Save money on the weekly food bill

With food prices going up and the economy slowing down you could be paying more for your food shopping. There are many ways to reduce the cost of your weekly shop and as Emma Harrowing discovers you could save a lot more than you think.

Emma Harrowing

With food prices going up and the economy slowing down you could be paying more for your food shopping. There are many ways to reduce the cost of your weekly shop and as Emma Harrowing discovers you could save a lot more than you think.

My last weekly trip to the supermarket costs me £48.82 and it wasn't long ago that this would have been nearer the £40 mark. Food costs are increasing and with the doom and gloom surrounding the British economy at the moment, food prices look set to get worse. However there are ways in which you can reduce the cost of your food bill. Buy one get one free (BOGOF) offers enable you to get food for free, supermarket reward cards can give you money off certain items, and price comparison websites allows you to check where you can get your shopping for the cheapest price. And there are more ways to save the pennies or in some cases pounds.

So how much could you save? I decided to see how much I could save on my £48.82 weekly shop. First of all I decided to shop online to see if this would be any cheaper. The supermarket's website was easy to navigate and it was easy to spot offers and discounts; a good money saver. Impulse buys such as chocolate and magazines that are always placed at the till, and I swear always call out to me as I'm queuing to pay, are placed in a section that you have to click on to view so these are easy to avoid. My total weekly food shopping came to £44.02, a saving of £4.80. However, I was then stung by a delivery charge of £5.99, meaning that I had in fact spent £1.19 more on my shopping. Not a great start.

I remembered that there are discount codes on the internet that enable you to get your shopping delivered free. They are easy to find ( is a good site to find the latest offers) and if you look on the supermarkets website there are sometimes offers that entitle you to free delivery. So armed with my discount code the £5.99 delivery charge was taken off my final bill and I was back to saving £4.80 on my week's shopping. By getting my food delivered I was also saving money on petrol. But I wasn't going to stop there.

I put the items on my shopping list into a price comparison site to see if I could get my food cheaper elsewhere. The site was similar to an online supermarket where you click on items you want, only this time the site gives the total cost of your shopping from other supermarkets, so that you can see which store is the cheapest. For my food shopping, Asda came out the cheapest at £42.34. I had saved another £1.68 (an overall saving of £6.48).

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The price comparison site also suggests cheaper alternatives for some of the items on your shopping list and these can be swapped to help further reduce your food bill. I had 12 swap suggestions. Items such as changing my butter for another brand saved me £1.10, and buying my fruit and vegetables loose rather than pre-packed saved an impressive £2.08. The site also gave me the option of buying items in bulk, which saved more money. Some of these items were perishable such as the oranges, which were on a BOGOF offer, and I wouldn't be able to eat them all before they had gone off making the deal not so good. However some, such as swapping the 48 box of Weetabix for a box of 72 and swapping two five litre bottles of water for five two litre bottles, saved me another £1.10. (Yes I was initially paying more for the Weetabix, but in the long run I was saving 87p on this item, a small discount, but a discount nevertheless).

The result of all my swaps saved me another £5.88, and surprisingly Asda was no longer the cheapest place to get my food. Tesco now came out on top, and my weekly food bill had been reduced by an impressive £12.36 to £36.46, a monthly saving of approximately £145.84. Add this up for the year and I was saving approximately £1750.80 enough to buy a second hand car or put a deposit on a new one or perhaps I can buy some new clothes or shoes, or spend my savings on a holiday…


Top ten tips to reduce your food bill.

1. Buying supermarket own brands or their no frills versions can save you up to 15 pc off your shopping.

2. Instead of taking a trip to the supermarket get online, this saves money on petrol and reduces the chance of impulse buys.

3. If you are shopping on the web look out for discount codes for free delivery.

4. Some supermarket reward cards offer good discount vouchers. Also look out for money off vouchers in the press.

5. Being aware of the supermarket layout can save you money. Most supermarkets place more expensive items on shelves at eye level and impulse buys such as chocolate and magazines at the till. These can bump up the price of your food bill.

6. Buy in bulk where you can and look out for BOGOF offers on imperishable items.

7. Planning your meals for the week and just buying the ingredients you need could save you money. If you also use up leftovers for the meal the next night you will save more money and reduce waste.

8. Meat is one of the highest cost items so introduce a veggie night at least once a week and try cheaper meat alternatives.

9. Pick the time you decide to shop carefully. Shopping at the end of the day seems to be more cost effective as some fish, meat and deli counters tend to dramatically reduce the price of products. As a guideline most of the major supermarkets reduce some items by up to 25 percent between 8am and 12pm, some items are reduced by up to half price between 4pm and 5pm and there is a massive 75 percent discount on certain items between 7pm and 9pm.

10. There are websites where you can sign up to test different products and get free samples of cereal, teabags and other food items, such as www.toluna .com

BOGOF offers on imperishable items is one way to save money on your food shopping.

Buying your fruit and vegetables loose rather than in pre-packed bags is cheaper and reduces waste.