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The Ultimate Guide to Food Shopping on a Budget

The Ultimate Guide to Food Shopping on a Budget

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Including 13 cheap food shopping ideas

When it comes to food shopping on a budget, there are plenty of savvy tips and tricks to help you make the most of your money. From planning your meals in advance to looking out for special offers and discounts, there are many ways to stretch your pounds further at the supermarket.

One handy tip is to make a shopping list before you head to the store. This can help you stay focused and avoid impulse purchases that can quickly add up. Additionally, keeping an eye out for own-brand products or buying in bulk can also help you save money in the long run.

So, next time you’re planning a trip to the grocery store, remember these simple yet effective strategies to make your budget go further and still enjoy delicious meals without breaking the bank.

Many of us struggle to save money when it comes to our food shop, but what if we told you that you could shave £100 off your shopping bill every month, just by doing a few simple things?

By changing your shopping habits a little and how you cook at home, could help save you and your family money. Saving money really is this simple!

You don’t need to go mega frugal here. We are talking about supermarket shopping in a more savvy way that makes it work for you.

If you are looking for more ways to save your family money then make sure you have a look at:

Understanding Best Before Dates and Beating Food Waste – Understanding food waste and best before dates is a great way to know when you can use food and when it’s time to throw it away.

101 Aldi Recipes That Will Give You Dinner Ideas For Tonight – These are the best budget recipes that you can use to help fill up your meal plan.

The Ultimate £1 Per Head Budget Meal Planning List – This is our biggest list of £1 a head family meals that can help you save money on your food shop.

How to do food shopping on a budget?

We have 13 cheap food shopping ideas for you that can really help you save money. All of these tips are easy to do and really aren’t rocket science. It’s all about being prepared and a little bit of planning.

Try and get the whole family involved as that really helps to keep your money-saving on track.

If you are struggling with money right now then please have a look at:

103 Frugal Living Tips That Will Save You Thousands – Use our amazing tips here to help you save money day to day.

23 Best Ways to Save Money and Reduce Food Waste in the UK – These are the best ways to reduce your food waste as a family.

No Money for Food? This is What You Do When You Really Have No Money To Feed your Family – This is the post for you if you are really struggling to find money for food.

Meal planning

It’s so simple, we all should be doing it. Just by looking through your cupboards, fridge, and freezer, you can plan what you need, and what you plan on eating that week.

Don’t feel like it needs to be set in stone though. If you have leftovers in the freezer and prefer them, use them, just stick what you were going to eat in the freezer for next time.

Meal planning also stops you from going crazy at the supermarket and buying stuff you already have at home or aren’t really going to use.

Plan out your meals with the ingredients you’re going to need. Reducing your food waste doesn’t have to be boring, it’s all about planning.

If you are looking for more ways to save money as a family then come join our free Resource Vault. It’s packed full of ideas that that you can print off again and again.

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How to make a grocery list on a budget

Plain book with food in cartons

If you are new to meal planning then start by getting a pen and pad or even Notes on your phone. Sit down with the family and talk through everything you are going to eat this week. That’s all meals, snacks, and drinks.

Remember that if you have any activities that mean you may be coming home late, that those days may need quick and easy meals.

Then go through your cupboards, freezer, and fridge and see what you have. There’s no point stockpiling food. If you shop weekly you really don’t need that much food sat in your cupboards and freezer.

Once you know what you have, it’s time to write that shopping list of what you need to make your meal plan happen.

After it’s complete, share it with your family either by phone or by putting it up on the fridge so everyone can see it.

Remember to take your shopping list with you or take a picture of it before you go!

If you are struggling to come up with meals to fill your meal plan then have a look at:

35 Extremely Cheap Meals For UK Families – These are the meals that we eat when we are having a very tight month. They are family friendly and easy to cook.

65 Dirt Cheap Meals for Your Family (Under £1 a Head) – These are cheap meals that are still yummy to eat but they won’t hurt your bank balance.

The Best Cheap Pasta Recipes That Are Under £1 a Head – We love pasta! Use our recipes here to make lunch and dinner for the family for less.

Cook from scratch

Quorn Spaghetti Bolognese in a white bowl

Cooking from scratch can seem daunting if you’ve never done it before but it really is easy to do and saves you money. You don’t need to be a chef to be able to cook up your own sauce or make a really delicious budget-friendly meal for the whole family.

Start with the basics that you eat. So, we when started cooking from scratch our favourite meal was Spaghetti Bolgense but it was all out of a jar.

We learned to make the sauce ourselves, which is cheaper and healthier and you can make extra for pasta sauces when you are in a rush.

You really can cook a whole meal for under £1 a head. We cook everything from homemade burgers to fakeaway Chinese meals that cost less than a fiver.

