Grocery costs are on the rise, which makes the weekly food shop feel like a bit of a juggle when working to a budget. To maintain a healthy, balanced trolley without breaking the bank, here's what we suggest.
There are lots of handy tricks we can use when prices are on the rise to cut costs whilst still purchasing a wide variety of products from the five core food groups recommended for a healthy diet (vegetables, fruit, grains and cereals, meat and meat alternatives and dairy and dairy alternatives) - we just need to get a little creative.
Buy in season:
Not only are fruit and vegetables freshest and most delicious when they’re in season, this is also when they are the best value. This is because when these foods are in season they are at their greatest supply, and high supply means cheaper prices.
Frozen fruit and vegetables are also nutritious, quick to prepare and often a cheaper way to buy than always reaching for fresh fruit and vegetables.
If you're unsure about when your favourite fruits and vegetables are in season, check here to find out the best times to buy a wide range of fresh produce.
Make healthy swaps:
Getting creative with your shopping list can help replace pricey ingredients with something cheaper that still provides similar nutritional benefits.
If your favourite meat cut is too expensive, try swapping it out for eggs, tofu, or a can of chickpeas. Or half the meat and add in other sources of protein to bulk the dish up whilst still saving.
Making a mince dish? Halve the mince in your bologniase or mexican and add a can of brown lentils to the mix. This will also boost the savoury flavour and add in extra fibre. Whipping up a chicken stir fry? Half the chicken and add in a quick omelette as well. There are plenty of ways to swap out, save money and boost flavour.
Plan your meals:
There are many benefits to planning your meals: saving time, money, reducing stress and cutting back on waste. Not to mention the last minute extras that find their way into the trolley when shopping without a clear plan!
Set aside a few minutes every week to brainstorm your meals. Try to choose ones that share some of the same ingredients to cut costs and reduce food waste by using the leftover ingredients.
Write a list and stick to it:
Shopping once a week can help you cut down on impulse purchases such as unhealthy foods and drinks you didn’t really need. Once you’ve planned your meals for the week write a list of all the ingredients you need and only buy from the list. Two for one deals and promos can make it tricky to stick to the list, so try to only go down the aisles you need to and avoid tempting promotions.
Remember: The outside edges of the supermarket are where the fresh food is stored, so sticking to the areas around the aisles and only going down those you need to can help you avoid adding pricey packaged foods to your trolley that aren’t on your list.
Cut back on costly snacks:
Unhealthy foods marketed as snacks are often full of fat, salt and sugar and carry a hefty price tag without providing any nutritional benefits. Try making some of your favourite snacks at home using ingredients you already have in the pantry.
Snacks such as pita crisps, popcorn or banana sorbet can be whipped up with only a couple of ingredients and in little time. Making snacks from scratch is not only cheaper, these snacks will generally be healthier and more filling.
Use unit prices to find the best value:
Unit pricing can help compare the cost of products when they come in different sized packets and tell which items are the best value (not just the cheapest). Look out for the price per 100g, per litre or per kilo to compare like products.
Buying in bulk can be a lot cheaper, but this is only the case if you are going to use all of the food before it goes off. Try purchasing larger packs and splitting them into smaller serves using containers. If the food is freezer-friendly, you can freeze some of the serves to make it last longer.