And the food mountain is reduced

Since shocking myself at the amount of food there was in my kitchen, I am still planning meals around the Food List.

On Saturday night we had Greek Pie.

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This was made with the puff pastry loitering in the freezer, passata bought earlier in the week, onions and garlic from the food mountain, herbs,spices and the other half of 500g mince. It was ample for four portions, served with potatoes, baked beans and broccoli (one of the Aldi super six this week). Cost of pie based on ingredients purchased to make it, 53p per portion. I still have potatoes left from the £1.99 bag, so they will take me well into next week. I am guessing that each serving of spuds is about 10 p per person with milk and butter added to make mash. Baked beans are 25p and brocolli 49p.

I made a chicken dish on Sunday. Pollo impanato alle noci con mozzarella. Sounds a bit fancy, it’s not. Used up bread in breadcrumbs to coat chicken breasts, after I bashed them with a rolling pin. A tomato sauce and some mozzarella cheese and pasta. Of which I have plenty. It worked out at about £1.70 a portion, the most expensive meal I have cooked all week.

The last of the bacon hiding at the back of the fridge was used for Sunday breakfast. Lunch was carrot soup. There are still some leftovers from various meals that will feed us all for lunch the next couple of days. We are really loving our leftovers this week.

I plan to look at the food list and check off what I have used and tally up my food spending for the week at some point. I have definately spent less and it has been satisfying to know that I am limiting food waste.

World War I poster. "Waste not, want not....

World War I poster. “Waste not, want not. Prepare for winter. Save perishable foods by preserving now.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What I plan to do now is to donate any unopened items that I don’t think I am going to use to the local food bank. I know that I am fortunate to have so much food and know that others are not so lucky. I cannot afford to waste food yet if I am not going to use it, that is wasteful and I would rather someone who will use it, have it.

This exercise has taught me is to only buy what I need and to plan more effectively. A good store cupboard is the basis to be able to eat well on a budget, but having more than you need is wasteful. Food you don’t use, filling up your kitchen cabinets, fridges and freezer is just the same as filling your living rooms with clutter you don’t need. Building a collection of spices and herbs is acceptable but three jars of pesto with mould growing on them (yup had to bin the pesto) is not. Buying something because it is on offer is fine if you know you need it and will use it, but if you don’t and won’t, that is wasteful and will only add to the kitchen cupboard clutter.

I have used up the pastry, most of the sausages, the cooking apples and vegetables from my list. Utilised the leftovers in the fridge to make budget meals. Leftovers that in the past may have gone off and then thrown away. Yet I have had to throw some food away. On closer inspection the cream and the pesto was past the sell by date and eat by state. I hope this is the last time I have to do this.

Those lentils are still there though. And that is the difference between someone like me who has to keep to a sensible food budget yet isn’t inclined to eat lentils and the person who has no choice as they have no money to buy anything else. And there, by the grace of our employer, the Job Centre, the bedroom tax, the redundancy notice and the mad men in Westminster, go all most of us.

One Week of Groceries (Day 5: Live Below The Line)

I would choose lentils, every time over nasty value sausages!

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My Live Below The Line week is just about finished – but you can still sponsor me here: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/elleenelle

What does one week’s worth of groceries look like for a family in different countries around the world? For my 5 days below the line, this was my shopping basket:

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There was enough for one…..but only enough. No treats, no variation, not even any fruit. I made one jar of tikka sauce stretch across 5 meals. I made every portion of rice go a little bit further. I counted out my slices of bread to ensure I had enough for the week. My usual varied diet was reduced to a rotated set of meals that I’d chop and change between to keep some kind of variety in my days. The sudden increase in carbs has left my body confused, and I’m glad I don’t have to face breakfast of toast and jam…

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The £53 test results are in!

At the beginning of April I decided to track our spending for the month. Like many others I was pretty angry after Iain Duncan Smith claimed he could live on £53 per week ‘if he had to’. Lots of other people did the experiment for a week, journos mainly, to sell papers. They boasted how they blagged meals from friends and relatives to make ends meet and how tough it was not to have a pint after work. They didn’t do it for a month, or take into account all the other things most of us have to pay for, such as heat, light, council tax, rent or a mortgage. I did, and I kept a record for 30 days.

I also pledged to buy local for all my groceries. I don’t have access to a car most of the week, I therefore walk to my local high street, buying only what I can carry. I like to support independent traders yet as we do not have a green grocers, I buy most of my vegetables from the Aldi Super 6 to keep down costs.

Sad person that I am I entered everything we spent on food, pet food (we have two cats and two chickens) toiletries, cleaning products, fuel for the car, clothes and incidentals such as the overwhelming need my husband had for a new sat nav!

This was not an experiment to see if it was possible to live on £53 a week. I just wanted to see what we spent and on what.

On food shopping (excluding any eating out but including the traditional Friday chips) I spent £290. That works out at £3.23 per person per day for three adults. I haven’t factored in that I have also been providing half board for the French Student for 16 days, that sometimes The Lodger eats with us (once or twice a week), my daughter was here for a weekend and that the Bulgarian Student joined us in homemade pizza night once this month. I could go back to my spread sheet and do the math but I am not that sad. A guesstimate therefore is that the average spend on food per person is £2.70 per day.

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Our other essentials, such as mortgage, bills, and diesel for the car I calculated at £170. Pet food is £30. There were other bits and bobs I bought such as some pillows, a jug and some weighing scales, the sat nav and some clothes totalling £30. All in all my rounded up figure for April is £510. For 3 people that is just under £170 per week per person. And I have just realised that I haven’t counted the big spend last weekend on going to the cinema, lunch afterwards and the take out curry! 

It seems that this family cannot live on £53 per week. Taking out the spending on luxuries such as the sat nav, clothes and the bits and bobs reduces living costs to £116. We would have to drastically change our eating habits, not have an open fire, turn off the heating and lose the cable and internet if, like IDS, we had to. 

I consider myself lucky, I don’t have to. I hope I never will have to. This blog by A Girl Called Jack was recommended to me. Read it. Have some tissues ready. And count your blessings.