A family of 5 with a zest for life

How we halved our monthly food bill with the Scottish Friendly Payday Mayday challenge

*This is a collaborative post

Like a lot of people, Steve was paid early in December. This always seems fantastic at the time and it allows us to stock up on a few extra treats for Christmas but come January we always end up regretting the decision to not plan ahead. Add to that the fact that business seems to stop altogether in January in the freelance world and blog payments tend to be delayed thanks to Christmas holidays, and it's fair to say that January is financially the toughest month of the year.

How we halved our monthly food bill with the Scottish Friendly Payday Mayday challenge


I will be honest when I say that we do not stick to a monthly budget at all. Steve's wages cover our bills and my freelance work covers everything else. Sometimes I can be paid three big invoices in one day and other times I can wait over 6 months to be paid for a project. In my head, I've always used this as an excuse as to why we can't stick to a budget so when Scottish Friendly challenged our family to cut our monthly outgoings by at least 1/4 in January, I decided to see if a budget would actually work for us.

We're currently saving for a new car 

We are currently saving for a new car - we're about 1/3 of the way to our target and really want to knuckle down and get there in time for the start of summer. Looking at our finances in January and following some simple saving tips has helped us not only get over the Christmas squeeze but if we keep up with our budget it will hopefully allow us to reach our new car target sooner rather than later.

I already know where most of our money goes -food glorious food. We are huge foodies and eat out quite a bit. We used to get a takeaway every Saturday night and breakfast dates were a weekly occurrence for us. I relied on Amazon Prime Now a fair bit and would probably order one £40 top up shop (which is the minimum spend) every 10 days or so and I didn't meal plan, we'd often just buy food on the day we needed. I honestly had no idea at all how much we spent on food in a month so I decided to go through November's bank statements (we rarely pay for anything in cash) and must say I received a little bit of a shock! 

Throughout November, we spent £847 on food from our current account (including eating out and takeaways). Add to this the £50 Steve spends on lunches at work, the £11 we pay our milkman and the £25 per month we spend on school dinners (one school dinner per week each for H and H) and our total spend on food throughout the month was a whopping £933 which works out at £216 per month which is a lot more than expected. In my head I thought we were spending around £130 per week so that's an overspend of £86 per week or £4472 per year. YIKES! Going through our spending like this has really forced me to make a new resolution and to actually stick to a budget when it comes to food shopping. 

With a bit of planning, we spent just £450 on food throughout January 


I can't tell you how chuffed I am about this. I can't believe I've halved our food bill and to be honest, it hasn't been too painful at all! Here's how I did it: 


1 - Online food shopping and meal planning

I have used online food shopping quite a bit in the past but never really on a regular basis. Throughout January, I don't think we've even stepped foot in a supermarket and I've shopped exclusively online. Once you get used to it, it's a lot quicker and easier than I remembered. We're a family of 5 and we eat a lot of fresh food so a weekly shop just won't work for us. I've started planning our meals in 5 day batches and ordering a food delivery every 5 days. Most supermarkets have a minimum delivery of £40 and I've used a combination of Morrisons, Waitrose and Iceland which all had no delivery charge in January. Ordering an online food shop to be delivered every 5 days does sound excessive but if I spend £50 a time, this works out at just £300 per month. I tend to spend between £40-£60 per time but I include everything from washing up liquid to binbags, packed lunch items, spinach for the guinea pigs, family dinners and treats. This way I am not tempted to order through Amazon Prime Now and I can proudly say that I have not used this service at all throughout January. How often do you pop to the shop for bread and end up spending £20-£30? This is SO me but with online shopping and meal planning, this just doesn't happen. Long may it continue!



