OK, this post is long overdue. Very, very overdue. I have promised so many people that I would write it, and I never actually have. I am approached by so many people to tell them of my secret. School gate mums, Facebook faces I have never met, and even strangers in the street. I bought £97 worth of food shopping for £7, in one shop. This isn’t a rarity. I do it all of the time. I feed my family on pennies. Daily.
How I feed my family of 5 for under £10 per week.
Sometimes it’s a tenner, sometimes it’s less. Rarely is it more. Here are my ultimate tips for achieving similar. I promise you that the food shall be tasty and it will be easier than you think. There is a little extra work needed when preparing to freeze your haul, but it guarantees eating well for less. Admittedly we don’t buy meat, so that shaves our shopping basket price down- Going veggie isn’t just good for animals and your health, but apparently it’s good for our wallet too!
- Find out what time your local supermarket reduces it’s ‘best before’ stock. This is our biggest ‘must-do’. We shop on a Tuesday, 6pm for Sainsburys, followed by 7pm for ASDA. Tuesdays has the best bargains, Wednesdays are rubbish. These are just my local stores. It’s worth popping in each evening until you discover the best times and days the bargains are to be had.
- Learn a mental map of your store. You MUST know where the bargain fridges are, the discount freezer and those little cheap-o shelves lurk. Not food, but last week I picked up a nail varnish for 70p thanks to those shelves. When you go into store on a reduction mission, make a bee line straight for those fridges. DO NOT STOP FOR ANYTHING. “Hi Aunt Mary, Busy Busy, Must dash. Bye Aunt Mary.” DO NOT STOP FOR MARY. The difference between a convo and eating for 10p is massive.
- If you head to the reduction fridge and it’s empty, there is a good chance the items haven’t been bought out yet. Make your way over to the bread section while you wait. Keep moving, keep your eyes peeled and repeat those bee lines. Maybe I should call them Ant Trails instead. Up, down, up, down.
- Damn, there’s only cheese and mushrooms. Sometimes you see boxes upon boxes of one product. Don’t be afraid to grab it all. I mean, leave some for others if you’re feeling kind, but don’t be afraid to stock up. I have a saying (that’s a lie, my friend said it) ‘If you find it on a pizza, you can freeze it.’ Cheese: grate it and freeze it. Yoghurts, freeze it. 50 tubs of mushrooms… take them home, peel, slice and freeze. Voila, you are now stocked up for home made pizzas for a few months. Pineapples, Yeah you can freeze those too. In chunks obvs.
- Freeze left overs or take them to work for lunch. Freeze portions once cool in freezer bags or takeaway tubs as soon as possible. If you have left overs daily, you will soon have built up enough freezer stash for a quick and easy dinner when you just can’t be bothered to cook. Buying lunch every day when at work can soon add up. For example a shop bought meal deal at £3 per day, will add up to £15 per week! Meal deal sandwiches are never as filling as that tasty left over Spaghetti Bolognese either.
- Keep your eyes peeled for a big chest freezer. We’d all like a big chest, wouldn’t we? I picked up ours up for £20 on a Facebook selling page 3 years ago. It has been my best friend since. We swapped our big fridge for something smaller, because we weren’t using it that much any longer. The freezer became our go-to for dinner, not the fridge.
- Buy loaves of bread like it’s going out of fashion. Seriously, 20 loaves of bread at 7p each might seem excessive, but it bulks the freezer out and keeps it running efficiently. You can toast it from frozen but defrosts in minutes if need be. Don’t just think toast either- bread and butter puddings, etc etc etc.
- For those items that you rarely see on offer (I’m talking bags of pasta, sauces, tins) plan back up meals, so you know exactly what you need and stick to it. If you buy items as you see them, the chances are you will go completely off course and crash into a pile of unwanted items in your pantry.
- Make your own sauces when you can. If I see tubs of tomatoes on offer I grab them, bring them home, puree them up and freeze into pasta sauce sized portions ready to just chuck into my pasta dishes. Tomatoes can be frozen whole but they tend to go mushy when defrosted or cooked from frozen, so prepare them before freezing.
