Money Saving Tips and Meal Plan

Nothing could have prepared us for the challenge of becoming parents. Financially, things are tight. I have chosen to go back to work part time so I can spend as much time with Harry as possible but the drop in income and extra little mouth to feed has meant we have had to really reevaluate how we spend our money.
Here are our top money saving tips for cooking healthy food for the family and our money saving meals for next week!

Top money saving tips!

Meal plan!

We never used to plan what we were eating.  We would buy food randomly based on what we saw in the supermarket that week, we would spend a fortune and have cupboards full of food but still find ourselves popping to the local shop several times a week because there was ‘nothing for tea’.  We wasted so much food (and money) through shopping this way and have more than halved our weekly grocery spend since we started meal planning.  This amazes me, especially as we now have an extra mouth to feed and nappies and baby wipes added to our shopping list!

I also find that we are much healthier since we started meal planing as we plan a balanced diet and don’t waste our fresh fruit and vegetables like we used to. I feel healthier and have lost weight too, all whilst still enjoying my food, which is an added bonus!

We always plan a flex-day to allow for using leftovers, eating out or occasionally indulging in a cheeky take away.  I find this helps to stick to our plan as we know that we can be naughty one day a week.

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Shop in the right places

We used to do all of our shopping at Sainsburys and our local Co op.  Since we have started our money saving mission we have started buying the majority of our shopping at Aldi.  I can’t believe I didn’t do this sooner!  The quality of the produce is just as good (if not better) and costs a fraction of the price.  We also get our nappies and wipes from the Aldi Mamia range.  For Harry, they suit him better than the other brands and at only £3.39 for a pack of 40 they save us a fortune.  If you keep an eye out for baby events in store you can get some even better bargains.  We like to bulk buy baby wipes during these events as they can drop to less than 50p per pack if you buy a big box of them.

I would definitely recommend checking out your local Aldi/Lidl/Asda etc.  We still have to do a small shop at our local supermarket to buy a few branded items but have saved a small fortune through shopping at Aldi.

I’d also really recommend checking out your local Asian shops for spices.  You can often buy large bags of spices for a fraction of the price you would usually spend on a small tub.  Having a range of herbs and spices in the cupboard at all times makes it so much easier to rustle up a delicious meal out of ‘nothing’ when the cupboards are looking a little bare.

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Change the brand you buy

Supermarket own brand products are often an awful lot cheaper than the big name brands.  They are often made in the same factories and contain the same ingredients!  It amazed me to find out that often supermarket own brands contain less salt and sugar than big name brands, making them healthier as well as cheaper!

So give it a go! What have you got to lose?  Try switching your usual brand for a cheaper option and see what you think!

 

Feed your freezer

As a family of three meals are generally more expensive to make.  As a rule, the more you make, the cheaper it is.  Particularly when it comes to meat, buying more makes it a lot cheaper per portion.  To save money we always buy larger packs of meat and either portion them off for the freezer straight away or, if we want to save time too, batch cook and portion for the freezer so we have healthy, home cooked ready meals in there for when we can’t be bothered to cook or have run out of money at the end of the month!  Another option instead of making extra portions when you cook is preparing some slow cooker ‘dump bags’.  I will be doing a post about these in a few weeks so keep your eyes peeled for that!

We used to waste a lot of vegetables.  We would buy them, forget about them and then find them rotten in the cupboard.  We now only buy fresh ingredients for meals on our meal plan and fill our freezer with frozen vegetables too.  They are so easy and quick to prepare and studies have shown that they have the same nutritional value as fresh.  With frozen vegetables we have no waste at all and never have to worry about buying something at the start of the week for a meal at the end in case it goes off.

We also portion things like garlic baguettes or naan bread for the freezer.  This means that we don’t over indulge on naughty treats and don’t waste any food through our eyes being too big for our bellies.

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Be aware of portion sizes

We were wasting so much food by putting more than we could eat on our plates.  We now dish up smaller portion sizes, with the option to get more if we want it.  We rarely do though and the leftovers in the pan can go in the freezer for another day.

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Waste Nothing!

When we meal plan we prepare our shopping list to include only the things that we will need for the week.  If we do find ourselves with food that is about to go off we try and find a way to use it or give it a new lease of life before it is too late.

Too much milk that you wont use?  Make porridge fingers or savoury muffins!

Spinich and feta muffins

Yoghurt about to go off?  Make yoghurt drops for the freezer!

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Fresh vegetables starting to look a little less appealing? Make a vegetable soup  or pasta sauce with them!

