Monthly food shop and budgeting

I’ve decided that going to do food shopping twice a month is one time too many! One unfathomable thing for me in a month is people enjoying going to the shops. Even worse are the people who don’t enjoy going to the shops but still go food shopping two or three times a week. I just don’t get it.

We used to go shopping once a week and get everything in that we needed. In the past few months I’ve been able to cut that down to once every two weeks that we have to go. For this month I’ve decided that just once is going to be enough!

When I talk to my friends and colleagues most of them feel the same about my shopping habits as I do about theirs- our worlds do not collide and we can’t picture the way the other person shops. A lot of people ask me how I can just go to the shop fortnightly and I ask them how they have the time to go multiple times a week 😂. Even with the limited amount of time I spend on food shopping it’s still too much for me, I have a lot of other things that I could be doing during that precious food run. It’s the time of the year where we get our meat shop delivered so I figured this would be a good month to layout and make a plan of attack for a whole month of shopping. (A small side note is that I will go to our local shop for bread and milk in between our big shop, it doesn’t have a long enough shelf life for me to store it. I do freeze bread but with everything else in I can only fit one loaf in!)

Now I’m not going to lie, it did take a bit of prep to shop for the full month but I don’t mind doing it cause it involves lists. I do love a list ❤️ I did a comprehensive inventory of my freezer and store cupboards including spices and things to see what I was missing. I then did a monthly meal plan. It won’t work out exactly like it does on paper but my meal plans mean I know what I can make and then that can be slotted in with my enthusiasm level on any given day. Then it’s just like playing a match up game, based on what I want to eat- what do I actually need to buy in. Then how many packets of it do I need to cover all the times we’ll have that meal. Voila my shopping list and meal plan are all complete in one!

I’ve put a list below to give an idea of meals. Whenever I talk food with people they assume that if I’m feeding us cheap I’m feeding us rubbish or the same meal every single night. That’s not the case, I just use my slow cooker to full avail. It also helps that I just makes sauces and things from scratch- I don’t need to worry about whether I have a particular sauce in, I just use some of my stores.

The only other thing to mention is I’m veggie so anything listed that’s a meat content will have the equivalent veggie substitute cooked.

For breakfast we eat the same things consistently:

Honey loops
Hipster Pot (overnight oats)
Chucky eggs and toast
Banana and toast
Bacon, scrambled eggs and toast

For snacks we’re cutting down cause we’re both chubby so our only snacks are fruit and nuts just now. We’re trying to not buy crisps and chocolate and biscuits.

For lunches I’ve planned in:

Brie and apple salad
Mugshots
Beef, broccoli and rice
Cajun chicken pasta
Pasta pesto
Cheese tomatoes
Brie and bacon paninis
Pot Noodle
Super noodles
Spaghetti and cheese
Chilli and rice
Honey and soy sauce chicken and rice
Egg and potato salad
Chilli baked potato
Cheese and beans baked potato
Egg mayo sandwich
Egg muffin cases with veg

For dinners I’ve planned:

Cauliflower, chicken and lentil curry
Burgers
Slow cooker sausages and spaghetti
Sausage, chips and beans
Spaghetti carbonara
Slow cooked meatballs and spaghetti
Chilli and rice
Chicken Tikka and rice
Fish and chips
Spaghetti bolognese
Red Thai curry and rice
Honey and mustard pork medallions with potatoes and veg
Macaroni cheese
Chicken stir fry
Pasta, sauce and garlic bread
Beef stir fry
Salt and chilli chicken and rice
Bacon wrapped chicken and chip
Diet Coke chicken and noodles
Chicken madras and rice
Chicken fajitas
Homemade chicken Kiev, chips and sweet corn

If anyone has other recipe suggestions I am always on the lookout. I have now done my big shop- it cost £80 and I’m going to keep a record of how this 4 week shop actually works out. Based on my current calculations we’re living in the lap of luxury and going to be spending £3.70 a day to feed both of us for breakfast, lunch and dinners.

