Feeding a family when funds are limited is always a challenge.
It wasn’t so very long ago (was it?) that I had a family of six (plus frequent school-friend visitors and the like) to feed on an extremely tight budget. The challenge to find filling, yet nutritional, meals without spending the whole month’s housekeeping in a week was one that I am pleased I don’t have to face these days! I did have a couple of methods though that were really effective, so much so, that I thought I would share them with you.
When I was a stay-at-home mum I used to go to the shops every day except Sunday. I went on foot, dragging reluctant pre-school children along, whatever the weather; it was a good excuse to get out the house too! I divided my weekly house-keeping by 7 and only ever took the right amount out to avoid over-spending and temptation. I used to check for the “reduced for quick sale” bargains, buy fruit and veg that was in season from the local greengrocer and take advantage of various offers that cropped up in the supermarket. This is great if you have the time as you have the joy of spontaneity for every meal, this is my most favourite way to shop and it really an amazing way to keep to a budget.
Eventually, as the children started school and I went back to full-time work, this became an impractical way to shop so we started “bulk buying” instead. At the beginning of each month I would create a chart – something like this:
Then, once the kids were tucked up in bed, I would nag the husband to “think of things to eat!” He was pretty hopeless to be honest (he still is if I ask him what he would like for dinner!) but, by the time we went to bed, the chart would be completed and my shopping list would be written. We then did one big shop for all the dried, frozen and canned goods needed to make all the meals on my chart and we went to a weekly market each Sunday to buy fresh produce for the week.
The years inevitable passed and our finances improved a little but, by now, my obsession with budgeting and my even greater horror of waste, had firmly lodged themselves in my brain and, to a point, I still practise similar tactics to this day. It is easier now as there are only the two of us but I still plan at least a week in my head and try to only buy what we need. I am lucky because I am not an impulse buyer so I find it easier than some of my friends, who just can’t resist the “BOGOF” or the false promises about items being “cheaper than last week”.
It appears, however, that I am incapable of cooking for two, making meals for a brood is a habit I can’t break and I find it impossible to make small quantities of anything! This isn’t so bad really as it means I get to regularly stock up my freezer. Now I just need to learn to label things so we know what it is we’ll be having for dinner instead of “waiting to see” when it defrosts completely!
How to you manage on a budget? – I’d love to hear in the comments!