- 1. Go for basics to save £520 a year
- 2. Shop at the cheapest supermarket
- 3. Switch to supermarket own-brands
- 4. Switch fresh for frozen
- 5. Get a supermarket loyalty card
- 6. Shop later in the day
- 7. Buy supermarket leftovers
- 8. Buy out-of-date food (safely)
- 9. Make a shopping list
- 10. Check discount deals carefully
- 11. Use supermarket coupons
- 12. Take your own bags
It has been impossible to ignore skyrocketing prices on supermarket shelves, and newly published data shows the pressure on purses is not easing, with food prices continuing to soar, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The overall inflation rate – measured by the consumer prices index – is now at 8.7% in the year to April. But food prices are rising at an even faster rate, at 19.1%.
Although the ONS’s latest finding shows a slight slowdown in food price increases compared to last month’s rate (19.2%), the statistic still paints a picture of stubborn food price rises despite falls elsewhere in the economy.
The issue is so pressing that this week chancellor Jeremy Hunt summoned food and supermarket chiefs to quiz them on why prices remain so high.
The scale of the food cost crisis is so severe that some goods have doubled in cost over the past year, according to the consumer group Which?.
In the month to the end of April, meat prices were up 15%, fish up 16.5%, yoghurts up 21.8%, and veg up 15.3%, the consumer group found.
And while discount supermarkets remain the cheapest of all major supermarkets, prices at Lidl and Aldi are on the rise.
Over the month to the end of April, Which found prices were up by 24.9% at Lidl and 22.9% at Aldi, while prices had risen across the other major supermarkets by between 14.5% at Tesco and up to 18.4% at Morrisons.
This piles even more pressure on already cash-strapped households. 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 to save £520 a year
If you’re looking to cut costs, switching to cheaper brands, buying basics and choosing wonky veg can all help lower your food bills.
But, according to the ONS, even the price of some staples has soared by up to 65% over the past year.
The official inflation figure from the ONS – which now stands at 8.7% – measures price rises across a basket of 700 everyday goods. But, since May 2022, the ONS has been releasing "experimental research" which tracks the prices of 30 everyday grocery basics across seven supermarkets.
The latest data, from September 2022, found supermarket budget food prices rose by around 17% and shoppers faced the biggest increases in basics.
Looking at nine items, the lowest cost price had gone up by over 20% in the past year. For three of those items – vegetable oil, pasta and tea – the prices had gone up by 40% or more.
Here are the 10 foods that have seen the biggest price rises over the past year – based on the lowest-cost version:
|Item||September 2021||September 2022||Price rise||% rise|
|Vegetable oil (1 litre)||£1.56||£2.58||£1.02||65%|
|Frozen mixed vegetables (100g)||76p||£1||24p||32%|
|Milk (4 pints)||£1.17||£1.52||35p||29%|
According to MoneySavingExpert, taking the ‘downshift’ challenge, where you trade down a brand on everything you buy, could save you 30% on your weekly shopping bill.
The cost of the average weekly food shop is £34.40 per person, according to research from NimbleFins, so trading down on brands could mean a saving of over £10 a week for each person and over £520 a year.
2. Shop at the cheapest supermarket to save over £500 a year
Switching supermarkets to find a cheaper one is a no-brainer as savings can really stack up over the course of a year.
The cheapest supermarket at the moment is Aldi, according to Which?, with shoppers saving £17 on an average basket of shopping in comparison to the most expensive retailer.
Which?’s analysis is based on a basket of 39 basic grocery items including bread, eggs, tea bags, coffee and milk.
Waitrose is the most expensive retailer, with a basket of goods costing over £87 in comparison to just under £70 at Aldi.
Top tip: take a look at the Trolley app to compare the cheapest supermarket for your food shopping as it claims it can save you as much as 30% on your next shopping trip. This could slash your bill by around £10 a week, based on the average weekly food spend of £34.40 per person, and around £40 a week if you are a family of four.
3. Switch to supermarket own-brands to save a third at the till
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, 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 £2.79 and you get more in the pack.
And if you buy tinned tomatoes – a 400g tin of Napolina costs £1, whereas Tesco's own brand would cost just 32p. Switch to the value brand and Asda Just Essentials range costs 28p for the same size tin.