 

Spring planting

IMG_8200IMG_8201Spring is supposedly in the air but Scotland doesn’t seem to have noticed yet! This year for my vegetable growing I’ve tried to be infinitely sensible. Instead of starting seeds on the 1st January, when they have no hope of developing into beautiful healthy crops, I waited. Then I waited some more and some more and then the snow came…

It has been the most snow that Scotland has seen since 2008 and it keeps on coming. Everytime I think the weather is turning another flurry of snow or icy winds comes in from the East. It’s driving me crazy! It’s also making growing challenging.

This is the year that I am trying to be more organised in my growing. I’ve completed a garden plan so I know where all my crops are going. I just need the ability to clear the space. Currently my vegetable patch is a riot of roots, bulbs and far too much heather that is smothering everything. I need to dig it all out and then start warming my soil. This is where the weather is killing me, I can’t even see the ground for the snow. Even if I could it’s so frozen that it’s not worth trying to pull anything out. Now I know I should have put my garden to bed at the end of the last season. Unsurprisingly I didn’t, I just left it because I wasn’t organised at all last year so now I pay for my sins by trying to eek an hour here or there digging.

IMG_8617

 

I’ve also started my seeds much later. I sowed my first batch just over 2 weeks ago which should have been the perfect time. They however are also thwarting me. Only about 50% of the crops I’ve sown have sprouted. Some of the veg hasn’t done anything at all apart from mock me with its bare brown soil. I know that a lot of this is due to temperature. My poor chillis and aubergines want the tropical climates to get themselves up and going and all I’m giving them is a weak bit of cold sunlight and some artificial heat every few hours. It’s just not good enough for them.

I will not be defeated in my quest to have a glut of veg this summer though. I was up with the dawn again today to sow my second batch. I’ve currently planted basil, autumn sprouting broccoli, peas, aubergines, cucumbers, patty Pan squashes, onions, garlic and Rosso peppers. I’m also going to get my potatoes in bags and boxes before the end of the month I hope. I planted them all again today and I’m trying a couple of different things. I’ve tried planting them in smaller pots to start off, see if I can get some heat in them. I’m going to cover the tops of the pots with warming fluff to incubate them and put them further into the house where the heat lingers until the first leaves poke through. I’m also trying to cloche some of them off and watering with lukewarm water to get that soil going. I hope to report success in the next week or two and continue with my planting schedule. C’mon weather- give me a bit of a break please!!

IMG_8622

The first debt free emergency

IMG_8063.JPGSince Friday we feel like we’re being tested to see how strong our resolve is to avoid debt…

On Friday we were given the news that husbands truck is on its last legs. We have two months before it’s MOT expires and it won’t pass again without a significant cash injection from us. The money we’d have to outlay would be more than we paid for it four years ago. This has been a bit of a blow as we were hoping both our cars would make it through this year. It’s also a bit of a pain as we’re both attached to the truck! It’s a rickety rust bucket that feels like it’s held together with one central nail but it’s ours and it’s done us well.

The other consideration is an agreement we made last year. We agreed that if husband didn’t buy a motorbike using a loan last year when we were still in debt, that he could buy one this year before we fully funded our emergency fund. This has been the principal we’ve been working on. The goal date was the start of May, this would be when he could buy a bike and he had a budget of everything minus £1000 in the joint account at that point. As we were looking at having to outlay a few grand for a new car then husband spent Friday night with the prospect of losing his beloved truck and also not being able to buy a bike for this summer. A double hit!

The ‘easy’ option would of course have been to get finance of some sort. Either a loan or to use a credit card to be able to get a new (to us) car. That is the absolute last thing that we wanted to do though. After having gone through last year we have become allergic to debt. I have a physical feeling in my stomach at the thought of using debt to buy anything ever again. We just don’t want to do it. That doesn’t mean that the temptation isn’t there. It would be a quick and easy way to solve the issue and we’ve got ourselves out of more debt before right?

We had thought that the next car we bought would be the newest car we’d owned. A car that would do us for a few years and was more expensive to buy but would last us for longer. The idea was that now that we’re debt free we could start on a cycle of trading up on the things we own because we can actually afford them. After this weekend we just had to discuss and change our mindset slightly. Instead of this being a long term car what we’re looking for is a car that will just see us through this next year or maybe two. That started us looking at little beaters again, something cheap but reliable enough.
Yesterday morning we found one as well. It seemed a great deal- £800 for a car with a full years MOT, good size so we can still transport things in it and low mileage for its age. We saw the car online at 930am, saw the car at 1015am and had it bought by 1030am! The most impromptu breakfast trip we’ve taken! So we went home pleased with our new car, we have also looked and we might get some money back to scrap husbands truck so it looked like we’d be pretty even for our funds.

