Tag Archives: budget living

This month’s grocery challenge: eating on a budget

Grocery challengeAre you spending too much on food? Do you set a budget? When you need to start cutting back on your living expenses your food shop can be an easy place to start. How about a grocery challenge?

I love a grocery challenge – I set myself a lower than usual budget and use every means to stick to it. Using up what I have in the cupboards, the fridge, the freezer and the garden, I am confident we can eat well and healthily for just £35 per week for the three of us. I am not including cat food, cleaning products or toiletries in this budget, although I intend to keep spending on everything else to a minimum too.

Friday was my start day as that is payday for me, and I will continue through until 23rd August. So that is 4.5 weeks of food for around £155. Can I stick with my grocery challenge? We shall see!

Although it helps that we have some produce in the garden,  I don’t want every meal to be based around courgettes. I love them but there are limits! Most people won’t have home grown produce available, but it is still possible to eat cheaply. If you have a bit of garden and spare time, I really recommend growing a few bits. It is cheap and pretty easy to do.

Essential steps on your grocery challenge

The first thing to do when you are setting yourself a grocery challenge is to audit your food stores.  We have plenty of rice, pasta, tins of tomatoes, cereal, veg (fresh and frozen), tinned tuna, etc.

The next step is to plan meals for at least a week. I find this is long enough, but I know people who plan the whole month in one go. Aim to use as many of your stores as you can. This focusses your attention on those unused and unloved ingredients that have been hanging around a while. Set yourself a challenge to find a recipe that will use a can of coconut milk or bag of walnuts, for example. I write a detailed plan for dinners but lunches and breakfasts are a little more fluid. We tend to eat porridge and raisins, or fruit and yogurt for breakfast with sandwiches, salads of soups for lunch. I also build in a few snacks. If not, I risk breaking the budget by going to the machine at work for chocolate or the expensive corner shop for crisps and wine!

Finally, write a shopping list. Think about where you need to go to get the best deals on the food on your list. I do the bulk of my shopping in Lidl or Aldi and pop to Asda or Sainsbury’s for the cat food and Lactofree milk.  The latter can be expensive, varying from £1 a litre when it is on special offer up to around £1.50, depending on where I buy it. As I want to stick to my challenge I will check online to find the cheapest price for this before heading out to buy it. I will also water it down a bit as my daughter guzzles it!

Other ways to save money

If you really want to save money, forget expensive branded items, at least for the duration of the challenge. You don’t have to buy the cheapest, but supermarket own brands are usually pretty good.

I mentioned we grow some of our own food. We also have gluts so are happy to give the excess away. If you have friends who have a veggie patch or an allotment you are likely to find they are willing to do the same. You could offer to do a bit of weeding in exchange! We don’t grow apricots but were lucky enough to be given a load the other day. I stewed half for puddings all week and put the rest in the freezer for later.

If you can easily get to a supermarket later in the day you can find some good yellow sticker bargains from time to time. Only buy what you know you can eat quickly or freeze. If you get a real bargain be prepared to change your meal plan to fit it in.

Think about doing some batch cooking. I will be making a large pot of ratatouille and another of courgette soup. The ratatouille will be a meal with some brown rice and cheese one night, and an accompaniment to meat another night. The soup will be good for lunches and I will freeze some for next week too.

We aren’t vegetarians, but will definitely be eating some meat free meals to save money.  I also bought a pack of bacon lardons in Lidl, which will be good for adding a little meaty flavour to a couple of meals.

Grocery Challenge Meal Plan

This week’s meal plan is as follows:

Friday:  Risotto made with vegetables and lardons

Saturday: courgette stuffed with turkey mince and mini roasties

Sunday: Chicken casserole, rice and vegetables

Monday: Cheese omelette with home made chips and salad

Tuesday: Ratatouille with rice and cheese

Wednesday: Fish in breadcrumbs, potatoes and vegetables

Thursday: Tuna pasta bake with vegetables

Do you want to join me on my grocery challenge? If so, what figure will you set for your weekly budget? Do you have ideas for some meals to use up the food you have in the stores?

 

Spending less and saving more in 2017

We have had a lovely day and dinner at my sister’s and we are now home and chilling. It’s nice to have a bit of quiet time to relax. 

I have been having a think about the upcoming lean January I need to have. I am absolutely determined to save more money next year than I managed in 2016. I am planning to do this in two ways:

Spending less

This is tricky as I already live a frugal lifestyle. But I am sure I can save here and there. I need to question every single purchase. Do I really need this? Can I do without it? Can I get it more cheaply?

I had two holidays in 2016, it was lovely! But it cleared out my savings. This year it is Mr S’s BIG birthday. I won’t say which, I will leave you to guess. So we will have a holiday to celebrate as that is the thing he loves to do, but just the one. 

I can spend less on groceries. I already shop in the discount supermarkets (Aldi or Lidl) but I will do more yellow sticker hunting. Tell me please, what is the best time to visit the supermarkets to find the really serious discounts? 

I need to cook more. Lack of time has made me start using more jars and more expensive short cuts. I need to find some energy and enthusiasm and do some batch cooking.

I will get control of my ad hoc spending. I have noticed that I have started buying the tempting but expensive 80p chocolate bars or bags of crisps from the machine rather than keeping a few cheaper snacks in my drawer at work. I also fall into the trap of popping to Asda or somewhere for my Lacrofree milk and cat food, but  while I am in there picking up wine, snacks, a fancy salad for work, etc. I need to go in with my blinkers in and only buy what I intended!

I will clean my own car. It only takes half an hour but I am tempted from time to time to take it to the Polish car washers. They do a great job but at £10 when it could be free.

I rarely buy new clothes, I dye my own hair and buy only basic toiletries. So nothing to save there. I am mean with the heating and fanatical about turning off lights so no savings there either. We hardly ever go out to the pub or for a meal, so not much I can cut back on.

I will do a review of all my outgoings to check to see if I can get anything such as utilities  more cheaply or cut things out all together. 

Earning more

This year I need to bring more money in. I went for a promotion but didn’t hear before Christmas so don’t think I was successful. However, there will be other chances so I will sign up to some job alerts so I don’t miss the opportunities. 

I am hoping to get a lodger. This is proving tougher than I thought but hopefully I will get some more interest in the new year. In the meantime I will keep taking the language students as I have for the past few years.

I intend to up my eBay sales . This has made me a bit extra in the past year or two – £50-£100 sometimes a month. It takes quite a bit of time but it all helps. This will go straight to savings. 

What are your top tips for making more money and spending less?