How To Reduce Your Weekly Grocery Spend By 50%

At the end of June this year I conducted a Cooking From Scratch Experiment. I learnt a lot from doing it. Most of what I learnt came from you dear readers and your feedback. It made me think about how I was grocery shopping and preparing my meals, including the ingredients I was using and what I was purchasing.

The experiment concluded that by ‘Cooking From Scratch’ you can save in excess of 40% on ready-made foods, for me personally this could mean an extra £1500 plus each year (post tax) in the bank. My conclusions I have posted over at Ex-Consumer this week in the post Buying Ready-Made Foods Versus Cooking From Scratch.

I may not make any money from my blogging endeavours, but I certainly save money! Reading and writing about minimalism and leading a simple life keeps my

‘Head In The Game’.

Today I’d like to share how since conducting the experiment I have managed to reduce my weekly grocery spend by 50%. Chez Wright’s Grocery Budget was £100 a week, for the last few weeks I have managed to spend just £50.

This is how you could do it too:

  1. Challenge yourself to stick to a new reduced budget! In my case I decided to ‘go for it’ and halved my budget. I didn’t know if it was doable, it was. Reader feedback from my experiment made me question whether I was spending ‘up’ to a budget. So I decided to spend ‘down’. I had £50 and that was it, I had to choose wisely.
  2. Meal plan, meal plan, meal plan!!! I cannot emphasise this enough. Whatever your budget, you need a plan. Haphazard grocery shopping leads not only to wasted money but wasted food. If in doubt check out The Simple Guide To Meal Planning.
  3. Look at alternative ways of doing your shop to reduce cost! I have always been a fan of online grocery shopping. It’s highly convenient, it’s reduces browsing and impulse purchases and makes it very easy to stick to your list based on your meal plan. However it became apparent I was becoming complacent. For a while I’d been shopping for a few things in the high street as prices were considerably cheaper at my favourite shop Home Bargains. I started noticing that many staple items were up to 50% cheaper than I was paying online. I now use 2 hours of my time each week to physically shop. I write 4 shopping lists. One list for Home Bargains and staple items, one for the freezer shop (milk, ice-cream etc), one for the outdoor market where I buy fresh produce and one for the butchers. I’m lucky that all these are all in the same vicinity.
  4. Carry your shopping! I do drive to do my shop, and I park on a car-park. I then have to carry at least two separate loads back to the car. By carrying your shopping I guarantee you will think twice about popping that impulse purchase in your trolley! Last week I do not know how I got back from the market and butchers to the car, my arms were dropping off… and think of the calories I burnt.
  5. Reduce the amount of meat you eat! Not everyone is cut out to be vegetarian. If you can follow a non-meat diet you can indeed reduce your spend, and of course there are many other reasons for doing it, but it is deeply personal thing for everyone. I’ve never been a big meat-eater, and ensure that what meat the family do consume that it is of high quality. A simple way to reduce spend is to cut back on meat products or put less meat in your dishes. Our Sunday Roast now consists of Toad in the Hole which uses approx. 6 high quality sausages rather than a joint of meat. This is about a 60% cost saving.
  6. Think alternatives! As with switching a meat joint for sausages, think of alternatives to reduce cost. This could mean switching brands, for example I now pay 79p for 36 Breakfast Wheat Biscuits instead of over £2 for the leading brand. We haven’t compromised, the quality is comparable and they taste great. You could also compromise on the type of product. I always purchased freshly squeezed Orange Juice, and it was costing up to £5 a week. By reducing the quantity and type of OJ I buy it now costs less than £2.
  7. When it’s gone it’s gone! By Thursday now we are out of OJ most weeks. Too bad. We now wait till the next weekly grocery shop is done, no nipping out and restocking. Every time you enter a shop you will spend more money than you anticipate unless you are very disciplined. Not having an infinite supply of something makes you value it more. If the Hubby want’s the OJ to last 7 days, he needs to put a little less in his glass each morning. Aren’t I cruel? Don’t worry I’m hard on myself also, the coffee was rationed this week as I could see it was diminishing. So I drank a cup less a day – no bad thing eh?This post over at Zen Habits is worth a read.
  8. Reduce Luxuries! Certain things enter our grocery shop as luxuries, get cosy and end up being a staple item. I’ll admit that pre-summer we were easily buying and consuming 3 bottles of wine at an approx. cost of £15 a week. I had a budget of £100 and very often would find once I’d spent £80 I was done and would then wine shop. This has stopped. There is no need for us to have wine each night with dinner, particularly as I am training for a half marathon and alcohol dehydrates the body (I’m dehydrated enough!). It had become a habit. I now buy one bottle a week.
  9. Stretch what you do have! If making a spaghetti bolognese add extra tomatoes or mushrooms rather than mince to increase servings. When making Chilli use extra beans such as kidney and haricot to reduce meat content or eliminate meat altogether from the dish as I have now done. Pour a little less custard over a piece of apple pie so it goes round further, drink a little less OJ or wine, or coffee. Just a fraction less of each will make a big difference overall.
  10. Cook more from scratch! We have come back to where this post began. I’m in no doubt that by using basic ingredients rather than ready-made products that you can save money. My spaghetti bolognese sauce consists of toms, garlic,onion, stock cube, black pepper, herbs and puree, it’s cheap and I have it on good authority it’s as tasty as anything that comes out of a jar.
What could you be doing to reduce your grocery spend? Could any of the above help you to save a little more?
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47 thoughts on “How To Reduce Your Weekly Grocery Spend By 50%

