Monday 7 November 2022

Looking at the budget

I said in this post that I wanted to keep my October grocery spending below £74.51 and I failed!  I spent £92.73 as I dare not let my food cupboard get too low.  However, I think £92.73 isn't too bad.  It included lots of things needed for making the puddings which I give as Christmas presents 

I'm now starting to look towards Christmas even more and my grocery budget this month will be £150.  I'm now buying treat food for myself and the three bird roast plus loads of pigs in blankets are already in the freezer.  I shall prepare and freeze bread sauce, swede and carrot, gravy and braised red cabbage over the next few weeks.  My roast (turkey, chicken, duck) will last for several meals.  

I'm hoping that, with careful shopping and getting things ready well in advance, I may keep my Christmas grocery budget as low as possible.  And I will minimise my prepping on Christmas Day.  

Well, let's see how it goes!

Wednesday 5 October 2022

How? (part one)

 How have I cut my food bill?  

To be honest, although I have my grocery books (listing everything I buy) going back over five years, I am surprised at how much I have managed to reduce my expenditure.  I could afford to spend more on food but there are other things I want to do which will cost money!

There are some economies I can identify.

1.  I have reduced my meat and fish consumption.  I haven't gone vegetarian (I like fish and meat A LOT!) but I have changed the things I buy.  For example one of my oily fish portions was usually a salmon steak or smoked mackerel: now it's more likely to be a tin of sardines.  I've also reduced my portion sizes.

2.  I keep a very careful eye on my stores.  The fridge is checked daily to see what ought to be eaten  that day.  I have inventories of the contents of my freezer and tin stores.  

3. I shop only once a week with few top ups.  I find it hard to go to a supermarket and come out with just the loaf of bread or pint of milk I went it for.  Somehow other "essentials" would find their way into my basket so I just don't go in.  

(I'll be listing more cuts in my next post)

Tuesday 4 October 2022

The time has come

Frugally Challenged said.  And what I have said is the time has come to have a low spend month for food. 

 I've had a Sainsbury delivery (to use up some vouchers) which has cost me £24.61 and I shall allow myself another £50 to last the month.  I've got a fairly well stocked freezer and tins cupboard as well as quite a bit of fresh veg, so with a little ingenuity I should eat well.  I don't want to let anything get too low as the gaps on supermarket shelves are a little worrying so I've allowed more than I usually do for low spend.

I've actually been doing quite well on curbing food spending.  Last year my daily average food spend was £6.22 and so far this year it has been £4.32 which isn't bad in a time of rapidly rising prices.  Things were a little out  of hand last year, I must admit!  However, I have started to go out for the odd meal so the daily average there has gone up from 7p in 2021 to 37p in 2022.  Hardly a fortune even then and it will be going up considerably by the end of this month as I have a couple of catch-up lunches with friends. 

I have a major (secret!) project in mind which is going to need quite a few pennies.  Just cutting the food bill won't pay for it, but it will help!

Monday 5 September 2022

Comparing baskets

 Reducing my food spend has taken a lot of effort!  I've changed what I eat (less meat, cheaper fish, more seasonal vegetables) but it's not easy.  I've changed what I buy, where I buy it and how much I buy.

I decided to look at an on-line order which I had from Sainsbury 9th September 2021 and work out what the same thing would cost today.  At the time I had one on-line order each month.  I've excluded anything which is not available now.

9th Sept 2020

4th Sept 2022

% increase

Sainsbury's British Baking Potatoes x4




4vElmlea Single Alternative to Cream 270ml




3 Dairy Pride Semi-Skimmed Longer Lasting UHT Milk 1 Litre




Sainsbury's British Fresh Chicken Skin on Thighs 1kg




Sainsbury's Super Seeds White Farmhouse, Taste the Difference 800g




Sainsbury's Sunflower & Pumpkin bread, Taste the Difference 800g




Sainsbury's British Parsnips Loose 1 kg




Sainsbury's British Carrots 1kg




Sainsbury's British White Potatoes 2.5kg




Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon 150g




2 Very Lazy Chopped Garlic 200g




2 Sainsbury's Oatcakes, Highland 300g




2 Sainsbury's Tuna Chunks in Spring Water 3x80g (3x60g*)




Sainsbury's Petits Pois 1.8kg




2 Mary Ann's Dairy Mature Cheddar Cheese 900g




Sainsbury's Original Dry Cider 4x440ml




Sainsbury's Fairtrade Italian Style Coffee, Strength 4 227g




Sainsbury's Fairtrade Intense Roast Coffee 227g




2 Sainsbury's White Granulated Sugar 1kg




Carrs Breadmaker Wholemeal Flour 1.5kg




Sainsbury's Mushroom Cup Soup 4x23g




Sainsbury's Vegetable Cup Soup 4x23.5g




Sainsbury's Minestrone Cup Soup 4x23.5g




2 Sainsbury's Cider Vinegar 500ml




4 La Doria Ratatouille 390g








So my personal food inflation rate would be just over 12%.  One thing has reduced in price - granulated sugar - but I don't know which items were on special offer at the time.  

