I’m cutting back. You’ve heard of Extreme Ironing? This is Extreme Economising. But also – I’m determined to keep on eating healthy food. This is my way of taking control. So I’ve made myself some rules – here they are
Rule 1 – using up what I’ve already got. I’m working my way through everything that was lurking at the back of the cupboards and the freezer. I won’t be buying alcohol until I’ve used up what I already have – I’ve got gin, a few beers, port, sherry and, bizarrely, a bottle of advocaat. That should keep me going for a while. Too much alcohol isn’t good for you anyway – so two or three nights a week (and then only one glass) makes sense. Not that I was a major player when it came to drink anyway (that night in Brussels with the cocktails notwithstanding…)
I’m shocked at how many things in my kitchen were out-of-date! A quick word about dates on packaging. Best before dates are simply that – the product is still edible after the date, just no longer in its prime. Use by dates should mean the product shouldn’t be used after that date – but I’ve found that food often is perfectly acceptable after the use by date. Use your eyes, use your nose – if it looks OK and smells OK… I bought a big bag of potatoes from Aldi – they were 39p because they were bang on their use by date. A week later, and they’re still OK.
Rule 2 – planning ahead. I have a routine. I’ve worked out a plan that hopefully makes sure that I have a balanced and varied diet. My Rubber Chicken deserves (and will get) a blog post all of its own. I have fish at least once a week. I eat salads, and veggies, very little red meat, very little processed meat, not as much fruit as I should (I’m working on that), milk, cheese, eggs and yogurt. I have real butter, wholemeal bread, I avoid refined carbs, I have 3 proper meals a day, a lot of tea, the odd cup of coffee and an occasional biscuit. Be right back…
Rule 3 – writing a shopping list (and sticking to it). I have a notepad in the kitchen, and when something gets close to running out I jot it down. Then I go through the cupboards and the fridge and the freezer to see what’s what, and what needs using up. It irritates the hell out of me if I have to throw food away. I compare my plan with what I’ve got in, and I only buy what I need. And I only buy what I need. But I also keep an eye out for the bargains. It only counts as a bargain if I would have been buying it anyway (like my 39p potatoes). If I buy something I don’t need, just because it’s cheap, it’s not a bargain – it’s still just something I don’t need.
Rule 4 – writing everything down. Ev. Ry. Thing. Nerd alert!! I have a spreadsheet. Every week I write down how much I’ve spent on food, itemised so that I can see where its all going. I use the spreadsheet to work out the monthly spend, the average weekly spend, and what that works out at as a daily average and even per meal (currently averaging £15.75 a week, £2.25 a day, and 75p per meal). I did warn you. But here’s the thing – I’m not depriving myself. Not at all. On a Sunday I have roast chicken dinner, with at least 2 veggies, gravy (I make the best gravy) and homemade stuffing. I have pizza and a glass of something on a Friday night. I have breakfast every day. I have wholemeal bread, and free range eggs.
Rule 5 – shopping at Aldi. Other supermarkets are available, but this one happens to be within walking distance. So I walk. If you’re only spending £15, even at Aldi, it’s unlikely to be more than a couple of bags full!! Once upon a time, when there were two of us and before Aldi opened in the town, I was spending about £75 a week at one of the big supermarkets (and having to drive for 20 minutes for the privilege!). Now I’ve got it down to less than £70 a month!!
Rule 6 – it’s OK to have treats. I have a glass of something alcoholic on a Friday night. And a Saturday night. And sometimes on a Sunday night. I’m working my way through the stores – I’ll let you know when I get on to the advocaat… On a Friday night I have pizza. Once a month I have a takeaway. Takeaway portions are huge – so I eat half and freeze half. So next month the ‘takeaway’ will be from the freezer. (A word of warning – freezing and re-heating rice can lead to the growth of Bacillus cereus, which can lead to food poisoning. Don’t do it.) I buy a packet of biscuits every week (when they’re gone, they’re gone – I don’t go and buy more!). I meet up with friends for coffee – but I get the small filter coffee rather than the large chai latte, and I don’t buy the cake. The important thing is the meeting up with friends, not the coffee.
I know this isn’t sustainable in the long term – I’m still using up the stores and eventually I’ll have to start buying wine again! But I’ve surprised myself with how long I’ve been able to continue it for – nearly three months now. Any suggestions for more extreme economising are always welcome – but please don’t feel sorry for me. It is what it is – and there are a whole lot of people out there who have it a lot worse than I’m having it.
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