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Saving on food bills 

Saving on your food bills

1. Go shopping with a friend

Find a friend or buddy to go shopping with, and save money together in the following ways:-

Bullet point share shopping tips together - your friend probably has a wealth of ideas to help you save, and vice versa
Bullet point make a shopping list together - and help one another stick to it
Bullet point share transport - share the cost of petrol or maybe even a taxi if necessary
Bullet point share buy-one-get-one-free (BOGOF) items, especially if they are too bulky, expensive or have too short a shelf life for one person or family - check out your supermarket's website for BOGOFs and other special offers before you go, and plan your shop together
Bullet point buying larger quantities is cheaper - imagine the fun of sharing out a 24-pack of toilet rolls over an after-shopping cup of coffee together
Bullet point help one another resist the temptation to buy things you don't really need, especially sweets and magazines at the till queue
Bullet point discount voucher or reduced-priced petrol - if your combined shopping totals to over £50 and you are really good friends (such that each of you might pay alternate weeks for all the shopping, then settle up later) there may well be a discount voucher or reduced-priced petrol on your combined shop - you can ask to have the first batch of shopping sub-totalled to save adding up the cost when you get home.

2. Other Supermarket tips

Bullet point don't start the shopping when you're hungry - make sure you have a meal or snack first
Bullet point make a shopping list - and try to stick to it, unless you see some really good special offers which you can afford, and which you would have bought at some point anyway
Bullet point look out for buy-one-get-one-free (BOGOF) items - check out your supermarket's website for BOGOFs and other special offers before you go, and plan your shop. You may choose to rotate the different supermarkets you go to each week, in order to stock up on their special offers.
Bullet point resist the temptation to buy things you don't really need, especially sweets and magazines at the till queue. Have a clear idea before you leave home how you will 'reward' yourself after your shop - maybe just a well-earned sit down for 10 minutes with a cup of coffee!
Bullet point look out for grocery coupons - there are loads of free coupons and vouchers on Martin Lewis's website Supermarket Coupons List, many supermarkets will accept coupons for other items, but make sure you ASK FIRST, it's at the discretion of the supermarket. You may also be able to trade these with neighbours and friends, or share them with your 'shopping buddy' (see above).
Bullet point raincheck vouchers - if a special offer item is out of stock, some supermarkets will give you a 'raincheck' voucher entitling you to the same deal at a later date - ask for Tesco 'Special Promise' vouchers, Asda 'Smiley' vouchers and Sainsbury's 'Special Coupons'
Bullet point choose the longest 'use by' dates - by rummaging at the back of the shelf you may find items with much later use-by dates than the ones at the front, so that they will last longer once you get them home
Bullet point cooking challenge - instead of going to the supermarket with a menu in mind, consider buying what's on special offer/what's cheaper because it's in season, then find a recipe to make the most of it - there are countless recipes on the Internet for you to choose from

3. Buy Supermarkets' Own brands

Research by Datamonitor has shown that you can typically save more than 20% by buying supermarkets' own-label brands, but you could save even more if you look for brand-name, multi-buy sales. Restrict your multi-buys to long-life products. Before you visit the store, check their website to look for in-store promotions. To find the best own-brands, visit www.supermarketownbrandguide.co.uk which reviews 8,000 products.

Martin Lewis ('Money Saving Expert') encourages shoppers to try the Downshift Challenge: 'Drop one brand level on everything and see if you can tell the difference. If you can't, stick with the cheaper product'. Brand levels are as follows:-

Bullet point Premium Brands
(e.g.Tesco FINEST Chocolate, etc)
Bullet point Manufacturers' Brands
(McVitie's Jaffa Cakes, Kelloggs Cornflakes, etc)
Bullet point Supermarket Own Brands
(Sainsbury's Cornflakes, Morrisons Coffee)
Bullet point Supermarket 'Basic' Brands
(Tesco Value range, Asda Smartprice range)

Basic brands often have much plainer, less attractive packaging (for a reason!) but the food inside may well be excellent - it may even have fewer additives and be made by a normal-branded manufacturer. The aim is to downshift only where you can't tell the difference and, for many families, this alone can save 15% a year on shopping bills, typically £800. Research shows that if you drop one brand level on everything the average bill is likely to be cut by a third - on a £100 weekly shop, that's £1,700 a year less. But if you don't like the lower brand level then simply switch back.

