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So my first post in the ‘Frugal Living for Lazy People’ eBook preview series; Top 5 Smart Ways To Save Money On Food, turned out to be super popular!
Edit: The eBook is live! Frugal Living for Lazy People is now available on Amazon!
I like to be thorough when sharing information, I go into detail on the whys and how’s.
Leaving people with a list of things to google after reading just seems like bad practice to me. Above all I want to help people make life as easy and enjoyable as possible. As I said in the first of these posts, even if you only save a few £££s in the end, a few saved is a few you can spend elsewhere!
So that is why I’m keeping these lists to just five things at a time. In Frugal Living for Lazy People, you are going to find a lot more advice, personal accounts and lists, with some really excellent tips based not just around food, but all aspects of your life.
1. portion control
This is one a lot of people struggle with. I know, I used to be the same, still am sometimes. There are some foods you just want to eat and eat until you feel sick because they are so good.
However, not only is this key to save on waste and make meals go further, but it also has huge advantages for your health. For example, if you were to actually read the instructions on a packet of pasta, or even just google it, the correct portion of pasta for one adult is 1 cup.
Some may look at that and think ‘it’s not enough!’ but believe me, once you add your sauce, meat and veggies it is a full, filling meal.
Just think, if you keep scoffing down 2-cup portions, that is technically two meals you are eating in one go! You are doubling your cost. If you are used to huge portions it can be a little frustrating at first, sure.
However, within a week I found I was feeling better after eating because I wasn’t stuffing myself anymore!
Eating until you feel super full is actually quite a bad thing to do. We don’t need to feel full to actually be full, our bodies are not perfect and take time to process. Always check the correct portion size recommendations for your food and you’ll be seeing the difference in no time, both by pounds lost and pounds saved 😉
2. Be organised.
This may seem like an odd one, how can being organised possibly make a difference to the amount you spend?
Well think of it this way: A small investment in some permanent markers and zip lock bags (both of which you can find in the pound shop) means you can properly portion and label leftovers!
By doing this, you can clearly see what is available in the freezer for dinner the nights you simply can’t face cooking, which can avoid both unnecessary waste and ordering expensive take-away.
Always remember to put the date it was made/frozen, most meals are good for up to 3 months in the freezer. I probably use leftover meals within a month anyway but still, as long as I rotate the latest dates to the back and use the earliest dates first, there will never be an issue of having to throw something that has been left in the freezer for over a year! (That… may have actually happened to me before I was organised….)
This typically also goes for the pantry and store cupboards. How often have you thought you needed to buy jars of sauce, beans, soups etc only to get them home and find you already had them, but needed something else entirely? Avoid unnecessary doubles and repeat trips to the shops by keeping your cupboards tidy so you can see clearly what you do and don’t have!
3. know what you do and don’t use.
For a month, (or two if you prefer), try simply keeping a list of things you throw away. I can’t take credit for this one, I’ve seen it on many other blog posts, but it really does make a difference.
Do you fall into the healthy parenting trap? Desperately want to get the kids to eat more broccoli but never get around to steaming it before it wilts? (Try a bag of frozen instead!)
This applies not only to fresh things. One of the big things I did when I really decided to change my shopping habits and get organised was to have a good go through the fridge, freezer and cupboards.
I ended up throwing away about 3/4 of my spice cupboard because they were out of date, and some of those had only been used once! I even found a fancy hot sauce that had only been used twice, that was out of date by three years. THREE YEARS.
After getting rid of these spices I realised how many had been one off buys for random recipes I’d made once and never again.
I’m not saying don’t try new things, I firmly support the opposite! However, would a friend or family member possibly have a jar of that spice you only need a 1/2 tsp of? Could it be substituted without affecting the end result with something you are more likely to use again?
Have a good clear out, then the next time you want to buy for a recipe, keep these questions in mind!
4. Freeze everything.
Seriously, you’d be amazed what you can actually freeze, even every day staples like milk, bread, butter and cheese! Yup.
A quick Google with bring up some awesome lists! However what I am talking about are the things you don’t always use on a daily basis. One of the meals my family loves is Thai curry, red is our favourite (even the toddler, he loves spice!). However, I cannot stand the ready made jar sauces and always, always buy a jar of paste and a tin of coconut milk.
This also allows us to adjust the spice level and ‘sauciness’ to our exact preferences. But this approach usually results in 2/3 of a jar of paste and probably 1/2 tin of coconut milk going to waste.
Why? Mostly because Husband is one of those ‘I can’t eat the same meal two days in a row’ sort. I could, but if I were to use it all I’d be eating the same meal every day for a week, even I get bored of that. So rather than let it sit in the fridge and forget about it until it expires, I measure out the correct portion size required for a family meal and freeze!
Writing a budget is not the hard part, the hard part is this: Sticking to it.
For example: I try to keep a strict budget of £200 per month for food, or £50 per week.
When baby #2 came along things went horribly sideways with breastfeeding, frustrated but resigned we once again turned to formula. So for this expense I added £40 per month to the budget. (A tub is £10, which lasts about a week.)
The best thing I recommend for getting into a budgeting mindset, is to stick to it no matter what.
If I run out of money with a week to go, (with the exception of bread and milk) that’s it, no more top ups.
This is why I cook most meals in bulk and have a freezer full of leftovers. Who cares if we run out of veg and have a defrosted meal every night for a week? I always cook from fresh ingredients and can say with certainty these meals are healthy and nutritious, so no big deal.
On pay day I usually go and take the food budget money out in cash and do one big shop to restock pantry and staple items, such as toilet paper, tins of beans, rice, pasta etc.
I will also top up fresh fruit, veg and most if not all of our meat for the month. This usually takes roughly half the budget in one go.
I then put the rest of the allowance in a wallet, which I have specifically for the purpose of keeping my money organised where I can see what I am spending.
The remaining money is used to top up fresh fruit, veg, bread, milk, eggs etc throughout the month.
If I think I’m not going to make it last because of unexpected, or unnecessary additional spends, (hey, no one is perfect!) I try to tone it down and focus on what is really necessary.
Since I started using this, the thing that has surprised me most is how easy it is.
For comparison, before we had children, my husband and I would spend on average £250-300 per month on food alone! And we certainly didn’t eat as well as we do now.
A lot of that went on unhealthy snacks, ready meals, fruit and veg (we usually neglected and had to throw away) and so on. Such a waste!
Now we all eat healthily, still get to have our snacks and we spend less doing so!
The key is to look; I mean really take a good hard look at what exactly you are buying each month.
Do you really need all those unhealthy snacks? Are those expensive juices really necessary when you could get squash instead? Do you really need bottles of chocolate flavoured milk when you could get a tub of Nesquik instead?
Have you fallen into the habit of buying things no-one really eats anymore, so you end up throwing them away?
The answers might surprise you.
Give these tips a go and I promise, you will see a difference. I have been using them to adopt a more economic, frugal living mindset and I have really seen a difference. I hope you will too!