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Ditching takeaways and swapping eating for the comforts of home cooking have apparently helped slash £600 from our annual food bills over the past four years.

Six ways to fork out less for your food

Ditching takeaways and swapping eating for the comforts of home cooking have apparently helped slash £600 from our annual food bills over the past four years. We asked money journalist Faith Archer,  who also writes the blog Much More with Less, for her tips on keeping food costs down.

Like millions of families, I save an arm and a leg by cooking at home, rather than ringing for takeaways or splashing out in restaurants.

A survey this week shows the average UK adult has slashed their food spending by more than £600 a year compared to 2013.

The big difference?

Skipping the odd takeaway, and spending 28% less at the likes of the chippie and the curry house. Heading home rather than eating out, and lopping 25% off the bill for meals at bars and restaurants.

By getting clever with cooking, the average UK adult now shells out £3,680 a year on groceries, takeaways and meals out, according to the research by website VoucherCodes.

Food bills are the biggest expense for many families after covering their rent or mortgage, so it’s a great place to start saving money.

I’ve certainly found that home cooking has cut our food costs.

When my husband and I were both slaving away at full-time jobs, we relied on supermarket deliveries costing about £110 a week and ate out regularly.

Two children and one move from London to Suffolk later, and our circumstances and shopping are a bit different!

I juggle the kids and part-time work, and now spend around £60 a week at the supermarket for our family of four.

Here are my six top tips for cutting your food costs further.

1. Buy what you need, not what’s run out

Before shopping, I rifle through my freezer, fridge and kitchen cupboards to see what we’ve got. Then I think up meals based on the contents of my kitchen, and just buy the extra items needed, rather than restocking everything.

I also look out for opened packets, short-dated food, bendy veg and really ripe fruit, so I can use them up before they need chucking away. I hate throwing money in the bin!

2. Stick to a shopping list

Something as simple as a shopping list has made a massive difference to our food bills.

It might just be a few scribbles on the back of an envelope, or a memo on my phone.

But writing shopping lists has saved me time, money and wasted food. It helps to stop me doubling up on food we already have, cut back on extra top up shops for the food I’ve forgotten, and avoid expensive extras slipping into my shopping trolley.

3. Get savvy in the supermarket

Our biggest cost-cutter has been shifting down from big brands to supermarket own brand and value ranges. It’s got to be worth a try – you can always switch back if you don’t like the new version. But think of the savings every time you stick with a cheaper option.

I also check the shelf labels for the best value price per kilo, buy a lot of loose fruit and veg rather than expensively packaged versions and scoop up yellow-stickered bargains from the reduced sections.

4. Cook once, eat twice

Making some meals in industrial quantities, like curries, soups, stews and sauces, can also save time as well as money. It doesn’t take much more effort to make a big batch of Bolognese – then my husband can take half as a packed lunch, or we freeze it as a home-made ready meal.

5. “Can’t be bothered to cook” nights

Sure, home cooking is better for your wallet and your waistline. But we all have days when we just can’t face cooking or the fridge is bare, so I try to be prepared.

If I’ve got a packet of fishfingers stashed at the back of the freezer, I’m less likely to nip out for fish and chips. We also keep a couple of “emergency pizzas” in the freezer drawer, rather than ringing for a Dominos delivery. Saving £20 a week on a Friday night takeaway tots up to more than £1,000 a year.

6. DIY lunches

Lunch out can soon add up, whether it’s quick trip to the sandwich shop during the week, or a pit stop at a café on a family day out.

Instead, my husband heads off to work with a natty range of Tupperware, containing anything from the leftovers from Sunday lunch to a couple of quick sandwiches.

If we’re going on a family outing, I’ll pack up a picnic, even if we end up eating in the car. I pop in a few treats so the kids are happy. Then we can use some of the money saved to buy everyone an ice cream afterwards.

What do you think of Faith’s ideas? Do you have any of your own to add?

