Ever wondered what people buy when food shopping, and why? The story of their shopping list, if you like?
If you’re nosey like me, it’s fascinating to see what people put in their shopping trollies, or pile up on the conveyor belt at the till. (Really hoping I’m not on my own here, based on the Mumsnet threads celebrating discarded shopping lists.)
Food eats up a big chunk of the family budget. Cutting food costs can therefore be a great way to save some cash.
When I really focus on our food bills, like during a couple of store cupboard challenges in February and June last year, I got our food spending down to about £40 a week. That covered our family of four – two adults and two children, then aged eight and six. Otherwise our food bills creep up a bit to about £60 to £70 a week. Add on the occasional take away, or snacks when out, and it soon starts to spiral.
Anyway, during June, I’ve decided to focus more on our food shopping bills. Cutting food costs doesn’t have to mean deprivation, and living on gruel. I still aim to make food we all like. I just try to cut costs by planning ahead, savvy shopping and cooking from scratch wherever possible.
Last week, we’d run out of milk and also needed provisions for a picnic at the weekend, so I nipped to the shops after the school run.
Here’s the story of my shopping list from start to finish, including what I bought and why.
This was a quick top up shop to get us through a few days, rather than a “pile ’em high, feed the 500 for a fortnight” shopping spree.
I decided to go to our local Co-op partly because it was convenient, but partly because I had £17 in dividend vouchers from my East of England Co-op card, and wanted to take advantage of the Co-op’s Sourced Locally fortnight.
Sourced Locally fortnight runs from 5 to 18 June, and the Co-op is offering a £5 meal deal of ham, eggs and potatoes from local producers, plus a voucher for £2 off a £15 spend that includes a Sourced Locally product. I’m keen to cut food miles and support local producers when it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, so I reckon Sourced Locally fortnight is A Good Thing.
Before heading off, I scanned my cupboards, fridge and freezer to see what we had, what needed using up and what could make a meal. No biggie – just meant I spotted a pack of mince in the freezer that would stretch for a couple of meals. I also registered some left over veg, including a forlorn looking red pepper and the remains of a butternut squash.
I scribbled a quick list on an envelope retrieved from the recycling basket, checked I had the vouchers in my purse, grabbed a couple of cloth bags as we headed out on the school run, and diverted to the Co-op afterwards.
As I was only nipping in for a quick shop, I took a shopping basket rather than a trolley. Otherwise it’s all too easy to end up at the till with a mountain of extra this, that and the other.
I went in intending to buy extra milk, fruit, veg, picnic provisions and the £5 local meal deal. I was also hoping to pick up the odd extra ingredient to make meals from the food we already had in the house.
First stop: the reduced fruit and veg section, hoping for shorted-dated bargains. If you’re flexible rather than focused on specific items, it’s possible to save a packet with yellow-stickered food.
(Previous post with top tips on bagging yellow-stickered bargains)
Need fruit? Snap up a cut-price mango for fruit salad and smoothies. Salad happy? I was fine with short-dated little gem lettuce, rather than sticking to iceberg.
The yellow-stickered yellow pepper meant I could cross a packet of more expensive mixed peppers off my list, and carry it home to roast with the butternut squash and red pepper at the bottom of the fridge.
Spotting reduced green beans reminded me of tuna and olives at home. I could make salad nicoise by adding potatoes and eggs from the meal deal, plus salad stuff on my list.
Much like Aldi’s Super Six, the Co-op also has two or three fruit and veg on offer each week, so I went for the 69p vine tomatoes and mushrooms. The mushrooms would help stretch mince in the freezer, and be great as a pizza topping. A tin of kidney beans would also help make mince into chilli con carne.
Continuing round the store, I picked up picnic supplies including own-brand bread to make sandwiches with ham from the meal deal, plus multipack crisps on offer, grapes, strawberries and yogurt tubes.
I always try and buy a couple of big containers of milk if I’m the Co-op, as you get two for £2 rather than paying £1.49 each. Similarly with cheese, buying 250g packets of own-brand Cheddar and Red Leicester meant it cost £3 for both rather than £2 each.
The only items I bought that weren’t on my list were half-price cake decorations. I figured the chocolate vermicelli and sugar butterflies and flowers would come in handy when baking for sports day, the school summer fair and Cub camp.