  1. Brilliantly put together list Jo! Well done!

    I now have a four week menu cycle along with all the ingredients I need for each week…according to my DH it’s organised like a military canteen :)

    • It came from something I’d remembered from childhood, my Mom did a weekly shop on a Wednesday. I remember the treats being placed in the pantry, and that was the quota for the week, indulge at your peril! What you ate today you wouldn’t eat in a few days!

  2. This is a great list!

    I definitely agree with carrying your shopping. I live in London and don’t have a car, so I don’t have a choice about this. I do have a trolley which I love, but that limits what I can buy. If it doesn’t fit in, it can’t make it home. Simple but very effective.

    I do need to shop around more, particularly for fruit and veg which I normally buy from M&S or Waitrose as the quality is so much better than my local supermarkets. I need to make the trip to our nearest Lidl (a tube + train ride away) as I see many raves about their produce. It’s technically a free journey as it’s covered by my travelcard which I need for work, but it’s nowhere near as convenient as popping into our local M&S!

    I like the lack of plastic in your photo by the way, that’s the next area I’m trying to cut back in.

    • Thanks Lauren. Yes carrying your purchases is a great deterrent!

      I too have struggled with the quality of fresh produce such as fruit when buying from supermarkets, no naming and shaming, but some are better than others. I’ve heard good things about Lidl’s produce also but it’s too far out to warrant a specific visit (similar to you).

      The lack of plastic is something I’m working on. As I buy fruit and veg from the market I hand over a reusable bag and they fill it without wrapping anything (apart from mushrooms in a paper bag). I’m considering taking containers to the butchers so they don’t wrap. In fact I may try that this week… when we were in France in the Summer I was thrilled to see a section in the supermarket that was like a pick and mix of different food stuffs. I’m sure that will happen over here at some point, but haven’t seen anything like it yet. I’d love to go and grab my cereal and flour etc and have it straight to my own container.

