Cutting food bills during February – week 3 update

Making a packed lunch from what’s left in the cupboards

Our third week of trying to spend less while eating more healthily during February included the joys of half term.

We didn’t go away for a holiday, but took the chance to go on assorted outings, visit places we don’t normally visit and catch up with family and friends.

On the food front, this mainly involved a whole succession of picnics.

February’s weather is not really conducive to a pastoral idyll involving picnic blankets and dappled sunshine.

Instead, we avoided frostbite by scoffing sandwiches in the car park outside the cinema, wraps on the bus on the way to the cinema, puff pastry tart sitting in the car at Audley End and bagels in the picnic room at the Museum of Childhood. Turns out frugal family togetherness involves doling out multipack crisps and peeling satsumas from the front seat of a car.

I also managed to work our way through almost all the meals I’d planned for this week, as posted here.The only two we haven’t got round to yet are the frankfurters and mash, and the chicken curry, although I went for a veggie alternative instead, with my first attempts at dahl and bombay potatoes.


One of the side effects of half term was that I didn’t spend long in supermarkets. I couldn’t nip into the Co-op as part of the school run, and my children are not entirely convinced that a “trip to the supermarket” counts as a half term highlight.


Main haul from Morrisons, for £18.02

Instead I did one larger shop at Morrisons when the car was handy (£18.02).


Sainsbury’s top up shopping, £10.64

I also gave my husband a shopping list when he stopped at Sainsbury’s for petrol (£10.64), and made a couple of lightning raids when we finished essentials like porridge oats and milk (£1.75 for oats on offer, £2.67 for milk and reduced hot cross buns and £3.31 for sardines and cut price bread and sausages).

Milk and reduced hot cross buns, £2.67


Sardines for my son, with cut price chipolatas and a loaf , £3.31


When I took the children on a day trip to London, I took a trusty picnic to keep costs low, but forgot to bring a bottle of water (kerching, £1.20 for a replacement at the station). I also bought a packet of chocolate chip cookies to ensure peace on the bus (a bargain at £1).

In the end, our total food shopping this week came to £38.59.


After looking through our cupboards, fridge and freezer, here’s the summary of what we’ve bought and what’s left so far during February.

Week 1 food shopping summary
Food bought: £68.55
Food left on 22 Feb: £6.85

Week 2 food shopping summary
Food bought: £28.37
Food left on 22 Feb: £1.26

Week 3 food shopping summary
Food bought: £38.59
Food left on 22 Feb: £14.23

Running total after 3 weeks
Food bought: £135.51
Food left on 22 Feb: £22.34

So after three weeks, our food spending for a family of four
averages out just over £45 a week.

Of that, we’ve actually eaten around £38 worth a week in addition to the food we already had in the house.


Here’s the progress on the abandoned ingredients I was keen to use up. This week I finally used some of the lingering rice and the tin of potatoes, as highlighted in red.

Industrial quantities of egg-fried rice, using leftover roast beef

1. couple of massive turkey drumsticks, frozen since Christmas Made turkey and mushrooms in a creamy mustard sauce, as blogged here

2. few left over brussel sprouts Used in slightly strange bacon, brussel sprout and broad bean spaghetti and parsnips, also lingering since Christmas Went into winter veg soup 

3. part of a jar of mincemeat (are you beginning to sense a Christmas theme?)

4. a panettone (yup, still on Christmas) Made bread and butter pudding for the visitors one weekend

5. the remains of the Quorn mountain Used the bag of Quorn chicken fillets in puff pastry pie and Quorn chicken salad, still need to use up some Quorn chicken pieces and a couple of Quorn sausages.

6. couple of tubs of chicken stock stashed at the back of the freezer Waiting for risotto inspiration

7. basmati rice bought from Morrisons, which just doesn’t cook the same as the Sainsbury’s version  Used up quite a lot to eat with dahl and as egg fried rice. It was fine when I religiously followed the instructions to rinse in cold water before cookin and rinse with boiling water after cooking. I also cut the cooking time to 10 minutes rather than the 11 to 13 minutes on the packet

8. an abandoned cut price celeriac, bought with the best of intentions Used as smashed celeriac to accompany roasted red peppers with feta and cherry tomatoes, as blogged here.

