Tricks to slash your food bills

Lidl was recently named the cheapest supermarket in the UK, but the thriftiest place to shop depends on what kind of consumer you are – so here’s the rundown!

how to cut food bills

by Closer staff |

Which? recently compared a trolley of 23 essentials, including apples, eggs and branded goods such as Hovis wholemeal bread, at UK supermarkets. Lidl was named cheapest, but as we all eat and shop differently, we asked three frugal money bloggers where to bag the best grocery bargains…

Shop in store for families on a budget

Jane Berry, blogger at shoestringcottage.com, recommends shopping in person at your local supermarket. “You can easily compare prices and see where the bargains are. You miss out on yellow discount stickers if you shop online. Experiment with the timing of your visits to see when the biggest discounts occur. You will often get the best deals last thing on a Sunday afternoon or just before a big holiday,” she says. “Generally, you’ll find the best discounts on fresh food at the end of the day. Certain supermarkets discount heavily on a Monday morning. I have found brilliant deals in Morrisons at this time.” Another idea is to bulk buy, at bulksupermarket.

“You can make some serious savings buying rice, pasta, tinned goods and meat en masse,” says Ricky Willis, founder of skintdad.

“If you’re worried about room, team up with a friend to split the cost and the storage space.”

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Find cheap ingredients for home cooks

“When cooking from scratch, ASDA is a good bet, with low prices on a wider range of basic ingredients,” says Faith Archer, from muchmorewithless.co.uk. “I’m a big fan of supermarket value ranges for essentials, such as tinned tomatoes, kidney beans, natural yoghurt and soft cheese, whether from Morrisons Savers, ASDA Smart Price or the assorted value range brands from Sainsbury’s and Tesco.” However, there are some items to watch out for according to Faith. She says, “Value range sausages, for example, tend to have very low meat content so I make a veggie meal instead, or hold out for a discount on short-dated yellow-stickered premium sausages.” With the essentials already stocked in the cupboard, you can make delicious recipes such as a sausage and lentil stew.

Stay seasonal with vegetables

“For cheap veg, buy fresh stuff in season, steer clear of exotic veg that has to be shipped from abroad, and try tinned and frozen alternatives,” says Faith. “Buying a whole lettuce and a bag of carrots will cost less than a salad bag and carrot sticks, where you’re paying someone else to do the prep. When buying fresh veg, be realistic about what you’ll eat and how quickly, so you’re not throwing food in the bin. Stock up freezers at Christmas and Easter, when supermarkets offer super-cheap prices as low as 14p for a bag of veg. I look out for ‘wonky’ veg packs at stores such as the Co-op and Morrisons, and Lidl does brilliant 5kg boxes of wonky fruit and vegetables for just £1.50. It tastes just as good. Check out Olio and Too Good To Go to find short-dated food for less, and cut food waste at the same time. I’ve nabbed several ‘magic bags’ from Morrisons via Too Good To Go, which contain more than a tenner’s worth of food for £3.09. I expected Iceland to be cheapest for frozen veg, but prices are often higher because they are rounded up to £1, £1.50 or £2 price points, so do compare with other supermarkets.”

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Don’t get ripped off if you’re vegan!

It was recently revealed that some vegan items are 45 per cent more expensive, depending on which supermarket you choose. But you needn’t spend more if you’re vegan. ASDA has been working hard to make alternative eating more accessible, so its own-brand soya milk, for example, costs just 62p. It’s also increased the amount of fresh fruit and veg it carries, and its Smart Price range means stocking up on items such as pulses or tinned tomatoes is also great value. Lidl and Aldi also have low-cost vegan food ranges, but if you want to get your shop done in one cost-effective weekly shop, head to ASDA. If you want meat alternatives or vegan ready-meals, try Morrisons or Tesco for plenty of choice and good value.

Slowly introduce own-label products

In February this year, own-label sales did better than brands for the first time in three months as we’ve all been trying to cut our costs. “Most of the supermarkets now do decent own-brand products,” says Jane. “Try the lowest price ranges of pretty much any retailer to start and if you don’t like the ‘value’ type product, work your way up through the supermarket own-brands until you find the range that works for you! If you approach this exercise with an open mind and try not to be drawn in by the fancy packaging and persuasive advertising, you may find

there is very little difference between some ranges. If the rest of your family or people you live with are brand snobs, try putting a cheaper product into unmarked containers and tell them they are eating the same as usual.” Faith warns that while Waitrose’s Essentials range often scores highly in taste tests, the price of its value range is similar to branded items in other supermarkets.

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Avoid buying on impulse

“If you shop on impulse rather than making a list, it’s safer to shop at Aldi and Lidl, where temptations are cheaper and where they don’t stock so many ranges,” says Faith. “Shopping at corner stores and mini supermarkets will really eat into your budget, as prices are consistently higher, and you’re less likely to find value products. Research by Which? found you’d pay 9.5 per cent more over the course of a year for the exact same groceries at Sainsbury’s Local rather than a normal Sainsbury’s supermarket.” If your impulse buys tend to be sweet treats and chocolate, check out Lowpricefoods.com – it sells items close to or just past their “best before” date, which means they are still good to eat, but prices are much lower than in supermarkets.

Ways to cut fuel costs if you drive a lot

Have a clear out

Removing any excess weight from your vehicle will make it cheaper to run, so have a look to see if you are junking the boot up with unnecessary clutter.

Take off the roof rack!

Leaving roof bars and roof boxes on a car creates a “drag” effect. According to the Energy Saving Trust, an empty roof rack adds 16 per cent drag when driving at 75mph, while a roof box adds 39 per cent, making your vehicle much less fuel efficient.

Avoid stop/start driving

Keep your eyes on the road ahead and slow down rather than come to a complete stop, whenever you safely can, as this uses less fuel. Harsh acceleration and braking uses more fuel than driving gently, so slowly roll up to roundabouts and traffic lights.

Check your tyres

Make sure tyres are inflated to the correct pressure as stated in the owner’s manual, as having them either underinflated or overinflated can adversely affect fuel economy, according to the RAC.

Prepare for hills

Driving up hills uses more fuel, so when you spot one looming, accelerate a little (bearing in mind speed limits) before you reach it, then ease off as you drive up to use momentum and cut fuel consumption.

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