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Saving money and increasing income

How do I save money on food and meals?

Your living costs are as important as any priority bills you may have. One of your most essential living costs is food.

If you're dealing with debt or have a limited income, it's tempting to cut your food costs. You should never have to worry about regular meals for you and your family. If you find yourself struggling, emergency help with money and food, including foodbanks, is available.

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Try these tips for saving money on food

Your food shopping takes up a large amount of your monthly budget. By looking for ways to save money, you may find increased food costs easier to deal with.

Plan your meals

By planning your meals, you can save yourself time and stress as well as money. Cooking meals from scratch is healthier than eating ready-made meals which can be high in salt and sugar.


Batch cooking

If you have a freezer, this is an effective way to be more efficient. Batch cooking is where you cook enough food for multiple meals and freeze it for when you need it. Batch cooking can save you time, you won’t need to cook everyday. It also saves you money by using up ingredients before they go off.

You don’t need to be an expert chef to plan and batch cook your meals. Learn two or three recipes to get you started. You can find lots of easy-to-follow recipes for free online. Some examples of meals that work great for batch cooking are:

  • Stews/soups
  • Spaghetti Bolognese
  • Chilli
  • Cottage pie
  • Bean and sausage hotpot

All these dishes can be made dairy or meat free for vegetarians and vegans.

Regularly check what food you have in stock

It sounds obvious, but the best way to save money on food is to base your meals around what you have already. It can help you spend less on food shopping, because then you’ll only buy the items you really need.

Take note of any tinned foods you have, as well as any dried foods such as rice and pasta, before you head to the shop. It also helps to know what seasoning and sauces you already have. Keep your cupboards tidy so you can see what you have in stock more easily, to avoid re-buying items lurking at the back of the cupboard. Don’t forget to check your freezer as well.

Look at ways to use up fresh food first

If you have fresh food such as fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy, focus on including these in your meals over the next couple of days. Check the ‘use by’ dates on your fresh food and try to use them up in order of which date is sooner.

Don’t be put off if a food item’s ‘best before’ date is today. This date is different to the ‘use by’ date. It only indicates when the food is in its best condition, and it’s usually fine to eat. Don’t eat items past their ‘use by’ date.

How can I save money when buying food at the supermarket?

When you shop for food at the supermarket, you may find that you spend more than you planned to. Supermarkets are designed to tempt you into buying items you may not need.

There are simple tips to help save money on your food shopping.

Write a list

Making a list can keep you from buying items on impulse.

Check what you have in your cupboards, fridge and freezer and make a note of what you need. Do your best to stick to this list while you’re shopping.

You could even use a free app on your phone to make a note of what you need. Some have alerts to remind you when you need to restock an item.

When considering a special offer, make sure to check the item’s ‘price per weight’ on the price ticket rather than how much the price has been reduced. That way, you know exactly how much you’re getting for your money and can compare with similar products.

Visit the reduced section

Supermarkets must get rid of food items by the ‘best before’ date. These items are usually fine to eat for some time afterwards or you can freeze them for a later date.

There may be more than one reduced section in the store. Check the fresh, chilled and stock cupboard sections.

Use supermarket coupons

Before you go shopping, check the supermarket’s or product’s website to see if there are any coupons available. You can then print them off at home or use them on your phone to get a discount. As with all special offers, only use coupons on items that you know you need

Make a note of what everything costs

When you get home, look at the receipt and make a note of what you spent on each item. Over time, you’ll become familiar with these costs, which will help you when you plan your meals.

Downshift to a cheaper supermarket

If you haven’t already, consider switching to a cheaper supermarket. Doing this could save you hundreds of pounds a year. Try looking for websites that compare prices between different supermarkets.

Have a meat-free day

Popular meat cuts such as chicken breast and lean mince can be expensive. By having at least one meat free day each week, you could save a considerable amount of money over time.

Add more vegetables to bulk up your meals.

Pulses such as beans and lentils can make you feel full for longer, and are a good source of protein and other nutrients.

Only buy what you can use or freeze

When buying fresh fruit and vegetables only buy what you can use in the next couple of days.

If you’re not using them straight away, freeze meat or fish as soon as you get home, and include them in your next meal plan.

How can I save money on fruit and vegetables?

The NHS recommends that we eat at least five 80-gram portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Vegetables add bulk to your meal, and because they contain a lot of water, they help you stay hydrated.

Fruit and vegetables tend to go off quickly, which can be both frustrating and costly if you don’t use them up in time.

Frozen fruit and veg are just as nutritious as fresh. The frozen variety is often cheaper and can last much longer.

Buy frozen fruit and veg where you can. If you have fresh fruit and veg, try freezing it before it goes off. You can keep fruit and veg can in the freezer for up to a year, so there’s plenty of opportunity to use them up.

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