Eat Cheap: Budget Dining 101

Does a large chunk of your monthly income disappear on groceries, take-out or restaurant dining?

No matter how much you earn, many people could save a few extra quid each month by shaving money off their food bill: here are some tips for eating cheap.

Plan a weekly menu

Doing a big shop one day a week rather than, say, stopping off for ingredients on your way home from work each night can be a very simple way to save money and get organised at the same time. If you take ten minutes to sit down and plan your meals for the next 5-7 days then you can buy the exact ingredients that you need. Anybody who has bought an exotic cooking ingredient on a whim and then never found a reason to use it will know the importance of this tip already!

It also means that you can plan to eat recipes that use the same ingredients, since buying in bulk will often save you money. Buying a bag of apples to use throughout the week will usually work out cheaper than buying individual apples twice – the same is true for many cupboard essentials.

Eat leftovers

You already know that making your own lunch is cheaper than buying out every day – but eating leftovers is even cheaper! This simple tip doesn’t need much explanation; just remember to reheat food thoroughly if you’re eating it warm. If eating a shop bought lunch is something you enjoy, then you could still treat yourself once per week or month.

Embrace the vegetable

Whether you’re a vegetarian or not, increasing your vegetable intake isn’t just healthy – it’s cost-efficient too. After all, there’s so much you can do armed with some veggies and a decent recipe book. The trick is the avoid the supermarket unless you’re on the hunt for fantastically discounted items. Typically, supermarket veg has been filtered and chosen because it looks like it belongs in an advert. That means, the ‘unattractive’ vegetables – all those lovely misshapen potatoes or nobbly carrots – can be found much cheaper elsewhere. Head to your local farmer’s market to bulk-buy authentic vegetables at a reduced price, without missing out on the taste.

Shop to your list

In other words, don’t be dazzled by supermarket deals. Buying something that’s on offer isn’t going to help you save money if you weren’t intending to buy it in the first place!  Try to stick to your list or, if you really struggle, set yourself a spending limit for additional items – a couple of quid that you can spare to spend on a snack that catches your eye.

Visit multiple supermarkets

If you’re lucky enough to live in an area with lots of different supermarkets then you might save even more money by doing your weekly shop in more than one store.  If you have the time to spare, you can use the website mysupermarket.co.uk to find out which products are cheapest where.

There are loads of other great tips for eating cheap, but these are the essential starting points. Once you become comfortable with cooking your own meals and familiar with the deals available on your favourite ingredients, you’ll soon be spending significantly less on dining – leaving more money to save.

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Master of the budgets. Provider of the tips. Author and owner of Dumbfunded.co.uk.