HOWEVER on occasions it can still be cheaper to get multi-buy branded goods than supermarket own brands, so you still need to check.

4. Compare supermarket prices

Cost comparison website mySupermarket at www.mysupermarket.co.uk claims it can help you save you up to 35% on your weekly food shop. The website allows you to compare prices at different supermarkets of products for which you can search or browse, so that you can then go to the supermarket where they are cheapest. You can also shop online with them, and get your shopping delivered.

Also Fixture Ferrets (for an annual subscription of just £5.20) claim to be able to save shoppers £10+ per week on groceries using their handy supermarket shopping techniques, by 'ferreting out every worthwhile special offer'.

5. Beware of the most conveniently-placed items in the supermarket

It's alleged that supermarkets price items differently, depending where they are positioned in the shop. So if you are after a snack, you may pay more in a quick dash to the snack area at the very front of the store than you will if you scan the aisles. Make sure you're diligent !

It's also alleged that supermarkets place the most profitable stock at eye level (or children’s eye level if it's targeted at them), yet these may not be the best value. Therefore look above and below your target items for the best value.

6. Go supermarket shopping near closing time

Every day supermarkets put out special offers on items that are nearing their 'sell by' date, that is 'yellow sticker' items, according to Martin Lewis's research these start at around 10.00 am. But the really good reductions intended to ensure the (often perishable) goods are sold at any price start just before the last evening peak of the day, between 7.00 pm - 9.00 pm depending on the store's closing time.

7. Avoid throwing food away

warning triangle Families in the UK typically throw away a third of all the food they buy - don't be one of them! Wise up on the date markings:-

Bullet point the use-by date is is to do with safety, the date after which it may not be safe to eat the food
Bullet point the best-before date is to do with quality, the food may not be at its best after this date
Bullet point the sell-by date and display until are for the shop's benefit and is to do with how the food is sold - www.approvedfood.co.uk sells food and household items which are past their sell-by date delivered to your door, and claims to offer huge savings.

Make sure you save all leftovers - there are countless recipes for leftovers on the Internet, for example one at the BBC's Good Food Guide. Or tell the Supercook or BigOven tools what items are in your fridge or cupboard and they'll suggest a recipe for them from 1,000s. Alternatively, just go to Martin Lewis' Old Style Recipe Index and scroll down to the relevant ingredient.

Otherwise use a Menu Planner for meals day-by-day - again countless Menu Plans on the Internet, here's one from Martin Lewis.

You might also visit the Love Food Hate Waste website which contains many excellent ideas for recipes, portion planning, how best to store food, saving money on food bills, etc.

8. Visit the local butcher

Whilst it is very convenient (and often cheaper due to savings in scale) to buy certain meat items at the supermarket, it's worthwhile looking in at your local butcher who may sell cuts of meat which are cheaper still and not sold at the supermarket. You might look especially for:-

  • brisket of beef
  • shin of beef
  • belly of pork
  • collar of pork
  • shoulder of lamb
  • even pigs trotters !
  • feather steak (for a treat)

A reasonable website to find your local butcher is at www.findabutcher.co.uk though it does not list every butcher.

9. Buy local produce

When it comes to produce, why not look at your local street market or Farmers Market and cut down on the 'food miles' of the food you're buying. A reasonable place to look is at https://www.nmtf.co.uk, though again it does list every market.

You might go shopping just before the market closing-time, when many market stall sellers will reduce their prices in order to not have any stock to take away with them at the end of the day.


At West Kent Debt Advice we sincerely hope that these web pages will help you save money, but this Disclaimer is to make it clear that you use the information presented here at your own risk, and in particular that (1) we cannot accept liability for any outcome arising from the use of information presented here (2) with the links to other websites we cannot be held responsible for their content (3) the information on these pages does not in any way constitute financial advice – you must always do your own research and make your own decisions about anything affecting your finances.

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This page was last modified on 28 December 2016