How to cut your food bill

Caroline Cassidy

It's so easy to go shopping for groceries and come back with all manner of things you probably don't need, won't use and only bought because it seemed like a bargain and by the end of the shop your shopping bill can be far more expensive than you had intended. Here are few tips and ideas on how to keep your food bill to a minimum.

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The first piece of advice is to sit down at the beginning of the week and plan ahead what you think you will eat that week. It sounds quite a chore but it needn't be an entirely regimented process. Just think of a few meals that you know how to cook (fairly cheaply) and assign them to a day of the week. You don't necessarily have to stick to the plan but it helps to know that for each day you have a good idea of what will be for dinner.

For example, Monday could be spag bol, Tuesday could be fish pie etc. Once you have an idea of the meals you intend to cook you can write up a shopping list of the ingredients. Then, when you go shopping, stick to your list and you should only come home with food that will definitely be used by the end of week.

Next think about where you shop. There are many useful price comparison websites that will show you which supermarkets have the cheapest groceries and best deals. Try mySupermarket to compare food prices at Tesco, Sainsbury's, ASDA and Ocado (Waitrose's online shopping site).

A lot of money is wasted through perfectly good food being thrown away. Many people are uncertain about the best before and use by dates printed on produce and items that are past their best before date often get thrown away. But it is fine to eat products that are past their best before date and it is also not an offence under the Food Labelling Regulations to sell food past its best before date.

There are websites that sell short-dated and out-of-date food and drink at very low prices. For example Approved Food and Food Bargains. Buying food from sites such as these can make huge savings on your food bill.

Another way to make savings is to buy supermarket own-brand products. Many people believe that own-brand produce is not as good as the name branded items but often there is very little between them. Check out the website Supermarket Own Brand Guide for detailed information including tasting notes, scores out of ten and nutrional information of own brand products.

Bulk buying items can be a good way to make savings on your grocery bill but usually it only works if you are buying non-perishable goods, otherwise you could end up with a lot of wastage. Cash and Carrys such as Costco can be brilliant for bulk buying and you could save a great deal on things like teabags, sugar and pasta.

If you have green fingers, growing your own fruit and veg is a great way to save money on your food bill. But if you don't have the time or space for gardening, you can still be season savvy. Check what fresh produce is in season and those items will be cheaper than those that are not in season. If you are uncertain what it is in season, check the website eat the seasons.

And finally, keep an eye out for coupons. One good way of collecting useful coupons us through supermarket loyalty schemes such as Sainsbury's Nectar and Tesco Clubcards.

If you have any more tips for saving money on your food bill, leave a comment and share them with us.