Posts Tagged With: food budget

How I halved my food budget

This year I’ve made big cuts to my previous spending budgets so that I can save more and be less wasteful. I’ve made changes here and there but one of the biggest things I’ve done is halve our food budget. This equates to around £120 extra in the savings account each month and much, much more if I include how much I used to spend on going out for lunch and buying sandwiches. I know most readers and bloggers are pretty savvy in these days of economic doom and gloom but in case there are any newbies out there, this is how I’ve done it.

CLEARING OUT THE CUPBOARDS: One of the first things I did was to go through all of my food cupboards. I threw out anything out of date and then put anything nearing expiry right at the front to make sure I used it up in time.

MAKING A MEAL PLAN: Every week I make a meal plan before I go shopping. I know a lot of people that do this and then don’t stick to it. This is madness if you really want to stick to your budget. Work out which days you will be in/out and plan accordingly, then write a list based on what you will actually need.

SET A BUDGET: It might take a few weeks of trial and error to figure out your ideal budget. The best way is to stick to your list (what you need) and try not to buy too many extras. For me, it turned out that about £30 a week is plenty for both Husband and I for all of our meals, though I often use a bit extra from my general spending fund at weekends, particularly if we have friends coming over.

SHOPPING: I am very good at sticking to the list based on my meal plan. However, I’ll break away from it for a good deal, like buy-one-get-one-free,  but only if I know I will actually use the items and if buying them won’t take me over budget.

WRITING A STORE CUPBOARD LIST: I have a list of basic items (it is quite long!) which I keep in my filofax. I read about someone who has a similar list taped to the inside of their cupboard door. Whatever works for you best – as long as you can find it easily and it won’t get thrown away by accident. The list includes things like olive oil, butter, pasta etc and also non-food items like tin foil and loo roll. Basically, if I use it a lot and it comes dried, tinned, in a jar or in a packet then it goes on the list.

WORKING OUT WHEN TO SHOP: I get paid monthly and my preferred supermarket is a 22 mile round-trip away so I don’t want to waste time and money going there every week. Instead, I use up a large chunk of my monthly food budget doing a ‘big’ shop when I’ve been paid. I prepare for this by going around the kitchen with my storecupboard list and checking how much of everything I have left and what is likely to run out over the next month. This means that, on a weekly basis, I only need to stock up on fresh produce like dairy, fruit, veg and meat.

COOKING IN BATCHES: I really have saved a fortune by cooking up big batches of lasagne, casserole and so on. Not only is it much, much cheaper cooking like this but, after a long day at work, I love sitting down to a home-cooked meal that involves minimal preparation followed by minimal washing-up.

USING THE FREEZER: Not everyone has a freezer I know. Mine isn’t massive – just 4 drawers but I use it all the time now, not only for my batch cooking but also for those handy BOGOFs on everything from bread to salmon.

MARKED-DOWN GOODS: Lurk around in supermarkets and bakeries at the end of the day. There are bound to be some marked down goods. I don’t do this very often as, like I said, I tend to stick to the list. But there are some great bargains to be had on everything from meat to cheesecake.

PACKED LUNCHES: We all know it but I’m convinced that buying lunch instead of taking something with you can almost double your food spending. And how much better does a home-made egg sandwich taste than one from a supermarket?  Also, a colleague of mine bought a multi-pack of crisps today – 8 packets for £1. Sold seperately in the same supermarket, each bag of the same brand was priced at 47p. When I did my food shop on Friday I got some great deals on fruit – 10 apples for £1.50. All good packed lunch stuff, depending on what you like. Personally, I don’t buy multi-packs of crisps, biscuits or chocolate bars because neither Husband or I have any self-control. If I brought it home we would eat it all in one sitting. I wish this were a joke but it really isn’t…

What advice would you give someone trying to cut their food budget?

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Categories: Frugal food, Home Economics | Tags: , , | 11 Comments

Day 67: Today I have mostly been eating…

I took the same food to work today as yesterday: 2 apples, 1 banana, 1 scone, grapes and melon mixed with plain yoghurt and ryvittas with soft cheese and tomatoes. I also got a peice of my colleague’s birthday cake – yum. I popped into town at lunch time to get some paint charts and nearly caved when I saw a sign for Mr Whippy. I was hot and bothered and I really wanted one – but I didn’t. I remembered that I had been spending all of my general spending/fun money on junk and resisted. Victory!

We had a simple green bean risotto for dinner tonight. From my big monthly shop I used a whole pack of green beans (£1) and an onion (25p) which means each portion cost approx 63p. Obviously I also had to use extra ingredients which either came from the storecupboard or from last months shopping budget: butter, parsley (from my little pot on the window sill), granado padano cheese, risotto rice, olive oil, a stock cube and a slug of vermouth. I’m not counting the cost of these as store cupboard items (like olive oil) ‘have’ to be there (and are kind of hard to cost out per portion!) and using things left from last months shop (like the last of the butter and the parsley) does not have to come out of this months budget. There was enough left over for Husband to have some for lunch tomorrow. For the past couple of days he has been having noodles and sardines. His lunches tend to be slightly, er, unconventional. Basically, left to his own devices he eats like a pregnant woman with strange food cravings. Each to their own…

From the challenge-a-day list:

