Stretching the Food Budget

We are lucky enough to have lots of veg from the garden at present

As you know from this previous post I am doing a monthly shop and then topping up each week with perishables e.g. milk, veg and fruit. I have to say that this arrangement is going really well and has completely taken the stress-factor out of the weekly shop. I whizzed around the supermarket in about 15 minutes this week.

The second change has been my monthly meal planning, which again is going very well. I changed it around a bit last weekend due to Mr Simple wanting curry instead of what I had planned, but despite that it’s another stress factor reduced. It’s particularly good when I am going to be late home. For me late is 6pm, which I know for many of you is early. We have dinner about 7pm and so 6pm is the latest time when I like to start thinking about cooking. It’s so much easier when I know what I am going to cook. Throughout the month I have included recipes where I can make double the quantity and freeze the left overs. For example, last night we had courgette and feta fritters from the freezer and salad. They are fiddly to make, but this time they were already in the freezer and I had got them out in the morning to defrost. I was only left with the salad to prepare.

The not so good thing is that it’s only 21st August, but we’ve nearly spent all of the food budget. I allow £140 for my part of the food budget. We don’t split it 50:50 as Mr Simple eats chicken and ham in his sandwiches, which tend to be expensive, as well as he drinks more alcohol than I do. Therefore most of the bill gets divided in half and then we each pay for the specific items that only we eat. For me it’s avocados – I did give them up for a while as they are expensive, but I do really like some with my eggs for breakfast. Doing the monthly shop obviously means we spend the majority of the budget in one lump sum, but last month we managed to last the rest of the month and not overspend. This month I only have £11.89 left and ten days to go. I went shopping yesterday and so we may be able to manage until September, but to avoid going over budget I am planning to rely on what we have in the freezer to tide us over.

We have two freezers. One is the bottom half of the fridge freezer and the other one is just a small upright freezer that belonged to my great aunt before she died. With all of the produce that we have from the garden both freezers are chock-a-block. I spent one Sunday morning recently peeling, chopping and coring apples and then chopping and blanching beans. We also have a total of 13 burgers/fritters of various types e.g. the courgette and feta ones I mentioned earlier. On top of that we have four tubs of dal (I use old spreadable butter tubs as freezer containers), two portions of black-bean curry and one portion of veggie chilli. I now just have to sit down and adapt the menu, taking out recipes that include items we don’t have and replacing them with food from the freezer. In an emergency we have frozen pizzas, something that I’ve mentioned before and an idea which I took from Mrs Frugalwoods. Unlike the other items these are not homemade, but useful in an emergency. We have four as Tesco sell three for £5, so I buy three at a time.

I have suggested to Mr Simple that we buy another freezer which we could put in the garage. He has agreed, but needs to do some work on tidying up the garage. With all of the work on the house that he is doing the garage is being used to store materials. Maybe we might get around to purchasing one by next summer. 

From the garden we are getting courgettes, peppers, French beans, runner beans, tomatoes, cucumbers and apples so we are eating a lot of these. Still left in the fridge from the monthly shop we have one each of feta, paneer and halloumi. The pantry cupboard also contains several tins of pulses e.g. kidney beans and chick peas.

Writing really helps consolidate your thoughts

Sitting here writing all of that out has made me realise that we have lots of food. I don’t know what I’m worrying about. It’s just about adapting the menu so it fits what we have at hand. I may need to buy some more milk and meat for Mr Simple. If you’re wondering about bread, we make that in our bread maker and have enough flour in the cupboard to last us for quite a while.

Thinking about next month, I would really like to reduce our food budget even further. I was shopping at Lidl for a while, but they don’t have everything that we want and so ended up going to Tesco as well, which was really tiring after a long day at work. Now that we are getting a monthly shop this may be more doable. I had started to compare prices between the two stores and I need to go back to that. I know that some items e.g. Greek yogurt are cheaper and just as good in Lidl. It may be that I can go and do a monthly shop in Lidl on things I know are more expensive in Tesco. I still have the receipt from the monthly Tesco shop so with that in hand a trawl around Lidl may be useful.

Jobs for me therefore seem to be:

Review the menu over the next couple of weeks so that it is based on what we have and I don’t need to do too much shopping, meaning that £11.89 will last me until the end of the month.

Do a recce in Lidl to see what we can get there cheaper than Tesco and I can buy just once a month. I don’t want to get back to going to two stores every week. I value my time more than a few pence saved and experience tells me that the veg in Lidl aren’t always of good quality.

If you’ve got this far, thank you for reading my ramblings. I do find that blogging is such a good way of crystalizing my thoughts, so it helps me and hopefully has given you some ideas. How do you organize your shopping and meal planning? Please let me know your ideas for saving money and taking the stress out of cooking and shopping.

5 Replies to “Stretching the Food Budget”

  1. Hi Sam

    We go to the shops far too often and probably need to be more organised in that respect. However, one thing that we do have is a master list for each type of shop that shows the things we prefer in each, e.g. yoghurt and fruit juice in Lidl, hummus and sausages in Morrisons. This means we are prompted to buy those items if we happen to be in that type of shop, rather than forgetting them and having to go back again. This works particularly well for store cupboard or freezer things, or things with long dates like feta. We also include things that are cheapest in that shop but that could theoretically be bought anywhere, e.g. Heinz baked beans. I don’t know whether I’ve explained that very well but it works for us.

    1. Katrina, that sounds like a great idea. I need to start making a list of where items are cheapest. Have you ever used mySupermarket? I thought that I had signed up for alerts when items are on sale, but for some reason it isn’t working. Your comment has prompted me to go back and try again.

  2. Hi Sam, it sounds like you are very well organised, fresh produce from your garden, frozen and stored. I love our home grown produce it tastes so good. Do you have an Aldi store near you? I find it provides all of our shopping apart from dog food. I’ve tried Lidl but they are more expensive than Aldi and don’t carry the choice of stock. I’ve just started a… Where to find the cheapest items list. I keep it in a small notebook in my bag so that if I find a product cheaper at a different store I pop it into my notebook for future reference. I’m amazed by price variations across the shops, it makes me quiet frustrated that one store can charge anything from 5p to 70p difference for the same item! Anyway rant over, thanks for another interesting blog, keep up the good work.

    1. Susan, I haven’t yet explore Aldi as the nearest one to us doesn’t have any parking. I should though make the effort to go in there at some point. The notebook also sounds a great idea which I need to make time to do. Many thanks for the tips.

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