Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Shopping and eating frugally

Is time an illusion? It feels like it this past week! We're going flat out as jobs need to be done. We can rest after tomorrow . . .

Anyway, one of the things I have been thinking about recently is shopping, and how, when we are trying to prune our grocery bill to as little as possible - as when the bills come in the only place we can take money from is the grocery money - and everything is going up in leaps and bounds. I try NOT to do a one-stop supermarket shop. We have changed to doing the bulk of our weekly shop in Lidl, though there are certain things which we have to shop at another leading supermarket for as Lidl don't stock them or the price is better elsewhere. Fruit and veg we buy from the warehouse at Abergwili, buying the £1 bargain boxes when we can (what's in those varies daily and some is too far gone to be worth buying). We also have a lot of home-grown fruit to fall back on.

Anything remotely in the toiletry line we buy in the £1 shop - it goes without saying it's a daft idea to spend £2 plus on a tube of toothpaste when it is £1 somewhere else. I've never been one for buying ready-made food - everything is made from scratch where possible, although I do get fish fingers, frozen fish, and the occasional jar of instant sauce for a quick bung-it meal when I'm in a hurry or poorly. Home made bread is far better than shop-bought, tastier/cheaper/more filling all round. Home made jam is divine and not just a jar of coloured sugar, like "boughten" stuff. Home made pickled onions cost a fraction of shop jars and taste better. Home made mincemeat costs me next to nothing (just the dried fruit really) as I use apples from our trees, and use no suet in it. Cakes and biscuits and puddings - home made of course - and I usually try and fill the oven and freeze the extra baked. I use any leftover bread to make breadcrumbs for coating fish/chicken or making stuffing and would make bread pudding if it weren't only me that ate it (I'm on a diet!)

The wild birds will have to go without this year as we cannot afford £40 or so per sack of peanuts. We live next to a farm, so there are normally gleanings there and we will put out any damaged store apples if we get Redwings and Fieldfares coming through, although in last year's snow we regularly had 26 Blackbirds in the garden demanding breakfast. We will probably weaken and get a sack of bird seed if the forecast is dire.

Where else I can prune, I don't know. If it's just my husband and me here, we will have just something on toast for supper or omelet or something quick and fill up an empty corner with some fruit crumble.

I am at a loss as to how to prune our bill any further. How do you manage?


  1. It's tough these days. We seem to be doing much that you're doing too. We, like you, have always cooked from scratch predominately and more so now. Bread is baked and home made pies and cakes are the norm {and better than bought generally}, travel is carefully planned to eke out the fuel to best advantage and our LPG heating is yet to be turned on as we rely on extra layers when it's cold - last winter it was December before we put the heating to timed bursts and the plan this year is similar. We did invest in a new boiler which is 97% efficient compared to the 60% of the twenty year old one it replaced.

    Our credit card balance was switched to a zero interest provider and will be moved again for a similar deal when that one ends {if one's available}

    I find we are eating less too - smaller portions on smaller plates have helped with this - to some effect on waistlines and no feelings of starving ourselves - and we're eating better with more veg and less meat content. We've been swapping fruit from the garden with relatives who make jam and sauces and with our neighbour in return for some of the eggs from his hens {which I'm babysitting while they are on a break this week} and of course opportunism is to the fore when a food bargain is found allowing better use of the freezer to offset furure purchases.

    I too double up when using the oven and try and get two or three meals in there so we have one to use, one for the fridge and one for the freezer. It's been good to spend some time looking at some of my many cookbooks for ideas to put a different spin on old familiar ingredients or for cheaper alternatives. Fruit juices we used to drink 'straight' are now diluted with sparkling water and our elderflower cordial is now just that bit weaker.

    For special occasions we make sure we use special offer vouchers from the internet for local restaurants which means that I bet we haven't paid more than 50% of menu price when {rarely} eating out over the last year. We've signed up for 'groupon' who send some great offers by e-mail and have been laying some purchases in for Christmas since the start of summer, so we have almost 'done' Christmas now. G has been making and selling craft necklaces with some success too, funded initially from selling unwanted excess stuff lying in cupboards around the house, but now is making a small but helpful profit which we hope will pay for either our council tax or a holiday next year. Some of these will be used as Christmas gifts too - she's also been making all our own Christmas cards for the second year running.

    But despite all that it's still tough, especially as I'm still not working. Good news there is that I have an interview on Monday so fingers crossed on that one too. Now that would be an early Christmas present to be sure. In th meantime I've been volunteering more which in my case means that we're benefitting from increased travel expenses from the local authorities generous car allowance.

  2. Food prices have really gone up here too, we try to be frugal, but it's hard. I too bake my own bread and make my own jam,but no other canning. My husband is retired military and we still get to use the commissary so that helps some. We planted more veggies this year and with the use of a greenhouse we'll do more.

  3. One thing we have done that has helped us recognize how we consume (the little we do) is writing everything down - everything. It gave us a picture of our spending habits and showed us where to cut more. The surprise for us was that it wasn't really in the big items that we saved the most - it was the small things that added up. We make our own cleaning supplies, use bi-carb and apple cider vinegar to wash and condition our hair etc. We are really trying to cut as much out of our overall grosery shopping as possible

  4. I'm doing much the same as you. Our monthly electricity direct debit has just gone up by £22 - a rise of 38%. Needless to say Brian's salary hasn't gone up by the same amount! We're left to trimming off what we can. Who dares turn on the oil-fired heating these days? Otherwise it's more veg, less meat, more layers of clothing, food cooked from scratch, home grown where possible. This year Christmas presents will be home made too.