This guest post is from Faith Archer and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of the Money Advice Service. You can find out more about Faith and what she does on her blog, Much More With Less

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  • Norma Rise / 6 June 2016

    I absolutely love the tips because it's confirmation to me that I'm doing all I can to economise, as I live alone and am semi retired, so it is imperative that I try to save where I can. I live alone and am in my 50s, so I hope the younger generation will read and learn from these tips instead of spending all their wages before the end of the month.

  • Norma Rise / 6 June 2016

    I absolutely love the tips because it's confirmation to me that I'm doing all I can to economise, as I live alone and am semi retired, so it is imperative that I try to save where I can. I live alone and am in my 50s, so I hope the younger generation will read and learn from these tips instead of spending all their wages before the end of the month.

  • joanne / 3 June 2016

    I love reading the tips page I am an old lady living alone and it does me good to see there are other people doing what I have done for years.

  • sharon parkinson / 22 May 2016

    Derrick fresh meat cooked should keep 3-6 months if you freeze it as soon as it's cold, if it's not cold by bedtime use asap would last longer but I don't take chances. I don't agree with buying what you need instead of buying what you have run out of, I always have 3 of everything in my tin cupboard because you never know when someone might not want a big meal so then being able to just get a tin out of whatever might be enough, and yes I do rotation. I heard there is going to be a shortage of cooking apples this year due to younger families taking them out after they buy a house because they don't know how to look after them, please talk your neighbours young and old or go to your local library. One of my daughters sells or swaps plants with friends and neighbours who are growing things she is not. Today I have got a box of home made chilli out of the freezer for tea tomorrow and lets be honest when you have worked all day and come home it's got to be nice to have tea in front of you in 30mins. I think if you are going to make a menu you need to be aware that you need to make sure that for instance every Wednesday you are not going to have gammon, I think you need to at least do a monthly menu because otherwise it becomes boring there are more than enough ideas out there. Remember even on a low income you can make great food, my husband and I live on less than £9,000 a year. Following on from my earlier messages think before you shop talk to your neighbours and family there is so much info out there use it don't ignore it. One last thought for now going back my daughter if you sell plants pop the money on one side for a family treat and remember involve your children where ever you can they will only learn from you, if you put the effort in and show them what can be done with a little time and effort, they are likely to follow your lead. If anyone needs ideas, help or anything else if I can't help then I'm sure I will know somebody who can.

  • johnno / 19 May 2016

    Got it sorted and have for a long time, I have been doing exactly the same as Faith Archer does....

  • Derrick / 18 May 2016

    Why do they say on raw meat products such as beef mince or diced meat once cooked do not reheat surely, if its cooked its safe for a few days even if kept in saucepan or fridge.
    Any thoughts on this subject thanks.

  • Vincent Neale / 18 May 2016

    Having been born during the last war I have always been thrifty with food I never throw food away, - stale bread =bread and butter pudding home made bread crumbs, make pies out of surplus veggies, but the best way to save on food is to grow you own I have a garden and a allotment. My food bill for last year for the two of us was £568.00. I grow all my own vegetables, fruits, From the supermarket I buy everything else I also bake my own bread

  • Kam johal / 17 May 2016

    Am Indian and find Indian food is healthy and cheaper I make lots of different beans dhal lot cheaper than meat option and eat chapti instead of naans

  • Jorge de Sousa / 17 May 2016

    Also buying fruit on the streets and vegetables like carrot and make your own juice. The prices of fruit juices in supermarkets are a rip off, all you need is a blender .

  • Linda Hale / 16 May 2016

    Here's a tip for saving money. I bye fresh ginger to make ginger cordial, I slice it thin then I strain it off and bottle the cordial. I then put the discarded ginger in a jar and cover with white wine vinegar or cider vinegar. I use this in salads or stir fry. When the ginger is gone I then use the lovely flavoured vinegar to make salad dressings. And to put on your chips, there's nothing better than the vinegar left over from pickled onions.

