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Where to begin?

(29 Posts)
BeansAndToast Fri 12-Jul-13 13:30:48


I could do with some help in regards to saving and cooking. I am a bit of a beginner as so far we have always had quite a bit of income in between us but DP is going back to uni so we need to save a bit of money. He will be commuting which is eating a ridiculous amount of money and after council tax, rent and other bills we have estimated that we will have about £200 left a month. This will have to include all kinds of cosmetics, loo paper and so on as well.

I know that doesn't sound too little but it seems very tight somehow-I would rather not spend the full 50 a week if possible to have a bit of money for 'emergencies'. DP eats quite a lot but is happy with vegetarian meals. I am a bit chubby at the moment and am trying to eat healthily but fresh fruit and veggies are just so expensive and I am worried whether we can keep that up after summer.

I just wondered whether anyone has any advice in regards to meal planning or whether anyone knows any good sites that might help me. We will have a freezer so I can batch cook and I have a slow cooker, but I will be very busy with my job (newly qualified teacher) so can't spend all weekend cooking I think. So I am looking for some cheap, quick and healthy recipes- I know, not much to ask wink

We are moving to a new area and don't have a car. We will have a Sainsbury and Iceland within walkable distance if that is any help.

I just don't really know where to get started with organising our finances and meal planning. My family lives in a different country and is not much help due to that (product wise etc).

I hope people don't think I am somehow 'spoiled' or 'stupid' for not knowing where to start but I am just a bit worried and could do with any support I can get. I am very aware that a lot of people have a lot less money than this but I want to do this right from the start. Thank you smile

kukeslala Fri 12-Jul-13 18:36:10


Have you heard of the money saving expert website?
Its a bit daunting as there is so much info, but it is a wealth (boom boom) of information.
But is well worth some time going through it!

Cakebaker35 Fri 12-Jul-13 18:38:30

I found the sainsburys website v useful for meal planning and ideas:

kukeslala Fri 12-Jul-13 18:46:07

Some quick things.

How will partner be travelling?

Would you be eligible to reduce your council tax, due to partner becoming a student?
Have you checked other bills are you with cheapest provider?
Whoopsie shopping can help with food costs.
Eat in season.

Look on money saving expert for recipes, bath cooking slow cooking etc- look in the old style money saving forum.

bodingading Fri 12-Jul-13 19:34:17

BTW you can eat fine and with minimal hassle on £45pw. I shop at Ocado and spend £180/4 weeks including delivery pass. I do not have a ton of time to cook and I'm not trying for some mumsnet healthy eating prize here, I'm just saying, this does us and it's easy and it's not shit food and I feel well and nourished on it. It's not all the earth mother stuff with the slow cooker and the lentils. I have done that in the past (for years!), but tbh, for me it was a lot of effort and not really cheaper than just buying only the food that we actually eat and nowt else. I accept this may not be what you're looking for, but...

Here's a typical shop for me and DH.

Every week

3 for £10 Easy to Cook mains, eg: meatloaf, half a chicken, pork shoulder
£10 half a salmon (or if not available then one packet mackerel £1.68, 2 packs of sausages for £5, and maybe a nice pie £3.29)
3 for £4.50 whole organic milk (big jugs)
£1.50 wholenut sugar free peanut butter
£1.12 linseed bread
£2 fruit on offer (right now, plums are £1.33)
£1 kale
£0.60 curly lettuce
coffee (beans whatever is leftover to spend on coffee)

= approx £35

Then about £5 to buy some of the rotating supplies and a "cupboard meal":
£1.20 butter /every 4 weeks
£1.40 eggs /2 weeks
£1.80 frozen petit pois /3 weeks
£1.38 frozen spinach /2 weeks
£2 350g cheddar cheese /2 weeks
2 for £4 frozen berries /4 weeks
£1 for pasta sauce /6 weeks
£1.06 spiced mixed beans /4 weeks
£0.99 frozen sliced red onions /3 weeks
£1.99 dill sauce /4 weeks
£1.49 teabags /6 weeks
£0.85 porridge oats /8 weeks
--much less frequent: lentils, pasta, Scan meatballs, tinned peaches, sugar, etc etc etc

Then I spend another £5 for house supplies and just get whatever is on offer for things like bleach, toothbrush, loo roll etc. I sometimes go to Aldi to get these because it is technically cheaper but for me - I end up spending more money than if I just don't go out shopping at all and instead stick with my single delivery per week.

