How to manage your food budget

There are lots of things which have helped us enormously with our budgeting – not least keeping a track of what we spend on the kids (more blogs to follow!) but in the past few years, we’ve adjusted how we approach the dreaded food shop and this has had huge benefits – not least financially.

In the past, the “big shop” was haphazard – if we seemed low on stuff, I’d book a slot and stock up on what I thought was missing. Our trolley typically looked the same most of the time as we were stuck in a rut with food. Like most people, we’d eat the same 10-12 meals over and over again with little variation. It was boring and there was no excitement around dinnertime each evening. My lack of planning often resulted in either buying stuff we already had or forgetting to buy the stuff we needed. As a result, in addition to our main shop, l’d need to go on errands two or three times a week and buy what was missing, sometimes spending an extra £20 needlessly.

We were wasting money. We were bored with food. Something needed to change.

We decided to start planning our meals properly and by properly, I mean putting some real thought into it. We had been here before, we needed to do something different this time.

Planning meals

We started by building up a pool of recipes – things which we hadn’t tried before and recipes which didn’t take forever to prepare and of course, our favourites. We were only a couple of weeks into the new experiment when we realised that we were cooking almost every meal from scratch, we were barely relying on any frozen or pre-prepared ingredients.

Planning meals might sound boring and monotonous but if you have a pool of 50-60 recipes to choose from, you can go well over a month before you need to repeat anything.

We are eating a much larger variety of meals than at anytime either of us can remember, we are eating more healthily and we waste almost nothing. We’re enjoying the preparation and cooking each night. The evening meal has become a lovely time each evening, quality family time. The kids and I can’t help giving my husband feedback on how well the meal was prepared, what could have been improved it and of course the score out of ten!

The Big Shop

Before we do the “big shop”, which we now dread for a different reason (temptation) we choose 10-12 recipes and then go through each one, ordering exactly what we need minus anything we might have left from the last time. Meals occasionally stretch to multiple nights, however, when you make everything from scratch it is easy to create the leftovers for those nights when the kids might prefer something different to us. (Though we make a point of not cooking separate meals – leftovers is not extra work!)

It seems really simple and it is, yet by planning our meals and hence being more targeted with our shopping, it’s much easier to Budget and we know when a shop is required, three recipes left, book a slot.

As far as costs go, our shopping bills are within the same ballpark each time and though we still need to top-up on the fresh items, I’m not spending £20 extra several times a week

You might find this approach doesn’t work for you but we thought we’d share this as it’s really made a difference to our budget.