Have a look at our full range of £1 a head family meals here:

The Best Fakeaway Recipes For Under £1 a Head – Don’t order a takeaway when you can make your own!

The Best Cheap Recipes For Families – These are the best recipes and they are cheap.

The Best Cheap Vegan Meals For The Whole Family – You can go vegan and still save money on food.

If you are a real beginner cook then have a look at Spicentice. Spicentice sends you out little packets of spices that talk you through, easily, step by step how to cook something. We use them every three months or so when we are stuck in a food rut.

If you’d like to try Spicentice yourself then make sure you use our link here with our code LASAVE20 to get 20% off every purchase.*

They helped teach us how to make homemade burgers without them breaking up while cooking, chicken fajitas that tasted better than our takeaway, and helped us make southern fried chicken that even the kids loved.

These really are easy means with simple instructions that you can use to cook a budget-friendly dinner for the whole family. You can then keep them to use again without the spices for next time.

We have made loads of budget meals with Spicentice including:

Chilli Con Carne

If you are looking for a simple Chilli Con Carne recipe that is also cheap then this is for you. The one thing we love about this recipe is that a lot of the ingredients are kitchen staples so you can rustle this up quickly if you need too.

This Chilli Con Carne Recipe isn’t spicy at all and is perfect for any home cook even if you are a beginner.

Beginner Chilli Con Carne Recipe for Just 95p a Head

Vegan shepherd’s pie

If you are looking for a delicious vegan shepherd’s pie recipe that is cheap to make and easy to cook then this is for you.

This family recipe is perfect for those nights that you need your family to eat something healthy or even a meal to bulk out when guests come to dinner.

Vegan Shepherd’s Pie For Just 82p Per Portion

Spaghetti meatball

This spaghetti meatball recipe comes in at just 73p per person for a family of four. This spaghetti meatball recipe is so easy to cook and is great if you are a beginner cook looking for something gorgeous that the whole can eat.

Spaghetti Meatball Recipe For 73p a Head

Chicken fajitas

Chicken fajitas are a great family meal idea if your kids like to help themselves. The great thing about fajitas is that you can make this different everything depending on what your family like or how spicy they like meals.

Easy Chicken Fajita Recipe: A Family Meal for 94p a Person

Chinese chicken curry

This tasty Chinese chicken curry recipe can be made within 25 minutes and tastes just like your local takeaway.

The chicken in this recipe is really tender. We make ours from frozen chicken breasts but of course fresh meat works well too.

Chinese Chicken Curry For Just £1.54 For 4

Homemade beef burgers

Burgers with salad, bacon and cheese

Who doesn’t love a good homemade beef burger? It’s the ultimate comfort food that you can easily whip up in your own kitchen. Forget about those fast-food joints – making your own beef burgers is where it’s at!

Really Easy Homemade Beef Burgers For Under £1 a Head

Southern fried chicken

Southern Fried Chicken with chips and corn of the cob

Who doesn’t love a good ol’ Southern fried chicken recipe? If you’re craving some finger-lickin’ goodness, look no further! This recipe is a winner – crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside.

The Best Southern Fried Chicken Recipe For Under £1 a Head

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken tikka masala curry

Chicken Tikka Masala Curry is a classic British dish with roots in Indian cuisine. This creamy and flavourful curry has become a favourite in the UK, loved by many for its rich and aromatic taste.

Chicken Tikka Masala Curry For Under £4 a Head

Katsu curry

If you are looking for a fakeaway recipe that is also Slimming World friendly and easy to cook then this Katsu chicken curry is for you.

It’s a great curry recipe that is easy for beginners and doesn’t take too long to cook. This is based on the traditional Japanese curry. It is packed full of flavor and makes a great Friday night or weekend treat meal instead of ordering in.

The Best Katsu Curry Recipe For Under £1 a Head

Firecracker chicken

Rice at the top with firecracker chicken

This quick and easy firecracker chicken recipe is not only budget-friendly, but it’s also really easy to make.

The firecracker chicken recipe is also Slimming World friendly and can be made less spicy by making your own sauce.

The Best Firecracker Chicken For Just 99p a Head

If you’d like to try Spicentice yourself then make sure you use our link here with our code LASAVE20 to get 20% off every purchase.*

If you are time-poor then have a look at a slow cooker. Owning a slow cooker means that you can just dump all your food in it in the morning and come home to an amazing meal that’s all ready for you.

Keeping to a strict budget is nearly impossible if no one eats the same meals. The thought of prepping an evening meal can put most of us off meaning that we turn to easy yet expensive convenience food.

