Though most of us will be tightening belts and spending less, food is an essential we simply can't do without. But that doesn't mean you aren't wasting money when it comes to grocery shopping - here are a few tips on how to save pennies and pounds on your food bills.
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Busy lives make dropping into the supermarket for a quick ready meal a tempting option but by planning the week's meals ahead, you can cut down on waste - how many of us have opted for a ready meal leaving fresh food to go out of date? Check store cupboards, the fridge and freezer so you are not duplicating and make a list before you go shopping. Don't go while your stomach is rumbling and, if possible, shop alone... more eyes make for more temptations!
Take advantage of offers on mince, chicken or stewing steak too - from spaghetti Bolognese to traditional beef stew, cooking a large quantity can mean saving money and, if you're not keen on eating the same food two days running, freeze portions for a quick evening meal.
Store cupboard essentials
Keep your store cupboard stocked with canned goods, pasta, rice and beans (dried are often the cheapest option). With these essentials always available, it's always possible to create a good, healthy meal - beans are especially useful as they are a good source of protein and will help to bulk out dishes, making your expensive groceries go further. Similarly, any of the above can be used to turn your leftovers into something different. And you can save yourself up to 50 per cent when you do shop for your essentials by buying from budget supermarkets such as Lidl and Aldi.
Love your leftovers
All too often we cook more than we need. If last night's dinner isn't suitable for freezing, don't just bin the remains. The Sunday roast, for example, provides leftover meat that can be easily turned into sandwiches or curries, while the leftover veg can make for a tasty soup - both can be pureed for the baby. Boil up the carcass for a home-made stock. The key is to think before you bin... get creative in the kitchen and you might just surprise yourself.
'Best before' and 'use by'
The Food Standards agency has our best interests at heart when it comes to 'use by' dates. But lots of us throw perfectly good food out unnecessarily. The 'Best Before' date, for instance, refers to quality rather than safety - past the date marked, you won't be in any danger but the product may lose its flavour. The 'Use By' date should be adhered to, though you can eat the product up to the end of the date displayed. However, always be sure to follow storage instructions as shown on the pack.
Deals and offers
The supermarkets are filled with special offers and deals on food products and it's an easy way to cut your weekly bill. But do be aware that they are not always what they seem and don't be tempted to buy things you don't need simply because they are on offer - stick to your list.
Your local supermarket may not always be the cheapest option so visit mySupermarket.co.uk to compare prices to ensure that you're getting the best deal. Farm shops often allow you to buy large quantities of vegetables such as potatoes at a much cheaper price than the pre-packed supermarket variety and offer fresh, British produce. And if you really want to save yourself some cash, it is worth checking www.approvedfood.co.uk - this site offers hundreds of non-perishable products that are past their sell-by date but perfectly safe to eat.