50 ways to cut the cost of your household shopping

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Hi everybody,

To celebrate there only being 50 days left till I become debt free I thought I would do a bumper post about how to save money on your household shopping!

Looking to cut the cost on your household shopping is one of the easiest ways to make savings to your spending. It is one of the areas we have the most control over, and therefore it is a good place to start.

Here we go.

  1. Store your food correctly. Not every fruit/vegetable needs to go in the fridge. Onions for instance are happiest in a cool dark place, though don’t keep them with your potatoes as both emit a chemical that will make both of them go bad twice as quickly. Onions love scurrying about in an old clean pair of tights (perverts) and will last for ages if there.
  2. Obey Use by Dates, but Best before Dates are just a guidance as to when the food will be at its best quality and may last for absolute ages after that date. I regularly make cakes out of tinned fruit that were BBE nearly 2 years ago and I’m yet to get sick. Use your judgement. If it looks fine, smells fine, tastes fine then it is fine. If it looks bad, smells bad and tastes bad then get rid of it. As for sell by dates if these still exist as there are calls to abolish them, they are just about stock rotation for a supermarket and have no other importance than that. Ignore them.
  3. Eggs can be fine long after their date. They way to check is to fill a glass with water and gently place the egg inside. If it just lays there at the bottom, then it is fine. If it sits up, it’s getting old and should be eaten soon. If it floats chuck it, it’s bad. Eggs should never be washed as their shells become porous in water, so only do this glass test if you plan on eating the eggs straight away.
  4. Buy a loaf of bread and freeze half of it. Use the fresh slices for sandwiches and the frozen slices for toast, they’ll defrost straight away on the toaster. Sometimes I ended up with a huge amount of frozen bread slices in my freezer so then I would make a savoury bread and butter pudding with eggs and cheese. Nice. That’s a bonus tip for you.
  5. Star drops is a miracle product. It sells in places like Home Bargains, Savers and on Amazon. I am only just beginning to find out all its uses. The simplest thing I use it for is as a surface cleaner. Diluting 1 part star drops to 9 parts water will turn it into a surface spray. Decant into an old spray bottle and bingo!
  6. Anti-bacterial wipes are convenient, but they are also expensive and bad for the environment. Following the tip above you could also buy some reusable dish clothes and use one every day and then throw it in the wash to reuse again.
  7. When you buy a nice jar of sundried tomatoes or similar in oil you can save the oil and use it in cooking. It will be nicely infused with the taste of whatever was contained in the jar and is one way to stretch your food budget better.
  8. Measure out your ingredients to prevent waste. 75g of rice and pasta is all you need for one person, especially if you are having other things with it. Therefore measuring out 75g per person when cooking will give you the right portion amounts and this means there won’t be any waste.
  9. A lot of people wax lyrical about reduced items. I tend not to bother too much with them but it is true you can get some good savings on them but think practically. Reduced items should be used on the day or frozen on the day ideally, therefore it is hard to plan your life and weekly food plan around them. When perusing the reduced aisle really think about whether you need the item and if it is going to be used in time.
  10. I live my life around meal planning. I base it around how much time I’m going to have on a particular day (so I’m not making a three course meal on a day when I’ve only got one hour to spare) and also on what needs to be eaten first and before it goes off.
  11. Eating up fresh items first means they won’t get wasted. Do not put your money in the bin.
  12. When times are really tough financially I tend to meal plan every meal, though in easier times I tend to just plan the dinners, though this usually extends over into lunches as I batch cook. During lockdown I once went two weeks before I had to go shopping again as I had fanatically meal planned and made use of everything in the cupboards.
  13. Batch cooking is my saving grace. I tend to spend either Sunday or Monday prepping a lot of meals for the week – Dinners like pasta dishes and curries, lunches like soups, breakfasts like overnight oats. This saves me so much time during the week as it means I can have a nice tasty meal ready at the ping of a microwave button and being able to take something into work means it keeps me out of the workplace canteen spending money.
  14. Batch cooking is a really good thing, but you must make sure to prep the food safely. Look up what things can be frozen and what can be kept in the fridge and for how long. You don’t want to throw away food that has gone off. Likewise you don’t want to get food poisoning and take time off work or spend it in hospital.
  15. Make sure to reheat leftovers to the correct temperature, to prevent the above maladies. 82 degrees is best. You can buy an inexpensive food thermometer to check the temperature.
  16. Using an oven for a long time uses a lot of energy and can be expensive, particularly if you are only heating up just one thing. Why not cook two things at once?