This gives me six mostly already cooked suppers per week, with one cupboard supper (like pasta and sauce). Plenty of milk for coffee and porridge and the odd pud. Also a bit of wiggle room for things like a Sunday fryup with sausages and beans and eggs etc if I fancy one. We eat peas/spinach/kale in a big pile with our main meat. Sometimes for afters I get cream when it's on offer (£1) and meringues (£1.59) and we have eton mess, or peaches, or I warm berries in a pan with a teaspoonful of sugar. I daily quite often have a cheese and peanut butter toastie because I bloody love them, hence the weekly peanut butter on my list.

There are CERTAINLY cheaper and more carby and less meaty etc etc ways to eat, but this does us and it's not a hardship in the least and that's what I like about it. grin

Fluffycloudland77 Fri 12-Jul-13 20:03:20

Will you have a market nearby? Fresh fruit and veg can be very cheap there. In our local markets a pound of cherries is £2, in sainsburys it's £3.75. Don't forget basics range frozen berries in sains are very cheap and go in porridge or with cream/custard poured over or hot with a splash of kirsch in them.

BeansAndToast Sat 13-Jul-13 09:31:34

Thanks for all the answers! Sorry for not coming back earlier but I was out and about all day yesterday.

cakebaber: Thanks, that's a good website.

kukeslala: I have been on the website a few times but still find it quite confusing. Whenever I am on a thread there seem to be links to a million other threads but I will have another good look around.

DP will travel by train and tube (we will live outside London). We will get a 25% discount on council tax it seems.

We will only be moving this summer so I need to look into cheapest suppliers etc. It will be a rented property though so I am not sure whether we will be allowed to change supplier, for the one we are in now we were told we had to be with Eon. Won't get my flat keys till next week so will ask then.

So yeah because of the move I don't know about markets yet either, Fluffycloud. I googled it and there seems to be a market on Saturdays with fresh produce, so I might check it out once we have moved.

bodingading: Thanks for that! That looks pretty doable actually. I think we will have to try that for a while-buy some meat and food that doesn't take too much prep work and time.
Can I just ask whether the meat lasts you for more than one night though? Or do you stretch the fish to last three nights? i am just wondering as we can usually eat a pack of chicken kievs or whatever in a night. Might explain my ever expanding bum and DP is eating large servings.

So do you have a smartpass? I have never shopped with ocado and checked out the website just now. Do you find it's worth it? I also always thought shopping on Ocado might be more expensive than other websites?

bodingading Sat 13-Jul-13 18:32:01

I find Ocado to be cheaper for the kinds of things I buy most often and easier all round. It's certainly not cheaper for multipacks of crisps or nappies etc, so it's sort of how Aldi saves you lots if you buy brands, but not much if you normally buy Sansbo Value. It seems like you might have a similar shopping profile to me, though, and for this I can say, yes, this is the most efficient way to keep to a budget with minimal time expenditure and maximised enjoyment.

I buy the pass and have a reserved delivery date and time, plus free delivery any time, which costs me about a tenner a month, but there are often deals. Ocado autoshops for me and delivers once a week. I can log in and tailor my shop to take advantage of offers or get specific one off things I need, but generally the autoshop is pretty spot on. As they hardly ever substitute things, I never need to go to a supermarket to "top-up" midweek and it is THIS that really saves the money, even though in unit price some items are cheaper elsewhere. Though if it's cheaper at Tesco they give you a voucher, atm; I think Sainsburys do this also.

I have shopped online since it was possible round here, so probably 12 years, and have tried all the players, and find Ocado to be the best on everything I mind about. You might mind about different things, of course.

Ocado do a massive salmon. It's the width of my fridge. I poach it whole. That easily does us two nights and often three if I do it flaked with scrambled eggs or something on night three. But it's not always on for a tenner in which case I either get another lot of 3 for £10 mains or, like I said two packs of sausages etc etc.

We don't have weight issues because we don't eat a ton of carbs, but we do eat tons of food. I like a pile! I like a feeling of bounty-- a big chunk of salmon makes me feel bountiful. I like to lie on the sofa groaning afterwards. grin I wouldn't stretch a pork shoulder or half a chicken, no! Eat the whole thing! It's lovely.