I don't often shop in Sainsbury's now unless I want to have my frozen food delivered and I usually use Lidl instead.  And I'm sure you realise that even then, I did not get all my food from Sainsbury!

Saturday 3 September 2022

Food spending

 As I said on this post, I have a Very Big Project in mind which I won't be telling you about for some considerable time.  It is going to take quite a bit of financial planning so at the moment I am just trying to save, save, save.  I'm getting back on this blog to make myself more accountable!

I decided that my food budget for 2022 would be £1825.   I know that looks an odd number but it is actually £5 per day averaged through the year.  Experience has taught me that I spend more on food in October, November and December so it's important to save now.  My average daily spend was 

January            £3.65 

February        £4.42

March             £4.98 

April.            £4.69 

May                £4.17

June                £4.07 

July                £4.10 

August            £4.21 

Just for comparison, my average daily spend in 2021 was £6.22 so I think I will give myself a gold star so far this year.  However, I know I will spend more money on food around Christmas so I need to be careful now.

Thursday 14 April 2022

My haul 3

 It wouldn't be a bargain if I didn't use it!  I always determine to use every usable scrap.  I've very occasionally has the odd item which was beyond being used but that is rare and certainly everything this time was great.

So. here's what happened to it all.  

The riskiest item was the mushrooms so although I was tired when I got in from Lidl I chopped and froze those immediately.  Frozen mushrooms are fine if you chop and open freeze them so you can get just a few from the bag.

The leeks I gave away.  I have leeks in my garden and a  nagging gardener called Jack.  'Nuff said.  

I also gave away the satsumas.  I have loads of satsumas at the moment.  

The Brussels sprouts have been prepped, blanched and frozen.  To be honest I like them better fresh but they are OK frozen and no way will I waste them.  

The peppers were superb and are in the fridge to use during the week.

The pak choi was stir fried with some of the mushrooms and peppers and a few other things for my lunch today.

The potatoes are now in my light-proof potato bag in the root veg box.  They will be used over the next few days.

The aubergine will keep a few days and will be used with tomatoes, onions and feta cheese as an aubergine bake on Saturday.

The apples went into the fruit bowl

And the grapes have disappeared.  Can't imagine where!

Wednesday 13 April 2022

My haul (2)

 I was very interested in the comments on my last post (especially those from beyond these shores) and I felt I needed to say more.  

I costed the stuff I bought on the Sainsbury site as Lidl doesn't have vegetable prices on their site.  At Salisbury I would have paid about £12.80 for that lot.

In 2015 Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall  (an English celebrity chef,  television personality, journalist, and campaigner on food and environmental issues) did a TV series called "Hugh's War on Waste" which made a big impression on me and I think on many others.  It was one of many initiatives which publicised just how much food is being wasted at every point from farm to table.  Several supermarkets were called out and shamed into responding to his criticism.  Strong links were made between the fact that many people were struggling to feed themselves and yet supermarkets were over-concerned with the cosmetic appearance of the vegetables they sold.  Food was being dumped and polluted with bleach to make sure no-one could eat it.

Gradually supermarkets have realised that the bad publicity would lose them custom (and therefore profits!) and some now sell seconds marked "wonky".  They have made links with food banks and schemes to get unsold food to those who need it.  They are much better at reducing food for sale in their stores.

There are people who won't buy this stuff.  There were three boxes like this available at 8.15 yesterday and when I went back to the store at 10am the other two still hadn't been sold.  I'm very happy with it though and I enjoy the challenge of making sure nothing gets wasted.

Tuesday 12 April 2022

My haul

 I went to Lidl today and I got a "waste not" box/

Here's what was in it.

That's 725g mushrooms

345g Brussels sprouts

485g leeks

10  satsumas

624g peppers

1 aubergine

3 pak choi

55g grapes

2 apples

1450g various potatoes

All for £1.50

Wednesday 6 April 2022

Money Saving Expert


I love the Money Saving Expert!  Martin Lewis is great with all his many tips.  Each week I get an email from and often find tips there.  I use the website most weeks.  They've got really helpful tools and tips and I've saved so much money there.

This morning's e mail from MSE had a link to their new "90 ways to survive the cost of living crisis" and after just five minutes reading it I knew I had to post a link to it.  There's something for everyone there.  

No, I'm not affiliated but I admire Martin Lewis and think he does a great job.

Monday 4 April 2022

Squeezing those pennies!


I track all my expenditure very carefully which is sometimes encouraging and sometimes very definitely not!  The big thing is that I have real figures with which to work so I can see what I have been up to.  Here's my average weekly food spend for the last few years, including groceries and eating out. 

                                       2018                2019            2020            2021

Average weekly           £56.81            £52.92        £47.17          £44.17

In  many ways I am pleased with that.  Year on year I have reduced my food expenditure and I haven't felt deprived.  But I am also very aware that for a single person, it's not exactly brilliant.

