It’s not easy being frugal

(Addition – apologies for the text layout, this looks normal when I type/post – something happens when I ‘publish post)

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… 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.


13 thoughts on “It’s not easy being frugal

  1. You have some great tips here this morning! I need to apply some of them to my life! You should see our garden with all the little green water bottle cloches over our cabbage plants! It looks positively alien!


  2. 'Life can be the best teacher'….absolutely agree. When left with 3 teenagers and only a part time job I could have written the book on a million ways with a pound of mince!
    Thank you for visiting me in France.


  3. The way you put all this is so inspirational – I can be extremely thrifty and do find that the general food/household shopping is the biggest bill of all when it could be the smallest! My husband when I met him was extremely thrifty with food, but since he lost his job and now relys on my income and his incap, and has descovered ge is gluten and dairy intollerant, he seams to be upping my food bill out of all proportion – maybe I should set us both a limit and hand him his half for the week!


  4. Its been an eye opener reading your blog today. I will take some of those on board. I didnt know Asda had their own brand of whitening toothpaste – thanks for the tips!


  5. Hi Juicy – I hopy your husband does not read this and that you don't think I'm having a dig at him, but only people in the 'rich' world have food intolerances, hungry people can't be fussy – no one in the Mumbai slums would be gluten intolerant –


  6. Hello, thankyou for visiting my blog, I loved reading about your thrifty ways and I admire everything that you have written. I know what it's like to have little and to make it go a long way.When my kids were born I did not want to lose a moment of their growing so we decided that I would stay home and Tony's wage would be the only one coming in, it was tough but the kids did not suffer in fact they have grown up to be really secure and happy individuals because Mum and Dad were always there, we spent most of the first 11 years of their life at watching the kids play in matches or dance in musicals and we loved every moment yes, we went without for a long time but we had each other and our kids so it was worth it. I learnt how to be frugal by having a set amount to spend each week and as I shopped I kept a running total on the back of my shopping list because I knew I could not spend more than I had, it taught me such a lot and even now when money is not so tight I still cannot spend for the sake of spending but I have a lovely husband that loves me and kids that love me too, What more could I want.
    Love Jillxx


  7. Hi, I see you are getting some good deals on your food, but I can see four items on your list that I would not class as essentials.

    You could save £7.63 if you saved all small free plastic bags to freeze food in, bread bags, cereal bags. You could wash the floor with an old cloth and grey water, eg wash up water, bath water, even rain water, and a splash of wash up liquid. Your mop refill head seems a bit extravagant. Not sure what your Aloe Vera Toilet T is, is it to clean the toilet or your bum? At £1.66 do you really need it? What do you put in your refuse sacks? Does it need to be bagged? I never use them.

    Just a few ideas from a different perspective.


  8. Hi Ilona, I only have hard floors so they all need mopping and there's too much to do with a cloth, the loo rolls are the cheapest as you need less with better quality. I use two packs of plastic bags a year and we have to put black sacks out as we don't have wheelie bins here and I only put out one black sack a week. I bought two mop head refills for 2.99 and they will last a year. I cook my own food and need food grade bags to freeze it for longevity of preservation. I make what I have last so it might seem expensive but they are good value in the way I use them. The non needed wine, cider and choccies are only bought as a treat on pay day.


  9. Phew, I'm glad the items I mentioned are purchased only occasionally, thanks for explaining. Your supermarket shopping will be a lot less than this one then, most of the time.


  10. I like your tip for putting conditioner on a hair brush. I am wondering if you have heard of the “no 'poo shampoo” movement? There are some interesting posts about it here:

    I have begun using this and it works. I keep a small bottle of vinegar in the shower for rinsing. My sister gave me a bottle of Marrakesh Oil and I'm using that for conditioner. When that's gone, I'll be onto no 'poo for good!

    ~ Linne


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