Your weekly food shop: How to find bargains & make your money stretch further this winter.

We’ve written before about cooking on a budget & even suggested some simple budget-friendly recipes. Now we have gathered our favourite tried & tested tips for keeping the weekly shop on budget too.

1) Make a plan

Always make a meal plan before you go shopping.  The first thing to do is take stock of what you already have in the cupboards & freezer, and especially what needs using up first (reducing food waste too). Next use that to write a menu for the week & a shopping list of what extras you’ll need.

It’s key to stick to the list to make sure you stay on budget.

2) Don’t shop hungry

Make sure you go shopping with a full stomach or you can easily be tempted to buy the whole shop. Shopping hungry makes you much more likely to abandon your list.

3) Leave the kids at home

If you’re able to leave the kids behind it makes a shopping trip both easier and cheaper.  You won’t be stress-buying chocolate for the journey home & they won’t be loading up the trolley with ‘essentials’ or nagging you to buy them things.

4) Shop own brands

There are some items where buying a name brand or ‘luxury’ version really makes all the difference (supermarket value meat is likely to be mostly water, let’s be honest).  But when it comes to most staple ingredients I’d bet almost anything you won’t notice the difference. Save your money on own-brand/budget versions of dried & tinned goods, crisps, snacks and ice-cream & save your money for the things you’ll actually notice.

5) Bag a bargain

Foraging for bargains is simple: work out what time your local supermarket reduces items close to their sell-by date & make sure you coincide your weekly shop with this. While this is a great way to pick up bargains, it can also add to food waste so make sure you only purchase things you can either use in the next few days or put in the freezer.

Be savvy: If you’re only buying it because it has a yellow sticker on it, is it really a bargain? Put down those 6 packets of cream cakes that all need eating before tomorrow and make room for bread you can stick in the freezer for next week’s packed lunches.

6) Grow your own

Growing your own vegetables is easy & doesn’t need lots of room or time.  Even as we come into winter you can still be planting onions, garlic, broad beans, salad leaves, spring onions, peas and even chillis.

If all else fails you should befriend a gardener! There isn’t a gardener in the land who isn’t delighted to give away their surplus veggies during harvest time.  Gardeners plant too much of everything as a rule & hate to see it go to waste. So if you know a gardener let them know your favourite vegetables & they’ll be sure to think of you next time they have a glut.