A Guide To Planning for the Weekly Shop

Most of us will use the weekly shop to buy our food supplies and stock up on household essentials, but how much are we spending on average? In the most recent Family Spending Report, it was found that the total average household expenditure was £531.30 per week. Of that total, £58.80 was being spent on food and non-alcoholic drinks, and £35.40 was going towards household goods and services.

Food is an essential purchase, but are there ways to reduce the cost of the weekly shop without sacrificing taste and variety, or restricting portions? Let’s find out, by taking a look at some tips for cutting costs and ways to plan your shop around your meals.

How does the weekly shop fit into your budget?

If you work out how much you need to spend on your main outgoings, such as bills and rent payments, you will then be able to work out how much you have left over for food and other purchases.

Money Dashboard’s personal finance assistant can help you keep track of this. Use the budget planner to calculate how much cash you have at your disposal for each category of spending. Once you know how much you can spend, you can decide how much you want to spend. If you want to buy fancier food, or brand names, and it’s within your means, then you can.

If you’re trying to save, and want to keep costs as low as possible, make sure you know how much you have available to spend to also be able to put some money aside. Always consider your needs, and remember that budgeting is important.

Great ways to cut the cost of your total bill

  • Always check the reduced section, as you can find still-fresh products at bargain prices. Invest in reduced meat and fish, and keep them in your freezer for a later date. Keep in mind that a use-by date is not the same as a best-before date. Best-before dates are a rough estimate of optimum quality, rather than a deadline, so eat at your discretion.
  • At one time or another, we’ve all been guilty of ‘impulse buying’, that is, picking up the newest flavour of a favourite crisp brand, or stocking up on too much chocolate for the evening ahead. We all deserve treats, but planning for them will make a difference, so try to stick to rules. Not shopping while hungry will reduce the urge to impulse buy.
  • Switch from pricey name brands and ‘premium’ supermarket goods to cheaper own-brands or value products. Value brands don’t look as pretty, and the words used to describe them deliberately imply simplicity, as opposed to the ‘extra special’ or ‘finest’ supermarket products. But does it really have anything to do with the taste? Some research suggests that the products are similar in quality, so you end up paying premium for design or reputation. This applies to household goods such as cleaning products, too.
  • Don’t worry about filling your basket. Apparently, you’re more likely to buy more if you believe what you’re buying is cheaper, which leads to a bigger basket spend. Stick by your list, and only buy what you need.
  • If you want to make small weekly savings that add up, cut out a treat or two. You’ll also reap the health benefits that come with not having as much junk food in the house.
  • If you have the time, shop around. The supermarket isn’t the only place that sells food. Some local butchers offer meat packs that are good value, offer variety, and may last for a good number of meals. Similarly, market stalls and local grocers may offer better prices for fruit and vegetables.

The Importance of Meal-Planning

Remember to think about how much time you have for preparing and cooking food – your lifestyle and schedule should influence your spending.

  • If you’ve got the time to cook, be sure to write down a weekly meal plan which includes your favourite recipes, and an appropriate shopping list. This will help you towards only buying the ingredients you actually need.
  • If you’re a busy bee, it might make more sense to spend a free evening preparing one huge meal that will last several days, or plan lunches that require minimal, or even no preparation. Making a shopping list is still necessary – even if you’re going to be shopping online – and batch-cooking is key!
  • It’s also useful to organise meals around produce you already have – look for leftover ingredients in the cupboards, or a portion of meat you put in the freezer for another day, and plan accordingly.

It turns out you can enjoy your favourite meals, plus treats, at a reduced cost. All it takes is simple budgeting, planning ahead, and learning some super smart shopping practices.