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If you are worrying about the ever-increasing cost of food, use these quick tips to put together a low-budget grocery list that will help you cut back on the amount you spend on food whilst ensuring that your family eats healthily.
REWORK YOUR GROCERY LIST TO REDUCE YOUR MONTHLY SPEND
The cost of living has reached eye-watering proportions, and many of us are looking for practical ways to reduce the amount we spend on food for our families without compromising on eating healthily or eating tasty meals.
I have been reworking my weekly grocery list over the last few weeks to balance the ever-increasing cost of food with keeping our weekly grocery budget the same.
I have been actively working to reduce the amount we spend grocery shopping, to make sure we have money to cover utility bills and other increased living costs.
I’m sharing some of the things I’ve done to reduce our family food bill over the last few months so that you can do the same with yours.
BUDGET GROCERY LIST: HOW TO PUT TOGETHER A HEALTHY GROCERY LIST ON A TIGHT BUDGET
My main aim is always to ensure that my family eats a varied diet that keeps us healthy and eating tasty meals. A few months ago, we could no longer sustain the huge grocery bill we were landing with every month.
We are omnivores, but we eat a vegetarian meal at least once weekly. So, I pay particular attention to keeping a good balance between the five main food groups by looking at ways to reduce the cost of items within each group.
Here are some changes I have made to how I put together my grocery list that you can use to keep your list to a manageable budget:
1. SWITCH FROM ORGANIC TO NON-ORGANIC
I switched from organic to non-organic food when I couldn’t justify the extra cost. Of course, organic food isn’t always more expensive, but when I analysed a few months’ worth of shopping bills, I realised that this was one area where we could cut back but still eat healthy meals.
2. BUY CHEAPER CUTS OF MEAT
I firmly believe that less is more when it comes to meat, as in less quantity, higher quality. But even that wasn’t cutting it to keep our spending on meat manageable.
The solution? Buying cheaper cuts of meat is a great way to cut back. I always purchase higher-welfare meat and check for offers on more expensive cuts and organic meat before I make a final decision.
Cheaper cuts of meat:
Here are some of the most popular cheaper cuts of meat that still taste good.
- Beef: Bavette, skirt, brisket and shin
- Lamb: Shoulder, scrag, middle neck, chump
- Pork: Spare ribs, chump, belly
- Chicken: Thighs (bone in and skin on is always cheaper), wings, drumsticks – or whole bird and cut it up
3. FRUIT AND VEGETABLE MONEY-SAVERS
Fruit and vegetables are essential to a healthy, well-balanced diet, but they can easily take up a huge chunk of the weekly grocery bill. So, I am using a few tactics to keep the cost of them down.
I’m paying more attention to shopping for fruit and vegetables seasonally – for example, strawberries cost a fortune in winter (and they don’t taste that good).
I’ve stopped buying more fancy vegetables and have been seeking the cheapest ones instead. I am ditching speciality tomatoes and opting for everyday tomatoes. Buying garden peas instead of mange touts.
I buy frozen vegetables and frozen fruits whenever it makes sense – this is also a great way to save time in the kitchen if they are chopped and ready-prepared. I am particularly fond of frozen mixed vegetables.
I also opt for fruit and vegetables with a longer shelf or fridge life. I have also started buying canned fruit, something I had always thought was best to avoid. But it turns out that canned fruit can be pretty healthy.
Vegetables with the longest shelf-life
Here are some popular vegetables that have the longest shelf-life:
- Sweet potatoes
- Brussels sprouts
- Swede or turnip
- Squash (Butternut or spaghetti)
Fruit with the longest shelf life
Here is a list of fruit with the longest shelf life:
4. DON’T STOP AT MEAT-FREE MONDAY
As a family, we have always had at least one vegetarian meal per week. But I realised that by increasing this to at least two meat-free meals per week we could further cut the cost of our weekly shop.
Our meat-free meals don’t ever involve meat substitutes. However, we are big fans of halloumi, a solid but malleable cheese, and also love Indian-inspired food that uses beans and pulses with delicious spices. The black dal recipe in the Dishoom cookbook is one of our favourites. This leads me to my next suggestion…
5. INCREASE PULSES AND BEANS
As I’ve decreased the amount of meat, we eat, I have increased the number of beans and pulses. They are a great cheap alternative, but they are also a great addition to the weekly grocery shop because they are high in protein and fibre and low in fat, which means they are fantastic for your health.
Oh, and they are also good for the environment because they have a lower environmental impact than meat production.
Popular beans and pulses to include in your grocery shop
Here are a few of the most popular beans and pulses you can try to have in your weekly grocery shop:
- Chickpeas – lovely cooked with onions, or make hummus
- Yellow lentils – good for stews and soups
- Red lentils – – good for stews and soups
- Puy lentils – brilliant as a side dish with meat or fish
- Kidney beans – great for vegetable chilli
- Black beans – great in enchiladas, soups and salads
- Soybeans (edamame beans) – delicious with soy sauce
- Pinto beans – great for bean burgers and refried beans
- Butter beans – good in salads as well as stews
- White beans (cannellini) – great for dips, soups and stews
6. USE CANNED FISH INSTEAD OF FRESH OR FROZEN
My rule of thumb always used to be to buy frozen fish rather than fresh fish to keep costs down. However, the price of frozen fish has been creeping up, and I’ve also found it hard even to source some frozen fish because it is constantly out of stock.
