Food Optimising on a ShoeString – Part 3

This is the third part of a series of posts on ways to minimise costs when Food Optimising – the first part can be found here; and the second part here.

Food Optimising on a Budget – Part 3 – General

Whilst there are a variety of strategies to save a bit of money whilst shopping – some are particular to particular types of stores.  Then there’s the “rest” that apply nearly anywhere.

1) Bulk buying cheap bargains is great – you get a supply in cheap and it’s there when you need it.  But ask yourself – do you need it? Am I going to use it? If the answer is no – then what’s the point buying something you aren’t going to use?  Same goes for short dated products in the reduction cabinets/shelves/whatever at the end of the day – great – you found a punnet of strawberries for 40p, but if you’re not going to use them for the next few days and have no room to freeze them – have you saved any money if you end up putting the pack (or the majority of the pack) in the bin?

2) If you have a garden and the room – what about grow your own? Doesn’t necessarily mean digging the garden up – there’s plenty of options for window boxes and pots. I’ve grown spring onions in window boxes, strawberries in hanging baskets, herbs and radishes in pots on the patio before.   Then there’s the window sill herb pots you can buy.  Though admittedly having a “green thumb” helps (I don’t have one it has to be said).

3) What about a bit of foraging? Blackberry picking on hedgerows can be fun as well as an excuse to get a few more extra steps in (think of the Body Magic).  I’ve also come across wild plum trees and the odd wild raspberry cane too in my travels.  Leave fungi alone though unless you really know what you’re doing – I almost made the mistake of picking what looked like a standard field mushroom once – but a few minutes after picking it started turning yellow where I’d held it – eating them would have made me quite ill it turns out.

4) There’s the old saying “Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves” – so what if you only save 5p on buying “X” from “Y” – if it’s a regular buy those 5p’s will add up; repeat over a number of products and 5p here, 10p there, and so forth will actually save quite a bit.

5) I live in a town with minimal (but growing slowly) choice of shops – I also don’t currently drive (by choice).  I can catch the bus to use larger stores and a bigger range of stores, but I always try to do research before hand – mysupermarket.co.uk is a great comparison tool. If I know what I want then I’ll make sure that whatever I save buying there over what I’d spend on the same items where I live makes up most of the bus fare.

6) Plan, plan, plan.  Going with a plan (and even a shopping list) will help stop impulse buys, in turn saving money.

7) If the option is available – buy “dirty” spuds, carrots and the like.  Yes you have to then wash/clean them yourself – but the “dirty” veg should last longer in the cupboard then the nice sanitised pre-cleaned ones that the supermarkets like to sell.  Plus “dirty” veg is often cheaper (but not always alas).

8) Make the more expensive ingredients last longer by mixing in a similar but cheaper one.  I’ll admit to liking the (more than occasional) rice pudding – but at a minimum of 99p for 500g bag of pudding (or other starchy short grain) rice – that could get expensive fast.  However I make that 500g bag last longer by making it with roughly half short grain mixed with half of cheap long grain (40p for 1Kg).  You could (and I have) make it with all long grain – but you don’t get the creamy texture so much.

9) Vouchers – there seems to be vouchers for everything and everywhere – sometimes they’re even useful – but just because you can save 30p by buying a particular brand of chopped tomatoes – is that a good buy? A 90p tin of tomatoes and a voucher for 30p that brand is still 60p – will a 29p tin be as good?

10) Online shopping – great for stopping the impulse buys and delivery options can be cheap if asking for delivery outside of peak hours. You can even see the latest offers.  But what you don’t get to see is the end of day reductions that could significantly save you even more money. But watch out for those “substitutions” that they like to make – two similar looking items could have two very different syn values.

11) The biggest con (in my opinion) perpetrated by the food industry – “Use By”/”Best Before” dates. Just because the clock has now ticked over to the date on the packet, the food isn’t magically going to go off.  Use your nose, look at it, maybe taste a tiny bit as well – you’ll know if it’s off or not.  “Best Before” dates are just that – the item is “best before” whatever date it happens to have printed, past that date it may not be at it’s best – but if we’re talking a tin of baked beans for example – are you really going to know the difference?

Let’s be honest – most of the bits here (and the previous 2 parts) are not exactly “rocket science”, but if you want to save money – you have to put the time and effort in and may mean a bit of leg work – at least initially – if you’re buying standard stock items each week/fortnight/month then you only have to do a comparison once every 3 or 4 months (or if you notice the price at your regular store going up – check to see if other stores available to you have also increased their prices or not). Occasional or one off items – follow your instinct and look where you think is going to be cheapest and if not happy with the price – look elsewhere as a comparison.

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