Feeding a Family on a Budget

By Pamela Wright (mum of 5)

Most articles regarding money saving that appear on the TV/internet or in magazines are usually by somebody famous so I wanted to write this to show you all that a normal (although my friends/family might argue that the words me & normal in the same sentence is wrong) every day mum with basic cooking skills in a normal kitchen with no fancy gadgets can live on a weekly shopping budget of £85 for a family of 7.  I know its not a lot but using the combination of being penny savvy, not being a brand snob & planning our meals means that I can make sure our money lasts & that we don’t have to miss out on healthy & nutritious meals.

It only seems 2 minutes ago since I met my husband, we both worked full time, got engaged, paid to get married, saved a deposit & bought a house, we ate out quite a lot & didn’t really have to worry about what was in the bank or where we shopped.  Oh how life has changed, we are still very happy together but now we have 5 children aged 8, 6, 4 & 3 year old twin girls (with me being a stay at home work until the girls are in full time school) we have had to really tighten our belts and give our finances an huge overhaul.  A few of my favourite words since becoming a mum are SAVINGS, SALES, BARGAINS and my all time favourite BUDGET!!

The biggest thing that helps me stick to my budget is planning, I sit down and work out what meals we are going to have for the next 7 days, we have different things happening on different days (for example I run a toddler group twice a week and my eldest 2 have rainbows/brownies once a week) so on those days we pick something that’s quicker/easier to make or something that can be chucked in the slow cooker & left to its own devices.

For £85 a week I wouldn’t blame you for thinking we must have really rubbish/processed/unhealthy food but  we don’t and I honestly think we eat better than we did when I was spending more money, now we can even afford extra luxury items that we couldn’t before (which is good but hasn’t gone down very well with my hips & stomach).  The kind of meals we have are Cajun chicken baguettes with salad/wedges, pork chops, potatoes & vegetables, sausage & bacon pasta with garlic baguettes, fajitas & home made wedges, beef stew & dumplings, home made soup, lasagne, chilli & rice, spaghetti bolognase, sausage & mash/sausage casserole.

These are the sort of things I have started to do to help my money last:-

I always have a quick check in the clearance section in the supermarket– some shops reduce up to 80% & most things are freezable, I buy reduced bread & freeze it and keep the fresh bread for sandwiches – I buy reduced bakery items & pop them in the freezer – there is no taste difference if you’re only using it for toast.   I buy the same basic store cupboard items each week whether we need them or not (ie rice, pasta, passata, tinned food),  I use frozen peas/sweetcorn rather than tinned as it works out cheaper and there’s hardly any difference in taste.  I make my own tomato based pasta sauces using tinned tomatoes/passata/herbs/garlice etc… – it works out about half the price and taste loads nicer.  I traded my luxury branded items to the supermarket brand, I have only found a couple of things that I wouldn’t buy again but most of it has tasted similar if not better. I buy a 25kg sack of potatoes each month from the local farm shop for around £6 – we use them for jackets, wedges, mash, roast potatoes etc and the sack last the month.

I save money without it impacting on our lifestyle  – lots of us waste money without realising & have picked up a few little habits that were strange to me initially but I now do without thinking – these save us money on day to day basis too:

I use the boiling water from cooking vegetables/potatoes that you normally throw away to make gravy , I only fill the kettle with as much water as I need so it not boiling a full kettle for 1 cup, I have radiator valves on each radiator so I switch off the rooms not in use.  If a supermarket has fresh peppers reduce/on offer I buy them – de-seed & slice & put in freezer bags in their separate colours – they are fab to use in stirfrys/fajitas etc.

I have managed to find lots of ways to save costs on gas/electric/xmas/birthdays/general day to day life/family holidays etc…

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