  3. This is a great article, Jo. Our grocery bill continues to be a huge hurdle. As you know, we live in a combined household of 10 which obviously makes for large bills. But #7 and even #1 are probably the hardest for us. With 5 adults and one teenage driver, there are just too many people willing to run to the store and pick up things when we run out. We do menu planning but we still haven’t figured out good ways to get a balance on the right number or portions and using up leftovers. So I really enjoy your No Waste Tastes Great posts. You keep me encouraged that it’s possible and maybe one day we’ll figure it out. :)

    • Hi Faith – as with everything good habits build slowly. Perseverance is key and as long as you have the ambition it will come to fruition. No Waste Tastes Great is nearly a year old, and I am now at the point where I believe I have a handle on potential food waste – I’m sure there will be some bad weeks still to come however. Stick at it, it’ll come.

      #1 – I wasn’t sure I could do it, but I have. It has meant going without some things but I was determined to rise to the challenge. Initially I just reduced by 25% and that really wasn’t too difficult, just a few minor changes made a £25 a week saving. Every penny not spent is one saved!
      #7 – I’ve replied to Giddy Tigress above about this. I remembered that when I was growing up this was the norm in our house. I’m trying to teach my kids the same principle. To know there isn’t an abundance of everything hopefully will make them respect and value what they do have more… that’s the plan anyway :)

    • Meal planning doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You can plan, say, 4-5 meals for the week and leave the other nights as swing food: leftovers, eating out, skipping (sometimes I’m just not hungry), or a pantry staple such as pasta.

      I would have a great deal of trouble planning a specific meal for a specific night, every night of the week. But by having a short list of recipes I want to make, I’m prepared. When the list of meals gets short, I add more recipes.

      • Sound advice! And also a great way to start to meal plan and see how it works for you. The staple items are key to eating right (IMO) – there’s so much you can do with a few dried and tinned items. I always keep beans, rice and toms in – and can always make a veggie chilli if I need to. Pizza and pancakes work a treat also from store cupboard essentials! Thanks for the comment WilliamB – I love reading your replies over at FG, it’s always good advice…
        ps – love the term ‘swing food’ :)

        • Thank you for the complement, ma’am!

          I should’ve added that swing meals aren’t just from the pantry. My favorite is eggs, either a European-style omelette or Japanese donburi; fried rice is good for using up bits of foods; even a bag o’ dinner is better than ordering takeaway.

  4. Great list here! Though I am a bit sad (just for me) that you have given up the online shopping just as I have started it. That is a remarkable amount that you are saving!
    We don’t have a car but even if we did I couldn’t do a weeks shopping at once. The little fridge in our flat is just too small for 7 days of food. So even with delivery I do a second shop later in the week. I’ve mostly been going to M&S because it is convenient. Convenient but very expensive.
    I’d also love to stop buying veg and fruit that are packaged – but can’t seem to find them loose here.
    Agree with Faith on #7 – when it’s gone it really is gone! I’m trying to limit the ‘pick up a few things’ because we are out of one item. I always end up buying things we don’t really need and, really, we can get by for a few days without yogourt, etc.

    • Never Say Never! I do love online shopping as it means I do not have to enter a shop…. however I had to give it a shot, I had a feeling that maybe I was paying for the convenience. It’s highly likely I will do a comparison with online and see whether I can bring my spend in at £50 by shopping on the internet. Intrigued to see whether the good habits I’ve picked up whilst physically shopping translate to online.

      My Fridge is classed small, but your’s sounds tiny. I can see how that would make it difficult for you not to do a second shop. I found that I did have to pop out and grab milk. One such visit to a supermarket resulted in a £1.59 bottle of milk turning into a £40 spend. Lesson learnt. I now keep UHT milk in the cupboard for emergencies and also have located a shop nearby that sells milk at £1.10 for 4pints – and that’s all I buy, I take the exact change.

      Loose produce is hard to find if you don’t buy from a market or farm shop, and even then they’ll have packaged items. Supermarkets love their plastic.

      #7 – It’s amazing what you can manage without when you need to. It’s just we have everything available to us 24/7. Take tonight for example we are out of chocolate, and I really fancy something nice. Then Eureka I have some left over rice pud. That’ll do… better than nothing and uses something up!

