14 Ways I am sticking to my food budget
I am on a fixed income and only have a small work pension. Now and again, I will earn a bit from writing articles for other people’s blogs, but I prefer to write for myself with the hope of helping others. Mr S works two days a week. Our individual incomes are below that of pensioners, or people on benefits but we are surviving without feeling deprived during these hard times. These are some of the ways that we have changed our habits to stay within our food budget.
- I am cooking more vegetarian meals. We are not really missing the meat as we are making tasty curries and Mediterranean dishes, in fact falafels have become one of our favourite meals. When I do use meat, I will put only 50g to 100g in a meal. I will bulk meals with vegetables, pulses and lots of spices, herbs and seasoning so that the meals are still enjoyable.
- I have grown more food this year. I only live in a suburban house and have mainly grown crops in containers, but my hedges are fruit bushes, I have been using successional planting and I got ahead by sowing seeds in doors during February. I had 25 tomato plants which I thought was over the top at the time, but they have provided a lot of meals and I have been able to preserve a lot for the future. They started ripening at the start of July and many are still ripening indoors in October. I also still have lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, leeks, carrots and potatoes growing. I don’t plant winter vegetables as I like to have a rest for 3 or 4 months, but we have enough stored to last us through the winter this year. The only thing I should have to buy is onions as they didn’t do well during the hot weather this year.
- I have been foraging more, especially wild garlic for pesto, black berries, apples, conkers for laundry soap, cobnuts, rosehips and wood and pinecones to season for the woodburning stove. I am trying to learn about mushrooms and other plants that I can forage as I am still a novice.
- I have done more preserving. I bottled fruit and tomato ragu for the first time. I also froze a lot of my vegetables and wild garlic pesto. I shouldn’t have to buy any tinned tomatoes this year as I have plenty either frozen or made into sauce.
- We have stopped snacking in between meals. Crisps, biscuits and sweets are luxuries now that only come out on special occasions rather than every week. We also don’t bake as much as a pass time, due to the price of energy, which keep the food bill low.
- I am shopping less. I haven’t done a weekly or a monthly shop for a lot of years, but I did used to go to the shop regularly to hunt for bargains. I have shopped from my cupboards and the freezer since I retired and then just bought necessities or things that are loss leaders. Discounted, yellow sticker food is often more than I want to pay now and so I only pick it up if it is heavily discounted.
- I have changed the way I cook. I am cooking simple meals with 4 or 5 ingredients, using a lot of produce from my garden. I only put the oven on about twice a month now and will batch cook and freeze on these occasions.
- I have a stocked pantry. As food prices started to rise, I would buy a few things every week, eg. tins of chickpeas, tuna, beans, condensed milk, dried milk, oats, flour, oil, butter, cheese etc. The increase in food prices has therefore not hit me hard yet. My pantry and freezer are still stocked but it is with home preserved food or bulk bought food. I store rice and oats in recycled catering size ice cream tubs. My stocks of cheese and butter I am using sparingly. The only impact I have felt has been from the price of eggs.
- I cook from scratch and don’t buy convenience food.
- We never have ‘take aways’. We will make ‘fake aways’ instead, and we rarely eat out unless it is a special family occasion.
- If I don’t have an ingredient for a meal, I will swop it for something else rather than go and buy some more. I have swopped rice for barley, pasta for rice, made wraps or flat breads when the bread has finished, or used protein filled peas instead of chickpeas.
- We eat the majority of our meals at the table as I find that we eat more mindfully. I now put some bread on the table and drinks. This fills us up without as much of the meal and so there are more ‘leftovers’ for another day. I am also going to do a 1st course of soup for the main meal during winter to help fill us up more cheaply.
- We have started often only eating two main meals a day. We have a cooked breakfast of things like tomatoes and egg on toast and then a main meal at 2pm to 3pm. Often, we were only eating at specific times because it was lunch time or dinner time. We were not even particularly hungry. If we do get hungry in the evening there is always soup in the fridge or we can make some toast.
- Last winter, when things were tight and before my garden provided enough food, we used a waste food project run by a local church. We used Olio too. These saved us lots of money and provided us with some staples and some vegetables. If you are entitled to use a food bank don’t let ‘pride’ get in the way. Most people are struggling. Prices have risen by at least 30% on food, and still seem to be increasing.’
I hope that some of these strategies help you. Please write in the comments if you have other ideas for keeping the food bill low. The more we share and help each other, the more chance we all have of getting through these hard times.