The weekly shop for many families can be a mix of joy and dread especially when it comes to check out and discovering that we have far exceeded our initial budget. This is particularly true when we aren’t alone on a food shop and many items seem to just get “dropped” in for purchase at the end with sweets and treats being a major culprit!
Not to fear however, as this article will seek to show how with a few simple steps, five to be exact, you can make key savings to your weekly shop and have more control over your family food budgets. Without delay let’s get started!
Let’s start before we even get to the supermarket with the day before our planned trip to the shops. A key cause of spending over budget at the shops is going without a list or even idea of what we actually need and nothing is more annoying then returning home and finding you already have something you have come home with!
So, the day before your planned excursion, get a pen and paper (or note app on your smart phone), and go through your cupboards, fridge and freezer and make a list of exactly what it is you need for the week. While doing this think, what do you use often? What are you running low on? What are your key go-to ingredients that you must have for the week?
As you are shopping for just the next 7 days you should have a key foundation list of the things you actually need and the things you are running low on and which you need to buy again. This list shouldn’t be big as what you are looking for are you base items such as pasta, rice, bread, butter, cooking oil, sugar, eggs etc. This is important because it avoids you having to pop out during the week to an expensive smaller shop nearby to get one of these key items.
Plan and plan again! With your list of base ingredients and household items to get you through the week, next is to plan your meals and get used to making meals from scratch. What will you and your family have for breakfast for the week? What will lunch be and how many lunches need to be made? What will dinner be? What snacks or desserts will you have? Avoid expensive ready meals!
Having a meal plan for the week will drastically reduce your food bill as you will be going to the shops armed with exactly what you need and will be unlikely to wonder around and buy what you may not need due to offers on that day. If you are unsure, have some fun and research some interesting but simple recipes and again, avoid the ready meals!
The key to this step is to build on your “foundation” and buy items that you may only buy this particular week, to try a newrecipe for example, and with the list you are likely to stay in budget.
Armed with our list we have made the day before our shopping day, the next step is to actually go to the supermarket. One of the biggest savings you can make is to target the lower price supermarkets. Although they may have a reputation for lower quality the reality may surprise you.
Taking Aldi as a case in point, the low costs are supported by tactical decisions made by the supermarket and the impact on quality is reduced in the following ways. They will only stock their own branded goods avoiding the expensive labelling that comes with known brands; they stock shelves in bulk reducing the time and manpower required (see items still in their boxes?); the manned checkout counters work at speed and the smaller space at the end is designed so that you move to the shelfs by the windows to pack enabling faster customer checkouts.
These are just some of the ways that the lower price supermarkets are able to cut costs in other areas and it is important to understand how costs are saved so that questions over quality can be answered. By all means, if you have a particular brand of a particular product then buy it, you don’t want to feel deprived, but where you can, opt for the lower priced supermarket on more generic goods. If you are still unsure, try it for a month and see if you can really see the difference and you may be surprised not just by the products but by the savings you make too!
The next step in our weekly shopping budget guide is knowing our dates! It is important when it comes to shoppingfor food, and throwing it away, that we know what we are looking at and what the potential expiry of our products will be. It is useful to know the difference between “use-by” and “best before”.
“Use by” is a date by which you must use the products by and should always be adhered to. This kind of date is normally found on produce that could cause illness if consumed when gone bad such as meat and dairy.
“Best before” dates are those that are advising the date by which the product is in its best quality and, while it will still be safe to eat the product after its “best before” date, it has passed its optimum quality.
Our final step in our five step food budget friendly guide to the weekly shop is in some ways the most important. If you don’t follow this step then it will be difficult to stick to your list. This step is simple but important and that is don’t shop when hungry!
If you shop when you are hungry you are unlikely to buy food that you can use during the week as you will be hungry then and there and are more likely to buy filling foods which could also translate into junk. These foods will not help your budget, are unlikely to be healthy and will not contribute to your planned meals as it will be food you’ll want to cook now.
So the best way to follow your list and stick to your budget is to have a good hearty meal before you embark on your shopping trip.
So that is the end of our five step guide to reducing your weekly food bill. By taking stock of what you have and what you need at home, planning the weeks meals, opting for lower priced supermarkets, knowing the difference between “use by” and “best before” and having a good meal before you go shopping will all help to maintain a healthy budget, healthy meal time and healthy life!