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How To Budget

How to Budget for Food

We’ve all had this experience. You do your weekly shopping trip to a major supermarket, even one of the German ones famous for discounting, and by the time the checkout person has rung the last item through the till, you’re between £75 and £150 lighter in cash. How does that happen?

You haven’t bought duck eggs, salmon parcels, or caviar with blinis. Since when did shopping for food swallow up more than 20% of your weekly budget?

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. You can spend a lot less at the supermarket and still make some amazing, nutritious, and tasty food that you and your family can enjoy, even within the tightest of budgets.


How much do you spend on food at the moment?

You have to look at your spending over the last couple of months to find out what you’re currently paying out at the supermarket.

If you have them to hand, dig out your last eight receipts. Take off the special and non-food items – for example you bought:

  • something nice in because you were cooking for relatives who had come around,
  • nappies and pull-ups for the baby, or
  • special one-off bargains you saw in store and you just wanted to have them

Once you’ve subtracted them from the total, divide what’s left by eight and there you’ll have your average weekly shopping budget. Does it look bigger than you thought? According to the Office for National Statistics, the average British home will spend nearly £57 a week on food – that’s about £3,000 a year. Sounds like a bit of an underestimate to us.

What if there was a way to bring this down by 50% or more? There is.


Are a lot of the items ready meals?

For many British shoppers, ready meals are things which really push up your food bills. Remember, you’re not only paying for the food in a ready meal. You’re paying for all the people at the factory who prep it and cook it, you’re paying for the building they work it in, and you’re paying for the attractive packaging.

These three factors really push up how it costs the supermarket to provide you with a ready meal. It’s often much more than you would pay to buy the ingredients and cook them yourself.

The key to more than halving your bill comes in finding the time to learn how to cook for yourself and your family. Not only will you save £30 a week or more (that’s like a £1,500 pay rise without having to put the extra hours in) but the food you’ll be serving up will be delicious, nutritious, and leave your other half and your kids wanting more.


Inspiration online and planning

The key to making your money stretch much further with your food spending is by planning what you and your family are going to eat over the next seven days and buying just as many ingredients as is needed to make these exciting dishes.

One way to do this is by checking out the UK’s favourite recipe sites for inspiration to choose what this week’s meals are going to be. Better still, you could involve your family in the decision on what they’ll be having to eat by asking for their feedback.

Sites you can use for your meal planning include:

  • BBC Online – the UK’s most popular site with 10,000+ recipes from well-known chefs
  • Allrecipes – 20,000 delicious meals and how to cook them based around British and Irish tastes
  • Guardian recipes – the newspaper has always covered food really well and have hundreds of creative recipes for you to try
  • Delicious Magazine – a paper-based and online destination for UK cooks
  • Good Housekeeping – the writers for this magazine test all their recipes three times which, they say, means that their recipes “won’t let you down”.
  • BBC Good Food budgeting section – brilliant mini-website containing tips on the best food buys, student recipes, posh eating on a budget, easy budget family meals, and great tips on how to cut back on food spending.


There is a growing army of bloggers who’ll help you save money on your food shopping bills. Some of the more famous ones include:

  • A Girl Called Jack – Jack manages to feed herself and her toddler well for just £10 a week. She built up a big fan base and eventually released her own best-selling book and she now writes for the Guardian newspaper.
  • Thrifty Lesley – Lesley’s goal is to show you how to feed yourself on £1 a day and she has more than 200 recipes online to show you how to do it.
  • Feed Yourself for £1 a day – this Facebook group brings together the best recipes from some of Britain’s best cooks-on-a-budget.
  • Skint Dad – Skint Dad looks at how you can cook tasty delicious meals at home at a considerable discount from buying them in from the local takeaway.
  • Frugal Queen – giving step-by-step instructions on her site, the Frugal Queen cuts costs and applies thrifty alternatives to gluten-free food and to Slimming World recipes.
  • Penny’s Recipes – Penny blogs with a focus on providing easy-to-follow recipes for healthy and affordable meals using food that’s in season.


There’s so much inspiration on the internet giving you advice on what you can cook for yourself and your family, some sites targeting less than £1 spend per person per day. If you have four in your household, you could be spending less than £30 a week on ingredients for your meals if you follow their recipes religiously.

But saving money on ingredients is only half the story.


How to become a super food budget-er

Once you have got all of your ingredients for the week back home from the supermarket, what you do with them will also dramatically reduce your ongoing food bill by making the food go further and last longer.


Try not to let good food go to waste

Eat food that’s left over – could you make a sandwich from your left-overs or use them in another dish, just like you might do with bubble and squeak after Christmas dinner?


Freeze food

Buy it frozen and save money at the till. Did you know that very few people can taste whether bread has been frozen once it’s been defrosted? This is the perfect excuse to buy that 3-for-2 or 2-for-1 offer on loaves or baps – when you get home, put one in the bread bin and the others in the freezer.


Don’t buy the most expensive meats

Some of the tastiest meats comes from less popular cuts. And make sure you buy whole chickens because if you buy pre-prepared cuts of chicken, you’ll end up paying twice as much.


Bulk your meals

Bulk out your meals with more vegetables, pulses, peas, beans, and lentils – they add a lovely consistency and mouthfeel and really absorb the flavours of the dish as a whole in a slow cooker. Portion control is also a great saver and can easily be “hidden” by bulking out your meals. And while you’re at the fruit and veg counter, it’s cheaper to buy loose than to buy pre-packaged.


And finally a word on the supermarkets themselves. Shop around, supermarkets offer huge discounts on food in the last hour before closing. Just put your yellow-stickered food straight in your freezer.