50 Frugal Shopping Tips for When Times Are Tight

I know many of us live on tight household budgets so I recently asked friends of the Childhood 101 Facebook page to share their favourite tips for saving on shopping and cooking when the budget is really tight. The result is a fabulous list of 50 simple tips for making your money go as far as possible.

50 Frugal Shopping Tips for When Times Are Tight

31 Tips for Saving When Shopping

1. The biggest budget buster is shopping without a meal plan and without a list.

2. Before I make a meal plan for the week, I write down everything that I already have. Then I start by putting those things together to make meals.

3. Plan your menu according to the sales.

4. I tend to do my meal planning around the BOGOs (Buy One, Get One Free), plus I use coupons.

5. Stock up when there’s buy one get one free sales! Check expiry dates closely on those as well.

6. Shop at different places to get the best prices, so we shop at a few different stores.

7. I meal plan and use recipes which is key so I know exactly how much meat to buy. I then write a list of items I need to make meals, so if I choose Beef Stroganoff I will then make sure we have another meal to double up on using the remaining sour cream.

8. Menu planning and online shopping, so you can see exactly how much it costs and adjust as you go. It makes me much less likely to buy things I could do without.

9. Buy meat in bulk and cut it yourself.

10. I find meat that’s on special is often cut too large for our family, so if it is I will go halves with our neighbour. We also sometimes share a 10kg bag of spuds (potatoes).

11. Try where possible not to buy pre-packaged meat as it’s usually more expensive than in the deli window.

12. Stick to cheaper cuts of meat – so mince, chicken, sausages, chuck streak, or anything that’s on sale or reduced because it’s close to it’s use by date. That way I have something in the freezer I can use for next weeks meal plan.

13. My local supermarket marks their meat down first thing in the morning and that is when I shop and get some great deals.

14. Check the nearly expired bin. It is greatly reduced. I find dairy products marked to a third. Ask your grocer when they mark it down.

15. I buy meat in bulk when it goes on sale and get enough to freeze for a couple months. Then I make meals from my pantry and only buy the fresh ingredients.

16. Sometimes the fresh ‘catch of the day’ can be cheaper than frozen ones.

17. Scratch cookies, canned drinks, chips and other junk food off the shopping list. Live only on vegetables, pulses, grains and seasonal fruits.

18. I go a lot more healthier such as loads of vegetables, sometimes frozen when I’m really skint and usually chicken/ turkey or sausages.

19. We found that buying the no frills brands really made a difference, you may lose out on quality a bit but you just have to deal with that when you’re on a budget.

20. Have a look at cheaper brands, some you can’t tell the taste difference and sometimes they are nutritionally better than name brands.

21. Cut out unneeded things, like paper towel.

22. We buy in bulk for each month, and try to make sure there are no leftover meals that might get wasted.

23. Coupons and utilising Flybuys and Rewards points to my advantage.

24. I do online surveys for vouchers.

25. We try to use a mix of fresh and frozen vegetables.

26. Make double of as much as possible to freeze, reduces the number of visits to shops!

27. After the 20th of any month, I cook with whatever is on my shelves and fridge/freezer and I may buy one- two extra ingredients only if needed.

28. Make sure you shop when you have time so you can compare products on the shelves.

29. Shop farmers markets.

30. Take only cash so you can’t grab extras.

31. Never shop hungry.

19 Ways to Save on Family Meals

32. I try to make sure I always have stuff like flour, butter, yeast, milk, eggs to be able to make breads, pancakes, biscuits, tortillas, etc that goes along way to be able to have a base to go on. If money is super tight I try to make sure I have rice, potatoes, frozen veggies, cheese, fresh fruit, oatmeal and cheap cuts of meat. With my list above, it may not be fancy but it is healthy and it will keep everyone full.

33. I make a large pot of homemade soup. Leave it to cool then pour it into mug sized tupperware type containers I bought in Asda (80p each) then freeze them.

34. Make big soups, casseroles or pastas so you get 2 meals, or 1 meal and a few lunches.

35. Make your own muffin, breads, desserts, things of that nature – healthier and less expensive.

36. Carbohydrates are your friend for filling out meals – pasta, rice, potatoes, corn, polenta, bread.

37. We also found that sticking to really basic recipes that were cheap and had a lot of vegetables meant we could make double batches and freeze some meals. Things like Vegetable Bakes and Pasta Bakes.

38. Slow cookers are a godsend when you’re on a budget.

39. Cook everything from scratch; pasta, sauces, baking, breads; rolls, wraps, naan, tortilla, passata sauce and tomato pasta etc, and always have a full pantry and freezer!

40. When it gets to the end, meaning no money till the next paycheck, sometimes it’s just grilled cheese, cereal, or waffles or soup for dinner.

41. I also like to make double batches of lasagna or pasta and freeze half for later in the week or up to a month later.

42. One thing we do to save money is we grind our own flour. My family is gluten free, rice flour is expensive but rice is really cheap. We find jasmine rice makes the best flour, especially for baking and frying.

43. I made my own spaghetti sauce, easy and cheap. Make pasta sauce and freeze it.

44. Buy fryer chicken (a whole chicken). Cook for stock first – 1. Stock immediately becomes base for meal , soup etc. 2. Pull meat from cooked chicken and divide – creates options for more meals, chicken casserole, tacos, chicken salad, etc depending on how many your feeding.

45. Grow your own fruit and vegetables. If you have limited space look up options and ideas online, or go to a hardware store.

46. Grow a vegetable garden and know what is in season. Grow or buy in bulk and store in freezer or bottle for later use.

47. Legumes/pulses are often cheaper than meat – try some soups, bakes, curries & stews where you can often use whatever you have.

48. I chop/grate any left over veg and pop them into freezer bags for the next time.

49. Peel, cut up & freeze over ripe bananas or any other fruit on the way out, use for cooking, smoothies, ice blocks etc.

50. Bulk up recipes with cheap, in season vegetables and don’t use as much meat.

What is your #1 tip for shopping and eating frugally as a family?


  1. Our local super market and Sam’s Cub will usually cut family pack meats into smaller portions for you for no extra charge.

  2. Growing own kitchen garden is the best of the tips. Fresh picks from the garden and the kitchen waste can be used as organic fertiliser too.

  3. Give up the meat altogether and use filling, wholesome lentils, chick peas, beans, pulses for protein. Healthy, cheap (especially if buying bulk dried) and good for the planet and the animals.

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