Budgeting & The Dreaded Food Shop

We all have to spend money on food, but how much is too much and how do you know when your grocery bill is out of control?

When talking to clients they nearly all say their monthly food bill is £200, regardless of the size of their household. Now , if they are managing to shop for a family of 6 , with 2 adults , 2 ravenous teenagers and 2 children ( who lets face it can eat their own body weights daily ! ) on a monthly budget of £200 its likely they either love beans and rice or are living in the 50’s !!

I think it’s because £200 sounds like an acceptable amount and was probably more than adequate to live on when we were single. However, if you are concerned that your supermarket bill is starting to resemble the GDP of a small nation or are just looking for ways to minimise your outgoings in these challenging times then the following tips may be useful.

Firstly, ask yourselves these questions:

How much do you currently spend?

Do you pay cash or card?

How often do you shop?

How often do you eat out?

How much wastage do you throw away?

Do you have a budget?

1. Before you Budget

Check how much you have spent on food over the past 3 months, work out an average and use this as your starting point . Don’t be worried, you’ve already spent it, you’ve already eaten it, use it as a place to start .

Take a look at how much food you throw away on a weekly basis? If it’s the odd slice of bread and a mouldy piece of cheese ( although my Grandma would have just cut the mould off and told me it was still ok ! ) then that’s not a problem.   But if you find yourself scooping out shelves of your fridge on a weekly basis straight into the bin then you either need to cut down on what you are buying or create a meal plan to ensure you use what you have bought before it goes to mush in the salad drawer.

2. Meal Plan

Creating a meal plan for the week allows you to control what is needed on the weekly shop. We tend to write a list of meals for our week and then are flexible on the days that we have them. My husband would rather have meals specified to a certain day, but I like the flexibility of having the ‘what do I fancy’ conversation each day and then crossing it from the weekly plan.  If you have teenagers ( as we do ) why not ask them for a meal suggestion each a week , not only does that mean you don’t have to come up with 7 exciting and varied meals a week but they may even reward you with a smile when ‘their’ dinner is made ( please don’t take this to mean I only feed our kids once a week ….I feed them every day , but you know what I mean )

3. Weekly or Monthly – then Commit

How often you shop can be dictated by the size of your household or even the amount of storage you have , but the harsh reality is if you find yourself among the aisles daily , pacing in search of your evening meal your shopping bill is going to be on the increase . Everyone knows that feeling when you pop into the shops for a pint of milk and then come out with 2 bags costing £30 and still no idea on what you are going to feed the family tonight.

If you have a planned list of shopping and then commit to how often you shop you will reduce you overspends. Try not to shop with the kids (or maybe your partner if they are a shopping saboteur!) I have been caught too many times by the ‘can I have ………..’ moment when  distracted by which is the most cost effective laundry detergent this week  and blindly said yes , before you know it your trolley is overflowing with chocolate and treats for all without even a cursory glance at the budget .

4. Card or Cash?

If you pay for your shopping in cash every time you shop, then you spend less money. It’s a well-documented fact that we are less likely to overspend if we are paying with cash rather than cards. That may of course be the fear of getting to the till and not having enough money to pay our bill or a physical reluctance to hand over hard earned cash , either way you are more likely to spend less on groceries if you pay in notes .

What if you shop online, I hear you ask? If you love the convenience of having your groceries delivered and so have to pay on card, then you need to have pinned down your budget and ensure you stick to it. Maybe that means you don’t look a the BOGOF deals or weekly specials page which are designed to make you buy things which you hadn’t planned on purchasing or separate your groceries budget into a separate account and only use this card online , so when the money is gone its gone !

5. Eating out and Take Aways

Whilst it is nice to have a meal out with family and friends( although not at the moment with the lockdown) its not the cheapest way to eat , going to fast -food restaurants as an alternative to eating at home is also an expensive habit . If you are social eaters, then why not have family and friends come to you instead of always going out. A home cooked meal is always appreciated and then hopefully reciprocated, so you aren’t always stuck with loading the dishwasher.

6. Manage your Mood & Your Mindset

The food shop is probably the one biggest financial expenditure after your mortgage / rent, so make sure your mindset and mood is aligned when you physically go shopping / online shopping. Shop practically not emotionally.

So don’t shop when you’re hungry or in need of cheering up. You’ll end up emotionally spending to fulfill the emotional eating that you are craving. Manage your mind to help managing your budget.

7. Now finally ……………. A budget

Having worked out where you overspends are in wasted food and now having written a meal plan for the week you can set your budget. Make sure your budget is realistic , if you have always spent £500 a month for your family it is unlikely you will stick to a new £200 monthly regime , give yourself a good start by setting an achievable spend .Work out exactly what you need to buy and write a list , try not to deviate from your list and you should stay comfortably on budget.

Make budgeting a habit , use last week or months budget as a template for the next, honing your skills to reduce your outgoings as you go.

If you’d like a copy of my budget template then please just ask…

If you need someone who knows what to do, won’t judge you, and will ask those difficult questions and help you fix the problem – then please email me and let’s chat – email me now! chat@rachelrowley.co.uk

Let me help you Master Your Money and Live the Life you Deserve!