How I feed my family for under £40 a week

Earlier this week I was in the mood for some trash TV, so I dumped the library book and went scouting around The Beeb's website for some good ol' crap to feast my eyes upon. I noticed that there was a new series of Eat Well For Less..."Perfect!" I thought, "This will give me a tip or two".

They introduced us to the very lovely Reilly family who were spending over £160 a week on food!

Big spenders

Of course, the solutions offered by the experts were nothing new to a hardcore Frugalista like myself, but I was pleased they were getting some help. It got me thinking, however, that maybe all of the obvious things I take for granted when feeding my family aren't so obvious for everyone. Here are my top tips!

1. Take stock

Never go shopping without knowing what's in your home, to start with. We use a free app called Wunderlist to keep a shared shopping list. When something runs out, we pop it on. Otherwise, it isn't bought (and if we run out...tough!) For peace of mind I'll double check we have loo roll, toothpaste and any other essentials before I go. This prevents wasted ££ and a cluttered home.

It's equally important to make sure you're still capitalising on last weeks grocery shop. I make lists of all perishables in my fridge, then what's in the freezer and cupboard. It might sound tedious but it takes me 10 minutes and I'll make sure I have the radio and a cup of tea to keep me company.

2. Make a plan (and stick to it)

Remember those lists you made? Start with the perishables. How can you use them up this week? If you're low on inspiration, try typing the ingredients you have into AllRecipes, BBC Good Food or Google and see what comes up.

Get creative, or just adopt a more relaxed approach. Most weeks I will plan one 'fridge gravel soup' to use up any bendy veg which is loitering in the depths of my kitchen. Nearly every vegetable tastes nice when seasoned well and blended with fresh herbs and some stock. Throw in some lentils and a hunk of homemade bread and you have a very healthy complete meal.

Once you've thought of any meals you can make with your current stocks (and if your freezers are stuffed, you should consider whether you need to shop at all this week!), have a look at what veg is in season and on offer, and think about what else you fancy. Don't forget breakfast, lunch and (if you have them!) snacks.

3. Ditch the big supermarkets

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of the German supermarket chain, Lidl. Not only do I find their food excellent value for money, they make it far easier to leave without my trolley with rubbish. You'll notice a distinct lack of BOGOF deals and they make a point of only displaying healthy food by the tills. I've also heard Aldi is excellent, but unfortunately we don't have one in the area.

I bought this lovely bunch of grub this morning, for £41. You'll notice I haven't scrimped on the posh coffee, chocolate or frozen strawberries...and there's also a sneaky pack of lager there, which we will enjoy tonight whilst catching up with Versailles.

4. Trade down a brand

I can't emphasise this one enough. When I married Mr. Miser he was a Heinz only kinda guy. Now he's a wannabe early retiree, his priorities have shifted slightly ("You can have anything you want, but you can't have everything", springs to mind). He'll happily munch away on beans, sauces and veg from any shop, and any brand. With a bit of research you'll find a lot of the big name brands are made in the same factories as their less expensive counterparts. Think about whether you want to spend your hard earned cash on good grub or fancy packaging and sly advertising...

5. Treat yo'self

I'm a firm believer that a little bit of what you fancy is important. This week we bought ready made veggie burgers and sausages, and a few packaged salad components. I know I'll be out of the house more than usual this week, so planning 7 elaborate meals would be setting us up to fail. Spending the extra fiver or so on some convenience foods is far better than blowing £30 on a greasy, salty takeaway because I can't muster up the energy to cook. A few boxed foods won't kill us, and it's my way of being kind to myself.

...don't forget to bring your own bags!  Not only do plastic bags kill sea life, they'll easily burn over £20 a year...that's a couple of bottles of decent wine. I know what I'd rather have!

By readjusting your methodology, and mindset, you can easily feel well fed and thoroughly treated on £40 a week. We are completely blessed to be able to enjoy choice in our food, have the luxury of a healthy diet and that we can even be extravagant enough to even feed two furry little friends, just because they give us joy....without spending £160 a week!


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