I never thought that I’d be writing tips on saving money on food in 2022, but here we are. For a variety of reasons, including the impact of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, food prices are spiralling.
It’s not just in the obvious areas, like wheat or sunflower oil. The whole production of food requires staff to harvest or make it, multiple ingredients and processes and others to get the finished product to its destination.
This has led to projected increases in the cost of food hitting £380 a year, or an extra £32 a month. Supermarket ASDA has already reported customers are limiting themselves to £30 spends at the tills and all the main supermarkets report increased demands for their budget ranges.
It is still possible to save some cash though, through a combination of savvy shopping and knowing where to find bargains and freebies. Here are a few of my tips.
Firstly, make a shopping list. Lots of use have abandoned the traditional list when we go shopping but it’s the best way to ensure you buy what you need, not what catches your eye. Supermarkets are masters of distraction techniques so be resistant to offers that look like bargains but actually aren’t when you do the maths. Never go shopping hungry too – physiologically you are more likely to overspend. The same goes for shopping the day you get paid.
Go shopping in the evening. Most big supermarkets open till midnight and the late shift is where you’ll often find the big markdowns – particularly on fresh food. Watch out for the end of aisle offers too. The key essentials and bargains we need tend to lurk at the back of the store or on lower shelves.
When it comes to fresh vegies and meat, go local. Most people will have a farm within 10 miles of them – even in cities. Think of the farm signs you sometimes spot when driving, offering eggs, veg and more. Make friends with a farmer and club together with your neighbours to buy a big sack or bag of locally sourced veg or fresh goods. Meat, fish and other products are much cheaper on traditional market stalls too – without all the packaging.
If cash is tight, then get online and find some amazing freebies! There are new apps like Olio which bring you and your neighbours together along with local supermarkets and businesses to redistribute food that would otherwise go out of date or be thrown away. It’s really simple to donate and just as easily claim food for free if you need it. If there isn’t one in your neighbourhood, why not set up a Facebook or WhatsApp group in your local area to do the same thing? My neighbours have just done this and not only is it helping people in need, its bringing us all together too.
You can save a fortune by bulk buying – but it’s not always practical when purchasing a massive bag of flour or pasta up front. So why not club together with your family or neighbours to bulk buy and split the goods? I recently filmed a feature for television where we tried this out and were astounded by the savings. A bulk buy supermarket pack of fishfingers worked out at 6p per fishfinger, versus 35p each for a big brand.
Cut down on waste. If your fruit or vegetables are starting to wilt, then make them in to smoothies or soups. You can stick ‘em in freezer bags and pop them in the freezer too. I freely confess to being an absolutely useless cook, but even I managed to pull this one off!
Let’s face it – we shouldn’t have be talking about making savings on vital things like food in the 21st Century. That’s why I’ll be working with leading campaigners, policy makers and Government organisations throughout the year in my role as a consumer rights campaigner to find practical, realistic solutions to the cost of living crisis. Watch this space and share your stories.
Martyn James is a leading consumer rights campaigner, TV and radio broadcaster and journalist.