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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to get fit in minutes
Debt in Britain: Numbers seeking help on how to cope with mounting bills goes up by more than half in three years
Bargain Hunter: BT improves its mobile reception with 'incredibly competitive' deals
Have a happy new financial year
Simon Read: 'It went below the radar but you could be eligible for a tax break on your savings'
- 1 Katie Hopkins attacked me on Twitter — so I reported her to the police for inciting racial hatred
- 2 Replica Back to the Future Hoverboard released
- 3 Gamers confess the worst things they've done in The Sims
- 5 Modern society encapsulated in five seconds
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans
iJobs Money & Business
£30,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for a perso...
£11 - £13 Hourly Rate: Richard Bishop: Are you looking for a purchase ledger r...
£250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you qualified accountant with previous exp...
£11 - £13 Hourly Rate: Richard Bishop: Are you looking for a purchase ledger r...
Day In a Page
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
A boutique mews house, set around a central courtyard, with three bedrooms and a private roof terrace
A four-bedroom farm-conversion with three bathrooms and two reception rooms
A two-bedroom detached house with ensuite bathrooms and a sun-drenched decked terrace, £750,000
A modern and spacious two-bedroom, penthouse flat with two bathrooms in a prestigious development
A beautifully renovated five-bedroom terrace with three reception rooms and a courtyard garden, £700,000
A four-bedroom period house which has been extended to provide almost 2,500sq ft of living space, £675,000
A pretty three-bedroom Georgian home with a 22ft drawing room and a master suite with a balcony, £525,000
A substanstial family home with five bedrooms and landscaped gardens in the much sought-after Branksome Park area
A well-presented three-bedroom house with front and rear gardens, close to White City station, £475,000
A handsome five-bedroom house in a sought-after location close to the city centre
A five-bedroom country home with valley views, equestrian stables and 27 acres of land, £725,000
A six-bedroom farm house with separate, detached cottages and 371 acres of land
A two-bedroom cottage with parquet floors, chunky beams and an open fireplace
A three-bedrrom flat with 2,733sq feet of living space, a beautiful private garden and 15 acres of communal grounds
A four-bedroom chalet bungalow with three bathrooms and a spacious garden, £525,000