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How to save money on your food bill by buying in season

We folk in the UK tend to go overboard when we’re shopping for our food, resulting in expensive shopping bills and blown out budgets. This is partly down to the major convenient supermarkets inflicting their little marketing tricks on us, i.e. displaying the most profitable brands at eye level and the cheapest, basic alternatives out of reach. But, I also believe that a lot of it is down to not making the time to meal plan or buy food in season. By preparing and implementing a food strategy based around meal planning your recipes and buying foods that are in season, you can work around the pricey UK food system and build yourself an effective budget that you can realistically stick to for years to come. So, with that in mind, here are Five for a Fiver’s top tips on how to save money on your food bill by buying in season.

Print out a seasonal calendar and stick it to your fridge

Seasonal calendars are so useful. They work as little prompts so that you can check which foods are in season right now. Buying seasonal food not only saves you money (because they don’t need to be imported from another country, as they are grown naturally in local farms), but they are actually healthier for you, great for the environment, and they taste better too! Seasonal food also grows without artificial chemicals because they need less effort to produce. For example, we’re coming up to August, which is blackberry season. Instead of paying around £2.99 for a small punnet of blackberries, you can pick them for free for three months of the year. The more we learn about seasonal food, the more educated we will be on our produce and, in fact, the more we can enjoy a wider variety of good food and cut costs at the same time. No brainer! I have created a very extensive seasonal calendar for you to print out. You can find the UK Seasonal Calendar here or just click on the image below.

Seasonal calendar

Meal plan your recipes using the seasonal calendar as your guide

Now we know which foods are in season, we need to come up with a meal plan, so that we are only buying the food that we need. It took me a long time to work out how to create a meal plan. I kept making it too fancy, with lots of squiggly lines and too much information. But, in fact, it was all just fluff. The real meal planning is, literally, a simple Excel spreadsheet or a to-do list, categorised by the times of the day, when the family eats together, and the days of the week that you want to plan your meals. That’s it. However, there are a few things to think about when you start your meal planning:

1. Check what’s in your fridge/pantry and utilise those items first – Open the fridge, and check all the ‘use by’ dates. Then head on over to Google and type in the key ingredients, along with ‘recipe’ as a keyword. Google will churn up a number of recipes and, whichever takes your fancy, you can add that recipe to the meal plan.

2. Think about portions – I always overcook and end up with tons of leftovers. I am creative with my recipes, however, and tend to incorporate leftovers into other meals. But, if you want to, ultimately, save money and be on top of your shopping list, then I would advise you to work out your portions first, in order to reduce any leftovers heading straight to the bin. Love Food Hate Waste, which is an awesome charity all about saving food and money, has a brilliant Portion Planner tool on their website. The Portion Planner tool removes the guesswork by suggesting how much to cook, depending on who’s coming for dinner, and ways to measure it.

3. Don’t meal plan for every day – inevitably, something will come up and plans will change. Perhaps, you have some visitors that day or you go out to eat. If you have any unexpected leftovers from your meal plan, just place them in a container and freeze them for whenever you have another spontaneous day.

4. Check out Five for a Fiver for super quick and cheap recipes – Five for a Fiver creates 5-ingredient recipes for £5 or less, so you can save a lot of money by limiting your ingredients and adding more flavour. You can subscribe to receive new recipes straight to your inbox too.

5. Use mySupermarket’s online comparison site to get the most out of your shopping at the cheapest price.

You’ve got your seasonal calendar to hand and you’ve meal planned for the week. Now, to do the shopping and get the ingredients! You can save a lot of money by heading to independent food markets, rather than always using the supermarket chains. But, the best possible way of cutting costs is to use a comparison site like mySupermarket, which finds you the best deals in the UK and saves you an average of 30% on each shop. mySupermarket has a very wide range of ingredients from most of the largest stores in the UK, including Tesco, Asda, Ocado, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Poundland, Iceland, Aldi, Amazon.co.uk, Boots, Superdrug and M&S. The list is growing, but you don’t need much more than those choices to get the best possible bang for your buck. Also, if you miss a deal, mySupermarket would flag up the cheapest possible option for that item in your shopping trolley. They are completely independent from the supermarkets and are totally free to use. Their key aim is to help shoppers save money on their grocery shop. I use them all the time and I have a mySupermarketwidget under all my recipes on Five for a Fiver , so you guys get the cheapest possible deal for your ingredients. I couldn’t recommend them more. Just head on over to www.mysupermarket.co.uk and sign up to start saving money.

Get back in control of your food and your finances

By gaining back control of your food and your finances, you will start to save money every day. This doesn’t mean you have to skimp on your regular meals. Just use your common sense. Buy in season, meal plan most of your recipes, use mySupermarket to buy the cheapest possible produce and make stuff yourself at home. Avoid buying pre-packaged meals and bags because you get less food, but spend more money. Buy the core ingredients and learn how to make them at home. If you need a little bit more encouragement to cook in your kitchen, I’ve written a post all about ‘How to get confident in your own kitchen’. Start there and work your way up.

Good luck!

Guest post provided by Leyla Preston

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Owner of Five for a Fiver (5-ingredient recipes for £5 or less)

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