It’s early January and you are sick to the back teeth of leftovers and all the rich foods from Christmas and everywhere there are messages about ‘New Year New You’. But January is a ‘tight’month, what with having saved hard over last year to give your family and friends the best possible Christmas. Perhaps salary payments and income was credited to bank accounts a week or so earlier last month, or your self-employed income always slows down over the month of December/early January. Suddenly you get to ‘schools are going back’, or the ‘first day back to work’ and the reality that January is a long month hits finances. But you still want to feed everyone wonderful healthy and nutritious foods.
What can you do? Here are some of our ideas to consider about making life a bit easier in January
- Plan your weeks’ meals.
One of the simplest things that we advocate and encourage is to plan your weeks’ meals. If you know exactly what you need then shopping will be easier to manage. It does take some time sit down and create a balanced meal plan whether you are a family, couple or an individual. Spending half an hour every week to do this will result in saving money and buying quality food, rather than rush shopping and impulse purchasing. Once you have done a couple of weeks, you can keep them on the computer/notepad and repeat them every 3 to 4 weeks to ensure that you do eat a larger variety of meals.
- Shop wisely. I can be found at bargain fridges and bins at the ends of each aisle whenever I shop for us. I’m not scared to admit that we can’t afford to buy organic food for every meal, or the ‘best’, or ‘finest’ cuts every time. I do buy quality meats and poultry as often as possible as I find that the better cuts do go further as they have more flavour. But you will see me at the fish counter looking for the mark down fish that can be frozen; the in date/soon to go out of date breads, fruits and dairy; aswell as the end of day mark downs.Some of my favourite shops in the Hertford, Ware and Hoddesdon area for marking down daily are:
– BP (MnS) garages (later evenings) on the Rush Green roundabout, A10 near Brookfield (if you happen to come home that way); Sainsbury in Hartham and Hoddesdon; Morrisons in Hoddesdon. Pearces on the A10 periodically puts tomatoes, bananas and apples in bags below the shelf as bargain buys. Perfect for soups and smoothies (oh and apples generally last months if stored well). Timing is key for grabbing bargains.
I buy mark downs, freeze whole foods and use the ‘soon to be unfresh’ foods as part of our daily meals. I mean the majority of the ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates were created by the food stores themselves. Obviously there are certain foods that I am careful with – poultry, shellfish and pork being the key ones. But we seem to be doing ok eh!
- Buy value brands and BOGOF deals that you will use. A value brand as a base ingredient can be ‘shusheed’ up to make a wonderfully tasty and nutritious meal. Most of the condiments we use are own brands now and tins of pulses, veggies and frozen bits are the same. We got a second freezer cheaply to keep topped up with our bargain buys to enable meal planning to be easy. A BOGOF deal is really only a bargain if you like the product and use it already!
- Cook in bulk and freeze. Use the ideas above to then create your meals so that daily meal planning involves taking a meal out of the freezer to warm up at night.
- Play the supermarkets off each other. I get 6 x £12 off a £60 shop at one store every 12 weeks or so in the post as I am subscribed to a store points card. From another shop I receive £4 off a £40 shop. Between 20% and 10% given to me for free. Another top end supermarket periodically issues a £5 of £25 shop (MnS). I use these for making the food bill cheaper, or for buying our store cupboard cleaning materials, which are also on special offer at the time. I no longer have store loyalty for the big sheds. I do however remain loyal to independents such as the farm and local stores that are run by families that offer quality foods.
It does take a bit of time to get into ‘bargain’ shopping habits and to plan. But in the long term it does feel a bit easier! I hope these timely January tips will help form good habits for the year.
"They helped me set realistic goals, with challenging yet achievable milestones"