9. a tin of potatoes from nearly a year ago  Fried up as bombay potatoes to go with dahl, rice and a cucumber and tomato raita

10. untouched bag of yellow split peas, bought to make dahl and soup. I did make some dahl, but ended up using red lentils rather than yellow split peas – #cupboardclearingfail


Using up rice and tinned potatoes as veggie meal with
dahl, bombay potatoes and cucumber & tomato raita

So now I’ve been looking up recipes so I can use some of the mincemeat, yellow split peas, Quorn and chicken stock – although potentially not all in the same meal…


If I thought the kitchen looked sparse half way through February, it all seems even emptier now.
I’m determined to use up both some of stash in the storecupboards, and food already bought this month.

Meal planning from the contents of my cupboards at the start of the third week (post here) definitely helped make the most of the food we already had, so I’ve jotted down some ideas to finish February.

Main meal ideas

– Sausage casserole with mashed potato and broccoli
– Chicken & pea risotto, to use leftover chicken from the roast
– Chicken & mushroom creamy pasta, to finish the leftover chicken
– Friday night pizzas, with the other half of the pizza dough made last Friday
– Roasted veg tart tatin, using up the last of the puff pastry hiding at the back of the freezer
– Stir fry with cashews or pistachios and noodles, raiding the top shelves of my kitchen cupboards.

I do also have some long-frozen chicken pieces and Quorn chicken in the freezer, which could be converted into some kind of curry or stew.

Lunch ideas

I’ve got assorted leftovers that could do for lunch, whether the remains of the dahl with rice, the solitary remaining carrot, cumin and kidney bean burger in a brown roll, a couple of portions of winter veg soup, and the final couple of Quorn sausages.
Most of the main meals should yield some leftovers that my husband can take into work the next day as his packed lunches.

There’s nothing like running down the contents of your kitchen to make you look forward to buying more fresh food!

Any top tips on clearing kitchen cupboards and cutting food bills?

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  1. 27th February 2016 / 4:11 pm

    When we do the supermarket shopping (we buy milk and eggs from a local shop) we include things other than food, such as shampoo, toothpaste, cleaning products, foil, etc. Do you remove these from your food shopping bills in your postings, or do you simply buy all your 'other items' elsewhere?
    Margaret P

    • 27th February 2016 / 4:16 pm

      I remove the cost of cleaning products / toiletries / magazines / cards /wrapping paper / hamster supplies etc when calculating our food shopping bills. When I buy them from the supermarket, they're normally on the same receipt but I split out the cost in my spending diary spreadsheet. In the months when I've been blogging specifically about food spending and posting photos of receipts, I actually pay for any non-food stuff seperately.

  2. 27th February 2016 / 6:37 pm

    Wait until your children are around the 15 year old stage – they can eat a whole fridge full in a half term!!

    • 28th February 2016 / 4:03 pm

      Ha ha Sue. My twin girls are nearly 13 and I have just realised how true this is! I used to budget carefully and plan meals from leftovers etc. I still do this, but it is so difficult as all plans go out of the window when there is nothing left. They are bottomless pits at this age!

    • 29th February 2016 / 12:13 pm

      Hi Sue in Suffolk and Donna – Yes tracking my food spending during half term made me realise I'm lucky my two are young, at 6 and 8, so they don't yet eat enormous quantities. The joys to come!

  3. 29th February 2016 / 10:50 am

    You're still doing really well. I should imagine with two 13 year olds you have to really cater for their tastes and on occasion 'go with the flow' for a peaceful life 😉

    The picnics all sound really good, even if they were eaten in the car, soon it will be warmer and 'proper' picnics will be back on the agenda, you can't beat spreading everything out on a blanket and relaxing with a good book … or electronic gadgets for the girls.

    • 29th February 2016 / 12:15 pm

      Definitely looking forward to warmer weather for picnics, although we did get out yesterday for a wonderful walk from Polstead, with sunshine and a brilliant blue sky. Went for the walk after an early lunch though, rather than risk getting too cold.

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