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Bread looking a little stale?  Pop it in the food processor and make breadcrumbs.  You can keep these in the freezer to use for homemade chicken nuggets, peanut butter burgers, sweet potato cheese balls… the list is endless!

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Use lentils to bulk out meals

Adding chickpeas or lentils to a meal can make it go so much further.  It is a super healthy way of thickening your curries or casseroles and helps to make you feel fuller for longer.

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Use face cloths instead of baby wipes to clean up after meals

This sounds so obvious but for so long I used baby wipes to clean Harry’s hands and face after meals.  After a trip to Ikea I got a pack of 10 face cloths for £3 which we now use instead of wipes.

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Plan a budget and stick to it

Yes, I’m that person who can be seen walking around the supermarket with a shopping list and a calculator.  We take £40 cash with us each week and leave our bank cards at home.  This way we have to stay in budget.  We add everything up as we go around the shop and if the things on our list add up to more than our budget then we have to go without or make substitutions!  Being flexible with your recipes and adapting them to use ingredients that you already have is a great way to avoid buying more than you need.

Make your own treats instead of buying ready made

A little bit of what you fancy definitely does you good.  Shop bought biscuits and cakes can be expensive though.  Having a well stocked cupboard with flour, eggs, sugar etc. means that you can rustle up your own treats (that are often healthier) for a fraction of the price.  Get older children to help whilst baking and you have a fun, family activity too!

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Eat vegetarian meals a couple of times a week

We try to plan a few vegetarian meals each week.  Meat is expensive and we have discovered that we can enjoy delicious meals without it!  Omelettes, pasta dishes, vegetable curries, jacket potatoes… there are so many tasty vegetarian dishes just waiting to be enjoyed!

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I hope some of these tips are useful for you.  Please share any ways that you save money whilst feeding your family a healthy diet in the comments.  I’m always looking for new ways to save money!

This week’s meal plan

Monday

  • Beans and cheese on toast
  • BBQ pulled pork and rice (leftovers –  We make this in the slow cooker and it makes enough to feed the three of us and have two more meals for the freezer.)

Tuesday

  • Peanut butter burger and sweet potato wedges
  • Tuna pasta bake

Wednesday

  • Stuffed potato skins
  • Chicken curry and rice

Thursday

Harry eating at Nanna’s house

  • Pasta in tomato sauce
  • Chinese noodles

Friday

Harry eating at nursery

  • Sandwiches
  • Frozen pizza

Saturday

  • Scrambled egg on toast
  • Spaghetti bolognese

Sunday

Flexi Day

5 thoughts on “Money Saving Tips and Meal Plan”

  1. Love this!

    We had a big overhaul a few years ago where I made ago list of everything we buy regularly (& how often), then went to all our local supermarkets pricechecking to see which was best for us.
    We also do our shopping in cash as it makes it feels more “real” when you hand it over, and there’s no option to overspend.
    We plan our meals too, but we do the shopping first & buy what’s on offer. Then we come home & plan what we’ll eat for the week & put it on a chalkboard in the kitchen. There’s always some emergency meals in the freezer!

    1. Ooh good idea to shop for deals then plan around what you get! I may have to try that one week! I don’t trust myself without a list and a tight cash budget lol 🙂
      Thanks for sharing lovely!!

  2. Just started cutting back this month after wondering where our income was going. Turns out we spend way too much on food. Before seeing your tips, we’d already started doing these. We buy frozen everything (onions, peppers, carrots and meat), plan our meals and eat more vegetarian. What we’ve attempted this month is a monthly plan. I’ve made a menu card for the fridge with 18 meals on. We have all of the ingredients, mainly in the freezer, and so far we’ve stuck to it, crossing off meals as we make them. Rather than our usual shop costing £100+ for a week or two, this one cost £86 for the whole month and we’ve spent an extra £30 topping up bread and milk, etc. I like your ideas for using up yoghurts and milk, and I’m intrigued by your slow cooker ideas. Thanks xx

    1. What a great idea! I totally agree that using the freezer can be the key to saving money! I love the idea of a monthly plan! We tend to portion off leftovers through the month in the freezer so we get a week at the end of the month where we live off freezer food. I like the idea of making a list to show what’s in there as it’s so easy to forget!
      I’m going to do a post about slow cooker dump bags in a few weeks once I’ve had chance to try all of my ideas out! I love my slow cooker and it’s such a good way of turning cheaper cuts of meat into something delicious with minimal effort and saves money on cooking method too as the slow cooker is so energy efficient!

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