The following tips provide general advice on how to get more out of your food budget.
The Food Partnership has printed Eating well on a budget leaflet which we can supply to community groups and other organisations in the city. Please get in touch if you would like some for your clients.
If you are experiencing food poverty and are seeking help, please see our food poverty advice pages for information on how to access support.
Cook from scratch
Cooking from scratch nearly always saves money compared to ready meals. Have some cheap recipes up your sleeve – try some of our favourite budget recipes or the cooking on a bootstrap blog (formerly ‘A Girl Called Jack’) is another great resource.
If you have kids, try Let’s Get Cooking at Home for some easy and inspiring recipes.
Plan your weekly shop
Planning in advance will help you buy only what you need and reduce your shopping time. Plan some recipes at the start of the week based on what you already have in your cupboards. Then work out a shopping list and think about if you can use the same things in different meals.
Don’t go shopping when you are hungry and try to leave the kids at home.
Choose tinned or frozen options
Frozen or tinned fruit and veg are as nutritious as fresh and usually cheaper. Similarly tinned oily fish like sardines and salmon can be cheaper than buying fresh but still contain heart-friendly omega-3 fats. Tinned and frozen foods are simple to prepare and have a longer shelf life.
If you get together with friends/family/neighbours you may save money by bulk buying your dry goods. If you want to take it further, you can set up a food coop or try an existing one such as the University of Brighton or BUCFP.
Eat less meat
Cooking with vegetables tends to cost less than meat, so why not try adding more vegetables to your meat based meals? Avoid very cheap processed meats such as bargain sausages and burgers. Instead consider cheaper cuts of proper meat cooked a little longer, or an even cheaper option: dried beans or ‘pulses’ (e.g. lentils).
Don’t waste food
Cook in advance and freeze – especially if you are only cooking for one or two, if you work or if you are unwell.
Use up any leftovers – Sunday roasts can be used to make a shepherd’s pie or a curry; leftover rice makes a stir fry rice dish.
Remember that only ‘use by’ dates matter, while ‘best before’ dates can be ignored. See more food waste tips.
Try using the local greengrocer or market if you have one. They may work out cheaper, and will often sell in smaller quantities than supermarkets allowing you to only buy what you need. Or shop online – your regular items are saved in a list, so you can save time and money as you are less tempted to buy other items. You can compare supermarket prices at MySupermarket, who also produce an app.
Choose cheaper alternatives
Replace your morning or afternoon snack with fruit. A banana or an apple can cost about half the price of most chocolate bars or packets of crisps. The savings add up and so do the health benefits.
Supermarkets often stock a ‘basic’ or ‘value’ version, including ‘wonky’ veg which are just as good to eat but funny shapes, as well as tins, pasta etc. But check labels for foods high in saturated fat, sugar and salt: Choose basics ingredients not basics ready meals.
Be smart with your discounts
Supermarkets reduce prices on products that are close to their sell by date. This can be a great way of picking up bargains – but be sure that you’ll eat or cook everything you buy before it goes off. MoneySavingExpert has worked out the time of day that different supermarkets may reduce prices- see their ‘Tip 23’.
Similarly BOGOF offers (buy one get one free) might be a cheaper but it’s only a bargain if you needed it anyway.
Websites such as www.approvedfood.co.uk offer deals on bulk purchases including food past its ‘best before’ but not its ‘use by’ date. Stick to basic ingredients (like pasta) and be wary of tempting offers on processed foods like crisps and fizzy drinks that are low in nutritional value.
Go to our food poverty page to be directed to more information about food banks, accessing low cost meals and volunteering.