I've cut my family of four's food bill by £400 a month – here's how

The other day, when a friend told me her weekly shop for four people had gone up to £150 with the cost of living crisis, I nearly collapsed. 

You see, I feed my family of four for just £7 a day – that’s £50 a week. A third of what my friend – and the average family of four, according to data research site Nibble Fins – pays.

That’s a difference of £400 a month – and I live with a permanently hungry teenage boy. 

I’ve always loved a bargain and never pay full price for anything. Ever since leaving home, I’ve had to look after myself financially so I’ve always looked for money-saving hacks, reading tips online, speaking to other savvy shoppers and learning from experience.

But since food and fuel has gone up, I’ve been working even harder to cut costs. 

My answer? Avoiding the mainstream supermarkets. 

Most people think that supermarkets are the cheapest places to shop and that old-school specialist shops are too pricey. Well, I disagree. 

In fact, by avoiding the main national supermarkets, I spend around 58p for home-cooked family meals – and they’re fresher and tastier than ready meals, too. 

You see, after years of shopping around, I gradually realised that you can find most items cheaper elsewhere. 

Take treats, snacks and soft drinks for example. Instead of going to supermarkets, I go to a lesser known shop, Farmfoods, where I buy all my snacks, crisps, fizzy drinks and treats.

They’re renowned for frozen foods, so I also get huge packs of sausage rolls and chicken satays and cook them in batches each week for the kids to snack on – they keep the kids fuller than snacking on crisps or chocolate. 

But I don’t ban treats. I make up what I call ‘Mum’s Tuck Shop Boxes’ and put snacks inside to make them last longer. In the boxes, I put a mix of things including mini crackers, Munchies, breakfast bars, Hobnobs, M&Ms and whatever else I can buy – then I hide the rest!  

I use these for movie nights, trips to the cinema and days out. If I keep the rest of the treats out of sight, I can make them last for up to a month. 

Often I get a £10 voucher from the shop. They’re available to anyone, just keep an eye on their website. I bought a ton of treats the other day and using my voucher, the whole lot cost me just £2, which lasted my kids weeks. Hugo, 14, and Alexa, six, love it as it makes it more fun. 

As for ‘real food’, I don’t get that from supermarkets either. Once a month, I get a hamper from Best Meat UK, who do amazing deals. Just £45 will get you five sirloin steaks, six chicken fillets, four loin steak and mince, burgers, meatballs, 12 rashers of bacon, sausages and 500g of breast strips of chicken and a beef joint. 

The meat is fresh, such good quality and so much cheaper for all that than the supermarket. My son is forever hungry and being a growing lad, I find protein is the only way to keep him full. 

Any leftovers are frozen or I batch cook them into dinnersI can then freeze and serve up again. 

If I make a roast, I make extra potatoes and veg and put in the fridge for the next day. If I make a spag bol, I’ll put some in the freezer or make a chilli con carne by adding beans and chilli flakes.  

As for any spare chicken, I’ll make sandwiches or use it in fajitas. 

When it comes to fresh stuff, Farmfoods is great for cereal, yoghurts, cheese, pasta and bakery deals. We have an allotment, so we grow our own fruit and veg but if I have to top up, I go to our local car boot sale where other people sell it. 

On the rare occasions we run out of food in the fridge, I never just ‘pop to the supermarket’ – instead I make ‘buffet teas’ with a random selection of whatever I have in the freezer. It uses up old food and my kids love the ‘pot luck’ element of what I serve up. 

It might mean we feast on fish fingers, frozen batch meals and frozen veg and party food, but it’s still food and we waste nothing! 

Friends are always asking for tips. I advise them to use a weekly meal planner and give days names like Taco Tuesday. We also do Finger Food Friday, where we sit on the floor on cushions and watch something together.

It keeps life interesting! It takes creativity, time and a lot of preparation – but if it saves you £400 a month, why wouldn’t you?

As told to Julie Cook

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