Tips please on how to cut the monthly groceries bill

(63 Posts)
CountingPennies Tue 25-Feb-14 19:19:20

We've cut it back to £450 a month (food and nappies, shampoo etc) but are struggling to cut it further - is it possible?

We have a toddler and 3 teenage DSCs (they are with us every other weekend, plus random friends for sleepovers). We shop at Costco, Aldi/Lidl and local shops for veg (cheaper than supermarkets), cook everything from scratch and batch cook if possible.

What else can we do to cut it further?

netsuke Tue 25-Feb-14 19:25:06

Replace all meat and fish with beans, lentils and chickpeas. Eat beans on toast for dinner. Or eggs on toast. We have to do this. Meat and fish is too expensive unless it is very reduced, almost out of date.

KatAndKit Tue 25-Feb-14 19:27:03

I think it is hard to get it much lower without resorting to super cheap processed food. If you are already using cheaper shops then it is probably hard to save masses more. We have saved loads recently by weekly menu planning and only buying the items on the shopping list. I get it delivered to avoid temptation. But no Teenagers here so we have less food to buy. I bulk buy nappies and wipes when they are on special offer. The aldi nappies are very good value for money. Do you end up with much food wastage in your fridge? We used to end up chucking stuff out but better menu planning has helped with that.

specialsubject Tue 25-Feb-14 19:30:47

own brand everything. Fish is possible - fish stir fry with veg and Thai sauce is one of our staples.

absolute no waste - reduce serving sizes until you always get empty plates. This means leftovers can be reused. Those still hungry can always have more. You should not be throwing ANY food away.

KatAndKit Tue 25-Feb-14 19:31:23

Also if you are making separate meals for your toddler that will be costing you extra money so try to avoid doing that.

Sometimes cooking from scratch works out pricey because of the number of ingredients involved. A few days a week stick to simpler recipes with fewer ingredients. Or simple meals like jacket potato with tuna mayo which is still filling especially with a bit of side salad.

Perfectlypurple Tue 25-Feb-14 19:32:10

I buy toilet rolls on groupon. Quite a big initial cost but lots of savings in the long run. Same with kitchen towels.

Bulk buy as much as possible. I even freeze berries I buy in lidl and use them in smoothies. Much cheaper than buying elsewhere. I also freeze bread and just take out a few slices so it doesn't get a chance to go stale.

If you have bits and pieces in the freezer cobble together a mish mash meal. It will be weird but worth it.

onepieceoflollipop Tue 25-Feb-14 19:34:48

Yes as someone else suggested we have cut right back on fish and meat. (have it2-3 times per week)
Dh and I eat a lot of omelettes. Also beans on toast/jacket potatoes.

LizzieVereker Tue 25-Feb-14 19:35:40

Meal plan, write shopping lists and stick to them. I agree with PP, buy in bulk and store as much as possible.

Nojustalurker Tue 25-Feb-14 19:35:47

Always check what you have in your cupboards and freezer and meal plan around that before you go shopping.

happyyonisleepyyoni Tue 25-Feb-14 19:41:26

If you really want to minimise costs you need to break your food spending right down and look at cost per portion per meal and per person per day for snacks etc.You could still be spending a lot if money shopping in Aldi/Lidl and cooking from scratch but making complicated recipes with luxury ingredients, buying premium loo roll, lots of snacks etc

CountingPennies Tue 25-Feb-14 20:51:14

You are right about meat and fish being expensive. Problem is that DH hates lentils and pulses and the effect they have on his stomach but I'll have to find some tasty recipes.

So a few things we could do then...
We do waste food as DH dolls out servings that are far too big and the kids then just leave. We could save quite a bit there. Unserved leftovers however do get used and are what our toddler eats.

We aren't too good at meal planning so we could improve that.

We already buy loo roll in bulk, avoid luxury items and use cheap brands. But we could save on our bread maybe. Never any left over but we have unsliced, so we cut massive slices and the kids leave the crusts. Sliced bread might help here.

PestoSnowissimos Tue 25-Feb-14 21:01:38

Get a breadmaker, makes lovley fresh chemical-free bread and all for about 50p a loaf!

