Making a Start on the 2013 Grocery ChallengeSince writing this post for the start of the 2013 grocery challenge, a few changes have occurred that meant altering the budget accordingly and incorporating some new shopping strategies. Rather than begin again, I thought I would simply update here as a reflection on the year's events.
The bread is now baking, (Hovis bread mix is on offer at 50p per 1.5kg from *Approved Food and I stocked up before Christmas) so I thought I'd make a start on this year's frugal grocery budget.
As all true frugalers may know, dried goods are our best friends; they are among the most economical foodstuffs to have in stock for snacks and meal making. Pasta and noodles are no exceptions - kept dry and sealed, they'll last for years. It's only Government legislation that forces labelling to include 'Best Before...' dates on such things. These, however, should NOT be confused with 'Use Before...' dates, as the latter are for health and safety reasons, indicating food that cannot be stored longterm.
My budget challenge was been set at £950 for 2013. I've cut myself some slack this year to allow for extras needed to sustain energy levels when cycling extra miles, feeding guests, feeding workmen and generally allowing our frugal household a few luxuries now and again. We're down to a household of two but sometimes have 3 or more. This amount is for all groceries - it equates to £1.00 per person per day for all meals (2 @ 365 days = £730) plus £20 for extra mouths to feed plus £200 for all toiletries, cleaning products and extras.
Buying groceries isn't a simple case of popping to the local shop or supermarket when you live in a rural location. For a start, there are no shops and there are no supermarkets. There are two small local village stores about 7 miles round trip from here, but the nearest supermarkets are of the smaller variety, the closest being a little Co-op about 10 miles from here. For anything bigger, it's a 40+ mile round trip and none of the stores deliver. Last year, we gave up the car and it's over a mile to the nearest road that has public transport running on it, so cycling, lift-sharing or home deliveries are our three options. Making the most of free vouchers, coupons and referral fees is what allows for the occasional slurge on extras.
This has been my first port of call in 2013. It's one of a couple of places that frugalers can make the most of bulk discounts on dried foods that are close to or just past BBE dates. Better still, once you register with the site, you can invite all your friends to join, which earns you a few pounds in referral fees. My referral fees had reached £15 over the festive period - enough to place an order! After including the packaging and delivery charge, the total amount came to £20.66, so there wasn't much left to pay after deducting the free £15.
Here's what I ordered:
- 9kg of dried chop suey noodles £3.99
- 5kg of cappuccino mix £4.98
- Case (32 packs) of cat food £3.99
- Toilet rolls £1.49
- Washing powder 99p
- Delivery £5.25
'Chop suey' literally means assorted pieces, and that's what we usually have left in the fridge of a waste not, want not household. The addition of some noodles to stir fried leftovers can turn almost anything into a lovely 'chow mein' type meal. We eat this quite often and although I do have a pasta maker and hens/ducks/quail that lay eggs, this box of chop suey noodles will be excellent for quick meals. It will also last me throughout the year and free up extra eggs for selling.
We're coffee drinkers in this house, although I am trying to drink more tea so I can cut down on my sugar intake. But when a kilo of instant cappuccino mix shows up at 99p when it currently costs me £1.29 for 100g of instant coffee, I'd be mad to miss the deal. 5kg should see us throughout the year and it will be cappuccino all the way! (The powdered coffee whitener is currently 99p for 3kg, so I stocked up on that before Christmas.)
Cat food - the frugal mouser doesn't often get foil-topped servings, she normally gets about a quarter of a can of Kitekat (12.5p) so she is in for a treat for the next month. One per day is sufficient for her, as she has ad lib dried food and water. (I'd normally buy a tray of Kitekat from Amazon using my free vouchers.).
Opening balance - £1,000.00
Today's spend, less referral fees - £5.66
Balance remaining for 2013 - £994.34
Happy shopping in 2013, everybody!
Edited in: Since setting my grocery budget, several things have changed. First and foremost, we have had to incorporate many further price increases into other areas of the budget. In fact, most things that I include in the annual household budget have increased - telephone & internet charges, electricity, coal, transport costs, postage, insurance... the more I think about it, the more I can see that the only things NOT to have increased are the direct taxes we pay each year, such as Council Tax, TV licence fees and income tax, so it hasn't all been bad. As a self-employed person, I no longer earn enough to pay income tax! How embarrassing is that? It pretty much descends me into 'poverty' status, despite what I consider to be a fairly rich lifestyle afforded through sharing home and bills with A. N. Other, plus there's always the potential to re-incorporate a third person, should future need arise.
So, how is the frugal grocery budget going? Well, we discovered a fabulous company called 'MuscleFood' that can deliver fresh produce overnight, meaning an affordable freezer order was no longer out of the question. (I wrote about their meat bargains and cheap quality chicken here.) Additional help came in the form of some great friend referral commissions which, at £5 per pop, meant I was able to partially fill my freezer with some free chicken, beef and gammon. Thank you to those who have already joined me as a customer of this great site and might I recommend it to everyone else whose staple diet comprises lean chicken - 4 free chicken fillets still available via my friend referral link.
Secondly, I ended up making homemade cat food for part of the year and will possibly continue to do so, as pet food is becoming a ridiculous price, considering it contains so little by way of actual meat!
It's now November 2013 and my frugal grocery budget has been reduced to a balance of just £61.99 but I have to say, the cupboards, fridge and freezer are pretty well stocked and the Christmas dinner is bought and paid for from that. How well I make the balance last remains to be seen, but I will need to buy milk, lard, fruit and some fresh vegetables between now and the end of the year.
Overall, it's been good so far and I am confident that I'll make it through to 2014's challenge within budget. Bulk buying toilet rolls and kitchen rolls while they were on offer has greatly reduced that part of the budget, meaning that more can be used for other things.
Having the foresight to be prepared to act fast when bargains appear has been one of the big success stories of the frugal living challenge, as has stock-piling dried and tinned goods, batch cooking multiple meals and cooking everything from scratch. It all equates to less wastefulness and what I hope is a healthier diet. Now I just need to concentrate on shifting the excess weight and ridding myself of that, pound by pound, in similar fashion to killing off past debts.
Looking forward to seeing a few more new names joining us for the 2014 challenges and I'd just like to remind everyone that it isn't too late to start preparing, as out November challenge of preparedness has just begun. Pop over and join us in the Novus Frugalus challenge in the forums soon.
* Approved Foods 'recommend a friend' link