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At this time of the year, money is often a little tighter as we start to splash out on Christmas gifts and treats, or plan a trip home to visit our families. This year, with redundancy rates high, and many people living on 80% of their usual earnings since March, saving money is even more important than ever.
Fortunately, while food is one of our most significant expenses, it’s also one of the easiest places to make some budget cuts and save. Here’s a look at some of the easiest ways to do it.
Ignore the Best Before Dates
So much food in the UK is wasted because we’re slaves to best before dates. We don’t buy food in the supermarket if it’s nearing the date, and we bin food at home that has passed it. Most of us would never dream of buying food that’s “out of date”.
But, there’s a big difference between a use-by date, and a best before date. A use-by date is the date after which food might not be safe to eat. These dates are usually found on fresh foods, especially things like meat, which have a relatively short shelf life without being frozen.
Best before dates, on the other hand, advise us on the quality of a product, not its safety. Best before dates are frequently seen on ambient foods with long shelf lives, which typically don’t go bad for a very long time (if ever), such as tinned foods and other store cupboard essentials.
Stop throwing food away that’s passed its best before date, and you’ll save money and reduce waste. But, you can also buy food that’s close to, or just passed its best before date from short dated food suppliers in the UK. Low Price Foods is the cheapest online supermarket, offering great prices on a wide range of different foods from store cupboard essentials and cereals to treats and snacks. They can offer such cheap food online because they sell food that’s close to its best before date that would otherwise be wasted.
Get to Know Your Freezer
As well as striving for the cheapest online food shopping, you can also get around those more important use-by dates by utilising your freezer. Chances are your local supermarket reduces food that’s reached its use-by date, to try to shift the stock and avoid waste.
This can be a great way to pick up some bargains on expensive meat and other products. The best news is, as long as you freeze it as soon as you get home before it passes its use-by date, it will be good for months. Just take it out, thaw it thoroughly in the fridge, and cook as part of a meal (curries are great for this kind of meat!), making sure the meat is piping hot throughout before serving.
Bulking things up, and out, works with your freezer to make your money, and your food goes further.
Buying products like cheese in large packs is often much cheaper per gram or kg than buying a smaller pack. Chop a giant block of cheese into your normal pack size, wrap well in airtight wrap or sealable sandwich bags, and pop what you don’t need straight away into your freezer. You can do this with meat and plenty of other foods too.
Another option is cooking larger portions, which again is cheaper than cooking smaller amounts, perhaps adding cheaper and nutritious ingredients like beans and lentils to meals like curry, pasta dishes, stews, and casseroles, instead of extra meat. Then, once you’ve served out what you need, dish the rest up into portion-sized tubs and freeze until you need it.
Shop at the Right Times
Instead of doing your weekly shop at the same time every week, vary it up as much as you can, to try to find the best times.
Some supermarkets will reduce food near the end of the day, whereas others will do it first thing in the morning. Once you’ve spotted the reducing times, try to get there as close to them as possible, to secure the biggest savings, and best quality foods.
Make a Plan
Perhaps the easiest and most effective way to slash your food budget dramatically is by making a plan. Of course, you can’t always plan for deals, offers, and reductions, but, for the majority of your shop, you can.
When we wander around the supermarket aimlessly, we spend more. When we go in armed with a meal plan and a list, we only buy what we need.
It is possible to eat well on a budget. It’s possible to enjoy a nutritious and healthy diet, which gives you everything that your body needs, as well as snacks and treats. But, it does typically require a little more thought and planning, and sometimes, thinking outside the box and trying new things. The good news is, as well as saving you money, this can help you to vary your diet and add some extra fun to your meals and shopping experiences.