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It's my first time budgeting for food and I feel lost and overwhelmed

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It's my first time budgeting for food and I feel lost and overwhelmed

edited 30 November -1 at 12:00AM in Old Style MoneySaving
20 replies 7.5K views
JenLJenL
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edited 30 November -1 at 12:00AM in Old Style MoneySaving
I will admit right away that I've never properly budgeted for groceries, but it has now come to a point where I have to start as circumstances have significantly reduced to income. My household consists of 2 adults, 2 cats, a large dog, a cockatiel and a snake. I'd estimate that I currently spend about £15 per week for the animals. I've no idea how much I spend on food for my mother and I but I'd guess that it's at least £50, without counting any takeaways and eating out (seeing that written down is a bit embarrassing).

I really don't know what would be considered an appropriate budget for two adults for a weeks worth of food. Also I know I should try and figure exactly what I'm spending and work out how to reduce it but the task does seem quite overwhelming. I'm not even sure where to start.

I would appreciate some advice about how a complete novice budgeter can get started.
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  • VfM4meplseVfM4meplse PPR
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    Well you've come to the right forum, welcome! Start with the OS board for loads of tips and advice - Corny?

    Snake? _pale_ The pet board might help.
  • redfoxredfox
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    we move threads if we think they will get more help elsewhere (please read the forum rule) so this post/thread has been moved to another board. If you have any questions about this policy please email [EMAIL="forumteam@moneysavingexpert.com"][email protected][/EMAIL].
    I'm a Board Guide on the Quick Grabbit, Food Shopping & Groceries and Shop but don't drop, boards which means I volunteer to help get your forum questions answered and keep the forum running smoothly. Pease remember, board guides don't read every post. If you spot an illegal or inappropriate post then please report it to [email protected] (it's not part of my role to deal with this) Any views are mine and not the official line of MoneySavingExpert.

  • Sea_ShellSea_Shell
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    Where do you currently shop? Aldi or Waitrose?

    Do you meal plan, and shop with a list?

    Do you usually buy big brands?

    When you say groceries, are you including toiletries, cleaning and other household stuff? Not just food?
    " That pound I saved yesterday, is a pound I don't have to earn tomorrow ":beer: JOB DONE!!
    This should now read "It's time to start digging up those Squirrelled Nuts"!!! :j:j:j
  • unrecordingsunrecordings
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    I'd start with keeping till receipts, that way you've got an accurate record of where you're going. Personally I'd start a massive spreadsheet, but that's just me - it doesn't have to be a complicated process. Once you've figured out how to shave a couple of quid off the weekly bill, then more inspiration for savings should follow
    Why am I in this handcart and where are we going ?
  • edited 13 October 2019 at 7:33AM
    NargleblastNargleblast
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    edited 13 October 2019 at 7:33AM
    I think you need to establish first exactly how much you have available to spend on food, so a complete breakdown of your household income and regular bills should be done first. On the Debt Free Wannabe forum you will find people posting their Statement of Affairs, if you look there you will see what categories of expenditure to consider. (I am not suggesting you post all your financial figures on here, just write it down for your own reference).

    Having taken out housing costs and essential bills, including any cars, loans, credit card debts, insurances etc, what is left must cover food for yourself, mum and animals plus money put by for clothes, vet bills, holidays, entertainment and emergencies.

    Having decided how much your food budget is, you need to make a list of what you already have in fridge, freezer and cupboards. See what meals can be made out of that lot, and write down what you need to buy to complete the meals. You could split your budget four ways, protein foods (animal, plant based and dairy products), fruit and veg, carbohydrates and fats, and finally household supplies, toiletries and pet supplies. That's one way of doing it. Or you could allocate some for breakfasts, some for lunches, some for evening meals and some for incidentals (anything that is not a proper meal).

    Some discount shops (Home Bargains, B and Ms for example) are well priced for household cleaning supplies, as are some pound shops. Places like Aldi and Lidl have their merits, and even the top four supermarkets have bargains if you look for them. Market stalls and proper butchers shops are worth a visit.

