Features, Lifestyle

8 ways to eat for less: a guide to savvy supermarket shopping

It’s a sorry state of affairs to see a grown woman crying at the supermarket checkout but that’s exactly how I felt today when I saw my final food bill. Prices are now so high that we all have to make some serious changes in how we shop to survive. There are the basic options: change down a supermarket or change down a brand. However with many supermarkets price-matching at the moment that might not make much difference. What are the best ways of cutting our food bills without cutting our lifestyle?

1. Know your labels.

So many people do not understand the difference between a best before date, a display until date and a use by date on food:

Best Before means just that; that the food is guaranteed to be at it’s best before that date but is perfectly fine to eat after that date provided no signs of degradation (i.e. mould/separation of dairy products/fermentation) are visible.

Display Until dates are much the same, often found on fresh fruit and vegetables these are purely for stock rotation. They tell the shop staff when they need to remove old stock.

Use By dates on the other hand should never be ignored. They are there for your safety. Usually this date is on things like meat, fish, poultry and dairy and items which may carry salmonella. Please do not attempt to eat any of these after the use by date.

Notice the Display Until and Use By dates are different!

2. Make use of your freezer.

Frozen food is much cheaper and actually fresher than a lot of the ‘fresh’ produce you get in stores, especially when it comes to fish & vegetables. You’ll also find you have far less waste.

Batch cook. Freezers work more economically when full. The less space they have to chill, the better. Resist the temptation to fill it with over-priced ready meals – shop smart and batch cook your favourite family dishes. Lasagne, curry and stew are favourites in our house but pretty much anything will freeze. Just remember: if it’s already been thawed it must be cooked before you refreeze it. If in doubt, Google it.

Be a yellow sticker shopper. Most supermarkets have a reduced section. Get to know where yours is and don’t be afraid to ask staff what time they normally do the markdowns. Remember that although these products may be on their display until or best before date if you freeze on day of purchase they will last months. Alternatively you can cook up a batch of something tasty on the same day and freeze that for later.

Split meat packs. If you regularly buy packs of meat which are large enough to feed your household for more than one meal split them into individual portions before freezing. I always freeze chicken breasts, pork chops, steaks etc individually to reduce waste.

3. Be fridge smart

Can you remember what is in your fridge right now? So much of our food budget is spent on perishable items which must be stored in the fridge. Much of it gets wasted when it’s pushed to the back and forgotten until well after it is edible. Perishables like meat, fish, fresh vegetables and dairy are some of the most expensive items on your shopping list each week so think smart. Only keep in your fridge what needs to be there. This is usually only dairy products, cooked meat and enough raw meat for the next couple of days. Get in the habit of freezing all your meat and take out what you need each morning/evening for the following day. Switch to frozen vegetables,for everything but salads and you will cut down massively on waste.

Top tip: NEVER use the salad drawer. Once it goes in the drawer you instantly forget you have it because you can’t see it.

4.Make a treat out of childhood favourites.

We all have foods that we loved as a kid that we feel either guilty or silly for enjoying as adult. Since most of us weren’t regularly served partridge in a red wine jus as 8 year olds, these meals are often cheap and cheerful dishes that can make us smile and save us pennies at the same time. In our house this amounts to spaghetti hoops on toast, potatoes and cheese sauce or fish fingers, chips and beans. Whip out one or two of these dishes a week and you’ve cut a chunk off your final bill.

Photo by rolled_trousers on flickr

5.Check your portion sizes

Once you have served a meal how much left over rice/pasta/potato goes in the bin and how much extra did you eat because it was there? Could you cut your portion sizes and cut your costs this way? Historically we have always used cheap carbohydrates like bread and potatoes to pad out a meal but often we take it too far and make portions far too big, making us both fatter and poorer at the same time. Even if you think your portions are about right try cutting them down a little. If you are actually still hungry finish off with some bread.

6. Dish up in the kitchen, serve to the table.

Unless it’s a special occasion, plate your food up in the kitchen and then bring to the table. By placing self-service dishes on the table you are likely to:

a) Cook more. A ramekin of peas doesn’t look right on a table so you’ll do a bowlful of unnecessary and wasteful peas to fill the space.

Photo by F0t0Synth on flickr

b) Eat more. No matter how much you’ve had you’ll have a little more if it’s right in front of you. If you have to walk to another room you are less likely to eat for the sake of it. This is also true of bread products. If you are eating something with bread only take one portion each to the table. Do not take the whole loaf or pack of rolls as they will be eaten just to empty the bowl.

7.Make use of your leftovers.

Always have a plan for your leftovers. You may wish to freeze them as they are ready for an emergency lunch or speedy evening meal. Most meats will make a great curry the day after you’ve cooked them. Keep a couple of premixed sauces in for this purpose and try and get them when they are half price. Alternatively, mix with a can of tomatoes and stock for an Italian style casserole or simply a little instant gravy and some homemade pastry for quick and tasty pie.You can always use roasted or grilled meat for packed lunches, sandwiches or salads.

8. Get inspired and learn new recipes.

Most of us have the same tried and tested recipes we use over and over again. As a consequence meal times can become quite boring. But with the same few ingredients it is possible to make several different meals (I’ll be showing you how later in the month with some of my store cupboard essentials). There are many websites out there, like www.supercook.com, which can help you by providing recipes tailored to exactly what you have in your cupboards. The more recipes you are armed with, the more successful your battle against waste and expense will be.

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About Kait Leeming

Pushing 30, thrifty crafter and foody. One husband, one dog, one baby (small). Too many interests, too little time, far too few brew & biccy breaks.

Discussion

3 thoughts on “8 ways to eat for less: a guide to savvy supermarket shopping

  1. This is an incredibly informative post! Great job!

    Posted by martha84 | January 14, 2012, 8:27 pm
  2. Re: Freezing meat portions- I usually wrap each chop/fillet in cling film before popping them back in the orginal tray. If I don’t they got lost to the back of the freezer and doomed to freezer burn.

    Posted by Mell Moore | January 16, 2012, 6:05 pm
  3. Hi, everything is going fine here and ofcourse every one is sharing facts, thats truly fine, keep up writing.

    Posted by allsaints | January 16, 2012, 8:16 pm

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