Ten ways to save on foodUse these tips to cut your weekly groceries bill
08 June 2011
With food prices on the increase we look at ten ways to save on food, whether you're eating in or dining out.
Food prices have gone up 4.9% since last May according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC), largely due to rising commodity costs.
The news follows the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) ‘Food Outlook’ report, which found that global food prices will remain high and volatile throughout this year and the next - despite record food production.
Groceries are always likely to be a significant expense, but our experts have put together ten top tips to help you cut the cost of food and drink.
1) Beware big brands
Switching from big brands to supermarket basic and budget ranges can produce significant savings, and you don't have to give up on taste. We've taste tested a variety of foods, from ketchup and baked beans to champagne, and found that supermarket own brands more than hold their own when it comes to taste.
Our Best Buy Sainsbury's ketchup, for instance, costs around half of what you'd pay for Heinz, who came second from last in our taste test. Our tests are independent and rigorous - take a look at this video of our champagne taste test for an idea of how we assess the quality of food and drink.
2) Buying in bulk
If you own or manage your own business, it’s worth signing up with a wholesale retailer such as Costco, which has 21 shops in the UK.
There is a £20 annual membership fee, but anyone with membership can add up to six additional members for £12 each. Other wholesale retailers to consider include Makro and Bestway.
Use the MySupermarket website to compare the price of a basket of goods from the UK's biggest supermarkets. Select your goods from one retailer's range and the site will instantly show you whether you could save by buying comparable items from a different online shop. MySupermarket compares the price of food and drinks on offer from Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Ocado, and its price and health checkers also suggest money and healthy-eating tips.
4) Best before
People are often confused about the difference between ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates, and often throw away perfectly good food as a result. ‘Use by’ is the important one as you shouldn't eat anything after this date - whereas ‘best before’ is about quality of the food rather than its safety. The government has looked at scrapping best before, and many Which? members agree with the idea as you'll see from reading this post on the Which? Conversation.
5) Bargain beans
We all love a cup of coffee in the morning, but it can be a costly proposition. When Which? last compared the cost of take away coffees, we found that a medium cappuccino cost £2.29 at Starbucks, while independent coffee shops were typically charging £1.48. That means buying from a local cafe could save you more than £200 a year if you get a coffee every morning. The big coffee chains are counting on you not to do the math, and Starbucks recently announced that its profits rose by 20% this year.
6) A cheaper cut
Choosing a cheaper cut of meat, such as braising steak over fillet, doesn’t mean missing out on a tasty meal. A slow cooker can gradually break down the fibres in cheaper meat, giving great taste at a lower cost. If you're interested in buying one, make sure you check out our Which? Best Buys.
7) Voucher codes
Some of the bigger restaurant and cafe chains, like Zizzi, Giraffe, Café Rouge and Pizza Express seem to always have deals available. You can check their websites for vouchers, or give websites such as Myvouchercodes a try for a ready-made list of restaurant discount vouchers.
A typical bottle of decent wine in the supermarket costs £5, so why do restaurants regularly charge around £15 for a bottle of house wine? Bring your own bottle (BYOB) restaurants allow you to circumvent this problem, although some may charge a corkage of fee of around £2.
9) Perishable deals
Special discounts such as buy-one-get-one-free deals can offer good value, but be careful. Only buy items you actually need and which you are likely to keep and use. Toiletries such as toothpaste and shampoos are a good example, as are toilet rolls. Markdowns on perishables at the end of the shopping day are another way to bag a saving.
10) Restaurant savings
If you search hard enough you can find a deal for pretty much anything on the internet, and restaurants are no exception. So before you make a reservation for dinner, take a look at websites like Toptable and Lastminute.com for deals such as two-for-one offers on main meals. Group-buying sites like Groupon also commonly feature restaurant deals, but make sure you check booking times and availability carefully.
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