This is the first of a number of posts on the subject of “Food Optimising on a ShoeString” (or “How to do Slimming World on a Budget”).
Food Optimising on a Budget – Part 1 – The Supermarkets
1) In general – the large supermarkets are not necessarily your friend when wanting to save money – convenient – yes, money saving – not always. Take time out to compare your standard shops between different supermarkets.
2) Most supermarkets (large and small) will have a reduced section or two for stuff going out of date/sell by that day. Find out the best times (this is trial and error – but later in the day is generally better). OK this brings a element of “luck” to the equation but for that you need to either be flexible in your meals plans or have room to freeze your latest find. I’ve had some great bargains this way – Pork chops for 30p; rack of lamb (originally just over £11) for about £1.80; packs of mushrooms for 15p a pack.
3) Fruit in the reduction cabinets is rarely ripe. Learn how to recognise the differences between fruit that is still to finish ripening and a ripe piece of the same fruit. Basically with few exceptions – the dates on the packets are meaningless; Don’t get fooled by what the supermarkets tell us is a ripe *******.
4) Tesco Express, Sainsbury Local, etc – are generally a rip off with regards to prices – anything from a few pence to 20/30p more then in larger stores – though they have gotten better over the years but I’d still advise to use these places sparingly. Also compare with other local stores. Where I used to live, there was a Tesco Express with a Spar very near by. I’d say that 75% of the time – the Spar was cheaper – sometimes significantly so.
5) Substitute where possible – brand names are fine and dandy, but supermarket own brands are just as good most times – even their budget/value ranges. There’s nothing to say you can’t flavour things up – a few chilli flakes, a dash of mixed herbs, a splash of Tabasco, or just a small squeeze of tomato puree can take a weaker tasting own brand and make it something even better than the brand name.
6) Poundland, B&M and the like can sometimes have some good bargains – but always check what you’re getting compared to the same product in a regular High Street supermarket – that £1 item in Poundland may not actually be cheaper on the pence per Kg/100g basis than in Tesco and may even be more expensive. Same goes for Aldi/Lidl – a few days ago Aldi were selling Apricots at 69p a pack (of about 6/8); Tesco was selling them at 49p for a similarly sized pack.
7) If they’re amenable to “chit chat” – get to know the people behind the deli/cheese/butcher counters a little – especially if you are always seeing the same faces there. A few seconds chatting when you’re wandering past may lead to having bargains highlighted to you later on (but by no means expect this).