Shopping and Cooking on a Budget


  • Check your cupboards and fridge first to see what you really need.
  • Plan your shopping, write a meal planner and shopping list. Set a food shopping budget and stick to it.
  • Buy store-own brands -they’re often cheaper and just as nutritious.
  • Be wary of ‘Buy one get one free’ offers. Will you use it?
  • Look out for offers on perishable foods (foods that need to be stored in the fridge) that are near their use-by date. If they can be frozen it may be worth stocking up.
  • Homemade food is cheaper than ready-made or convenience food. A homemade pasta sauce can be made at a fraction of the cost of a shop-bought one.
  • Check the price at local suppliers or markets, as they can sometimes be cheaper than larger supermarkets.
  • Buy cheaper cuts of meat. Try lamb shoulder instead of leg, or chicken thighs and drumsticks instead of breasts and cook them in a slow cooker.
  • Buy vegetables and meat loose and in the exact amounts you need. This is often cheaper and will stop food going off before you have time to use it.
  • Eat seasonal food. Fruit and vegetables are often cheaper when they’re in season than imported food. Try apples, pears and root vegetables in winter and salads, strawberries and other soft fruit in the summer months
  • Shelves at eye level usually contain more expensive items so check out all the shelves.
  • Stock up on store cupboard ingredients – e.g. cans of pulses and tomatoes or packets of pasta, rice or cereals – when they’re on offer. Canned fruit and vegetables count towards your five-a-day and don’t go off quickly, so you can buy them in bulk.
  • If you shop online, use a supermarket comparison website to find the best prices for the products you want to buy
  • Split bulk-buy discounts between you and a friend – All of the saving and none of the waste or storage problems!
  • If you buy bulk packs of meat or fish, separate them into portions and freeze the ones you know you won’t use before the use-by date.
  • Consider using Community food outlets such as Eco Shops, Community Grocery etc.


  • Cook a big batch of soup, stew, curry, pasta etc and freeze any extras.
  • Use less meat and bulk up stews, soups, chilli and curries with canned pulses like kidney beans, butter beans, chickpeas and mixed beans. You could divide your usual portion of meat into two meals and add extra vegetables to make it stretch further.
  • Cook in bulk and freeze in portions once they are completely cold.
  • Share meals with friends and take it in turn to cook.
  • If you have the space, grow your own fruit and vegetables and herbs – lots can be grown in containers and pots.
  • Canned and frozen fruit and vegetables can be cheaper than fresh ones and are just as nutritious.
  • Pulses e.g.chickpeas, lentils and kidney beans are a lot cheaper than meat and are full of protein, vitamins, minerals and fibre. Try cooking more veggie meals like dahl or vegetable stew.
  • An average UK household throws away a third of the food they buy, but with some careful planning, you can make a meal out of what you would usually throw away.
  • Cooking in a slow cooker uses a fraction of the energy compared to a conventional oven.
  • Microwave cooking is also cheaper.
  • When using the oven, try to cook several items at once to save energy.

‘Use by’ Dates

Apply to high-risk perishable foods e.g.cooked ham- where there is a risk to food safety if eaten after the ‘use-by’ date. It is an offence to sell food beyond this date.

‘Best Before’ Dates

Apply to food with a longer shelf life such as tinned, dried or frozen. It is not an offence to sell foods beyond this date and there is no food safety risk, but the quality may be affected.


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