Bedsides our mortgage, our food shop is our next biggest expense. Not surprising considering my main love in life is food. All the food. When we first moved in together almost four years ago, we used to just spend whatever we fancied on food, not really sticking to any sort of budget or meal plan. After a year or so we decided we needed to get serious on doing bits around the house, e.g. new flooring, decorating ect. so we decided to start sticking to a budget for our food shop. We also realised we were wasting a lot of food as we were going overboard when things were on offer or looked appealing.
We decided to set a budget of £50 a week, that’s including all cleaning and household products, such as toilet roll, tin foil.. all the usual adult crap you have to buy when you own a house. It’s only since I started maternity that we have actually started spending the full £50, as we now have to factor in lunches and snacks for all week, for me.
I used to work full-time so I was out of the house five days out of seven, so we didn’t need to budget for those as much, where as now we always need to make sure there are plenty of snacks in the house for me, as breastfeeding is hungry work!
I am hoping when Teddy is old enough to wean, that we won’t have to alter our budget too much as we are going to try Baby Led Weaning, so he will eat the same meals as us. It will just be more child friendly snacks that we’ll need to start picking up.
Here are my top tips for sticking to a budget, whether yours is smaller or bigger than ours!
- Meal Plan– Every week I get out our recipe books or have a look online for some meal inspirations. We tend to have some sort of pasta dish every week, either a pasta bake or lasagne, and pizza is always on our list for a quick, easy tea. However we do like to mix things up every other day and if we have a meal one week, I won’t tend to plan for it again for a couple of weeks. I write out a full plan and all the ingredients we need.
- Check Cupboards, Freezer & Cleaning Supplies– Once I’ve done my meal plan and write down what ingredients we need, I then go through the cupboards and freezer to see what ingredients & products we already have. There is no point buying things you already have in your kitchen, as it is just added expense and that is how you will go over your budget! I actually have sticky notes on the inside of my cupboards with everything that is inside written on them, so I don’t have to root through everything. I cross it off if we use it all and then I know what I need to pick up on the next shop.
- Online Shop– We always do our shop online, choosing to do Asda Click & Collect as it saves on delivery costs and also it saves you having to venture into the supermarket! It also saves you buying things you wouldn’t usually buy! I only buy the things that are on my list, where as when I used to shop in store, I would pick things up that I wouldn’t usually just because they were on offer or were ‘new in’.
- Don’t Top-up Shop– We used to be so bad for nipping out during the week to buy extra snacks or sweets, which then leads to leaving with half the supermarket and picking up more things you didn’t really need! Include all snacks, lunches and treats in your weekly shop.
- Freeze What Makes Sense– If you know a product is going to go off before you use it, usually meat, then freeze it! You just need to take it out of the freezer the night before and it’ll be ready to use come tea time. We won’t always use a full loaf of bread before it goes off, so I freeze half and use that for toast, done on the defrost setting on my toaster. It doesn’t taste any different and saves you wasting any.
- Check Dates Regularly– There is nothing worse than going to use some meat ect, and it’s gone out of date! As soon as I unpack the shopping I check all the dates and plan our meals according to which goes off first. I also put them away in the fridge, putting the products with the closest dates, at the front.
- Try Own Brands– Own branded products aren’t the devil! Try a dropping a brand level on a different item each month, and see if you notice the difference. If you can’t tell the difference, or prefer it, then why pay extra just because it has a brand name to it. I also tend to buy cheaper versions of tins that go into meals, e.g. tinned tomatoes and passata, by the time you’ve added in all your other ingredients you won’t even taste the difference.
- Don’t Shop When You Are Hungry!- I used to be a right bugger for this and end up walking out with the whole of aisle 20! You’ll end up buying loads of things because you are starving and would eat just about anything in that moment!
- BOGOF On Essentials– If there are products you buy every week, such as washing up liquid, beans or juice and they are on ‘buy one get one free’, it would be silly to not pick them up!
- Eat Leftovers For Lunch– Or freeze them for another day, for a quick meal, don’t waste food or a perfectly good meal, because there are only two of us eating meals at the minute, a lot of the recipes make for four people so there is always plenty left over.
- Buy Frozen– I tend to buy a lot of veg or herbs frozen as I know I won’t be able to use a full packet of fresh, before it goes bad. Things like frozen chilli and garlic always come in useful as they give any meal extra flavour and you don’t have to worry about them going off.