Having a slow cooker and a bunch of slow cooker family meals on tap is a great way to bring down your grocery food shop while feeding everyone a great meal. You don’t even all have to be there at the same time to enjoy the meal. The great thing about a slow cooker is that you can leave it in there for later. Perfect if anyone has evening clubs to get too or if anyone works shifts.

Our favourite slow cooker recipes are:

Slow Cooker Pulled Chicken

Pulled chicken is a great dinner for the whole family. It’s really simple to cook in the slow cooker and is really tender. You can have it with rice or in a bread bun. It all needs to cook for 6-8 hours to make the chicken really tender.

2 tbsp vegetable oil 5p
3 chicken breasts £1.20
2 red onions 50p
2 garlic cloves, 5p
2 tsp paprika 2p
2 tbsp chipotle paste 10p
250ml passata 25p
100g barbecue sauce 30p
1 tbsp light brown soft sugar 8p
Total: £2.55 that’s 63p for four people.

Peri-Peri Chicken

This does take a bit of prep but is perfect for a weekend fakeaway. It takes about 30 minutes to cook and goes with wedges, rice and salad. You can also have this with tortillas and salad if you prefer.

4 frozen chicken breasts £1.40,

3 garlic cloves 9p,

Small piece of ginger 2p,

Rind of lemon 3p,

5 tbsp lemon juice 9p,

2 tbsp cooking oil 3p,

1 tsp salt 2p,

4 potatoes 40p,

180g Rice 24p,

Total: £2.32 that’s 58p for four people.

Peanut Chicken

This Peanut Chicken is really easy to make. It takes 10 minutes to make and can be put into the slow cooker and takes about 4 hours. 

Start by cutting the chicken into chucks and add it to the slow cooker. Then add the rest of the ingredients and set our slow cooker to medium. 

When you are ready to serve, cook the rice in a pan for about 20 minutes or until the rice is soft. 

3 frozen chicken breasts £1.90,

100g frozen onions 19p,

2 garlic cloves 5p,

200g frozen mixed peppers 40p,

200g frozen carrots 10p,

120g Peanut Butter 31p,

1 tbsp cornflour 5p,

2 tbsp lemon juice 2p,

2 tbsp soy sauce 5p,

1 tbsp curry powder 2p ,

1 tbsp chilli flakes 2p ,

400ml tin tomatoes 28p,

300g wholemeal rice 48p,

Total: £3.87 that’s 96p per person.

Slow Cooker Peach Chicken

This slow cooker recipe is great for those rush evenings. All of this can be prepped in the morning or the night before. Add all the ingredients to the slow cooker pot (apart from the rice) and cook on low for 8 – 10 hours. When you are ready to serve, cook the rice as per the packet instructions.

2 chicken breasts £1.20,

400g tin peaches 34p,

200g frozen peppers 40p,

1 red onion 28p,

2 tbsp brown sugar 5p,

4 tbsp soy sauce 7p,

1 tbsp ground ginger 5p,

250g rice 30p.

Total: £2.69 that’s 67p per person.

All our favourite recipes are here:

49 Aldi Slow Cooker Recipes For The Whole Family – This is our biggest slow cooker recipes that you can make easily.

Really Easy Slow Cooker Chicken Curry Recipes That Are Budget Friendly – We love curry! Use these with your slow cooker.

Shopping online

If you prefer to shop online then make sure you use cashback sites. We recommend OhMyDosh, Quidco and Swagbucks. You get money off whenever you shop online through their sites which can really come in handy once baby is born.

It doesn’t cost you a penny to use them. If you make a purchase through their site you receive the money. It’s that simple!

We use OhMyDosh for making money through surveys and getting cashback on anything we buy online. Find out more OhMyDosh here and what we think of them.

Join OhMyDosh* here for free and get £1 added to your account.

We also love Quidco. Use them everytime you shop online to save money.

Join Quidco here for free.*

Downshifting your brands

Buying value ranges is a great way to save money. You don’t have to buy everything fresh either. Use cans or frozen food to make cooking your meals quick and easy.

Start by buying the lowest range items first and slowly work your way up depending on if you liked the product taste or not.

You’ll be really surprised how much you can save by buying a shop’s own brand of food. Challenge the family to see if they even notice.

Frozen over fresh

You don’t need to buy all your fruit and vegetables fresh. Think about buying them frozen. Not only does it work out cheaper, it means that they won’t go off.

It also means that you can grab as much as you need and then put the rest back for another meal. We use this for everything from frozen strawberries and mango for our smoothies to frozen onions and peppers. You just add them straight to the pan, no mess.

Another good thing about frozen is that it’s already precut so no chopping is needed!

Go wonky

Many supermarkets are now doing wonky or odd-shaped bags of fruit and vegetables. They are a lot cheaper and still taste the same.

