Written by Leah Sinclair

Food writer and author Jack Monroe shares a Twitter thread on how to keep weekly food shop costs low using a method which she says “revolutionised” how she cooks and shops.

The cost of living has been a topic of much discussion here in the UK, as we helplessly watch the cost of gas, electricity and supermarket shops creep up.

And while the crisis is a result of government decisions and global shortages, UK households are the ones hit the hardest by it all, leaving some to figure out how to save, save, save as the costs continue to go up, with food being one of the biggest areas affected by the cost of living crisis.

According to the Office for National Statistics, the cost of an average basket of groceries increased by 4.2% in the year to December, with items like a 250g box of tea bags up 5p to £2.05 in the past year and milk rose by 3p to an average 46p a pint.

While the data is worrying, it’s a reality that we all have to face and means some will have to approach their spending much differently – especially when it comes to grocery shopping.

One person helping to keep food shop costs to a minimum is food writer and author Jack Monroe, who demonstrated in a recent viral Twitter thread how to keep the food shop down to £20 a week.

“One of my best tips for keeping the food shop down to £20 a week is to do a full stocktake every now and then of what’s in the cupboard, fridge and freezer. Let me explain how it works,” she wrote in a thread that has amassed over 11,000 likes.

Monroe, who is drawing up her own inflation index to track basic food prices, tweeted: “I get an A4 sheet of lined paper and divide it into 4 vertical columns: proteins, carbohydrates, fruit and veg, and the end column is split into two, flavours and snacks.”

Monroe says she then goes through the fridge, freezer and cupboard and notes down every single thing she has. “When I’m feeling extra meticulous I weigh it all, but usually I do an estimate of number of units or portions,” she adds.

“I then highlight things that need using imminently, so fruit on the turn, fresh produce nearing its use-by date, etc, and plan meals around them, adding in bits from the other columns.”

Monroe starts with going through the protein column first, and then picks one thing from each column, to help “visualise and create balanced meals”.

“It also means that my shopping list for the week is made up of ‘gap filling’ – so if I’m running low on fruit and veg, I’ll prioritise that. If I’m short on whole grains, I’ll pick up some brown rice etc,” she shares.

“At the moment I’ve got a lot of frozen fish, frozen chicken, dried beans and pulses kicking about, so I’ll be using a lot of those over the next few weeks. It means being a bit organised, which doesn’t come naturally to me, so I’m trying to get into a routine and so far, so good!”

Monroe says that by doing this, it’s “revolutionised” the way she cooks and shops and has also reduced a lot of anxiety around food, impulse purchasing and food waste while also keeping the food bill low.

“It also helps me plan balanced meals, and sparks off all kinds of avenues of creativity,” she adds.

In the thread, Monroe acknowledges that this method is “useless” for those who have nothing in the cupboard but hopes it is of use to someone – particularly those who want to save a bit of money on their food shop.

“It’s quite laborious the first time you do it, but as someone who has lived in food poverty, I find it quite powerfully reassuring to have a physical list of all of the food I have.”

Many shared their thoughts on the thread, along with their own methods of organising their food shopping in order to reduce costs.

“I do exactly this and run a spreadsheet for the fridge, freezer, larder,” wrote one. “My columns are protein, ready meals, home frozen vegetables, commercial vegetables, sweets, date frozen and date use by.”  

“Thanks for posting. Good advice,” another tweeted. “I do a stocktake before every shop. It’s how I was brought up. Restaurants do too. The specials board contains the items you need to use up. Homemade soup is my go-to for lunches all winter: cheap, nutritious and easy.”

“Keep up the good work. I do lists, no longer out of financial necessity, but I find them essential for budget and waste control,” a third commented. “I still learn from others so really appreciate those that share their tips.”

Image: Getty

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