Half way through January, and half way through my attempts to cut food costs during January by using up the contents of our fridge, freezer and kitchen cupboards.
Here’s a quick update on how it’s going.
The first week was a breeze, while I was still cooking meals planned over Christmas, but never eaten.
Previous post: Cutting food costs in January
The second week was always going to be trickier, once the fresh food started running out, and I was forced to fall back on stuff that had been lingering for longer. The tins lurking at the back of the cupboard. The unidentified frozen objects. The far-too-healthy stuff I wasn’t sure how to cook. The ‘don’t quite fancy that, but I’ve bought it, so we really should eat it’ ingredients.
On the plus side, the meal planning went well, apart from the night when I was felled by a nasty cold (so pasta pesto for everyone else).
I hardly threw anything away, only the last remaining slice of wafer thin chicken, a bashed nectarine, mouldy satsuma and the last of an iceberg lettuce. I’m pleased that we managed to use up leftovers, and without me just sitting in front of the fridge eating stilton with a spoon.
But when it comes to shopping less – oh dear. I warn about extra top up shops that turn expensive, then did exactly that.
Previous post: 80+ ways to save money on your food shopping
What worked well
- Slow cooker soup. I got back in the swing of making soup, first bacon and red lentil, then a winter veg soup using up the last parsnip, wilting onions, broccoli stalk, couple of wonky carrots and a few small potatoes.
- Leftovers for lunch. Several main meals reappeared as packed lunches, which my husband always prefers to sandwiches. So the slow cooker chicken & chorizo and the quiche both covered lunches too, and I used rice from one night to make egg fried rice with turkey the next day.
- Packed lunches when out and about. I’m pleased we managed to stick to packed lunches during my work trip to Manchester, and during our family day out in London. Saves a bundle compared to eating out! Even pushed the boat out on yellow-stickered smoked salmon and bagels for the London trip, and made a lemon drizzle cake.
- Planning ahead. I made quiche to feed the family while I was away in Manchester (which also helped use up some Christmas cream, cheese and bacon) and made meatballs before our day out, so we had something to return to.
- Combined small quantities. If we didn’t have enough to feed all four of us, I combined what we did have. So the sausages with mash were a mix of chipolatas and the remains of a packet of standard size sausages. Another meal, I mixed up the last small quantities of frozen peas, green beans and broccoli.
- Hit list ingredients. I made inroads into the stack of frozen turkey slices, part cook baguettes and bag of red lentils. I also finally attempted a recipe using tinned sardines and tinned potatoes I’d been putting off for ages. Almost all the Christmas leftovers have been consumed, although there’s still some Christmas pudding lingering in the fridge. Now I need to tackle some of the food that’s been around for longer. Stuff like lasagne sheets, pearl barley and split peas in the store cupboard, and the spinach, beetroot, coconut milk and chillies in the freezer.
- Saved on shopping. I spent more than I meant to, but did include some fancier items than normal when they were half price in the reduced section. Think smoked salmon, brie, lamb and particularly tasty bacon. I also bought a few things where I’d get money off from supermarket cashback apps: £1.50 off Jude’s ice cream via Checkout Smart and tinned mackerel via Shopmium. (More on cashback apps, plus a code for a free jarof Nutella)
- Used the freezer. Newly purchased yellow-stickered lamb and bacon have been stashed in the freezer. I also gave up trying to use all the Christmas cream right now, and froze the last of it in an ice cube tray.
Previous post: Bagging yellow-stickered bargains
Main meals for the second week of January
Here’s what we actually ate, as main meals for a family of four:
- Jan 7: Sausage, mash and gravy with broccoli
- Jan 8: Quiche with salad and bread and butter for the family, while I ate food from Sainsbury’s Local on the train home from Manchester
- Jan 9: Chicken breast stir fry with peppers, carrots, red onion & oyster sauce, plus rice
- Jan 10: Jacket potatoes with beans, cheese and salad (kids have roast meal at school on Thursdays)
- Jan 11: Pasta with red pesto and frozen peas while I was ill
- Jan 12: Meat balls in tomato sauce with macaroni and the last of the broccoli, green beans and frozen peas
- Jan 13: Home-made pizza with salad
- Jan 14: Sardine and potato fishcakes with beans and salad
- Jan 15: Quesadillas with cheese, ham, cucumber and tomato
As expected, I spent a more on food shopping in the second week of January than the £13.66 spent in week one.
However, I didn’t intend to spend quite so much!
I bought a few things from Sainsbury’s Local near Euston station, to cover my train trip back from Manchester (£4.95) plus milk on the way home (£1.59). The next day a quick trip for fresh food expanded into yellow-stickered bargains (£9.08). Heading out for more milk, I added missing ingredients and stuff for packed lunches, plus fancy ice cream with £1.50 cash back from CheckoutSmart (£17.78, down to £16.28 after cashback)
My husband picked up a few items when he went out for cold medicine (£7.35), then on Sunday I went shopping with a big list, hoping to avoid further top up shops (£28, less £1 cashback on tinned mackerel). Only I forgot to get carrots, and came back the next day £7.13 lighter, due to the lure of the yellow-stickered shelves. (It would have cost £14.12 full price!)
Writing this blog has forced me to go through the painful process of adding all that up.
In a week when I was meant to be cutting food shopping, we spent £73.38 after cashback. Ouch.
Admittedly, the supplies for packed lunches cost less than eating out. We now have more fresh food in the house, and a couple more weeks to eat it. Fingers crossed, nothing will go to waste.
But still. My overall impressions are ‘wow, we drink a lot of milk’ and ‘must do better’.
Running total to end 15 January: £87.04, so just under £44 a week for a family of 4.
It seems I shouldn’t be let loose in a supermarket without a super strict list.
On the bright side, we’ve still got just over £30 of the food shopping left to eat, plus whatever else is left in the house.
So my main resolution for the third week in January is to keep up the meal planning, continue using stuff up, but try and steer clear of the shops.
Let’s see how far that food shopping can stretch!
Now – over to you. Are you trying to cut food costs too? How’s it going? Do share in the comments, I’d love to hear!
If you’d like further frugal ideas and support, do join the Much More With Less #MoneySavingYear Facebook group, where I’ll be posting daily tips to help make the most of your money. See you there!
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