  • sharon parkinson / 16 May 2016

    sorry forgot asda now do boxes of bendy veg such as carrots, cucumber, parsnips ect. Also if you don't like gerkins in piccalilli use cucumber instead. Instead of buying fish from the freezer section of your supermarket make your own fish & chips, buy reduced fish such as cod, haddock, ling ect & make your own batter use self raising flour pinch of salt (optional) and COLD water remember to take the basket out of the pan before adding fish to cook. In local fish markets they sell fish bits very cheap so use them to make fish pie or fish cakes. Instead of buying lemons or limes which don't give very good value when just wanting the juice go to the baking ailse and buy by the bottle they usually tell how many fruits were used to make the bottle so you can just measure out what you need.

  • sharon parkinson / 16 May 2016

    another way to save money is to buy cheaper cuts of meat and cook them for longer to make them tender. Whatever meat we have left over from sunday dinner we make a casserole for later in the week. Also certain thing are only available at certain times of year such as onions for pickling so we buy a net cost us £8 and vinegar abt £4 we then have enough pickled onions for the year, we also do beetroot, piccalilli, chutney, from the veg we grow, and jams, desserts from the fruit we grow. I know that not everyone has a garden/or a big enough garden to grow like we can but you can grow things in tubs on window ledges, we grow herbs indoors on our window ledges this sounds daft but some of the herbs smell very nice such as mint so you don't have to just grow them on your kitchen ledge you can grow them on a bedroom ledge.

  • Mrs Kathleen Davidson / 16 May 2016

    I stock up on my regular products like teabags, coffee and cereals when they are on offer doing this means I never have to pay full price I also make a lot of homemade soup in the winter for a cheap filling lunch

  • Carole Darnell / 16 May 2016

    Good advice - I have also saved money by making a shopping list ,,,,,,,,,,,,simple but very effective. I keep a notepad in the kitchen and jot things down as I run out during the week. Has probably saved me £5-10 a week- not a lot but it all adds up over the year

  • Jane / 16 May 2016

    Good advice! I bought a 'reduced' chicken for under £3 recently and did roast chicken for 3 (using the hot oven to cook a couple of cakes for the freezer at the same time) and then used leftovers to make curry for 2 the following day, boiled the bones down for soup to go in the freezer - using the 'bendy veg' in the back of the fridge, and there was still enough for sandwiches.

  • Josephine Rignall / 16 May 2016

    i surpose this helps to save money,i already in general do these comments as i know when there is a true bargin,but as i live on my own most food is catered for familys.I dont like going into the £ shop but have recently started going thier,there are some great bargins in there.

  • Josephine Rignall / 16 May 2016

    i surpose this helps to save money,i already in general do these comments as i know when there is a true bargin,but as i live on my own most food is catered for familys.I dont like going into the £ shop but have recently started going thier,there are some great bargins in there.

  • Marie lomas / 15 May 2016

    I agree with doing a meal plans for a week, utilising what's already in the cupboard, checking out budget recipes on the Internet and sticking exactly to that list. Finally never go shopping when you are hungry

  • Leigh M / 15 May 2016

    Buying food in small packets can be costly. I buy a reasonable piece of meat and chop it up myself and use it in different ways. All these prepared foods in packets are expensive - i.e. chicken for lunches. It is much better to buy a whole chicken, cook it yourself and use the extra leftovers for sandwiches and salads, rather than buying it ready prepared. Also you know when and how it was cooked.

  • Ray Baldacchino / 15 May 2016

    Interesting tips. I shop for reductions at supermarkets in the early evening and freeze much of it - I save a fortune doing that. Items costing £1/2 are often reduced to less than 10p! I don't agree with buying only what you need - I buy what I think/know I will use and preserve if necessary e.g. got a large tub of double cream for 15p - was £1.80ish - did not open it for 10 days so well out of date, but keeps because its pasturised i.e. sterile until open. You can also make takeaway style food at home e.g. I buy flavourings or make my own flavourings - see recipes online - for fried rice, make an omllette and warm up some frozen king prawns to make my favourite takeaway. And you can buy some good quality battered fish and fry some French fries from Lidl at 59p a kg.