I then left to take my car to work, got 10 minutes away from the house and my back wishbone snapped 😩. My car is now unable to be driven. We managed to go from having two working vehicles to two useless cars within the space of 36 hours- must be a record of some sort!

It is luckily fixable (I didn’t know that when I went round the corner and it snapped) but husband came to the rescue and he can fix it. The poor man has had the worst weekend, he hadn’t even had a chance to eat his breakfast yesterday before we’d bought a car and then he had to come and find me in my busted one!!

Overall it has felt like a test to see if we were financially mature enough to not just go back into debt at the first signs of trouble. I’m glad we’ve been able to avoid it. I feel super thankful and grateful as well for the baby steps. We went out yesterday and spent £800 and still had over £1000 in our emergency fund. It wasn’t an emergency anymore. The first time we’ve had that. It did turn an emergency into an inconvenience. It’s made us more determined to get our full emergency fund built. We have to think that there’s nothing that could impact us so badly once we have 10k sitting in our emergency fund. ❤️ come on completion of baby step three!!

 

 

Forward February fantasies! (Hopefully realities)

IMG_7259For a new challenge in February (and onwards) I want to try and reduce my plastic usage. There are so many things that I didn’t even consider had plastic in them. I definitely haven’t made enough of an effort to reduce my usage in the past and I want to rectify it. I’m not currently looking to cut out all my plastics, my aim is to reduce just now with a long term view of eradicating most of them.

I did a post last year on making beeswrap, it has been really useful for carrying my sandwiches to work but I have also still been using clingfilm! I’ve just used less than I would have because of the beeswrap. I think that if I make some more and invest in some resin for this lot then I’ll be happier that I can keep all of my foods protected when in the fridge or my lunchbox.

I’ve been reading through some articles and I’m amazed at some items that have plastic in them. I’m also guilty of not even thinking about some of the plastics I use because they’re such a ‘norm’ in my life. For instance I never even considered the fact that my toothbrush is made of plastic! It seems ridiculous but it just never consciously entered my mind. I also tend to make things from scratch for meals so, again, I just didn’t think about the fact that my passata cartons are coated inside with plastic lining, my cherry tomatoes come in plastic tubs and of course bin bags are plastic as well…

Some of these things I think I can make changes on quickly and easily. For others it’s going to require more research and shopping around. I’ve decided that the things I’ll change just now for definite are:

– switching to loose leaf tea instead of tea bags
– Buy all condiments that I can in glass jars (including my passata etc) and then keeping the jars for future storage
– Make the change to non plastic handled toothbrushes
– Try and source shops where I can buy pulses etc in bulk and by taking my own containers
– Experimenting with different non plastic wraps to go on the freezer

The non plastic wraps for the freezer may be my biggest challenge. I use my freezer as my main way to store our food. We buy meat in bulk for husband and I portion and plastic bag or clingfilm it before putting it away. It means a lot of waste when I take it out as I won’t wash and reuse a bag that chickens been in. I’d be too scared of contamination! We are also looking to get our chest freezer up and running which will mean even more space where I can store goods. I want to get a handle on the plastic usage before that happens.

If anyone reading has ideas or ways they’ve reduced their plastic usage then I am all ears!

The other thing I definitely want to do in February is to start costing our meals per portion. I’m feeling a bit stagnant when it comes to our meal budget. It costs me £30 per week to feed two of us for all meals and some light snacking! It has been at that level for a long time though. I also already use fillers like lentils (much to husbands dismay) to stretch our meals further. I watch a lot of the money saving programmes for families whose spending and waste is out of control. We don’t really ever waste anything if I’m honest with food so I’d like to do a per portions spend. I think it’ll give me a new lease of creativity and budgeting- well that’s the plan anyway 🙂

I’ve done my first meal today which was a really warming curry. It’s vegan and made with squash and lentils, chickpeas, butterbeans, sweet potato and tomatoes so full of nice things. I’ve costed it out to 54p per portion. If anyone wants to know an actual recipe then you can let me know. Alternatively if you have any great and cheap recipes then please also let me know!

