Food shopping tips for families

Food shopping tips for families

Budgetting and saving money are both more important and more difficult when you have young children. More expenses, less free time.

Families come in all shapes and sizes and are all different. There’s no one size fits all with budgetting, and no where is this more true than the food budget. That’s why I decided to ask lots of different families what works for them.

Food shopping tips for familiesEveryone I spoke to did things differently and had various tricks up their sleeves to help them keep control of their food budget. Whilst one family swore by one tip, another completely disagreed.

Check out some of these tips to see if any will work for you. Perhaps some won’t, but hopefully some will! The answers come from families with 1 child, families with more than 1, families with babies,  families with school age children, and single parent families to (a special salute if that’s you!) A lot of their tips are relevant to people without kids too!

Food saving tips for families… from families

Money saving on baby food;

I’ve rarely used (baby) jars, I’ve always made a bit more of what we’re eating and frozen smaller portions, so there’s always something in for the toddler. I’m not Mary Poppins though, sometimes you have to pay the price of convenience!

Making the food shop a little lot less painful!

I shop online (especially if I’ve got both the girls). You can’t get yellow sticker offers, but it saves throwing a load of random stuff in the trolley whilst dealing with a toddler tantrum. Also, a delivery slot when they’re in bed is normally cheaper- think later on Sunday evening- and means I can unpack without little fingers going after the strawberries as soon as they arrive.

Making the most of free school dinners;

My daughter gets free school dinners, so if I know I won’t feel like cooking, I’ll have a cooked meal at lunch and just put together a light supper. It’s cheaper than getting a takeaway in the evening.

Cooking together (for the brave!);

We sometimes cook together at the weekend. By making a homemade pizza or burgers together, it’s an activity we can do without spending money (other than what you’d spend on dinner anyway) and its cheaper than a takeaway.

Old school;

We’ve got a milkman! I got fed up of constantly popping to the shops for the basics. I’d always end up with a kinder egg or frozen breakfast cereal or something else in the basket. The price is a bit higher but I save more just by avoiding the extra shopping trips

Food saving tips for families… and everyone else

Not falling for “deals” (and how organised is this??);

When I write my shopping list, I write the maximum I want to pay for items alongside them. For example, I might say 50p for biscuits. It means when chocolate hobnobs are on offer for £1, my list reminds me I only want to spend 50p.

Using cash:

We withdraw cash – £200 per month- and put it in our food purse. Watching what we spend and what we have left keeps us in budget every month. It’s a good deterrent from buying too many Kinder eggs 😉

Anyone else noticed a kinder egg theme?

Meal plan and shop once:

I come up with a meal plan for the week and go shopping once… I take a list and make sure  I’ve eaten. Shopping hungry, especially without list, is always a bad idea.

Homemade treats:

Making homemade hobnobs or fairy cakes is a way to keep costs down on sweet treats, as long as you don’t fall for all the fancy looking decorations!

 Smart choices:

Chicken breast meat is the easiest to cook with and easiest to eat, but you get so much more value from buying a whole bird or chicken thighs.

 And another smart choice (one of my favourites):

I make life easy with frozen veg- it also means less goes to waste when a last minute schedule change means we have less time to put dinner together or have to switch round the meals on our plan.

Know how to cook

It’s difficult to control what you spend on food if you can’t cook, but you won’t become an accomplished chef overnight. It’s ok that you’re not perfect as soon as you start. Following a recipe to the letter is not a guarantee of success (I have a lot of personal experience of this) . But practice, practice, practice. If your first homecooked food is pasta tossed in passatta with grated cheese, it’s step one. Omelettes are another easy and cheap meal. Keep taking those steps. Don’t be too ambitious.

One step at a time

You don’t have to make lots a changes in one go. Like I said, every family is different. Some of these tips might suit one family, but be completely unworkable for another.

Try one or two at a time and see what works for you. Over time, new habits will form and saving money on food shopping (even when you’re super busy) will start to become automatic.

Do you have any other tips that help you and your family save money on food shopping?

22 thoughts on “Food shopping tips for families

    1. Thanks Francesca! I agree, even if you just know what you 7 evening meals are that you can chop and change to suit what’s happening on each day. It also helps massively in cutting down food waste, since you can just buy the stuff you know you’ll use.