Vegwise I just eat lots of leafy green veg every single day and I know people prefer potatoes etc but I just don't eat those things so I can't advise you much beyond that I've seen this sack recommended on here before.

bodingading Sat 13-Jul-13 18:47:07

Also for consumables: I have a laundry egg and a mooncup and don't wear makeup except a good moisturiser.

For clothes, I only buy clothes second hand on eBay and I only buy higher end brands that last. I have a £5 limit per item, a 5 item limit per quarter, and I have a 5 minute limit per day. I am now a clothes buying ninja.

ALSO I do not go on moneysaving forums very often and only for a specific purpose because they always turn into bargain hunting forums, which is just shopping in denial. <----This alone saves me crazy money. Crazy. Money.

It's so easy to save money when you are not thinking about buying things. You just do other things instead, like read a book you already own or have a conversation with your family and money saving just magically happens. And on this nugget I take my own advice and bugger off! grin

BeansAndToast Sun 14-Jul-13 08:53:11

Thank you so much for all your help. I will have a bit of a shop around once I have moved I think and see what I can get in the Sainsbury and Iceland close by. I always loved shopping in Aldi but I don't think taking a bus there will make much financial sense.

I definitely love my carbs so would have to buy potatoes, pasta etc quite regularly.

And I definitely spend a lot on mid week top ups too. I always go in needing one or two items and end up spending loads because I see things on offer etc. I definitely need to meal plan!

One last question: I couldn't find any info about the autoshop function online. Is there a link with some information about it?

BeansAndToast Sun 14-Jul-13 08:58:29

Oops, found it!

Fluffycloudland77 Sun 14-Jul-13 09:03:55

Will you have a freezer? I buy frozen veg as it goes off otherwise.

I only buy small amounts of things like courgettes etc. Even onions I chop in the food processor and freeze in zip lock bags.

You can do dried pulses in a slow cooker, soak overnight and then rinse and cook on high for 5-6 hours. Then I rinse in cold water and freeze in zip locks.

Bluecarrot Sun 14-Jul-13 09:06:34

Will your DP get reduced travel costs as a student? Have you looked at daily vs monthly tickets? Around here students get a third off, and monthly and yearly ticket holders get similar or better deals inc free weekend travel snywhere on network.

BeansAndToast Sun 14-Jul-13 09:32:02

Yes I will have a small freezer, about the size of a small fridge. Bought it a while ago as I love to batch cook.

I had no idea you can freeze pulses once they are cooked. I sometimes use lentils but not much else. What sort of pulses do you use and what do you make with them? I come from a very traditional meat and two vegetable family so don't know much about pulses.

DP will get reduced travel costs, but only for the tube. Train tickets don't do student discounts as the website states that season tickets are already vastly reduced hmm We have looked into a yearly ticket but are wondering whether it will make sense. If he goes in every day probably, but not if he doesn't go in during holidays etc. I'll suggest he calls them and googles around a bit more before deciding anything.

Fluffycloudland77 Sun 14-Jul-13 10:14:01

I do red kidney beans for chilli and burgers and chickpeas for spinach and chickpea curry.

They are cheap in the world food aisle, I do dried soya mince and freeze it too but that only takes kettle of boiling water tipped over it in the sieve not popper cooking.

I'm vegetarian so it's meat free chilli.

Fluffycloudland77 Sun 14-Jul-13 10:14:38

Proper cooking even

specialsubject Sun 14-Jul-13 11:48:27

some great advice here.

tenants should be able to change electricity/gas supplier. Get the actual unit cost (difficult to find so persevere) and obviously try to use as little as possible. Also look at your other bills and spending - I take it you meant 'toiletries' not cosmetics which are an obvious luxury.

Sainsbury's can be a bit pricey but look out for offers - learn to do cheese sums for a start, sometimes they have the good stuff at less than £6 a kilo, other times you'll need to be eating their own mousetrap.

make sure you aren't doing any of the normal wasters - magazines,books, take away coffees, bottled water, branded cleaning materials (or indeed branded most things).

Look into getting your DP a young persons railcard, you can get them if you're a student at any age. Not many people know this wink

MinimalistMommi Sun 14-Jul-13 15:42:45

Boding How do you cook leafy green veg?
I never eat it. Sounds healthy.

