When the needs of your family change it can be hard to control how much you spend on food. Some cancer treatments can make children hungry so they may want to eat more than usual or it may be that their tastes change. They may have different nutritional needs and you may also need to spend money on food when you're at the hospital.
Many people assume that if they spend smaller amounts on groceries, but shop more frequently, they will save money. Unfortunately this is often a false economy and you may end up spending far more in the long-run.
If you are able to, do one large shop every one to two weeks to avoid topping up the fridge with food from more expensive convenience stores.
On the other hand, shopping for fruit and vegetables at local markets can end up being cheaper, so it's worth doing some research if you're able to.
You could try adding items to your shopping list for packed lunches – this will help save you money in the long-run. You could also make up your own snack bags by buying nuts, seeds and dried fruits to keep you going throughout the day.
Bottles of water can be really expensive, so fill up a bottle with tap, or filtered, water at home. Another way to cut down on spending is to fill up a thermos flask with a hot drink instead of buying your usual morning coffee.
Here are some tips on cutting the cost of food and drink when you're shopping:
- Check your cupboards, write a list and stick to it.
- Buy in bulk. You could also sign up to a wholesaler such as Costco, Makro or Bestway, for an annual membership of around £20.
- Look for any 3 for 2 offers, but make sure they are items that you will actually end up using before they are past their 'use by date'.
- Buy supermarket own-brands. The packaging may not look as 'pretty', but they are often just as good.
- If you don't think you'll have time to eat fresh fruit and vegetables before they go off, you could consider cans or frozen produce instead.
- Make your own/grow your own. For example, buy seeds, berries and nuts in value packs and make up your own snack packs.
- Try cheaper cuts of meat, which are great for slow cooked meals such as stews and casseroles.
- If you choose to buy organic food, sign up to a box scheme. This can be much better value and will be delivered straight to your doorstep.
- Buy spices from shops specialising in Asian foodstuffs, where they are often much cheaper. Ordering spices online can also save money.
- Stock up on pulses such as dried or tinned beans and lentils. As well as being cheap, they are nutritious and filling.
- Take advantage of loyalty cards and money-off coupons.
Ordering your food online can be much easier when you can't get to the shops or need it to arrive at a certain time.
Shopping online is great because:
- You can spend longer deciding what you want by browsing online.
- You can avoid crowds (it is particularly important your child avoids crowds if they are neutropaenic).
- You can view any offers immediately and compare costs on a website such as mySupermarket.co.uk
- You will be less likely to buy foods you don't really need.
- You can decide when the food arrives and change or amend your list the evening before your delivery is due to arrive (normally by 11pm).
- If you have a genuine complaint about the service (for example, food is off, damaged or if your delivery turns up late), you can contact customer services and request a money-off coupon for your next delivery.
- If you book your slot in advance or are flexible in the time you receive your shopping, you may also be able to get your delivery cheaper and in some cases, at no extra cost.
- You normally have to pay a delivery charge, unless you're spending over a certain amount.
- Your supermarket may send you alternative items that you don't want, but you can opt out of this if you wish.
- It can be easy to buy the wrong-sized items, what looks like a 'normal' size on the screen can be deceiving.
If people around you are keen to do something to help, one thing you might want to suggest is that they make you or your family a home cooked meal or make a few items for the freezer. This could come in especially handy for the days you really need something quick and easy.
It's important that any meals have been prepared following good hygiene standards and recommendations for cooling and freezing, especially if your child is neutropenic.
Updated July 2016, next review due 2017.