 

Debt update anniversary!

January debt update!

Well what a difference a year makes- this year we have absolutely no debt excluding our mortgage. 100% consumer debt free!

I wrote our first blog post one year ago on the 5th January. We had 12.5k in debt and a holiday to Florida still to pay for along with some other things. We set the goal to clear it in a year and we did, through Gods grace clear, a total of £21,162.

This year it’s a whole different outlook although still an intimidating challenge!

We relaxed a bit over the last month since we became debt free. We wanted to reward ourselves and enjoy the festive period but we are totally back on it now!

Currently we have £600 saved in our emergency fund and will add another £1000 to it by the end of this month. Our debt free goals for this year now are:

– Save 10k in an emergency fund
– Reduce our mortgage term from 30yrs to 15yrs
– Take an additional 5k off our mortgage capital
– Cash flow a kitchen and a motorbike

It is a lot but we just need to have the same drive that we did when we were trying to get out of debt. That seemed unachievable at times and we couldn’t see how we would make enough money to do it but it happened.

What we need to decide now is how to allocate our money. I received a text from our mortgage company yesterday saying our yearly statement is in the post for us. Im genuinely excited (sad I know) to get this in as all last year we were making overpayments. It means that we should see our capital have dropped another 1k. It doesn’t sound much but that’s roughly what we actually reduce our capital by each year through monthly payments. Essentially we’ve doubled what we pay! It will get better once we have the next baby steps sorted.

What debt goals is anyone else working on?

WE’RE DEBT FREE!!

WE’RE DEBT FREE!!

13 months
£21,162 debt cleared
£377 p/w average paid to debt

For every time we’ve said no to going out.
For every time we couldn’t buy new things.
For every time we’ve sat and budgeted instead of just spending.
For every time we had to ask our friends to do something free… this was why ❤️

As most of you know we’ve been determined to be debt free (aside from our mortgage) before the end of this year.

Well we’ve made it with a full month left to spare. It’s been a hard slog for us to be honest and has completely changed how we think and how we act. A lot of this year has been about learning that it’s ok to say no to things. We can say no to each other; say no to other people and say no to instant gratification because we have a long term plan. However that ‘no’ doesn’t mean that we can’t live now as well- we’ve just changed the things that bring us joy.

A year ago if you’d asked us what we wanted when we were debt free I have no doubt we’d have listed a big bunch of expensive things. Now, while it’s true we still want some of them, the top things we’re looking forward to buying are a bit ridiculous. I cannot wait to be able to buy a new liner for my slow cooker and some branded rubber gloves. For husband he wants basmati (instead of long grain) rice and to be able to buy some crisp snacks on a weekly basis when we shop. That might seem a bit sad but sacrificing little things like that for the last year has all added up to being debt free now!

We will finally be in control of the money that we earn. It still feels a bit unreal that when I get paid at the end of the month we don’t have to give that to anyone. It’s just ours, to save, give and spend as we see fit! Normally I get paid, it goes into our joint account and then straight back out to pay the loan or credit card. We own absolutely everything in our lives now apart from our house. No credit cards, no overdrafts, no car finance, no finance at all actually. It’s all ours. Our motivation now is to try and save almost as much as we have been paying to debt. If we can get anywhere close then we’ll have our emergency fund sorted in the next 6 months which would be amazing.

It has absolutely, 100% been worth knuckling down for a year. It has changed our spending habits for life and made us allergic to debt! We mucked it up loads of times as well so if we can do it then definitely anyone can ❤️

 

 

The stigma of money

One of the most valuable things I’ve learned on this debt journey is it becomes easier once you take away the stigma of money.

In general people are incredibly open about every other area of their lives, but when it comes to money that all changes. You’re not supposed to know how much your friends earn, you can’t know what debt they have, what they spend on things in their lives or what they have saved. It’s considered vulgar to talk about and rude to ask but, for us, it’s made it so much easier when we can talk about it!