  • Financial management: moved £100 into my savings account
Categories: Frugal food | Tags: | 2 Comments

Day 63: Part 1 – How I plan my shop

I keep a storecupboard list in my filofax and refer to it once a month when I do my big shop. When I’m planning my shopping list I take my list into the kitchen and see what I need to top up on. My list is quite long but here it is anyway:

Food

  • pasta
  • tinned tuna
  • baked beans
  • tinned, chopped tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • stock cubes
  • garlic
  • onions
  • cous cous
  • soy sauce
  • curry powder
  • tea
  • coffee
  • hot choclate
  • sugar
  • sweeteners
  • balsamic vinegar
  • plain flour
  • self-raising flour
  • squash
  • frozen mixed bag of cauliflower & broccoli
  • frozen peas
  • tinned butterbeans
  • sultanas/raisins
  • cheese
  • butter
  • ryvitta
  • porrige oats
  • tomato puree
  • egg noodles

Non-food items

  • washing up liquid
  • loo roll
  • clothes wash
  • scratchy pads & j-cloths
  • bleach
  • bin liners
  • compostable bin liners
  • bathroom cleaner
  • tin foil
  • greaseproof paper/baking parchment
  • cling film

Everyone’s essentials are different but these are ours! It was really worth sitting down and writing this list as it means I have to apply less brain power when trying to plan the shopping – something I tend to find tedious and annoying.

When I plan my weekly shop I check what I have in my freezer (I make my own ‘ready meals’ to save time during the week) so I can plan what we are going to eat over the coming week and how many meals I need to buy for. I haven’t done much freezing lately so I need to get back on it!

I’ll be back later (or maybe tomorrow morning) after the big shop of the month is completed. As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I am planning to pay a bit more attention to what I’m buying and eating this month after a) wasting money on snack/junk food over the past few weeks and b) feeling pretty crap for doing so…

From the challenge-a-day list:

  • Planning: checking my storecupboard list so I can buy exactly what we need and avoid what we don’t!
Categories: Frugal food, Home Economics | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Day 61: This little piggy went to market

pork casserole

I have been really naughty this week. I’ve taken out extra money (on top of my regular spending fund) and basically spent it on junk food. I can’t explain why I’ve done this. Today I have eaten: bran flakes and raisins with milk, 3 doughnuts, ham, egg and chips, an entire (large) pack of chocolate crispy cakes, a large packet of chocolate raisins, two ham rolls and a bowl of raspberries and cream. I hope you are impressed. I won’t talk about yesterday. Or the day before come to that. I wonder if I am having a weird rebellion against not spending money on crap? Clearly it has got to stop. I feel bloated and uncomfortable (hardly surprising I know) and distinctly roly poly.

When I started this blog I cut the food budget for both Husband and I to £25 per week. Perviously we were spending £50 – £60. It was the easiet area to make a cut and I have definitely been able to save more because of it. Gradually the budget has been sneaking its way up again. This month the budget was, I think, £37.50 per week and I actually managed to go over! It wasn’t that difficult to feed us both for £25 a week. Yes, I had to make a plan and make sure I wasn’t wasting anything but that was all part of the exercise. I’ve mentioned my food budget to a few friends and colleagues and most seem to be fairly shocked that we are ‘surviving’ on so little. The only real drawback I have been able to find was getting a decent variety of food and not being able to have my favourite soft fruits and berries, hence the increased budget.

I think the trouble with me is that I am a bit all or nothing. If I have a really tight budget then I am really on the ball and rise to the challenge. If I have enough not to worry too much then it all seems to slip. What’s an extra £10 when I’ve managed to save £550 this month? Not a lot actually. And yet I have basically invested £10 in making myself feel sick and grumpy. It doesn’t add up.

To stop a repeat performance next month I am going to pay more attention to what I am spending my money on and what I am eating. If I can muster the energy I will try to record every penny I spend on food for the month and probably what I have eaten as well. Holding myself accountable should make me think twice before picking up snacks. Bizarrely, before this project I hardly ever ate biscuits or cakes. I was more of a chocolate bar kind of gal. Particularly Twix. And Double Deckers. Old school stuff. Now I can’t seem to leave biscuits and cakes alone! It is all Tesco’s fault. They seems to have a permenent special offer on certain packets of biscuits for 44p. Why is junk food so cheap? Grrrr. If I could get a lovely honeydew melon or a punnet of strawberries for 44p I would pick them over the biscuits every time. Anyway, it’s all about mind-set. When I started out I was being very strict about every purchase and didn’t buy any junk. I need to go back to this way of doing things.

For June I am setting a budget of £120, so basically £15 each per week. I hope it is enough that we can some nice things but little enough that I have to be careful and stick to a decent eating plan. This budget will also include non-food items like loo roll and cling film but not necessarily food bought for social ocassions. This should be interesting as we have our week long ‘holiday at home’ coming up in a few weeks. Yippee! I can’t wait. I haven’t had a full Monday to Friday week off with both weekends tagged on since AUGUST. I cannot wait for the break. I am somewhat torn between planning a load of stuff for us to do and not planning a thing so we can lazily see how each day unfolds…

From the challenge-a-day list:

  • Planning: getting spending and food planning under control! 
Categories: Budgeting, Frugal food | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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