Food can be as expensive as you want it to be. If you don’t plan, have a list or shop around then you will always pay more. Savings never fall out of the sky; you have to do a little legwork. I always use an ingredients list for the week or month, spend a little time (20 minutes on the train is all it takes) checking prices online and creating a budget for an outline menu. This habit stems from what I learnt through my childhood and later in college when money was scarce. I didn’t really cook until I went to college and subsequently travelled, discovering different flavours and techniques. Up until then I just delivered a plate to the table with very little care or attention. I discovered that you can create amazing dishes from simple ingredients and deliver mouth-watering results without breaking the bank.
To come in at £50 you have to look at less expensive options, broaden the supermarkets you visit and be inventive. Frozen fish, turkey mince and eggs are cheaper, healthier and lower in fat than many other proteins. Herbs from the garden are a must and a herb rack is an investment worth stocking up on over time. Frozen works in your favour especially if there are deals on fish or veg. Markets still provide good value on certain seasonal items but you have to check prices against other outlets. Ethics and a tight budget don’t always go hand in hand – consider organic veg but also consider the price, on certain items I wouldn’t compromise, I always use free range eggs and you just need to shop around to get good deals. 15 mixed free range eggs for £2 from Asda was my choice over the month. I know from previous experience that stocking up on rice and noodles and spices is usually much more cost-effective from the Asian and Indian wholesalers and even though I didn’t get a chance for this project I would recommend doing this when your rice/noodles, soy sauce and hotter spices next run out.
eatfor50list printable shopping list
I conciously decided during shopping trips that I might overspend on certain items if it would give me a saving over 5 weeks (5th week I would eat some meals frozen from the previous weeks recipes cooked) and as you see from the leftover column I have at least another 4 to 5 days of food available and some items that could last for months. On paper I overspent by £6 but in real food terms I shall underspend in future weeks as I have built up my store cupboard allowing me to save over time. Buying a larger bag of rice will save you money in the longrun, especially if you vary your carbs week on week. I categorised the spend list broadly as follows; Fruit & Veg (23.2%), Fridge & Dairy (12.5%), Protein (33.7%), Store Cupboard mainly Carbs and Sugar (30.5%).
Even though eating for 50 a month is possible as I have shown… I hope!, I will raise my future budget to £60 a month with a £20 extra put aside for household items if needed (cleaning materials, tea/coffee, toiletries and sundry items with the odd bottle of wine on offer of course). The changes I will make to the list are small ones,adding in some dark chocolate, additional herbs, some flour and bicarbonate of soda to make my own soda bread. I will also increase the amount of fruit purchases. What this exercise has taught me is to break habits, be more varied in my choices, keep my eyes open for offers and opportunities, to pull out old recipes and to cook larger quantities to make my own frozen meals allowing myself some time-off from cooking when I need it.