Reduce meat

If you are on a strict budget then start by reducing your meat intake. You could have one day a week that you only eat vegetarian. We only do this on months when money is really tight though as you can buy frozen chicken quite cheap or a join of gammon that can last three meals.

If you like the sound of this then have a look at our vegetarian meal ideas here. Going meat-free can be empowering and taste great:

77 Slimming World Vegetarian Recipes That The Whole Family Will Enjoy

51 Quick Vegan Meals for Kids

Avoid supermarket tricks

It’s easy to get excited when you see buy one get one free offers but they are only going to save you money if you actually plan on using them. Try and work out the cost per KG and see if it really is a saving.

Kitchen staples

Having a packed store cupboard of food that covers the basics can really help save you money in the longer term.

Food like flour, tin chopped tomatoes, puree, and dried pasta can help get you through when you are on a tight budget.

Have a look at our full list of store cupboard food that can help you make a meal out of anything!

Portion sizes

It’s very easy to serve big family meals and get carried away. We have two fussy children and used to cook as if we were cooking for four people, just in case the kids were hungry.

In truth, they hardly eat anything at dinnertime, so we have reduced the portions right down to cooking for two, and skimming off of our portions.

Using smaller plates for us adults help, and weighing out food like pasta and rice saves us overcooking then throwing it away.

We generally say for pasta, 75g each per adult and one to two small cups each per adult with rice.

Keep those leftovers

It’s well known that the average UK family throws away at least £60 worth of food a month and buys way more than they need.

If you’re only using half a vegetable, like peppers or carrots, remember to wrap them and leave them in plain sight in the fridge, to remind you they’re still there.

It’s so easy to incorporate any leftovers into your daily or weekly routine, simply by just grating them up to bulk a meal out.

Take pizza for example. If the kids can’t manage it all that night, wrap it up and serve it again for lunch with a salad. Who doesn’t like pizza twice a week right?

For gone off fruit, smoothie them up for a healthy snack or bake them into banana or carrot cakes, or a crumble.

If you tend to buy food out then why not cook a bit more the night before and use it the next day. It makes sense!


We all cook more than we can eat. Instead of feeding the bin, put it all together in a freezer-safe container once cool, and label then freeze.

Next week when you go to write your meal plan, you’ll already have a meal complete. Win!

Storing correctly

It always baffled us why my milk went off so quickly or why the mince browned after a few days. It wasn’t in till we starting to research why that we realized we were putting all the food in the wrong places.

Just by moving the milk and the meat to the middle, and the vegetables to the bottom, did we start to see not only a difference in taste and freshness but on how long my food was lasting?

Food labels

This catches all of us out.

The thing about food labels is that they are meant to keep us safe, but none of us really understand what they all mean, which results in a lot of good food getting thrown away.

The only one you really need to know is “Use by”. Even if food still looks or smells good after the date, don’t use it.

Best before is about food quality and is more of a suggestion. Use your judgment to decide if it’s safe to use or not, and if it is and going out of date, then freeze it to use later.

Related Posts: 

Weekly shopping for 4 people

It really is simple to save money on your food. If you need to stick to a strict budget then we would suggest you:

Doing a weekly food shop can save you money instead of shopping daily.

Meal plan to stop you over buying then throwing it away. Remember to check your freezer and fridge for any leftovers you can use for meals that week.

Use small plates and skim off your meals if you have young children. If they are still hungry after, then fruit smoothies or yogurt are great fillers, and can also be used in other meals if they’re leftover at the end of the week.

Anything left vegetable-wise can be grated up and added to dinner while fruit can be put into cakes and treats. Meat can be frozen or used for two or three meals in the week.

Freezing food can save it. Curry, cottage pie, spaghetti Bolognese; all defrost and taste perfect again once reheated. Bread, crumpets, and hot cross buns can all be added to and defrosted when needed.

Rearrange the fridge to put everything with a quick date at the front and make sure anything dairy or meat-related is in the middle.

Know your food labels and what they mean. This could be the difference between a £50 shop and an £80 shop.

Keep your cupboard staples topped up. If you suddenly have meat or fish going off, use these to make a quick and simple meal to eat or freeze.

Laura x

If you enjoyed this post and would like some more money saving ideas, then head over to the saving my family money section here on Savings 4 Savvy Mums where you’ll find over 50 money saving tips to help you save your family more. There’s enough tips to help you save over £300 a month! You could also pop over and follow my family saving Pinterest boards for lots more ideas on how to stop spending and save more; Money Saving Tips for Families and Managing Money for Families

Love this post? Then why not save it to Pinterest so you can easily find it later. 

This is the ultimate guide to food shopping on a budget as a family. Buy more and keep more money in your pocket by Laura at Savings 4 Savvy Mums

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