I think the art of budgeting and menu planning used to be something that women
learnt out of necessity when husband used to hand them the weekly wage packet in a brown
envelope and the wife used to stretch everything so she had money left over to buy the
children clothes, shoes etc.
In my previous life I had an allowance and that was the only money I was ‘given’. So I had
a very similar experience to women in times gone by. I had two little children, a car that
needed petrol to get them to school and I needed to clothe the three of us from that budget too. No-one taught me…..it was sink or swim. I used to dress up market stall (how many chickens can I get in this black bin bag for a fiver and then throw them into the desperate crowd!) meat as the local butcher’s finest and stretched everything I had so I could pay for playgroup. No one ever learns to do anything until they have to do it. If you have to stretch the little money you have, you suddenly learn. It’s not about what you have but what you do with it.
When I shop, I shop in portions or meals. It used to be for four of us and I would bulk
out things to make them go further. Now we’re watching our portion sizes – I don’t need to
do that; just make smaller meals.
I look at the price on the shelf and check, not just the price but how much per kilo –
today really posh ‘Pilgrim’s Choice’ cheddar was the cheapest per kilo. When buying
potatoes, remember that one potato per person is all you would eat if you baked it, so
that’s all you need if you mash, chip or just boil. I always refrigerate fruit and veg,
they last longer as you are not exposing them to so much oxygen. I freeze bread and milk.
Butter substitute such as ‘utterly butterly’ (or the generic version) has a shelf life of
months, so it will just keep somewhere cool or in the fridge for a month. I buy UHT milk
and yoghurt. Flour, dried yeast and tinned goods last for months. So buy a month’s worth.
I buy shampoo, shower gel, loo rolls when they are on offer. I buy toothpaste for 45p
and it whitens and does everything an expensive product does and a tube lasts us one month. I make shower gel last for months as I apply it to a scrubby and wash myself from head to toe with one squirt. I make a bottle of conditioner last a month as I use a tiny amount, then keep an old hair brush in the shower to brush it through my hair.
For all my advice, or top tips, this all comes down to simple arithmetic. I keep my
receipts and check them through and enter them into my accounts, which I do with ‘excel’
to record what I spend. I usually shop in Lidl and as they have a limited range; I know
six chicken breasts are £3.99, there are six in the bag, so 66p each. They are very large
and good quality.
I have a calculator which I use when checking my budget, but I have a top tip when
shopping, just round everything up to the next pound. So If I buy a cauliflower for 69p,
when I walk around the shop I just call that £1. It’s so much easier.
No one has taught me to do any of this. I never learnt this at school. My mother never
divulged the secrets of the family purse. If I was rubbish at maths, I can still use a
calculator. I’m no Gordon Ramsay as you can see from my menu plans, but I know about the
basics of health: five a day, portion size (use a smaller plate) and basic costing. I
also have a desire to waste as little as possible so I re-use plastic pots to grow plants
and freeze left overs and I use drinks bottles as cloches and I recycle everything else.
I have shopped with ‘meals’ in mind and then looked at what I have; to put together meals
for the next three weeks. I have plans for 19 meals, but I will bulk this out with beany
burgers (from tinned kidney beans etc) and meals such as fried rice, which sometimes is
all we have, or egg, chips and beans.
I know people struggle to plan, to budget and find making both ends meet really difficult.
I hope my menu plan can help in any way. I’m always on the end of a blog to help anyone
who asks. Here are the meals for next three weeks.
6 Chicken breasts = 3 meals (Top tip – always buy these frozen, they are so much cheaper)
Roast chicken, stuffing, roast potatoes and roast butternut squash, cabbage, carrots and gravy. Chicken casserole, mashed potatoes, carrots, peas. Chicken Korma, rice and salad.
4 pork chops = 2 meals (Top tip – always buy these frozen, they are so much cheaper £1.79 for 4 chops in Lidl)
Sticky grilled pork with homemade oven chips, green beans and tomatoes. Spicy pork chops with green salad and homemade bread.
16 sausages = 2 meals – some for packed lunches the next day.
Sausages and onion gravy, boiled minted new potatoes, carrots and cauliflower. Toad in the hole, onion gravy, cabbage and peas.
Chicken thighs = 1 large casserole – some for packed lunch next day.
1.4 kg of minced beef = 4 meals
Chilli con carne and rice, with salad. Cottage pie, carrots, French beans X 2 Lasagne and salad.
Faggots = 1 meal serve with gravy, boiled minted new potatoes, carrots and cauliflower.
4 haddock fillets = 2 meals
Battered Haddock with homemade chips, tinned mushy peas and carrots X 2
Veggie burgers = 1 meal serve with homemade bread and salad.
1 gammon joint = 2 meals
Boiled gammon, minted new potatoes, carrots, cauliflower and green beans and parsley sauce. Cold gammon, homemade chips and salad/or veg
1 pack of back bacon = 1 meal
Carbonara (pasta, cheese sauce, strips of fried bacon with chopped and fried mushroom)
3 tins of corned beef = lunches for 6 days
5 tins of tuna = lunch for 5 days
Bread flour, marg and yeast – enough until the end of the month.
Cake ingredients to last until the end of the month.
Cheese for quiche/cheese sauce/sandwiches – until the end of the month.
Longlife goods in the cupboard will last up to six months.
I am no expert on thrifting and frugality and I’m still learning. I’m making everything I have go a little further and most of it comes down to common sense and self control. I didn’t used to be sensible and I didn’t have self control and I don’t think they can be taught in school. Life can be the best teacher sometimes.