I'm seventy now and there are still things I want to do and some of those things cost money.  (No, I'm not ready to be specific on this blog!)  I want to get things under even better control, especially in the face of rapidly rising prices.  I decided at the beginning of the year to aim for £5 per day.  Food is one of life's pleasures for me so I don't want to squeeze that very definite source of pleasure too much.  This year I am allowing myself £5 per day or £35 per week which is a very considerable reduction.  In the first thirteen weeks of this year I have averaged £30.16.  That sounds really good but as yet I am not eating out and the second half the year is always more expensive than the first.  

Let's see how it goes.  

Wednesday 30 March 2022

Doing a few sums

A couple of weeks ago I bought a kilo pack of chicken thighs from Lidl for £1.65.  The thighs actually weighed 1080 grammes so seemed very good value.  But when I came to remove the skin and bones I wasn't very impressed.  Not only was there the thigh bone, there was also part of the backbone of the bird on each thigh.  My kilo pack yielded just 540 grammes flesh.  That means the meat was 3.05 per kilo.

This week I had a home delivery from Sainsbury and again bought a kilo pack of thighs and I got 1004 grammes thighs.  Not quite so good as Lidl.  Again I removed the skin and bones (no backbones this time) and this time got 720 grammes flesh so this time it was £2.57 a kilo.  The thighs were bigger than the Lidl ones (but fewer thighs in the pack) and the absence of the backbone made them easier to bone. 

Obviously my exercise was with just one pack from each shop, but it made me think.  

Monday 7 March 2022

Habits 3: inventories

The first rule of being an efficient grocery shopper is checking what you need before you leave the house and it's a rule which at one time, I rarely kept.  I would push my trolley around and seize on yellow sticker bargains with great glee.  BOGOF grabbed me every time and I honestly thought I was a savvy shopper.  It wasn't helped by having a huge kitchen and storeroom with two fridges and two freezers.  Things were bought because they were "bargains" and that was my idea of being canny!

I have to admit that I'm a tad obsessive with spreadsheets, but my food inventories certainly pay off.  I'm not good at crossing stuff off or adding items as I buy them, but every month or so I take everything out of my freezer, one drawer at a time, and list what I've got while making a note of anything which needs using very soon.    Regular cleaning and sorting of the fridge helps to keep en eye on food stocks and avoid waste.

I don't menu plan but I do meal plan.  What's the difference?  Well, I batch cook and I make a list of everything I need to make several portions of a particular dish but I don't plan when they will be on the menu.  I use both fresh and frozen vegetables but even when I buy fresh I often freeze some of the stuff I buy rather than risk it going to waste.  

Thursday 6 January 2022

Serendipity extended!

 Thank you for all the comments on serendipity cooking.  It was/is rather delicious.  I divided it into ten portions and several are now in the freezer.

But I kept one portion out.  And I made a veggie cottage pie  I just added onion gravy, mushed it all together and topped it with mashed potato and a grating of cheese.  Definitely a winner!

Tuesday 4 January 2022

Habits 2: Serendipity cooking.

 I love serendipity cooking!  Some call it bottom-of-the-fridge, some iffits (if it's there bung it in) but I like serendipity!

I suppose that there are many fridges in which things lurk.  There's a slightly wilting pepper, the last four mushrooms, a couple of sticks of celery or whatever.  Well, apart from the moral aspect of food waste,  "whatever" cost money and I chose to buy it so it's going to get used.  

A check on my fridge revealed that I had carrots, onions, celery, and peppers which wouldn't last much longer.  There was a box of chestnut mushrooms, an aubergine and some roast peppers trying to look as if they weren't there.  There were fours eggs in a box and some garlic eager to be used.

I hadn't any bread or breadcrumbs in either the fridge or the freezer but I had a box of sage and onion stuffing mix in the food cupboard and there were lots of nuts left from Christmas.

So I chopped the celery and onion and sweated them in a little oil with the garlic.  I used the food processor and whizzed the mushroom, aubergine, nuts, peppers, carrots and stuffing mix and then added that to the softened celery and onions.  I added stock and the eggs, mixed the whole lot and put it into a couple of lined loaf tins.  Don't ask for quantities: this is serendipity cooking!

Then an hour at 180C, Gas mark 4, 360F.  Basically it's a nut and mushroom roast.  Even more basically, it tastes jolly good, even if I do say so myself wot shouldn't!

Sunday 2 January 2022

Habits 1

My low spend challenge was probably not my best idea for November/December.  Would you mind if I just say I failed?  

I have a special habit which I indulge in at this time of the year.  It's unsubscribing!  No, I'm not planning on stopping following anyone's blog, but I have taken my name off all sorts of mailing lists.

Whenever I buy something on-line the various companies take that as permission to send me invitations to buy more and more stuff.  Special offers.  Money off.  Great value for money.  All very tempting but what it all boils down to is they want to part me from my money!  Well, as far as I am concerned I prefer money to be in my bank account rather than theirs.

When  I want something I look around and find it and then leave it in the basket for a day or two while I think about it.  As often as not the company will then offer me an incentive to buy - money off, free delivery, whatever.  I also give myself thinking time to see if that is what I really want.  Mailing lists are a way of getting us to shop without thinking.

One word of warning: if you come across a scam e mailer it is better to consign the email to junk or spam - if you "unsubscribe" you will simply confirming that you are really there  when they have been phishing.