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5 top tips for Smart Food Shopping.

I love food shopping. Walking up and down the aisles and finding new and exciting things to try is my idea of a fun way to spend a Sunday! Unfortunately my bank balance and my waistline do not agree with me on this one.

I could easily wander around the supermarket loading up a trolley and end up spending hundreds of pounds without even thinking! Also all those BOGOF or 3 for 2 offers on naughty things are just too tempting. So I tend to save in-store shopping for special occasions (Christmas) or picking up small numbers of things in a rush.

Instead I do the majority of my shopping online. It is not always ideal and I inevitably end up with something I didn’t order or without something vital to my weekly meal plan. However it is so much cheaper and I don’t end up with that sneaky packet of doughnuts or share bag of crisps that tends to leap into my trolley when I am not looking.

While doing Weight Watchers I find the online shop such an essential tool. For me Weight Watchers is all about being in control of what you are putting into your mouth. So here are my top tips for shopping online…

Start with a meal plan;
Even when shopping online it is easy to end up with things in your basket you don’t end up eating. I find the best place to start is a rough meal plan. I do a rough weekly meal plan each week. On organised weeks I post them on the blog. You can see them here.
Even if I don’t know exactly what I am going to make I try to write down a starting point, my first draft meal plan tends to look something like this:

  • Monday – Turkey
  • Tuesday – Pasta
  • Wednesday – Sausages
  • Thursday – Chilli (quorn? beef?)
  • Friday – Fish.

    With this as a jumping off point I then head to the supermarket website and see whats on offer. If I see tinned tuna is half price then the pasta dish becomes tuna-pasta, if quorn is cheaper than beef the chilli is then quorn etc… Even if you end up swapping the days around, at least you know you have 5 days worth of meals and you avoid the midweek “whats for tea?” panic.

    Use what you already have;
    If you are anything like me you will always have things lurking in the back of the freezer, forgotten packets of sausages, mystery bags of meat that you bagged and forgot to label etc…
    These are a great starting point for your meal plan if you already have some sausages, you’ll only need to buy potatoes for your bangers and mash. This will really cut down on your bill and help stop the inevitable overflowing freezer.

    Be savvy with deals and coupons;
    I do my main weekly shop at Tesco using my Clubcard means that every few months they send me a £5 off voucher. Other supermarkets have similar loyalty schemes too, make sure you are aware of them and use them to your advantage. Sometimes eating healthier can mean things are more expensive; taking advantage of the offers out there can stop this being an issue. If the horse meat scandal taught us anything its that cheap meat is not all its cracked up to be.
    Also there are sometimes offers on cash-back websites, I would highly recommend checking the Money Saving Expert site before placing your order!

    Be careful with your fruit and veg;
    I only buy certain fruits and vegetables online, this is mainly down to my own personal experience. I have found that berries, soft fruit and salads are a bit of a lucky dip, they are normally on their last legs or a day or two away from moldy. I do however buy root veg, green veg and citrus fruit. I normally buy root vegetables in bulk packs and when they arrive I chop them and freeze them in individual portions, perfect for stews, soups or mash. The green vegetables I buy weekly and they seem to last OK.
    The fruit and vegetables I don’t buy online I pick up from my local green grocer for half the price and they last twice as long. In an ideal world I would but everything from a local independent place but in reality this doesn’t really work for me.

    Check, check and re-check
    Always always always check through your basket at least twice, I tend to add things that are on offer, then when I look back I think “do I really need 24 yoghurts?” or “Will the two of use really need 2.5kg of potatoes?”. It is worth double and triple checking before hitting the order button.

    So this guide turned into a bit of a money saving post rather than a weight watchers guide, but I do honestly think online shopping is a vital tool when you are watching your waistline. It allows you time to check the points on the items you are ordering, or create a recipe using the ingredients you are buying.

    Do you shop online? What do you find good/bad about it? Feel free to share your tips…