/ Food & Drink, Money

Top five ways to beat rising food costs

Graphic of dinner plate with barcode

Wheat, meat and corn prices are all on the rise, food inflation has increased and there’s a VAT hike on its way – is there any good news? Follow these top tips to make sure you pay a bit less at the checkout.

Rising prices are hardly a headline anymore, but when you hear costs for necessities like food and clothes are heading north, it’s time to start worrying.

The British Retail Consortium has just reported that food inflation has increased to 3.8% in August from 2.5% in July – the highest annual rate rise for over a year.

Wheat prices alone have risen 60% in the past year, following crop failure in Russia and its subsequent ban on exports. Global meat prices are at their highest for 20 years, says the BRC, while corn prices have risen 50% in the past 12 months, and cocoa costs have risen by 5%.

To make matters worse, certain commentators have said that clothing prices could rise by up to 8% next year, putting an end to the era of cheap clothes.

Add in the government upcoming VAT hike and 2011 is looking like the year we tighten our belts. With that in mind, below are five great ways to save on your food bills. If you have any great money saving tips, please post them in the comments section below.

1. Don’t be a food snob

Discount supermarkets may not be the most salubrious of shops but they can save you a fortune. Aldi was recently voted supermarket of the year at the Which? Awards and its rival Lidl was shortlisted – give them a go and see how much you save.

2. Don’t always ditch dated food

People are often confused between ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates and throw away large amounts of perfectly good food in the process. ‘Use by’ is the one to look out for: you shouldn’t eat anything after this date, whereas ‘best before’ is about quality, not safety. Most food (except eggs) can be eaten after this date – it just won’t be at its best. Visit the Food Standards Agency to find out more.

3. Cash-in on clearance food

If you want some great offers on clearance food and drink, it’s definitely worth checking out Approved Food, which bills itself as the biggest online seller of ‘clearance, short-dated and out-of-date approved food and drink’.

4. Ferret around for a good deal

Fixture Ferrets promises that ‘you could save more than £10 on groceries each month using our handy supermarket shopping techniques’. It aims to find the latest supermarket deals and send you directly to them. Promotions that save £1 or less are open to all, but membership (which costs £5.20 a year) will allow you to see larger money savers.

5. Have a go at growing your own

One great way to save money is to grow your own veg – especially seasonal or expensive treats such as asparagus, rocket, broad beans and new potatoes, which can all be pretty pricey in supermarkets. You don’t need a huge garden – just a bit of outside space and some growbags will get you started. Visit our gardening pages for more information.

Sophie Gilbert says:
24 September 2010

I wish I had a garden. One of the loveliest looking gardens I’ve ever seen was beside a townhouse in a very small village at the side of a hill where space was at a premium. It was 4 square meters at most and covered in veg and herbs. It smelled gorgeous too. At least there you can have fun while saving yourself a bob or two.

Absolutely! My garden has saved me a fortune in salad, herbs and veg this summer, so I’d definitely recommend it as a away to save money. But the appeal for me is more than just saving. It’s so satisfying to sit down to a dinner which you have largely grown yourself – and it tastes so much better. It’s also really de-stressing to go out in the garden after a hard day at work!

Sadly my garden is dangerously contaminated by commercial by-products – Generally I’ve found that to get “cheaper” food – I have to spend more travelling to get it.. In addition I ignore “best before”.

The only way I can save money is to turn down the heating

Jeremy says:
22 July 2011

The trouble is it is not the producer/grower of the food that is being paid these food cost rises, it is the supermarket and the middle man. The producer/grower has the extra fuel and labour costs to bear which is not giving him any extra profit.