Food prices: how to cut costs as UK food price inflation hits 13.3%

Food prices hit new highs. We reveal 12 ways you can save money on your supermarket bill.

Mother and son in supermarket
(Image credit: Getty)

Cash-strapped households will have noticed another financial squeeze last month as food prices rose yet again.  

The rate at which prices are going up on fresh food like meat, eggs and dairy products along with coffee – is now at its highest rate since records began in 2005.

 Fresh food inflation hit 15% in December, up from 14.3% in November. according to the British Retail Consortium (opens in new tab) (BRC). Overall, inflation for food hit 13.3% in December.

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said:  “It was a challenging Christmas for many households across the UK. Not only did the cold snap force people to spend more on their energy bills, but the prices of many essential foods also rose as reverberations from the war in Ukraine continued to keep high the cost of animal feed, fertiliser and energy”.

But the latest figures from data analysts Kantar (opens in new tab) show that grocery price inflation overall was fractionally down in December at 14.4% from 14.6%.

Despite this, it says the average household will need to fork out an extra £677 over the next year - even if they stick to buying the same items every week and nothing extra.  

Here we reveal 12 ways you can cut the cost of your food shopping.

12 ways to tackle rising food prices

1. Go for basics

If you’re looking to cut costs, switching to cheaper brands and buying basics is usually the best way to lower your food bills. 

According to Kantar, shoppers are still switching to supermarket own brands, with sales rising by 13.3% compared with a 4.7% increase in branded items.

But, according to the Office for National Statistics (opens in new tab) (ONS) even the price of some basic food staples has soared by up to 65% over the last year.

The official inflation figure from the ONS – which now stands at 11.1% - measures price rises across a basket of 700 everyday goods. But, since May of this year – the ONS has started releasing "experimental research" which tracks the prices of 30 everyday grocery basics across seven supermarkets. 

Over the year to September, it found supermarket budget food prices rose by around 17% and it found shoppers faced the biggest increases in basics. With nine items the lowest cost price had gone up by over 20% in the past year and for three of those items – vegetable oil, pasta and tea – the prices had gone up by 40% or more.

Here are the ten foods that have seen the biggest price rises over the past year – based on the lowest-cost version:

Swipe to scroll horizontally
ItemSeptember 2021September 2022Price rise% rise
Vegetable oil (1 litre)£1.56£2.58£1.0265%
Pasta (500g)38p61p23p60%
Tea (125g)67p97p30p46%
Chips (1.5kg)99p£1.3738p39%
Bread (800g)48p66p18p38%
Biscuits40p54p14p34%
Frozen mixed vegetables (100g)76p£124p32%
Milk (4 pints)£1.17£1.5235p29%
Crisps (150g)73p91p18p24%
Tomatoes (250g)48p57p9p19%

2. Shop at the cheapest supermarket

Switching supermarkets to find a cheaper one is a no-brainer as savings can really stack up over the course of a year.

Over the festive season, Asda was named the cheapest supermarket on premium and frozen festive products according to The Grocer (opens in new tab) however when it comes to the price of basics – Aldi came out tops during the latest figures from November according to consumer group Which? (opens in new tab)

This was based on the daily prices of a basket of 48 items, including basics like baked beans, milk and tea bags. 

According to Which? a typical basket costs £77.21 at Aldi and £78.57 at Lidl.  Tesco was the cheapest of the "big four" supermarkets at £87.60, followed by Asda at £87.66, Sainsbury’s at £89.95 and Morrisons at £93.49.   The same basket of shopping cost nearly £27

more at Waitrose – which was the most expensive supermarket.

Top tip: take a look at the Trolley app (opens in new tab) to compare the cheapest supermarket for your food shopping.

Remember: no matter how cheaply you buy food throwing away what you buy because it goes off, costs households around £700 a year. So as well as checking prices on the shelves make sure to look at ways you can avoid food waste

3. Switch to supermarket own-brands

Switching to supermarket own brands is an easy way to save and can knock pounds off your bills. 

For example, if you always buy branded cheddar cheese, swap for the supermarket's own version. If you already buy this, then look for its "value or basic" version.

The savings can really add up. For example, a block of Cathedral City Cheddar cheese (350g) costs around £3 but swapping for Aldi’s Mild cheddar cheese (400g) costs £2.69 and you get more cheese in the pack.  The cheapest still is Sainsbury’s Mary Ann version (500g) at £2.50.   Once again more for less!

And if you buy tinned tomatoes – a 400g tin of Napolina costs 75p, (opens in new tab) whereas Tesco's own brand would cost just 45p. Switch to the value brand and Asda Just Essentials range costs 32p for the same size tin.

Switching brands can shave pounds off your supermarket bill and, while there are bound to be some items you like, with others you’re unlikely to notice the difference - especially with staples like tinned tomatoes, rice, pasta or flour.

4. Switch fresh for frozen

You can save money swapping fresh for frozen food – and even allowing for the cost of cooking it – can still make savings.

