Both James and I have a keen eye for keeping track of our household budget, especially when it comes to feeding ourselves. We both have different dietary needs that should typically result in a large bill: James strives for high calorie meals, typically containing meat to support strength and muscle gains, whereas I intake fewer calories but seek out higher quality and speciality health giving products. However, our experiences over time have shown us how we can shrink our spending without compromising our daily eats.
1. Use discount supermarkets for basics. We love Lidl and Aldi's range, though they often get a bad rap compared to the more mainstream options as cheap is associated with poor quality. The quality, we find, is just as good if not better. These companies afford to sell more cheaply because of lower overheads (e.g. cheaper rent, charging for carrier bags, shorter opening hours). Our favourites from these companies are oats, breads, herbal teas, dairy products and frozen vegetables.
2. Design your weekly meals around what is on offer. For example, when I last saw sweet potato on offer, I bought a whole load and batch cooked it all with lentils to freeze for dinners throughout the month. James does the same when he sees a special deal on the meats he prefers, and will rarely buy a product without a 'special offer' ticket intact!
3. Don't fall for the convenience of overpriced jarred sauces and ready meals. It is far too easy and dramatically cheaper to make your own from scratch...you know by know how I love my homemade frozen ready meals! And what is so effing difficult about by a carton of chopped/sieved tomatoes and stirring in some herbs and spices?! Granola cereals, energy bars and nut/grain milks can also be made from scratch at a fraction of the price of a ready-made version, it just takes patience and practise.
4. Talking of making the most of offers and making from scratch, you can make this a fun, hassle-free experience by setting aside some time in the week to plan and prepare as much as possible.
5. Make use of Asian/ethnic supermarkets for your bulk needs - especially meat-free staples like dried beans, lentils, rice and noodles, and get the best value by buying the largest packages your kitchen will allow. Plus, there is so much variety and inspiration to be had here! Herbs and spices can also be bought for better-than-supermarket value, as well fresh chillies, ginger, garlic and exotic fruit and vegetables.
6. When I want to include a more expensive product for its health benefits (and yumminess, of course!), like quinoa for example, I do a 50:50 blend with a similar products (e.g. rice or millet) so that I can reap at least some of the benefits without having to restock as often. Also, try a 50:50 on milk and water for oats, or stock powder/bouillon and mixed dried herbs.
7. Search online for wholesale prices or cheaper specialist products. Sports supplements are important to James and I so we always check MyProtein's price beater for the best deals on protein powder, and they have also proved to be the cheapest option we can find for natural nut butters.
8. When I get to shop at the farmer's market, which can be a little more expensive than usual, I spend my money wisely on unusual vegetables that I can make the most of it's value with (like this round courgette) or look for the produce that has had a good harvest as the farmers will have a more competitive price to clear their surplus stock.
9. In a similar vein, don't underestimate local/independent grocery stores - sometimes they find themselves overstocked because they get a special deal from their wholesaler and then have to reduce the price to clear the shelves for new products. For example, I recently got a 500g jar of organic extra virgin coconut oil from an independent health shop for less than £7 - easily the best value I have ever come across! See if they promote the deals on twitter or facebook so you know about it ASAP.
10. Although we love a special offer, we are always sure to check that that is what we are in actual fact getting, by checking the price per 100g. You can then double check this against a comparable product that may not have that special offer ticket but actually be better value. Also, ask yourself how a large 'value' pack will be used - you don't want to pay a higher outlay only to waste half the product.
Now, go spend those pennies wisely!