Well first, there's last week to talk about. Groceries - pretty good again, and I was even able to take advantage of a couple of special offers I saw! I decided to start my weeks shopping at Lidl, as our local store has just been refurbished and I thought there might be some good re-opening offers. It's far lighter and brighter, and I imagine must be a much nicer place for the staff to work now, but so far as the prices go, much the same as ever. I did spot a couple of bargains though - a "100% extra free" bag of lemons on offer at 79p got popped into the basket, as did a 200g pack of "Fine French Pate" at 69p. I grabbed the mushrooms I wanted while I was there too - there's never any certainly whether Tesco's value ones will come from the British Isles or not, and Lidl's were Irish, which will just about do, and the price was right. Bargain of the day was this pasta:
This equates to 58p a kilo which as as cheap as I've seen anywhere for pasta. I usually buy either 1kg "Discount Brands" from Tesco - normally 99p, or the big 3kg bags if the price works out comparatively, but this deal knocked either of those into a cocked hat. I bought 6 packs, which will keep us going for a while.
The total Lidl spend was £4.17 - which happened to be almost exactly the amount of change I had left from that £5 diesel money we were given, so that counts as a "cash neutral" spend. I went on from there to Tesco where I got the rest of what was required - mainly basics, remembered Milk and bread flour this week, and got some salad bits on BOGOF for our journey to Devon that evening as well as the usual fruit & veg and yogurts. Total in there was £8.54.
As expected we had to add some more diesel to MrEH's car - and we also paid for him to get down to Surrey by train as it dramatically improves the arrival time down in Devon if I pick him up from over there.
An annoying unplanned spend - ANOTHER screw in a tyre (not the one that was replaced a few weeks back, fortunately) on MrEH's car meant a second replacement tyre in the space of the month. The cost of rubber had apparently fallen a touch in the intervening period and this one cost us £44. Irritating, but one of those things that simply can't be helped. As before, the money will be in the car account to pay for this.
Personally, I reverted to my usual plan of withdrawing my £30 per week spends this week as we were heading down to Devon. I transferred £5 of what was left in my purse from the week before over towards my clarinet lesson. Devon proved less expensive than I suspected - I spent £2.63 on a lovely piece of Ox cheek from the lovely farm shop in Dartmouth Town centre, £2 on some bread rolls for the journey back up and for us to have to have with a meal on saturday night, and £9.30 on some bottles of beer which MrEH, Mum in Law and I shared. There have been no other personal spends this week, and once my loose change was fed to the savings pig, I was left with £20 in my purse. As I paid for the two food-related items they don't classify as "groceries".
So overall, how did we do? Well, the Groceries total came in at £56.49 - once the "free money", Nectar points and Morrisons voucher are accounted for, the actual cash spend was just £28.57 though. I have to confess that even the topline figure has surprised me - I honestly wouldn't have thought it was possible to spend that little. We've had fresh fruit and veg throughout, have eaten exactly the sort of things we normally would, but simply haven't fallen victim to the temptation to buy things that actually we already have enough of. We've made pate for lunches and got more, and for less money, than we would have if we'd bought it. The food for the journey to Devon on Friday evening would usually be a sandwich or a salad bought from the supermarket - this time it was home made rolls with salami and mustard, salad, Jaffa Cakes (We were bought a "Yard of Jaffa Cakes" at christmas!) and crisps - the latter two items were there to be picked at if wanted on the way down. This category can only be declared an emphatic win, and I'll certainly be trying something similar again.
Joint Spending totalled £314.36 of which £210.06 was diesel and £104.30 was other travel. There were no odd spends on the credit card in Supermarkets or similar, and I'm expecting another low credit card bill when it arrives in March, too! I have a good two-thirds of the fuel I put into my car left, I think, and will be aiming to get re-fuelling past the middle of the month when the credit card month ends. I did consciously use the car less, and combine journeys etc, all of which is again something I can carry forwards.
Personal spending ended up at £23.48 - mainly tea at rugby, beer (worryingly!) and a bit of foody stuff, plus £30 which is always set aside for clarinet lessons although I do sometimes pop a straight £10 in the pot for those - that way it builds up a little bit of unexpected savings for treats! I got £8 in total in £2 coins which have gone off into their pig, and all loose change (anything under £1) that ends up in my purse also gets transferred to savings.
Unplanned spends - £92 Just the two of these, and they were the wretched new tyres of course! It does go to show though that without these two items we would have gone through the month spending nothing extra at all, and that in itself is interesting. What we did spend was already budgeted for and while annoying, isn't going to cause us any problems, thankfully.
So, what have I found hardest? well honestly, nothing much. Planning meals from the larder, storecupboard & freezer is fun. I tend to get stuck in a rut of cooking the same things and this has forced me to challenge myself more in this respect. The salmon I used to make fishcakes was a tin bought on special offer ages ago and has been in the cupboard ever since. the pork, onion ^ bean stew I made was pronounced delicious by MrEH and will be staying on the menu for the future, and lamb, chickpea & tomato curry will be bought into play again for using up the leftovers from a Sunday roast. The only slightly difficult thing I've found stems, I think, from the same reaction that causes the failure of many a diet - namely that as soon as something is forbidden, you crave it. far more than normal I've found myself thinking about things like a portion of chips at lunchtime (something I pretty much never do normally!) or a wander around B&M bargains or similar. Nearly everything, no, actually EVERYTHING I have spent while out and about this month was food/drink related. Not spending at weekends has proved surprisingly easy, and we've got several little household projects finished as a result of having a quiet time indoors. Resisting the temptation to stock up on special offers while grocery shopping has been quite hard - I've had to consciously remind myself that those offers will be along again in the future, and that we do have plenty of alternative foods to choose from!
So overall, I'd call the challenge a success. Personally yes I could have cut back further, but to any extent only by refusing to carry out normal sociable activities, and life is, after all, for living. My own expenditure is low at this time of year in any event, but not usually quite that low, and as you read this I will be getting ready to head off for a weekend with cheery pals which the cash I saved during February will help to pay for! I'll certainly be happy to have a go at "Frugal February" again next year!
Thanks to all those who have joined in with the fun this month - both publicly on their blogs and privately!