Updated: Nov 6
It's obvious to many as winter hits that many will be thinking about rising costs. Whether it is because of post-pandemic reasons, rising food costs, job insecurities, interest rates, the war, or rising costs of fuel and energy, it has started to hit home that the value of money has gone down significantly in recent months.
I'm generally quite frugal, and even though I'm careful I have noticed little signs here and there to suggest that prices could get a lot worse as times move on.
Years back, I remember when basic bread loaf was 22p unbranded ( but still tasted good!) and how our household budget ( no kids) was around £35 a week which included work lunches.
I love the topic of living smart when it comes to not wasting food and being money savvy. It was a lifestyle growing up, and it never felt like a 'lack' thing, in fact, it was the opposite as I loved traveling and the monies saved meant I was able to pay for my own school cruise trip to Egypt. Israel and Greece in my teens. Living smart with money meant that I had options and could do so much more.
In this blog, I'll share ways to be savvier with your weekly food shop!
Whatever your reasons to read this blog, here are some practical tips to save, be smart and get through these crazy times.
Budget- yep, this means every pound or dollar gets to work really hard and is accounted for. If the word budget makes you think that you're not living a life, and it's boring, then think again. Are the stresses of being in debt worth it? Having wiggle room to do spontaneous things such as have weekends away, or treat yourself to dinner at a new restaurant or new clothes means that fun money can be included in your budget too.
Don't be ashamed of buying a yellow label- yellow label, discounted food means that food is bought at a discounted price, often it is food going out of date or it's got damaged packaging, so do check the quality of the food. Sometimes we go to the supermarket just to see what is reduced and that becomes dinner. I recently bought a 2kg tub of plain pasta for £1 and another 2kg of ready-to-eat giant cous cous salad for the same price. It was crazy. The only thing to double-check is food quality and store it well. Can it be frozen for example?
Freezing food is your friend- in summer I was totally frustrated at how blueberries, strawberries, and bananas would go off so quickly due to the heat, so started freezing half the batch as soon as I bought it home. the frozen result I'd use for smoothies and also as 'fruit ice' for drinks. Bread, meats, cheese, and milk are all products that can be frozen which means there's more food for another day!
Check your receipts I'll share three stories here, the first time I bought some tofu ( we're suckers for the stuff) and it was heavily reduced, so I bought a batch as it is something we use a lot and it looked like the main high street retailer was doing a clearance thing on it. Well, I got home, I checked my receipt, and found I was overcharged by around £18. I went back to the store and showed the manager that the signage was incorrect. They had in fact charged the non-reduced rate and nothing was on clearance as advertised, so I finally got my refund. The second story was exactly the same, all signage had said it was on offer, but I was overcharged £22 for three food and drink items. The third time this happened was another major grocery chain - advertised half-price pizzas but when it came to checking out, they were full price. Check your receipts! All three were big high-street brands sadly!
Do the maths How often we see 'BoGof' deals and we think we get a bargain but in actual fact, we've saved around 20p but we've ended up spending 3 x more, blowing our budget? Apart from a few handy items such as tinned tomatoes or sauces ( running out of ketchup is annoying at a bbq!) I usually only buy for the week and use up what we've got. At the end of the day we have paid for food at home so why buy new food when we could be wasting food that can be eaten at home? On another note, get to know your prices, if something is priced well, you'll soon know. Often folk are bamboozled by numbers, do not be intimidated by maths. Practice makes perfect and soon, it becomes second nature to do the sums when you know the price of things.
Don't waste food I know this is one of my favourite topics on planet earth, but I really mean it. Wasting food is so damaging to the planet and good food feeds us why would we throw it away? I'm a foodie through and through and whilst it is glamorous and lovely to eat the nice stuff, there are days when a slice of toast and leftover cheese just does the job! The key is to store and manage your pantry 'stock' and use updated foods first. We have a rule in our house where we eat what needs eating first and not foods at a whim ( unless we can freeze or manage it another way). Tomatoes gone soft can be used as homemade ketchup, just chop, add to a pan with a little water, and stew till broken down, throw some herbs in, then blitz and store in a jar. make sure oil covers the top and that should last you a while! I have loads of quick cook tips in my head, am writing my next book soon watch this space!
Shop around & buy frozen or tinned, buying frozen or tins foods can work as they have a longer shelf life without compromising on nutrition. sometimes we need quick food and having ingredients from a tin or freezer means these are readily available too.
Don't be fixated on certain brands or ingredients brand loyalty is a great thing however we have to be realistic. I remember as a student, I was keen to make pesto and everything was in my price bracket until I came to pine nuts. Seriously? Pine nuts cost on average nearly 3x the price of almonds, so I've always made pesto with cashews, almonds, or hazelnuts (sometimes I use a seed mix trail too). I actually figured I don't even like pine nuts?! So why pay more? When it comes to food there are so many brand swaps that'll cost you a fraction of the cost. There is nothing wrong with a basic or essential range brand if it means food gets put on the table!
Invest in quality appliances For those who know me, I'm often raving about my nutribullet. I got it ages ago for £60 and have never had a food processor as it does the trick, whether mixing pancake or cake batter, to making nut milk, pasta dough, to smoothies, soups, and cordials, the nutribullet has been my go-to appliance for most things! And the beauty is? The 'blitz' is so powerful that you're not meant to blitz anything for longer than a minute, so I reckon it saves energy use too! My next two kitchen appliances are the instapot and the insta air fryer. The instapot is another one that doesn't require long hours of cooking, my record was poaching a whole chicken in 22 minutes. It tasted like it had been in there for 3 hours. The air fryer cooks food super quick too, In fact making rosemary chips is a common theme at home now as for a bag of potatoes I can make some decent chunky chips in about 20-25 minutes. For my daughter's party, I made rosemary chips for the adults, and guess what? Kids loved it so much that I might as well have fed them fresh-made chips. The air fryer uses less oil and after parboiling it only takes about 10 mins to crisp up! So again energy use is minimal. I worked out that paying for large chips about 10-11 times would have paid for my air fryer, and I know I get a lot of use from it from crisping up garlic bread to katsu crumbed chicken. Air fryers use less oil and will also last a while. Whether baking cakes, to quick cook crispy food, I found it to be brilliant.
Eat Seasonally this is good for the planet and your health, and believe it or not good for saving money too. If foods need to be shipped to the UK out of season, that will cost you. the quality will not be as fresh and the bill would include travel or 'food mile' costs. The other thing to note is buying local, seasonal food means there is a longer shelf life!
I hope you found this helpful and I'll be sharing more money-saving, smart living tips that hopefully, can take the stress out of rising costs this winter!
picture by Geo Darwin unsplash