Thursday, 29 January 2015

Feed your family for under £50

Is it possible to feed your family for under £50 per week, while still providing healthy, home-cooked food?  

I appreciate that I'm in a very lucky position, with my average weekly grocery spend for my family of two adults, a three-year-old and a five-year-old averaging between £70 and £90 per week.  I'd like to reduce that bill a bit.

I'm pretty convinced that I could reduce my spend by buying more pre-prepared food - odd though that sounds.  I know, for example, that I can buy a cake at the supermarket for less money than it costs me to make; that I can buy a frozen pizza for less than it costs me to get mozzarella, ham and pineapple to make my own; that I can get three individual portions of frozen lasagne for less than the minced beef to make my own.  This troubles me.  It troubles me because I like cooking, and I think knowing how to cook is important.  It troubles me because, apart from the obvious economies of scale, how are they making this lasagne so cheaply?  It also troubles me because I know that these pre-prepared and frozen meals contain much more fat, salt, sugar and other preservatives (and other ingredients that I don't even recognise!) than I would put in my home-made versions.  While cutting down on my weekly spending, I don't want to be resorting to ready meals.  I still want to put food on the table that I've made from scratch.  I want to know what's gone into the food.

So, here's my challenge.  I'm going to attempt a Feed for Fifty in February.  If you want to join me that would be great, and please link into this post and comment with a link to your blog below so that I can visit you and see how you're getting on.

Here are some of the things that you can try:

  • more porridge for breakfast.  A box of cereal can be anything up to £3 to last for a week.  A bag of oats costs about 60p and will provide breakfast for at least a week.
  • School dinners - All of Key Stage One (infants) in England are entitled to free school meals, and if you are a low-income family then this entitlement continues.  If you can, take advantage of it - schools are now required to offer balanced meals.  C started off on these free school dinners, but after a few weeks decided that he'd prefer packed lunches...
  • Packed lunches - C has a packed lunch every day, as does Hubby most days.  Bug takes on to pre-school on her two days per week.  For adult packed lunches you could try investing in a thermos cup or bowl, and making a big batch of soup on a Sunday night to be warmed up and put in the flask every day with a home-made bread roll.  A warm and filling lunch for probably about 50p.  Rather than buying guacamole or houmous you can make your own with chickpeas or avocado for about half the price of a tub from the shop.  Equally home-made sausage rolls, home-prepared cous-cous, pasta salad or rice salad are all much more economical than buying prepared ones from the supermarket or deli.  A tray of home-made flapjack or mini buns is probably cheaper than a pack of chocolate biscuits or cakes.
  • Meat deals - you can get different meat deals from different places, for example at Morrisons they do a 3 for £10 deal on different meats, but you can also get great "meat packs" from traditional butchers.  Find out what the deal is where you shop, and plan your menu around the offer.  If you plan carefully, you can probably get six dinners from £10 spent on meat.
  • Make the meat go further - buy a larger joint and use the meat for two meals, and probably some cold meat for lunches too.  Mince and casserole meat can also be made to go further by bulking out the recipes for casseroles, shepherds pie, cottage pie, bolognaise, chilli etc with vegetables and lentils.  A few added mushrooms, sweetcorn, peppers, peas, carrots and lentils make the meat go a lot further.  If you make a large batch, you can also freeze half to eat on another occasion when you might have less cooking time.
  • Menu planning - use the previous two points to plan your menu, making sure that you maximise every item, use things you have in the store-cupboard and freezer and waste as little as possible.
  • Choose where you shop - I would love to shop in markets, farmers' markets, traditional butchers and grocers etc. but because I live in a rural spot, I would have to drive to the town and pay for parking to do this, so unless I'm in town for another purpose, I tend to do supermarket shopping.  I also understand that if supermarket shopping, you can save a lot of money by "taking the Aldi challenge" i.e. shopping at Aldi first, then going to your normal supermarket to pick up the things that you can't get at Aldi.  I don't do this for two reasons: First, shopping with the kids is a nightmare, I certainly wouldn't put myself through it in two supermarkets, and on the days when I'm kid-free I have a lot of jobs to get done, and don't want to waste my time with two supermarkets; Second, I'm afraid that I'm a supermarket snob and I like going to supermarkets where they apologise for the wait (even when there wasn't one) and ask if I'm okay packing my bags.  I don't like going to supermarkets where people throw the produce on the floor and the cashier practically throws the food at you.  Just me.  It's one of my snobberies and I think I'll mostly be sticking to my local supermarket, while using local butchers and markets when I can.
  • Cut down on alcohol - A couple of things really push the price of my shopping up to £90 and beyond sometimes.  On weeks when I'm buying items like batteries, razorblades, laundry detergent... then the bill is higher.  And on weeks when a bottle of wine and a couple of real ales or local ciders are in the trolley.  I tend to buy wine that's on offer, spending about £5 on a £10 bottle of wine, or we buy three or four beers or ciders at around £2 per bottle.  It soon puts the price up.  I'm cheating a bit, as Hubby bought a couple of cases of wine at Christmas time and we've still plenty of that to work through, but I'm going to try to avoid getting beers and ciders this month.
So that's how I'm going to attempt my Feed for Fifty in February.  Join me for a weekly round-up on Grocery Day (Tuesdays in my house) to see how I'm getting on.

p.s. I'm going to add an exemption right from the beginning.  It's Bug's birthday in three weeks time.  We're going to have a meal out, with a cake on her actual birthday, and then she's having a birthday tea at home with a few friends the next day, so I'm budgeting a bit extra for that and without any guilt at all.  She's only going to be four once!

p.p.s. I've linked this to Thrifty Thursday over on Living Well Spending Less.  Check it out and see all the other Thrifty posts!

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