Tenner Week March 2023: Day 1

Hello, and welcome to a brand new Tenner Week budgeting challenge! Are you feeling thrifty? All this week we’ll be looking for various ways to trim our spending and get a better deal.

Today’s activity is called ‘Food waste can get in the bin‘, and it’s all about the money we spend on food and drink. However savvy we are with this type of shopping, sometimes we still manage to over-buy or under-buy, and sometimes we just plain old buy the wrong things. It can help to look at it with a fresh pair of eyes.

Start by quickly going through your financial records over the past two or three months, and identify your grocery shops plus any other food and drink you might have bought. If you have online or paper receipts you might also like to look at how each shopping episode breaks down into different ingredients and types of meals.

How to look closer at your grocery spending

Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Do I mainly do a regular ‘big shop’?
  • Where do I do most of my grocery shopping?
  • How far do I travel to get my groceries?
  • Do I get groceries delivered? How much does delivery cost?
  • Do I write a menu before I go shopping?
  • Do I use a shopping list or rely on memory?
  • Do I carry out one or more ‘top up’ shops? How many? What for?
  • Do I often buy more items than I planned to?
  • What does my typical shopping basket look like, and does it really fit my needs?
  • Do I buy extra snacks outside of my grocery shopping, such as breakfast on the go or chocolate bars to have at work?
  • How often do I buy meals out, even if it’s just a sandwich?
  • Am I buying things regularly from pricey convenience stores or vending machines?
  • Do I regularly order takeaways and/or other food deliveries? What do I order?
  • Are there any foods that I regularly end up throwing away?
  • Are there any foods/ingredients I often run out of unexpectedly?
  • Does anything else particularly stand out in my spending?

The answers here will be as unique as you are, but it might give you a few ideas for trimming one or two areas of your food and drinks bills. Some of this could be what most of us would think of as ‘traditional money saving’ such as planning a practical menu, using a fairly strict shopping list, shopping at a cheaper supermarket, cooking from scratch more often, eating breakfast at home, and not having four courses and a bottle of wine when we go out to eat. These are all valid options for lots of people.

However, modern life does call for some flexibility, and you may also find it useful to think about convenience, time constraints, fuel costs, and maybe the true motives for some of your activities.

For example, if you go out to buy a bar of chocolate every afternoon at work, what’s really going on? If you just like chocolate, you could buy a supermarket multi-pack once a week and save money every time. Alternatively, do you just need some fresh air and it’s an excuse for a walk around the block? Or is your job so grim that the snack run is an excuse to get away from your boss and/or buy comfort food? One solution is buying chocolate in a different way, another is going for a walk instead, and the third might mean dusting off your CV and looking for different employment.

shopping bag and a sad banana

Twelve quick ideas for cutting your food bill

Here are a few ways to reduce your food and drinks bills, and I’m sure you can come up with several of your own too:

  • Plan any big shop carefully and try to avoid too many top-up shops.
  • Try a cheaper supermarket if travel costs aren’t an issue.
  • Keep a ready meal or mid-price pizza in the freezer so you don’t call for a takeaway when you’re tired and hungry.
  • Look at what you throw away: measure and make smaller portion sizes, freeze milk/bread to stop it going off, or buy less of the things you honestly never get round to eating.
  • Plan quick, simple meals for most of the week, especially if you work long hours or have lots of personal commitments.
  • Pay attention to breakfasts, snacks and lunches. It’s easy to forget, and end up paying extra.
  • Get other people in the household to agree to certain ground rules, for example, they “shouldn’t expect me to make four completely different meals for four different people each day, all at different times” (especially if nobody has special health requirements, you’re putting the oven on and off repeatedly, or ingredients are being wasted), or “don’t help yourself to X, Y or Z without checking with me first because I might be saving it for tomorrow night’s communal dinner.”
  • Consider batch cooking if you have freezer space, so you can bulk buy and cook your own homemade ‘ready meals’.
  • Look at what you run out of most frequently, and consider bulk buying it in larger packs.
  • Make a little extra time in your schedule for breakfast or making a packed lunch.
  • Hunt down some thrifty, filling recipes or dig out some cost-effective old favourites.
  • Think about energy-saving meals, such as one-pot recipes, or slow cooker or air fryer options.

The list above could pretty much go on forever, but I think you’ll get the idea: look clearly and honestly at what and where you’re spending your money (it isn’t always what we’d expect), and then make a tweak or two to your habits.

What do you think you’ll find, and what might be a useful change?

[I should also add that if you’re currently struggling to buy basic groceries then here’s some starter information from Citizens Advice about food banks and other ways to get help with the cost of living.]

What’s happening here

We’ve previously had a bad habit in this house of throwing away soggy bananas from time to time, which is obviously a waste of cash that could have easily been put to much better use (buying gin, amirite?), and it’s bad for the environment too. Meanwhile, there are only so many smoothies you can drink or batches of banana bread you can make, and both of these require extra ingredients, fuel etc, so you aren’t necessarily saving money.

The easiest way we get around this problem is by simply not buying bananas every week. That way they all miraculously seem to get eaten instead of taken for granted and ignored. A bit counterintuitive when everyone’s banging on about banana bread and suchlike, but it works for us. Apples are on the list instead this week.

My budget choice for this March Tenner Week challenge is the £25 all-in budget, so I’ll be counting my share of the groceries in that and hoping to have a treat or two with any leftover money. Fingers crossed I won’t need to buy anything at all this Monday – it’s easier to try to keep it simple during the first few days of this challenge anyway.

Other plans for today include a pre-paid exercise class that I don’t want to miss, and a quick homemade meal of black bean burritos afterwards. I’ll also be writing out the menu for the week and sticking it on the front of the fridge.

What do you think you’ll find when you have a proper look at your grocery shopping? Are there any changes you’re planning to make, however small or simple?

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One Comment

  1. Dear Penny
    Ripe bananas are my favorite ingredient for making quick and easy pancakes. Years ago using my favorite website Love Food Hate Waste I found a nice recipe called Patricia’s banana pancakes, using one ripe banana. Now I often make some Sunday mornings.
    Love Pat

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