We have great friends in our lives and the ones that we are closest too are the ones that we talk about money with. Just as it’s made our marriage even better by talking about money, it’s also made our friendships better as well. At the start it was a softly softly approach, the mention of a budget or a passing comment on paying off debt but then we realised how great it was to just lay out the numbers! We started telling people in detail what our numbers were. I started talking about how I was working on bringing areas of my budget down or started explaining why I was saying no to going out. All our friends know what we earn and it’s not to show off, it just gives a perspective on the debt payoff that we’re aiming for. The more I’ve talked about it the easier it’s got too talk about it.

Once we did start talking about it a fantastic thing happened- other people started talking to us about their finances as well. We realised that (although our numbers may be high) we’re not actually the only idiots in the world who didn’t know where their wages disappeared to!

It worked for us in three ways when we opened up about our money.
1- it’s easy to tell people that we can’t do something or suggest an alternative, free, plan of events
2- it took a bit of the guilt away for getting into this situation. We realised that everyone has debt in a varying degree and it didn’t make us terrible humans
3- it made us a bit more accountable for it. If you’re talking about it and being asked about it from people outside of your relationship then you want to keep on track that little bit more.

Peer pressure is a very real thing, it’s just changed now so that what we want to be doing well in is paying off debt, being self sufficient and planning for retirement 😂!

Have you found anything that’s made it easier to get debt free?

Thankful thoughts

It’s officially Autumn now and there’s a definite pity party happening in the household at the moment… I’m fed up of it and everyone around us must be as well. We have an amazing life so to try and head it off I wanted to write down just some of the things I’m grateful for.

There are many things I could start this list with but I’ll start with the sappiest one and say my husband. I often sit and marvel that I’ve been blessed with such a beautiful man inside and out. I appreciate more and more the wonder of finding someone who wants the same things for our future and will bust his butt to get them for us. I asked him the other night what inspired him to do what he did (it was a question I’d struggled to answer that day when asked in work) and he said providing for me. He is motivated because we want our future goals to come to fruition ❤️. How often would you find a man who’s willing to run the same budget numbers with you every night just because it keeps you focused?!

The next thing I’m supremely grateful for is my friends. At 30 I have best friends, actual movie style best friends, who aren’t just my family. It’s something I haven’t had since I was 15 and it’s odd and great! It’s been a whole learning experience for me. Two of my closest female friends do me the very great honour of allowing me to call myself Aunty to their babies. They let me bug the life out of them by hanging out at their house and drinking tea and playing with my beautiful niece and nephew for hours on end. I’ve now been asked to be Godmother to a gorgeous new Godson who will arrive in January. I don’t know if I can describe how humbled and amazed it makes me feel to have both these ‘titles’ for these tiny humans. I love them unconditionally and it is a phenomenal thing for me. It also means I have people who are at the same point in life as me and who I can talk to or even bitch too when I am having a bit of a crap day. To have people understand or just listen is great. They are there to just text or go and see and sometimes I just have to remind myself that that isn’t an inconvenience for them, they actually don’t find me that boring! They’re also the ones who have been there every day when I’ve been honest and said I can’t afford to do something. Instead of just avoiding hanging out with me they’ve happily spent time doing free stuff with me. They’ve also put up with the fact I haven’t even been able to get them a birthday present this year or indeed buy anything for them (the absolute hardest thing for me!).

I was also asked this year to be bridesmaid to one of my other friends. A complete surprise and a wonderful one. This is the first time I’ve been bridesmaid for someone who wasn’t family. It makes my heart happy that someone would want me to be up there, right next to them, on such an momentous occasion. All of these things just make me sit and think wow. These beautiful beings could have chosen anyone for these things but they chose me (or got stuck with me in the case of the babies 😂). I honestly just feel so lucky to have such caring people surrounding me.

I also have more friends than I know what to do with to be truly honest. I’m not a great socialiser at all, I like who I like and would do anything for them but that tends to be a very small number. Thanks to my job I find myself surrounded by amazing and interesting and funny people. They all seem to be willing to have me as a friend and actually want to talk to me and meet up with me. It’s been really difficult the fact that I’ve had no frivolous money to go out for tea and cake with these new friends but we’ve made it work.