  17. Herbs and spices are a great way to make food taste better, but you can end up with a lot of them languishing in your cupboards for years, particularly if you buy one for a specific recipe and never use it again. Try seeing if there is a zero waste shop near where you live where you could buy a smaller amount of the desired herb/spice so that it won’t go off. This can often cost just pennies. Or try and learn a little bit about herbs and spices and see what ones can be substituted for another in a recipe and still give the desired taste.
  18. Personally I feel that herbs and spices are still good long after they’ve been opened. The taste may dull a little. I would find it a nonsense to still keep an herb for 13 years as I have heard in some cases, it’s clear you don’t need that one in your life. But I have been known to use herbs and spices a year past their best before date.
  19. Food can be an inexpensive and thoughtful gift at seasonal times. In Nigella Lawson’s ‘Nigella Christmas’ book she gives a recipe for making a gift of vanilla sugar – a literal jar of caster sugar with a scraped vanilla pod in. This can be a fun way to get children involved at gift making stage, and with placing the treats in a sterilized kilner jar with a nice ribbon it can look delightful. A nonfood tip would be to decorate the jars with paints or pens and make them look pretty that way.
  20. I recommend doing a food inventory once a month, ideally around the time of the first big shop of the payday that month. I get a notebook and write down everything in the cupboards, on the surfaces and in the fridge and freezer to get an idea of what I have, what needs to be eaten first, and what I need to replace of add. This saves me money because it means when I go to the shops I am buying what I need, I am not wasting food and I can come up with food ideas using what I already have in stock. Some people like to take a ‘shelfie’ which is a photo of your cupboards so that when you go to the supermarket you remember what you already have. Whatever works for you is best, but the premise is to get an idea of what you have. Oh, and get rid of those 13 year old spices.
  21. Facebook groups like ‘feed yourself for 1 a day’ and ‘scrimping on a budget’ are great low cost ways of getting ideas and tips for your food and meal plans. The members often post great low cost and kid friendly recipes, and something I often see is a member asking whether they can substitute a particular ingredient for another, or what they can make with the ingredients they have in.
  22. Save old vegetable scraps, celery stubs, carrot tops and peel, onion scraps, potato peelings etc in a zip lock bag in the freezer. When you have a large enough collection add to a large pan of water with black peppercorns, a bay leaf and bring to the boil and then simmer for about an hour. Strain over another pan and you will have homemade vegetable stock and you can feel all smug and domestic goddessy. Add a chicken carcass and extend the process for about 2 hours and you will have chicken stock.
  23. Life is about treats as much as it is about being sensible with your money. There will always be something you won’t compromise on taste wise or brand wise. That is fine, I’m the same! I love ground coffee. I have a subscription to a coffee service. Not very frugal when a small bag costs much more than a larger jar of instant, but I won’t compromise on this, but there are things I don’t mind buying cheaper versions of and that’s how I make my savings.
  24. Having said that, when I do buy one of those large jars of instant coffee I wash the label off the jar and sterilize it in a dishwasher and I keep it to store things in, like nuts, lentils etc. My grandparents had exactly the same in their kitchen and when I see my appropriated coffee jars in my cupboards it always makes me think of them and smile.
  25. I relaunched this blog during lockdown. You may remember how hard it was to buy pasta and other grains. I thought I’d share what I adapted that situation with during that time. Cauliflower can be processed in a food processor or bashed about in a bag with a rolling pin to make cauliflower ‘rice’. Rice itself is quite cheap, perhaps cheaper than what rice can be produced from the average Tesco cauliflower, but if you can’t get rice but can get cauliflower then the rice is a nice carb type substitute.
  26. You might have seen ‘courgetti’ (spaghetti made out of courgettes) produced with a spiralizer, but spiralizers are quite expensive for something you might not need very often. Courgetti can be produced to a similar effect with a potato peeler. Again this is a carb type substitute and will count towards one of your five a day.
  27. Pearl Barley is a nice grain and can be used to make a ‘barlotto’ which is a risotto like dish just made with this grain instead. I made a really nice one once with a bag of frozen mushroom mix and it tasted great.
  28. The freezer is not a place for chicken kiev’s to go and die. It is also not just your random storage container. But it can be quite forgiving to odds and ends. Your ice cube tray is your friend. You can freeze individual portions of wine, herbs, hummus, and various other bits and bobs and store them in a bag and just throw in one or two when you’re making a sauce or similar.
  29. When you do store things in the freezer, label them. You don’t want to tip what you think is vegetable stock into a curry only to find out it is gooseberry sauce.
  30. Freezer bags can easily be reused. Don’t just throw them away. Wash them each time you use them. This will not only save you money but will save the planet too.
  31. Likewise tin foil can be washed and dried and used again, as can baking parchment. Sometimes it can’t be saved, but usually it is good for another one or two goes.
