When you’re spending too much on food…

…well, you’ve got to cut down haven’t you?

I’ve kept track of everything we’ve spent since the beginning of the year in this rather fabulous (and possibly inappropriately luxurious) diary:

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I’ve totted everything up monthly and, this morning, I got around to working out what we have spent on everything in the first quarter. Even with meal planning we’ve spent more than we can afford to on food and houesehold items. In the first three months of the year we have spent:

Food: 833.76

Household items: 78.22

Total on ‘supermarket’ shopping: 911.98

Divided by 13 weeks this means we are averaging 70.15 pounds a week. This INCLUDES additional ‘shops’ for when we’ve run out of things. We invariably run out of something like butter or milk or eggs and we always need at least one top up shop for fresh fruit. The household items included laundry detergents, washing up liquid, dishwasher tablets, toilet paper and so on. I’m intrigued how some people report these items all together or, conversely, how some others seem to ahve a super cheap food shop but it’s because they don’t include the things like binbags that other people just lump in under the food budget.

There was also another horrifying and eye opening category – snacks. I forgot to take my packed lunch to work one day plus then there’s been all of the times where we’ve wwanted some ice cream or chocolate to have after dinner. Or when we go to the park and don’t want to get stung by the concessions stands. So it’s saved money in one way but – at 70.69 (over three months so an average of 23.56 a month) that needs to be cut down too.

I’ve already had some of this plan in operation for a few weeks now but I’m brainsorming other ideas too. So here’s how I’m making serious cuts to our food (and household) spending:

  • I’ve signed up for Tesco’s deliver saver deal. As I get my delivery in the more unpopular midweek slots I get a discounted rate. The first month has been free and after that I will be paying just 3 pounds A MONTH for my weekly food delivery. I couldn’t drive to Tesco and back for 75p so this is great. More importantly though having the delivery means I have much more control over my spending. I can see the exact running total for what I’ve spent. The value of this cannot be underestimated. It also means you don’t get tempted to pick up extra things.
  • Keeping that total under 50 pounds. The order HAS to be over 40 pounds (otherwise Tesco charge me extra) so if my basket shows less then I stock up on things that I know we are always going to need like loo roll or laundry detergent. However, the figure in the basket (according my own self-imposed rules) must not be allowed to go over 50 pounds unless there are exeptional circumstances. Such circumstances would include buying extra food as we are entertaining, a really good offer on something like buying meat or fish when in quantity that can be frozen (thus bringing down the shopping total in the coming weeks).
  • The 50 pound a week total, sadly, has to include all of the household items like cleaning products, loo roll, bin liners and laundry detergent. I’d like to be able to spend the whole 50 pounds on food but we just can’t afford to allocate our budget like that at this moment in time.
  • I need to plan better for a greater variety of food. I know some bloggers and people in online forums seem to be able to spend hardly anything compared to me. I honestly don’t know how they’re doing it. We only eat meat or fish once and twice a week. We don’t buy cereals. We don’t buy the fancy or luxury versions of anything (apart from the occasional box of herbal tea). In spite of this I’ve really noticed that, in trying to keep costs down, we’ve been eating quite a restrictive, unvarying diet. I’m getting worried that the kids could develop fussy/narrow eating habits as a result. For example we had friends over for lunch last week and so I bought some hummus which we haven’t had since sometime last year, not being an essential. Both of mine refused to eat any after the first taste and clearly didn’t like it at all. So, while spending less, I somehow need to find a way to increase the variety of foods we are consuming.
  • Try to plan better so I don’t need to do ‘extra’ shops in the week. OR if they are essentially spend no more than absoloutely necessary.
  • Try to spend A LOT less on extra snacks when we’re out and about. It’s easy to spend on snacks in a way as so much of what we do for leisure time is free so we’ll have gone out for the afternoon but only spent 1.50 but still. It really does add up. Perhaps I could buy some multipacks of treatish food. The trouble here is that I can’t trust myself not to eat it (and I would have to hide it from Husband as he would eat it too!).
  • I don’t think I can really cut back any more on household items. I alternate between washing up by hand and using the dishwasher depending on which makes most sense with what needs doing. We need binliners. I only buy one kitchen cleaner and one bathroom cleaner and I stock up when they are on offer at 1 pound each. I buy own brand bleach for the toilets and own brand washing up liquid. I also buy own brand laundry detergent and fabric softener though I may look into seeing if Lidl or Aldi do a version that is genuinely cheaper. I may also try to buy loo roll in bulk as I seem to be buying it all the time (it doesn’t help that we also use this for tissues and have just been through cold ‘season’).