I’m also really grateful for husband and I’s jobs. There are so many people we’ve read about, going through the debt journey, and they’re biggest problem is their income. I have a job which I love and that has been able to double my hours since the start of the year. This is through the generosity of my managers and it has obviously made an immense difference in our ability to clear down the debt. I also love what I do, I spent years in jobs I didn’t enjoy but now I get to love going into work every day. I’m working from 4pm till 2am today and I honestly can’t wait for it! I know that not a lot of people can say that about their jobs.

My family are the other area where I’m filled with love and blessings. I have a fantastic family. They drive me up the wall a lot of the time but that’s what family are for. I have been blessed from the second I was born with my family and I doubled down on it when I got married and had another amazing family take me in and call me their own.

Lastly I’m grateful for all the opportunities we’ve been given. No matter what we need God always seems to give us a way of getting it. No matter how badly we’ve screwed up or when we’ve got sick and tired of budgeting etc etc, we always seem to be able to get back on track. I’m so grateful for all the times that this has happened. We are blessed with a life of abundance and that’s what we need to focus on just now instead of the few small things that we’re griping about. This autumn is definitely a season of big change.

 

 

 

The hardest thing to change

I wanted to put into words what has been hardest for me on our debt free journey. The simple answer is changing me-but most importantly giving.

I don’t actually class myself as a spender. Now obviously in some way I am or I wouldn’t have debt. However I’m not one to go to the shops to buy things for myself. A day in a shopping centre is not my ideal day at all, in fact I’d avoid it if I can. I live in clothes until I literally can’t wear them out the house because it would be indecent, crowds of people make me feel irate and I despise trying on clothes!

Where I do like spending my money though is on other people and on giving to other people. I was very lucky in my upbringing and have emotionally and financially generous parents. I saw them give to people constantly and offer things for people and I subconsciously learned to be the same. I’ve heard all my life that ‘its only money’, and while it was instilled in me that you need that and to work to get it, it also taught me to not need to hold onto it. I need enough to live but if there’s any ‘extra’ then I should use that for others. All my immediate family are the same. If you go out for dinner with us then you better be quick with your card or someone else will have paid it! We also don’t keep track of our debts to each other. You know the scenarios, you’re out and someone doesn’t have cash out so you pay for whatever the thing is as they cry ‘ I’ll give you the money back’ which you then decline so it turns into a never ending game of ‘I’ll get the next thing then’ to make up for it.. It was the thing I found weirdest about husbands (now my) family. They actually keep track of what they owe each other and pay it back! This isn’t to peg them as miserly in any fashion as I’ve married in to another exceptionally loving and extremely giving family, its just a different ethos. It’s maybe as well why husband found it easier to get on board with the debt plan than I did.

My problem comes with what counts as extra money. Prior to our debt journey extra to me just meant that I had the ability to provide that money. It didn’t matter to me if that was my overdraft or credit card because I was paying it off. The fact that I was getting in debt to do it barely registered. So without a doubt its the hardest habit I’ve had to break. 

When I want to do things with my friends or family I’ve had to accept that we may have to half the bill for what we’re doing. Alternatively I’ve even had to accept that they may pay for me…a horror I feel deep inside. I hate other people having/ offering to pay for me, it makes me feel like I shouldn’t have taken up their time or asked and accepted their offer to do something. I feel constrained in my giving because when someone’s sad or mad or happy or has their own money worries I can’t step in and fix that. I loved being able to surprise people or make their day with a wee tea and a cake or a tiny gift. I can’t do that at the moment because its not in the budget and its what’s left us in debt for such a long time because I wouldn’t change. We technically started this plan three years ago but because I wouldn’t commit, and both of us couldn’t say no, then that’s what’s kept us in debt. It is only since January that we’ve committed and surprise surprise its only this year we’ve made a difference. 

The big words that I keep repeating to myself are both Dave classics. The first is biblical and says to get your own house in order. Unsurprisingly I got into trouble here as well. My house to me includes my family and I want to give to them. So the first thing I had to do was understand that my house is my marriage and I need to show respect there first before I try to sort out anyone else. The second is to live like no one else so that later we can live (and give) like no one else. Whenever I waiver, and it is at least weekly, I think of how I’m going to be able to give and provide in the future. If I can just get through these last few months then I’ll be able to see the difference. I’ll also be able to resume some of my previous giving habits but this time tempered with what we can afford. I’ll hopefully have learned balance like I think I have. 

