Are you ready to kick start the new year with a bang?
To help you do just that, I have put together a month long financial boot camp, with one or two tips per week and a call to action. Together, we will review several aspects of your financial life to make sure you start the year in good shape.
Then, we talked about how you can reduce one of your biggest expense: your mortgage, and how you can challenge your council tax banding.
Now let’s see if we can lower your grocery bill.
Are you paying too much?
If you have enough canned goods to hold a siege and half of them are expired: yes.
If you do not plan your shops: 99% yes.
If you do not compare prices between supermarkets: 99% yes.
How to reduce your grocery bill
Unlike the previous installments of this series, where it was just about making a phone call to lower your bill or writing a letter to challenge your council tax banding, lowering your grocery bill is an ongoing effort. It is about changing your habits to
1. reduce waste
2. eat healthier options by making your meals from scratch
3. avoid impulse buys
Reducing food waste
I grew up with parents born just after WWII who grew up on rationed food, so wasting food was a BIG deal at my house. To this day, I hate wasting food. It is like throwing money out the window since you already paid for it, and on top of that put time to prepare it.
How do you reduce food waste? By getting organized. Three meals a day, seven days a week (because of course, as part of your financial boot camp, you are taking your lunches to work), come to 21 meals.
It doesn’t have to be complicated, if you make pasta at night, make enough for your lunch and take a Tupperware to work.
So do not buy groceries for 21 meals if you will eat twice the same meal. I often buy a whole roasted chicken. It is a bit more expensive than roasting it at home, but you save on electricity and a good hour of your time waiting for dinner. A chicken feeds two people for two meals, plus maybe a third meal of fajitas or chicken pita pockets.
The quantity of food wasted every year is appalling, as much as 30% in some households. How would you like to reduce your grocery bill by 30%? Start by being reasonable with what you buy.
Put the vegetable so you see them first when you open the fridge and think about using them. They go bad quickly. Plan the fresh veggie meals first. Pasta can wait for the day before the shop. In my fridge, I have a “use first” spot, where you usually find half an onion, a ripe tomato, half a chili… Whenever I am about to cook something, I try to use those ingredients first.
Cook from scratch
Not that complicated once you get the hang of it. Your recipe will probably be a bit more expensive than a £1.99 value shepherd’s pie, but much healthier and you will stay full longer. So you won’t need that pack of digestive chocolate cookies on top, saving money on the long run, and keeping your fit and healthy.
Start with the basics. Make pasta sauce. Then make meatballs. Then make pasta from scratch. One step at a time.
Avoid impulse buys
Make a list with your meals, add a couple of treats because you are awesome and you deserve it, then go to the shop and STICK TO IT. A bag of crisps or a can of pop every week add up quickly.
Shop for reduced products
Most supermarkets have an aisle with reduced products, a few vegetables you have to cook quickly, yogurts, sometimes cuts of meat that expire in a couple of days. They are heavily discounted so if you need them, stock up and freeze what you can, eat up the rest as soon as possible. Buying it at 90% off and throwing it away is bad (see above: reduce waste).
Try online shopping
I LOVE online shopping, and not only because
– you avoid the queue
– you don’t have to wait for a parking space
– you save on gas
– you can do your list during your lunch hour and get it delivered while you watch TV
That is already four pros to online shopping from the top of my head, but the biggest advantage is less impulse buy. There is no gum or candy at the checkout counter, no magazine, no sparkly sign to push you into buying a buy one get one free of something you’ll never eat.
I also love that some shops will keep your list in mind so next time you shop, they already have your basics registered, you just need to add special one off products. When I shop, I always get the same 10 items and then vary a bit with the rest so it saves a lot of time.
My favorite online supermarket is Tesco because they have low prices and I almost always seem to find a coupon for £10 off if you spend £50, or at least free delivery. And they have a no hassle customer service. Sometimes they would send me the wrong item or a green tomato, and they would always refund it, even when the delivery guy was already gone and they only had my word for it.
How much will you save?
If you are diligent, and do all of the above £20 a week sounds reasonable. That is £1,000 a year!
Get yourself a Nectar card, a Clubcard, and any loyalty card from ALL the supermarkets you frequent. Start racking up loyalty points for further discounts, rebates, and join the newsletter so you know when an item is on sale.
Check out coupon sites for discounts on your favorite products.
Action for the week
1. Do not shop? I am ready to bet you have more than enough in your cupboards, fridge and freezer to last for another week. Maybe you’ll need some milk, bread and a few veggies. Let’s start by having a look at what you already have. I have enough rice for the next 12 months, six cans of corn, so that can be the base for a rice salad, with tuna and hard boiled eggs. Make do with what you have. Look at the expiration dates on the cans and other perishables. You can keep honey forever but that is not a reason not to eat it! That should lower your stockpile a bit.
Same thing for the freezer, eat that pizza that has been here for months, frozen things get bad too you know. Label the meat cuts, sort everything so next time you look for meat you can find it easily, and try to use a first in first out system as much as possible.
2. Make your weekly base shopping list. The things you buy every week. Then compose around it when you go shopping.
3. Join the loyalty program at least where you shop the most.
4. Track the waste and change your habits to stop throwing out food.
5. Drop me a line and let me know how much you saved 🙂
It will take you some time to be the perfect grocery shopper and optimize every shop. But if you know you are doing poorly, go easy on yourself, you will do better. Track your shops, and see what you can improve. Good luck!