One of the biggest complaints I hear is how expensive meat & fish can be, to then hear they're shopping in Waitrose... Now Waitrose is great if you can afford it, but if you're on a budget, why not get more food for your money in a cheaper supermarket?! I used to hate being dragged around Lidl as a kid, but now I've discovered how cheap the meat, fish, fruit & veg is there, I love it! And for anyone who says that the quality is different, it really isn't! You can still find organic, the meat has the red tractor lable on it & the eggs are free range - there's just as much protein in your Lidl's chicken breast as your Waitrose Organic chicken & they taste even better knowing the money you saved! Plus supermarkets like Lidl have really good offers on fresh fruit, veg, fish & meat each week, helping you out even more.
I start by deciding my main meals of the week & plan the rest of my week around it, depending on how many ingredients I had to buy that week for dinner, or if I would have any left over for lunch etc. I then have something cheap but filling for breakfast - like own brand Wheatabix or oats - and something nutritional, cheap & easy for lunch - like soup, nuts & fruit. My snacks will be the last thing I decide depending on my budget, for example a bunch of bananas is a lot cheaper than a pack of Pink Lady apples. Additionally I found meal prepping helps too, where I cook & eat the same dinners for 5 times that week, to save money. However you may find this a little boring, that if fine, you can always freeze the meals for another week! I will be posting my beginner's guide to meal prep soon, so stay tuned!
Look out for bulk offers or quite often buying the bigger size is cheaper per kg/ml - but always check, as sometimes they like to trick you. Also if you know anyone with a Costco card, take advantage of that too! Finally if you eat something often, like cereal or soup or frozen veg, buy it in bulk if its on offer at a good price - this only applies to non-perishables though.
They're honestly 99% of the time just as good as the real brand. I was comparing Sainsburys own & Weetabix the other day to find they have the exact same ingredients & nutritional values in, the only difference was the brand - no brainer really? In fact some of the time the food is even produced in the same place. As far as Tesco Value or Sainsburys Basics etc brands go, about 60% of the time they're as good as the real thing, especially with pastas, frozen veg, potatoes & other foods that really can't be much different. I currently buy about 10% branded food now, purely because of cost!
Look out for non uniformed diced chicken (still red tractor but a lot cheaper than evenly diced chicken), smoked salmon pieces (rather than slices), potatoes, carrots, eggs & even chocolate (oops, not exactly healthy)! You can often find these in the Value & Basics brands, the only reason they're cheaper is because they aren't all similar sizes or weights.
Especially with fruit, veg & nuts, buying them in season will be a lot cheaper, so try to tailor your meals to the cheap seasonal options, for example summer fruit salad in the summer & root vegetable dishes, such as caserols & stews, in the winter. This information is easy to find online & easy to predict instore by the prices.
What I mean by this is you are better off buying chicken breast packed with protein or a sweet potato packed with energy in the form of carbs (don't worry carbs are not the devil, especially when in natural foods - they are a primary provider of energy) or green tea for it's slow release energy than you are buying their comparisons such as a chicken sandwich, new potatoes or a latte - all off which are lower in essential nutrients & cost around the same, plus you'll gain more long lasting energy from the previous three, keeping you fuller for longer & meaning you will consume less food in a week. So stock up on natural foods (such as fruit, veg, meat & fish) high in carbs, protein & a good amount of calories to keep you going all day - but equally don't over eat, get to know the macros you should be eating each day, so you can calculate what you should eat per meal.
An example of what I eat each week & how much it actually costs me... Please note I usually shop at Lidl, but to get the correct prices this shop will be calculated with a Tesco online shop, all Tesco brand food unless specified!
1 Weetabix with sugar & milk (with weetabix & sugar lasting 4 weeks) Costing £0.22/meal
24 Pack Tesco Wheatabix £1.49 1KG Granulated Sugar £0.59 4Pt Skimmed Milk £1.00
Soup, slice of bread, small handful raisins & almonds, 2 squares dark chocolate (with almonds & raisins lasting 2 weeks) Costing £0.96/meal
Cream of Tomato Soup 400g £0.39 x 7 £2.73 Hovis Original Wheatgerm Bread 400g £0.60
Whole Almonds 200g £2.29 Wholefoods Raisins 500g £2.50
85% Cocoa Plain Chocolate Bar 100g £1.00
Chilli con Carne x 5 meals Costing £2.20/meal
Turkey Breast Mince 2% Fat 500g £3.00 (higher in protein, lower in fat than beef mince & cheaper!)
Loose Brown Onion £0.12 Loose Red Onion £0.14 (1/4 Also used in salad & 1/4 with sweet potato)
Mixed Peppers 3 Pack £0.85 (1/2 Pepper also used in salad & 1/2 with sweet potato)
Flourette Crispy Salad £1.00 x 2 £2.00 (1/4 Bag also used in salad & 1/4 with sweet potato)
Greek Feta 100g £1.00 (1/7 Also used in salad & 1/7 with sweet potato)
Value Chopped Tomatoes 400g £0.31 Value Dark Red Kidney Beans 400g £0.30
Easy Cook Brown Rice 1kg £1.75 Colman's Chilli Con Carne Recipe Mix 50g £0.75
Value Sweetcorn 325g £0.35 (1/7 Also used in salad & 1/7 with sweet potato)
Smoked Mackerel Salad with 2 Eggs (with eggs, beetroot & mackeral lasting 2 meals) Costing £3.17
Chilled Smoked Mackerel Fillets 210g £2.00 Cooked Beetroot Vacuum Packed 300g £0.49
Free Range Eggs Medium Box of 6 £0.89 Light Mayonnaise 240ml £0.50 (Also use with seat potato)
Tuna & Sweet Potato Costing £1.68
Banana/Apple tbsp Peanut Butter, 30g Proper Corn, 100g Greek Yoghurt & tbsp Honey
5 Pack Bananas £0.80 Rosedene Farm 6 Pack Sweet Apples £0.89
Value Crunchy Peanut Butter £0.62 Proper Corn Sweet & Salty 90g £1.00
Low Fat Greek Style Yoghurt 500g £1.00 Value Clear Honey 340g £0.99
And the Grand Total... £33.01 with food left over for the next month! Even cheaper if at Lidl!
And my final tip for shopping on a budget, slowly collect spices, condiments & flavours that you can use to make a dish really tasty - my favourites are paprika, chilli, cinnamon, basil, garlic, pepper, ginger, soy source, coconut oil, lemon & salad cream.
A lot of information, I know, but I really hope this helps you all stick to a budget, eat healthier & above all enjoy what you're cooking!