I’ve noticed my food bill going up weekly it seems over the past few months. The budget I allow used to cover it with a little over that I saved in a pot that was used for ‘extras’. You know, the sort of thing t-shirts for the school play, someone needs new pants etc. But I’ve noticed that there has been a lot less going in the pot and now virtually nothing so I have a decision to make; allow more money for food or be smarter with the money I have…
When I look at the contents of the fridge I do see lots of fruit and veg but there is also quite a lot of processed food. Meals half made that just need potatoes and veg, ready-made sauces in jars in the cupboard and packets of ‘stuff’ that aren’t really necessary. When I think about what I buy each week I know we aren’t unhealthy but I think there are better ways of feeding the family. I stopped the big weekly shop in an attempt to reduce the budget and this worked. I have a certain amount of money that I allow for food and I take that out each week in cash. This I have in a pot in the house and I take some of it each day when I shop. Shopping every/every other day allows me to think about what we need for that day and using cash allows me to really think about the physicality of actually handing money over and it’s also great to show the children just what real money looks like. I shop just after the school run on the way home but I know this just isn’t possible for a lot of households.
I wrote a meal planner and this helped too. It helps with being specific when I shop and reduced the scatter gun approach to ‘Oh, I like that!!’ when I don’t really need that. It focuses the mind and the shop and really helps with the budget. I have thought of online shopping especially for those ordinary essentials –toilet roll, baked beans etc. – and this would be another way to blinker the eyes and just buy what I need.
Ah, there’s another point ‘buying what I need…’ we are really concentrating in our house on want versus need. Yes I want to stuff myself silly on chocolate each night but I don’t need to and shouldn’t I know. I want to have the softest toilet roll but what difference does it make really in the long run so the cheapest will do. I’m working out what we really do want and then compromising on everything else. I like the kids shampoo and will continue to buy it but as our cereals are decanted into a plastic tub the children never see the boxes so these I now buy the supermarkets ‘essential’ range and save myself over £1 per box per week and I buy at least 3. I don’t do buy one get one free unless I’m buying whatever it is that’s on offer that week anyway. I don’t think it’s actually an offer if I buy something that’s going to sit in my cupboard for weeks before I actually use it –that’s money sitting on the side that should be in my bank but I’ve given it to a supermarket under the guise of it being ‘on offer’.
Buying what I need also means not buying a bag of 20 carrots when I only need 3 for a recipe, not taking the buy one get one free extra bag of clementine’s as we’ll be eating nothing but clementine’s for the week –why can’t they just reduce the price rather than give us more fruit to eat? Is it not the same thing? It means not being tempted to buy that pretty candle that I really don’t want and will probably never use. I am a woman of 36 and I can get a grip of my shopping.
So. I have tried shopping daily, making a meal planner, sticking to a cash budget and only buying what we need and this has helped but I think there is the final step I need to take. I need to cook more. I’m not talking the ‘get it out the freezer (I have a small one now) and bung it in the oven’ type of warming up cooking. No. I mean the ‘make it from real ingredients using a recipe book’ kind of cooking. I can freeze in leftovers, cut down the spending and know exactly what is going into my children mouths which is all, as far as I can see, nothing but good.
I’ve started looking in the recipe books but they only tell you how to cook, they don’t tell you how to fit in with school runs, after school clubs, work, cubs, a Hubbie who comes in later. No, this I can’t find in a recipe book so I’m going to try to learn how to do this myself and then I’m going to share what I’ve learned (and if anyone wants to pass any tips onto me then all would be gratefully received!) there will be a new page on the blog called ‘The Kitchen’ where I will talk about meals I have planned for the week and how I go about making them happen. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going all totally gung ho as it’s not a do or die scenario. I aim to cook from scratch 3 days a week for a start and once I’ve achieved that then I’ll up it, hopefully at the beginning of February. The rules are very simple to my self-imposed challenge if it’s an ingredient in a recipe book then it’s still cooking as far as I can see. I will not be making my own tomato sauce, mayonnaise or attempting to become self-sufficient by the end of the year. I want to learn how to feed my family by cooking for them and I need to be realistic in my expectations of myself!
This is my New Year’s resolution. I’m only making the one. I don’t want to get fit/lose weight/start karate or anything that I know I can’t keep up. I want a goal that is achievable and has a point that I will feel good about working towards. I will know I have succeeded if by the middle of the summer I am cooking 3, 4 nights a week and I am keeping under my budget and there is a little left over at the end of the week like there used to be.
My new page will have a meal planner each week that I will post on a regular day. I’ll use this to shop and talk about smarter shopping –that doesn’t just mean the cheapest as far as I can see as I would like quality and to be a bit more conscious about where I’m buying from. I’ll share the recipes that worked (and those that didn’t!) just in case anyone else would like to join me. I’m open to any ideas that I can share so if you have any tips then please email firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll make sure you are credited with whatever I use.
I’m not buying any special equipment, just using what I have already until I am confident that I need something else and would actually use it –I would love a bread maker for example but I really need to prove to myself that I will cook before I buy a gadget that may sit in a cupboard and never be used!
I’m looking forward to the New Year, I think it’s going to be a bit of an adventure…