Looking for ways to ease those weekly food bills? Vicky Shaw seeks some simple suggestions.

With budgets tight, many households may be looking for more ways to reduce mealtime costs.

With a bit of planning, research and forethought, it's always possible to shave some pennies and pounds here and there. These 12 top tips, from Anders Nilsson from myvouchercodes.co.uk may just cut the mustard...

1. Create a meal plan for the week

On a Sunday evening, set out your meal plan for the week, you can write this up and stick it on your fridge, or print off a meal planner template which details what you and the family are going to eat that week, covering breakfast, lunch and dinner. You'll be more likely to stick to a plan and won't risk running to the shops.

2. Go with a shopping list

Scan the cupboards before you head out, and if you've got your meal plan set out for the week then you already know what ingredients and products you're going to need. This will stop you from add-ing unnecessary items into the basket, and double-buying items you already have at home.

Also, don't go to the shops when you're hungry - you'll end up buying treats you don't need.

3. Buy frozen rather than fresh

While you might like fresh onions, peppers and vegetables, it can work out cheaper to buy frozen. And you can use what you need and leave the rest for a later date - meaning there's less risk of food ending up in the bin.

4. Try going into stores rather than shopping online

By hand-picking items yourself, you may get better use-by dates and you have an easier comparison of alternatives if something is out of stock - keeping you within your budget.

5. Buy in-season produce

Fruit and veg are much cheaper when they're in season, so take advantage of this (often better for sustainability too).

6. Pick a store's own brand or head to discount stores

Don't be a brand snob - instead, go for a store's own products. These are often a fraction of the price and taste just as good as the well-known brands. If you're set on sticking to a brand, why not head to a discount retailer, where you can pick up branded produce for a cheaper price.

7. Know the difference between 'best-before' and 'use-by' dates

You don't always need to throw food away just because it's reached its best-before date. Best-before dates are about quality. If a product is slightly over its best-before date but still looks and smells OK, it may still be fine to eat, despite not being as fresh as it once was. But use-by dates are about food safety. Foods can be eaten until the use-by date but not after. After the use-by date, the food could be contaminated, even if it still looks OK.

8. Learn to portion control

Avoid piling plates too high, which can lead to more food going in the bin. Start out small and get through what's on your plate first, you can always go back for seconds if you're still hungry.

9. Cook in batches

Batch cook meals such as cottage pie, chilli and lasagne and freeze what you don't eat for another time. Or make two meals from similar ingredients so you don't get bored of eating the same meal over a couple of days - for example, by adding kidney beans and chilli powder to leftover bolognese to turn it into a chilli.

10. Use up leftovers and fruit and veg

When you're using vegetables for a meal, blend any leftovers which are still useable and turn them into a soup. You can pop any spare in the freezer and have your own instant homemade soup to hand. Similarly, use leftover fruit to make desserts such as pies, sponges and banana bread.

11. Do a little research online

For more inspiration, make the most of free apps and blogs focused on feeding the family on a budget.

12. Grow your own

From growing fresh herbs on your windowsill to growing fruit and vegetables in your garden, grow-ing your own can not only save money but give you access to the freshest of ingredients, as well as teaching the kids about where food comes from.


To mark Pension Awareness Day on September 15, experts from Pension Geeks, Scottish Widows, the Government-backed Pension Wise and the Money Advice Service are offering free guidance, information, drop-in sessions and interactive tools and tips - to help people understand what they need to do to ensure they're saving for the type of retirement they want.

A 'pensions bus' has already been touring various cities and from September 17, will spend three weeks on the road visiting employers to answer employees' questions about workplace pensions.

Here are some tips from Robert Cochran, retirement expert at Scottish Widows on getting to grips with your pension:

1. Think about how much you will need in your pension and from other places, such as savings or property.

2. Get back to basics - take yourself back to square one with savings and give yourself a financial MOT. Find out what kind of saver you are using tools like the Scottish Widows pension profiler. There's further information at scottishwidows.co.uk/retirement/retirement-explained/saving/.

3. Once you have a good idea of what your savings ability is like, you can think about how much you can afford to save, how long you'll be saving for and how much is being saved for you in a workplace pension.

4. Find out what your employer is saving for you into your workplace pension and if you can increase the amount you save.

5. If you decide to delay when you take the state pension, or your own pension, you could increase the amount you can take.

6. Under the pension freedoms, people can start taking money from their pension when they turn 55. But you need to make sure you have enough money in it to last the rest of your life, if you don't have any other source of income.

7. The Government-backed free guidance service Pension Wise is open to over-50s and you can have as many sessions as you like, either over the phone or in person.

For more information, see pensionawarenessday.com


Financial fact: The share of mortgages being handed out to first-time buyers increased in the second quarter of 2018, figures from the Bank of England and Financial Conduct Authority show. The share of first-time buyers has increased to 21.4% - up1.8 percentage points on the previous quarter.


Debenhams has launched a new online "beauty club community", where people can chat about beauty topics and trends as well as building rewards.

Users can earn points and recognition for their contribution to the forum, according to Debenhams, who say it will be an "authoritative, fun and social space for beginners, enthusiasts and experts to meet".


Halifax has relaunched a £1,000 cashback offer for first-time buyers, home movers and re-mortgage customers who complete on a qualifying mortgage by November 4.

Customers moving their mortgage to Halifax can also benefit from Halifax's dedicated re-mortgage switcher service and have their standard valuation fee and basic legal fee paid.

Andy Bickers, mortgages director at Halifax, says: "Our £1,000 cashback offer was welcomed by borrowers when we launched it earlier this year, so we have made it available again for home buyers and re-mortgage customers this autumn. It will support customers at what can be an expensive time and help with any unexpected costs for those re-mortgaging to us."


Barclays is to allow customers to see their current accounts from other providers on its mobile banking app - removing the hassle of logging in several times to see balances held with different banks.

The bank's customers who also have a personal or business current account with Lloyds, Halifax, Bank of Scotland, RBS, NatWest, Nationwide or Santander can now choose to "quickly and securely" view their balances and transactions when they log into the Barclays mobile banking app.

The free feature is being rolled out over the coming weeks to all Barclays UK personal current account holders. More banks will be added over the coming months, with further features to follow, said Barclays, which has over six million mobile banking app customers.