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Smp panic with budget.

(31 Posts)
newlyfrugal Thu 17-Jan-19 14:21:23

Okay so I know that the mumsnet consensus is that we should save in order to cope on maternity leave but this was a surprise baby and our budget was pretty tight anyway. Please no flaming. It is what it is unfortunately.

Long story short, after carefully budgeting I will have 350 per month for food for two adults and a toddler. The baby is breastfed so thankfully I don't need to find the money for milk. Toddler loves fruit and veg so would still like to maintain and encourage that if possible.

I am useless at both budgeting and cooking so I am here asking 1. Can it be done and 2. Can anybody please help me with tips, meals, recipes?

treadcarefull Wed 20-Feb-19 01:58:39

£350 is absolutely loads for a family that size I think. I shop in Aldi & farmfoods and I'm not super whizz cook! Often buy things can just throw in oven for 40 minutes etc!

Graphista Wed 20-Feb-19 01:26:35

"Branded stuff too so don't even know the cost. "

As well meaning as pps have been I think it would be very helpful if you told us what you currently eat/cook including brands so we can suggest ways to cut back and recipes that will suit your tastes and level of cooking skill. You must be a capable cook if you can make bread.

Have you seen the programme eat well for less? You may find it very helpful. It's mostly common sense but sometimes we forget stuff if we get out the habit and I've picked up some tips and recipes. Also money saving expert (mse) site is good. Also check online for money off vouchers, use loyalty cards etc

Off the top of my head:

1 Brands are largely a con

Supermarket or other shop's own brand products (and not the premium ranges) are almost always just as good as brands and much cheaper. Martin Lewis (mse) recommends moving a brand level lower at a time until you reach a point where you do notice a difference. Eg I'm happy using mainly value ranges for basics but some things I don't like the products to the point I know I won't eat/use them. One of those things is bread, I'm fine with supermarket own but find the value level too dry and goes stale too quickly - so it would be a false economy buying

2 carbs and veg are cheap, filling & nutritious

There's a reason our ancestors especially the poor ones based their meals on them.

Eating seasonally is cheaper, healthier (the nutrients in the foods that are in season tend to be the nutrients we need at that time of year - isn't nature clever? (I first learned this during nurse training on a rotation where I was working alongside a dietitian and like many young students went to stay at mums during a rare holiday and did that annoying student thing of thinking I was so clever knowing this. Mum was like 😂 well d'uh! Why do you think I serve shepherds pie and carrots in winter and salads in summer? So I also learned not to be an arrogant twat to to my mum 😂😂😂

Biologically we don't need huge amounts of meat, dairy etc

3 even the products that are your "deal breakers" (and even I have those, not many but a few) you don't pay full price for

if they have a long shelf life offers tend to rotate around the supermarkets (eg if cornflakes are on offer in Tesco this week but offer ends next week chances are they'll be on offer in Asda/morrisons/sainsburys the following week) - seriously once you start looking for this you'll see how much it happens.

So if they've a long shelf life stock up when they're on offer in your usual supermarket. If it's a short life product shop around to find where it's on offer (there's a few websites/apps that give this info too but I've never used them as when I'm not housebound I shop around anyway) Mind you I have an online "friend" who's also housebound and she shops around with online shopping by rotating who she gets her delivery from depending on who's cheapest for her that week - she's also found doing this that if she doesn't use one for a few weeks they usually send her a voucher to entice her back! I can't do this as not everyone delivers to my address but it might be useful info for you or someone else reading

4 shop around

try places you haven't before, I'm not really a fan of lidl and Aldi as my branches are crap but it varies regionally. There's also places like Iceland, farm foods, co-op, home bargains, b&m and £1 shops (with these bear in mind they're not always cheaper, do the maths. Often in the pound shops they seem cheap but the pack size is smaller. Although that's something I've preferred on occasion if it's something that the normal pack size is too big for our needs anyway or its a product only one person likes.