Switching brands can shave up to around 30% off your supermarket bill and, while there are bound to be some items you don’t 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 to save over £100 a year
You can save money by swapping fresh for frozen food – even allowing for the cost of cooking it.
Frozen vegetables, meat and fish can all be cheaper than fresh – and if you’re buying ready meals it also pays to head to the freezer aisle to save money.
In Tesco, a fresh beef lasagne (400g) will cost you £3. But its frozen version (while slightly smaller) costs £1.70. And if you go for its budget Hearty Food range, the same size lasagne costs just 75p. It would cost more to make the same size lasagne from scratch, unless you consider batch cooking.
Based on this example, where you swap just one fresh item for frozen each week, you could knock £117 off your annual shopping bill.
5. Get a supermarket loyalty card to save up to £520 a year
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, spending £100 a month banks a £2 saving coupon on your next shop, or any subsequent shop, at the supermarket within the following seven days.
Meanwhile, spending £250 will bag you 10% off your next shop, or any subsequent shop, at the supermarket within the following seven days.
And if you are a big shopper at Lidl and spend £100 and then go on to spend £250 in the same month, you can get a £2 coupon AND a 10% discount respectively on your next shop. However, it’s worth noting that only one coupon/discount can be redeemed in a single transaction.
With the Iceland Bonus card, you get a £1 boost for every £20 you load on the card.
With some loyalty schemes, like Tesco’s, you can boost your points if you swap them for treats like tickets to Legoland or vouchers for Pizza Express, rather than spending them at the till. However, Tesco is slashing its triple clubcard voucher perk and from 14 June you will only get twice their value.
If you’ve got a Lidl loyalty card and spend £200 there each month (around £50 a week), this means £10 off your shopping bill.
6. Shop later in the day to save over £250 a year
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.
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.
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. And if you get to know the store staff,they may tip you off as to when they price drop with the bigger discounts.
We reckon you can easily save £5 a week by snapping up just a couple of items with a 75% discount – especially if you get a cooked chicken or ready meals to feed the family.
7. Buy supermarket leftovers to save £50 a year
Using food waste apps like Too Good To Go and Karma means you can make big savings on leftover food from supermarkets including Morrisons, Co-op, Nisa and Spar, 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.
This could mean you get around £6 worth of food for just £2 – so a potential saving of £4 compared with buying the same items from the supermarket shelves. Even if you just do this once a month, (though you could do it far more regularly), you could save nearly £50 a year.
8. Buy out-of-date food (safely) to save around £50 a year
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 at knockdown prices. You get free delivery over £55, otherwise you pay £3 or more.
We found savings of up to £1.50 on breakfast cereals, £1 on cook-in sauces and 10p on packets of noodles. It’s hard to work out an exact saving on this one, but if you tend to stock your cupboards with lots of dried food, tins and packets, we reckon you could easily save around £50 a year.
9. Make a shopping list to save £700 a year
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 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.
Remember: no matter how cheaply you buy food, throwing away what you buy because it goes off costs households a whopping £700 a year. So as well as checking prices on the shelves, make sure to look at ways you can avoid food waste.
10. Check discount deals carefully and you could save around £100 a year
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, cleaning products or toilet roll.
However, remember that it’s a false economy unless it is something you will use and the saving is worthwhile.
While offers and promotions will vary, even snapping up a couple of deals on toilet roll, baked beans or toothpaste each week could save you at least £2, which adds up to over £100 over a year.
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 or CheckoutSmart.
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 remember, the savings are only a saving if it is something you were going to buy regardless of the cashback offer.
It’s tricky to pinpoint how much you could save with this tip, as it depends on what you buy and the rates offered, but we think you could easily save a few pounds a year.
12. Take your own bags - save £15 a year
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. If you want one of its larger shopper-style reusable bags , these can be as much as £1.25.
Forgetting to take enough bags and forking out £1.25 even once a month could bump up your shopping bill by £15 a year.
- Fresh food vs frozen – which is cheaper?
- How to cut food waste and save hundreds of pounds
- How much is the basic price of foods going up?
- Food price inflation hits another record high
Additional reporting by the Press Association
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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!