There’s no denying food costs are rising. According to figures from the Centre for Economics and Business Research the price of margarine was up by 15.6%, butter by 6.4% and yoghurt by 9.7% in the 12 months to December 2021. Lamb will set you back 8.5% more while the cost of crisps has risen by 6.9%.
You don’t have to pay more for your weekly shop, however. Find out how smarter shopping can keep your bills in check.
With most of us being able to walk to a supermarket it’s easy to shop little and often, but each time you go in you are likely to succumb to temptation and spend more than you need. You will spend less if you plan ahead and just shop once a week. Choose a day that works for you and stick to it.
Shop smart: If you are shopping in-store try and go in the evening. Not only will it be quieter but you may also be able to get some great mark-downs. You’ll also get better value for money in full-size supermarkets rather than local convenience stores like Sainsbury's Local or Tesco Express.
One of the easiest ways to trim your shopping bill is to plan what you will eat in the week ahead as it means you will only buy the food you need. It’s also a great way of tackling food waste. So if you’re buying a chicken to roast on Sunday, you can also schedule in a Monday night risotto with the leftovers.
Planning meals with similar ingredients also reduces the amount of food you need to buy and means you’re less likely to end up throwing food away.
Once you have a meal plan, it shouldn’t take long to write a shopping list. Don’t forget to check your cupboards before you shop - are you sure there isn’t a jar of ground cumin at the back of the cupboard already?
Supermarkets have many tricks to make you spend more, but it is easier to be disciplined if you have a list. If it’s not on the list, it’s not in the trolley!
Shopping online is not only quicker, but it also means you won’t get tempted by the smells wafting out of the in-store bakery or the tins of Roses or Heroes piled high in the entrance.
Most accounts will allow you to create a shopping list which you can save for future orders. This makes it easier to avoid impulse buys or shop floor deals you really don’t need.
Shop smart: If you’re galled by the cost of delivery some supermarkets will charge you less if you choose a longer delivery window. Alternatively click and collect is usually free.
Those bits of paper you get given along with your receipt are only going to get lost at the bottom of your bag. Keep your loyalty points and coupons in one place; on the app on your phone, so you will never be without them.
Whether you’re shopping online or in-store, never do it on an empty stomach. Shopping when you’re hungry only makes you more likely to splurge on convenience foods and snacks. Having something to eat first will keep your bills and your waistline trim.
One of the many ploys supermarkets use to get us filling our trolleys are multi-buy offers like buy one get one free deals. Everybody loves a freebie but these deals are only really a bargain if it’s food you were going to buy anyway and you’ll be able to eat it before it’s use-by date.
A really quick and easy way to save money is to start dropping brands. Lots of people have preconceptions about the quality of certain supermarket own items like baked beans, ketchup and breakfast cereals.
Not all own brand products will be as tasty as their branded alternatives, but some undoubtedly are. Try them, you might be pleasantly surprised.
Even if you don’t drop every brand you use, switching a few can make a significant difference to your food bill.
Sticking to a list or a budget does take discipline. If you are worried about getting carried away in the aisles make it impossible for you to spend more than you can afford. You can do that by bringing your weekly food budget in cash, or transferring it onto a debit card or prepaid card and only using that when you shop.
If you’ve got a decent size freezer make the most of it. Or, if you’ve not got one it could be a very sensible investment.
Freezer space makes it easier to batch cook your meals, store leftovers, and take advantage of end of day discounts on items like meat and fish.
In weeks when money is tight, digging out meals from the freezer can be a great way of eating well and keeping your costs down.
Shop smart: Whether you love a curry or a lasagne, batch cooking your favourites and freezing them, can save you an expensive take away or ready meal on those nights you don’t fancy cooking.
Salman is our personal finance editor with over 10 years’ experience as a journalist. He has previously written for Finder and regularly provides his expert view on financial and consumer spending issues for local and national press such as The Express, Travel Daily, and The Daily Star.