Did you know that the average UK household spends £3,224 on groceries and £1581 on dining out and takeaways every year? According to Office for National Statistics , families in the UK spent a whopping 16% of their budget on food in 2019.
Granted that food is an essential expense none of us can avoid but it is also true that most of us end up overspending on food – and all you need to do to confirm that is take a quick look at the budget you’ve drawn up for the month. You would notice that food is one of your main expenses along with rent and mortgage if you have obtained one.
If you have been overspending on food of late, do not stress. There are ways to remedy the situation. That’s because unlike rent which is a fixed expense, what you spend on food every month can be brought down with a bit of foresight and smart planning.
That is not to say that you should compromise on your nutrition intake. As the recent campaign launched by Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford has highlighted, food poverty is a major problem in the UK, and healthy, well-balanced meals are a right of every human being in this country.
Luckily, there are plenty of actionable ways to slash your food spending without compromising on the quality and quantity of food you consume. Here are three simple ways you can bring down your food budget without compromising on your daily nutrition intake:
Create a Monthly Food Budget
Figuring out how much you are presently spending on food items and beverages is a step you cannot skip. In fact, it is impossible to draft and implement a food budget without working out how much you spend on food every month. Here are some of the factors you should consider before creating your budget:
- Your total earnings
- Your disposable income (earnings – expenses)
- Your eating patterns
- Number of people in your household
- Your cooking schedule, consider questions like how much time you can devote to cooking and how likely you are to do it
- Any dietary needs and preferences (for example are you vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free?)
After you take into account all these factors, you can easily create a food budget for yourself. If doing it manually is too much of a hassle, you can use an online grocery calculator to compute your weekly or monthly budget within seconds.
Plan Your Meals
You have created a budget and that’s all well and good – but what good is a budget if you do not stick to it? That is exactly why planning your meals is so important. Planning your meals every week or month will not just make life easier for you, it will also ensure that you are not being wasteful when you are grocery shopping – and save up ultimately.
Once you plan your meals, you will know exactly what to look for in that shopping aisle – and that reduces your chances of getting caught in the trap of impulsive shopping. Whether you are buying food at an organic store or a supermarket, make sure you have a complete list of ingredients for the meals you have planned out.
Buy ingredients with the recipe in mind. Make sure each food item you get factors into your meal plan and try not to deviate from your shopping list. This may seem obvious, but a majority of people tend to buy food items that they like individually – and that’s a problem because most people end up paying for many ingredients they do not need or use in their meals.
This results in food going to waste or last-minute trips to the grocery store and as we all know, being in constant stress and anxiety can lead to some regretful decisions. Creating a meal plan also has other advantages apart from budgeting. You can use these meal plans to monitor your nutrient intake and ensure that you are eating a balanced diet.
There are also several resources you can use to work out your calorie requirements and make a grocery list that includes only the food items that you will be needing for your planned meals. Meal planning tools make it a breeze to create a monthly or weekly diet plan.
Shop Smart and Bargain
Saving up on food is easier when you shop tactfully. If you order groceries online, look out for discounts and offers. If you prefer a visit to the supermarket, always go to the reduced section for fresh produce like meat and vegetables. The reduced section often has ingredients that are priced down because they are about to go out of date. If you are sure you will be cooking right away, you can easily purchase your ingredients at a fraction of the normal cost from this section and that means you will be able to save up. Even if you are not cooking immediately after buying food items, you can always freeze them up to use them later – just make sure you’re mindful of the expiry date.
Supermarkets often sell items at a lower price if their packaging is damaged. Look out for such products every time you go food shopping and you may be able to strike a bargain that is worth it. However, prioritise your health over such discounts at all costs. If the packaging is compromised and the item has been exposed to air, it is better to skip it than get an upset stomach later.
Tip: Try not to shop for groceries or food items on an empty stomach. Research indicates that we are more likely to pick expensive food items and overspend when we shop on empty stomach.
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