If you’ve been watching the pennies closely lately, then I’m sure you’ll have taken a sharp intake of breath or two at the prices down the supermarket aisles these days.
Prices are rising for a wide range of reasons – none of which are going away any time soon. Inflation hit 10.5% as the year ended, and food price inflation – the price an average basket of groceries costs – is up even higher, to a whopping 13.3%. Some of the biggest increases seen recently are in the cost of essentials like milk, margarine and pasta.
All of which means we’re going to have to make a few changes to the way we shop, eat and live to save some cash in 2023. Here are my top tips.
My top tips for saving cash on grocery shopping
- Bring back the shopping list! In recent years, we’ve got used to wandering the aisles of the supermarkets and buying things on a whim. That meant we were susceptible to all kinds of sneaky tricks, like questionable multi-pack deals and impulse buys. Working off a list is a great way to keep on top of your spending – and you can price things up online too.
- Focus on the key kitchen essentials that last – past and rice, spices, tins, dried goods. These items can be used in countless meal options and will last so you won’t have any waste.
- Avoid doing a big shop straight after payday because psychologically, the more cash you have in your account, the more you’re likely to spend. Shop mid-month when making the money last will be more on your mind or withdraw cash and use the shopping list to stay within your limits. And never food shop when you are hungry.
- Neighbour pooling is a great way to save on food if you have limited storage space – particularly in the fridge/freezer. Speak to neighbours and family, find out what they’d buy with you then split the item you’ve bulk bought along with the cash.
- Shop seasonal. At certain times of the year there are discounts on goods linked to religious festivals, holidays, events and more. After these events, you’ll get big discounts on these items too, despite some having long sell by dates.
- Supermarket loyalty schemes can help you cut your costs, though some of the deals have become a bit stingier recently. Recent research by Which? found that you could save between 50p and a tenner for every £100 you spend. You could save on petrol too.
- Pick the ugly option. There’s nothing wrong with ugly fruit and veg – and some shops specialist in these supermarket rejects which you can bulk buy very cheaply.
- When you buy fresh food, don’t think of just using it in one meal. Cook it up, make soups, get creative. Fruit smoothies can be saved in the freezer too. Get a recycling bin for fresh items – it will focus your mind on the food waste and you’ll use it more.
- If money is tight, go frozen. Frozen fruit and veg is much cheaper and lasts longer and if you’re too busy to cook up a fresh meal, you can still make sure it’s balanced. Stock up on tinned goods too as they’re often much, much cheaper. And defrosting the freezer regularly can save you £100 to £200 in energy bills too.
- Warehouse clubs – think the old Costco/ Booker model. Warehouse retailers usually have membership schemes (borrow a card!) and this is where the super bulk items are lurking!
- If money is really tight, then why not use food sharing apps like Olio, where food that isn’t sold is redistributed for free.
Martyn James is a leading consumer rights campaigner, TV and radio broadcaster and journalist.