Budgeting Action Plan. Day 3: Meal plans, food shopping…and why your list is your friend.

I’m going to give you two scenarios now, of the way people go about their food shopping. Actually, I say ‘their’, I’ll give you a clue, they’re both me, so I’ll write it in the first person.

Scenario 1: The fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants shopper
I can’t really be bothered to think of a week’s worth of meals. I’ll just get enough for today and tomorrow, and do a ‘proper shop’ in a few days. (I scribble a few things down on a piece of paper, and remember to actually take it with me this time) I’m still not sure what we’re having tonight though, but I’ll see what takes my fancy when I get to Sainsburys. I can’t be naffed to go to Aldi today, and anyway, I might treat myself to a ‘sneaky’ coffee while I’m there. In fact, as it’s sneaky I’ll just tell the whole of Facebook! (sorry if I’ve just lost some followers, but come on now people, if it’s illicit, don’t tell the whole world! Sneaky means secret….Shhhh. My husband already thinks I sit around drinking coffee and chatting all day. It’s not ALL day, just some of quite a few days) (why do I write so much in brackets? I’ve gotten distracted now, where was I? Oh yes…)

So while I’m at the Supermarket I realise there’s a whole bunch of stuff I need, so I chuck it in, trying to grab the odd bargain. By the time I get to the checkout I notice I’ve actually got quite a full trolley…and when the checkout assistant tells me the total, I’m unpleasantly surprised. Especially as I only officially went in for five things! I’ve spent nearly a week’s shopping budget! And then when I get home, I realise I haven’t even got enough ingredients for one full meal, and I’ve forgotten a lot of stuff that I really needed. We’ll just have to have a takeaway tonight, and I’ll go to the shops in a couple of days. Maybe I’ll treat myself to a not-so sneaky coffee. I’m not sure if I should, because I’ve probably gone way over my budget this month, but what the heck, I deserve it.

Be honest, does any of this sound remotely familiar? I’m pretty sure we’ve all been there, many times. Right, I’ll give you scenario two now, and then we’ll compare and contrast (it’s like being back at school….again with the brackets!!).

scenario 2: The prepared shopper
I’m going shopping tomorrow, so I’ll make myself a coffee and have a look at my Meal
Repertoire List
(yes I do have one of these, don’t laugh, it is very useful when I actually use it!) for inspiration. Ooh, I’d forgotten about that dinner that everybody enjoyed that time, I’ll make that. I’ll make a two week meal plan and maybe try a couple of new recipes.

Now, I know that I need to keep the shopping bill under £100 this week because I bought detergent last week, and I’ve got some packs of meat that was on offer in the freezer, so I can use that. I’ve also got the leftovers from that bolognese in there, so I won’t need to cook one night. I’ll go to Aldi first, and then whizz up to Sainsburys for the rest. If I manage to make some savings to the food budget this month, maybe we can put some towards our holiday, and then I can treat myself to a coffee, or that new top I’ve been wanting for ages. I deserve it.

Ok, so the Me from Scenario 2 does sound a bit smug, and I promise you my internal monologue doesn’t sound like an extract from a Judy Blume novel!
But my point is, when I am focused, prepared and determined to bring my shopping in under budget, I can manage it!

When I lose track of the budget (and yes that does still happen, more often than I care to admit to, in fact), and don’t write down what I’ve spent, I DO go over budget, without exception! And when I go over, the money has to come from somewhere. It always does. Usually from somewhere like the Christmas, Holiday, or Fun fund…meaning we can’t go swimming, have family trips. Or the kids get less for Christmas. Or me and the fella don’t get to go on any dates, as usual, because we can’t afford it.

I know which version of me feels more successful in my role as ‘Home economist’, and it doesn’t take too much extra effort on my behalf to achieve that success. So why do I let it slip sometimes? I dunno, I’m human I guess.

But now look, I’ve gone and spent so long preaching about the importance of meal plans and lists, I haven’t got room to actually give any ideas of meal
plans and recipes. I tell you what, come back tomorrow and I’ll get straight to the point, with less rambling and brackets. (I can’t actually promise about the brackets thing, but I’ll try and cut down to one set per paragraph) See ya then.

P.s Maybe between now and then, you could draft your own My Meals List. This is a list of all the meals that you have cooked before, and that you and your family enjoyed (well, at least 80% of the family. There’s always one or two fussy ones). It is really helpful to refer to, when you get stuck in a bit of a rut, cooking the same thing week in week out. To just remind yourself that your repertoire is probably more extensive than you think. Then you can add to it as you go along. If you need inspiration I’ll put up some new recipes over the next week.

I’ll also put my list on here. I’ll need to copy it up into neat though, so that people can read my scrawl.

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