5 i know you've said food budget but you can save on other grocery stuff too

Supermarkets are actually expensive for non food items. When I'm not housebound I shop around far more than I'm currently able to. Bodycare is a shop near me that is great for cheap toiletries but also some household cleaning products, tissues, air fresheners. Savers is a similar type shop not as big but sometimes has good offers on. B&m, home bargains and poundshops again too.

I get through a lot of kitchen roll and loo roll and surface cleaners because of my OCD and these shops I've found best value for these.

Costco or similar is another option if you've one near you

6 buy in bulk can save you money too. Products with long shelf life and if you have somewhere you can store, can often work out much cheaper overall if you buy bigger packs/multipacks. Also look in other aisles to usual particularly true of "ethnic" foods like rice. Buying smaller packs can = £1.50 per kilo but if you can bulk buy the 10kg or 15kg packs that can drop significantly to £1 a kilo or less

7 go the old fashioned route of buying direct

Farm shops, markets, greengrocers, bakers, fishmongers and butchers even milkmen are more competitive than for a long time generally and for some things always were cheaper. Supermarkets aren't always cheapest.

My parents always buy a sack of potatoes and a "half sack" of carrots from their nearest farm shop (dad ex army and they've found one everywhere we've lived) store them in the "glory hole" (yes I know I know 😂but my mum has no idea of alternative meaning. Basically cupboard under the stairs. Even when all 5 of us were home that would last a month. They now go halves with a neighbour and it's plenty for the 2 of them. They'll also get whatever else is in season and when we were all home mum used to bulk buy eggs too. They lasted longer from the farm shop as you were getting them so fresh.

Mum always seemed to track down a good but cheap butcher, fishmonger & greengrocer too. She'd bulk buy fresh eg a whole pig or half a cow (literally) and the butcher would portion it, label it and she'd freeze the lot.

8 learn some favourite recipes that use up leftovers

On another thread I'm on at the moment many are reminiscing with fond memories of dishes they were served that with hindsight they have realised was their mum using up leftovers/making food go further/making sure food didn't go to waste.

Soups, stews and casseroles are the usual suspects. Honestly you can throw pretty much anything savoury in a soup to use it up, if you have or can afford a blender it's also a great way to sneak "hated" veg into the kids or the husband

But there's also omelettes/frittatas, bubble and squeak, curries & chillis, pies & parcels, pasta bakes, potato bakes, rissoles & fish cakes...

Yea top up shops should be avoided if at all possible you'll always end up buying more than you went in for, supermarkets pay experts a LOT of money to develop ideas to get people to buy stuff they don't really need - they wouldn't do that if it didn't work!!

NEVER shop when you're hungry or knackered! I read that on a tips page DECADES ago and I'm sure it's saved me a fortune!

ALWAYS use a list - this is a big thing on eat well for less, loads of people buy stuff that they're not sure IF they need it so get it just in case, I've been guilty of that sometimes done a cupboard check and realised I've bloody 30 tins of beans or whatever! Even shopping online I keep a running list (the way I work is fresh bought weekly but non fresh I add to list when I've started or down to last pack) on my phone and check my cupboards and freezer and I've notes like

NO pasta this week!

So I don't make this mistake there too. Sounds bonkers I'm sure but works for me.

I genuinely hope that is all helpful and you might even have a bit of fun with it and find some new dishes/recipes your family likes.

Haha wrote all that then saw update. Glad you're doing well but I've decided to still post in case it's useful to you or someone else hope that's ok.

You're not an idiot sometimes we just need reminding of things we've forgotten or new ideas or motivation.

newlyfrugal Tue 19-Feb-19 21:57:51

Returning to this thread to say that I feel
Like an absolute idiot.

This has been totally manageable. I don't know what I was wasting my money on. I hope that someone who sees this and was worried is reassured. We have eaten well and not had to miss out on anything really and it has felt good not to waste as much food!

newlyfrugal Sat 19-Jan-19 11:59:23

@lozabella sorry! Just noticed your question! I shop at Tesco regularly but have access to most supermarkets

Lazypuppy Sat 19-Jan-19 09:59:22

@newlyfrugal bread and milk gets bought in weekly shop and lasts all week. I freeze a loaf of bread for dd as she doesn't eat it quick enough before it would go mouldy.

