10 ways to slash your weekly food bill
Food prices have reached record highs this year, and the supermarkets are not making things easier for us, stacking their shelves full of 'offers' that tempt us to buy more than we need.
But you don't need to fall victim to their wiles. Follow our 10 top tips on how to avoid their traps and cut down the price of your weekly shop.
1: The supermarket is not your friend
Don't be loyal to one shop. 'Back to basics' shops like Aldi, Lidl and Iceland may not stock your favourites, but you'll save money by shopping there.
'Bulk buy' offers may seem a good idea, but many 'buy one get one free' deals are only useful if you normally buy the product on offer in the first place and can store the extra items. In fact, smaller equivalents may work out cheaper, so always check the individual price first.
2: Buy reduced items
Supermarkets reduce prices on fresh items about to go past their sell-by date - you can freeze these foods to use later.
You can get even better bargains if you go later in the day, when prices are slashed further. Check the bargain shelves too, which are often hidden at the back of the store.
3: Make a shopping list
Avoid overspending by planning your meals and writing a shopping list. Supermarkets thrive on customers not knowing exactly what they want and buying items they don't need.
Also, don't throw away any leftovers that you can incorporate into other meals or freeze.
4: Shop elsewhere
Patronising your local fishmonger, bakery or greengrocer will often work out cheaper - and if you pass these shops on your way home from work, it means you won't waste time and money on extra shopping trips.
You can also save a lot by using 'cash and carry' stores such as Costco. Membership is £30 a year (but you can always go with a member). It's money well spent if you're planning a big event like a wedding or party, or if you're catering for a big family.
5: Buy in-season food
Buying strawberries in the depths of winter will cost you more because they've been shipped from sunnier climes.
Look for seasonal, UK-grown fruits and vegetables - you should pay less and will eat better, and you'll be supporting locally sourced goods.
Go to bigbarn.co.uk for updates on in-season food and recipes.
6: Get in and out quickly
Supermarkets are deliberately designed to confuse.
They are laid out in such a way that you are forced to walk past aisles of expensive goods, tempting you to buy more on the way. They also regularly move products around to ensure you have to traipse up and down the aisles searching for the specific things you went in to buy.
If you can, try and leave your children at home when you visit the supermarket, because many of the displays are designed especially to titillate their tastes.
7: Eat before you shop
Always avoid going shopping on an empty stomach as the sight of so much delicious food can be hard to resist.
There's always a generous stock of sweets and chocolates near the checkout, tempting weary shoppers - another ploy to make you spend more when your resistance is low.
8: Shop online
Buying your weekly shopping online is a good idea as it reduces the risk of impulse purchases. You can save a favourites basket, which means you don't even have to look at non-essential items, and you can still clock up loyalty points.
Also, although you need to pay delivery costs, you'll save money on petrol if you usually drive to the supermarket. The cost of a standard delivery is around £5 (though it's more expensive at the weekend or for next-day slots).
Even if you don't shop online, you can compare the prices of products before you go at mysupermarket.co.uk or kelkoo.co.uk.
9: Drop a brand
A supermarket's own-brand range of goods is usually the same quality as more expensive branded items. Many also offer a cheaper 'basic' range; the packaging might not look as good but there's often little difference in the food inside.
If you can't bring yourself to buy the bargain goods, go for the own-brand deluxe goods, like Tesco's Finest range. These are not always as pricey as branded products.
10: Use discount vouchers
Take advantage of discounts, vouchers, special offers and loyalty cards to reduce your outgoings. Most supermarkets have loyalty schemes and will give you money-off vouchers when you buy their merchandise; you can also get these from in-store magazines, online and in many newspapers.
Again, however, they are only good value if you normally shop in the supermarket or buy that particular product.