My latest Mirror Online article: how I slashed our food bill by a third

Clearer cupboard at the end of February

My latest article for Mirror Online led to a rather unexpected appearance on the radio.

I was asked to write an article about our family’s month-long attempt to spend less while eating more healthily, which appeared here:
http://www.mirror.co.uk/money/how-slashed-food-bill-third-8122389

I actually made the attempt to cut our food bills during February, which is why there are references to Christmas leftovers like mincemeat and panettone.

Back in January, our food bills were running at £60 a week for our family of four, and during a month I slashed nearly a third off our shopping.

Our bills came down to just under £43 a week, of which we actually ate just under £40 a week in addition to the food already in the house, saving a third.

In the article, I run through my 10 top tips on cutting food bills:

1. Cut down, but keep cooking
2. Use up what you have at home
3. Read up on recipes and make a meal plan
4. Combine odds and ends
5. Buy what you need, not what’s run out
6. Switch to cheaper options
7. Stop shopping!
8. Plan ahead
9. Clear space, get rid of guilt
10. Find a balance

If you are interested in reading anything more about our cost cutting attempts, here are links to the posts I wrote at the time:
10 tips for cutting February’s food bills
Stock take and storecupboards starting February
First meals in February
How (not) to shop for a frugal food challenge
Frugal food and cooking ahead
Baking frenzy: biscuits, muffins and cookies
Update on cutting food bills in February
Shopping update for February’s frugal food
Meal planning from the contents of my cupboards
Cutting food bills during February – week 3 update
Cutting food bills in February – final week
Results of cutting food bills in February: saved 30%

Entertainingly, the article then led to my first appearance on the radio.

The producer of the Paul Ross breakfast show on talkRADIO got in touch. He said he’d seen my article on the Mirror website, and asked if they could chat to me on the phone about how I cut my bills.

What the hell, I thought. It might be fun. Why not?

We arranged that he’d call the next morning after I was back from the school run.

I duly got up the next day feeling rather nervous, reread my article, and tried to think of some suitable sound bites in response to questions about cutting family food bills. I wrote a quick list of the kind of meals I cooked, so I could refer to a couple of examples if needed. I even downloaded an app onto my phone so I could listen to Paul Ross, rather than the normal background murmur of Radio 4.

Finally, the phone rang, there was a quick question about if I was ready to talk to Paul, and suddenly I was listening to his programme from the phone handset rather than my mobile. Then he started doing an introduction all about saving money on food – for five days – really cheaply – and all for UNICEF and Live Below the Line…

…and suddenly I’m responding to questions on live radio not about family food bills and my Mirror article, but the charity challenge I did more than a year ago.

So that was a bit odd.

It was still great to plug Live Below the Line and UNICEF, both of which I support immensely, even if the Live Below the Line challenge didn’t run this year.

I managed to mention how value ranges can make a real difference when feeding yourself on £1 a day, which shops offer them, and how incredibly lucky I am not to have so little to spend on food permanently compared to so many billions of people elsewhere. I didn’t handle the poverty tourism question as well as I would have liked (I’ve written more coherently about it in the past here), but hey we both survived.

And suddenly he’s saying goodbye, and the producer’s back on the phone saying it might be good to talk to me another time, and I say fine, and then it’s all over.

So if anyone else wants any soundbites on cutting family food bills, and suggestions for child-friendly cheap and cheerful meals – I’m primed and ready to go!

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6 Comments

  1. 13th June 2016 / 2:17 pm

    Growing some of your own and stockpiling specials is also a great way to cut costs in the long run.

    • 15th June 2016 / 2:54 pm

      Growing your own is such good advice about cutting food costs. So far I've only managed a few herbs, plus a token tomato plant, cucumber plant, bean plant and some sadly-neglected seed potatoes. Will make more resolutions to get gardening.

  2. 13th June 2016 / 4:49 pm

    It sounds like you handled it all pretty well. They should have given you a list of questions and then you would have had the right prep for the conversation done, but it sounds like you coped admirably anyway.

    Well done.

    • 15th June 2016 / 2:56 pm

      Yes I would have loved some idea of a few questions in advance – would have tipped me off about the interest in Live Below the Line!

  3. 15th June 2016 / 3:58 pm

    I loved doing bits on radio Suffolk years ago ( on Mark Murphys breakfast programme about smallholding) but then it got earlier and earlier -6am!) so I said no-more

  4. 28th June 2016 / 6:43 pm

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