Budgeting · Food

Budgets – the food shop

We, my husband and I, are on a bit of an economy drive.

I hate economy drives.

Cutting to the chase – I need to rein in my monthly expenditure sufficiently to be able to cover the cost of our heating oil. Having looked over my monthly income, I should be able to accommodate it – and that would free up my husbands domestic budget for other expenditure

The weather has taken a dive over recent days, it’s already getting colder and my family aren’t too fussed with the idea of wearing layers instead of turning the radiators up – so I know that my budgeting has to make real inroads, so I can buy the next tank of heating oil when it runs out.

I pretty much spend all my housekeeping month on month on a regular basis. I have always routinely planned weekly meals in advance so I know what I need to buy from the supermarket – but I haven’t been particularly careful looking at what goes in to my trolley in terms of amount – I shop habitually.

I started this month a bit blase – a nip here and tuck there, surely that was all it would take? But with 2 weeks left of my month, I realise that I need to be a bit more diligent because unless I start to make some real cuts – I won’t make the month out on what I have allotted.

I decided not to rely on my old ‘go to’ recipes, which tend to include a lot of high end ingredients- so I took a look around the internet for ideas, It is pretty fertile in terms of sites devoted to helping you find recipes to fit your lifestyle, and that includes recipe designed to help budget conscious families – thank the Lord for Google.

Good To Know is one such useful site – and I went through their recipe section, looking for cheap as chips ideas that might tempt my picky eating family. It is a British site, however I don’t think that would affect it’s usefulness for a budget conscious family, any where in the Western world at any rate. It gives you a recipe, rates it according to ease and expense; tells you prep times and cooking times, and if you are in the UK – it also gives you the best ingredient prices according to standard supermarkets. You can even down load the items in to a shopping list. I liked it.

Of the 150 recipes  – I saved a few I thought were safe bets for my family. Common cheap themes were pasta dishes, cheaper cut chicken thighs and sausages – but there were enough recipes to give you a chance of finding a range of suitable options.

Many of these recipes weren’t exactly new ones – more variations on a theme of things I already do myself – but I think it helped me get into a mental groove – got me thinking about how to cook more cheaply – so it was useful to me. ( under the recipe tab – type ‘cheap’ in to the search box and it brings up a selection of c.150 recipes ostensibly for under £1 per head)

Tonight we had the Sausage, Squash and Onion Toad in the Hole – and I suppose you have to British to fancy that one! (it comes family recommended – but my family are odd, so be warned!!)

I also decided that once the recipes had been selected I had to really look at where I was buying my food from. I shop online (brilliant thing if you’re in the UK) – but my shop, week on week was costly, and despite curbing my enthusiasm for expensive treats I can do without – I wasn’t making the real cuts to cost I needed.

If you think about budget supermarket shopping in the UK,then  thoughts obviously turn to Aldi and Lidl, and that is exactly where my thoughts went.

I have shopped at Aldi many times over the years, but just recently a new Lidl was opened much nearer to us – I decided today,  armed with my recipe prints, to check out the new Lidl for the first time.

The shop was very like Aldi – actually, the layout and stock looked almost exactly the same – the shop was nice and clean and I found everything I wanted.

My total food shop for this week (not herbs, oils, spices  and such – all of which I have in my cupboard already) but the actual ingredients making up the recipes – came to £22.40. I think that was pretty impressive. What I can’t attest to right this moment is what the food quality is like – I am hopeful.

I went back to Ocado online and repeated the shop I had just done at Lidl to see how it actually compared- I deliberately chose their very cheapest option for each ingredient I had bought, which isn’t representative of what I normally do – but I thought it would be fairer. The total food shop came to £33.73.

Now I did have to drive to Lidl and  had to spend time actually ‘shopping’ – but that £11 saving felt pretty good.

The biggy to all this is that I find the most expensive element of my weekly shop isn’t actually meal time food – but all the ancilliary stuff – milk, cereal, toilet rolls, laundry powders, cleaning stuff. Having considered my shop more carefully this month, I am finding that I have already blown the weekly mental budget before I even get to ordering food for meals, so although Lidl hit the mark with food stuffs, would I dare change our standard non food items from Ocado to Lidl?


Experience tells me that it is a false economy to buy non branded laundry liquid, dishwasher tablets, favourite cereals and shampoos etc – but I am pretty sure that no one is going to quibble if I change to Lidl for toilet roll, kitchen foil, yogurts, cheese or bread for example.

So next week, if the food I bought this week turns out to be completely edible, then I might extend the shopping experience to include the no quibble items

I am pretty keen to make these stringent cuts over the next 2 weeks to keep me on budget – I have had to be much harder with myself shop wise than I imagined at the beginning of the month, but what has been interesting is that simply taking note of my shopping trolley, instead of blindly following my usual routine like a none thinking automaton, was actually a big eye opener  – in being lazy, I had also become quite wasteful money wise – and even without having to make a budget cut – it hasn’t hurt to be more awake to where my money goes.

We liked the toad in the hole btw
















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