    You have to look at where you have always shopped before your change in circumstances and decide whether you can still continue in that manner, or find cheaper ways and sources. Have a look at the Grocery Challenge thread, that should be a big help. Once you get the initial donkey work done you will find yourselves eating well and saving money.

    Edited - Obviously, any eating out or takeaway plans will have to go on hold until you know what your budget is. You might be able to allocate funds to have a takeaway once a month - although I would advise getting the book The Takeaway Secret which shows you how to make takeaway style meals at home for less money.
    One life - your life - live it!
  • JenLJenL
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    I shop mainly in Morrisons but get some things in Tesco and Waitrose. My bits from Waitrose are mainly goats/sheep cheeses, goats and soy yogurts and goats milk (my mother can't have cows dairy but can use goats and sheep dairy). I do meal plan a little and I shop with a generalised list. My shopping consists of a mix of big brands and mid range brands.
  • NargleblastNargleblast
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    Ok, so you are part of the way there, you shop with a list and go to different places for different things. Buying goat and sheep dairy products is not negotiable so are there alternate places that sell them cheaper? Even the mainstream supermarkets do non-dairy products (alpro is one brand) and goat cheeses and milks. Look for the Free From section in supermarkets. As far as groceries (tinned and packet goods) are concerned do what Martin Lewis calls the downshift Challenge. Groceries are priced in four tiers - the premium brands e,g Douwe Egberts instant coffee, then next step down is the normal brand eg Nescafe then supermarket premium range (eg Tesco Finest), next supermarket normal range, then the supermarket cheapo/value/basic brand at the bottom of the pricing ladder. Whichever one you normally buy, go for the next one down. Or you can grit your teeth and buy the value brand. Some value brand goods are perfectly tolerable. If not move one level back up and try that.
    One life - your life - live it!
  • unrecordingsunrecordings
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    JenL wrote: »
    I shop mainly in Morrisons but get some things in Tesco and Waitrose. My bits from Waitrose are mainly goats/sheep cheeses, goats and soy yogurts and goats milk (my mother can't have cows dairy but can use goats and sheep dairy)

    As far as Waitrose goes (and I suppose this is good practice in general), keep tabs on deals & offers via their website(s) - that way you can plan to buy the specialist stuff at the best time. Waitrose seem to launch their offers on a Thursday/Friday - for example:

    https://www.waitrose.com/ecom/shop/search?&searchTerm=goat
    Why am I in this handcart and where are we going ?
  • PasturesNewPasturesNew
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    There are two costs: 1/ The cost of what's on your plate. 2/ The cost of what ends up in the bin.

    The first goal is to be fully aware of 1 - and to get 2 down to £1-2/month.

    Once you know the cost of food on your plate you can start to set your budget and to swap/drop ingredients you didn't need on your plate.

    Aim to keep every main meal to under £1, except where you are specifically aware it's more and you've "specially chosen" to blow the budget... and then be aware how often you do that and ask yourself if you're just treating yourself too often.

    Even takeaways can be "swapped" - e.g. I like a good indian curry and nobody but an indian can do it like that.... but I can buy/put up with a 21p onion bhaji from an Aldi/Lidl 4-pack ... and I can buy a cheaper naan bread .... and I can make my own rice. So a treat can be minimised.

    You have to start with what you are eating now, be fully food/cost aware, then look at what you've had and ask yourself if you needed that or could've had something else.

    Food is beans on toast at 15p/plate...... or you can grab a nice ready meal at £3.50 without thinking about it. Two quick/convenience foods with a £3.35 difference - and every meal you have is a choice you make.
  • trailingspousetrailingspouse
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    I totally agree with Pastures New - the cost of the food in your bin is as important as the cost of the food in your trolley.


    For a week, make a list of everything you throw out that could have been eaten (but wasn't because it went off, or went past its use by date, or the plate was too full and you didn't eat it all etc etc).



    If you find that there is an item that is regularly getting thrown away, stop buying it (my husband was a begger for opening a box of fresh juice, having a glass of it, then not going back to it until it had gone off - I stopped buying it and I don't think he ever noticed!!)
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