Then why don't you just dish small helpings of the protein component (to prevent it being hugely expensive) and put the rest in serving dishes so that the children can help themselves, and all leftovers are the unused sort that can be recycled into another dinner?

Weigh rice/pasta etc before cooking so you aren't cooking way too much and causing waste.

Definitely plan your meals, or at least always have in mind the items that NEED to be used in the next day or two. eg, in addition to stuff in better nick, right now I have a swede going a bit soft so that is a priority, an open half tin of coconut milk so that needs to be used in the next couple of days. I know I have a ropey leek and a LOT of cabbage. So I have a loose plan in my head - root veg & barley stew using some homemade stock from the freezer. Stirfry cabbage as a side veg to every meal, with appropriate spicings if wanted. Veg, lentil & coconut soup for a lunch, or possibly a coconut based vegetable curry for a dinner.

Thinking like this saves waste for us.

Don't shop until you HAVE to. Look in your fridge/cupboard/freezer. You'll be surprised what you can make, and probably how much food you have if you are anything like me.

Just accept that cheaper fruit and veg is fine, and ditch any of the pricey stuff. We currently have lots of onions, carrots, cabbages, spring greens, swede & squash (were in the Aldi super 6 recently), pulses, frozen peas, broad beans, green beans, spinach, tinned tomatoes for veg and apples, oranges, bananas and blackberries we froze in the autumn for fruit. Occasionally some cheap tinned peaches. It's fine, and plenty of dietary variety. For now, peppers, courgettes, aubergines, mangetout, berries, soft fruits are not on the menu here unless reduced to clear.

You can stretch mince dishes a long way with lots of finely grated carrot and a generous handful of oats (keep an eye on water requirements). I was truly amazed at how it all swelled and got an extra lunch helping for me and my 2 year old from our normal batch.

Know the price of your staples so you know a good deal when you see one, and can buy it, but don't get lured in by advertising.

Do things like cut up sausages in toad in the hole/sausage casserole, they go further, you can use less.

Use highly flavoured meats like bacon/chorizo and a little goes a long way.

Save meat bones, and brew them up with a tired onion/carrot to make stock. It's so good for you and so delicious. Just add root veg & dark lentils/pearl barley for a really great chunky stew, or use it to make a risotto.

Have a jacket potatoes night, a something on toast night, a soup & a crumble night and/or a eggs, wedges & beans night or similar each week to keep costs down.

CHeck out A girl called Jack's website, lots of very cheap meal ideas, you could see if there's anything you could try on your family.

It's also the perfect time of year to try some growing your own if that might work for you? I always get a very good return on french beans & courgettes especially. Also lettucey type bits very worthwhile growing - you can do those in icecream tubs on a windowsill.

Bubble and squeak is a regular here - everytime I do a roast type meal I do double the veg and potatoes and dice up the extra, and then fry it all up with a diced onion the following day as a sort of hash, and we have a big plateful of it with fried eggs. Very cheap.

Do a search on "StressedHEMum". She has zillions of very cheap meal ideas she has posted on MN over the last couple of years.

foxdongle Tue 25-Feb-14 22:37:35

Hi we have cut out sugary drinks and dilute juices/fruit jucies and only buy few a fizzy drinks for special occasions. We did it mainly for health reasons but accidently saved quite a bit on weekly shop by doing so.

so we have water, tea, coffee, milk and cut up oranges for breakfast. Initially I thought it would be hard but it was really easy and dcs only moaned for a couple of weeks, after that they never mentioned it! smile

foxdongle Tue 25-Feb-14 22:46:07

oh and dcs have occasional hot choc as a treat too.

CountingPennies Wed 26-Feb-14 09:13:55

More great ideas, thank you!

We have a bread maker but the bread comes out very 'airy' and papery, so we've given up. Is there a recipe you can recommend?

I love the description of your veg splittheteaagain, sounds much like my veg rack. My swede is looking distinctly sad and wrinkly. Using veg in lasagne etc is a great way to bulk it out. Hadn't thought about oats though. Not doing individual servings would definitely help, and chopping up the meat too - I'd forgotten that I used to do loads of stir fries because a tiny piece of meat goes a very long way.

