How I Food Shop on a Budget
At the minute money is a bit of a squeeze. The cost of living is going up every month, from energy bills to food bills, and every penny counts. Jack Monroe recently wrote a fascinating and terrifying Twitter thread about the rising cost of food. Especially the non-branded, own-brand items most commonly used by those trying to do a food shop on a budget.
I highly recommend reading the thread, as it’s true that the likes of M&S finest meal deals aren’t increasing but the cost of the most affordable food items like pasta and chopped tomatoes are.
For me, I’ve recently swapped getting all my deliveries from Tesco and ASDA, for shopping mostly at Lidl.
I tend to do one big food shop a month from either Tesco or ASDA for the branded items and products I can’t get or find difficult to travel with from Lidl. These items include things like cleaning products – I’ve got very sensitive skin so these items are tried and tested. And certain luxury food items that I enjoy and don’t want to – and don’t have to – give up. Also heavier items I can’t carry back on the bus as I don’t have a car, like cartons of orange juice and lots of meat and fish products.
What’s on my Lidl shop
At Lidl, I can usually get a fortnight’s worth of food for between £20 and £30. I did a recent food shop – although I did have a full freezer so this was more of a food cupboard haul – and this is what I got and the prices.
- Boil in a bag – Long grain rice x8 bags – £0.89
- Clover Spread – £1.39
- Tuna Chunks in Spring Water x4 – £2.39
- Natural Greek Yoghurt – £1.19
- Tikka Masala Sauce – £0.99
- Butter Beans – £0.45
- Mars Bar Snacks x10 – £1.99
- English Mustard – £0.32
- Reduced-Fat Houmous – £0.69
- Garlic Naan Bread – £0.55
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil – £1.89
- Iceberg Lettuce – £0.57
- Spring Onions – £0.37
- Mature Cheddar – £1.39
- Twirl Bars x4 – £0.77
- Red Apple – £0.42
- Celery – £0.43
- Best of Both Bread – £0.85
This shop came to £17.54
How much is my fortnightly food shop?
With all of the items, I listed above and the items I have in my freezer already I can make a lot of meals.
In my freezer, I currently have a selection of meats including chicken breast, beef chunks, sausages, and beef mince. As well as haddock and salmon. I also have frozen vegetables like carrots, broccoli, and leeks, as I find buying fresh vegetables leads to more food wastage on my part. I also got items such as eggs – these are difficult to transport from Lidl without breaking! – as well as milk, a selection of sauce packets, and my top luxury product: coffee!
As such, my latest Tesco shop came to £46.65.
I’m one person so a £64.19 bill still feels like a lot. But if I can make that work for two weeks minimum then that’s £32.10 a week or roughly £4.58 per day for three meals and snacks. That’s not bad. And half the time I can make a meal last longer by cooking slightly extra for lunch the following day.
What meals I can make with my fortnightly food shop?
With my current food shop I can make a selection of meals, so of which I’m can batch cook and save. Others I can adjust to have extras for the following day.
Here are some meal ideas:
- Chicken Tikka Masala – x1 jar = 3-4 meals + naan bread!
- Paella – Veggie or add some Chicken – I love adding butter beans to mine
- Leek and Potato Soup – can freeze and batch cook if I don’t use cream
- Chicken and Rice – I can swap the chicken for beef chunks or fish
- Fish pie – a favourite of mine! I love to make extra for lunch the following day.
- Sausages, Mash and Veg – so easy and so tasty
- Scrambled Egg/Fried Egg on Toast – great for lunch when I’m working from home
- Grilled cheese on toast – comfort food at its best
- Loaded Potato Skins – sprinkled with spring onions and cheese
- Salad – add some chicken, tuna, or salmon for additional protein
- Tuna pasta bake – makes a great lunch the following day
- Jacket potato with tuna – comfort food
- Chilli with rice
- Tuna/Cheese and Onion sandwiches
So many choices!
Affordable snacks on a budget
This month I allowed myself a few extra sweet treats – like my Mars Bars and Twix’s – but I’m trying to limit myself to just one bar a day. Instead, I’m trying some other affordable snacks.
- Celery with houmous
- Breadsticks with houmous
- Granola and Greek Yoghurt (why only have it at breakfast?!)
- Potato salad – some mini potatoes, mayo, and spring onion = delish!
- Rice and soy sauce – strangely I enjoy this as a snack
- Cheese cubes and pickled onions – (I pickle my own onions so it’s a cost-effective treat)
What’s not for my food shop on a budget?
It’s still early days with my food shop budgeting, and it’s obvious how expensive things are getting. I used to be able to do a full weekly shop for under £20 at Lidl. I did a post on it! But now I definitely couldn’t do it for any less than £30, not if I’m buying meat and fish as well.
Meal planning definitely helps. Even if I stick to it sporadically as I’m a mood eater! But if I know I have to take lunch to work then I make meals where I can make extra. And if I know I’m not going to have time to make big meals in the future, then I batch cook. Simple changes like that can make a difference.
Even with these changes, I’m am still working to cut my fortnightly bill to just £50. I’m figuring out where best to make cuts and a lot of the decision-making is about trying to decide between having a luxury and having some extra cash for eating out or the occasional takeaway.
No one should have to give up their little luxuries in order to afford to have a meal, and thankfully I’m not in that situation. But if I want to make bigger savings then doing a food shop on a strict budget is something within my control. I can impact the rising cost of food, but I can be more selective of what I purchase and when. And focus on wasting less and using more.
What suggestions would you make for doing a food shop on a budget? Let me know in the comments below.