It’s not easy making such a tight budget work, but the first ingredient is a monthly menu plan, says blogger Jen Walshaw
I am a work-at-home mum with two growing boys, and most of the time I feed my family of four a balanced breakfast and dinner each day for £50 for a week (the boys have a cooked lunch at school).
I menu plan each month’s meals at the start of the month, and, as a family, we discuss our favourite meals and I try to incorporate them into the plan.
Once I have a plan, I make a shopping list and make sure never to shop when I’m hungry. The key to a good menu plan is making main ingredients go further. So you can roast a chicken one day, then make a chicken curry the next. I freeze any leftovers or they get used up for lunches.
I shop at the budget supermarket chains and keep an eye out for local offers, shopping as wisely as I can. Aldi offers six vegetables at a reduced price each month, and I also grow a lot of fruit, vegetables and salad in the garden. I buy as seasonally as possible, because prices are lower at times of year when there are gluts of produce.
I’m not at all concerned by short sell-by dates on food. It always pays to know what time your local supermarket discounts items that need to be sold. I use my nose to check when food is going off, rather than relying on sell-by or best-before dates, and tend to freeze short-date items.
I sometimes use shopping comparison sites such as My Supermarket, which provide a free cost-comparison service to work out which supermarket is cheaper that week. I also found a local supplier of eggs, a smallholder, who sells a tray of 30 for just £3.50.
I manage to keep to the budget three out of four weeks, but I’m not going to pretend it’s always easy. It takes planning and time, and I’m lucky my boys aren’t picky eaters. They tend to eat what I put in front of them and they love vegetables. I make sure that I have ice cream cones and sprinkles in, so when the children hear the ice cream van, we can make our own.
Shopping to a budget can be pretty time-consuming because I bake every other day (I don’t buy biscuits or cake) and bake my own bread in a bread machine a couple of times a week.
It’s getting harder and harder to stick to a £50 a week budget due to inflation, so I have had to downshift some purchases, moving to more basic ranges and own brands. I’m lucky to have a variety of supermarkets to choose from – it wouldn’t be practical to spend money travelling to more than two a week, so I factor that in.
I make sure that I buy good quality meat. I find an organic chicken provides me with more meat and better stock than a value one. It’s also better value to buy a whole chicken rather than just chicken breasts. Then you can bone it and use the parts to make a stir fry or home-made chicken burgers. I use my slow cooker for cheaper cuts.
When I do go over the £50 budget, it tends to be on “treat” items such as chocolate and crisps, or when I stock up my store cupboard with condiments, but I figure we all need a treat.
I also can’t keep to my budget over holidays and celebrations such as birthdays and Easter.
Dinner at the Walshaw family
Sunday Roast chicken with vegetables (carrots, leeks, broccoli and roast parsnips) potatoes and Yorkshire puddings
Monday Chicken curry with leftover chicken and vegetables and rice with homemade naan bread
Tuesday Sausage casserole (sausages, leeks, carrots, parsnips, onion, gravy browning and potatoes)
Wednesday Spaghetti bolognaise (pasata, onion, peppers, garlic, mincemeat and dried pasta)
Thursday Lasagne (left over bolognaise, white sauce, cheese, dried pasta)
Friday Fish, chips and mushy peas (frozen fish, potatoes and dried peas)
Saturday Home made pizza and garlic bread
Further food reflections and recipes from Jen Walshaw are on www.muminthemadhouse.com
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