  • Deborah / 15 May 2016

    I saved a lot of money by going vegetarian about ten years ago - never looked back! My pressure cooker is a life saver and retains so much flavour in soups, broths, stews etc. I also use it for boiling my soaked dried beans fast and brown rice. I'm 99% vegan now too so save even more money by not buying cheese, eggs, cow's milk or butter. By cutting out bread I don't need butter now anyway. It makes shopping a lot easier too because I have far less choices to make and aisles to walk down.

  • colin cundy / 15 May 2016

    This what I do now I have the slow cooker this is very handy for making curries,stews,casseroles ,pasta sauces. Look for the shop brands meat,chicken,burgers,and I buy cooking bacon which comes in a bigger packet then normal ones

  • sharon parkinson / 15 May 2016

    there is only my husband & I left in our house but you can do this with any member/s of your family or with a group of friends that way you have company & still save money I forgot to say that poundland usually has good cook books and cooking items much cheaper than supermarkets don't be too proud look after yourself family & close friends.

  • Janice / 15 May 2016

    I do all the suggestions given, but once there was only 2 of us at home I got lazy and started using the sachets of rice which just take 2 minutes in the microwave - then I thought of how uneconomic these are at well over £1 each... so now I buy a whole bag of rice for about the same price as the sachet, cook the lot - and portion into 250gms reusable food bags, lay then flat & freeze. This way they defrost in 10 minutes, there is only 1 pan to wash, and best of all, they are a fraction of the cost. Remove from bag before microwaving!

  • Theodora / 15 May 2016

    I love her ideas, very feasible. Thank you

  • sharon parkinson / 15 May 2016

    my husband & I get paid monthly so do our children & their families so all us girls get together at the weekend after pay day we go shopping together usually to local markets for fresh meat, fish, chicken, fruit and veg we all put the same amount in a kitty then shop we always know what we are going to buy then we spent all weekend doing what we call a mass baking we do curries, stews, hash, quiches, chilli, pies, paella, gumbo, cajun, burgers, pitza carribean, fishcakes, plus other things then all our own puddings, cakes, ice cream, and now summer is on it's way ice lollies for the children we also grow a lot of veg & have got a lot of fruit trees we cook enough food to last us till next pay day by freezing with a few extra treats to fall back on. If people are struggling to find ideas for meals go to your local library and borrow some books if you find a meal that everyone is happy with you can buy a jotter and make your own recipe book or go to local charity shops the books are cheap. I have plenty more ideas.

  • James / 15 May 2016

    Very sound advice indeed, but it does concern me that we have to continually repeat such basic advice. As a mere male, retired I hasten to add, and having some years back, spent five years in a Food Technology class working alongside a lad who was blind,I cannot see why there has to be such a concentration on designing packaging, working out total nutritional values of meals, etc, when the basics of providing food on the table for families or even for students going to Uni are neglected within the total package.
    Let us get back to basics as quickly as possible and then, hopefully food waste and obesity will be a thing of the past. Does it need another armed conflict to teach us the value of the basics in feeding families.

  • Marie Libby Ryan / 15 May 2016

    In short, a very good article on how to fork out on less on food shopping!

  • Karen / 15 May 2016

    I order online for home delivery from my list. That way I am not tempted to buy extra because I am not in the supermarket.

  • Joanne / 15 May 2016

    I am a big industrial quantity cook, even though I live alone. So all you singletons and couples don't think it's just for families. I hate nothing more than coming home from a long day at work to find I've no energy to cook. Who wants to cook for one?. Pre made spag Bol, curry, chilli prawn pasta.. Options are endless. I spend one Sunday a month cooking everything and voilà a good home cooked meal ready and waiting for me. 😌

  • Anne / 15 May 2016

    I think it is criminal that ordinary people have toscrimp and save like this with something as essential as food. I bet Cameron doesn't have to follow faith's advice. It is time the inequalities in this society were ironed out.

