The food bill in our household is the biggest spend after rent. To ensure we keep within our budget we have a tried and tested plan for our supermarket shop.
I’m heading out to a supermarket tomorrow to do a good week’s worth of food shopping so I thought I’d share with you the process we go through to keep us within budget.
Recently, Skint Mum shops on the way home from work and gets enough for about four days (or as much as she can carry!), which isn’t working out any more expensive than doing a two-week shop like we used to.
It doesn’t matter how or when we do any shopping before we head out for our groceries, we always go through the same process.
First of all, we make a note of what’s in the cupboards, fridge and freezer.
Quite a number of times we realise that we have something hidden in the freezer and enough bits and pieces that we can throw together for a few meals, meaning we can put off having to spend money in the supermarket for a few days.
Breakfast, lunches, dinners and any snacks in between – that’s potentially up to 16 different things to eat each day for a family of four so we really need to plan in advance.
We usually have the same thing for breakfast every day which is either toast with some fruit or porridge, apart from the weekends when we have more time so may have eggs or bacon for a treat.
For lunches, we try and make use of any leftovers from the previous night’s dinner if we can. This saves us not having to buy too many extra bits and it’s surprising how much the girls like cold pasta or a bowl of warmed up Bolognese.
When deciding on our meal plan for the week, we try to choose meals that use the same ingredients so I don’t need to buy lots of different things. For instance, I will buy carrots which we’ll use in a stir fry and we’ll also use them as a side vegetable or in a Cottage Pie.
Write a list
We know what we’ve got in the cupboard and we know what we want to eat so now we make up a list of everything we need to buy.
When writing the list we group similar products together. All the frozen together, same with the fresh food, and the vegetables.
This saves time in the supermarket and also stops up wandering around aimlessly and being tempted to pick up items for the sake of it.
Obviously, when shopping online it’s not necessary to have such an organised list but useful if you’re sticking to a budget. Also once you’ve shopped once online you can save your list for future orders.
Having a list will also mean I know that everything on it can be bought. If it’s not on the list then it won’t go in the basket or trolley.
Online or in-store
Depending on my mood, what else is going on in my week, and whether any of the supermarkets have sent an email with a voucher code, will depend whether we do a food shop online or in-store.
Each has their plus points. Online shopping can be done in your PJs, at any time of day, and it’s really quick. You don’t need to get the kids ready to go out and don’t have trolley wars with other shoppers.
However, you miss out on getting any bargains in the reduced section, you can’t pick your own sizes/shapes of meat or vegetables and you don’t have any control with the best before dates that get picked for you.
Coupons and vouchers
We always have an array of vouchers and supermarket coupons that are sent to us in the post or we cut out of magazines and newspapers.
If there are some for a particular store, it may sway our decision about where we plan to go as we can get a cheaper shop.
In some circumstances, it can mean us picking up branded groceries at the same price or cheaper than some of the store’s own label food so it’s always worth checking.
After the shop – cashback apps
Although this is all about the planning, as part of the planning, I also have a check on cashback apps like CheckoutSmart to see if I can get cashback on anything we’re planning to buy.
These apps have cashback on branded groceries but, as I said previously, it could mean getting these goods for cheaper than a supermarket’s own equivalent.
Once the shop is done we then upload any receipts to the apps and get some money back on any eligible items.
After the shop – Shop and Scan
Quite recently, Skint Mum signed up to Shop and Scan which is a research panel that monitors household spending.
It’s not something that everyone can do though. She requested to join the panel months ago and it was only recently that she was accepted.
Now, after we go shopping she scans the groceries using a handheld barcode scanner and uploads the information to the Shop and Scan website.
Each week, points are awarded for scanning the shopping. When we collect a certain amount of points we can exchange them for vouchers at places such as Argos, Next or Waterstone’s.
We’ve only been doing it since the beginning of the month so we can’t comment on it too much yet but we’ll be sure to add a post about how we get on with it soon.
How do you plan for your shopping? Do you have any tips which makes the whole ordeal easier?
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Ricky Willis is the original Skint Dad. A money-making enthusiast, father, and husband to Naomi. He is always looking for unique ways to earn a little extra.