Around two-thirds of adults in Great Britain have reported spending less on non-essential items as a result of the cost of living crisis, according to research from the Office of National Statistics. 92% of those reported a rise in their cost of living compared to a year ago with most people saying citing the rise in food shopping costs as their reason. Worryingly, 16% of adults said they were concerned about running out of food before being able to buy more while 6% said they could not afford to buy more food.
In this article, we share ways to save money on your food bill as well as ways you can make your food shop go further. We also share tips on how you can reduce waste on your food shop each week and if you are struggling to afford food each month, we share what help is available. For additional money-saving tips and how to save money in other areas of your finances read our article, 'How to save money on your household bills'.
Working out an affordable budget for your groceries each week or month will help you to manage your costs and not overspend. Creating a budget for your finances will also help you to see where your money is being spent and can identify areas of overspending. Take a look at how much money you are spending on groceries each month and work out an affordable amount based on your previous spending. You can then adjust your budget if you notice that you are spending additional money popping to shops throughout the week to top up your weekly shop.
An easy way to identify how much money you are spending on groceries each month is via a budgeting app. Budgeting apps connect to your bank accounts and categorises your spending. This then easily identifies how much money is spent in each category and you can see if you are over or under your budget. For more information on budgeting apps and how they work, read our article 'Best budgeting apps in the UK'.
If you would rather not connect your bank account, you could download our budget planner spreadsheet and manually create your budget.
2. Plan meals
An easy way to save money is by planning the meals you will eat for the week ahead. If you know what you are going to eat you can purchase the exact ingredients that you need for the recipe rather than a number of ingredients that you think you may use throughout the week. Planning your meals can help to save money and waste as you are not overbuying and then throwing away items you haven't used. When planning your meals you should check your fridge and cupboards for items that you already have so that you are not buying something you already have and you could even incorporate any leftover items into your meal plan for the following week.
3. Make a shopping list
As you run out of items or think of things that you need write them down so that you can remember to buy them when it comes to doing your grocery shop. Having a list of items that you are planning to buy also prevents you from getting things that you don't need and can help you to save money.
4. Change supermarket
You can save money on your weekly staples by switching to a cheaper supermarket. If you have specific items that you shop for each week you could compare the cost of items at different supermarkets using Trolley.co.uk. The site shows you which shop has the cheapest price for the item you usually buy and you can set alerts to be notified when the item drops in price or is on offer. Trolley.co.uk compares some of the top supermarkets but if you'd rather shop at the most affordable supermarket each week you may wish to change to Aldi or Lidl. According to the consumer group Which? the cheapest supermarket in March 2023 when comparing 41 popular grocery items was Aldi, closely followed by Lidl. If you are limited by supermarket choice in your local area you can switch to supermarket own brand items to save money as these are usually cheaper than most branded items.
The table below shows the cost difference between the major supermarkets based on a basket of 41 staple items.
Cheapest supermarket cost comparison
|Supermarket||Average price of 41 staple items|
5. Shop online
Shopping online can save you money instead of going to the shop in person as you will be less tempted by offers and treats in the supermarket. You can also save time by shopping online, selecting items from your regularly bought items and getting them delivered to your door. Alternatively, you can arrange to collect your shopping as most supermarkets offer a 'click and collect' service. Shopping online can help to prevent you from buying things you do not need and you can choose to shop when you are not hungry, saving you from spending on unnecessary items. You can compare supermarket click and collect and delivery costs in our article, 'Supermarket new customer offers, loyalty cards and delivery costs compared'.
6. Buy frozen food and freeze fresh items
Frozen items can be cheaper to buy than their fresh counterparts and they also last longer when kept in the freezer. You can also prevent food waste by freezing fresh items that may go out of date before you get around to using them. For example, you can freeze milk or bread if it has a short shelf life. You could save money by buying in bulk and freezing what you don't use that week, such as a big pack of meat. If buying meat in bulk, consider freezing the items individually, so that you can defrost only the items that you need, ensuring there is no waste.
