Cutting food costs in January

Picture of the inside of my fridge for a post about cutting food costs in January

Cutting food costs by using what we already have

I’m keen to cut our food costs during January, after splurging on food over Christmas.

We hosted hordes of people, and I planned for more meals than we actually ate!

After all the celebrations, I could do with shrinking both my food bills and my waistline.

Tips for cutting food costs

“Cutting food costs” is pretty vague, so here’s what I’ve started doing during the first week of January:

  1. Use what we already have. No point buying yet more food if there’s loads we can eat at home! Luckily after going overboard in December, no one’s going to starve.
  2. Start with a stock check. I’ve been through our kitchen cupboards, fridge and freezer, making a list of what we have. I even cleaned the shelves and drawers as I went along, for extra smugness.
  3. Jot down meal ideas. To avoid ‘what on earth are we going to eat?’ panic when facing an emptier fridge than normal.
  4. Focus on food that needs using fast. No point throwing money in the bin, if I can make meals before the food goes off.
  5. Pull stuff that needs using first to the front of the fridge. Practical way to remind myself what needs using up.
  6. Draw up a list of abandoned ingredients. Some food has been hanging around because we don’t like it so much, or I’m not sure how to cook it. Making a list will prompt me to find ways to use it. Oh yes, I will use that frozen spinach, red lentils and leftover mincemeat. See the end of this post for a previous list of abandoned ingredients
  7. Swap and substitute. Rather than buying new food, I’ve been racking my brains for substitutes we already have. So for example, instead of giving the kids ham sandwiches for lunch, I made tuna and sweetcorn rolls from the tins in the cupboard and rolls in the freezer. Also used bacon as a ham substitute on Saturday’s home-made pizzas.
  8. Buy what’s needed, not what’s run out. This is what really makes the difference: only buying the extra ingredients to make meals, not automatically replacing things that run out or stocking up on other stuff ‘just in case’.
  9. Stop shopping. Surprise, surprise – if I don’t go into a supermarket, I buy less. So I’m trying to make fewer trips. Even yellow-stickered bargains add up.
  10. Stick to a list. I’ve stuck a piece of scrap paper to the fridge, to keep a running list of essential shopping. Hoping this will avoid the ‘damn I’ve forgotten the dishwasher tablets‘ moments, and the top up shops that turn expensive.

Previous post: 80+ ways to save money on your food shopping

Picture of a home made pizza for my post on cutting food costs in January

Swapping in bacon, using up pineapple

Cutting food waste: could do better

Sadly, some stuff had gone over, forgotten in the festive frenzy. The ‘Christmas veg soup’, whizzed up from leftover roast potatoes, Brussel sprouts, carrots and parsnips just wasn’t good any more. A squidgy satsuma, last turkey fragments and some over-brown bananas also bit the dust. I also finally ditched the jars of solid strawberry toffee, after my first failed attempt at making jam.

More on my jam disaster

Now I’ve done my stock check and sorted out the fridge, I’m hoping to have less food waste during January.

Dilemma when using stuff up

I’m also aware that I mustn’t use cutting food costs as an excuse to scarf down the less (ahem) healthy items. Fear the ingredients for December plans including trifle, extremely chocolatey pudding and a gingerbread house don’t appear on many diet plans… So if I want to shrink my waistline as well as our shopping bills, I need to either freeze stuff or feed it to other people.

Picture of the ingredients for chicken, chorizo and potatoes for my post on cutting food costs in January

Prepping the slow cooker for a meal to return to

Main meals so far

Anyway, one week in, and we’re doing pretty well. We generally eat some combination of toast and cereal for breakfast, and I’ve been using up odds and ends for lunch.

Main meals for our family of four have mainly been based around stuff unearthed from the freezer:

  • New Year’s Eve: Grilled yellow-stickered salmon steaks with new potatoes, carrots and leftover broccoli & cauliflower cheese
  • New Year’s Day: Left over turkey, bacon and leeks in cheesy sauce with rice
  • Jan 2: My Mum took us out for a meal at the end of her stay
  • Jan 3: One pan haddock with chorizo, new potatoes and green beans
  • Kan 4: Pasta with bolognese sauce
  • Jan 5: Home-made pizzas with salad
  • Jan 6: Slow cooker chicken, chorizo and potato stew with green beans

On Sunday, we splashed out on fish and chips and ice cream cones during a family day out in Aldeburgh. Not ideal from either a spending less or slimming more perspective, but much enjoyed! Ah well, that’s real life for you, and I’m counting it as eating out rather than food shopping.