What I bought
Ta dah here’s my shopping in glorious technicolour. I’ve listed what I bought below, but the summary is:
Full price for individual items: £28.36
Price after offers and reductions: £22.04
Price I paid, after money off and dividend vouchers: £3.04
Not bad during a money-saving month.
The shopping list in full
(Left to right, starting from the top)
Grapes, 500g, £2
Sourced Locally strawberries, 400g, £2.29
Smedley’s kidney beans, 400g tin, 35p
Sourced Locally cucumber, 69p
Semi-skimmed milk and whole milk on offer, two 2.272 litres bottles for £2 (otherwise £1.49 each)
Multipack of Walkers crisps on offer, six packets for £1
Sourced Locally mushrooms on offer, 250g, 69p
Small tomatoes on the vine on offer, 230g, 69p
Reduced price yellow-stickered flower and butterfly sugar cake decorations, 40g, 55p (originally £1.09 )
Reduced price yellow-stickered chocolate vermicelli cake decorations, 65g, 55p (originally £1.09)
Wholemeal loaf, 800g, 79p
Red Leicester cheese (250g) and medium cheddar cheese (240g) on offer, two for £3 (otherwise £2 each)
Box of 4 Sourced Locally Havensfield eggs, part of the £5 Local Meal Deal (normally 89p)
Pack of 6 Choobs, £1
Reduced price little gem lettuces, 2, 23p
Reduced price yellow-stickered green beans, 200g, 40p (originally £1.19)
Reduced price yellow-stickered mango, 54p (originally £1.60)
Reduced price yellow-stickered yellow pepper, 27p (originally 79p)
Sourced Locally Taste of Suffolk sandwich ham, 350g, part of the £5 Local Meal Deal (£2.99 normally)
Sourced Locally Fairfields Farm white potatoes, 2kg, part of the £5 Local Meal Deal (£1.44 normally)
I know the Co-op isn’t normally seen as a budget supermarket, but when I put this shopping list into mysupermarket.com, the total came to £28.11 at Morrisons and £26.35 at Sainsbury’s, rather than the Co-op’s £22.04 before using my vouchers. Including some yellow-stickered stuff definitely made a difference.
I was pretty pleased with my £3.04 haul, and have been able to combine it with food we already had in the house to make the following meals.
Friday night: tuna nicoise salad
Added the last of a jar of olives and tuna from my storecupboard to potatoes, lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, green beans and eggs from the shopping trip, plus home-made salad dressing. (Pic at the top of this post)
Saturday picnic lunch
I packed ham sandwiches, crisps, yogurt tubes, grapes and some of the strawberries, and took drinks from our cupboard. I left a couple of packets of crisps at home, for a snack to take after swimming lessons.
Saturday evening snack
Home late from our day trip to London, so just a quick snack of cheese on toast, with strawberry and mango smoothies.
Sunday evening: mince with roast potatoes and broccoli
I made bolognaise sauce using the packet of mince retrieved from the freezer, and raided our cupboards for carrots, onion, celery, stock cubes, Worcestershire sauce, tomato puree and a glug of wine. In an unusual fit of organisation, I also removed a portion, added mushrooms, kidney beans and chilli powder, and made chilli con carne for another night.
We actually ate the bologanise sauce with roast potatoes from the meal deal, rather than pasta (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it). While the oven was on for roast potatoes, I roasted the yellow-stickered yellow pepper with the forlorn red pepper and squash from the back of the fridge, and a couple of onions and garlic cloves.
Monday evening: goats cheese and roasted veg with cous cous
As I’d roasted the veg the night before, I could make a super quick meal with cous cous and the remains of a packet of goats cheese. (Boiled eggs and soldiers for any recalcitrant children)
Tuesday evening: chilli con carne, rice and green beans
I only had to cook rice and the last of the green beans, to add to the chilli con carne made on Sunday. The children aren’t keen on spicy food, so I did them quesadillas with salad, using some of the Sourced Locally ham and cheese with tortilla wraps we already had.
Since then, the ham has disappeared into lunch time sandwiches, and the last of the potatoes went into vegetable soup for a speedy lunch after sports day.
A week later, and the only ingredients I have left are some cheese and mushrooms reserved for Friday night pizza toppings, plus the cake decorations. Sure, we’ve had to buy some extra food since, but at least nothing from my Co-op trip has been wasted.
Now over to you – any tips for making the most of food you already have in the house? Or cutting the cost of top up shops? I’d love to hear, so do share your ideas in the comments.