Friday 26 January 2024

Frugal Friday…

 Time for an update on that grocery challenge I mentioned I think, don't you? 

Obviously we're now approaching the end of the month, I’m pleased to say costs have stayed generally  low in comparison to normal, and I'm beginning to feel that I am getting back to basics on the way we plan meals, ensure that food waste is nonexistent and make the best use of the resources we have.  There was a slightly bigger than expected shop in week one as I had lots of coupons from ThaT SupermarkeT which it seemed wise to use - they provide us with a combination of  additional loyalty points (and those points are then doubled in value, mostly to be used towards things which we would otherwise pay cash for) or indeed actual money off, not to be sniffed at! So we topped up on a few things, hit a spend threshold, bought a few bits which while we might not need them right now, we will certainly use, and wandered out with a not-too high spend and a nice wodge of extra points. We also took the decision to head to the Farmer’s market last weekend as we are unable to get there in February and I wanted to make sure we had sufficient meat to take us through. 

One thing I have found really helpful to make sure we make the best use of the food we have in is to run with a rolling meal plan - so once a week or so, I jot down the things I've got planned for the  next few days, then whole of the following week, and then some rough ideas to choose from for the week after that. I start with thinking about what we have in the freezer, fridge and cupboards (no larder any more, sadly!) - do we have eggs nearing the end of their date? Is there half a butternut squash in the fridge that needs using? Is there still a tub of that nice bolognese sauce I made the other week and froze a few portions of? I fit certain types of meals to particular nights of the week, too - Mondays are generally something really quick - a previously batch cooked pasta sauce from the freezer with some spaghetti for example, because who the heck wants to cook anything complicated on a Monday evening? Tuesdays I do something that can easily be split into two as MrEH has rugby training - couscous with roasted veg and some form of protein element is a big favourite - he can either eat it cold or heat it up depending how he feels, but all he needs to do when he gets home is assemble and eat. Wednesday and Thursday nights often involve a bit more cooking, and Fridays are usually something tasty, that might involve a bit more prep and cooking time - occasionally even an actual recipe! Weekends tend to be a bit more of a free-for-all depending on what else we have going on - on a Saturday I'm often just sorting lunch for myself for example as MrEH has headed off to rugby, so soup and bread or a toastie hits the spot nicely. Where possible I love to do some form of roast dinner on a Sunday - and that always provides us with more than the one meal as well. Last week's roast pork gave us a generous helping each for Sunday, then fed us again on Tuesday (with couscous) and Wednesday (stir-fried) plus there are another two double-helpings in the freezer - one in the forms of slices ready for another roast, and the other in chunks - that will probably be stir-fried in a future week.

I know I have said this before but starting with a quick review of anything you might have about that needs using is probably the best way I know of avoiding food waste, beyond the obvious planning and buying just what you need, of course!  As I mentioned the other week, it's often possible to prevent things from going past their best by making something out of them there and then - my soup was a good example. However, you can also sometime rescue things which you're not in a position to cook with immediately. Sweet peppers for example can be chopped and frozen (ideally spread out on a sheet of baking parchment or baking liner, then tip them into bags or tubs when frozen solid). Mushrooms hovering on the edge of slimy can be chopped and oven roasted with a drizzle of oil, then frozen in the same way. Green veg benefits from a light blanching in boiling water - then cool it as swiftly as possible and again, loose freeze for ease of use. we do, after all, spend a fair amount of our annual income on ensuring that we are fed - so it does make the best use of that money. 

One thing I have switched up recently is that I am doing a lot more of my shopping at a budget or “discounter” supermarket - and I do think it’s saving me money too. The one I use most these days also has a nice app which rewards you when you reach certain spend thresholds in a month - today for example I went back in after my main shop as I was able to claim a free bakery item - a nice crusty sourdough style loaf worth £1.99 - like all these things the trick is to shop normally and not be seduced into spending more to hit a particular level - although it has to be said if I was just a pound or so off one of the levels the week before the end of the month I might add something for the storecupboard into the trolley to push us over. If you shop there a few times a month, the app will probably be worthwhile for you though.

We’ve resisted the call of the takeaway this month although there was a meal out - pizza in a pub with pals last weekend, and most delicious it was!  (And also from our personal spending money, not our food budget!)

I know - not particularly frugal! (Tasty though!)

It’s looking like we’ll have about a £75 underspend on our January budget - possibly slightly less, but in that region, and I’m pleased with that. It’s been really good to properly focus back on a frugal challenge again this month, and I do feel that it’s also been beneficial to get back into the habit of proper meal planning again too.  Allowing that we are still fairly well stocked, I’m going to roll the challenge on into February as well so I’ll keep you posted on how we go. There will be no Frugal February his year I don’t think as we do have a couple of things planned through the month which will involved (planned and budgeted) spending, so having something to focus on and keep our heads in the thrifty game would be good! 


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