Do You Spend More On Groceries Than Your Mortgage?

Posted by John Adam on October 22

According to data from the Office for National Statistics data for 2017/18, the average UK household spends 16% of its monthly budget on food and non-alcoholic drinks. 66.3% of that is spent on groceries and the rest on eating out and takeaways. Which means we still spend over 10% of our household budget on groceries.

With a little over 13% of budgets going on housing, including heating and power, that means we the average household’s groceries bill is roughly the same as the cost of its mortgage. If we add in the average £452 spent on alcohol consumed at home, more.

Eating is a basic physical human need along with water, clothing, shelter and sleep. And eating well is just as important to our health and general wellbeing as it is to our taste buds. So understandably, when it comes to thinking about where expenses can be shaved to reach particular financial goals, the household groceries budget is usually towards the bottom of the list.

But when it accounts for such a significant portion of our overall spending, it’s certainly worth taking a look. And the reality is most households can probably save several hundred pounds a year on groceries through just a few small changes that will have no noticeable effect on the amount or quality of the food eaten.

As well as freeing up budget that can be put towards either savings or investments or other parts of the budget like a family holiday, reducing groceries spend could also reduce a household’s carbon footprint. For many UK households, that’s a consideration just as important as saving money. And as a bonus, saving money on groceries could also indirectly lead to eating a healthier diet, with many of the items we like to spend money on in the UK not quite what the doctor, or nutritionist, ordered.

Here’s some ideas you could consider trying for a winning combination of saving money on your groceries bill while helping the planet and your household’s health!

Make A Shopping List

It seems simple but the single most effective way to reduce spending on groceries is probably to make a shopping list. That’s backed up by a survey carried out by the UK government’s Money Advice Service, which found people who always make a shopping list are three times less likely to overspend and save almost £200 a year as a result.

There’s a few different reasons why a shopping list helps. First, it keeps you focused on buying what you actually need and not what catches your eye. Which is anyway often treats or additions you don’t really need and are often not good for you. Second, it helps save you from forgetting things, which can lead to you having to later pick them up at more expensive local shops, where added unplanned buys can again be a temptation. Or even more of a hit to the budget, you might decide to order takeaway instead of cooking if you realise at the last moment you’re missing important ingredients.

Be Careful of Deals

Supermarkets like to tempt us with different deals like 2 for 1 or 3 for 2 or price discounts. If a deal is good take advantage but have a quick think first. Do you actually need what the deal offers? If you are getting more, will you use it or can you freeze part if not? And sometimes a deal isn’t actually that great at all and you might be able to get the same thing more cheaply elsewhere.

Consider Healthier Alternatives

The ONS breakdown of what the average UK household spends on groceries throws up the interesting fact that the category of food we spend the most on is sausages and other processed meat - £333 a year. In sixth place is the buns, cakes and biscuits category, which we spend an average £203 a year on.

A lot of the unhealthier stuff we can spend a surprising amount on is also often not even really a necessary part of meals but snacking foods and treats. It’s perfectly alright to treat ourselves occasionally and not everything we eat needs to be fresh fruit, veg and wholegrains. But if we can save some money and improve our diet at the same time by making some small adjustments, that might be worth considering.

Try To Reduce Waste

Most of us probably end up throwing quite a lot of food out because it goes past its best before date. Or we cook a big batch of something, use it for a couple of meals and end up putting the rest in the rubbish after a few days. A lot of that waste can avoided by portioning food up and freezing it – either part of raw ingredients if we think we won’t use them all in what we plan to cook or make, or already cooked meal portions.

Not only does that reduce waste and save money but making an effort to freeze leftovers also means you’ll always have a ready supply of meals for those evenings you don’t have the time or energy to cook. And you might then make an additional saving on not ordering takeaway. Double win.

Try Cheaper Brands

A lot of shoppers go for brands they think are better quality. Within reason, going for higher quality is usually a good idea but it can be the case that the difference is really only in our minds and the result of clever marketing. So if you do like certain more expensive brands why not at least experiment with cheaper alternatives. If you really want to make sure you take away any bias, why not ask someone to help you do a blind taste test!

Written by John Adam

John has almost 10 years of experience as a writer and editor on consumer finance and investment topics. An entrepreneur, he has one successful exit behind him and currently writes and consults freelance while enthusiastically pursuing hobbies he's not very good at such as football, squash and raising a small child.

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