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15 Tips: How to Save Money on Food to Reduce Cost of Living

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Will Southall

Will Southall

a month ago - 8 minute read

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Food is probably the one thing everyone spends money on the most regularly. Can we help it? No. But can we spend less? Absolutely!

We’re not going to suggest you eat less or ditch the takeaways to save money on food. The first is just silly, and the second is surely a given (although we all deserve a treat!).

Most of the time, our spending depends on how prepared we are for our food shop and what we do with our food once we’ve bought it.

From keeping bread in the fridge to removing the packaging on your mushrooms, there’s always something new to learn to reduce the cost of living.

Intrigued to know more? Keep reading to learn our best tips on how to save money on food.

1. Stock the fridge properly

Did you know there’s a right and wrong way to stock the fridge?

It sounds bizarre, but loading your fridge “badly” can affect how quickly your food goes off. For example, did you know that milk and cheese shouldn’t ever be kept in the fridge door? How crazy is that?

Storing your food properly can help your fridge work better and keep your food fresh for longer.

Here’s a quick crash course on how to stock your fridge properly:

  • Top shelf: Leftovers and cured meats, like ham, sausage rolls etc.
  • Middle shelf/shelves: Dairy products, like milk, cheese, butter etc.
  • Bottom shelf: Raw meats and fish
  • Bottom drawer: Fruits and vegetables

Placing milk on the middle shelf isn’t always practical. If you have no choice but to place it in the door, keep it on the back part of the bottom shelf, as this will be the coolest part of the door.

Related article: 18 Rent-friendly kitchen makeover ideas

2. Turn down the temperature

Fridges are best kept between 0-5°C, according to Which? UK.

However, the average UK fridge temperature is predicted to be around 7°C, a whole 2°C higher! If your food keeps spoiling quickly, it could be because your fridge isn’t cold enough.

If your fridge thermostat (usually found inside) is set at 4-5°C, try turning the temperature down a couple of degrees.

Monitor the difference and see if it helps your food keep for longer.

3. Freeze or refrigerate bread

Most of us keep bread in breadbins rather than in the fridge or freezer. This is wise since bread should be kept at room temperature to help it stay fresh.

However, keeping bread at room temperature won’t make it last longer, especially in hot weather. Mould can quickly form, making your loaf last a couple of days to a week at most.

Keeping your bread in the fridge can prolong its life significantly. Apparently, it can cause it to go stale faster (which means it’s still edible, just not as tasty), but it can last 2-3 weeks, sometimes longer.

Alternatively, bread freezes extremely well, so you can also keep it frozen to prolong its life. Simply use the toaster for a few minutes to warm it up again.

Related article: Mould in rental properties: why it’s bad & should you rent it?

4. Meal plan

Planning your meals before a weekly shop is one of the best ways how to save money on food.

When you plan your meals, from Monday to Sunday, including breakfast, lunch and dinner, you’ll know exactly what to buy at the supermarket.

While it can sometimes be better to shop by seeing what’s on offer, it can often lead to you buying more than you need.

Impulse buying additional things is one of the fastest ways to spend more money. So, if you want to save money on food, plan your meals ahead of time, create a shopping list and stick to it like glue!

5. Check price per kg

Supermarkets can be sneaky! Have you ever seen single or loose products appearing more expensive than those in wrapped packaging or in bulk?

While it sometimes can be better to buy in bulk, always check the price per kg. Supermarkets will often show a seemingly lower price for wrapped or bulk veg compared with singles/unwrapped.

However, the important number is the price per kg. Here’s what we mean.

Wrapped broccoli has £1.50 on the label. But unwrapped broccoli has £2. It looks like the £1.50 broccoli is cheaper, but the price per kg for the wrapped broccoli is £1.50, whereas the unwrapped broccoli is 50p.

This is a classic example of supermarkets tricking you into buying a product that seems cheaper but offers you less value for money.

Try checking the price per kg before buying something to see what’s actually cheaper to buy.

6. Use discount apps/websites

“Download the app and get £5 off your next shop”

“Use scan & shop and get discounts”

“Sign up for a loyalty card and get points to spend in store”

We’ve all heard about these discounts offered by supermarkets. It usually takes time and effort to actually sign up for them. But doing so can help save money on your food shop here and there.

Before popping into your local supermarket, check online for vouchers, discounts, apps, points cards, etc. to see what you can save.

Related article: How Lifetime Deposits can help with rent deposit

7. Grow your own

Another excellent way how to save money on food is to ditch the supermarkets and grow your own instead! Buying seeds is always cheaper than buying actual produce.

It takes time, patience, practice and a lot of learning. But growing your own fruits and vegetables in the UK is a great way to start a new hobby, keep the kids entertained and, most importantly, save money on food!

