When I found myself on my own after my husband left back in February, I gave myself six rules to follow, to make sure I was ‘Husbanding my Resources’. And no, the irony wasn’t lost on me – not then, and not now. I needed to cut back drastically on what I was spending, at least until I got a grip on where I stood financially. This is how I cut my food budget down to, well, about £15 a week to begin with. As stores got used up and I had to start replacing things, it’s crept up a little – but six months down the line it’s still only £17 a week.
Rule 1 – using up what I’ve already got. Well, there’s not much left of the stores that were in the house when I started doing this. Some herbs and spices, some cooking oil, half a jar of pickle, quite a lot of mustard, not a lot of gin but still a fair amount of the other alcohol. I haven’t felt the need to open the Advocaat. Yet.
I’ve had to start replacing a few items – pasta, marmalade, breakfast cereal. Slowly but surely the average weekly food spend is creeping up – £17.63 this week. I treated myself to a bottle of wine, to celebrate being paid – the casual work I did in July, the work I did in August and the rent from the lodger were all paid within a couple of days of each other. Exciting times.
I won’t be buying wine every week – but it was nice to have it as a treat. I haven’t used all the other alcohol up yet!
Rule 2 – planning ahead. Yes, I still meal plan. It’s a bit more complicated now that I work shifts. There is no pattern, and they’re different every day. I can be starting work as early as 7am or finishing as late as 9pm. Or anything in between. So I take my basic routine and move things around. For example, I normally have pizza on a Friday night, but this week I was working until 6 on the Thursday and I was off on the Friday – so I had the pizza on the Thursday, and made myself a lovely spag bol on the Friday when I had lots of time to do it – and I made enough to freeze some for the next time I’m too knackered to want to cook.
Rule 3 – writing a shopping list and sticking to it. Yes, this is still happening. In fact it’s even more important now, as I’ve less time for popping to the shop if there’s anything I’ve forgotten. I hate to throw food away – four slices of bread went mouldy on me the other day, during the really hot weather. I was so cross! I keep the list on the bench all the time and add to it as things get used up or start to run out. On the day before I shop I have a clear out of the fridge to see what needs using up and what needs to be replaced. And I stick to my list!!
Rule 4 – write everything down. Yup, still writing everything down. This is where things get a little bit geeky. I have a spreadsheet for my shopping. I can see at a glance how much I’ve spent each week, what the average weekly spend is, and how much that would be over a year. There’s even a graph.
And I have another spreadsheet for Absolutely Everything. Every single penny coming in and every single penny going out is accounted for. I have another spreadsheet which is my projection of where things stand over the next few months. Basically, if things continue as they are for the next six months, where will I stand financially? I can play with the figures, and ask lots of ‘what if?’ questions, which I find really helpful.
Rule 5 – shopping at Aldi (other supermarkets are available). Heavens yes. Why would I shop anywhere else? In fact, now that I know I’ve been paid, I’m going to pop over and get that bottle of wine. I’ll have a glass tonight and a glass tomorrow night. I’ve been promising myself this ever since I started trying to find a job – the day my first pay goes in, I’ll buy wine. I feel it’s the start of not having to be quite so very very careful with every penny.
When I go to other supermarkets, I find myself looking at the prices and thinking ‘How much??’ And also, it’s within walking distance – so if I’m not buying much I’ll walk, which is another saving.
Rule 6 – it’s OK to have treats. Yes indeed. But six months in, there are a few things lining up to be bought with these earnings of mine. I need a new pair of jeans – the knee of my ‘best’ pair is very close to wearing through. Holes in jeans are trendy I know, but…
I’m going to start building up those stores again. And last but not least, I need to buy a little fan heater (the lodger has mine…) for chilly evenings when I’m not ready to put the central heating on.
I’m not out of the woods yet – but I feel like I’m heading in the right direction.
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