#FrugalFebruary – Food and groceries

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The first blog post in this series looks at one our most significant spending categories: food and groceries.
After your mortgage (or rent) and any car payments you might have,  your food and grocery bill may be one of the largest items in your budget. But how can we combine our desire to eat healthily with our quest to keep costs down?

How we do it

First of all, eating healthily comes at a price, so don’t beat yourself up if your grocery bill is one of your highest expenses. We work hard to stick to our budget each month. There are some things you can do, however.

Shop online

Although I’ve previously written about slow shopping (which I do enjoy), for this significant spending category, I shop online with my recipe book in front me.

Walk around the kitchen and look in the cupboards before ordering anything. You may have enough of a particular item or have forgotten that you’d stocked up.

I typically buy what I need to make 3 or 4 different recipes (plus one dessert or sweet snack such as energy bites). After that, I improvise with what I have around.

When your online basket is complete, check if you can substitute anything you have selected for a cheaper version. Maybe you don’t really need something at all? Keep an eye on the way the value of an item is listed (i.e. £ per 100g or £ per 1kg). These aren’t always comparable. Offers on things you normally buy are worth having, but don’t be tricked into buying something you don’t need if it’s going to end up wasted.

Next time you shop, check what you still have. That way, you can make new recipes with existing supplies just by supplementing existing food items with one or two fresh ingredients. You’ll save money and use up what you have.

Finally, if you can’t shop online, don’t go to the store when hungry. You will spend more.

Watch the quantity or size if you’re buying online

Online shopping can be deceptive. Make sure you’re ordering size you want – check the weight or size before you order.

Consider the delivery charges

We paid £60 for an annual delivery pass with Morrisons. It’s well worth it when you consider that a premium delivery slot could add £5 to your bill. We benefit from the logistics of Ocado* (Morrisons’ logistics supplier) but pay Morrisons prices for the food.

Learn about food

When the fridge looks empty, an experienced cook will identify possible combinations that will help feed the family until the next order comes.

Eggs left over with a chunk of cheese? Make a cheese soufflé (I can do this, so you can!). Mixed beans in a can and some red peppers in the fridge? Concoct a chilli. The BBC Good Food website has some simple and tasty recipes that you can reply upon when you only have some carrots and a bag of lentils to inspire you.

Really use your recipe books

I’m down to just five books now and tend to get my culinary inspiration from one of them each week. I place a sticky tab against the recipes for which I’ve ordered ingredients, so I can remember why I bought a particular food item when it arrives.

Also, because these favourite books use the same ingredients in lots of recipes (Tamari, for example), I often have the basics in my storecupboard.

Make two recipes out of one

I’ve just made red pepper relish to go with home-made falafel. When warm, the relish will make a yummy pasta sauce. So, provided we go steady with the sauce on the falafel, we’ll have tomorrow’s dinner from this meal, as well.

Beans on toast never hurt anyone

You don’t have to deliver a gourmet meal to the family every night. There’s no reason why you can’t have something super simple. Some friends of ours always make a pizza on a Friday. When our fresh food stocks are down, we’re more inclined to make an omelette or simply have beans on toast. Boiled eggs and soldiers are yummy! These dishes are filling, homely and will be kind to your budget.

How do you do it?

How do you combine a desire for healthy eating with keeping a check on the pennies? I’d love to know! Do get in touch.

 

*Ocado is the UK’s premium online grocery store. Morrisons has both a physical and online supermarket presence.

 

Coming up:

Next, we look forward to a guest blog post from Cheryl Magyar of Handcrafted Travellers who offers 8 tops tips on reducing everyday disposables.

If you haven’t yet done so, Join the community for unique content and news updates.

 

8 thoughts on “#FrugalFebruary – Food and groceries

  1. The biggest challenge for me when it comes to cooking is remembering not to pick crazy recipes for which I need a ton of new ingredients. I can spend so much money on spices, especially. I am now trying to find recipes with basic ingredients that work with what I already have in my spice cabinet.

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    • That’s very true indeed. I use a lot of spices, but there have been times when I have bought something exotic (rose water, for example) that I haven’t used again. I think a Spice Sharing Collective is what’s needed! I once persuaded my local cocktail bar to sell me a measure of a particular spirit that I needed to make a fancy pudding. No more!

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      • I could start the Spice Sharing Collective! Fortunately we now have a great bulk food store in our town. If I want to try something new or unusual I can buy just enough for that single recipe. Online groccery shopping really helps me save too – no impulse buying, I stick strictly to the list. We only have one online supermarket in New Zealand and I find the fruit and vege rubbish, so I don’t use it regularly. A fruit and vege co-op has just started locally. I am thinking of joining that and doing online shopping fortnightly to reduce delivery costs (no flat fee available unfortunately). I do love a good wander around the supermarket though. I go in the evenings when there is no one about, bliss.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This is such a great post.

    I particularly love the “beans on toast” part.You’re absolutely right that we don’t have to eat gourmet meals at every sitting. On nights when we’re either not up to cooking a “large” meal or we’re running low on groceries I head to the freezer and pull something out to heat up. To save some money I tend to buy in bulk. Most recently I bought 6 heads of broccoli for 2$ because they were just on the verge. I made a pasta sauce with it and froze it in 4 batches. Basically, once you’ve thawed it out and heated quickly we can put it on pasta, rice or beans and we’ve got a relatively healthy meal that didn’t cost a fortune.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, Jenny. You are lucky to get Broccoli. Here, in the UK, we are on rations, as the poor Winter in Spain has impacted on crops! Take a look! http://tinyurl.com/z8e2spo

      My mum freezes leftovers successfully. She calls them ‘mystery boxes,’ which are eaten up when stocks are low. I have been more successful freezing veggie dishes such as dahl, which I defrost in the kitchen at work to enjoy at lunchtime.

      Liked by 1 person

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