Food costs are rising throughout the UK, making it more difficult than ever for some families to make ends meet. According to the Office for National Statistics, food price inflation rose from 3.9 to 4.4 percent last month, with prices for fruit rising by 10 percent, and items like pork sausages up 11 percent, compared to average household earnings, which are only up by 1.7 percent. With food costs rising and budgets tightening, how can you battle rising food costs and still eat healthy? Here are a few tips.
Make a Budget and a Meal Plan
An important step in controlling your food costs is figuring out what they are to begin with. Begin tracking your food expenses, including trips to the market, restaurant dining, snacks, and casual purchases. Finding out how much you spend on food may gain you insight on where you can make some spending cuts, and where the majority of your food money is going. Create a monthly budget for all your eating expenses.
Impulse buying and shopping while hungry can easily drive up your food budget. For maximum savings, create a weekly meal plan and adhere to it as much as possible. If you already know what meals you will be preparing for every day of the week, you can more easily avoid the pitfalls of impulse purchases or aimless wandering at the market.
Cook Meals at Home
Eating out can be an easy, enjoyable experience, but it’s also many times more expensive than eating a similar meal at home. For many families, the biggest obstacles to making a home-cooked meals are time and energy. But those trips to the restaurant, or even to the fast-food drive-through, can get costly over time, to your long-term health as well as your bank balance. Find some quick and easy recipes on the Internet to replace your habit of eating out, even if it’s only once or twice a week.
Farmer’s and ethnic markets offer fresh produce, baked goods, and even locally-raised meat at a fraction of the prices you’ll find at the supermarket. Plan a weekly trip to stock up on fresh vegetables and other staples. Don’t be afraid to comparison shop within the farmer’s market — depending on how the market is organized, the vendors in the out-of-the-way stalls may offer significantly lower prices.
While “extreme couponing” may not be for everyone, it is possible to take some cost-saving measures without trading too much of your free time. Keep an eye out for sales and special offers. Sign up for a loyalty card at your favorite supermarket, and instead of just throwing away the flyers and coupon books that arrive in the mail, take a moment to look through them and see if you can find a deal worth making time for.
Cook in Bulk
For some families, buying and cooking food in bulk may be a viable way to battle food costs. Purchasing food in bulk and preparing a large number of meals for leftovers, lunches, or the freezer can save both time and money. Cooking in bulk does offer some pitfalls, however: buying more than you need, or buying products you end up not using, can increase waste instead of abrogating it.
Use Leftovers Wisely
Wasting food is the same as wasting money. Many leftovers are put in plastic and left in the refrigerator to rot. Instead of letting that food go to waste, incorporate it into your weekly meal plan. Re-purpose leftovers in soups, stews, wraps or burritos. This is especially important if you decide to cook in bulk — planning ahead to use those leftovers for lunches and follow-up meals will help stretch your food budget considerably.
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About the author: Kirstie works with leading money saving site vouchercloud. They help consumers save money off their favourite brands. They have recently launched their new money saving campaigns which include Sainsbury’s Vouchers which can help reduce the cost of your weekly shop.