Here are some easy things to grow as a beginner:

  • Potatoes – Can be grown year-round in 10 weeks with some expertise
  • Tomatoes – Plant seeds from Feb-Apr and harvest in 3-4 months
  • Herbs – Mint, basil, thyme, parsley and sage are easy to grow indoors
  • Beetroot – Plant between Apr-Jul and harvest in 8-20 weeks
  • Runner beans – Grow between May-Aug and harvest in 12-16 weeks
  • Strawberries – Which, once planted, will grow back year after year!
  • Radishes – Plant in Feb-Aug and harvest in as little as 4 weeks
  • Onions – Plant in Mar-Apr and harvest in 3-4 months

Most vegetables can be grown in pots, containers or in the ground outdoors or on balconies. You can even grow some vegetables indoors on kitchen windowsills, in bright areas or in conservatories.

If you stage the planting of your vegetables, you can harvest supplies every month during the growing season.

Related article: 15 Tips to make the most of your apartment balcony

8. Switch to unbranded

It may not always save tons of money, and sometimes the quality isn’t always like-for-like, but switching to unbranded products can definitely shave a few pounds off your shopping bill!

We say sometimes the quality is different because some items contain different amounts of meat products, sugar, nutritional value, etc. etc. There’s no guessing it’s normally the cheaper ones that have less.

But SOMETIMES branded and unbranded foods are made by the exact same major retailers. This usually means the products are the same. They just have a different brand name and price tag.

Try switching a couple of branded items for unbranded ones and see if you notice the difference.

Related article: 10+ Things landlords DON’T want tenants to know

9. Check best before VS use by

We’ve all seen the debates online about best before vs use by dates.

Because food often gets thrown out past its “best before” date, when there’s nothing wrong with it, many brands are removing it entirely from their packaging.

It’s easy to check food in a rush, spot the best “before date”, and throw it out thinking it has gone off, especially when it’s something like meat, fish or dairy products.

But most best-before dates are useless. The “use by” date is often the one you have to keep an eye on and prioritise. Although, for lots of foods, the “use by” date is just a guide, too.

Provided it isn’t harmful (and you should always check first depending on the food), you can sometimes eat food past its “use by” date if it looks and smells OK.

10. Buy in bulk

Buying in bulk is another excellent way how to save money on food. Many shops have bulk deals on things like pasta, oil, herbs, spices and more.

Bulk deals aren’t always cheaper, so you should also check the “price per kg” for individual items.

But, when it’s cheaper, and you’ve got space in the kitchen, you can save those pounds by buying in bulk!

Related article: 15+ Cheap & easy decorating ideas for small apartments

11. Go wonky

If you’ve been following the eco-trends, you’ll know that supermarkets throw plenty of perfectly good food out every day.

Why? Because they’re wonky! Uneven-shaped fruits and veggies are seen as less desirable and have been rejected by supermarkets for years.

However, with more people becoming aware of the issue, supermarkets are beginning to stock “wonky” fruit and veg. You might need to hunt for them, but, once found, you’ll often notice they’re significantly cheaper.

Some online retailers also exclusively “rescue” and deliver wonky food, which can be cheaper than buying it from the supermarket.

12. Don’t shop when hungry

It’s all psychological, of course, but many studies have shown that shopping when hungry can lead you to buy more food than when you’re not.

If you have a lot of self-control and are aware of your hunger while shopping, skip past this tip on how to save money on food.

But, if you suspect this is an issue for you, have a quick snack before you go and monitor the difference.

13. Try different stores

Some supermarkets are definitely more convenient than others, like the one round the corner from you or the one with free parking.

But price tags for the same produce can vary depending on where you shop.

If you haven’t already found your cheapest supermarket, shop around (quite literally!) and see where sells cheaper versions of the produce you buy. Some may surprise you!

Related article: 15 Cheap & natural ways to make a flat smell nice

14. Unwrap bad packaging

Most fruits and veggies are packaged in plastic or clingfilm to make them easier to transport from farm to store.

However, these packaging’s aren’t always best for keeping your food fresh or helping them last.

For example, mushrooms wrapped in clingfilm protects them during transport, but makes them go off quicker. This is because moisture builds up under the plastic, making your veg turn slimy and mouldy.

Instead, it’s best to keep them wrapped in a kitchen roll in a paper bag to stop them from spoiling quickly.

Do some research on how to best store the food items you buy regularly, and you could save yourself even more money on food.

15. Buy in season

Shopping in season is another excellent way to save money on food. Naturally, food that isn’t in season in the UK needs to be imported from other countries.

Because this is more hassle and costs more for the supermarkets/manufacturers, it leaves you with a higher price to pay.

Instead, try shopping in season, so you only buy fruit and veg that’s been grown and harvested in the UK.

Looking For More Ways to Save?

Moving rental can be costly. If you’re moving soon, we have good news to help you keep hold of your hard-earned cash!

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For the first time ever, if you already have a deposit protected in a deposit scheme, you can transfer it to your next property.

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We are on a mission to help more people move, so if you are moving soon, don’t forget your Lifetime Deposit!

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Will Southall

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Will Southall

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