I have instead increased the amount of canned fish we buy. It took me a while to get over the school-packed lunch vibes of tinned tuna and salmon, but once I did, I realised there are many great recipes for tinned fish.
The most popular varieties of canned fish
These are some of the most common canned fish:
7. BASE MEAL PLANS ON OFFERS AND DISCOUNTS
I have always followed the rule of starting my weekly meal plan by looking at what we already have that needs eating.
However, I have also taken time in recent weeks to check for coupons, special offers and discounts available at the supermarket and base some of our meals around these offers.
This means I can keep our weekly meal plans varied and interesting, develop meal ideas that use inexpensive ingredients, and guarantee we get the best value for the money we spend.
8. PUT A FREEZE ON THE BREAD
Whilst I would love to say that we have switched to homemade bread, that would be a total lie. We’ve tried it, and whilst it was a lovely thing to do during lockdown, we don’t have the time or the will to bake our bread each week.
However, I ensure that all bread that isn’t going to be eaten on the day it is bought is sliced up and frozen. This way, we avoid ever having to throw out bread past its best.
9. ICED MILK
How often have you reached for the milk only to hurl as a whiff of gone-off milk reaches your nose?! I’ve got around this by freezing milk if it isn’t going to be used straight away and then pulling it out of the freezer when we need it.
This ensures that our milk never goes off and that we don’t have to do any costly last-minute milk runs.
10. CUT THE SNACKS
When I analysed our weekly grocery bills, I realised we had been spending a lot on snacks and treats—more than we could justify.
This has meant that I’ve tweaked how we eat to stop us from reaching for snacks so often.
Ways to stop snacking
- Here are some simple things you can do to stop snacking:
- Have a cup of decaf tea instead of a snack in front of the TV in the evening
- Make meals low-GI, so that blood sugar is kept balanced
- Make meals more tasty and interesting, so you crave snacks less
- Don’t buy the snacks, so there aren’t any to reach for!
- Swap sugary snacks for healthy snacks so that you are more easily satiated.
11. CUT BACK ON ALCOHOL
Now, this might not be the most popular way to cut the cost of your grocery bill, but it is something that I have done both in the name of cost-saving and health. Adding a few bottles of wine and beer each week was pretty much par for the course.
But I realised that giving up drinking alcohol in the week or, at the very least, sticking to a glass of wine with dinner instead of working our way through a bottle would be good for our health and budget.
The bonus is that reducing the amount of alcohol means that we are also less likely to feel like snacking in the evenings. How virtuous are we?!!
12. PAY ATTENTION TO THE COST PER UNIT
Basing purchasing decisions based on cost per unit rather than food prices alone is one of the best ways to save money on food. I’ve gone into detail on how to do this in my big roundup of ways to save money on groceries. Pop over and look at how to use unit prices to save money.
103. REVISE YOUR BASIC GROCERY LIST
One of the best ways to keep a tight grip on your weekly grocery bill is to create and use a basic grocery list for all your kitchen staples. I made my list a few years back, which has served me well.
However, as the cost of food has risen, I decided to revise my basic grocery list based on the items we often use in our fridge, freezer and pantry and have ditched the things we don’t use as much.
I have also started replacing branded goods with supermarket own labels instead.
My final tip is a super-charged way to reduce your weekly grocery bill. It focuses on the mind and helps you decide what to buy and what not to buy.
14. CHANGE SUPERMARKET
How often do you check if the supermarket you regularly shop at is the cheapest option? If you are struggling to keep costs down, it is well worth using a supermarket comparison site such as Trolley
or Which? magazine does a monthly supermarket comparison update.
Now I must admit that I haven’t changed supermarket to save money. I have shopped with the same online supermarket for years and the value of knowing how reliable it still outweighs the benefits of shopping at a cheaper supermarket.
The tips I have outlined above have helped me to justify sticking with this supermarket. However, I have also employed other tactics, including bulk-buying non-food groceries like toilet rolls, kitchen rolls and cleaning products via Amazon.
WANT YET MORE TIPS ON CUTTING THE COST OF GROCERIES?
A while back, I put together a bumper list of tips on how to cut the cost of groceries. These tips aren’t just quick-fix tips to reduce spending when inflation and the cost of living are against you. Instead, these are long-term strategies you can use to ensure you spend every penny wisely. Further reading: 35 ways to save money on groceries.
I’d love to know if these tips help you with your grocery shopping and if you have used great tactics to keep costs down.
Luci is the founder of Mums Make Lists. She has written about all aspects of organising family life for ten years. Her main areas of expertise are family finance and budgeting, simplifying housekeeping and family admin and kids’ party planning. Read more.