10 top tips to save money on groceries in 2024

If you need to save money on groceries, these simple grocery shopping tips will help you make the most of your food budget!

A young woman examines a box of cereal in the supermarket

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As the cost of living continues to increase, more and more people are having to cut back on their weekly grocery bill. 

Food is one of the biggest expenditures in most household budgets, but it’s also where most people look first when they need to make savings. We can’t easily cut our mortgage or rent payments, and other household bills are generally fixed, but we can trim a little from our grocery budget.

I originally wrote this post around the 2008 financial crisis for another website I used to run. Some of the tips in that original post are no longer relevant, so I’ve updated them and added a few new ideas that didn’t exist in the noughties. 

If you’ve lived through previous recessions and financial crises, you may already know many of these tips. But this time, the rapid rise in electricity bills, grocery prices and petrol costs is hitting more households than ever. And, of course, some people will be experiencing these economic conditions for the first time since leaving their parents’ home.

So here are 10 simple money-saving options that will help you spend less on groceries and make the most of your grocery budget:

Keep track of your store cupboard

You can’t make the most of your shopping budget if you don’t know what you already have on your shelves.

So, a simple way to save money on food prices is to keep track of your store cupboard. Of course, in this scenario, your store cupboard also includes your fridge and freezer.

The way you choose to keep track of your food stores is really up to you, and it’s essential to pick an easy way that you know you can stick to. You might want to make a list in a notebook that you can take to the supermarket, or you might prefer to set up a spreadsheet or document that you can access on your phone. 

Make a list of your stores divided up under different headings: fresh, frozen, tins and store cupboard. Then, take a little time to check it over before you go to your local grocery store or the supermarket to help you avoid unnecessary purchases of items you already have on the shelf at home.

Close up of a weekly meal plan in a notebook.

Make time for meal planning

For many people, planning meals for the week ahead is one of the easiest ways of saving money on their grocery bill. 

There are various ways of doing this; again, finding the meal prep method that suits you is crucial. You could choose to plan meals weekly, fortnightly or monthly, but it’s probably easier to start with a weekly meal plan initially. 

Start by writing down a list of all the meals you and your family members like to eat regularly and use these to plan your meals for the week ahead. Remember to make plans for breakfast, lunch and snacks, and leave a few empty slots here and there for trying out new recipes.

Another option is to plan several weekly meal lists and write them out on record cards. Then, on the reverse side of the card, you can write the ingredient list you need for those meals. Each week, you select one card, and not only have you already worked out your weekly meal prep menu already worked out for you, but as an added bonus, your shopping list is half-written as well!

Plan your route round the shops

Once you’ve written your grocery list and checked what you already have in stock, it’s essential to stick to your list.

It can help to write your list in the order of the aisles in your supermarket or the shops you plan to visit. Depending on your list, you could avoid some of the temptations lurking on the shelves by missing out those aisles altogether. 

If you’re worried about overspending, you could leave your credit cards at home and only take enough cash to cover your list, forcing you to stick to your budget. Keep track of your costs as you go around by adding it up on your phone, or you can use your supermarket’s self-scanning option if they offer one.

Finally, there are a couple of supermarket shopping cliches that are actually true for many people. First, shopping without the kids (if possible) will often save you money. It’s easy to give in to pester power or buy them a quick treat, and those costs soon mount up. 

And never go shopping while you are hungry if you want to avoid impulse buying. It has been shown time and time again that people spend more in supermarkets when they are hungry. So, make time for a quick snack before your shopping trip to avoid those expensive impulse buys.

Make use of the reduced section

Supermarkets set out their aisles in a particular way to encourage you to spend more in certain areas and put more expensive brands at eye level to tempt you. But if you want to save money on your food shop, it’s a good idea to change your shopping route.

First, go to your store’s reduced section to pick up any items off your list that you can pick up at sale prices. If you’re lucky, you’ll find some of your staples to buy in large quantities at the best price and pop in the freezer for another week. 

Next, check the frozen foods section to see if any of the fish, meat and vegetables you need are available there. Frozen produce is nearly always cheaper than fresh, so this can be a great way to make some savings. The tinned produce shelves should be your next port of call for the same reason.

Once you’ve ticked off what you can, you can pick up the rest from the fresh food aisles. 

A young man and woman check their shopping list in the supermarket

Make the most of special offers

There’s one simple rule when you’re grocery shopping: if it isn’t on your list, don’t buy it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make the most of special offers.