Dd eats whatever we are eating, most dinners is spag bol, chilli, lasagne, fajitas, enchilladas, curry. She eats breakfast anf lunch at nursery every day, but on weekends she'll have toast with beans and egg. She has little pots of yoghurts after dinner as well. I buy a few pouches from aldi each month as a back up, and she has 2 of the kids ready meals a week which cost £2each for 1 day she is at her aunts, and another for the night that we have a takeaway.

I never need to do a top up shop, what do you have to top up with? Like i said, if bread is about to go out of date it goes in the freezer, i buy enough milk for the whole week.

MaverickSnoopy Sat 19-Jan-19 06:39:41

We mostly avoid top up shops during the week. Sometimes we run out of milk but I try to keep a couple of cartons of uht milk. We have a chalkboard in kitchen for things you've run out of and don't need immediately. It then gets bought the following week. When we do the shopping list each week we think of everything we could possibly need for every meal - takes some practice but usually we get it right. If we run out of things then we work around it. Say we're supposed to be having spaghetti bolognese and have run out of spaghetti, then we'll use pasta. Sometimes we swap meals around. We try and keep a loaf of bread in the freezer for emergency toast but if we run out of bread then we run out of bread. We don't go to the shop and get more or we'd buy other things too. We do have crackers and wraps too though. If I've run out of emergency bread for toast after breakfast then I sometimes default to crackers with cheese or cream cheese or pancakes. Sometimes we might run out of fruit so use frozen berries or tinned fruit instead. We have a good surplus of fresh but also a lot of frozen and cupboard fruit and veg.

newlyfrugal Fri 18-Jan-19 22:58:48

@Lazypuppy what kind of things do you make? Particularly what does your toddler eat? Mine isn't particularly fussy but I do worry we give her processed food too often (wee toddler ready meals for example),

How do you manage to avoid the top up shops? Do you freeze bread etc?

Lazypuppy Fri 18-Jan-19 22:28:42

£350 is a huge budget to me! We spend £45 a week, budget for £200 a month (2 adults, 1 toddler). I do a weekly shop online and no top up shops during the week.

newlyfrugal Fri 18-Jan-19 20:11:29

@Isleepinahedgefund what kind of things are you eating? How do you manage to stop yourself doing top up shops? I think that's my killer. I feel I'm in the supermarket every other day for bread or milk or the garlic or onions I forgot. 🤦🏻‍♀️

Isleepinahedgefund Fri 18-Jan-19 19:51:05

You really have to forgo the convenience food and cook from scratch.

Meal planning is also really important if you're keeping to a budget.

For one month track what you spend on food and keep the receipts. You might find you can easily cut something out or make some swaps.

Jordan Page on YouTube has really good tips - my favourite is to only go to the supermarket once a week - that tip alone saved me loads!

She also advises to meal plan around what you already have in the house, and buy only what you need.

Budget separately for nappies etc, that will distort your food bill.

£350 is a big budget for food imo- but there are only two of us (one adult, one child) and I can feed us very well for the month for £150. I shop mainly at Aldi and pick up a few things from Waitrose. My child also has some food allergies notably dairy, which makes some things more expensive, and we still come in at £150/m.

Notreallyhappy Fri 18-Jan-19 15:55:49

As others have said you'll be ok with the planning.
I did a full week on £65 for 3 grown ups this week & the 21 year old can eat.
We didn't go meat free & stretch everything with lentils just stuck to the menu.
Whole chickens can last a few days and mince dishes are reasonably cheap.
Make sure you plan all meals & snacks or come Saturday teatime no plan leads to the just eat app.

MaverickSnoopy Fri 18-Jan-19 14:49:26

I mostly use the ready made stuff from costco - £6 for a huge bag that lasts about 6 months. You literally just add water.