In short I will do an online shop for no more than 50 a week including all household items. I will try to spend nothing extra on snacks when we’re out and seriously limit what extras we buy inbetween shops.  I will see if I can buy laundry detergent and loo roll in bulk from a cheaper source.



Categories: Uncategorized | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “When you’re spending too much on food…

  1. Sadly there aren’t any easy answers when you’re already doing the obvious stuff, and you’re being so careful too.
    I expect you already do this, but I find that cooking stuff like hummus from scratch does cost substantially less than buying it ready made. I tend to make up a batch and freeze it in smaller amounts, so when I want it it’s quick and easy. We also have a ‘bowl’ greengrocer stall in town, and they have great bargains compared to most of the supermarkets. Plus you don’t accumulate packaging to dispose of.
    We’ve been very pleasantly surprised at the good food we’ve been able to buy at Lidl – e.g. their plain oats are much nicer than the ones we were buying at the Coop, considerably cheaper, packaged in cardboard not plastic (I’m trying to cut down on the plastic), and grown in Scotland – all plus points so far as I’m concerned. I suspect that some of their prices are cheaper than Tesco – but of course you do have to have time to go there, and be able to resist the temptation of stuff not on your list!
    One other tiny thing (and you probably already know this too – I think I was late to the party on this one). For the past few months I’ve been using plain white vinegar bought in bulk in the dishwasher instead of rinse aid. Works just fine, and to my surprise no vinegar odour at all.
    Good luck – you’re working with a very tight budget and doing a great job already.

    • shoestringalley

      Thanks for the lovely message Deborah. I don’t suppose you have a hummus recipe you could share do you? The one time I tried it the results were so revolting that it put me off but I’d be willing to have a go if I knew it was a tried and tested recipe! What is a bowl greengrocer?! I have a Lidl about 11 miles away (and an Aldi!) whereas I can get my Tesco delivery for 75p so I found I don’t save enough once I’ve taken the time and petrol into account. I do however stop there whenever I am passing. Husband was born in Germany so he LOVES Lidl as the products remind him of his childhood! I am wondering, though, if a monthly trip there might work if I can establish if laundry detergent and loo roll etc would be cheaper to buy from there…

  2. I am big advocate of shopping online. We used to go to Aldi or Lidl, but inevitably have a few bits we are fussy over and need to go to one of the big supermarkets to get. When this happened I found we were spending more over two shops. I use my supermarket to sort the basket then check out through the store. My preference is Sainsburys as I noticed recently I am getting a lot of £10 off £50 delivery vouchers there.

    • shoestringalley

      Yes, it’s great isn’t it! I do prefer to be able to chose my own fruit and veg but it just isn’t worth it. I save so much more money by not actually setting foot in the store. Plus my two year old LOATHES being in the trolley for any length of time. I do recall Sainsbury’s doing good offers like that. It just goes to show that sometimes the best deals aren’t always in the places you’d expect!

  3. Nicola

    This is somewhere I know I overspend-every month! I would love to see the types of meals you manage to get for your £50 per week. There are only 3 of us in our household, 2 adults & one fussy 4 year old & we spend way more than you do. Well done for getting it down to what you already do!

    • shoestringalley

      Ha – the answer is – not very exciting ones! We have a jacket potato night once a week (usually to coincide with my 5 years old after school swimming lesson as I can prep it all in advance and have it on the table ASAP). My daughter and husband share one tins worth of tuna mayo and my 2 year old and I share a tin of beans. I do a roast chicken nearly every Sunday and we also have pie and veg once a week too (I buy pie slices for 2.50 – I know some people could probably make it for less but I’m not one of them!). We probably have pasta once a week and so on and so on. Toad in the hole crops up from time to time and we usually have a treat/lazy meal once a week which would be something like pizza. I tried making my own pizza dough a couple of times but it did NOT taste good! I probably need to practice more lol. Also lunches don’t tend to be very exciting – usually some sort of leftovers, I am always making a freezing portions of soup so veg doesn’t go to waste. At the weekend we might get a pudding as a treat but other than that I usually buy yogurt and one tub of icecream so we alternate between those each evening. I’ll try and do some menu planning posts soon! At the moment we’re spending over 50 pounds so I’ll report back on how we’re managing!

  4. Planning is the answer! I have recently subscribe to My Food Bag here in NZ where the recipes and all the ingredients are sent to you for the week. It has eliminated waste and I’m trying some new flavours and things! I only order it fortnightly so my off week I have to plan, and I find if I don’t I soon over spend and end up wasting ingredients.

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