Our tips and tricks will help you bring food costs down and, more importantly, keep your family happy and well-fed.
Catering for a whole family is no easy task. With so many different preferences and requirements to consider, it can become a daunting task to set out for the weekly shop.
However, this doesn’t mean you need to add the price of meals to your list of worries. Although it can often seem tempting to raid the supermarket deals, there are better ways to keep spending down while ensuring great quality grub for your family.
We’ve put together a series of helpful tips to make everything simple and affordable – learn more about how to shop smart and pick up a few cheap family meal ideas while you’re at it.
Become a food prep pro
One of the best ways to ensure your food goes further is to plan ahead. It’s easy to get caught up in the frantic day-to-day and end up cooking reactively, however, this means you will never have everything you need and leads to more mid-week shopping.
If you’re looking to get into food prep properly, here are a few steps to help you get started:
Choose meals that can be cooked at scale (i.e. chilli, soup, curries)
Buy base ingredients in bulk (i.e. rice, pasta, spices)
Plan out a few weeks’ worth of meals and set up a rolling rota
Stock up on good-quality, reusable storage boxes
Preparing batches of meals has even become something of an internet sensation, with people proudly displaying their stacks of Tupperware full of lunches to last the week. You can find some inspiration via the Reddit community here.
Try and make sure your kids eating what you’re having wherever possible –creating a proper whole-family menu so everyone knows what to expect. This will keep shopping trips consistent and make it much easier to organise come mealtime.
Think about the cuts of meat you’re using…
You might not give much thought to the cuts of meat you buy, it’s sometimes easier to just stick to what you know. If this sounds familiar, you’re likely missing out on some really straightforward saving opportunities.
Want to spend less but keep the same great flavour? You should look out for these alternative cuts:
Chicken: Thighs, Leg Quarters
Pork: Ribs, Belly, Cheek
Beef: Brisket, Shirt, Flank, Shin
Lamb: Shoulder, Chump, Breast
You’ll be able to find these either at your local butcher, who will be more than happy to give you some pointers, or over the counter at your preferred supermarket.
…Or replace meat altogether
People are reducing the meat in their diets for both health and environmental reasons but that doesn’t mean Brits are done with it. However, there is one benefit that might make you consider turning to the green side – saving yourself a bundle on shopping.
As you’ll be well aware, the cost of more popular meats like beef mince and chicken breasts quickly add up – so there’s an opportunity to make some savings by cutting out meat. Even if it’s just for a few days in the week.
To give this a try, swap out meat for vegetables, pulses, lentils and tofu in traditional recipes where possible. With the same seasoning and supporting ingredients, it’s a safe bet that you won’t even miss the meatier aspects of your meals.
If you’re not wanting to go fully meatless, there is a compromise that gives you the best of both worlds. Using ingredients like grated carrot will let you pad out a meat dish meaning you don’t need to use as much of the pricier ingredients, making it go further while tasting just as great.
Always eat in-season where possible
We’re so used to being able to find any fruit or veg we fancy all year round we don’t consider that it may not be the best time to buy. Want some strawberries in winter? No problem. Brussel sprouts at the height of summer? Go for it. However, this convenience doesn’t always translate into good value.
By choosing to eat food when it’s in-season, you’ll not just save yourself a few quid – it also reduces your carbon footprint and is likely to be healthier and taste better than off-season produce.
The simplest way to look at this is, when you buy food out of season, it’s either had to travel longer to get to your kitchen table or has been grown in controlled conditions. Both of these alternatives mean more money spent by you at the checkout. Keeping an eye out for locally sourced, in-season produce, is a simple way for you to save on your shop.
Check what you already have at home
An effective way to save money on food that’s often overlooked is to keep on top of what you already have in the house. Check what’s in your freezer and cupboards, you’ll be surprised at how much you have to work with.
Before you set out to the shop, make sure you have a list of the tinned, dried foods and frozen foods you have back at home. Following this advice will lead to you spending less on shopping trips as your focus will be on the additional ingredients needed to make full meals.
You can also use this as an excuse to tidy up neglected spaces in your kitchen to keep on top of what you have and what you actually need.
Staying disciplined in-store
There’s a reason one of the most common pieces of advice for saving money on groceries is to avoid shopping whilst hungry. It’s important that you have a clear plan of what you’re there to get and how that’ll fit into your meal planning – a detour to the biscuit aisle won’t do your wallet any good after all!
So, always best to go to the supermarket with a set plan and avoid being distracted by those tempting end of the aisle deals.
Another budgeting tip to keep in mind is that there are more optimal times to shop. The most common advice on timings says that 7pm is when the real reductions begin and you could grab yourself some essentials for even less.
Now you’ve got the knowhow to keep your family fed for less, why not find out what other money saving tips you can pick up from the Ocean Finance blog.
Disclaimer: All information and links are correct at the time of publishing.