  32. Whatever you do on Pancake Day just make sure you don’t buy a packet of instant mix pancake batter. You can make this for literal pennies with flour and milk and egg. This does not require any fancy cooking skills, believe me if I could make pancakes at the beginning of my food cooking experiments then so can you.
  33. A portion of juice is 150ml. Only 150ml once a day counts towards your five a day. Therefore you do not really gain anything from drinking a pint of it. Measure out your 150ml, get your dose of vitamins, and then put the juice back in the fridge.
  34. Likewise a portion of fruit and vegetables is usually about 80g of fresh produce for an adult. You might benefit from having 125g of tomatoes if you are adding 35g of olives as combined that would be two portions, but likewise with the juice you can save loads of money across a few days if you measure out your portions.
  35. Milk that is on the turn can be used to make scones. Cream on the turn can be used to make butter. Yogurt on the turn is quite forgiving in smoothies, cakes and homemade frozen yogurt. Use your judgement, if it is bad don’t use it, but if it is just about fine then use it up and don’t waste it.
  36. Buying a 9p reduced bag of parsnips to then batch cook and make curried parsnip soup is a great way to play the reduced food cabinet to your advantage. This is where buying from the reduced section can save you huge amounts of money, but you do have to be prepared to use the food straight away.
  37. Cooking food often extends its shelf life a little longer, so if you buy reduced fish or meat it is wise to either freeze it straight away or cook it straight away. Anything else is a bit risky.
  38. A small glass of wine is 125ml, a medium glass is 175ml, a large glass is 250ml. Getting wine glasses that have measurement lines on them is a great way to practice portion control and make that bottle last longer. Or use a set of kitchen scales. Simply put the glass on the scales, set it to zero, then measure out your required amount. Of course, I’m not saying you need to do this on a good night out/in, live a little! But if you are having just a random glass during the week measuring it is a good place to start.
  39. Wrap hard cheese in baking parchment to keep it from going sweaty in the bag. And then follow the practice of an earlier tip and reuse the baking parchment after that use.
  40. Worried about the eggs in your fridge might have gone off? Place it gently in a glass of water. If it stays on the bottom it is fresh. If it stands upright it’s a bit old and should be used quickly, if it floats you should chuck it. Eggs become porous after coming in contact with water so only do this if you are sure you’re about to use the eggs.
  41. If you’re vegan you might give making your own oat milk or almond milk a try. Don’t throw away the pulp once you’re done. Use it in cakes, flapjacks or overnight oats. It’s still perfectly edible.
  42. Dried lentils and other pulses are a fraction of the cost of tinned, but you must be sure to cook them correctly otherwise they can be poisonous. Usually they require an overnight soak and then a cook for about an hour for them to be edible. You might not be bothered about going to this much effort and will just stick with tinned but there are serious savings to be made.
  43. Both Tesco and Holland and Barrett do a dried soya vegetarian protein product range which when prepped correctly is similar to Quorn mince. This is a good way to make a saving.
  44. An economy bottle of bath foam decanted into an old hand wash dispenser and watered down slightly is an easy way to get cheap hand wash.
  45. Tinned fruit is a great addition to cakes, I made a lovely coconut and mango cake using an old tin of mango. I then used the syrup of the mango to mix with icing sugar and drizzle on top. Don’t be afraid to use every part of a food item.
  46. Most of the good nutrients in a vegetable is in the peel, so buy a nice vegetable scrubbing brush and get into the habit of pre-scrubbing your vegetables and then using every bit of it.
  47. If you have the space for it and are a keen gardener why not start a composting patch? That way you are repurposing your food waste. Or see if there is anyone you can donate the waste to such as a local allotment.
  48. If you are a keen baker you might want to look into wartime cook books which would should you how to make dishes when there was very little available due to rationing. Museums and of course online retailers are good places to find such delights.
  49. Personally I think some things are worth investing in and paying more for. Ice cream is one such item. A sign of a good ice cream is if it was to melt it would taste and look like a delicious milkshake. If however it looks like the cream has separated and gone watery, then this is a bad ice cream and isn’t worth bothering with.
  50. Herbs and spices are an inexpensive way of lifting flavour in a dish and making your food taste great. The ones I can’t live without are basil, chives, bay leaves, oregano, onion powder, turmeric, ginger, mixed spice, cinnamon, coriander, garam masala, curry powder, paprika and ground black pepper. They are perfect for making bland and simple dishes taste amazing.

So there we have it, 50 ways to cut the cost of your household shopping. Thanks for joining me on the 50 day countdown to being debt free.




Published by flodebtfreediary

Hello, I write about food, debt, saving money, mental health and social anxiety.

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