The other reality is coping with one particularly picky eater. So when the rest of us had salmon steaks I did fishfingers for my daughter, and she had a couple of cheese omelettes when we were eating the haddock and chicken and chorizo.

Food shopping

On the shopping front, my mum bought a few things for us before  she left – fruit juice, a box of cereal, chicken slices, eggs and satsumas.

Otherwise, we’ve only had to buy milk and I made a single trip to the Co-op. Went in for tinned tomatoes and tomato puree but then couldn’t resist various yellow-snickered bargains (doh). So far we’ve been able to rely on fresh fruit and veg we already had, topped up with a tin of peaches, frozen raspberries, frozen peas and raisins.

Total food shopping to end 6 January: £13.66

And so?

Cutting food spending in the first week of January really hasn’t been too hard. We already had loads of stuff in the house. I had all the items for several meals planned for December, which didn’t get eaten.

But now we’re nearing the end of the obvious meals, so I reckon next week will be trickier. More of the fresh food is running out and I’ll need some extra items. If I’m going to stick to my resolution, I have to plan ahead rather than chucking my normal shopping in the trolley. Will update next week on how I get on!


Now – over to you. Any top tips on using up food in the house? Do share in the comments, I’d love to hear!

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Pinterest sized image of the food in our fridge, for my post on cutting food costs in January

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  1. Sam from Swimming
    7th January 2019 / 2:53 pm

    Red lentils are awesome! I bulk out anything thats going to simmer with them- makes mince go further and gets secret fibre into the kids. Great for “fridge soup” as adds a bit of substance too.

    • Faith
      9th January 2019 / 12:48 pm

      Huh. Must trying adding them to spag bol. Have a good recipe for bacon and lentil soup, thanks for the reminder, must whack some of that on!

  2. Shirley
    7th January 2019 / 6:51 pm

    Good luck with Next Week.You made lots of lovely meals with leftovers whilst still catering for individual tastes.

    • Faith
      9th January 2019 / 12:48 pm

      Aw thanks Shirley. Couple of days in and we’re not doing too badly. Even managed a trip to the Co-op without going crazy!

  3. Gill
    8th January 2019 / 8:21 am

    Leftover mincemeat is great to stuff baked apples, far nicer than just raisins or sultanas on their own. BTW, I urge you to make your own mincemeat using Delia’s recipe, it’s far less syrupy than bought stuff and I swear you will never buy a jar again. Her recipe makes quite a lot but it keeps for at least a year and is very gift-able if you bling up the jar but only if you make one tweak.

    I’ve been making it for about 25 years following the instruction to bake the mincemeat in it’s mixing bowl for a couple of hours on a really low heat to melt the suet so it coats all the fruit to make it store well. This doesn’t look attractive in a jar so for the last few years I’ve just put it in jars covered with the wax discs as soon as it’s mixed and it keeps for over a year and looks far nicer. I’ve never disputed a Delia recipe before!

    • Faith
      9th January 2019 / 12:49 pm

      Thanks so much for the mincemeat recipe recommendation, I’ve never tried making my own. And your recipe tweak sounds like it makes life easier too, bonus!

  4. Becky
    9th January 2019 / 7:17 pm

    Hi Faith

    I love your blog and regularly check in for updates, thank you 🙂 – I use this recipe from the BBC website to use up jars of mincemeat, I simply replace the ingredients in the middle with the mincemeat, soooo good! :
    Best wishes, Becky

  5. Eloise (
    11th January 2019 / 2:03 pm

    A tortilla or crustless quiche is my favourite way to use up leftovers, and a pack of filo pastry is really useful as it can turn small leftover bits into tarts, pasties etc. I have bought very little this month so far and I reckon we will be able to get to the end of January using up the contents of the freezer.

    • Faith
      16th January 2019 / 5:40 am

      Sounds a delicious way to use up leftovers. Good luck lasting to the end of January from your freezer!

  6. Sue
    14th January 2019 / 8:18 am

    I used to put a handful of oats into 1lb of minced meat to make it stretch further when feeding my family on a very small income.

    • Faith
      16th January 2019 / 5:39 am

      Thanks for the tip Sue! Handy as I often eat porridge for breakfast, so usually have some oats.

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    30th May 2024 / 12:00 pm

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