I had the best of intentions about slashing my food bills in February by sensible shopping.
(previous post here).
I think the lengthy post below can be summarised as ‘I really should follow my own advice’…but didn’t.
Ideally, I would have loved to plan one big shop focused on fresh food.
When supplemented with the stores we already have in the house, it would have been interesting to see how long we could hold out without shopping again.
However, life tends to intervene.
Everyone still has to be fed, whether it’s quick breakfasts, snacks after swimming, packed lunches for my husband or evening meals for everyone. I can’t just call a halt to all the eating while I pore over recipe books and plan.
Also, in practical terms, I try to fit in shopping trips when it’s convenient.
When the children were tiny, I ordered most of our food online.
Now they’re both at school, it’s slightly easier to nip into the Co-op when I’m passing, or attempt bigger shopping trips at Morrisons when my husband’s around with the car.
I’d rather avoid the internet delivery charges where possible, and by showing up in store, I can check out the reduced price shelves.
Which is why I ended up running around Morrisons in a mini version of supermarket sweep on Sunday.
I wanted a copy of the paper with my heating oil article, and we’d run out of dishwasher tablets and ingredients for my husband’s packed lunch. We therefore made a quick diversion on the way to go swimming.
I gave myself 10 minutes, and grabbed the heaviest items I could think of while the car was available. Normally staggering home with a 12.5kg bag of potatoes is not my idea of fun.
So on Sunday I spent £16.75 ready for a frugal February – and still forgot the dishwasher tablets.
|Heaviest and most urgent items: £16.75|
Which is why I ended up in the Co-op first thing on Monday morning, buying dishwasher tablets on offer, perusing the reduced shelves, and picking up a yellow-stickered cut price selection of croissants, fish stock cubes and 3 pears (kerching, another £2.13 on food).
|£2.13 including the cut price pears, which we’ve already eaten…|
And on Tuesday morning we were out of milk, so again I nipped into the Co-op straight after the school run, and came out with not only milk (2 big bottles for £2), but also reduced radishes, reduced mushrooms, reduced cherries and reduced teacakes for future post-swimming snacks (kerching, another £3.44).
|£3.44 and I only nipped out for milk|
Normally Tuesday evenings are a good time for supermarket shopping, because I can nip round Morrisons while my son is at Beavers and my daughter is at Brownies, and my husband does one trip to collect us all.
However, I ran out of time to write a carefully planned shopping list, and we still needed all the fresh food I hadn’t bought on Sunday.
Which is why I ended up bumbling round Morrisons on Tuesday evening, filling the trolley any old how.
Late night shopping has pros and cons.
The children love it when I emerge with a marked down pack of doughnuts as a treat.
The downside, as I discovered on Tuesday, is that some supplies may be out of stock.
So rather than being able to stock pile some of my cheap and cheerful staples, I could only curse the empty shelves where I’d normally find Morrisons Savers natural yogurt, butter and soft cheese.
(Anyone would think they were trying to make me spend more money.)
I managed to remember some items needed for specific meals:
– an aubergine, couple of courgettes and garlic bulb to make ratatouille with a glut of green peppers languishing in the fridge
– cherry tomatoes and red pepper to make stuffed peppers and use up a pack of feta cheese
– creme fraiche to make a sauce for the frozen leftover Christmas turkey along with the bargain Co-op mushrooms.
– savers mozzarella, tomato puree and red pesto to make our traditional Friday night pizzas
– bread, salami and satsumas as preferred items for my husband’s packed lunches
But some items were bought more on autopilot, despite all my resolutions.
I bought several things where I already had stocks (reduced price croissants), or alternatives (tin of tuna) or was supposed to be cooking from scratch rather than buying processed food (frozen pizza for my husband, children’s favourite frankfurters) or looking for cheaper options (tortilla wraps) or avoiding more expensive out of season options (e.g. mango and seedless grapes).
So much for a small shop just to last the week – I handed over £30.33 at the till.
|£30.33: what happens where you go shopping without a list|
Also, because I decided not to buy more expensive replacements for the out of stock items, I nipped back to Morrisons on Thursday morning to buy the new deliveries (kerching, another £3.69 with some extras), and walked through the Co-op en route (kerching, £3.96 for a reduced price hefty whole chicken).
|£3.96 for the chicken and £3.69 for everything else|
The net result is that just 4 days into February’s frugal food challenge, aiming to buy as little as possible and use up food in the house, and I’ve managed to spend £60.
|A trio of receipts…|
|…and yet more receipts|
On the bright side, none of my purchases will go to waste, and I did pick up a bunch of reduced price items that have either been eaten or frozen.
So my top tips for frugal shopping, to avoid following my example so far, would be:
– Write a list, to avoid both buying extras and forgetting things you really need (doh)
– Use substitutes you already have in the house, rather than automatically restocking everything you’ve run out of
– Focus on the next few meals, rather than stockpiling for the future
– Try to avoid shopping at times when the shelves are more likely to be empty
– Don’t keep going to the supermarket!
I started today by…not going to the Co-op. I’ll count that as a success.
Anyone else start out with the best of intentions, and then go astray? Anyone?