Three weeks in, and here’s an update on my attempts to cut food costs during January.
Previous post: What are your financial resolutions?
I’ve been trying to use up the food we already had in our kitchen cupboards, fridge and freezer. This worked well during the first week of January, but I spent more than I meant to during the second week!
So in week three I’ve managed to rein in the spending (slightly). Think it helped we ate a couple of meals elsewhere, but it definitely didn’t help that I had a foul cold.
Here’s how we got on!
What I learnt
- Preparing ahead. Getting my act together to make a mega mac and cheese before disappearing off to London definitely helped feed the family back at home.
- Grappling with abandoned ingredients. I finally cooked the chickpea, lentil and spinach curry I’d been planning since the start of January, to help use up some of our red lentils and frozen spinach. Turns out it tasted better than expected and also covered some extra meals!
- Buying in bulk. During a cost cutting challenge, there’s always a trade off between buying smaller quantities (smaller spend in the short term) and buying in bulk (smaller spend long term, due to lower cost /kg). It goes against my frugal leanings to buy tiny bags at a high cost per kilo, so yes we did invest in a 2kg bag of rice and 200 tea bags, which will keep us going way longer than January. Better for the budget overall, even if it doesn’t slash January’s spending.
- Meals out. Couple of highlights this week, when my husband and I got to eat out for an early Valentine’s Day meal thanks to Buyagift* (review to follow!). We also went round for a family meal with the grandparents next day.
- More variety. Buying less has actually led to me eating more interesting lunches, as I wasn’t just buying extra bread and ham on autopilot. Instead, I actually got round to cooking soup, trying different combinations or making main meals big enough to leave leftovers.
- Tricky when I’m ill. This week I’ve been laid low by a cold, and boy am I fed up with it! A couple of the meals I’d planned went out of the window as I was just too ill to cook. Made me glad that when I did, I made large enough quantities of the macroni cheese and veggie curry that they stretched to more than one meal. Also reminded me that we didn’t have much around, apart from fishfingers, that my husband could cook in a hurry. In future, I could do with bulking cooking and freezing portions, or snapping up some yellow-stickered ready meals, as a back up plan.
- Even bargains add up. Just a note on food beyond grocery shopping. I raced off to London without a packed lunch, which wasn’t my best plan. Even though I tried a bunch of frugal tactics – sandwich meal deal at the station, half price chocs for the interval with a Hotel Chocolat offer, £1.99 McDonalds meal with a Metro voucher, hot chocolate without cake at Caffe Nero – I still spent nearly £12 during the day. Will blame it on the train Kit Kat…
Main meals for the third week of January
Here’s what we actually ate, as main meals for a family of four:
- Jan 16: Grilled salmon steaks with rice and frozen peas
- Jan 17: Mega macaroni cheese with bacon, breadcrumbs & peas, served with salad, while I was out in London
- Jan 18: Meal out at the Ickworth Hotel* for a review post! Children ate at their grandparents.
- Jan 19: Main meal for lunch at the grandparents, leftover macaroni cheese in the evening
- Jan 20: Home-made pizza with salad
- Jan 21: Chickpea, lentil and spinach curry with rice for adults, fishfingers, baked beans and rice for the children
- Jan 22: Steak in peppercorn sauce with wedges, green beans and carrots
- Jan 23: Chickpea, lentil and spinach curry with rice for adults, taramasalata, pitta bread and pepper sticks for the children
After our shopping bills were more than expected last week, at £73.38, I was determined to spend less, with mixed success.
I did (largely) manage to steer of the Co-op. I figured if I didn’t go shopping, I couldn’t spend so much. So I restricted myself to two trips, spending £9.26 and £12.43. This include £5.50 on half-price, yellow-stickered steaks for a celebratory meal!
My husband picked up milk and snacks at Tesco (£3.60) and headed to Morrisons for pizza-making supplies (£18.75 with extras). He also did a mercy dash to Sainsbury’s for cold medicine and an easy meal (£12.35).
Yet again, it came to a bit more than I was expecting, but luckily not quite so much as last week.
Total spend: £56.79
Running total to end 23 January: £143.83, which works out at £48 a week for our family of four.
We managed to spend less this week, but I’d like to cut that further during the final week in January.
Of the nearly £144 we’ve spent, we still have £33 of food left, plus anything we already had in the house.
I’ve done a quick meal plan, and hopefully we shouldn’t have to buy much more beyond fresh fruit and veg, milk and bread. We’re looking forward to a weekend visitor, but the freezer should come to the rescue. By digging out fish and chicken for fish pie on Saturday night and roast chicken for Sunday lunch, we shouldn’t blow the budget.
Now – over to you. How are you finding any attempts to spend less on food during January? Anything that’s worked really well? Do share in the comments, I’d love to hear!