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Food shopping: How to save money and waste less

For many households in Bermuda, food shopping is among the biggest regular expenses. Due to the cost of importing goods from places like the USA and Canada, the price of a weekly grocery shop is among the highest in the world. 

Because these costs are so high, making relatively small adjustments can make a big impact on your finances in the long run. For example, if you could shave $10 off your weekly grocery bill, this amounts to over $500 in a year. Saving $20 per week could save you over $1000 per year. 

This table shows what some other weekly savings could add up to over a year:

Weekly saving Annual saving
$5 $260
$10 $520
$15 $780
$20 $1040
$25 $1300
$30 $1560
Weekly saving $5 $5
Annual saving $260 $260
Weekly saving $10 $10
Annual saving $520 $520
Weekly saving $15 $15
Annual saving $780 $780
Weekly saving $20 $20
Annual saving $1040 $1040
Weekly saving $25 $25
Annual saving $1300 $1300
Weekly saving $30 $30
Annual saving $1560 $1560

Depending on your financial situation, you could use the money to pay off any outstanding debts, or open a savings account to create a rainy-day fund or work towards another financial goal.

Reducing food waste

Cutting down on food waste doesn't just have financial benefits, it can also help you to live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.

Around the world, billions of tonnes of food that could be eaten are thrown away each year. Food production and food waste combined are among the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming and climate change.

Here are some tips on how to cut down your unnecessary food waste:

Common reasons for wasting food

  • serving bigger portions than necessary

  • throwing away leftovers

  • incorrect storage - e.g. not refrigerating

  • letting food expire without using it

  • not making the most of ingredients - e.g. throwing out vegetable stalks, skins and crusts

Practical changes you can make

1. Set a budget

Creating a budget is a great way to keep an eye on your food spending. Start by estimating how much money you've spent on food over the last three months. Checking your transactions and bank statements should help.

Are you comfortable with the amount you spend, or would you like to reduce it? If so, it might be helpful to set an achievable goal, such as saving $50 per month on your food shop over the next three months.

Each time you make a budget, set aside a specific amount of your monthly income for food. Be realistic - it's fine to treat yourself and include the occasional luxury item, so long as you stay within your means. 

2. Plan your meals

Make a list of your main meals for the coming week, including any ingredients you'll need. Check what you already have to avoid buying things you don’t really need, and add the rest to your shopping list.

If you already have food at home, try to account for it in your meal plan - especially fresh foods that may otherwise go to waste. Are there items you could add or substitute into a recipe to save you from buying more?

Think about ways to include cheaper meals too. Could you batch cook a certain dish and then store it to cover two dinners rather than just the one?

The most important thing is to know why you're buying each item on your shopping list. How and when are you going to use it? Even if it's just an afternoon snack, planning for it will prevent impulse purchases, which often go to waste. 

3. Shop smarter

Shopping less frequently can help you to think more carefully about the food you buy. Instead of buying groceries every day, you may find it easier to do one big shop per week. You should also shop around to find better value on common food items to help your budget to stretch a little further.

4. Store your food carefully

Most wasted food goes off before use because it hasn't been stored properly. Check the use-by-date on everything you buy. If you don’t use it all in time, could you freeze it?

Batch-cooking and freezing portions for future meals can help you to save money, and also time. Sometimes we all find we don't have the time or energy to cook from fresh, so having a ready-made home meal in the freezer can help you to resist the lure of expensive take-outs!

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