Meal planning is my success to budgeting.

Hello,

If you’re anything like our family, then budgeting is tough. It seems that no matter what you do, you often seem to be low on money come the end of the month. In fact if I’m honest towards the end of some months, we have run out entirely. Then money that was supposed to be going in the pot for savings gets dipped into. Occasionally on very bad months, it is the plastic that keeps our heads above water.

Budgeting from Pixabay.
Budgeting from Pixabay.

Managing money to some comes easily, but what if it doesn’t come easy to you? Debts once accumulated often can increase bit by bit without you realising until drastic action is needed. On paper we shouldn’t run out of money. We should have enough to get by with money to spare. Some months it is hard to understand where it has gone. Yet when you look closer it becomes pretty clear…. that occasional takeaway that becomes more than occasional and is a regular occurrence. The ten and twenty pound cash withdrawals taken out here and there to grab some lunch. That month your child has a growth spurt and needs reshoeing… Unexpected vet bills, physiotherapy bills. The list is endless.

Food is often this household’s biggest expense. While I certainly don’t think quality food is something that should be compromised on. It is definitely something that can be better managed. Using a list I can keep to a weekly budget of £80-100 for a family of four when shopping at the supermarket. Without a list it can easily end up being an extra £20-30 over budget.

The biggest success for us is meal planning. Meal planning is where using a shopping list becomes uber-efficient. I know that some of you with busy jobs or families are likely thinking – where are you supposed to get the time to do that? It takes five minutes to plan your meals for the following week, or next couple of weeks. Trust me, it will be time well spent.

Meal Planning.
Meal Planning.

Once I have my main meals down for the week, it often lends itself to lunches too. That excess chicken you’ll have from that Sunday Roast. Can go into sandwiches or become a soup for lunch during the working/school week.

Not only can I keep to and often under my weekly budget. I have minimised my food wastage too as my meals are organised. It also minimises take outs in my household. It is much harder to justify buying a take out, when I know I’ve already brought my ingredients for the week. Or have some ready to go oven pizzas in the freezer!

Below are my tips for budgeting –

  • Get yourself a diary – it doesn’t have to be expensive. Just somewhere you can jot down you meals. One that gives you a week to week view is best. This is the one that I use.

    My diary for the second year running. Life Book 2018 by Boxclever Press.
    My diary for the second year running. Life Book 2018 by Boxclever Press.
  • Set yourself a budget and do your best to stick to it. Don’t beat yourself up though if you miss it. Weeks where nappies and laundry detergent need to be brought together at the same time often push me past slightly. Just see where you went wrong and learn from it.
  • Plan your meals and then write your list.

    Excuse the scribble my youngest felt she needed to add her input too.
    Excuse the scribble, my youngest felt she needed to add her input too.
  • If you eat meat. Go meat free a couple of nights a week. Meat often bumps up the weekly budget.
  • Cook in bulk. A lot of meals work well being cooked up in bulk – soups, stews, dahls and other one pot meals are great for cooking in bulk. They work well for leftovers the next day for dinner. Or as lunches too. It’s often no more expensive to cook a slightly bigger meal. A lot of the time it is actually more cost effective.
  • Where you can, aim for supermarket own brands – i.e store cupboard items such as passata, pasta and pulses are often a lot cheaper than well known brands.

    Own Brand Chopped Tomatoes.
    Own Brand Chopped Tomatoes.
  • Shopping in store is often harder to keep track of your budget (or is it just me that can’t resist a good looking deal?). Online shopping lets you see the total as your going, and at the end you can be ruthless if you need to be. Don’t want to be charged for delivery? Then click and collect instead at the store. I use Sainsbury’s, it has the added benefit of nectar card points. But Tesco run a similar scheme.

    Screen shot of my shopping finished for the week online.
    Screen shot of my shopping finished for the week online.
  • If you need to, change where you shop. I personally have struggled to change over to cheaper supermarkets such as Aldi and Lidls, but I have friends who swear by them. For me planning my meals and sticking to a list has made all the difference.
  • Be flexible with your meal planning! It doesn’t matter if you swap and change your meals up during the week. Planning ahead is great, but sometimes life gets in the way.

Treat yourself! If you’re budgeting successfully, you will be able to justify that treat. Knowing that you can actually afford it. Rather than the ‘screw it’ mentality, that certainly more often than not leads me down a bad road. Obviously I know that only looking at one area in your finances is not going to miraculously ease most people’s financial pressure. But you have to start somewhere. Often once you can nail down the area in your finances that is the proverbial leak. It is easier to plug that hole.

Speak to you soon.

Wishing you well.

Stay At Home Piggy.

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