7. Shop seasonal products
Shopping for seasonal fruit and veg products can help you to save money as products that are in season are usually cheaper than items that are currently out of season.
8. Look out for discounts
Supermarkets often have discounts and offers when you buy more than one item in-store or online. This can save you money but only if you are going to use the discounted item or additional items that you buy. If you only need one pack of ham for example but there is an offer on 3 packs which costs slightly more, will you use the additional packs that you buy or are you being sucked into the offer and will end up wasting the extra food?
If you shop at supermarkets at specific times you may also be able to benefit from yellow stickers and discounted items that are due to go out of date or are past the best-before date. You may be able to save money on these items and freeze them to use at a later date. However, it is common for stores to reduce items before closing so you may only be able to benefit from yellow stickers at certain times.
9. Join supermarket loyalty schemes
Another way to save money when shopping is by signing up for a supermarket loyalty scheme. Supermarkets often have deals for loyalty scheme customers which mean that you may get items at a cheaper price than those not part of the scheme. You could also benefit from points that turn into vouchers and coupons that you can use to save cash on additional shops. Find out more in our article, 'Which is the best supermarket loyalty card?'
10. Batch cook
Batch cooking meals can help to save money as you can buy items in bulk when they're on offer or buy more than you need and freeze the items for a later date. For example, you could buy twice as much mince meat as you would usually but cook all of it at once to make a cottage pie, bolognese or chill for another day. Preparing the meals ahead of time will not only save you time on another day but can save you money on purchasing the ingredients again.
11. Have a meat-free day
Meat items are usually one of the most expensive items in your weekly food shop, so you could try and save money by swapping to one or two meat-free meals a week e.g a jacket potato with cheese and beans. Meat-free Mondays are a good way to start and by swapping to one meat-free day a week you can make a difference to your health and the planet while saving money at the same time. If you visit Meat-free Mondays you can find out your environmental impact by choosing to swap to meat-free meals each week as well as gather recipe ideas for meat-free meals.
12. Use food apps
There are a number of food apps that can help you to reduce food waste and save money on your grocery bill. Apps such as Too Good To Go, for example, allow you to pick up discounted items from local shops and convenience stores that may have otherwise been thrown away. We share a number of these apps and how they work in our article, '5 apps to save money on your food bills'.
What to do if you cannot afford food
If you are struggling with the cost of living crisis and unable to afford food there are a number of ways that you can seek help, some of which we list below:
- Check what benefits you are entitled to - Use one of the following calculators to see if you are getting all of the help that you are entitled to receive (entitledto, Turn2us, Policy in Practice) and read our Cost of Living Payment guide for further information on support available for those that receive certain benefits.
- Contact your local council - Each council has been given government funds under the Household Support Fund which is designed to support those who require help with the cost of living crisis. The scheme is running until 31st March 2024 or until the budget is spent and is designed to help those 'who are not considered eligible for public funds'. Help can be offered in a number of ways e.g energy bill support and supermarket vouchers and can vary between councils. How much support you will receive depends on your household and your local council.
- Get help from a food bank - If you cannot afford food you can get a referral to a local food bank from a number of services including your child's school, your GP or your local Citizens Advice. You are usually required to get a referral in order to access a food bank and may have to meet certain criteria.
- The Healthy Start scheme - If you are over 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under the age of 4 you may qualify for the Healthy Start scheme (or Best Start scheme if you live in Scotland) which allows you to buy certain food items, formula and vitamins from your local supermarket.
- Iceland's Food Club - Iceland's Food Club is part of Iceland's 'Doing it Right' initiative to help combat food poverty. The supermarket has teamed up with not-for-profit lender Fair for You to offer interest-free loans to customers who are struggling to pay their food bills. More information on Iceland's Food Club and how it works can be found in our article, 'Iceland offering “ethical” loans up to £75 to cover food costs: How does it work?'