      Hope all going well with you! Did you get the Sun yesterday/today?

        • I’ve heard of women (honestly) who don’t allow their other halves to carry cash for this very reason! Although the anecdotes I’ve heard have been more to do with sausage rolls, chocolate and newspapers as impulse purchases!! :)

    • You’re not alone Rachel. To me, M&S ready made foods are extremey tempting …I can easily forget about minimalism, healthy eating and frugality in a M&S foodhall. :)

      • They do have some really nice things at the M&S. I tend to do a lot of browsing there. I know it’s the same old Italian spice mix I can get cheap in bulk but they package it so nicely!
        I picked up a few of their ready made meals for Chris for when Henry and I were away. Not cheap but they looked as close to ‘real’ food as you can get for prepackaged.
        Nice to hear I’m not the only one that’s tempted there :)

        • Fortunately there are no conveniently placed M&S near me, and as I don’t ‘shop’ I rarely visit a town centre… It did use to cause a few temptations driving back from London in my old career days as there was a lovely “M&S Simply Food” just on the side of the motorway at the exact moment I got hungry!

  5. [...] What ways have you adapted to buy and own fewer things? I’d love to hear about everything from sharing a cell phone with a spouse to having children share a room so you can stay in a smaller home. Have you ditched the vases you rarely use and put flowers in a water jug instead? Have you switched up your school pick-up/drop-off scenario to drive less? Have you changed your grocery shopping habits like Jo to spend 50% less? [...]

  6. What a fantastic post Jo!! We operate a when it’s gone it’s gone policy, bit controversal at first but once everyone adjusted it was fine. I mostly shop at 4 shops too, Home bargains, Aldi, iceland then into tesco for my brands i can’t get anywhere else like washing powder and cat food (why do i have the fussiest cats ever?!). I do however resort to online shopping when i’m pushed for time, like this week :(

    Good point about stretching out i’d forgotten about that one :) Where do you get your weetabix from the cheapest i can get is £1.79 for 36?

    Sharron x

    • Oh Sharron! A Home Bargains Shopper too! Yay!!!! Okay here’s the good news… the wheat biscuits are from….. Home Bargains… They are in a yellow box and are called ‘Sunny Bisk’. My daughter loves them. The only thing I’d say is I recommended them to my Mom and she didn’t like them, and I really couldn’t work out what was not to like – the only difference is (IMO) is the corners aren’t rounded? Perhaps I’ve missed something? There are some other good buys in HB. The Oxo Stock Cubes are half the price of elsewhere.
      I’m going to have to check out Aldi again. I’ve tried it a couple of times and didn’t get on very well, but everyone keeps recommending the store. I may do it this week and see what happens.
      I’ve been testing cheaper washing powders to see if I can find one that works well – I’m working my way through the options at Home Bargains. I’ve also tested a home-made one which actually wasn’t too bad, but didn’t quite get all the tomato juice out of my crisp white vest top that for some reason I chose to wear when I was halving my ripe cherry tomatoes – what a mistake that was!

      • Sunny bix now on my list!!!

        The first couple of times i tried Aldi i wasn’t sure, i thought it would be like netto but the quality is way better. The thing i like are as follows

        Cereal- Fantastic, no complaints ever
        Jams, beautiful
        Bread- they sell warburtons :)
        Pan au chocolate-beautiful
        Pasta, tom puree, rice, add to wok noodles, tinned toms- All good
        Fruit n veg, great price but always dig to the bottom for the freshest
        Meat is exceptional, £4.99 for a free range chicken!!, bacon, pork chops, minced beef all good.
        Pure juice, can’t tell the difference, diet lemonade, nicer than leading brand
        Wine, needs no introduction fab!!

