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.
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?