I do have another recipe for if I run out and it's proved popular.

110g self raising flour
25g caster sugar
1 egg
140ml milk

* Mix all of the ingredients together.
* Grease your frying pan with a dot of butter.
* Once hot, pour 2tbsp of batter onto the pan.
* When bubbles appear and the pancakes have dried out a bit you can turn them.

newlyfrugal Fri 18-Jan-19 14:13:42

Thank you @MaverickSnoopy could I be cheeky and ask for your pancake recipe? I've tried a few bad they never quite turn out how I'd like? My daughter loves pancakes but always turns her nose up at my homemade ones!

MaverickSnoopy Fri 18-Jan-19 12:17:00

Glad you're feeling better about it. Once you get into it it's quite addictive. I didn't really think about it until I went on my first mat leave. Mat leave can be quite sobering when is comes to budgeting and how we eat.

I also buy quite a lot of porridge for breakfast and have it different ways - sugar and milk or berries (frozen from Aldi are cheap and nice in yogurt too) or apple/raisins/cinnamon with honey. I saw someone on a post say they had it with peanut butter. I make a batch of little American pancakes and heat up for my children throughout the week. I also regularly look in fridge for veg on the turn and make soup or cut up and freeze.

The trick is remembering to do this stuff!

newlyfrugal Fri 18-Jan-19 11:10:37

This is all great advice.

Thank you so much everyone...

I think up until now we have in all honestly been lazy and wasteful. I'm looking forward to being more careful, spending an appropriate amount and wasting far less!

MaverickSnoopy Fri 18-Jan-19 09:57:25

Similar budget here. Agree with pp's.

A couple of suggestions. It's cheaper to buy a joint of meat to make several meals rather than say several packs of chicken. I roast a chicken and strip it to make chicken casserole. The stripped chicken is added to about 15 onions and carrots and makes about 4 - 5 days worth of chicken casserole which I freeze in separate portions. I use this recipe I don't however use the carcass for this as he suggests; I do it separately and use it to make chicken soup.

If you need to be frugal you can stretch a chicken. We've got a frugal week coming up and this is my meal plan (2 adults, 7yo & 2yo):

Sunday: Roast Chicken with roast potatoes, parsnips, veg, yorkies and sausagemeat stuffing - I'll use the thighs and drumsticks for the roast and the rest will go in other meals

Monday: homemade chicken soup and crusty bread using the chicken wings from chicken, the carcass for stock with scraps

Tuesday: pasta in tomato sauce and sausage meatballs with veg

Wednesday: Bacon and mushroom risotto

Thursday: Homemade Chicken, bacon, Mushroom and Sweetcorn Pie with vegetables (using 1 chicken breast from the roast chicken)

Friday: Chicken and vegetable korma and rice (using 1 chicken breast from the roast chicken)

Saturday: Pizza, garlic bread and salad

Primarily I'm buying a large chicken and a few repetitive ingredients (to utilise the quantity that I buy them in) - mushrooms, bacon, rice etc. Mushrooms, sausages and sweetcorn I will buy frozen as cheaper.

I shop in Aldi and Lidl mostly but I shop around too.

Nicpem1982 Fri 18-Jan-19 07:55:58

I second shopping at a market/greengrocers we spend 15 per week on fresh fruit and vegetables and we have 1 and a half huge bags full and it stays fresh and lasts the week a good greengrocer is invaluable.

Meals we have

Pasta and meatballs
Chilli and rice
Sausage casserole
Cottage pie
Prawn and chorizo rice
Piri chicken and spicy rice


Cheese toasties
Cheese and crackers with crudités
Pate on toast

sausageees Fri 18-Jan-19 07:35:37

Your budget is more than we spend monthly for food. I'm sure you'll be fine.

NeverTwerkNaked Fri 18-Jan-19 07:33:26

That budget sounds ample.
My main tip is to shop online. Plan a weekly shop (after doing a meal plan). If you do it online you can ensure you stay in budget easily.

