you cook and prepare food to see if any savings can be there. A roast dinner, for example uses a lot of electric, with several hobs and the oven all on for a considerable amount of time. However, a Pot Roast is a very similar meal but only requires the oven to be on as all the ingredients are cooked together. This also where slow cookers come into their own – they are perfect for preparing one pot meals such as stews and casseroles and use very little electric even though they are on all day.
10. Accept there are some things that you will need to pay more for
There a certain items that are likely to increase in price that you can’t do much about. The biggest one of these is milk. Dairy farmers in the U.K have already fought hard in recent years to be paid a fairly for their milk by the big supermarkets. This years extreme weather has affected crops meaning farmers have already had to use feed that had been set aside for the winter months. In turn, this means farmers will need to buy additional feed and that cost will be passed onto the consumer.
While I do occasionally see milk reduced in the supermarket, I don’t think it’s worth buying unless you’ll use it that day or the day after or you use a heck of a lot of milk. A two pinter usually lasts us week so milk is one ting I always pay full price for!