  • Marilyn Sansom / 15 May 2016

    Lots of good ideas but I do not like a lot of supermarkets' own brands. Baked beans, tinned fruit and veg are anaemic and tasteless so worth paying more than wasting. More ideas please for those of us who live on our own, no point in cooking large batches of something, we would get heartily sick of it before long.
    Also I do not like supermarkets "buy 2 get 3rd free". I don't want three, just one please!!

  • Antonia / 15 May 2016

    The Italians are notorious for using left overs and make use of either a minestrone /soup or omelette for next day, one needs to be a little creative with it.🍀

  • Thrifty gan / 15 May 2016

    Soups and pastas are life and money savers. Buy carrots, swede, celery and leek when cheap, clean, peel and chop and freeze in separate bags. Throw some in a pan with stock cube, onion and lentils and you have quick and easy pot of soup. Brown mince, onion, celery, garlic, add peppers, tomato purée, tsp Worcester sauce and a big handful of lentils to bulk out. Add chicken stock cube and water plus Cajun spices and tin sweet corn. Simmer 40 minutes until sauce reduces. Cook 500 g pasta, drain and add mince to pan. Add big handful each cheddar and mozzarella and mix through. Gives huge amount. If too much take some out to freeze before you add cheese. Everyone likes this tasty economical dish.

  • June Jackson / 15 May 2016

    Great it's such good advice home cooking doesn't take a lot
    Of effort and it's much nicer I stew all apples pears bananas
    Rather than bin them great with a blob of ice cream or a crumble
    On top. Again make a huge casserole enough for two days.

  • Norma Lawson / 15 May 2016

    Very good idea, I will be taking all this on board.

  • Sandra Stroud / 15 May 2016

    Every Friday evening I write a menu for the following week, check fridge and cupboards for ingredients, and make my shopping list for the menu. I often change which day the meals are eaten so don't slavishly follow the menu, but know I have all the food I need for the week. I also buy special offers while shopping, some of which will be eaten that week and others are frozen for a subsequent week. I find the menu keeps food costs down while giving a varied meal plan for the week.

  • Rachel / 15 May 2016

    excellent advice, thank you. I particularly like the tip "buy what you need, not what you've run out of". I tried this last week and saved a considerable amount. I based the meal plan on what I already had in the cupboards, fridge and freezer and just bought what was needed.

  • Claire / 15 May 2016

    These are all good tips and things I do anyway. I grew up in a big family and my mother was a single parent so she had to budget. No meals out for us! Home cooked food should be much healthier than a takeaway if you cook from scratch. The odd fish finger won't kill you. If you live alone then batch cooking and freezing things like soup or bolognese saves time and money. Buy large sliced loaves and split them into portions for freezing. You'll never run out. Give it a go.

  • Tessa / 15 May 2016

    We do all above, saves a fortune. Aldi is our shop, make good meals from scratch, more in the bank.

  • carol guest / 15 May 2016

    I agree,i look for the bargains in all supermarkets.l also cook double and freeze.

  • Nigel Cliff / 15 May 2016

    Been doing all that for 30 years it's just common sense,it amazes me the people at work who go out and buy sandwiches that they could bring from home as I have always done

  • geoff o'neill / 15 May 2016

    good thinking I always shop for two branded stuff is out meals are a little extra for some things as we differ in tastes but we still save money.

  • dave powell / 15 May 2016

    I save a lot by buying and freezing! Wait for veg such as green beans, broccoli, carrots, etc to be reduced or on special then stock up and freeze the veg. Watch ot for the discounters pick of the week for some great bargains!

  • Ann Routledge / 15 May 2016

    I do all of the above. Cook in big batches and freeze I also check the reduced items and freeze meats as soon as i get home I always go to various shops eg Asda Aldi etc bargains galore if you take time to check

  • Big mac / 15 May 2016

    All very good ideas. I have used many of them. The best idea is freezing what's left over from tea time and taking it for lunch in a few days time.