SmellsLikeWeenSpirits Sun 14-Jul-13 16:08:16

Lurking in the hope of becoming bodling

mrspaddy Sun 14-Jul-13 16:08:36

Hi OP .. would you consider buying mince and making it stretch.. we really don't need all we think we do. Stretch it with veg (carrots etc and freeze the other half). I know with the bus fair Aldi might not make sense but if you went there once a month I think it could. Gnocci, chickpeas, dried pasta etc.

Maybe Sainsbury are good value - I don't have one near me. Also just pesto and pasta a night or two a week or good old jacket spud and beans (non branded). I think if you cut down on meat it will defo help.
I used to live on 8 - 10 pound a week at uni.. many moons ago.
I would stick to washing up liquid and bleach for cleaning.

I am not on a budget now but still stick to old tips to keep bills down.

virgil Sun 14-Jul-13 16:16:46

You can stretch your meat easily. Sainsburys and tesco both do three meats for a tenner. A pack of mince will do two meals for us and we are a family of four. Just bulk out with grated carrot, lentils, mushrooms etc.

If you shop last thing on a Sunday you will pick up loads of bargains. I bought ten packs of cookies from the bakery last week for 20p a bag. They've gone straight into the freezer and will last for ages. Bread 30p, bagels 25p etc

Having said that I don't think your food budget is that tight anyway.

monikar Sun 14-Jul-13 18:16:49

I think an excellent vegetable to eat often is frozen peas. They are cheap - you get loads of servings from one bag. They don't need any chopping and are really quick to cook.

We have a jacket potato and beans meal once a week - on this evening I do a proper pudding so everyone is filled up. I make a 'value crumble' which is really tasty and cheap. Tip out a tin of Tesco value peaches (32p) into an ovenproof dish and chop up roughly in the dish. Then pour over a Tesco crumble mix (39p) and spread out over the peaches. Cook in the oven for about 30 mins or so while the potatoes finish off and then serve with a tin of value custard (17p). There is plenty and it's lovely. You could vary this with other tinned fruit.

BeansAndToast Mon 15-Jul-13 16:46:58

So many answers, thank you everyone!

Fluffycloud, I will look into making some more vegetarian meals with beans and stuff, thank you. Never tried soya mince.

Specialsubject, I am still waiting to hear back from my landlord about the flat but if we get it I will check gas and electricity right away. We are getting a bill every three months at the moment but I have to say I'd rather do a direct debit every month to avoid a big shock every few months. I can definitely be guilty of some of the wasters you listed, magazines, drinks when out and about etc.

2old, I called the train people about this and it seems that they do not accept the rail card when buying a season ticket. So DP and I need to sit down and do the maths for all the different options but it might be worth it to get one.

We often eat things like pasta and pesto or a jar sauce so we don't eat meat every night. I do try and stretch mince but always use a whole pack so you using one pack for your whole family is a bit of a reality check, virgil, a pack usually lasts us two dinners but not much more.

So Mrspaddy, how do you stretch your meat then? I can see how you do it when making a pasta sauce lets say but with things like shepherds pie I always follow the recipe which calls for a whole pack. Would you use more broth and more vegetables then and make two for example?

I don't know the area well yet so will see how much bus fares to Aldi are and whether it makes sense for me (what the shop is like and how long it all takes). I have to say I don't use iceland a lot at the moment as I prefer buying a lot of fresh stuff but might do it for loads of frozen vegetables.

Monikar that crumble sounds delicious. Not a huge fan of beans but would be able to do potatoes with a dip or something. I am doing that every now and then at the moment but might make it a more regular meal once a week as a light dinner.

I'd also love for boding to come back and tell us about green leafs.

monikar Mon 15-Jul-13 17:36:51

When I make shepherds pie I bulk out the mince with one large chopped onion, 2 large chopped carrots and one large chopped courgette. With the courgette I leave the skin on for extra colour and texture and it is really nice. I shop in Tesco and the courgettes tend to be quite dusty so be sure to wash them well before you start.

Another thing I do is to freeze any leftover pasta sauce/curry etc - even if it is not enough to do another whole meal and then when I have several of one variety I defrost them and reheat them all together for a 'free' meal. I also freeze small amounts of cooked meat such as chicken that wouldn't be enough to make a whole new meal and then pool several amounts together to make another 'free' meal.

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