We've already cut out juice drinks, not that we had many. Not sure I'm up for restricting breakfast to oranges - it's the most important meal of the day. We have toast, fruit sometimes and basic cereal (homemade muesli, own brand sugar-free cereals).

Unfortunately we don't have a garden as such, just a few pots and lots of slugs and foxes/squirrels that seem to dig everything up. Our window cills aren't big enough for plants either, so growing our own is probably not realistic, which is a shame because nothing tastes better than home grown veg.

I'll check out a girl call Jack and StressedHEMum.

ThatBloodyWoman Wed 26-Feb-14 09:17:01

No meat.
Shop at market for fruit, veg, spices.
Makes a huge difference.

CountingPennies Wed 26-Feb-14 09:41:19

"Shop at market for fruit, veg, spices"

I wish we had a good value market near us. Not cheap where I live unfortunately; they are all vair naice organic farmers markets.

sugar4eva Wed 26-Feb-14 11:27:49

Great advice here ; have written down ! Spit what spices go with cabbage please? Thanks!

foxdongle Wed 26-Feb-14 11:46:51

Hi I wasn't for a moment suggesting you only ate oranges for breakfast! You'd be very hungry!
I meant just substitute the orange juice (or apple juice) drink part of the meal for real oranges/apples - cheaper and healthier.

Notify Wed 26-Feb-14 11:50:22

I think cleaning products and toiletries can be a massive cost. Basic foodstuffs are actually really cheap IMO - it's the extras, things our ancestors wouldn't have recognised as food that add up.

Here we use only cheap bleach, washing up liquid, Lidl washing liquid for clothes and Lidl DW Tabs (both excellent). Plus some white vinegar. I've never come across a job that can't be done with soapy water, bleach or vinegar.

Toiletries are Lidl shower gel which is about 40p and no different to any other "ordinary" one IMO, Lidl's version of Pantenne shampoo and whichever deodorants & toothpaste are on offer

We eat really well and I don't get anywhere near to £450pm.

I have an organic fruit and veg delivery weekly (£20), do a big order of organic meat twice a year (£200 x2 = £8pw) and go shopping once a week only. Once a week I go to Lidl and spend £45. I add it up as I go round and put something back if it's over - there's always something that can wait till next week. Shopping only once is key for me - the more often you go the more you spend. On top of that I spend approx. £3pw on free range eggs from a neighbour, so that's £76 per week.

I don't need to buy nappies (again Lidl's were excellent when I did) but I have 2 teenage sons and all four of us take packed lunches.

We don't have meat everyday but we do always eat really good food. Meat, eggs, veg and dairy are all organic. I use a lot of tinned fish. I don't buy anything processed at all, treats and bread are all homemade. I know people try to tell you that's it's cheaper to buy cakes/biscuits etc but that's not my experience at all. Boxed cereals are hideously expensive, breakfast here is eggs or porridge - much better for you anyway.

Meal planning makes a massive difference and if you plan to have leftovers from those meals even more so. And yes make sure you have absolutely no waste.

I think it's about buying differently rather than trying to buy your usual stuff cheaper IYSWIM

Notify Wed 26-Feb-14 11:59:21

In my bead maker I use HWF's Magic bread dough.

200g bread flour (White or wholemeal)
200g plain flour (using part plain flour makes the bread even cheaper!)
5g dried yeast
5g salt
15ml oil
260ml water

Notify Wed 26-Feb-14 12:00:34

HFW! The River Cottage chap

CountingPennies Wed 26-Feb-14 12:06:30

grin at foxdongle. Ok, so NOW I understand. I was being a bit thick there - I thought you were all really hardcore. Good idea to substitute fruit for juice.

We do porridge too hate washing up the bloody porridge pan.

We really don't buy anything pre-made/processed, or make anything exotic that requires expensive ingredients. Not sure where our money goes. So more things for my to-do list -
- look at how much we are spending on household cleaners
- look up dirt-cheap home-made cleaning products (bi-carb of soda, here I come)

Any suggestions for a good loo cleaner?

I shop several times a week for veg, otherwise I find it goes off very quickly (kitchen can get very warm). How/where do you store your veg to stop it going off so quickly?

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