We decided in April that though we plan all of our meals really well and only strictly shop for the food we need for that week, we weren’t really budgeting and could probably save ourselves some money. Saving on the food bill is a hot topic at the moment, with food prices soaring and families really struggling to eat well on the money they have. Food banks have reported huge increases in people using their services – even people with professional level jobs have been reported as visiting as they find their incomes being squeezed. The Money Saving Expert website even has a grocery challenge with a huge thread about it on their forum (and some very useful tips should you wish to have a go yourself).
We are very fortunate in that we manage ok and have a fairly healthy monthly food budget. I think this is partly down to us managing our money really well (thank you Excel spreadsheets, I knew you would come in useful one day) and the fact we don’t really go out, we don’t smoke or rarely drink and don’t tend to go on holiday. I know this probably makes us sound really boring, but with two children under the age of three, getting out on an evening is tricky, and even if we do get a babysitter, we’re usually too tired to do anything anyway!
Anyhow, I seem to have digressed from my main point which is that though we’re doing ok with our food budget, we felt that we probably could trim it slightly. Any savings would go towards any home repairs, or putting to one side for little treats or even towards a trip away later this year.
So, we started our own ‘grocery challenge’ in early April. The main points were that we should save money where possible, but still eat really healthily as always (especially now Tiddler is weaning, we want to get him off to a good start).
How did we do?
Over the course of month 1 we saved £45. Not huge, but a good start.
How did we do it?
So, what did we do to make some savings? Well we’ve done quite a lot, which will make for a long post, so I’ll split over two posts (I know, I know, but good things come to those who wait and all that…. )
– Weekly meal plans
Previously, we’d plan for the next few days ahead and do two shops per week. Now, we plan for the whole week and do one main shop and a small top up shop (for basics like milk or veg). This has definitely saved us money as I’m buying some things in bulk rather than a couple in one shop then a couple more in the next shop (e.g. 4-pack of baked beans rather than 2 tins a time).
– Making food go further
When doing a roast chicken, we always kept enough meat for the next day’s meal. Now however, I’m setting slightly more aside so that we have some for lunch, either in soup or sandwiches, plus make Toddler some chicken nuggets (I make a big batch and freeze them), and make stock from the carcass (I also freeze the stock so I can use it later on).
I’ve also started adding split red lentils to my home cooked beef Bolognese so that we have extra to set aside for another meal. I add pulses to other meals now too, like haricot beans to beef chilli which seems to work well.
– Being a more savvy shopper
Shop around – as I tend to shop at Sainsbury’s, I have got to know the prices of things generally. However, I recently took this one step further. One evening, armed with my shopping list, I went onto their website and noted down the price per kilo of the fruit and veg I needed for that week. The next day I went to the local market and bought any of the fruit & veg from the list that cost less per kilo than Sainsbury’s. Anything I couldn’t get there, I bought later on at Sainsbury’s when I did my usual weekly shop.
Join a wholesaler – I joined Costco last year, mainly to buy nappies, but found that I could also get bulk loo roll cheaply (40 rolls of Triple Velvet for around £11), and found some good offers elsewhere too – 100g jar of Schwartz mixed herbs for £1.49 for example, which lasts us months, plus a 2kg bag of sweet potatoes for £1.47 (1kg in Sainsbury’s is £1.28 which had been the cheapest I’d found before Costco).
– Going veggie a couple of times a week
Meat is expensive, so finding some nice veggie recipes has been really useful. I’ve made split red lentil and sweet potato casserole, red lentil Bolognese, and mushroom and pea pasta, all of which were filling, yummy and best of all, Toddler seemed to like them (phew!).