Our guest blog post comes from Lesley Cooper, the author of the much loved Thrifty Lesley blog. She is dedicated to creating money-saving menus – 3 meals and snacks – for only £1 a day. Lesley was featured in the news recently after she devised a seven-day menu plan for the Christmas period –which cost just £7.59 per person for the entire week.
Happy New Year! How was Christmas? Expensive? January is typically a month that leads to reflection on our lives and, often, a desire (and maybe a need) to trim the budget, possibly to pay for that lovely Christmas. Probably the first place we look to save some money is in the family grocery
shop. I know I do. But where do you start?
Well, there are some good guidelines for grocery shopping that aren’t original or new, but are essential and a very good place to begin when we are watching our wallets and purses with an anxious eye.
Guideline 1: Shop your cupboards
What does this mean? Simple really. What have you already got in the cupboard, the fridge and the freezer, and maybe tucked into odd corners here and there. Get a notepad and a pen and go through everything, shelf by shelf, in all of them. If you are like me, and have a tendency to hoard groceries, building up mountains of couscous, rice, pasta, tins of tomatoes, frozen peas, leftovers frozen for another day, bargain loaves of bread etc. etc., there may be quite a long list.
Guideline 2: Menu Plan
Now, take another sheet of paper, divide it up into 7 days and breakfast, lunch, dinner, and anyplanned snacks for each of those 7 days. This will be your menu plan for the next week. It doesn’t need to be complicated, it could just look like this:
BUT – crucially, look at what you already have tucked away anywhere, and use that FIRST. If you have tinned tomatoes and pasta, you can make pasta with sauce. If you are uninspired with your larder, Google some of your ingredients and see what you can find.
Guideline 3: Take a List
Once you have your menu plan, you can draw up a shopping list for anything you may still need. It might just say bread and milk, it might be a long list. No matter, a list will help. Get in that supermarket without one and the expertise of the advertisers and shop owners will entice and create desires and needs where none existed before. How many times have you gone in for a pint of milk and come out with a bag of shopping that you didn’t intend to get?
When you go shopping, take your list and only buy what is on it, nothing else. You have your menu plan, so if you buy an extra cauliflower or bag of salad leaves because they are on offer, where will they fit into your plan? If you take yur menu plan too, you could amend it as you go by saying, well if we have that cheap cauliflower, I won’t buy the peas.
Guideline 4: Use price comparison sites
One of the best ways I know to save is to grocery shop online. That way I’m not tempted by all those BOGOF’s and special offers that won’t get used. I can concentrate on what I need and look up, for example, red lentils, and find the cheapest ones. Why is that things are scattered across supermarket aisles? Red lentils are in the Ethnic aisle, with the rice, sometimes in the Free From range, in the soup aisle etc. Four or five different places, and each one may be at a different price.
Sites like mySupermarket.co.uk make it uasy to fill your virtual basket, checking prices along the way. It is very easy to see which is the cheapest packet, and the cheapest brand, when buying toilet rolls, cereal, flour or anything else. Check which supermarket is cheapest this week for the things you need.
Guideline 5: Approved Food & Ethnic shops
This one is not so much a guideline as a suggestion. Approved Food are an online stockist of ambient foodstuffs that are short dated. This means that the items are close to or past their best before date, but are still perfectly alright to use. I use Approved Food to stock up with ingredients when they
have items that I use. For instance, a while ago, they had large tins of mango and packets of coconut powder at an extremely cheap price. So I bought lots of both, then had to think up ways to use them for meals. The mango would cost £1.50 and the coconut milk powder £2.85 to buy in a supermarket. I got the mango for 25p and the coconut powder for 49p, so a huge saving.
If you have the funds to buy in bulk, they are well worth looking at. Only buy things that you will use, and try to avoid getting too many goodies, or the savings are spent on other things. I use a great many red lentils and when I need some, I get them from a shop selling Indian groceries. The large 5kg bag works out to half the price of those from a supermarket. Many of the dried beans and lentils sold in those kinds of shops are similarly cheap. It’s best to know the price per 100g of items you use regularly. No good lugging home huge bags of rice or lentils and finding they were cheaper in the
Here’s a bit of inspiration for you!
Thrifty Lesley’s Sweet Curry Recipe
Chickpea, Mango, Coconut and Spinach Curry – 53p a portion%0T
This is a sweet curry that I think is gorgeous! I was being creative to use the large tins of mango pulp and coconut powder. I wanted to make a main dish with it, rather than a sweet one, so I had a bit of a Google and a think and decided to do this. You can see from this that you can halve the cost of a recipe with creative buying and cooking.
I had some chickpeas I had previously cooked sitting in the freezer, some spinach in there and plenty of spices to use too.
Two tins chickpeas, or 250g dried, soaked and cooked Dried ones Asda 95p/500g, 47p
An onion, chopped, Asda 98p/2kg, 5p
200g mango pulp, Asda £1.50/850g, 35p
150g coconut milk powder Tesco £2.85/300g, £1.42
Or a tin of coconut milk, 95p
200g frozen spinach Asda £1.39/kg, 28p
Tbslp curry powder, Asda Madras 66p/100g, 3p
Total of £2.13* (using coconut milk or 53p a portion)
Makes 4 portions
We had it with a Nan, 4p each, or you could use value rice for 3p or 4p each, or both of course. The spices here can be absolutely anything that you have. Any general curry powder spice mix would be fine, or a mix of coriander, cumin and turmeric, or a tblsp of a curry paste from a jar. Yum!