This January is the first one in a very long time that although we’re still on a budget we won’t have to panic about where next meal is coming from.
Last year – I had only just gone back to work after being off for twelve months on maternity leave, we’d just had Christmas on one wage and it was that horrible six week month. We had just enough money to pay our bills and keep our heads above water but there was no extra money in the budget to put petrol in the car or food in the fridge. We were walking any journeys with a short distance making sure the fuel we had in the car could get us to work and back and buying none perishables wherever possible for the best prices we could.
Somehow we managed to find some extra bits of cash lying about to top up our food supplies. But when I say extra cash – I mean that £2.50 in your coat pocket you’d forgotten about or the loose change in the ashtray in the car.
We’ve paid for shopping at the DIY till in coppers before… Every little helps as they say.
The last week of any month in our house is known as ‘interesting meal week’, those weeks when you have to literally make a meal out anything. I’ve shared a few posts in the past (link above to all) on how to make cheap, easy filling meals. And I even went as far as to analyse the cost of someone’s junk food cupboard and make a nutritious family meal plan for a week for the same cost. You can read them here and here.
But I know what it’s like… this time of year even something as small as a fiver can mean the difference between sink or swim. Mr Vista and I have been together for almost half of my life (that’s full life, not just adult!) and the first few years that we were living together we didn’t have much and we were not careful with what we did have.
We lived on spaghetti and jarred value sauces and value noodles and crisps for twelve months near enough. We didn’t eat breakfast or lunch some days in favour of going on holiday or on a night out. Some months we didn’t pay our bills, some months we paid them twice because we had no choice. We put on weight and got into debt.
We were graduates with non-graduate jobs and non-graduate wages. Sometimes it was tough. Really tough.
And when we decided to start being sensible and
sort ourselves out grown up a bit things got tougher. But we learned to ‘cut our cloth’ as my Nan calls it.
Over a decade later and we are as close to debt free as we’ve ever been (and closer than most households for that matter) since the bank gave us both an overdraft. Had we not had debt and had we been a little more sensible from the start money wouldn’t have been an issue for us for a very long time now.
Would I go back and change it if I could?
Not a chance!
We’ve learned the hard way, but we have learned how to be frugal but still live. When to pay on credit and when to pay cash – and if we don’t have the money, we just go without. It’s not difficult!
What I’m getting at is that I understand. I understand that sometimes we have to feed the family for a an entire month on a tenner. It’s hard.
Not impossible. But hard.
Throw in specific dietary needs and life styles into the mix and food plans and shopping can be a nightmare even without being a budget.
With this in mind, I’m going to share with you a family meal plan for two weeks for a family of four for as close to twenty quid as I can get. This will be following guidelines for anyone that needs a menu to be flexible for anyone on the family ‘free from’ (Mr Vista is gluten free), slimming world friendly (because it’s difficult to have a healthy lifestyle on a budget) and all the essentials your little people need in a balanced diet.
I’ll include a shopping list for an online supermarket because I find it more cost effective to shop online (and then I’m not tempted for BOGOF’s in the sweet’s aisle), but I’ll ensure that all items are available in Lidl and Aldi for anyone that shops in those stores. I love them, but can’t always get to them.
But for now, here are some top tips for grocery shopping on a budget:
- Shopping early evening is an ideal time to stock up on heavily reduced items that are dated (look out for the yellow stickers). Ideal if you are going to eat it that day or to freeze. You can take your chances with ‘out of date’ fruit or veg, but I usually cook and freeze fruit and veg in portions that day so that it isn’t out of date when it goes into the freezer. It’ll be good for up to three months once it’s frozen!
- That said – I do most of my shopping online and only pop into supermarkets to get ‘top up’ items that I’ve run out of and forgotten to add to my virtual basket. Milk, fruit – that sort of stuff. If I go into the store I will pick up end of aisle special offers that I don’t need. The items on my list will total £5… but I’ll spend £20!
- Again, shopping early evening is great to grab those yellow sticker bargains, but remember to EAT before you SHOP! Shopping at tea time when I haven’t eaten since lunch can spell disaster for me!
- You can get online shopping delivered for as little as £1 if you are flexible on the times. Weekday evenings are fine for us as one of us is usually in as Little Miss Vista is in bed by 7 pm. Even with £1 delivery that’s a saving of around £19 for me because I won’t pick up items I don’t need.
- When shopping online remember to tick the box for delivery without bags or the supermarket will add a bag charge. Simply keep your bags for life behind the front door in time for your shopping’s arrival.
- You can freeze anything , so if there is an everyday staple on offer and you have the room and money, stock up!
- Make a meal plan and stick to it where possible. And where possible, plan in left overs for lunch the next day.
- Go veggie at least once per week! Not only will this boost any slimming plans, it will encourage healthy eating and be a cheap meal!
- Use online tools such as My Supermarket and Money Supermarket to get the best price for you shopping.
- Invest in some measuring cups and spoons (mine are from the poundshop!) to make your food go further.
- Keep up with a few budgeting, food and family blogs to inspire your meals plans and pick up coupons, tips and bargains daily! I love Frugal Queen and The Prudent Home-maker.
I hope these tips help you out, and I’ll see you tomorrow with a meal plan and shopping list.
Thanks for reading: Tricks to Reduce Your Grocery Bill
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