Ditching takeaways and swapping eating for the comforts of home cooking have apparently helped slash £600 from our annual food bills over the past four years. We asked money journalist Faith Archer, who also writes the blog Much More with Less, for her tips on keeping food costs down.
Like millions of families, I save an arm and a leg by cooking at home, rather than ringing for takeaways or splashing out in restaurants.
A survey this week shows the average UK adult has slashed their food spending by more than £600 a year compared to 2013.
The big difference?
Skipping the odd takeaway, and spending 28% less at the likes of the chippie and the curry house. Heading home rather than eating out, and lopping 25% off the bill for meals at bars and restaurants.
By getting clever with cooking, the average UK adult now shells out £3,680 a year on groceries, takeaways and meals out, according to the research by website VoucherCodes.
I've certainly found that home cooking has cut our food costs.
When my husband and I were both slaving away at full-time jobs, we relied on supermarket deliveries costing about £110 a week and ate out regularly.
Two children and one move from London to Suffolk later, and our circumstances and shopping are a bit different!
I juggle the kids and part-time work, and now spend around £60 a week at the supermarket for our family of four.
Here are my six top tips for cutting your food costs further.
1. Buy what you need, not what's run out
Before shopping, I rifle through my freezer, fridge and kitchen cupboards to see what we've got. Then I think up meals based on the contents of my kitchen, and just buy the extra items needed, rather than restocking everything.
I also look out for opened packets, short-dated food, bendy veg and really ripe fruit, so I can use them up before they need chucking away. I hate throwing money in the bin!
2. Stick to a shopping list
Something as simple as a shopping list has made a massive difference to our food bills.
It might just be a few scribbles on the back of an envelope, or a memo on my phone.
But writing shopping lists has saved me time, money and wasted food. It helps to stop me doubling up on food we already have, cut back on extra top up shops for the food I've forgotten, and avoid expensive extras slipping into my shopping trolley.
3. Get savvy in the supermarket
Our biggest cost-cutter has been shifting down from big brands to supermarket own brand and value ranges. It's got to be worth a try – you can always switch back if you don't like the new version. But think of the savings every time you stick with a cheaper option.
I also check the shelf labels for the best value price per kilo, buy a lot of loose fruit and veg rather than expensively packaged versions and scoop up yellow-stickered bargains from the reduced sections.
4. Cook once, eat twice
Making some meals in industrial quantities, like curries, soups, stews and sauces, can also save time as well as money. It doesn't take much more effort to make a big batch of Bolognese – then my husband can take half as a packed lunch, or we freeze it as a home-made ready meal.
5. "Can't be bothered to cook" nights
Sure, home cooking is better for your wallet and your waistline. But we all have days when we just can't face cooking or the fridge is bare, so I try to be prepared.
If I've got a packet of fishfingers stashed at the back of the freezer, I'm less likely to nip out for fish and chips. We also keep a couple of "emergency pizzas" in the freezer drawer, rather than ringing for a Dominos delivery. Saving £20 a week on a Friday night takeaway tots up to more than £1,000 a year.
6. DIY lunches
Lunch out can soon add up, whether it's quick trip to the sandwich shop during the week, or a pit stop at a café on a family day out.
Instead, my husband heads off to work with a natty range of Tupperware, containing anything from the leftovers from Sunday lunch to a couple of quick sandwiches.
If we're going on a family outing, I'll pack up a picnic, even if we end up eating in the car. I pop in a few treats so the kids are happy. Then we can use some of the money saved to buy everyone an ice cream afterwards.
What do you think of Faith's ideas? Do you have any of your own to add?
This guest post is from Faith Archer and doesn't necessarily reflect the views of the Money Advice Service. You can find out more about Faith and what she does on her blog, Much More with Less.
This article is provided by the Money Advice Service.