At least 50 per cent of the food and drink we buy is imported and of that 70 per cent comes from the European Union. In fact in 2015 (the last time figures were available) £38bn of the food we bought came from abroad.
It didn’t help that after the referendum vote in June 2016 the value of the pound, [Sterling] dropped dramatically. This meant it made it more expensive for the UK to import food.
Although its value has crept up many experts agree that food prices could continue to creep up.
But its not all bad news, and you can still eat like it’s 2008 – the year the price of food was at a historic low.
Rule one: Eat in season
Environmentalists have long been urging us to buy fruit and vegetables in season. In 2017 when poor weather in Southern Europe caused a vegetable shortage some local greengrocers reported a surge in demand for locally grown goodies.
Manisha Pankhania, co-founder of local foodie website Nosh Pod, says shopping at your local farm shop, fruit and veg stalls, greengrocers and butchers can save you loads.
She adds: “By buying seasonally you will most likely end up buying British and supporting British producers. This is going to become increasingly important as we get nearer to Brexit when tariffs could make things from the EU more expensive.”
Buy local and use your leftovers!
Buying things in season is great, but the more local the better. Regan Maloney is head chef at the Cooking Shed cookery school. She says: “While everything has a season that doesn’t mean it will be cheaper. For example earlier this year the price of scallops went up because snow and ice prevented lorries from travelling south. And algae in the Pacific Ocean pushed up the price of squid last year, as most of the UK-caught squid is sent to Asia..”
Make friends with your green grocer. As a regular customer of your local farm shop, fruit and veg stall, greengrocer or butcher you may be able to get them to set aside local produce, or offer you meal ideas. Regan says you might even get the odd discount!
Go a la carte. Regan says she tells her clients to check out the taster menus of top London restaurants online as they often use ingredients in season. She then urges them to use these ingredients to inspire their food shop.
All cuts are not the same. “It’s far better to use cheaper cuts like chicken thigh in a dish rather than breast, not only is it cheaper, meat from the bone tastes better and doesn’t dry out as much.” says Regan. If you are going to go for larger cuts plan ahead.“I once ran a ‘Once chicken, 3 family dinners class’. From one chicken we made a chicken and chorizo one-pot oven bake, a Thai chicken curry and chicken wraps.” Don’t forget cheaper cuts like ox tongue, pigs cheek and pork knuckle are also totally delicious.
Be savvy about leftovers. Intentions are good but these often get binned because they stay in the fridge until thrown out. Regan says planning is key. “If you make spag bol one night use the mince with some celeriac mash and pop in the oven the following evening.” Or for roast chicken, plan a risotto or Thai chicken meal the next evening by stocking up on spices and rice. If you know you are not going to be able to use them stick them in either plastic containers and freezer bags (Ikea and Waitrose are great for these) and freeze them.
Rule two: Be a savvy food shopper
While the leading 10 supermarkets are signed up to the Groceries Supply Code of Practice, which guarantees fair prices for suppliers, they have many ways in which to persuade us to part with our cash.
Avoid packaging. Never buy pre-packaged fruit and veg from a supermarket. Regan says: “Always buy it loose. Packaged veg can cost twice as much. It’s also better for the environment.” “You can see what you are saving by checking the price per kg.”
Go online for basics. We all like to be seen to be indulgent, even with a list it can be hard not to buy something because it has glossy packaging, rather than whether it tastes better. Instead, avoid temptation, by buying the heavier basics like tinned or frozen food online.
Jane Arthern, is a former merchandising manager for Safeway and Manor Bakeries (also Mr Kipling). She says: “Supermarkets are there to make money so the top selling brands will be on the middle shelf. These are exactly at eye level so you are more likely to buy it.”
Buy ahead but beware of buying twice. If you buy your Christmas or Easter chocolates in advance to save money, you might want to think again. Faith Archer, money blogger at MuchMorewithless.co.uk explains: “Know why the supermarkets display stuff for Easter and Christmas so early? So people stock up in advance, crack and eat it all, then have to buy it again.” If you’re likely to be tempted, she says shop later.
Best before dates. The Co-Op is one supermarket that is allowing customers to buy food that has gone past its best before date, tins and packets. While a lot of fresh food can be eaten a few days after its best before date, it’s worth buying and freezing it. She says: “Even hummus can be frozen, in fact most things can, although certain meats might not be suitable.”
