Consuming Issues: Tips for cutting £50 a month off your food bill
Saturday 18 September 2010
For millions of people, grocery shopping is about to get tougher. Food inflation is rising, up a record 1 per cent in July, and a further 0.1 per cent last month, fuelled by soaring wheat prices.
Wheat has leapt 50 per cent since May as a result of freak weather in Russia and growing demand from China, India and Brazil. Because grain is fed to animals, meat prices have jumped too, by 16 per cent this year, to their highest level for 20 years. Instant and ground coffee will rise later this year as a result of poor harvests in Vietnam and Central America.
Household budgets are being squeezed elsewhere: petrol is almost 120p a litre and fuel prices are on the up, following EDF's 2.6 per cent hike on electricity last month. The Bank of England base rate looks unlikely to remain at historic low 0.5 per cent next year, as these food, petrol and energy rises feed into the system, pushing up the cost of mortgages. Attempts to cut the UK's £155bn budget deficit by 2015 could lead to the loss of 600,000 public jobs, creating further instability. All this means household finances are likely to be under strain for some time.
One of the areas people can save money is food, while at the same time eating a better diet. How so? Because many households have got used to stacking their trolleys with whatever takes their fancy. Fair enough if you have the money. But if you do need to economise there are ways of doing so without loading up on value fishfingers and beans. The average employed household spends £245 a month on food and non-alcoholic drinks. By shopping more carefully and cooking a little more, you can probably knock off £50.
You would not know from looking at supermarket apples in March and strawberries in December, but food is highly seasonal, and seasonal produce is more plentiful, fresher and cheaper: which is why you find half-price deals for British strawberries in June. The website Eattheseasons.co.uk shows what's in season through the year. This month look out for artichoke, aubergine, beetroot, blackberries, pears and plums.
Visit the market
Markets are by far the cheapest place to buy fruit and vegetables. They tend to be a little uglier than the beauty pageant fare on display in shops, but are more likely to be seasonal, cheap – and ripe. In one of several such exercises, The Mirror bought 17 staples – including eggs, bread, beans, meat and veg – and discovered they cost £38.37 in a market and £43.65 in a supermarket.
Avoid processed food
Britain consumes more ready meals than any other European country, and it costs. Make rather than buy soups and lasagnes and avoid unnecessary convenience products such as packs of grated cheese and readymade roasts.
Own-brand products cost less than branded goods. With brands, you're paying for the advertising to laud their quality and distinctiveness. Try the own-brand version and return to brands if you can tell the difference. If you can afford to, steer clear of value lines: they're usually loaded with salt and fat.
Buy one get one free (Bogof) is not a bargain if the discounted item has been inflated before the promotion, or you don't need the "free" item. Don't assume larger packets will be proportionately cheaper; often they're not. Check the price comparison per 100g.
Shelves at eye-level tend to be stacked with premium ranges and "impulse" buys. Instead, scan lower shelves where the bargains lurk.
Finally, if you have plenty of money, don't bother with these tips. As a nation we spend relatively little on food – 9 per cent of income. We're lucky to have abundance and food is there to be enjoyed. But if you are in a tight spot, these tips may help.
Heroes and Villians: The true value of great British design
Hero: British fashion
The folks who make suits and dresses have put a figure on their economic value. A report for the British Fashion Council says the fashion business is worth £21bn. It employs 816,000 people, twice as many as real estate, and more than telecommunications and car manufacturing. We have some of the best colleges and designers.
Villain: Graham Beale
You may not have heard of Mr Beale, chief executive of Nationwide Building Society. It seemed he wanted to keep it that way, closing his personal email account after protests about charging for FlexAccount cash withdrawals abroad. Happily, Mr Beale has relented and he can now be contacted directly at email@example.com.
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
Liam Neeson's Downton dreams
Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage
Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour
Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason
Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama
Five Questions: Changes to car tax discs
Less than half of Brits carry country's £1.5tn debt burden
A student's guide to financial survival: You don't have to drown in debt at university
Misleading websites banned for tricking people into paying for ‘free’ government services
10 tips for taking out a personal loan
- 2 Scottish independence: What you shouldn't tweet about if you want to avoid jail today
- 3 Scottish independence: Five reasons Salmond is secretly hoping for a 'No' vote
- 4 Isis plan to 'behead random member of the public' in Sydney thwarted by Australian police
- 5 Scottish independence: Andy Murray backs Yes campaign in eleventh hour decision
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Russia freezes Ukraine into submission: Kiev admits country doesn't have enough fuel for winter
iJobs Money & Business
£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...
To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...
To £85,000 + banking benefits: Saxton Leigh: You will be expected to carry out...
Up to £90,000 + benefits: Saxton Leigh: Credit Risk Audit Manager required to ...
Day In a Page
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize
A three-bedroom red-brick cottage with outbuildings and pretty gardens, £200,000