  5. Have just had meal seven of eight from the ham hock that started as Sunday dinner - four evening meals and four lunches from a £2.50 cut of meat.

    Another thing I swear by the stretch meals is pearl or pot barley.

    But I always buy the best quality cheese. A little well flavoured cheese goes much further than a slab of coloured lard.

  6. You probably already know all of this.

  7. Interesting post BB. I think we are all having to prune out housekeeping bills. I do make sure that I never throw anything away. Crusts and bread which is beginning to go stale make a super bread and butter pudding and we often have that for tea (we eat our main meal at lunch time) instead of our usual sandwich.

  8. Totally identifying with this post! I also try to cook as much as possible "from scratch", although I'm sure I could work on that some (like making homemade jam from the blackberries on the farm). This is our first year for our orchard, but next year hopefully there will be more fruit on the trees. This was our first year for our raised bed gardens and greenhouse and that helped a lot over the summer. I did dry herbs so that will save a little. I could have done better (and hopefully will next year) on freezing or canning the veggies from the garden. We have hens and definitely save on eggs (although it's probably minimal with the cost of good feed). I do prepare soups, roasted chickens, roasts, etc. which definitely serve more than one meal. We shop at a "warehouse" type grocery store with much better prices than the local upscale super market. There is also Kruse Farms where I can purchase fresh produce in season more reasonably. We try not to waste anything! The chickens get the scraps, potato peelings, etc. NOW, I need to think about Christmas and how I can take care of presents reasonably!


  9. I read this yesterday but didn't have time to comment, so really interesting to return and read what others have written. We've always been careful shoppers and seldom used convenience foods. I'm grateful that our hard work in the garden means food in the freezer and on the shelves for winter. The challenge seems to be in finding yet more ways to improve our frugality.

  10. Some absolutely wonderful comments here. Everyone's in the same boat I think, having to make their money go further.

    Hats off to you Blue Shed, for making a humble gammon hock go so far, but I fear I would have rebellion here after the first 3 days!

    I can remember, when I was living on my own, many years ago now, eating/reheating the same stir fry for 3 days, and making huge pans of vegetable curry which I ate until it was gone - usually a week later!

    I long ago perfected the art of making a single portion of left-over mince or whatever feed a family by topping pizza dough with it, or adding other ingredients and putting it into little pasties. Pasta with more sauce than meat content, risottos etc too.

    I'd love to have chickens again but my husband's not keen until we have relocated - he doesn't want the bother of having to move half a dozen chooks and their ark. We try and get our free range eggs at the car boot sale when we go down there.

    Morning AJ - great site, and I shall go and read through properly.

    Mags - our heating is just going to be put on to keep the damp from the door, though we had the house warm and toasty for when we had our (first!) viewers yesterday.

    Al - what a great contribution. Fingers crossed for your interview.

    I am shopping today. A certain supermarket reduces (by a smidgin) on a Friday so worth checking out the cooler shelves for reduced meat etc. I shall report back!

  11. The only trouble with shopping around for the best price, is the fuel to get there.No point in paying less for items from different stores,if it costs more in fuel than you can save.It's ok if all the shops are near to each other,but when you live in the country as we do your bargain hunting food wise must be governed by common sense.We grow lots of veggies and fruit,and keep hens(hope soon to start pig keeping) and my son gets us any veg that we don't grow from a friend who has a huge allotment.Cooking from scratch is essential,but we do eat out as much as funds allow because we enjoy it such a lot,and we must have some pleasure !!I buy most of my clothes on Ebay and have found some fabulous things including shoes for next to nothing.

  12. Rosemary - we shop in the one town, and there is perhaps a mile at most between the two main shops we use, and the greengrocers' is on the way, and the other bits and bobs we do on foot.

    As for clothes - well, those have gone by the board for quite some time. Now I'm starting to lose weight though, I want to update my wardrobe, but e-bay, certain charity shops (pref. NOT the ones in town, which are dear, for some reason - it's not a posh town!) and even car boot sales are my hunting grounds. TK Maxx offer some real bargains and I like browsing there.

    OH putting foot down over more hens until we have relocated . . . We used to have about 60 plus at one time and over 30 ducks, and a good egg round amongst the neighbours .

  13. Inflation, especially on food and energy prices, definitely feels very real these days. I've just spent part of the weekend re-price comparing gas, electricity, phone, and broadband, and we should be able to save a little by switching some things. Our water company has a good list of water saving devices that they'll send you for free, so I expect we'll be trying a few of those. We don't have any sort of reflector behind our radiators either, so some craft time with cardboard and aluminium foil might be on the cards...

    For general spending, I also write everything down, just to have a record when I'm trying to see what could be cut, if nothing else. I am vegetarian by (medical) necessity, so that helps. Meals are planned around what veg are cheap at the market, and an awful lot of the contents of my basket at the actual shop has plain wrapping all in the same two or three colours... Good recipes based on dried beans are a fabulous way to stretch food money. I also use dried soya/vegetable protein when I want cottage pie or chili mince or similar - it's much cheaper than actual mince, so that might be a useful stretcher for those who do eat meat, mixed with real mince. It has to be the dried stuff, though - the frozen stuff is expensive.

  14. I identify with your post and all the comments here and am too late to add much by way of tips.