As we all know, the cost of living is going up whilst wages are staying the same. With so much doom and gloom around we thought we would give you some great money saving tips on how to feed the family.

Whilst we don’t claim to have all the answers, some of our suggestions might help you save money over the coming months.

Winter time is the hardest for most families as costs increase beyond control. Heating bills go up, and children need new winter clothes and shoes/boots. See our section on ‘Save Money on Household Bills’ for further money saving ideas.

Feeding your family is a top priority but is likely to be your largest monthly expense. With food prices soaring it can be difficult to budget, so here we have a few money saving tips to help you save money each week.

Plan you weekly menu in advance

Planning your shopping trip is vital, so why not plan your weekly meals before you shop and have a good look in the cupboards, fridge and freezer, making a list of everything you need and then stick to it!  Don’t go shopping when you’re hungry – you’ll be tempted to buy more of the things you don’t actually need.  Look at all the special offers but be careful you don’t get fooled into thinking you are getting a bargain when you are not.

Many supermarkets now show a price per kg, or litre on the shelf strip label – this is usually in small print, but it helps make a comparison and find out which product size is best value for money.  Some offers make you think you are saving but sometimes a product goes off before you get to use it all.

A good shopping tip is to shop online as you only put what you need in your basket and you won’t get distracted as you walk down the aisles!  Personally I like to get something back from my local supermarket so look at what they offer you in the way of loyalty rewards which could result in getting money back plus money off vouchers and special deals.

Have a look at the reduced item shelf – most of the time there isn’t anything wrong with the food apart from the approaching “sell by/use by date”.  Make the most of the reduced price and if appropriate, stick it in the freezer when you get home.  Shopping needn’t be a chore – plan carefully in advance, write a list and only buy what’s on it!

Ready Meals vs. Freshly Cooked

It goes without saying a freshly cooked meal is better than a ready meal. But with time restraints the ready meal is the easier option. For the time conscious, try making you own casseroles and stews as they make fantastic hearty meals that are filling and warming, perfect for the winter months. Casserole meat tends to be more cost effective than joints or steaks. Make up a large batch and then divide it into containers and freeze.

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During Winter, there is a large variety of root vegetables available, such as carrots, parsnips, swedes, and butternut squash. If you can, invest in a slow cooker, as they will tick over during the course of the day giving you a tasty meal to come home to. All the preparation can be done the night before and put into the slow cooker in the morning. The only thing left for you to do is to cook some potatoes or pasta before serving.

A slow cooker is a great investment for any family and possibly one for the Christmas or birthday list. They don’t cost a fortune and will help save money, as they are cheaper to run all day when compared to your main cooker. Slow cookers can do so much more than stews and casseroles.   They are perfect for cooking mince as a bolognaise, base for a shepherd’s pie or cottage pie, and great for soups, risottos, curry’s chilli con carnie and more.

When shopping look at picking loose fruit and vegetables, as they tend to be cheaper than pre-packed, and you only get what you need. Pre-packed items can contain a bad item and these will end up in the bin. Choosing your own, gives you the flexibility to buy only as much as you need, cutting down the costs and wastage. Have a good look as sometimes retailers put fresher stock in the basket below the one everyone is picking from.

Leftovers

When growing up, Monday’s were always left over days and if we were really unlucky Tuesday would be too. The amount of times I would sit at the table for hours on end refusing to eat bubble and squeak! Times have moved on now and if we are lucky we get to a mini roast on Monday from the leftover’s of the Sunday dinner.

When you have finished your meal, see what can be served again. In theory, you should be able to reuse all meats, vegetables and fish, as long as it hasn’t been nibbled at or smothered with a sauce or gravy.

Be imaginative with leftovers.  My husband used to bin everything after a meal as he said it didn’t taste the same when reheated, but now he hardly realises he’s being served left over’s the following day. Most vegetables and potatoes come back to life after a couple of minutes in boiling water or a few seconds in the microwave and meat just needs warming through. If you have a lot of meat left over, you could turn it into a casserole or a pie. Vegetables can be added to loads of things or made into a tasty soup.

Most chefs’ cookbooks have a section for leftovers including Delia Smith and Nigella Lawson. Most of these recipes will also be found online. Get some inspiration and make one meal last. Once you get into the swing of it there will be no stopping you.   Why not share these ideas with your friends and family. You never know, you could be the next Delia or Jamie!

Buy Own Brand

Instead of looking at the branded food why not try the store’s own brand, as you might be pleasantly surprised!  Some of the value ranges are very good, and many are made by some of the leading manufacturers of branded goods.  Buy food that can go in the freezer.  Not only does this save you from throwing food out but will give you more variety without having to go to the shops.

It’s common knowledge now that most ‘own brands’ are made by the big brands. The Supermarkets own brand is usually cheaper than the main brand stuff but can taste the same, so why pay more? Why not try own brand foods in your next shop and see the difference the price makes to your weekly shop. Each supermarket has their own budget brand specifically designed to help with finances. Whilst these may not have the same taste or consistency as own brand foods they are still good quality and will definitely save you money in the long run.

Things like baked beans or spaghetti, pasta and bread are pretty much the same. It’s really a personal choice and down to your budget. The value fruit and vegetables often look less appetising – they might be a bit misshaped or smaller, but they still taste the same. Give them a try next time you go shopping and we guarantee you will be surprised and just think of the money you are saving!

Takeaways & Eating Out

Most of the time Takeaways or a meal out are seen as a treat and or a quick fix for something to eat. If you are on a tight budget you need to be careful as these options work out to be very pricey and often not that healthy.

Make sandwiches for lunch – bought sandwiches can work out to be very expensive on a daily basis. If you think you will pay around £2.50 for a cheaper range of sandwich, along with crisps or chocolate (or both) and a drink you could be spending around £4 a day. A loaf of bread, butter, and sandwich fillings along with selection packs of crisps would not cost much more than one or 2 days worth of bought lunches and will set you up for the week. Make soup or take in left over dinners for your lunch break instead of making a visit to the sandwich shop or van.

Fish and Chips used to be a cheap treat but not anymore. Last night 2 fish and chips and a child’s portion came to just over £11 from our local chippie! I could have bought the fish and chips from our local supermarket for half the price and still had some left to go in the freezer. Think about the cost before treating your family. Keep a treat and save it for a special occasion, everyone will appreciate it more when it’s an extra special treat rather than taking it for granted.

Some restaurants offer special deals and these can work out to be more cost effective than cooking the meal. However, be careful as often time these offers mean the portion sizes are smaller than normal – ideal for the children but the adults might be hungry afterwards and end up wanting something else.

There are plenty of other ways to save money when it comes to feeding your family and I hope you have found some useful tips from those suggested.

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