Save thou­sands on your food bill

A new fort­nightly col­umn by the JC’s Money Men­sch, Martin Lewis, of­fer­ing in­depth cash-sav­ing ad­vice

The Jewish Chronicle - - Business -

Brits are fac­ing a kitchen night­mare. Mam­moth food-price inflation means the an­nual cost of feed­ing your fam­ily has in­creased by £750 in the past year and no end is in sight. Yet, if you know what you’re do­ing, it is pos­si­ble to save thou­sands of pounds an­nu­ally.

Just re­mem­ber that a su­per­mar­ket is a cathe­dral of con­sumerism. ev­ery­thing about the place is de­signed to im­prove its prof­itabil­ity by tar­get­ing our im­pulse to spend more money and buy more food.


if you want to teach an eight-year-old how com­pa­nies try to wres­tle our money from us, take him into a su­per­mar­ket. show him the goods at eye level, which pro­vide the su­per­mar­ket with its best profit, and the sweets at the till that re­mind the child to ask the par­ent to buy them.

Yet you can win by turn­ing th­ese mar­ket­ing tech­niques on their head. the pow­er­house sav­ings come from “down­shift­ing”. this is a tech­nique i de­vel­oped a num­ber of years ago that has proved it­self time and again.


My “Down­shift chal­lenge” is de­signed to let you take ad­van­tage and save cash without notic­ing the dif­fer­ence.

When you go to a su­per­mar­ket, you will nor­mally find four brand lev­els. th­ese are pre­mium brand, like tesco finest; nor­mal brand, like Heinz spaghetti; the su­per­mar­ket’s own-brand; and ba­sics or saver brands.

the chal­lenge is to try buy­ing each item at one brand lower than nor­mal. so, if you buy top-of-the range ice­cream, try a brand name in­stead, or if you al­ready buy the su­per­mar­ket’s own brand, choose ba­sics.

the im­pact on your shop­ping bill is amaz­ing. Hav­ing stud­ied this us­ing a sam­ple of 400 goods, i found that the av­er­age cost re­duc­tion you will make by down­shift­ing just one brand level is 33 per cent. On a fam­ily shop of £100 per week, it adds up to a sav­ing of £1,700 a year.

Of course, if you are able to down­shift more than one brand level, the sav­ings are greater still.

al­ter­na­tively, you can down­shift your su­per­mar­ket. Places like aldi and Lidl pro­vide good-qual­ity food at lower prices than the ma­jor chains.


the next big way to cut your food bill is to waste less. in the UK, each house­hold throws away £600 worth of per­fectly good food. this is food that could be eaten but is not. it’s a mam­moth amount of waste, yet there are easy ways to re­duce it.

the first is us­ing what i like to call a “two-di­men­sional piece of lin­ear plan­ning equip­ment”, aka a shop­ping list.

the rea­son i give it a com­pli­cated name is that peo­ple can­not be­lieve that do­ing some­thing as sim­ple as list­ing what you’re go­ing to buy be­fore go­ing shop­ping can save so much. By pre­par­ing a list, you’re buy­ing what you need, rather than al­low­ing the su­per­mar­ket to tempt you into buy­ing items they want to sell.

Of course, the old adage “eat be­fore you go” is also ap­pli­ca­ble. never go food shop­ping on an empty stom­ach. it has been proven that if you are hun­gry you will buy more than if you are well-fed.

But if you re­ally want to be in con­trol of your shop­ping, then it is best to plan the menu be­fore leav­ing home. not just for one meal, but for all or most meals for a week or even a month in ad­vance.

an­other big way to avoid waste is to un­der­stand the food la­bels. there are four main pieces of in­for­ma­tion on food found in su­per­mar­kets. two of them, “sell-by” and “dis­play un­til”, are com­pletely ir­rel­e­vant. they are there for su­per­mar­kets’ ben­e­fit, not ours.

“Use by” means just that. if you do not eat it by the spec­i­fied date, then throw it away be­cause there are health risks if you eat food past that date. “Best be­fore” is a guide from the man­u­fac­turer and sim­ply means the prod­uct will be at op­ti­mum qual­ity prior to this date. it does not mean there are health im­pli­ca­tions be­yond that. in­deed, many tinned and frozen goods can be eaten months and pos­si­bly years af­ter their “best be­fore”. so do not chuck it un­nec­es­sar­ily.


for those who su­per­mar­ket shop on the web, here is an­other tip. the web­site www.mysu­per­mar­ al­lows you to com­pare on­line su­per­mar­kets. You sim­ply list what you are plan­ning to buy and the web­site will tell you which su­per­mar­ket is the cheapest. it will also then link you di­rectly to that store so you do not have to re-key your shop­ping list.

the same web­site also has a “Down­shift chal­lenge” sec­tion based on my own the­ory, which will re­veal how much you can save on­line by drop­ping a brand.

there are more sav­ings to be had by us­ing money-off coupons. in the states, shop­pers of­ten save £10-£20 a week us­ing them. Over here they are not used as much, but per­haps now is the time for that to change.

there are hun­dreds of money-off coupons avail­able on the in­ter­net. all you have to do is print them and take them to the su­per­mar­ket.

if you go to www.mon­eysaving­ex­­cerycoupons, you will find a huge list. Do not de­spair if the coupons do not ap­ply to goods you want. Many su­per­mar­kets will al­low you to use them to re­duce your to­tal bill. for ex­am­ple, a coupon of­fer­ing £1.50 off the price of dog food does not have to be used to buy dog food but the su­per­mar­ket will still give you the dis­count.

How­ever, this does not ap­ply to ev­ery store and is at the dis­cre­tion of the man­age­ment. so it is vi­tal to check first be­fore pre­sent­ing the coupons at the till.

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