- Have you ever noticed that the most expensive items are at eye level on the shelves? Shops do this for one reason alone, to make more money. Look up or down (or all around- *bursts into song*) for the cheaper options. Quite often value alternatives taste just as good as the more expensive.
- Consider growing your own fruit and veg. Some vegetables are super easy to grow and require minimal effort. Lettuce, cress and potatoes are fantastic for beginners and don’t take up much room at all. Lettuce can even be grown easily indoors on windowsills and you simply snip off what you need as and when with a pair of scissors. Potatoes, carrots and beans can be grown in small gardens on patios in tubs. Growing your own food is so satisfying, you know exactly where it came from and it teaches kids some great lessons at home about produce! In just 12 weeks of living in our new home our garden has given us Swiss chard, potatoes and even one lonely strawberry.
- All fruit and vegetables can be preserved one way or another. If your supermarket has tubs upon tubs of strawberries on offer, have a go at making your own jam. The day Wimbledon finished my local store had around 100 boxes of strawberries at 10p each. I bought 15 tubs. I made 9 jars of jam, one big jar of dehydrated strawb-slices for snacking and then sliced and froze the rest. I now have frozen strawberries to throw into smoothies, porridge, cakes and crumbles. Many items of veg don’t need any preparation before freezing, but if you have any questions Google normally has the answers.
- If you have a baby at weaning age don’t waste your money on jars of baby food. Did you know that the battery farm chickens that are no longer good for egg production become turned into baby food? Why not rescue some ex battery hens, then you’ll have tasty eggs from your back garden and save a life. Make a little extra portion of whatever you are having for dinner, blend and serve to baby. Or look into baby led weaning, where you simply soft cook food and let them feed themselves. Making a few portions of baby ‘mush’ and freezing means that you know exactly what ingredients have been used and you’ll save a lot of money in the process. Simply defrost and heat up. Happy baby tummies all around!
- If you see microwave meals or fresh pizzas reduced buy them and freeze them as they are. No need to defrost pizzas before cooking, after all… what do you think a frozen pizza is? Tubs of margarine, bottles of milk and even wine can all be frozen too. The frozen wine will only be suitable for using in cooking though… anyways, who’s ever heard of left over wine?!
- Learn to cook. If you are not a confident cook I suggest trying to cook 2 or 3 new recipes a week. OK, you may make some mistakes, but learning is a journey. You could always take up cooking classes, but that costs money and time away from home. YouTube has some amazing simple cooking videos that shall teach you from the comfort of your own kitchen… and if anything does go wrong, you will save the embarrassment of it happening in front of a room full of people.
- Make smaller meal portions. Many of us have expanding waist lines and thinner wallets are to show for this. A smaller portion reduces excessive calorie intake and means you won’t be cooking or wasting so much food. Buying slightly smaller plates helps too. We swapped from modern steak plates, to 1970’s dinner plates and boy! have portions grown?! The plate sizes are very noticeable. Weirdly even on smaller sized plates, our portions are smaller but because the plates are still covered our brains tell us we have eaten plenty and we are satisfied.
By making small steps at first, you will soon start to notice the savings. By preparing and freezing you shall reduce how often you have to shop, save time in the long run, avoid days when you are tempted with takeaways and you might find that you even get healthier in the process. There are so many benefits to learning how to be more frugal in the kitchen. I am very proud to say that our food wastage is absolutely minimum in our house. Even the veggie peelings are used… as compost. When we started saving money with our food shopping we suddenly became more aware of where our spending was going. I have branched out from just being frugal with our food. We no longer buy any disposables, including toilet paper. I’m not suggesting you jump straight into that, but our journey of watching what we eat has taken us on a huge life journey.
If you have ANY questions about preparing, freezing or preserving food leave me a question in the comments box below and I’ll reply as soon as I can. If you have any of your own tips, post below and share the knowledge!