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 I threw out anything out of date and then put anything nearing expiry right at the front to make sure I used it up in time.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?