We’d all like to save some money on our food shops.
So listen closely to Annemarie Cook, a mum-of-one who says she has some simple tips for saving £60 a month on food.
Annemarie, who works as an administrator for a commercial catering company, so knows her food, is all about making sure food lasts as long as possible so nothing goes to waste.
She bulk-buys certain foods, uses ‘common sense’ about best before dates, batch cooks, and relies on an app to get further discounts.
The savvy shopper, 31, buys a monthly Morrisons ‘Magic Box’ from the Too Good To Go App, which sells food close to its sell-by date at a drastic discount.
Annemarie, from Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, says: ‘I found out about the Morrisons boxes last year, and have had five boxes now.
‘I originally started to buy them as my husband was on Slimming World and I was spending a fortune on fresh fruit and veg, so was trying to find ways to reduce costs.
‘They cost £3.09 and so far I’ve managed to use almost everything in them: if there’s bread I freeze it for toast, as well as any vegetables I think might go over before I use them.
‘We’ve been very impressed with the quality, and it’s a great way to get us to try new food and reduce our supermarket bills.
‘I try to get a box at least once a fortnight, and it has probably saved me £20 a month on fresh items.
‘I wish more supermarkets would sign up to the scheme as I know that lots gets wasted in shops.
‘Our local store only has a box a day and they have turned me away when they’ve not had anything yet shelves are full of reduced food.
‘I think the stores really need to embrace the idea of supporting the service. I think staff need to be advised on the scheme more as there seems to be quite a lot who don’t know about it.’
Beyond getting the box, there are other tips you can nick from Annemarie’s habits.
Having worked in a supermarket for ten years, the mum says she knows how to tell if items are fresh or not, and advises only really checking the use-by dates on meat – but eating items anyway if they ‘smell ok’.
Bulk-buying and batch-cooking is key, too.
‘I tend to buy bulk meat and will split packets up to help them go further,’ says Annemarie. ‘A 500g pack of mince I will split into two and then I use in dishes like bolognese, which I will bulk out with grated carrot or lentils to go further (a great way to hide veg from kids!).
‘My top tips for buying food, in general, is to bulk buy cupboard items like pasta and rice. I buy the big bags of rice for about £8 from the ethnic aisle which last at least six months.
‘When it comes to tins of chopped tomatoes, I will buy the cheapest brands and will add seasoning to it to add flavour.
‘When I buy meat, I will split them down into portion sizes so they can be defrosted ready for cooking. For pre-packed food such as pizzas or breaded chicken, I remove them from their packets to save space.
‘Pre-lockdown I would cook bulk meals such as lasagne, pasta bakes and pies and freeze them in advance, so when it came to using them I could pop them in the oven on the timer so they were cooked when we got home.’
Just remember: the goal is to avoid food waste as much as humanly possible – which will save you money as you won’t be constantly chucking and re-buying ingredients.
‘A lot of people I know really waste a huge amount of food, just because they rely on best before dates,’ the mum says. ‘I think it’s very much a cultural issue in the UK.
‘Years ago our grandparents would never have chucked a bag of carrots away because Tesco said they can’t sell them past today!
‘Potatoes, for example, last for months with the right temperature in a dark place – if they start sprouting this can be pulled off and last even longer.
‘Similarly, eggs last for several weeks, and if you’re unsure, put them in a bowl of water: if they float, chuck them, if they sink, they are ok.
‘Your freezer is your friend, mine is always full, and I would have enough to last for about a month if I had to.
‘We’ve had times where money has been tight with furlough and more recently, concerns about redundancy. But the way we buy groceries, we will rarely chuck food away.
‘I would probably say I save at least £60 a month on reducing our wastage!
‘Our average spend a month is about £180, and we used to spend about £250.’
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