Grocery Shopping: How our £400 budget became £200(ish!)
My partner and I don’t like to eat; we love to eat. Eating is our passion. Eating, not even exaggerating, is central to our relationship. We look forward to coming home every night to a proper dinner, we’ve swapped our Saturday night ‘where to’ to ‘what’s cooking’ and trips abroad are meticulously planned around TripAdvisor restaurant reviews. The huge repertoire of recipes from our travels, a stock of restaurant meals we habitually recreate at home and our favourite childhood dinners, which aren’t so much food, as medicine for the soul, are the loves of our lives. So it was no surprise to us that our grocery shopping, pre-debt attack, was in the £400 region (for two adults and a small dog, which is not something to brag about).
In addition to overspending, we were over-wasting. With the average UK household wasting 6% of their weekly shopping, we definitely exceeded this statistic, regularly throwing away bags of gunky-looking lettuce, meat past the expiry date, and full meals-worth of leftovers, sitting in tupperware.
A few months into our debt-free journey, I believe the overspend was the result of:
- Lack of discipline/portion control; huge portions meant huge leftovers, with no plan to eat them because we usually fancied ‘something different’ every night.
- Bad planning; leftovers aside, we never planned to use up what we had in the fridge by planning meals that used up what we had. We also regularly went out to eat at the last minute without even considering if we could make something quick and easy at home.
- Expensive meals at home- ever notice that in restaurants, the really expensive meals are either those that contain expensive meats/seafood, or those that take a lot of work and effort to prepare? When we decided to make home-cooking an occasion (usually on a Saturday), we always had to have steak or seafood.
- The ‘Big Shop’; we would do a ‘big shop’ around once per month, cramming the cupboards with ‘staples’ that we then didn’t eat, and then bought the same thing again the next month. We did a top-up shop once a week which followed a similar pattern- we’d buy fruit and vegetables that would go to waste because we weren’t incorporating them into our meals (see point 2), and things that we simply didn’t need.
Roughly halving our grocery bill has taken a few months of work but has been so worth it. Here’s how:
- Tuesday for me is now weekday meal prep night. On this night, I made a huge amount of one meal which is then separated into portions and frozen. My most recent meal was Spaghetti Bolognese- £10 for ingredients made 12 portions (I had a spices, herbs and stocks in the cupboard at no extra cost but these are a worthy investment). Portions are frozen in fours and then defrosted and re-heated, served with pasta and frozen vegetables on busy weeknights. This has shaved about £15 off our weekly food bill because its cheaper to cook in bulk, the meals I prep are cost-effective and we now have no waste. I also like that giving one night to meal prep frees up the rest of my evenings, which is a worthwhile trade IMO.
- We only go out to eat if we’ve planned to in advance. Now instead of deciding at a moment’s notice to call to Subway at lunch, I put whatever is in the fridge in a wrap and toast it on the George Foreman, and always take lunch into work. This saves us about £20 per week.
- Instead of opting for expensive ingredients in our home-cooked weekend meals, I now make things that take more time and effort to make, such as a nice beef lasagne, which still feels like a nice treat. Lasagne for two (with plenty of leftovers- frozen, obviously) costs about £15 to make, compared to our £20 spend before, saving £5 per week.
- I cut out our ‘big shop’ and stopped building a stockpile ‘a la Extreme Couponing’. Now I just buy things as we run out of them, rather than mindlessly stocking up on things we already have. The big shop cost us about £80 per month (£20 per week), and instead, we spend about £10 per week on the items we would have otherwise bought in bulk, saving £10 per week.
So there it is, the ‘magic’ formula. Not only are we contributing our savings towards our debt, we feel better knowing we aren’t wasting anything. Not excessively consuming, and eating out less has helped us to be healthier, happier and drop a few pounds (I won’t insert the obvious joke here). I hope this helps someone out there- if you are thinking about making some of these changes, I can’t stress enough how these have helped to improve my life, which is my ultimate goal 🙂