A frugal food plan & budget

I mentioned our food budget in my last post. At the time of starting this blog I was able to feed both Husband and I for around £30-35 a week. Only two years have passed and yet I would find that so, so difficult now. There are probably three reasons for that: 1. Prices have gone up, 2. There are three of us to feed, not just two and 3. I’m not quite as careful as I was when I started out (due to being time/sleep deprived!). I’d say we’re averaging about £50 a week at the moment which also includes non-food, household items like loo roll, tin foil, cleaning products etc.

Our budget is going to be really tight from now on. I still don’t know what my exact take home pay will be but I do know that HM Revenue & Customs have sent me a delightful letter informing me that (through no fault of my own) I didn’t pay enough tax in 2007-8. I tried to appeal it (there is a clause) but no dice. They are going to take extra tax from me over the next financial year to make up for it. Cheers HMR&C. I earned plenty then – I really can’t afford it now. But there you go. So I’m going to be earning even less from my part-time wages than originally anticipated…

This, and other financial commitments/needs, means that we are going to have to be really, really careful with the food budget. And by ‘we’ I mean ‘me’ because I’m the one in charge of the food shopping and planning. As from now, our food budget is going to be £200 per calendar month. If we go over that it will have to come out of one of our other saving funds and since they are all pretty important I really don’t want to have to resort to that. This should be fine on 4 week months but more difficult on 5 week months. I’m going to try to get better at reporting here on how I’m doing with this to keep me focused. I’ve had to abaondon the diet I was doing – due to amount of meat, fish, nuts and cheeses I was eating, it was just getting too expensive. Here’s hoping I might be able to be sensible now I’m let loose again.

Here’s my plan for keeping in budget:

  • More batch cooking. A big time and money saver.
  • Rethinking my storecupboard and bulk buying. We only have a small amount of storage space for food and I’d like to deplete my current stocks and start again, only stocking up and buying items that we are really going to use. There are random things lurking that I have no recollection of buying (like a packet of onion sauce that I know to be revolting). It all needs to be used up so I can clear the decks and start again.
  • Reorganising my freezer. We have 4 drawers which are actually pretty good, space wise. One of them is entirely allocated to food I’ve made for Baby so I really only have 3 drawers to work with for everything else. I need to make the most of this remaining space so I can stock up on meat and fish when they are on offer and also so I have somewhere to put the results of my batch cooking sessions!
  • Being a bit more organised. I need to remember to take things out of the freezer the night before and stick to the meal plan.
  • Going off plan when it makes sense. Due to my previous spending habits I’m generally very strict about sticking to what is on the shopping list. However, this does mean that I don’t get to take advantage of any deals (like BOGOFs) if the item wasn’t already on my list for that week. Once I’ve created a bit more room I should be able to stock up on things I know we like when I see them on offer.
  • Trying out more ‘Value’ items. Like most people, I feel the pressure to buy ‘quality’ food but I need to experiment a bit more and see if if there are any switches I could make.

That’s all I can think of right now but if anyone has any other ideas that could be added to my list then let me know!

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Categories: Budgeting, Frugal food | 10 Comments

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10 thoughts on “A frugal food plan & budget

  1. There are 2 adults and a teenage boy on our house plus a dog, 2 cats, 2 hens, 2 geckos and snake that all need feeding. (Although, aswe get eggs from the hens so their food could be considered our spending on eggs!)

    We still manage to spend very little on food and do it by
    – not eating meat or fish
    – buying in bulk from a wholefood wholesaler
    – looking in the cupboards, fridge and freezer before I make a shopping list
    – Batch cooking (which saves on energy costs)
    – I take my calculator and add it up as I put things in the trolley. This means that I get the priority items first (items we absolutely have to have), and then if I reach my limit I can leave off the items that we don’t need to have that week.

    I used to menu plan before I made a shopping list, now I menu plan after I’ve shopped. After I’ve checked what I already have, my list will contain things like ‘fruit for 7 days’, ‘veg for 5 main meals’, ‘cheese’ etc. Then I can take advantage of any low prices and special offers without feeling that I have to buy something that’s on my list and unexpectedly expensive.

    Also, it pays to have no loyalty! I shop at either Tesco or Sainsbury and have loyalty cards for both. When one of them notices that I haven’t been in their shop for a little while they send lovely discount vouchers. I’m currently working my through 6 ‘£12 off a £60 shop’ vouchers from Sainsbury.

    • shoestringalley

      Yes, I’ve noticed that about the supermarket vouchers! Thanks for the other tips too. I’ve also started to be a bit more flexible when I’m shopping so I can take advantage of any offers.

  2. Alison B43

    I too have found that if you don’t use a particular supermarket for a while they try to entice you back, although they generally want you to spend £30 or £40 to save a few pounds. I have found that when I have to spend £30 or above, I actually start to buy things I do not actually ‘need’ but things I will use eventually. Then find I have very little money left for things I do actually ‘need’ a few days later like fresh fruit/veg or bread. I have changed from a £50 a week budget to £200 a month, so that I should be able to take advantage of the reduced meat available in my local Sainsbury. I have tried to use the local butcher, but I would never stick to budget if I did, so unfortunately not an option at present. Still have problems getting the balance right with quality vs price issues – guess we just try to do our best! Best wishes for your return to work – it will probably be very tough for you all for the first few weeks but we will all be thinking of you. x

    • shoestringalley

      Thanks for the lovely comment Alison. Also it looks like we’re working to exactly the same budget! We’ll have to share ideas. It’s a bit sad about the whole butcher thing isn’t it? I keep reading/hearing that shopping at your local butchers is cheaper than the supermarket but I really can’t see it. Maybe ours are a bit more expensive than the norm…

  3. Sounds like a good plan! Sorting through/reorganising our cupboards and freezer has been on my to-do list for a while — you’ve inspired me to bump it up to the top. If it’s as productive as when I went shopping in my own wardrobe a few weeks ago, I’ll be well happy 😉

    • shoestringalley

      Ooh, I loved that post you did. They are both things that need to be done every now and then. I’ll be trying to do a few more things too – the budget is getting a bit strict around here!

  4. Pingback: May’s mini goals | The Really Good Life

  5. Maria

    Hello,
    Just found your blog through a link from The Really Good Life and I’m enjoying reading through your old posts – especially your series of 10 on Shoestring Living. Completely agree with you on the importance/usefulness of meal planning in advance as a budgeting measure!

    • shoestringalley

      Thanks Maria! (Managed to alter your comment as per request!) 🙂

  6. Maria

    Hi again – thanks for that!

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