I mentioned recently that Goodtoknow had challenged me to feed my family for 5 days (3 meals plus snacks) for £50. Regular readers will know that is our normal budget for seven days and also has to include all of the household ‘stuff’ so I was confident that I wasn’t going to run into many problems.
I’ve spoken about shopping and cooking on a budget before and, even though my main supermarket has changed since then, I still stand by and follow many of the points I raised. The one big change since I wrote that is I am now an avid meal planner and have written about it both here on the blog and over at Foodies100.
I mentioned the challenge over on Facebook and it prompted some really interesting discussions so I wanted to talk about feeding your family on a budget in more detail. Firstly it would probably help if I lay out our circumstances.
We’re a family of 3 with both Izzy and Rich having huge appetites. Rich has a physical job and can put away a scary amount of food. Izzy is 3, need I say more? Generally I cook for four plus to ensure leftovers and also have to make sure there’s a substantial packed lunch for Rich 4 nights a week. We don’t drink, so alcohol isn’t in our usual budget, nor do we have any pets. I usually spend around £40 a week on our ‘main’ food shop and about £10 on bread / milk / fresh stuff top ups throughout the week.
There was some disbelief on Facebook that £50 was an adequate budget, with some spending double or more each week. But there were an awful lot of people in the same boat. I know that there are many people in the food blogging community that work to a similar budget and we’ve certainly had times when our budget was even less.
So how do you bring the budget down if you need to? For me, the three things that helped reduce our food expenditure have been meal planning, changing our supermarket and knowing where I can pick up things for the least amount of money.
Aldi is by far the cheapest supermarket for us. I was shocked how much I saved for the first few weeks and now wince at the thought of how much more I’ll be spending if I have to shop at certain other supermarkets. If I’m to be 100% honest with you then I’m a Waitrose girl at heart and would shop there on a regular basis if I could, rather than having to limit myself to an occasional, budgeted, visit. There used to be a lot of snobbery around budget supermarkets but that is rapidly changing and the amount of Cath Kidston bags I see around the store is increasing each week.
Arming myself with my meal plan and shopping list keeps me focused but also gives me the wriggle room for those treats that seem to find their own way into they trolley. I won’t go into meal planning in more detail here as you can see how I work it in previous posts.
The other, and possibly more important, aspect of keeping our budget is down is that I generally know where I can pick things up for the cheapest price and shop around. The hardest part of the Goodtoknow challenge for me was being limited to one shop. I’m used to shopping in several places for different items knowing that I can get a better deal.
Discount stores such as B&M, Home Bargains and Poundland all carry branded stock at, often, significantly reduced prices. If you’d told me a few years ago that I would be able to tell you that our favourite toothpaste is well over a pound in most supermarkets, a pound in Poundland (obviously) and 79p in B&M I would have laughed and told myself I have too much time on my hands.
I know the time aspect is a luxury but our lifestyle at the moment means that I’m in our nearest town most days so it works for us. And admittedly it takes time to build up the knowledge as well but it makes a huge difference over the year. Knowing that 4 pints of milk are £1 in Asda or Aldi and that 6 free range eggs are 95p in Aldi gives me a saving of around 50p each time. Those 50p’s add up. Keeping them in my purse means more treats. And more chocolate.
Of course the shopping side is just one aspect of cooking on a budget but without getting to grips with that then all of the budget cooking tips in the world aren’t going to get you that far. I’ll be talking about how we manage to have a varied and healthy diet with plenty of cake on a budget in another post.
In the meantime if you want to see how we got on with the challenge then head on over to the Goodtoknow site where you’ll find 3 other food bloggers sharing their experiences too.