When cooking for one or two, it's easy to overspend on the weekly shop. Family packs and bumper sizes mean it's hard to buy just the right amount. Instead, you end up throwing away half of your fresh produce, with your impulse buys withering at the back of the fridge before you get round to gobbling them up…
And with many of us on a tight budget as it is, giving into these impulse buys may seem like a great idea at the time, but will leave you counting your pennies for the rest of the month.
To help you budget your supermarket trip and avoid overspending, money expert Ricky Willis, the blogger behind Skintdad, gives us his best tips and tricks for making savings on your weekly shop. Scroll on to see his expert advice below.
Plan of attack
Before you do your next big shop, take stock of what is already in your cupboards, fridge and freezer. This will help you make the most of what you've already got lying around before you fork out for filling the cupboards with things that you might not even get around to eating this week…
Once you know what you've already got at home, create a detailed meal plan that makes the most of using it up. Work out what you’ll eat for every meal over the next two weeks and write a shopping list based on those dishes only. This way, you’ll make sure you buy only what you need with no waste – and you won’t end up spending on a takeaway because the fridge is empty.
Avoid shopping if you’re hungry, as it can make it harder to resist impulse buys!
Fresh vs. frozen
There are other ways to shop and save, too. Frozen veg often costs less than fresh and won’t go limp and soggy in the fridge before you have a chance to use it for another meal - making it perfect for cooking for one or two people. Buy a bag of frozen, ready-diced onions to save on prep time and waste. These can be used in everything from soups and pasta sauces to stews and curries.
Take out the brands
Own-brand groceries may be cheaper than branded products, too, so give them a go. Test a few items over a week, from cereals to loo cleaner, to see if you could save money by switching long term.
Bulk it out
Although you're only cooking for one or two, buying larger packs of products that won’t go off quickly and you'll use up eventually may also be better value in the long run. Things like big packs of dried pasta, rice, and lentils (if you eat them regularly) are a good place to start.
The dating game
Use-by vs. best before
Knowing the difference between ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates is essential. You should always eat food before its ‘use by’ date*, but ‘best before’ is about quality rather than safety. Food is still OK to eat after its ‘best before’ date, but its flavour or texture might not be at its peak. You can often get around this with savvy cooking or serving.
Leftovers for longer
Cook in bulk and then freeze the left-over food into individual portions that are clearly labelled. This will save on time spent cooking throughout the week but also means you don’t have to buy the smaller, more expensive products like ready meals when you're in a hurry.
If you see mince on offer, make the most of the promotion. Cook the whole lot at once with onion, garlic, tinned chopped tomatoes. When cooked, take a third out and place in a pie dish then top with mash. Take out another third and add chilli powder and kidney beans for a chilli con carne and with the last third, serve with pasta. These can then be portioned up individually and frozen to be eaten as and when required.