How to spend less – Be prepared ( Part 6)

It’s been 2 weeks since I started these posts and I feel like I’ve made a subtle change in my spending habits. It may not be a huge change and it may not last forever but I’m learning.

I think this will be the last post on this topic for a little while as I don’t want to go over old ground!

Firstly I want to tell you how this month has been going for me:

* Eat in month – I am doing a lot better with this challenge than I imagined. I haven’t eaten out at all. I don’t buy any snacks or drinks in work and this is saving me at least £15 a week. We went to Bristol Zoo and we took a big picnic lunch so there was no need to indulge in the gift shop or cafe – I almost caved in when we saw the ice cream van but he was packing up to leave which was surely a sign. I have had 2 hot chocolates when we have taken Izzy to the soft play and we did buy some food in the hospital canteen when Izzy was admitted last week but that was totally unavoidable. Unfortunately I will have to cut the challenge a week early as we are going away for 5 days later this month but I’m thinking of doing an extra week in Feb instead and I’m hoping to continue with the no purchasing food at work for good! We also had a trip to the cinema and I even took my own popcorn – impressive yes? Thanks to Brittany from A healthy slice for writing about this challenge, I’m definitely going to do it again next year.

* Drastically lower shopping bills – I looked at my bank statement for November ( I avoided December as I knew it would be higher due to Christmas) and worked out I had spent approximately £289 in the various supermarkets ( Asda,Sainsburys, Tescos) this is without any possible times I may have shopped using cash. So possibly over £300 on food. Too much. Way too much. This month I have made 1 large shopping trip (£95 on NY eve) and I just did my second weekly shop. My first weekly shop was just under target at £19.80, today’s was £22.21 but this included washing powder and dishwasher tablets, if I manage to only spend £20 each week for the remaining 2 shops this month I will have saved over £100.

* Meal planning – this is still going well. I am flexible in that if something comes up which stops me from cooking something one night I’ll swap it over but most days we eat what’s on the planner.

Such as chicken and coconut curry. Yum.

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Being prepared

This has been the key to my money saving this month and will be going forward.

1. I prepare meals the night before if possible. I use my slow cooker a lot and if not I still try to chop vegetables when Izzy is in bed, get the meat out of the freezer etc. Anything which makes cooking the next evening even easier. It also means I get more time to spend as a family when I get home from work – bonus,

2. I make larger portions. Most meals can be bulked up purely by adding vegetables, I do this whenever I can and it leaves me with food for Izzy to eat the next day or a lunch to take to work.

3. Making large batches of breadcrumbs mixed with herbs or garlic and freezing them means you can use up excess stale bread and they can be used straight from the freezer. Such an easy way to add an extra dimension to a vegetable bake or to top gnocchi or pasta instead of cheese. Saves you money and time as well as calories when replacing cheese.

4. Use your freezer – if you know next week is going to be hard. Precook some meals. Lasagne, curries and pies are just some of the dishes which freeze well. If you prefer to cook it fresh just chop and freeze your veg or meat. It may mean an extra half hour with your family and stops those extra vegetables going off saving you pennies.

5. Buy the basic ranges – I have always bought one or two items from the supermarkets basic range but lately I am trying more and more and I’ve been pleasantly surprised. The difference between a carton of Asda chosen by you Passata and the smart price pasatta is around 15pence and a plainer box. I have found no difference in quality. Having stock cupboard items such as Passata, mixed herbs and dried spaghetti or pasta means you will always have a meal on hand even if your fridge is bare.

6. Write lists. My trusty notebook has been by my side every day since New Years Eve and I’ve used it to stock take my cupboards, meal plan and write recipes which I have made up on the go. I’ve even been slightly obsessive and written down prices in the supermarket of what I’m buying to ensure I don’t go too far over budget. This one is obvious but taking a shopping list and really sticking to it will save you lots of money and time too.

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7. This isn’t anything to do with being prepared but eat less meat. I’ve blogged about this before but it really helps. If you can cut your meat intake down to 3 or 4 days a week then you will save a lot. There are so much delicious vegetables available these days take full advantage. Sweet potato in particular is just as good as chicken in a curry and its bright and colourful making your dish look so appealing.

I think that’s about it for now. I’d still like to hear about how January is going for you and how you save money. Perhaps if I get enough tips I’ll use them in a follow up post.

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