The trick is to check online first to see the best deals and offers your local store is running. As well as the regular in-store and online offers, some supermarkets might offer you personalised vouchers and exclusive discounts through their loyalty card. You can use these grocery purchases as the basis of your meal plan, but make sure that the offers will genuinely save you money and avoid impulse purchases. If you don’t usually buy these products or can’t use them in time, that’s not a good deal.

An exception to this is discounts and offers on non-perishables like cleaning goods, personal care items and pantry staples like peanut butter or tinned items. If you see a great deal on this kind of item, and you’re happy to use that brand, then it makes sense to buy as much as you can afford and have room to store. This represents a genuine saving, which isn’t always the case when you see luxury foods on 2-for-1!

Close up of a woman shopping for vegetables at a market stall

Check out different places to shop

If you have an Aldi or Lidl nearby, and you’re not already shopping there, it’s worth looking around. 

These days, discount stores sell more familiar name-brand items than when they first opened in the UK. They also sell plenty of European and store brands that can be excellent value for money. You may take a while to find which brands you like, but switching to store brands gives you a good chance to make real savings.

Freezer stores like Iceland and Farmfoods can also be a source of good food bargains. You might have a free leaflet delivered to your home, or you could look at their website to see their latest deals on brand names and store-brand items.

If you have a local market, these can be a lot cheaper than supermarkets for fruit and veg. You can also buy good value meat and get good advice from the butcher or fishmonger. They should be able to advise you on which cuts to choose for the lowest price and the best ways to cook them. 

Wholesale clubs and farmers’ markets are also worth checking out; just don’t get sidetracked by the delicious cakes and treats at your farmers market if they aren’t in your budget!

Do your shopping online

Some people find that they save money by buying groceries online through supermarket grocery apps. 

You may have to pay a delivery charge, but a 6-month delivery pass for your supermarket’s grocery delivery service is often cheaper than paying monthly. Online grocery shopping removes the temptation of all those ‘special offers’ and new product displays, making sticking to your list much more manageable. And they often have a page dedicated to their current special offers, which can inspire your meal planning.

Another great place to save money online is the discount websites such as Motatos or Approved Food. These grocery savings apps are basically an online supermarket selling food items close to their expiration dates at a lower price. Remember that, unlike a Use-by Date, the Best Before Date is only a guideline. Food is safe after this date as long as you check that it looks and smells OK.

Change what you eat

Meat tends to be one of the most expensive items on your shopping list. So unless you are already vegetarian or vegan, one way to cut your groceries bill is to cut down on meat.

Next time you’re meal planning, why not try adding one or two meat-free days each week. You could also reduce the amount of meat in a recipe and pad it out with extra vegetables or pulses.

There are loads of delicious meat-free recipes around these days which will satisfy even the most ardent carnivore. Cheaper cuts of meat often benefit from slow cooking, so you could save money on your electricity bill as well, making it a better deal all around!

A young woman checks the contents of her fridge

Cut down on food waste

Another way to make the most of your food budget is to ensure you aren’t wasting food.

A 2020 report found that UK households waste 4.5 million tonnes of food each year. Apart from being bad for the environment, that’s a lot of money to throw away!

So make sure you’re storing your food correctly, and buy a fridge thermometer to check your fridge is running at the right temperature. Opening the plastic packaging on fruit and veg or popping a sheet of kitchen roll into a bag of salad leaves can help keep them fresher for longer. 

Knowing the expiration dates on your food can help you ensure they get used up in your weekly meal plans rather than being destined for the bin. And don’t forget that many foods can be frozen, either raw or once you have cooked them. This is a great way to cut down food waste and cut the cost of your weekly food shop.

Make the most of your freezer

Are you lucky enough to have a good-sized freezer or maybe even a chest freezer in the garage? If so, the reduced section should definitely be your first stop at the supermarket. 

You’ll often find yellow stickered meat and fish that you can freeze when you get home, which can be a great way to save money. You can also freeze other perishable items, such as milk and cheese, when they’re close to their use-by date. This is also a great way to stock up on fresh fruits and seasonal produce when they’re at their cheapest. 

Make sure you freeze fresh produce as quickly as possible and take it out of the freezer in good time to defrost. Generally, that will mean transferring it to the fridge 24 hours before you need to use it.

And, of course, you can also freeze leftovers and batch-cooked meals for later use, saving you both time and money.

These are just a few simple tips to help you save money on groceries. If you’ve got any great tips for cutting the cost of your food shopping, why not share them in the comments below?

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