I know many people are beginning to feel the pinch at the moment with food bills and here is no exception. Our shopping habits have certainly changed over the last year, partially down to budget and also time constraints due to work. I happened to mentioned on FB that I had spent just £35 on food one week. That was all dinners plus my lunches and most of Hub’s lunches. Someone left a comment asking if I could blog our menu for that week and how I manage to keep the bills low. This budget busting week could be because we are still eating our way through a Christmas cheese mountain (all hail Neal’s Yard Dairy hamper).
We swap supermarkets regularly. Different supermarkets are better than others for different things. Lidl is the best for continental meats like pastrami, salami and Polish sausage whereas Morrisons is best for most other meat and M&S is the best for whole chickens. Yes buying from butchers is often cheaper, however our local butchers are open awkward times during the week (10am-3pm or 1pm) weekdays and we can’t always get there on a Saturday so we do sometimes rely on supermarkets for meat. When it comes to the value/basics brands most of the produce is no different to the regular brand though it is sometimes worth checking the label. For example value apple sauce can contain significantly less apple and more sugar than regular apple sauce. I use value flour and butter in all my baking and Sainsbury’s value mozzarella is superb for pizza.
Chicken, bacon & beef are the three meats I’m less likely to compromise on. This isn’t for ethical reasons, just for the simple fact a good chicken or piece of bacon of beef tastes so much better. If I want to cook with meat I want to enjoy it and be able to taste it. If I can’t get hold of tasty meat we eat veggie, much to the disapproval of carnivore Hubs! If you can get a Packington Poultry chicken near you I highly recommend them. Ok the chicken I used in this meal plan was £14 but it was a massive 2.5kg and we got over 10 meals plus leftovers from it. If you live near Chatsworth I also recommend their Farm Shop. Yes some of their produce is expensive, but ask about their meat boxes that are superb value. Last time we were there we got a box of beef with enough meat to make 30-40 meals for just under £60. They also do lamb and pork boxes.
A big way to cut back on bills is to be creative and embrace leftovers. Often our lunches are made up from leftovers the night before. Also use blogs, magazines and websites like BBC Good Food for ideas. To have a nosy at what other people meal plan look at At Home with Mrs M’s blog where she runs a weekly Meal Planning Monday feature. I usually do my meal plan on the Friday morning and it is inspired by what needs using up and recipes I may have bookmarked. As it turns out this meal plan was only for 5 days, but there were enough leftovers (that we froze) that could have been used for the remaining 2 days.
Friday – Super veg pasta with garlic bread. This makes tonnes, far more than the recipe suggests. It also makes superb pizza sauce. After taking out our portions for this meal we were left with enough sauce for 4x small pizzas and 4 portions of pasta sauce. Cheated with garlic bread and bought it.
Sunday – Roast Chicken with roast potatoes, honey roast parsnips, leeks, peas, stuffing, yorkie puds and gravy. All made from scratch apart from the stuffing. Just used faithful Paxo sage & onion.
Monday – Malaysian Chicken Soup. A recipe in the most recent Sainsbury’s Everyday Easy magazine. A bit like Tom Kha Gai with a handful of rice thown in to bulk it out.
Tuesday – Chicken & Cauliflower Biryani from the My Daddy Cooks cookbook.
Wednesday – Pizza (this dough recipe doubled for 2). Ok, by this point we really didn’t think we’d have chicken left, but the monster chicken provided us with enough chicken to top a pizza. Made the dough from scratch, topped with the same sauce that we used on the Friday pasta dish along with the last of the chicken, mozzerella, red pepper, cherry tomatoes and a few blobs of sweet chilli sauce (as inpired by the fabulous Jamaica pizza at Bulls Head, Repton)
What are your best tips at having a great budget meal plan?