How to get the most from your weekly shop

Unless you are living under a rock you know that currently our food and energy bills are rapidly on the rise. As a nation we are trying to cope with this inflation and consumers are feeling the pinch. Costs are increasing right across the board in food production and processing industries, this is driven by increasing energy costs, raw material costs, packaging costs, issues with labour shortages as well as availability of parts and equipment. But what can we do in our own homes to continue to put food on the table and keep our cupboards stocked?
Unlike some of our bills which are set each month such as our mortgage or rent, food is one area in which we can have some control. As soon as anyone mentions shopping on a budget one of the first things that comes up is to shop around. I don’t know about you but with the current price of diesel, driving from one shop to another to save a few euro might not really be very economical at the moment. So, I am going to go through a few money saving tips that I believe will make a difference to your weekly spend.
1. Preparation – have a look in your kitchen and take stock of what you have, do a weekly food plan, and then do a list based on what extras you need. When planning, think of meals that can be repurposed, for example, make a big pot of bolognaise, serve with spaghetti, the next day turn it into a chilli by adding some kidney beans, chilli flakes, cumin and serving with rice or use the leftovers for lunch, as filling on a baked potato with some grated cheese.

Plan meals that share ingredients so one day do roast chicken, the next day use the leftovers for a curry and then use the carcass to make some chicken stock, which can be frozen to add to soups and sauces.

Based on your shopping list decide which supermarket would be best to shop in. I am not known for my organisational skills so doing this does take some getting used to, but it is definitely worth it.

2. Meat and dairy tend to be the most expensive parts of our shop but instead of avoiding them just bulk up your meat dishes with extra veg, this also has the added benefit of getting in more veg which can’t be a bad thing.

3. Buy fruit and veg that is in season and locally produced, chances are it will be much cheaper than the product that has clocked up thousands of air miles on a round world trip to get here. As well as getting great quality products by shopping locally you are also supporting local farming families and food producers.

4. Shops own branded goods tend to be considerably cheaper so instead of always reaching for the best-known brand try the better value one. Always compare prices by weight, supermarkets have a per kg price as well as a product price, you will very often be shocked by the difference.

5. Look at the lower shelves, supermarkets will put the most expensive items at eye level so look to the lower shelves for the cheaper products.

6. Stock up on staples therefore you will need to buy fewer new items each week, these would include: eggs, pasta, rice, bread, tinned tomatoes, frozen veg. Make some swaps where possible so maybe try porridge instead of Weetabix for breakfast or buy a large bag of loose rice instead of the boil in the bag portions.

7. Stay away from processed or convenience foods, generally if someone else had to prepare it you will be paying extra.

8. Count while you shop to avoid a big shock when you get to the till. This means trying to keep track of everything you add to your trolly, use the calculator on your phone or just do it in your head, rounding up or down to the closest whole number. When you get used to planning your meals and sticking to your list you won’t need to do this as much.

9. Be wary of offers such as buy one get one free, very often you will end up buying food you won’t eat, or you will pay an inflated price for the ‘buy’ item to cover the cost of the free one. Remember its not a bargain if its not used.

10. Use vouchers wisely

-money off coupons are only good value if you were going to buy that product anyway
-Money of shopping vouchers, e.g., €10 OFF €50 are only beneficial if used against your total planned shop, not if you add items you didn’t need/want just to be able to use the voucher

11. Reduce the number of times you visit the shops, the more often you go in the more likely you will spend. Freeze things like bread so you can avoid that daily ‘pop to the shop’ scenario. If you do end up needing to go to the shops for 1 or 2 items, don’t pick up a basket, you will be less tempted to buy extras if you are carrying them in your hand, its very easy to throw items into a basket and then you get to the till and the 2 items you needed have gained friends and you have spent €30. By making less visits to the shops you will also be saving money on fuel so it’s a win win.

12. Why not get into the kitchen and start baking some of those treats you would normally buy. Not only will you be learning a new skill but saving a lot of money. For example, in my local supermarket the ingredients for scones cost €1.87 (450g self-raising flour – 28c, 100g butter – 55c, 1 tbsp caster sugar – 4c, pinch salt – 1c, 230mls milk – 18c, 3 eggs – 81c) so baking 10 scones works out at 19c each, if you bought these in the shop, they cost €1 each so 10 would be €10. Baking at home would save €8.13
A loaf of brown soda bread costs 68c to make at home (225g plain flour – 14c, 225g wholemeal flour – 18c, 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda – 2c, 1 tsp salt 2 c, 400mls buttermilk – 32c), a similar loaf costs €2.29 in store.
This applies to cooking dinners too, when cooking with simple, tasty ingredients it will always work out cheaper than buying ready made food. Lots of simple recipes here on my website and on my social media pages. Now I need to sit down, read this, and start following my own advice.