Eating on a budget can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. But all this really has to mean to you is ‘How do you eat within your budget’. Personally, food is where I spend the biggest portion of my salary after rent and bills. Hey, it’s my life, my rules. I like my food. I’ll happily walk around in a jumper I got as a hand me down from my brother ten years ago, rather than elect to skip a meal. Those are sacred.
Because of this devotion, I’ve become pretty good at getting more for my money at the supermarket, so I’ve pulled together a few of my top tips for you to have a look at.
1. Don’t shop when you’re hungry
I swear to God – this is a real thing. When you shop when you’re hungry you’re so much more likely to buy more food! (The less healthy kind too!) Just try not to do it.
2. Write a shopping list
Again, this is a solid piece of advice. Whether you’re planning ahead for one meal or your meals for the entire week; write a list. If you plan your meals in advance you will then only buy the exact ingredients that you need. With this focus you are less likely to get distracted and pick up other items that you ‘might’ need.
3. Bulk buy tinned and dried goods then supplement with fresh
Some people go for this some don’t. I understand both camps. I do it because I find it’s the easiest and cheapest way to stock up on essentials like pasta, rice, beans, potatoes and anything else you can think of! Then a couple of times a week I will buy some fresh meat or fish and some veg and vary the meals I eat.
By doing it this way I find I can get bulk buy discounts, and it stops wastage of fresh foods because they don’t sit around in the fridge going bad.
4. Cook your food in bulk
Simple but cost effective. Anything like curry, stew, chili, or spaghetti, are great for this. Any dish that lasts well in a Tupperware for 4 or 5 days and can be taken out and reheated will save you both time and money. My personal favourite is Bolognese sauce. I’ll have it with spaghetti on the first night and then as the week wears on I will throw in a load of chillies and serve it with nachos or baked potatoes to mix up the flavour without adding to the cost!
5. Eat your leftovers
I know that sometimes you don’t want to eat the same thing twice or three times. But by eating all the food you buy you are ensuring you get every penny’s worth. Sometimes you can even use your leftovers as a base ingredient for a whole new dish. Using the chicken bones from a roast dinner is a great way to make stock for chicken soup!
6. Buy frozen
Frozen food is actually a great way to save money these days without compromising on quality or vitamins. Because the vegetables are frozen straight after they’re picked they don’t lose their nutrients in transit. I always keep frozen vegetables in the freezer and add them to any dish I’m making. Bags of frozen fish and chicken are also great ways to bulk buy items and ensure that they don’t go off.
7. Don’t be brand obsessed
As true with mayonnaise as it is with trainers! You might like a particular brand of soy sauce, or ketchup, or flavour of chips, but trust me you don’t need them. Your life doesn’t fall apart if you don’t buy your favourite brand every time. Instead, look at what brand is on sale, or try a slightly cheaper version of your favourite food to save those precious pennies. If you genuinely think you won’t eat it then don’t buy it, because it will just be a wasted purchase. In general, though, you can enjoy the taste of food just as much without having to buy the brand you think is your favourite.
8. Use vouchers!
I can’t stress this enough: Vouchers. Are. The. Best. Save them up from your local newspapers, from food packaging, from anywhere you can get them! You can get great deals and they save you so much money. In the same vein as this; take advantage of supermarket loyalty cards. If you are going to spend money you might as well get points for it!
Case and point: last Christmas I got nearly all my Christmas food shop for free by redeeming my supermarket points that I had been collecting all year.
I know all this seems like common sense, but it’s so easy to forget to budget on a daily basis. Food is so expensive, and such a large part of what your wages are spent on it, that it’s really worth taking the time to make sure you get good value out of everything you buy.