Go (your) own label. Jane says supermarket own brands can often be better quality or more suitable than the premium ones. “For example some own brand sausages have more pork in them, and if you are going dairy free some own label biscuits are actually vegan because they use vegetable oil. “ Jane says you can check by looking at the ingredients. “Many own brand cereals taste the same and some of the own label beans have a higher tomato content than leading – and more expensive – brands. “ Regan says value chopped tomatoes are often a better alternative to more expensive versions. She explains: “Some contain more liquid but that’s great if you are cooking spag bol or a stew because they require longer cooking, so they need more liquid to evaporate and lock in taste..”
But if you like it. There’s no point in buying something cheaper, say a margarine when you prefer the leading branding butter. Jane says: “Saving money is about saving waste, if you know you are going to eat that butter or the organic version of an own-brand hummus, then buy it. And of course, you can always trade up at special times – like Christmas.”
Counting the cost. Jane warns that some things have been sold at a loss for years, including some organic produce. “These may go up after Brexit. Also expect to see more rapeseed oil replace olive oil in many foods.” The price of dairy produce could go up as farmers lose their EU subsidies. Government incentives to cut the amount of saturated fat and sugar we eat will also put up the price of some foods, like chocolate.
Your savvy shopping checklist:
Seek out discounts. Find out where the discount items are in different stores and then what time they tend to put the discounted stuff out, it could be first thing or late in the evening.
Buy frozen. Frozen is just as good and sometimes fresher – frozen sweetcorn, peas, fish and meat can taste just as good, says Regan
Buy cheap, eat expensive. Things like olives are set to become more expensive. A cheaper alternative, says Regan, is to buy a jar in brine, £1 from most supermarkets. “Then add extra virgin olive oil, and top up with deli style flavourings such as lemon zest or minced garlic or rosemary”.
Try a fakeaway. Love pizza? Keen on curry? Faith says make your own. “It’s likely to be loads healthier and certainly much cheaper.” Find her favourite fakeaway recipes at muchmorewithless.co.uk/
Make a hit list. Faith says: “If stuff lingers too long in my kitchen, there’s usually a reason. Maybe I don’t really like it, don’t know how to cook it, or need something specific to use it up. “List the main items you really want to shift from the back of your cupboard or freezer, then search for recipes.”
Buy what you need, not what’s run out. Faith recommends sticking to the extra items for the meals you have in mind rather than replacing everything.
Think about what you’ve thrown away. If you always end up binning salad bags or your kids always refuse certain foods – buy less, or don’t buy them at all, adds Faith.
Keep money off vouchers in your purse. Put all your money off or discount vouchers straight in your bag. “They can’t save money left on the kitchen counter at home,” says Faith.
Save with your smartphone. Supermarket cash back apps like CheckoutSmart and Shopmium offer discounts on branded product. Quidco also offers Quick Snap and TopCashback has Snap & Save. “Just make sure you buy the exact product and pack stated, and get round to scanning and sending your receipts afterwards,” adds Faith.
Rule three: Do the supermarket sweep
Here’s where to buy your favourites, for less:
Spices – Sainsburys. Regan rates the large bags of spices, as they are a third cheaper than buying a small glass jar. “They are also better quality than jars as they are not over roasted. But look in the ethnic food section, rather than the spice section.”
Beef – Morrisons. Faith says: “Not only is it a great price, you can also be sure that the meat is sourced direct from the farmer rather than through an intermediary.”
Wine and Champagne – Aldi. The supermarket often has award-winning red wines. Tessa Stuart, an in-store shopper research consultant, says the supermarket is fast snapping at the heels of Waitrose for selling decent quality well priced booze.
Chorizo/deli food – Lidl. “This supermarket is great for deli and continental foods such as chorizo, parma ham and smoked salmon” Well priced and very good quality, says Regan.
Seafood – Iceland. Mum was right when it comes to frozen fish fillets such as haddock and mackerel, lobster and octopus. “I buy a lot of seafood from Iceland,” says Regan.
Biscuits – Poundland. Not only is it great for branded toiletries, but this discount store sells branded chocolates and biscuits cheaper than most supermarkets.
Chicken – Waitrose. Here high welfare chickens are sold as standard, compared to Sainsburys and other supermarkets, says Regan.
Chocolate – Aldi. Aldi’s 80% Moser-Roth dark chocolate is not only the cheapest, it has won several taste awards.
Fruit and veg- Aldi and Lidl. Both these stores offer regular discounts, says Faith. “You can get good quality veg, their vine tomatoes are really good value.”
Pulses and vegetarian basics – Tesco. Some of the larger stores, Tesco Extra have ethnic food sections where they do extra large bags of lentils and rice, which are great for soups and casseroles.
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