Ahh food. The true gift from the gods.
Unfortunately though, having to spend money on food is a sad, unavoidable fact of life. We're not too sure if anyone has quite mastered the art of food shopping successfully. As in, not going over your budget (if you're even that organised to have a budget), and making smart choices in your shop that will ensure you have enough tasty meals for the whole week.
Whether you buy too much fresh produce that goes off before you can eat it, or buy items that can't be eaten without a last-minute dash to the shop to pick up a necessary accompaniment, food shopping without spending a gazillion euro is hard.
With these helpful hacks however, you may just save a few bob on your next trip to the supermarket.
Which lets face it, you'll probably spend on even more food.
1. Make a list
This is probably the most important food shopping tip you will ever, ever learn. Impulse buys will always lead to a much higher spend than you expected. Try to plan your meals for the week, and see if you have any tins lurking in cupboards you could use up before buying more.
2. Eat seasonal produce
Eating seasonally pretty much equals eating cheaper. It makes sense that prices will rise in Winter to import fresh berries and veg such as asparagus to Ireland, so get familiar with whats in season and plan meals around that. Right now it's bussels sprouts, and dark leafy greens like kale.
3. Avoid pre-slice foods
This means don't buy pre-grated cheese, chopped bags of carrots or fruits already peeled. Just don't do it. Sure, you may gain a few minutes time and convenience, but the price different when you compare the amount of food you'll buy pre-prepped with the amount you get if you do it yourself is insane. So invest in a cheese grater!
4. Read unit prices
On the price tag, you will see a price per kg (or other unit of measurement). This is the best way to compare prices between brands. Product packaging can be misleading, and what might seem like the cheapest product could turn out not be if it's something you can buy in bigger portions.
5. Buy meat as whole as possible
A whole chicken is waaay cheaper than pre-sliced chicken breasts, and much tastier too. Roasting a whole chicken will give you loads of meat once you get used to slicing it properly, and you can use the carcass for the best stock you'll ever taste in your life. Trust us.
6. Don't buy produce that is too ripe
This has happened to the best of us. We buy bananas with the best of intentions, and before you know it they've gone to mush. Food going off before you can eat it is a huge waste of money, so learn how to tell the ripeness of things and you'll be sorted.
7. Stick to the edges of the supermarket
Supermarkets place essential ingredients—like dairy and produce—on opposite ends of the store so that you’re forced to pass through all the aisles and buy more stuff you don’t need. Don’t get distracted. Stay strong!
8. Don't fear discounts or generic brands
Most supermarkets have discounted meat, canned food and bakery items that are about to expire. The discounts are typically substantial and the food is still safe to eat. And don’t forget generic brands –just because you don't recognise the name doesn't mean it's not tasty, try it.
9. Stay away from ready meals
You might think it's a great bargain to be getting a whole portion of shepards pie for €3.50, but if you were to actually make it from scratch yourself it would be a whole lot cheaper, and you'd have leftovers for extra dinners. It's also much healthier to cook for yourself as you can control the amount of fats and salt that's put in.
10. Grow your own
Right, we may not have space to put down an entire vegetable plot, but we can usually grow our own herbs. Little shop-bought bundles of herbs can be rather expensive if you’re regularly buying a couple of varieties, so having your own fresh supply growing is very handy.
11. Be smart about sales
Sales are a great way to stock up on essentials and when flour, pasta, beans and other non-perishables go on sale, it’s a good idea to stockpile them in your pantry for future consumption.
But make sure you only buy what you need – don’t buy unnecessary products just because they’re on sale, and don't go overboard on buying fresh produce that will turn out to be a waste of money.