2 - Fakeaways rather than takeaways

A family takeaway tends to cost around £35 for the 5 of us. This used to be a bit of a Saturday night ritual for us and across the month this would set us back £140 which is a significant amount (especially if you multiply this across the year and the figure increases to £1820. Wow! Instead of our weekly takeaway we've been cooking 'fakeaways'. The whole family has been involved and we've enjoyed an Italian feast, homemade Nandos and an American-style cookout with wings and ribs. In all honesty, the food has been tastier than a takeaway and we've all really enjoyed it. Saving money just seems to be a bonus!



3 - Treats are still allowed, just not as often

I'm a huge believer that you should not deprive yourself of anything in life and I know sitting here and saying we're never going to have another takeaway or eat out again isn't realistic. Instead, we're planning our month ahead and picking the days to eat out and allowing one day to order a takeaway during the month. Planning ahead will give us something to look forward to and stop us from spending money on eating out on a whim. Last month, we booked Bouchon Bistrot as our treat meal and I think because it's the only time Steve and I dined out together, we really appreciated it a lot more.

Our 'treat' lunch out was something we both thoroughly appreciated. 


4 - Steve has taken lunch to work

We transfer £70 into Steve's account every month to cover his lunches at work. His staff canteen is subsidised but it still feels like quite a bit of cash. This month, Steve has been taking leftovers and has batch cooked a chilli to take into work. It's just a small saving, but every little helps. 

5 - Gousto boxes 

Gousto boxes do sound expensive at £29.99 for 3 recipes for 2 people but we've been ordering these for the weeks that Steve works late shift and we dine separately from the kids. In the past, we'd fall into the takeaway trap (which would be around £25 for the 2 of us) or I'd ask Steve to pop into the shop on the way home which resulted in a £10-£15 spend per visit so ordering Gousto boxes has actually saved us money. I love that there is no food waste and they are usually fairly healthy too.

Chickpea Salad made with a Gousto box

I am honestly so chuffed that we've managed to reduce our food bill to £450 per month and I'm super-motivated to continue and reach the target for our new car sooner rather than later.

I asked over on my Facebook page about meal planning last week and there were lots of suggestions on how I could reduce my bill even further by batch cooking and buying meat in bulk from the butchers. Definitely food for thought! I actually really enjoyed the challenge of saving money throughout January and I'll be doing the same in February. I'll share weekly meal plans via my Facebook page and would love you to join in, get organised and save along with me too. Let me know if you meal plan and if you're also saving for something at the moment.

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How we halved our monthly food bill with the Scottish Friendly Payday Mayday challenge



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10 comments

  1. I need to get back into this habit - I had started meal planning and trying to do one of shop plus only top up fresh things but now we have a smaller fridge and freezer, I have to get routine of fortnightly I think otherwise I do go to get milk and bread and suddenly spend 30!

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  2. Great post. Me and my partner already do a lot of these such as him taking dinner to work and meal planning etc and it saves us a fortune. We cook from scratch a lot which also saves us a lot and tend to shop at Aldi. It's surprising how much of a difference it makes!

    Hannah x
    www.fabfatmama.com

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    1. Cooking from scratch definitely helps doesn't it x

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  3. I was a huge slender on food too but have really cut back and spend around £200 a month now. It’s just me and the girls but that includes household and toiletries too which I don’t think is too bad.

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    1. Wow that's amazing Deborah! You can send me your tips x

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  4. Very inspirational. I know we spend far too much on food and I always have the best intentions for a week or so but it's so hard to maintain! I run out of meal ideas and give up! I look forward to seeing your ideas and seeing if we can save money as with you.

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  5. Some fab ideas here! I try meal planning but I always fail. I will have to give it a better try!

    Rachael xox
    www.rachaeldickinson.com

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  6. Great work! I know you've probably thought about this already, I have a separate bank account for the business and a cash flow for cast. I pay myself a set amount every month on the same day. It makes it so much easier to budget for my bills etc. Although I am not perfect at this!

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  7. I do lots of meal planning but never shop online. I shall have to try that as my son tends to slip things into the trolley while I am shopping.

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I always love reading your thoughts and comments - Sam x

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