So that’s it, the one debt problem that I struggle with every day. Its good to write it down and talk about it so that it doesn’t become an area of continued weakness. I look forward to being financially secure in the future so I can give. 

K xx

Meal planning and budget

Its the end of the month for us and so the budget has been done ready to go into August. This means that there’s one big thing left for me to do- our meal planning!

I am trying to be a lot stricter with this in terms of budget and also look for more ways to save. Roughly a year ago I did a big over haul of our eating and food spending habits. At that point I cut down our monthly food budget from around £210 per month to on average £130 (that’s for 2 adults, 3 meals a day). After that initial cut I feel I’ve plateaued, the saving was great but I still feel like there has to be so many other ways I can cut the budget even more. So that’s what I’m trying to plan for and do!

My mantra for this year is definitely ‘can I make it myself’. Therefore every meal we make, if we’ve had to buy any ready made ingredients, I want to know if I can do it instead.

The first thing to go was shop bought pasta sauces- this one for me was purely a laziness factor. It initially felt a lot easier to just open a jar than to make one up. I have now stopped being lazy though and started making my own (FYI it takes roughly 1 minute more to make my own basic tomato sauce). This has saved me from spending up to £2 on jarred sauce and instead only costs me 60p for my home sauce ingredients. The eventual dream is that I’ll get good at growing tomatoes and be able to make my own passata base as well.  The next thing that has saved us some money is that I am now mainly vegetarian – much to husbands disgust! It means that our meat order goes twice as far because its just husband eating the meat and I use pulses or meat substitutes instead which are a lot cheaper.

The other area where we’ve saved a lot of money is by me getting a good pizza base recipe. We committed in June that we would stop getting takeout. It was our Saturday night treat to order in pizza. A treat for me that I didn’t have to Cook and a treat for husband cause he loves pizza. However, because he dislikes sharing pizza, it was costing us around £60/£70 per month just on 4 meals. That 50% of our entire months food budget. An absolutely ridiculous waste of money when we’re trying to clear debt. So instead I’ve been making the bases and we’re having delicious cheesy pizza for pennies instead.

Aside from this we also chose a cheaper supermarket to shop in which has helped as well. Although due to the nature of that shop it doesn’t always have everything we need so we do still go to another store once a month for bits and pieces!

How I actually meal plan is simple. I take an inventory of the freezer and pantry first of all. I have a good rough idea so its really just firming up that I have what I think I have. Then I print out a blank monthly calendar and write in all my shifts that I know. That then just leaves me to match food to days. We have a basic ‘bank’ of meals that we eat with the occasional experiment meal thrown in so I try to cycle through them as I go. I usually start with the nights I won’t be in for dinner as these have to be meals husband can make himself which limits the possibilities. Then I choose what days I want lazy meals so ones I can quickly prep or shove in the oven. That just leaves my days off when I have time to make more elaborate meals so they go in as well. That gives me my full months dinners and I make my shopping list on a weekly basis for the fill in ingredients from the planner. The calendar gets stuck up on the fridge and that’s it all done =)

TOP TIPS

– don’t be swayed by brands: own brand is normally just as good. There’s only one or two things we still prefer branded.

– plan round how tired you think you’ll be: I used to be terrible for not taking into account what I was working. I would plan in a meal that took time to prepare and then be to tired and hangry to cook. When that happened we would end up buying takeaway…

– always label the extra portions that go into the freezer. I have too many mystery boxes in the freezer that I was convinced at the time I’d remember what they were.

– weigh your ingredients. I weigh out our pasta and rice portions and cheese etc. Its good for a not being fat point of view but also saves on waste.

– make use of your freezer. I buy frozen instead of fresh for what I don’t grow generally. For mushrooms and peppers I buy, chop and freeze on the day.  For our big meat order I spend a couple of hours on delivery day portioning and wrapping it and then put it in the freezer.

– plan in advance to use any leftovers from dinner and change them into something for lunch the next day.