Grocery shopping is a necessary chore, but the rising cost of food makes it harder to stick to your budget. Food prices in the UK have increased substantially in recent years due to factors like inflation, supply chain issues, and the war in Ukraine.
This puts extra pressure on consumers to find ways to reduce spending at the supermarket. While clipping coupons and buying generic brands helps, there are many other clever strategies you can use to trim your grocery bill.
This listicle outlines 12 smart tips to save money on groceries for UK shoppers. With some planning and strategic shopping, you can painlessly pare down your food costs. Read on to learn insider tricks on how to get more for your money during your weekly shop.
1. Make a Weekly Meal Plan
One of the best ways to save money on groceries is to plan out your meals in advance. This prevents overspending on food you won’t use and reduces waste. Sit down each week and make a meal plan for the next seven days.
Consider what food you already have on hand and build meals around those items. Look at the store flyers and plan recipes that use what’s on sale. Factor in your schedule, cooking abilities, and family food preferences.
Make sure to include easy options for busy nights as well as meals that use up leftovers. Once your weekly plan is made, write a comprehensive grocery list so you only buy what you need for those meals.
Meal planning takes a little time up front but saves money over the long run. You waste less food and buy only ingredients you’ll actually use that week. Planning your meals also makes shopping quicker since you'll know exactly what to buy.
2. Always Use a Grocery List
Never go to the supermarket without a detailed grocery list based on your meal plan. Sticking to your list helps avoid impulse purchases and overspending. Make your list organised and thorough:
- List ingredients needed for each planned meal. This ensures you don’t forget anything but also don’t buy excess.
- Organise your list by aisle. This makes shopping faster so you’re less tempted by impulse buys.
- Include staples you need. Note things like cooking oil, spices, tea, coffee, snacks, etc.
- Leave the kids at home if possible. Children often plead for unplanned treats adding cost to your shop.
- Buy only what’s on your list. Don’t get swayed into purchases not on your list.
Using a meal plan-based grocery list could save you £10-20 per shop from avoiding impulse buys alone.
3. Compare Unit Prices
Savvy shoppers don’t just look at the total price when comparing food items. Be sure to check the unit price, which tells you the cost per pound, quart, square feet, or other unit.
Often the largest size is not the best deal if you compare the unit prices. For example, a 500g box of pasta for £1.50 works out to £3 per kilo. But a 1kg bag for £2.25 equals just £2.25 per kilo – the better buy.
The same goes for produce and many other groceries. Take an extra minute when shopping to check unit prices rather than just grabbing the first option you see. This ensures you get the lowest price no matter what quantity you need.
4. Buy Store Brands
Opting for the supermarket's own brand over big national brands saves you money without sacrificing quality. Tesco Value, Sainsbury’s Basics, Asda Smart Price, and other store brands can cost up to 30% less than major brands.
You’ll get the same or very similar products – the store just doesn’t have to pay for fancy packaging and marketing. If your family only likes certain name brands, choose just those must-haves and go with store brands for the rest.
Another option is mixing one national brand with one store brand, like Heinz baked beans with Tesco spaghetti. This lets you save a bit without an outright switch.
5. Shop the Weekly Specials
Check store fliers and websites to see what’s on special each week and plan your meals around the deals. Buying items on sale can save you serious cash.
If something you use regularly is on offer, stock up and buy extra if you have room to store it. For example, if pasta sauce is 50% off, buy enough to last several weeks.
The same goes for non-perishables like tinned beans, rice, pasta, laundry detergent, toilet paper, and more. Taking advantage of weekly specials easily shaves 15-20% off your bill.
6. Use Loyalty Cards and Apps
Sign up for free loyalty cards or apps from the supermarkets where you regularly shop. These include Tesco Clubcard, Nectar Card, My Morrisons, Asda Rewards, and more.
The cards track your purchases and reward you with points, coupons, and money off vouchers. Make sure you scan your card or app during checkout on every grocery run.
Over time, the savings from rewards cards can add up. You also often get special loyalty member prices. So don’t grocery shop without your rewards cards!
7. Buy In-Season Produce
Fruits and vegetables naturally cost less when they are in season locally. So opt for fresh produce that’s at its peak to save money.
In-season options will be fresher, tastier, and cheaper. Out of season produce is more expensive because it has to be imported from far away.
Check what’s in season and plan your grocery list accordingly. For example, enjoy berries and greens in the summer, root veggies in the winter, and apples and squash in the autumn.
Eating seasonally also has environmental benefits from reduced transport emissions. It's a win-win for your budget and the planet.
8. Cook Once, Eat Twice
Double recipes when cooking dishes like soups, casseroles, curries, chillies, and pasta sauces. Freeze half for quick future meals.
For example, whip up a double batch of spaghetti bolognese or vegetable curry. Enjoy one now and pack the rest in single portions to freeze.
You can also roast a chicken or joint of meat and use the leftovers in sandwiches, pies, tacos, etc later in the week. Doing some batch cooking on weekends saves you money by reducing food waste.
9. Love Your Leftovers
Speaking of leftovers, embrace them as an opportunity to save money and reduce waste. Don’t let leftover veg and meat go bad in the fridge.
Leftover cooked veg makes great soup or bubble and squeak. Extra chicken, beef or lamb can go in sandwiches, wraps, pasta bakes and more.
Casseroles, curries, and pasta dishes often taste even better as leftovers. Be creative with leftovers and waste less food.
10. Batch Cook Staples
Many basic ingredients can be cooked in bulk for the week ahead including beans, lentils, grains, and broths. Having ready-to-go staples makes throwing together weeknight meals much easier.
Try cooking a big pot of rice, quinoa, or barley on the weekend. Make a large batch of vegetable or chicken stock. Cook dried beans to have on hand.
Pre-prepped staples mean you can skip steps during the week. Having ingredients ready to go also lowers the temptation of takeaways on busy nights.
11. Shop Late in the Day
Grocery stores often mark down perishable items like meat, bread, and prepared meals late in the day. Shop later to scoop up discounts.
Discounted produce, bakery items, deli meat, and ready meals can be 30-50% off if you shop in the evening. Just be sure to check expiration dates carefully.
Buying soon-to-expire items and freezing what you don’t use right away saves you money. You can get the same foods at a fraction of the regular cost.
Some specific tips for shopping late:
- Aim to shop 1-2 hours before closing time. This is when markdowns tend to happen as the store prepares to close. The largest discounts are often in the last hour.
- Ask store employees when discounts typically start. They can clue you in on the best times for markdowns on different products.
- Check discount racks first. Look for marked-down items before doing the rest of your shopping.
- Inspect expiration dates. Make sure any perishables you buy will still be good for a few days past the discounted date.
- Freeze what you can't use right away. Bread, meat, and prepared meals often freeze well for future use.
- Know the store schedule. Some stores discount on certain days of the week rather than daily. Learn when your store slashes prices.
Shopping later in the day takes a bit more effort but can save you big money, often 50% or more. With some planning, you can get the same high-quality foods at bargain prices.
With some planning and clever shopping, you can trim your grocery budget substantially. Try these 12 tips to keep more money in your wallet while still feeding your family well. What strategies do you use to save on groceries? Share your best tips in the comments!