Food is a big, expensive post in the budget for a lot of us. It is often a big post, but also a post it is easy to reduce! I know it is perfectly possible to live and eat well on a tighter budget, by planning and not going for the most expensive options. Sometimes the cost of food in a household is really too high because we have very expensive eating habits, have a big family to feed, cannot cook or simply have no plan in our shopping! Though we all need food, and healthy food is really important for us at any age, eating well do not have to equal spending a fortune!
I live in a house full of constantly hungry people, and I love food as well! We all like to eat tasty food and as a grown-up I consider it important that the food we eat is good for us as well as filling. Especially my two sons seem to have hollow legs, they can pack away the most incredible helpings, just to start browsing in the kitchen again a couple of hours later. It is great and I so want them to eat! They are growing, they are active and I would have been the first parent ever to want my kids to starve! But I want them to fill up on food that is good for them, not food that is in fact harmful to them. I could spend a fortune on my food budget if I do not watch what I shop!
Think about your spending habits when it comes to groceries and see what you can do in order to reduce your monthly outgoings in the supermarkets! Here are some of my top tips:
- Make a meal plan for a week. Personally my plans will be based around what I have in the freezer and cupboards.. I am pretty good at mealplans and shopping food on offer, but not always great at using what I have in the house. I am going to look in my freezers (in fact, I have to see what I can find. I suspect it is a lot! I have bought a lot on sale and frozen down leftovers when I have had extras. I have some ideas about what is hiding in my deep freezer (also called doomdaysfreezer:-)) and in my stand up freezer. But the truth is, it is a bit of a mystery to me…What I do know, is that at some stage I thought it worthwhile buying it or freezing the leftover from a meal, so it must be worth eating what I already have! It makes me slightly ashamed.. I have just filled up without knowing what I have… But it is never too late, I will start going through it and I am going to do the same as I have done in my cupboards, make an inventory:-)
- Go shopping once a week. That is the goal, but know I might struggle. We are 5 people in our house, my sons eat pretty much the double of the average grownup, that kind of means I am shopping for 7. My fridge is big, but can only take so much! It does also work to go shopping twice a week, but take cash out once a week and not spend more than that. I have an envelope for these money, separating this expense makes it easy to see what I have spent.
- Go shopping on your own. I will do my best to go shopping on my own. I love my kids but I do at times give into the “can we buy” questions, and leave the shop with a lot more than planned and not always what I had planned. This was especially the case when they were younger, they are a lot better now. But I clearly recall walking around the supermarket with 3 kids who all wanted something. My husband was working away for a few years from when our kids were 1,3 and 5, and though I tried getting my mum to look after them when I was going to the shops, I did bring them when I had to. I had the 2 youngest in the trolley and the oldest walking, my stress level was skyhigh and I ended up with more rubbish than I care to remember.
- Stock up on basics. Go for the supermarkets’ own brand, they are normally cheaper. Get plenty of what you know you will use, it will save you short trips to the shops for little things you have forgotten, trips where you also buy all the little things you fancy and really do not need…
- Before you go to the shop, check your meal plan and your food inventory. Make a list of what you need to get. But no matter what else you do, EAT before you leave the house and enter any supermarket! You know the feeling of leaving the shop with a lot of things you fancy eating there and then, food that is not terribly good for you? Food that will not feed you for that many days? I am sure we all do it from time to time, but it makes me utterly miserable and grumpy thinking about how much money I have wasted doing just that.
- Always check the prices before you put anything in your trolley, and go for the cheapest option. Add up quickly in your head as you go along, it will save you some surprises at the checkout.
- Buy in bulks. Go directly to the farmers when fruit and vegetables are in season and buy a lot. Just make sure to use it or freeze it before it goes off if you do not manage to eat it in time.
- Do not throw any food out, use it before it gets too old and freeze it if you need to.
- Though making leftover meals out of leftovers are great, it is nothing wrong about heating up what you have left and eat the same meal. And you do not all need to have the same for dinner.
- Learn from your grandmother`s cooking. My grandmother had full control over what she spent, always! When she past away, we found her food budgets for the last 80 years (she lived to be 101). She knew how to cook and hardly ever through any food out: she made fishsoup from fishbones, she made sauses and soups from the bones of chicken and other animals. The collagen is great for your bones, skin and nailsJ and you use what you have actually paid for!
