Tips for a frugal pantry

Want to cut down on your food costs without compromising on nutrition? A few simple changes to your shopping habits can save you dollars at the checkout.

Make a list
If you just head into the supermarket with a general idea of what you need you will end up buying too many chocolate biscuits and not enough toilet paper, and nobody wants that. Making a list will help you to take a look at where your money is going, and mean you don’t forget anything (which will help you save on petrol by cutting out the return trip).

Check it twice
Checking the list with your family will help you get input. If you’re buying four different kinds of crackers to cater for delicate palates, you may be able to cut costs by getting everyone to decide on just one type together.

So fresh it’s still growing
Shop at your local farmer’s market. The fruit and vegetables will be cheaper, fresher and tastier, and the money goes straight to farmers, instead of into massive corporations (such as supermarkets).

Bulk is better
Bulk supermarkets such as Costco charge you a yearly membership to shop with them, but buying in bulk will save you so much money you’ll cover the membership cost in your first big shopping trip. If you have the space it might be worth buying a big freezer and just doing a couple of big shops each year.

Freeze in portions
Storing your frozen foods in meal-sized portions will help you not to waste food. It will also make reheating and cooking easier, and the defrosting time will be greatly reduced.

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Beware the can
Fresh fruit and vegetables can be expensive. A more economical choice might be to purchase frozen vegetables, as they keep for longer and cost less. Beware canned fruits and vegetables though – some canned veggies are high in sodium, and most canned fruits are high in sugar.

Pack a lunchbox
If you are going out for the day pack yourself a sandwich and some snacks. Eating out can get very expensive, and the food is usually higher in sugar and fat than what you would make for yourself at home.

Shop when full
Never shop on an empty stomach. Have one of the big meals of the day before you brave the supermarket – this will stop you from impulse buying, or buying too much.

Homebrand won’t bite
Most supermarkets stock its own brand of foods. These are often cheaper than brand name foods, and the only real difference is the packaging.

Get gardening
Home-grown fruit and veggies are much cheaper, much tastier, and gardening is a fantastic way to stay fit and healthy! If you don’t have a big enough garden to start a vegetable patch, why not contact your local council to find out about community gardens?

Reader tip: One of our fantastic readers suggested purchasing hydroponic lettuce, and then planting it in a shady part of the garden as this helps it to last much longer. I haven’t tried this myself – can anyone else confirm that this works?