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Want to spend less on groceries? I challenged myself to spend just £50 a month – here’s how I did it.
This year, as one of our new year’s resolutions, my partner and I decided we needed to make some serious cutbacks on our spending. One area I was really keen to spend less on was groceries, especially food. We didn’t budget for it at all, spending whatever we felt like and I estimate we were spending around £150 – £200 a month for just the two of us.
So, for January, we decided we would try only spending £50 for the month for all food and household items. Our cupboards were bulging with left over Christmas food and we were definitely up for the challenge!
Overall it went really well. We overspent by about five pounds, but it had made us look at exactly what we were spending, if we really needed every item we were putting into our trolley or basket and whether we could get it cheaper elsewhere. Our food waste more than halved as we were buying less and we were trying lots of new recipes to use up different ingredients. We were also buying a lot less ‘rubbish’ food like crisps and chocolate.
It went so well we decided to continue, setting aside just £50 each month since. Sometimes we do over spend a little (I think £10 is probably the most we’ve gone over by) but it doesn’t matter because we are saving so much overall and being so much more conscious of what we are spending. We actually managed to keep this budget up for an entire year.
What does it include?
The £50 spend for us includes all food, drink, and household products (such as bin bags, washing powder, soap etc) to be used at home. It does not include meals we eat out or takeaways. My partner is lucky enough to get a free meal at work every day and I eat dinner at my parents’ house one or two evenings a week. However, this challenge is all about what works for you, challenging yourself to spend less, even if it’s saving £2 a week or spending £100 a month less. Switching to Lidl or Aldi could also help you save if you currently shop at one of the big four.
Where to start
The first thing I would recommend doing when trying to spend less on groceries is an inventory of what you already have. Go through your cupboards, fridge and freezer and make a list of everything you have and how many meals you can make with what you’ve got. Do the same for toiletries and sundries. Try not to buy anything that isn’t essential until you actually need it (unless it’s on a really good offer and you’ll be saving money in the long run).
I also find putting the £50 in a separate purse really helps me keep track of what I’m spending and what I have left for the rest of the month.
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Shopping for reduced shelf is the biggest way I spend less on groceries. I buy almost all of our fresh meat, veggies, salad and bread from the reduced shelves. I usually only buy something if it’s reduced by at least 50%, unless it’s something I really need. On average I save around 75% on the full price by doing this. There are other benefits to buying reduced food which you can read about here.
Some reduced items will need using within a day or two. Others will need freezing down as soon as you get home. I find salad and veggies will usually last a few days longer if kept in the fridge out of their plastic packaging.
I find the best time of day for reductions is usually about an hour before store closing time. If you’re unable to leave the house this time, you could also try shopping around 3pm on a Sunday afternoon. My current favourite supermarket to shop for reduced items is Co-op. I also keep an eye out for dry goods that have been reduced too, such as sauces and biscuits. Sometimes they are short dates, other times it’s the end of a line or the packaging is being changed. Either way it can be a great way to fill up your store cupboards for less. Recent finds include 20p mayo and popcorn and 6p packets of biscuits.
There are several phone apps available that can help you spend less on groceries. You simply buy the product listed then upload a photo of the receipt for a part or full refund on what you have bought. This is great for stocking up on items at half price or less.
I have recently had the following items FREE from this app; baby food, crisps, yogurts, dessert pots, cider, sugar and spices. The picture below is another recent haul that was completely free – the RRP was £13.53.
Clicksnap & Topcashback apps
I also use Clicksnap which is linked to the cashback site Quidco. There is also the Topcashback app. Both have good grocery offers, often the same ones as CheckoutSmart meaning you can claim each offer more than once. As CheckoutSmart, ClickSnap and Topcashback apps are all linked you will need separate receipts for each offer you intend to claim from each app.
Shopmium works in the same way as the other apps listed above. Use my code KMFUKCCQ for a free bar of Green & Blacks chocolate when you sign up (registration must be via the app and not via the website) They pay refunds via Paypal.
O2 is an app for customers using the O2 network and is great for freebies and treats. You show a code on the app instore and the item is free or discounted. They have lots of great freebies from places including Hotel Chocolat and WH Smiths. If O2 isn’t your current mobile provider you can get a free simcard to use here
I also use the MySupermarket app to check and compare pricesbefore I go shopping. You can find it here.
A lot of people like a drink and when trying to spend less on groceries alcohol can seem like it takes up a huge part of your budget. My advice here would be to shop around for the best prices as there are always offers. If you drink Carling the iCarling App offers discounts and sometimes freebies. Through the app we have had regular vouchers for free four packs of Carling (which then have a code inside for another free pack) and £5 off of a 12 or 15 pack (12 packs have recently been on offer at £8) They pay your money back via paypal or BACS.
Zeek is an app that lets you buy and sell unwanted gift vouchers at a discounted price. So if you’re planning on spending say, £100, in Sainsbury’s, there may be a voucher on there discounted to £80 saving you £20 on what you were going to spend anyway. Use my code 2PYGZL for £5 off your first purchase. You can also sell gift vouchers you don’t want for cash, minus a small admin fee.
As well as using the apps for reducing our spending on food they are also great for picking up items that can be used as gifts. They could also be passed on to charity or local food banks.
I love picking up items I can stash away for Christmas, such as the chocolate from Shopmium or ciders from CheckoutSmart. Pictured below is a hamper I made this Christmas which cost around £3 to make using these offers.
Extreme couponing is great way to save money on your groceries. There are loads more coupons about than you may think. Read my blog post about it here.
Shop with a friend
This can be a great way to share the cost of groceries. Go shopping with a friend just to buy items that are on 2 for 1 or buy 4 for £1 offers, for example. Split the cost between you at the till and then take half each. Remember to check the cost of items on offer is not hugely over inflated to begin with.
Find food for free
Who said there’s no such thing as a free lunch? There are loads of places to find food for free.
Foraging; especially for fruits such as blackberries and apples.
Freecycle; people are often giving away homegrown fruit and vegetables they have an over-abundance of.
Samples; Lots of companies give away free samples of stuff, try googling ‘free sample of …’ or write to companies whose food you love, they will often send samples or coupons back to you. Recently I managed to get a Degusta box filled with goodies for free. It may be worth following their facebook page in case they run this offer again.
Olio; an app that puts you in touch with people locally who are giving away food, for example if they are going on holiday and not going to eat it.
We have really enjoyed this challenge and plan to continue with it for as long as we can. I realize there is a lot of info here but even if you can manage to save £2 a week on your shopping bill that’s £104 over a year! Amazing.
If you are worried about missing out on foods your favourite upmarket stores while you are trying to spend less on groceries I have a handy guide to spending less and fancy supermarkets such as M&S and Waitrose.
Thinking of challenging yourself to spend less on groceries? Let me know in the comments I would love to hear from you.
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