- Bake your own bread. It is a lot more filling, healthier, CHEAPER and you save money on spreads because you fill up on the bread not on cheeses and nice hams. I was fortunate enough to get my parents kitchen machine a few years back. It is a 35 years old Ankarsrum kitchen machine and looks very much it`s age, but it works! (touch wood) I add the ingredients into the bowl, turn the machine on for 10 minutes, let the dough rise and let the machine work for another 10 minutes before I put the dough into bread tins (or make pizza buns out of it). It is ever so easy and I have promised myself a pretty new one once this breaks. I honestly think this kitchen machine is worth it, considering the long life my current one is enjoying. My old machine might not have the prettiest of colours, but it is great quality! My next one is going to have a pretty colour, though my kids might not think it is pretty in 30 years time.
- Cut back on soft drinks, crisp and readymade food. It is not good for you anyway.
- Cut back on alcohol. It costs a lot of money, full of calories as well.
- Invest in a biggish freezer! The good thing about freezing food is that the food keeps fine for a long time. You can freeze leftovers and use them on days when there is little time to cook. You can make use of good offers, you might not use the food this week, but want to save it for later. Food that is close to sellbydate are often on offer, and there is no problem freezing it and using it months later. How long depends on the actual food and the temperature you have set your freezer at. I have my chest freezer at the coldest temperature possible, whereas my stand up freezer doesn`t get that cold, so I tend to put things I am going to use fairly soonish there. Fish will last for up to a year in my view, fresh meat that is properly backed can stay in a cold freezer for up to two years before it gets a funny tast. Mixed food are best eaten within half a year, but I think it is very much up to your common sense and your own nose to decide if you can still eat it. But again, the bottom line when it comes to saving money on food, is knowing what you have in the house, use it, buy what you need and no more. It is pretty annoying to find a nice piece of meat that you have saved for something special at the bottom of your fridge, and you wonder how long it has been there.. So keep an inventory of your fridge and use it well!
- Your wallet and waistline will be very grateful if you stopped eating junkfood. On top of that, I dare say it does not taste that great, unless you are really hungry! And just to put you off junk food: my brother has a friend who is now 35 years old. Rake thin, burns off every calorie he eats, not fair, but there you go. As a result of being youngish and not having to worry about his calorie intake, and no sense with money, he gave into his addiction: hamburgers from fast food chains. He ate 2 of those every day for about 4 years, about a year ago he got a stroke! He was told by the doctors it was courtesy of his horrible eating habits… Poor thing, despite that he had brought it on himself. He is not the man he used to be, he is not able to work and has a problem with his short term memory. I just have to think of him every time I feel a slight temptation towards fast-food, like when I am starving and passing a fastfoodchain…
- Cook from scratch. When you know you can make big batches, do so and freeze the appropriate amount, just remember to use it:-) It will help you the days when there is very little time to cook, or when you simply have no energy for cooking. It is a lot cheaper than ready-made food from the supermarket. Cooking does not have to be that hard, we are not all masterchefs and a meal can be very simple to make, yet tasting nice and full of nutrients.
- If you are hopeless at cooking, invest in some basic cooking books. Cooking is not that hard once you get the basics of it, which quite frankly do not take that long. I am not saying it is easy to be a top chef, but most of us can manage to get some edible meals on the go without too much bother, at a much lower price than readymade meals from the supermarket or takeaways..If I was to recommend one, it would be Save with Jamie by Jamie Oliver. It is a great book, well used and much loved in my house. As with any recipe you do not need to follow these recipes entirely, but it gives you a lot of inspiration and good ideas. You might also find some useful leaflets in the supermarkets or internet sites
- Bring packed lunches and snacks to work and school. Pack them the night before; if you are anything like my family, there is never enough time in the mornings.
- Do not buy bottled water. Fill up a drink bottle with tap water and bring it with you. If you do not like the taste of your tap water, invest in a filter for your tap or add a bit of lemon in your bottle. The taste of chlorine will also go away if you leave a jug in the fridge for a couple of hours.
- Always bring your own shopping bags, might not kill your budget with a few shopping bags, but it is not necessary and certainly not good for the environment with non reusable plastic bags!!