    1. My dad used to get up early on a Saturday morning to avoid taking me, but it didn’t always work. Of course, no I’m paying for the shopping, I’d rather save time and money by going alone! 😉

  1. I tend to do a big shop every couple of weeks (online is so much easier) but when the fridge is full it is easy to forget things are hiding in the back! I like to go through every few days to make sure anything near its use by date is eaten or put in the freezer to avoid food waste. #KCACOLS

    1. That is such a good tip, especially now fridges are so big, it’s easy for things to get pushed to the back and forgotten about. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  2. There are some really useful tips in here! I don’t think I’m organised enough to do it, but I like the idea of having an amount that you’re happy to spend on each item, and not going over that. I’m too often tempted by things on offer when they’re still more than I’d ideally like to pay. x #KCACOLS

    1. I know what you mean. I think it’s one of those things that gets easier with practice but for the first few times takes a real amount of effort!

  3. I like to do the meal plan idea. When I write my list a write on the back what we will eat for dinner each day then I only buy the ingredients we need. I like the idea of writing the maximum you’d like to spend on each item. I do this when I buy clothes. I guess the price before I check the tag, if it’s more than I thought I don’t buy it, if it’s less I’ve got myself a bargain! #KCACOLS

    1. Becky, I’d not even thought of that idea for clothes! I always have this internal debate about whether to spend more in the hope it will last a long time. If it’s for kids, they grow out of stuff to quickly to buy expensive stuff though. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

    1. I’m no where near a lidl, but we do have an Aldi. It’s a pain, because it’s one of the old ones so it’s not well laid out and it gets really bad bottlenecks (and I have no patience!). I’ll usually pop in with a basket, or do a late shop once a month with a trolley.

  4. There’s some great tips here. I need to be much better at meal planning in advance. Online shopping is a saviour though!

    Thank you for linking up to #KCACOLS and I hope to see you back again on Sunday x

    1. Thanks Maria. I’m sure if you could try meal planning a few times you’d realise how much easier it makes the week. But I know that hurdle is a tough one to get over. I can’t deny I do find it a bit boring!

  5. I used to just plan what we were going to eat in a week. Now I make sure I take note of what I have left in the fridge and cupboard, and make sure I incorporate the leftover fresh ingredients into the weeks meals! I hate wasting food, and that helps a lot. We also have to stick to the list when we shop, no deviating! Online is good for that, but you have to spend more money then we do on our many cheaper shops else delivery costs a fortune, and it\\\\\\\’s not worth it then! We also have collected many go to cheap meals over the years and I make at least 3 cheap meals a week. We hardly eat any meat, and I\\\\\\\’ve learnt how to cook the cheaper fish! Helps cost and food waste! Some really good tips in there #KCACOLS

    1. Sounds like you’ve really nailed it! It has taken a while, but we’ve hugely cut our food waste and naturally that means we’re spending less too. Great shout on the cheaper fish btw, something I need to definitely try!

    1. You must have to be super organised Jennifer, I don’t think I spoke to anyone with so many mouths so none of my interviewees suggested stockpiling but this is a fab idea. There’s so much stuff that we use regularly. Sometimes I buy in bulk but I reckon I could do more often!

  6. Hi Sarah

    I’m so happy to have found your site. I linked from your post on the Frugalwoods’ site, when I saw the “£” sign in your post, and realised I’d finally found a home-grown frugality site!

    I’d second what MommyandMadness (great name, BTW!) posted about “shopping your cupboards and fridge” to form the basis of your meal plan, and thus your shopping list. I can’t count the number of duplicate jars, tins and heads of broccoli I’ve bought because I didn’t look at my pantry and fridge first.

    My other tip would be a slow cooker. I live alone but find that they are a great way to do painless big meals, from which I eat a portion or two on consecutive days, and freeze the rest in single-portion sizes. Whack one in the microwave and the siren-call lure of the takeaway is swiftly silenced!

    Actually, the freezer is generally a very good friend to me for money saving.

    Best wishes

    1. Thanks Denise, I’m thrilled that you’ve found me! I must admit I don’t yet have a slow cooker. I always worry that I’ll buy it then not use it, but I’m planning on borrowing a friends to see how good they are before taking the plunge. Imagine it could make batch cooking much much easier 🙂

  7. I’ve started using small cards for meal planning. Each card lists one meal with recipe location on front and ingredients on back. I pin the week’s cards to my kitchen cork board, so I don’t have to think about what to cook. After each meal, I drop the card in a small box to re-use later. It took a few weeks to build up my card collection, but now I can plan the week’s meals and make a shopping list in fifteen minutes. Both my food bill and my weight have decreased since I started planning meals.

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