Food, glorious food! We can’t live without it but lately, shopping for food in the UK is getting expensive. You’re not alone if you’ve noticed your weekly or monthly food bill rising. The Office for National Statistics reported that the inflation rate for food and non-alcoholic beverages is at a 42-year high. To save money on food, you should create a food budget.
This guide shows you how to create a food budget successfully and live well, even with a tight budget for food.
How to Shop on a Budget for Food
1. Know your food costs
If you’ve never done it before, you may not know how to food shop on a budget. Knowing your current food costs is a good place to start when creating a budget for food. Look at your past few shopping trip receipts and calculate your average food bill. This will give you a clear understanding of how much you spend on food each month.
When you use the Hyperjar card, you can see your past transactions on the app to easily track how much of your money is used for food.
2. Make a shopping list
The best way to stick to a food budget is to make a shopping list. When you make a grocery list before going shopping, sticking to your budget is much easier because you only need to buy what’s on the list.
Study your previous receipts and look at the items that you needed versus the items you wanted. This will help you to slim down your list and save money on food. Making a shopping list will:
- Help you stay on track
- Ensure you only buy necessary items
- Help you to avoid impulse purchases
- Save you money
Tip: Don’t go shopping when you’re hungry. You’ll be more likely to buy items that you don’t need. Think about your food budget and not your rumbling tum!
3. Compare Prices
You can improve your food budget if you compare prices at different supermarkets. Certain shops have deals or offers you can take advantage of to reduce your food bills, such as 2-for-1 or half-price sales.
You may have to make trips to different supermarkets, but you will save money on your food budget overall. You can check for deals online, so you know where to find what you need for the best price.
4. Get a discount
If you want to know how to food shop on a budget, hunting for discounts is a great way to save. Searching for discounts, coupons, or voucher codes can save you a lot of money and stretch your food budget further.
- Does your favourite store offer a loyalty reward system or a points card? If not, consider shopping at a store that does. You can save money each time you shop as well as collect points to save up for special occasions like Christmas.
- Check online to see if there are any active coupons before you go. For example, £10 off when you spend £80.
- Be smart with your shopping. Don’t be sucked into deals you don’t need.
- Buy in bulk when you can to save money in the long run. Useful household items such as toilet rolls and washing powder often work out cheaper when you buy in bulk.
- Switch to non-branded items that are cheaper.
HyperJar’s Rewards scheme gives you exclusive discounts and rewards when you shop with your favourite local retailers. You can make your money work harder for you and get rewarded for thoughtful spending and better budgeting - all delivered seamlessly in the app.
5. Plan your meals
Planning your meals will help you to save money on your food budget. You’ll know exactly what meals you’ll be eating each day, so you know what you need to buy. You’ll also have less food waste as you’ll be using all the food that has been purchased. Good for your pocket and the environment!
Here are some tips to help you plan your meals and save money too:
- Make packed lunches for work. If you spend £5 per day on lunch at work, you could save £25 a week by making lunch at home.
- Search for recipes online or on social media and only buy the ingredients you need.
- Plan how many meals you’ll need to prepare for each day and evening and how many portions you’ll need.
- Make an extra portion of your evening meal and use this for your lunch the next day. You’ll save time and effort this way too.
- Check the use-by dates and use this food first.
6. Shop online where possible
Shopping online can help you to lower your food budget. Although it’s better for larger food orders as there are delivery charges and minimum spend requirements. Shopping online is great as you can stick to your list and monitor your total as you add items to your online basket.
- You won’t be tempted to pick up something you don’t need in store.
- You’ll make fewer impulse purchases.
- If you tend to buy the same items each week, shopping online is convenient as you can easily reorder.
- You can review what you’ve got in the basket and easily search for a cheaper option.
- You can remove less important things if you go over your budget.
7. Be realistic about portion sizes
Do you have larger portion sizes than you should? Chances are you do, as it’s common for people to overestimate how much they need on their plate. If you manage your portion sizes properly, you will avoid wasting food that’s left over and make your meals go further. It’s cheaper, too, as you could buy smaller packs that will save you money on your food bill.
8. Store your food well
No one likes food waste. If you store your food well, you can make your food last longer and make fewer trips to the supermarket. You should store your food safely because spoiled food can make you sick. Here are some ways to make your food last longer:
- Freeze items that are going out of date
- Store leftovers in airtight containers
- Make sure your fridge and freezer are set at the right temperature for the time of year
- Keep packaging securely sealed
- Check the storage directions on the label
You can keep your food budget to a minimum by reducing your food waste. If you keep an eye on your food throughout the week, you can ensure you use up food that is close to expiring.
- Freeze foods that are expiring soon. Most food will last in the freezer for up to three months.
- Use stale bread for recipes like bread-and-butter pudding or make breadcrumbs or croutons.
- Save vegetable scraps for veggie stock, use vegetable peels to make veggie crisps or use them for compost in your garden.
10. Understand best before vs use by dates
Most food items will have a best-before or use-by date printed on them. A use-by date means food should not be consumed after this date as it may not be safe to eat. A best-before date indicates that food is at its best quality before this date, but it will still be safe to eat if it has been handled and stored correctly. Best before is used for food with a longer shelf life, like tinned foods, pasta, and rice.
Some supermarkets have already removed best-before dates from certain products to help reduce food waste. A good way to remember is that the use-by date is a deadline, and the best-before date is a guideline.
11. Track your spending
Track your food spending by creating a food budget. Stick to it as closely as you can so you can keep to your overall monthly budget and adjust along the way. You’ll be motivated to keep going when you save money and reduce your food waste. You’ll also teach your friends and family how to budget for food.
Tracking your spending is easy with the HyperJar card. You can get spending notifications to keep you accountable and help you stay on course.
How Much Budget Should go on Food
When considering how much of your budget should go on food, you need to consider your personal circumstances. A family of five will have to allocate more to their food budget than a student. According to the ONS, the average household spends £100 per week on food, but this could be reduced when you know how to plan a food budget.
To start, budget 10% of your monthly income for food. For example, if your monthly income is £1,500, set £150 aside for your food. Looking back on your recent food receipts, you will see if that amount is realistic. You can then increase this if needed and review your food shop costs in your monthly budget regularly to ensure you are budgeting enough money and avoiding unexpected expenses.
You can use a HyperJar's saving pots to put money aside each month for your food budget, so you know you have budgeted enough to pay for food each month.
After rent or mortgage payments, food is the most expensive household bill, so it makes sense to plan a food budget carefully. Now you know how to create a food budget, you can shop for food on a budget whilst staying in total control of your finances. HyperJar can help you plan, budget, and save like a pro.