While frozen vegetables, meat and fish can all be cheaper than fresh – if you’re buying ready meals – it pays to head for the freezer version to save money.  

In Tesco, a fresh beef lasagne (400g) will cost you £3 whereas if you head for the freezer aisle – and go for Tesco’s budget Hearty Food range – the same size lasagne costs just 75p.

And with a sweet and sour chicken with rice meal for one – its fresh Hearty Food version costs £2.29 (450g) but it's fractionally smaller (400g) frozen version costs just 75p.

5. Get a supermarket loyalty card

If you want to save money get a supermarket loyalty card – all the big stores offer them but some offer better value than others.   

If you’re a regular Lidl shopper and use the Lidl Plus app then spending £100 banks a £2 saving on your shopping – that’s double the equivalent value with Tesco’s Clubcard. If you shop at Lidl regularly, you could reach the £200 monthly limit, which means £10 off your shop plus discounts of around 15–20% on selected items every Thursday, along with free bonus food items. With the Iceland Bonus card, you get a £1 boost for every £20 you load on the card.

And if you’re looking for a new credit card – you can earn points on shopping with a supermarket credit card or get 20 Asda Pounds back as part of its loyalty scheme with an Asda Money Credit card. (opens in new tab)  The offer lasts till 28 February 2023 and you must spend at least £5 on the card in the first 60 days to qualify. 

6. Shop later in the day

Shopping later in the day can boost your chances of snapping up items with "reduced" stickers that pop up on food with a short shelf life. 

Discounts often start from around midday and can go up throughout the day to around 75% during the evening. Supermarkets start their "discounting" at different times of day, but if you shop in the same one regularly, you’ll probably get to know when this is. 

Most supermarkets also have special "reduced" sections. The key thing is to snap up the bargains and if you don’t need them that day, pop them in the freezer.

7. Buy supermarket leftovers

Using food waste apps like Too Good To Go (opens in new tab) and Karma (opens in new tab) means you can make big savings on leftover food from supermarkets including Morrisons (opens in new tab)Co-op (opens in new tab)Nisa (opens in new tab) and Spar (opens in new tab), as well as cafes, bakeries and restaurants. 

Download the free apps to see what’s available locally. Too Good To Go doesn't allow you to be too fussy with its "mystery bag" style offer, though you may get some idea up front what’s in it.  Meanwhile, rather than getting a surprise selection, Karma users can see exactly which meals are available to buy at each store.

Prices start from just over £2 in some cases and, as a general rule, you’ll usually get three times the amount of food for the price you pay, so make sure you stick it in the freezer if you can’t use it all – don't waste it...

8. Buy out-of-date food (safely)

We’re not suggesting you eat anything beyond its "use by" date – which is there for safety – but the "best before" date is just an indication of "optimum" quality. 

With warehouses like Approved Foods, you can buy items nearing their "best before" date including biscuits, tinned food, jams, spreads and snacks and breakfast cereals (opens in new tab) at knockdown prices. You get free delivery over £55, otherwise, you pay £3 or more. 

9. Make a shopping list

Again, this isn’t rocket science, but checking your cupboards and making a list before you hit the supermarket aisles, whether the virtual or bricks and mortar version, can save costly impulse buys.

Take a look at the Kitche (opens in new tab) app for a helping hand to keep track of what you have in your store cupboard and fridge. The app, which is free, aims to help you reduce food waste and save money by making sure you eat what you buy with reminders and recipes if you're not sure what to make. 

10. Check discount deals carefully

Snapping up a "buy-one-get-one-free" or "3 for 2" deal can be good value if you’re buying things you really want. Just be sure it is something you can pop in the freezer or stock up on – such as toiletries and cleaning products like toothpaste or toilet roll.

However, remember that it’s a false economy unless it is something you will use and the saving is worthwhile.

11. Use supermarket coupons

Coupons are not as common as they used to be, but you might still find them giving you money off specific products. You can also get some money back on your shopping using cashback sites or grab some items for free using apps like Shopmium (opens in new tab) or CheckoutSmart (opens in new tab).

When you buy something featured, you have to upload your receipt and the app will then give you cashback – paid directly into your bank account. 

Make sure you upload your receipt or online delivery note before the offer expires and be sure to keep your receipt until you get your cashback in case there is an issue. 

And of course, remember, the savings are only a saving if it is something you were going to buy regardless of the cashback offer.

12. Take your own bags

We all know supermarkets charge for bags in a bid to cut down on plastic and help save the environment.

If you don’t take your own – you can pay at least 30p for each bag for life at Tesco and if you want one of its larger shopper-style reusable bags  (opens in new tab) – these can be as much as £1.25.

Additional reporting by the Press Association

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Sue Hayward
contributor

Sue Hayward is a personal finance and consumer journalist, broadcaster and author who regularly chats on TV and Radio on ways to get more power for your pound.  Sue’s written for a wide range of publications including the Guardian, i Paper, Good Housekeeping, Lovemoney and My Weekly. Cats, cheese and travel are Sue’s passions away from her desk!

With contributions from