Four Tips to Keep Your Food Spend below €50 a Week
My New Year’s resolution wasn’t very glamorous. I didn’t decide to learn French, perfect certain yoga poses, or save the world one good deed at a time. Instead, my only resolution was to keep food spending at €50 a week.
I was armed and ready in January, the first month I tried this. My partner and I spent just under €60 a week, and we were incredibly proud. This was groundbreaking for people who could spend as much as €700 a month on food for just two adults and 3 kids.
I am ashamed to admit that my average was €60 a week and not €50 a week because I have a weakness for wine and asked my wife if she would bring home wine and items to make snacks on Friday night. Hey, I never said I was perfect. I’m doing better this month!
We’re in the second month of our resolution and on track again. This is probably one of the most demanding money challenges we’ve ever been through, but we’re thrilled with the results.
Here’s how you can join us on this journey:
1. It’s All About the Cash
Using cash — only cash — is one of the best ways to make this severe grocery budget work. If you have the discipline of a superhero, congratulations. You can use your credit/debit card. If you’re like everyone else in the world, take €200 out of the hole in the wall and don’t let yourself use a penny more.
If you’re out of cash and have 10 days of the month to go, it’s time to start raiding your cupboard. You might be eating peanut butter and jam sandwiches while your spouse eats some pasta and parmesan cheese.
2. Forget the Packaged Items
You pay a premium for packaged items like meals in a bag, fruit snacks, pre-sliced produce, chips, or even steamed vegetables. Anything that has been processed and packaged comes with an additional markup. I’m no Rachel Allen, but I’ve learned that even though peeling potatoes takes a lot of time, it is so much cheaper that’s it well worth the effort.
Now that my children eat solid foods, I am more likely to purchase raw vegetables and other produce. I want them to eat healthy foods, and although produce can get expensive if it’s out of season, it’s still better for you and your wallet than run-of-the-mill processed snacks.
3. Plan It Out
I don’t know who this new person is, but I am flipping through magazines and Pinterest to find recipes. In my previous life, I would never have done this, even if someone had paid me. Now, finding recipes that fit my budget is like a fun and exciting challenge.
With very little cooking background, I have made great soups and casseroles, two types of dinners that are heralded in frugal circles as some of the best bang for your buck at dinner time.
I used to buy salad products all the time, including toppings and excellent salad dressings. Although it was healthy, I recently learned that salads are far more expensive than soups. Now, I make split pea soup, kale soup, and lots of casseroles to help me keep within my budget. Deciding on recipes and planning meals has been a lifesaver.
4. Lose the Meat
I am a meat-and-potatoes guy through and through. However, I’ve realised that creating vegetarian meals is not only easy but affordable.
We recently hosted our friends who are vegan. My wife and I had a great time making a whole spread for them that was delicious and healthy. We even made them cookies, which I was sceptical about — until I tried them and declared them the best cookies ever.
Having a meal without chicken or steak is a great way to save money and keep the shopping bills hovering around €50 a week. As long as you ensure you’re getting all the proper protein and nutrients, there’s no problem going without meat now and then to save money.
Overall, sticking to a food budget of €50 a week has been challenging but enlightening. I’m learning a lot about discipline, planning, and creating new dishes.
There was a time in my life when I ate fast food all the time, and my idea of cooking was mac and cheese. Now, as a mother and wife, I’m learning many new skills — the least of which is sticking to a cash budget for groceries.