        The baddies….
        Tea and coffee, yuck
        washing powder, didn’t like it
        Softner, same
        Yoghourts, don’t like any of them
        Frozen fish and meat, don’t like, too processed
        Cat and dog food, 4 little noses turned up :(
        Loo roll, chaper at home bargains
        diluted juice, kids hated it.

        They also do a great anti-wrinkle cream for £1.99, which is just as good as leading brands!!

        Hope some of that will be useful!!!!
        Sharron x

        • Okay I’m sold… I’m going to do as much of my shop as possible at Aldi on Friday and will report back. I’ve heard from a friend how good the OJ is before. The free range chicken is a major plus for me, as this is something that I can struggle to find at a sensible price. And the wine – well as you say it needs no introduction.

          I forgot to give a shout out to the Home Bargains Bog Roll haha!! Sorry couldn’t resist! :)
          I love love love it! At £2 for 9 rolls I was expecting some seriously dodgy loo roll and I was so fantastically surprised. It’s great! Seriously good!
          A friend came to visit the other day who has 9 other family members at home, I sent a roll back to do an ‘Tinkle Test’. I told her to put it in the loo at home and see whether anyone commented on the quality.

          Thanks Sharron for your comment, it’s inspired me not only to try something new but also has given me a few ideas for future posts! Thanks again!

          ps – that anti-wrinkle cream is going on the list… since I lost the hair I’m a little more exposed!

        • I thought you looked different on your picture, fab hair do :)
          The free range eggs are 99p for six aswell, tesco they are £1.60 ish?
          The loo roll i’ve been buying for a while, when the kids started using it they asked if i’d won the lottery, as we always bought value :) It also has a nice smell too it !!

          The robinsons juice in home bargains is 59p £1 ish everwhere else
          Ya know i could go on forever!! But i won’t :)
          Sharron x

          @Sharron from Jo – I can’t reply again so adding on here!
          The eggs are fab and they are large ones (I even told a woman in a supermarket who was looking at a £1.59 box how much cheaper they were in HB down the road, I also did that in the chemist, a young girl was looking at false eyelashes and you can get two pairs for £1.99 in HB). I notice you put 99p for the eggs, they are 89p at my HB. I do wonder whether they change prices in HB based on demand though… There were two steam puds that were £1.59 everywhere else, and in HB they were 69p – then they jumped to 99p. Hmmmm will keep an eye on that!

  7. Great list Jo. I’ve recently been experimenting with #4 on your list. We’ve started walking to the grocery store sometimes and carrying everything home. Weight and size became a factor really quick and we found ourselves not spending as much. I think we’re still above $50 a week though…. that’s a great goal. :)

    • Tanja, just noticed you are saying fifty dollars while Jo is saying 50 pounds – I believe a UK pound is worth a bit more than $1.50 US, so if you were aiming for Jo’s limit, you would be aiming for approximately $77.

      • Hi Tanja and Jo – quite right Jo.H. £50 is $77 at the moment. However I cannot say how food prices compare in the two different countries – I know both times I have visited the US a lot of things were cheaper than in the UK even taking into account the exchange rate – but we weren’t buying groceries. Anything lower than $77 is going great guns I’d say…
        £50 isn’t an easy budget to keep to as a family of four, it’s takes some serious planning and thought, and also a bit of going without, but it is achievable and I am determined to cut our living expenses!

        Way to go on the carrying the groceries Tanja! Without a doubt it stops me putting that second bottle of wine in my trolley ;-)

  8. Hiya all, would just like to say I’ve loved reading your comments & I’m now on the cost cutting bus!!
    I’m always complaing about wasting money & always tell myself off for topping up on things & buying things I don’t need to.
    After reading the comments it’s given me more of a boost that I can do it :)
    I live in a village & only have a co-op & a corner shop (both overpriced but you pay for convenience!) I also do my shop on asda as I don’t drive.
    I try to make things from scratch but fall in to the routine of buying ready made :(
    I WILL DO MORE :) & good luck to everyone else too 😊😊😊😊

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