A couple of weeks ago I was set a challenge to budget money by Saga. As a family of 4 and soon to be 5 we have been trying really hard to budget our money before the baby comes and get used to that budgeting. We started to think that spending £100+ on a food shop each week was getting ridiculous and we weren't even eating more than half of the items we bought, which was a waste of money.
So when I got asked if I wanted to take up the challenge, I said yes and was interested to see how it would go. I was given a shopping list book and a budget book to help me keep on track. Firstly, I must say that we have struggled a bit with sticking to it but we have been pretty good with getting out food shop price at a lower price.
I can't remember the last time I wrote a shopping list down but it has been a few months since I wrote a meal plan down for the week and I am glad I did it. When you write your weekly meal plan it gives you an idea of what you really need when you go food shopping. You know that they are going to eaten and then you're not wasting your money.
Me and my partner love our meat but we do try and have a different meat every week and on the odd week we will buy more than one meat a week, it all depends what we fancy. Thinking of meals for each day of the week can be quite difficult if you're not used to doing it but it does get easier and it really does help with lowering the cost of your food shop each week or even monthly.
How to meal plan
1. Look online for recipes
There are so many recipes online and they don't have to be difficult ones either. Many recipes online are simple. One thing that used to stop me looking for recipes online and in magazines was all the ingredients in the recipes, since then I have learnt that you don't really need every single ingredient in the recipe and you can sometimes use an alternative ingredient to make it your own.
2. Write down your favourite meals
I am sure everyone in the family home have their favourite meals. Write all their favourite meals down and that will help. You can swap and change each week so you are not having the same foods each week.
3. Keep a meal plan diary
I would really advise you to write down all your meal plans in a diary as it won't work if you have nothing written down. Also, never throw meal plans away as you can always look back and see the meals you had previous weeks if you are stuck on what to have a certain week.
4. Try new meals
To stick to a meal plan you need to mix it up. Make sure to try out new recipes out, ask friends and family if they have any favourite recipes that you can try out yourself. If you stick to the same foods each week meal planning will get boring, so mix it up!
5. Have a theme night
Trying to think of 7 different meals a week can be hard. Maybe you can do a theme night one day a week and have the similar kind of meal that day each week. For example: a curry night, a pizza night or a simple fish and chips.
6. Make a shopping list
To stick to your meals plans it is important to remember to write a shopping list before you go out shopping. As you have written your meal plan for the week it can help to write your shopping list as you will know what ingredients you need for those certain meals.
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As we did our normal weekly shop I did find that me and my partner were concentrating more on the shopping list and making sure we were sticking to it. Our shopping total came up to around £60 which was brilliant for us and we saved money in a few different ways, such as :
How we saved money whilst shopping
1. Using a shopping list and meal planning
All I wrote down on the shopping list was the ingredients I needed for our meals for the week, a bit extra for packed lunch for the girls and a few snacks such as fruit and ice cream on top.
2. Going for bargains
We did notice that we were trying to look for the 'cheaper' items. We were going for the offers more instead of the full priced items and we do believe that helped us a lot in our shopping challenge.
3. Bringing our own bags
We weren't saving a lot by doing this but we always use about 6-8 bags each week so that totalled to roughly 30p or more extra on top of our shopping every week. In a year that was costing us around £15 and that is just got the 5p bags. We haven't bought any bags since we started this challenge.
4. Look out for the best before date
I always look out for the best before date on items that we buy. I think it's quite important to check the dates otherwise they will go out of date, you're wasting your money and then you are probably going to spending more during the week.
5. Freezing foods
If you find you have a day you don't feel like eating what is on your meal then you can always freeze the meal instead of wasting it. Remember to read the date first before freezing.
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We have really enjoyed taking part in this challenge and we will both be sticking to it from now on too. From when the baby will be born we will have to add a few extras again on top such as nappies, wet wipes and whatever else we need but we will make sure to balance it out so it doesn't get too expensive for us again.
Ways to keep track of your spending and why it helps
1. Write all your income and outcome down each week/month
You don't have to buy a fancy book for this, you can buy a cheap notepad and write all your income, outcome and spending's each week. It's easier to do this weekly or daily as you will probably forget after a few weeks what you have spent your money on.
2. Keep your receipts
It may be a good idea to keep your receipts for at least a month or two so you can look back on. If you feel you spent too much on a certain week, get a previous receipt and see what you did so different that week for there to be a big change this week.
3. Go food shopping on a certain day of the week
Try and get into a routine of going shopping the same day each week. This will help you keep on track and know how much you have left in your pocket for the week after your shop.
4. Set a budget and use cash
Try and set yourself a budget each week and it may help by using cash instead of your card as you may feel tempted to spend more if you know you have more money on your card.
5. Keep your purse/wallet at home
If you know you're going somewhere that means you don't have to spend money, but you're passing shops, leave your money at home. I have done this plenty of times and have saved money by the end of the week.
6. Save your loose change
You know those loose 1p, 2p, 5p and so on that are left over in your purse? Go put them in a jar and save them. Count them every 6 months and go and exchange the loose change in a post office. This can help your save money for shopping or special occasions such as Christmas.
Do you write a meal plan and shopping list?
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