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Buying food, whether for a family or just for you, is an essential expense. Eating a healthy and well-balanced diet is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and the advice and tips below will help to make this affordable for you and your family.

Whether it is shopping for food to cook or enjoying a meal out, we have tips that can help you keep your food expenses to an affordable level.

Food shopping

The cost of avoidable food and drink waste in Scotland adds up to around £470 per year for the average household. That's a lot of money that could be spent elsewhere! Planning ahead and being clever about the way you shop can help you reduce any waste, which can save you money. We recommend setting a budget of around £140 per person per month. This is not a fixed amount and will vary depending on your household income and your other monthly expenses.

Planning a menu for the next week or so and writing a shopping list will help you buy only what you need. Supermarkets are designed to make you add things to your trolley without thinking – be careful not to fall into this trap.

Whatever you do, don’t shop when you are hungry!

Whatever you do, don’t shop when you are hungry! Shop in budget supermarkets like Aldi or Lidl – you can compare supermarket prices at My Supermarket.

You can learn more about saving money and reducing food waste on the Love Food Hate Waste website.

More useful tips and tricks for shopping on a budget can be found on Money Saving Expert.

The Downshift Challenge

Take the Downshift Challenge - supermarkets separate their products into different categories, using language like 'luxury' or 'basic' with different packaging and price tags.

Try dropping one brand level on everything and see if you can tell the difference. If not, stick with the cheaper one.


If you like to write a list before you go shopping, you’ll need to plan your menu in advance too.

If you're stuck for inspiration we have created a recipe book that is full of quick and cheap meal ideas. There are also plenty of websites to help you cook on a budget, including:


To help reduce food waste make sure that your portion sizes are accurate.

Cooking in bulk can save money as items normally get cheaper the more you buy more. Think about cooking as a group or even cooking for yourself and filling your freezer with leftovers.

Don’t dismiss leftovers – whether it's meat from your Sunday roast or veggies that look like they have seen better days, there are a lot of money-saving ways to help you use up your leftover ingredients.

Packed lunches

Planning ahead with packed lunches is a great way to save on the expense of eating out for lunch every day.

Before you shop, look at your diary for the week ahead and see when you won’t be home for lunch and add lunch items to your shopping list for these days. Get into the habit of preparing lunches in the evening if time is a bit tight in the mornings.

It doesn’t have to be boring sandwiches everyday either. If you have planned ahead, you can have a week of different lunches - think about soups, salads, wraps, fruit, yoghurts and leftovers from yesterday’s dinner.

Make this a family or household commitment and get everyone involved. Sandwich making is an easy task to give your kids and everyone can then enjoy the benefits of saving money.

Eating out and takeaways

Eating on a budget doesn’t mean you have to give up on life’s little luxuries like eating out or getting a takeaway. Budget for such occasions and be realistic about how much you can afford to spend.

Last updated: 23/08/2017