Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Shopping on a Frugal Budget: Less than £1,000 for the year.

Making a Start on the 2013 Grocery Challenge

Since 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
I don't normally buy washing powder, as I usually make my own laundry liquid - the instructions can be found HERE - but at 99p I thought I'd have a bit of luxury to see me through to making the 2013 batch. Maybe the stove will be fitted soon and I won't even need to use the electric cooker to make the laundry liquid! (It got fitted - fitting a log burner or multifuel stove)

'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.

Nous Frugalus, our November moneysaving challengeLooking 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


  1. I came a cropper on my order the bourguignon sauce mix is for 2kg worth of meat, looks like 365 days worth of stew then :)

  2. I'm still ploughing my way through a 12.5kg bag of Chocolate Sponge mix, I thought it was 2.5kg, which at £3.99 was still a bargain, but to get 12.5kg for that price, well it makes all Lovely Hubbies Chocolate Muffins VERY cheap, and it will save me a fortune on Tuesday next week - all will be revealed on the Blog :-)

    Approved Foods really is a brilliant company, I have stocked up with pasta and Cous Cous, in fact I most likely have enough for at least 6 months, I had a peek at the other companies you use (you mentioned them in a post just before Christmas) and they look good too.

    Sue xx

    1. Hope your move is going well and you're settled in time for Christmas :) Is it just me or are the prices on AppFood beginning to look a bit more expensive nowadays?

  3. Like you I'm rural so it's a 30 mile round trip to a supermarket for me. Luckily they do deliver and I have £12 off voucher for January that I'll use to stock up on dried goods.

    I'll get my first AF order delivered next week. Really motivated to do this now :-)

    1. Hope your kitchen is organised soon - mine still isn't finished. I think it's the thought of moving all the food out the cupboards for repacking that's holding me up now, though.

  4. I have just stocked up on 42 Bread Mix, 12 Onion Gravy and 12 Museli pots! Free Delivery £30.20 paid.

    A bit nervous. A lot of stockpiling going on at the moment.

    Sft x

  5. You could make pad thai by scrambling an egg into the chop suey mix.

    1. I have been adding eggs to many more things this year, even the flat bread that gets pan baked over the stove gets an egg added to it. :)

  6. Just did my first AF order - excited for it to arrive! :)

  7. I am placing an order at weekend I love the way you can Stockpile for 6 months or more .I am still working my way through 75 litres of vegetarian bisto Gravy granuales,20kilos bread roll mix,pizza base mix etc etc:-)

    1. How are your stocks doing now? My cappuccino mix went quickly and I'm now hoping the coffee beans last well into 2014! LOL

  8. Well, I've already had to alter my grocery budget and have taken it back to £912.50 to represent household of two and an average spend of £1.25 per person per day. There was a slight change in circumstances as far as the income was concerned, so the annual challenge budget for running the household has been cut by 25% to a total of £3,000

    1. As per latest update, I had to reassess the budget and take it up to £950 so it covered all the extra price rises we've encountered.

  9. There are recipes for dry laundry detergent. I have also made the liquid but my DIL makes the dry and is happy with it. Do you wash on cold - it has never worked for me and our water is quite soft. Still going with my Xmas food, only had to buy brussels and milk since 20th December. We dont have anything like Approved Foods here in the U.S. but Aldi s is great and the produce (as we call green grocery) is also so fresh as there is a quick turnover. A lot comes up from Mexico this time of year and Adli s fruit and veg dont look any different from Whole Foods and there are less than half the price. I have half a cup of dry oats to make porridge in the morning - Aldi s and figured out it is 8 p per serving, half a banana sliced on that is 5p. That is a decent breakfast for 13p.

    1. Apologies for overlooking this comment - I wish I could get bananas for 10p each, they're more like 35p each here for the small ones and only when the local store has any in stock.

      Occasional cold washes get done but, on the whole, since getting a new washing machine (I was a couple of months without one) I have left it set on 40 Deg C for most things and give it an occasional hot wash just to ensure the pipes stay clear of the laundry mix. I have never been able to get powder to fully dissolve and haven't risked anything more going into the septic tank.


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