At the end of June this year I conducted a Cooking From Scratch Experiment. I learnt a lot from doing it. Most of what I learnt came from you dear readers and your feedback. It made me think about how I was grocery shopping and preparing my meals, including the ingredients I was using and what I was purchasing.
The experiment concluded that by ‘Cooking From Scratch’ you can save in excess of 40% on ready-made foods, for me personally this could mean an extra £1500 plus each year (post tax) in the bank. My conclusions I have posted over at Ex-Consumer this week in the post Buying Ready-Made Foods Versus Cooking From Scratch.
I may not make any money from my blogging endeavours, but I certainly save money! Reading and writing about minimalism and leading a simple life keeps my
‘Head In The Game’.
Today I’d like to share how since conducting the experiment I have managed to reduce my weekly grocery spend by 50%. Chez Wright’s Grocery Budget was £100 a week, for the last few weeks I have managed to spend just £50.
This is how you could do it too:
- Challenge yourself to stick to a new reduced budget! In my case I decided to ‘go for it’ and halved my budget. I didn’t know if it was doable, it was. Reader feedback from my experiment made me question whether I was spending ‘up’ to a budget. So I decided to spend ‘down’. I had £50 and that was it, I had to choose wisely.
- Meal plan, meal plan, meal plan!!! I cannot emphasise this enough. Whatever your budget, you need a plan. Haphazard grocery shopping leads not only to wasted money but wasted food. If in doubt check out The Simple Guide To Meal Planning.
- Look at alternative ways of doing your shop to reduce cost! I have always been a fan of online grocery shopping. It’s highly convenient, it’s reduces browsing and impulse purchases and makes it very easy to stick to your list based on your meal plan. However it became apparent I was becoming complacent. For a while I’d been shopping for a few things in the high street as prices were considerably cheaper at my favourite shop Home Bargains. I started noticing that many staple items were up to 50% cheaper than I was paying online. I now use 2 hours of my time each week to physically shop. I write 4 shopping lists. One list for Home Bargains and staple items, one for the freezer shop (milk, ice-cream etc), one for the outdoor market where I buy fresh produce and one for the butchers. I’m lucky that all these are all in the same vicinity.
- Carry your shopping! I do drive to do my shop, and I park on a car-park. I then have to carry at least two separate loads back to the car. By carrying your shopping I guarantee you will think twice about popping that impulse purchase in your trolley! Last week I do not know how I got back from the market and butchers to the car, my arms were dropping off… and think of the calories I burnt.
- Reduce the amount of meat you eat! Not everyone is cut out to be vegetarian. If you can follow a non-meat diet you can indeed reduce your spend, and of course there are many other reasons for doing it, but it is deeply personal thing for everyone. I’ve never been a big meat-eater, and ensure that what meat the family do consume that it is of high quality. A simple way to reduce spend is to cut back on meat products or put less meat in your dishes. Our Sunday Roast now consists of Toad in the Hole which uses approx. 6 high quality sausages rather than a joint of meat. This is about a 60% cost saving.
- Think alternatives! As with switching a meat joint for sausages, think of alternatives to reduce cost. This could mean switching brands, for example I now pay 79p for 36 Breakfast Wheat Biscuits instead of over £2 for the leading brand. We haven’t compromised, the quality is comparable and they taste great. You could also compromise on the type of product. I always purchased freshly squeezed Orange Juice, and it was costing up to £5 a week. By reducing the quantity and type of OJ I buy it now costs less than £2.
- When it’s gone it’s gone! By Thursday now we are out of OJ most weeks. Too bad. We now wait till the next weekly grocery shop is done, no nipping out and restocking. Every time you enter a shop you will spend more money than you anticipate unless you are very disciplined. Not having an infinite supply of something makes you value it more. If the Hubby want’s the OJ to last 7 days, he needs to put a little less in his glass each morning. Aren’t I cruel? Don’t worry I’m hard on myself also, the coffee was rationed this week as I could see it was diminishing. So I drank a cup less a day – no bad thing eh?This post over at Zen Habits is worth a read.
- Reduce Luxuries! Certain things enter our grocery shop as luxuries, get cosy and end up being a staple item. I’ll admit that pre-summer we were easily buying and consuming 3 bottles of wine at an approx. cost of £15 a week. I had a budget of £100 and very often would find once I’d spent £80 I was done and would then wine shop. This has stopped. There is no need for us to have wine each night with dinner, particularly as I am training for a half marathon and alcohol dehydrates the body (I’m dehydrated enough!). It had become a habit. I now buy one bottle a week.
- Stretch what you do have! If making a spaghetti bolognese add extra tomatoes or mushrooms rather than mince to increase servings. When making Chilli use extra beans such as kidney and haricot to reduce meat content or eliminate meat altogether from the dish as I have now done. Pour a little less custard over a piece of apple pie so it goes round further, drink a little less OJ or wine, or coffee. Just a fraction less of each will make a big difference overall.
- Cook more from scratch! We have come back to where this post began. I’m in no doubt that by using basic ingredients rather than ready-made products that you can save money. My spaghetti bolognese sauce consists of toms, garlic,onion, stock cube, black pepper, herbs and puree, it’s cheap and I have it on good authority it’s as tasty as anything that comes out of a jar.