Cheap meals: jacket potato and beans; home made soup (eg with left over veg);

for fruit: look for the offers each week to help keep costs down? Or possibly find a local market, can be much cheaper for fruit ( I know that goes against my buying online asvice!)

DonnaDarko Fri 18-Jan-19 07:33:12

I think that budget is fine. We spend 60-80 per week and that includes a lot of gluten free, dairy free stuff which is generally more expensive. 3 adults and a toddler. The toddler is still in nappies. We buy nappies in bulk once every month or so as the supermarket always has a deal like 2 for £18.

Definitely meal plan, but look out for deals as well. Buy non branded stuff. We shop in Asda and a lot of the Asda own stuff is really good, if not better than some of the big brands.

I don't have a lot of time for cooking so I batch cook on Sunday, and sometimes have to do a quick meal in the week.

My favourites to do are one pot meals like chilli, Bolognese or meatballs and casseroles, particularly as it's so cold at the moment!

Raver84 Fri 18-Jan-19 07:23:35

I think you should be fine with that budget I also shop in aldi and recommend their nappies for your new baby and toddler.
In terms of good I spend 80 each week for 6 of us these are the meals we have regularly...
Roast on Sunday either a large chicken or whole shoulder of lamb.
On the monday we use the extra meat for a curry, pie, wraps etc.
Sphegtti bol
Sauage mash and veg
Cook a big pack of chicken breasts use half for fajitas one night and the next night we have a curry.
Chilli and rice
Shepherds pie we always make one with a large mince and a bag or potatoes and this does two nights.
Simple pasta and home made tomato sauce or a jar or bake with garlic bread.
Tuna pasta bake
Jackets with tuna or beans.noodles and stir fry veg, frozen pwawns.
Sweet and sour pork using a jar sauce and rice.

Breakfast is toast cereal or yoghurt. Egg on toast, bacon sandwiches at weekend. Lunches are soup and bread wraps, sandwiches etc. All with fruit after. Puddings are cakes I make or just simple. Penguin type bars from Aldi.

The best tip I have is use your fresh stuff first at the start of the week so potato based dishes I have at the start of the week before the potatoes turn, use all the fresh veg with your meals before they go bad. Towards the last few days of the week we eat more psta and rice based meals and tinned fruit or dried raisins and apricots until the next shop. Takes a bit of planning but worth it.

newlyfrugal Thu 17-Jan-19 21:11:42

Thank you so much everyone seriously made me relax slightly ❤️

newlyfrugal Thu 17-Jan-19 21:10:48

Omg @livingthegoodlife I actually love you. I don't have a bread maker but I have made bread before. Maybe give it a go again if it's so much cheaper, think I currently go through 3 small loaves a week! Branded stuff too so don't even know the cost.


livingthegoodlife Thu 17-Jan-19 20:28:13

Pack ups -

Kids - sandwich, diced apple, buy a big bag of raisins and put a handful in a pot, diced cheese (no cheese strings or babybels), carrot sticks

Adults - soup or just a sandwich and a piece of fruit. It's only lunch. It doesn't need to be a feast.

livingthegoodlife Thu 17-Jan-19 20:26:04

I often make homemade soup. This week I made broccoli and blue cheese (est cost £1 ISH) and produced 6 portions.

Do you have a bread maker? I make my own bread every day for a rough cost of 30p a loaf. Plus I use it to make pizza dough. Only 20p or so a base. Then add tomato puree, cooked onion & grated cheese. Mozzarella & ham if you can afford it. I do the kids ham & tinned pineapple.

Pasta with pesto & peas, omelettes, quiche.

Serve veg with everything. It makes the meal healthier and more interesting too.

My budget for food this month is only £50 but that is relying heavily on a well stocked freezer & cupboard. We only have meat a couple of times a week.

Don't waste anything. It's amazing what meal can be conjured up from left over bits & bobs.

Also, I've stopped buying cereal. Too expensive. I now do a rolling menu of porridge, pancakes, eggs & bacon. All homemade.

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