Budgeting archive

In May 2012 I had my baby son and started maternity leave for the second time, knocking my family income down by over £800 per month. Surviving on Statutory Maternity Pay taught me to budget, and how to feed a family of four on only £20 a week. Nowadays I'm back to working, but still juggling the demands of two school-aged children against the reality of self-employed income.

Meal Plan Mondays (30th July)

I went against last week’s meal plan and bought a chicken for yesterday so that I could incorporate chicken into several meals this week (penance for splurging on Domino’s). In case you missed the last entry, the chicken turned out to be a weird, mutant bird with dangly neck bits, but was fairly yummy all the same.

Anyway, this week’s plan:

Monday: Chicken & leek pie
Leftover chicken, a leek from the big shop – all the ingredients are in & accounted for so a total cost of nil.

Tuesday: Chicken soup
Meat and stock from the carcass, herbs etc all in. Another total cost of nil. (Now you see why I bought the chicken…)

Wednesday: Creamy salmon tagliatelle
A variation on this recipe; salmon cost £4, cream £1 and the tagliatelle was 95p. There’ll be enough of both to make another meal (or I’ll double up and eat salmon pasta for lunch for a week!) £5.95

Thursday: Cowboy pie
Not my favourite thing in the world but Isabel loves it. £1.79 for the sausages, £1.50ish for bacon and the rest is in and accounted for already. £3.29.

Friday: Corned beef hash
£2.49 for reduced salt corned beef and the rest is in.

Saturday: Butternut squash soup
Squash from last week’s veg box, another no cost (already accounted for) meal.

Sunday: Leftovers
The leftovers from the freezer that we should have had yesterday

Total cost this week (including veg box): £24.62 – that’s more like it!

Meal Plan Mondays (23rd July)

Part of my ongoing meal-plan series

Monday: Meat pie
Made from the mince that I was supposed to use for last week’s cottage pie, but we had a last minute splurge on pizza (delivered) instead. I guess that puts the cost at some £20+ … the most expensive meat pie ever!

Tuesday: Prawn curry
I’ve never made prawn curry before but I fancied something different for my fish meal this week. Two packs of prawns from my big Sainsbury’s shop (2 for £6) but I will probably use some of those for something else as it’ll be a bit too prawn-y otherwise!

Wednesday: Toad in the hole
Om nom nom, one of my favourites. £1.79 for cheapy Richmond sausages. Not my personal choice of sausage but I have to make sacrifices to get everyone eating the same meal sometimes. Sigh.

Thursday: Macaroni cheese
Macaroni pasta (1kg for £1.79) and cheese (400g for £2.50)

Friday: Homemade pizza
Friday is turning into a bit of a pizza night lately! Still, this one is so easy and simple to make and when I’m not ordering in from Dominos costs pennies to make. I’ll be using flour etc from the cupboard and leftover cheese from the macaroni cheese so no cost.

Saturday: Tomato baked eggs
Drawing inspiration from the BBC recipe spicy tomato baked eggs this one will use up leftover eggs from the veg box (£2.09 for 6 organic free range eggs). All other ingredients in already.

Sunday: Leftovers
Something from the freezer – I’m having a day off!

Total cost this week (including pizza splurge & veg box): £47.06 eeeeek!

PS. I keep forgetting to mention… although I don’t specify, the majority of my meals are served with at least one portion of veg or salad from the veg box or garden. I try and incorporate a fish-type meal once a week and at least one meat-free meal too.

5 ways I’ve saved money in July

Part of my ongoing mission to save money this year, these things have saved me money this month…

1. Cancelled our lovefilm membership

I’ve fallen in and out of love with lovefilm over the years because of billing issues, scratched DVDs etc but having been fine with them for a while it’s come to the point where I’m just forgetting to send DVDs back so not getting replacements. This is a waste and has had to be cut (saving £4.07 a month)

2. Used shorter program on the dishwasher

I found a neat idea on another frugal blog about letting the dishwasher run until it’s finished the wash cycle then opening the doors and letting the dishes air dry to cut out the most expensive(?) part of the cycle (drying). Unfortunately I don’t have the patience to sit next to the dishwasher to wait for the wash part to finish so instead I’ve just dropped it down to a shorter, colder cycle. I’m not noticing a difference in dish cleanliness.

3. Changed my veg box

I love my veg boxes but at this time of year the potatoes are always new potatoes and I’m the only one of us that’ll eat them (Karl hates skin on his spuds, Izz pays too much attention to what her Dad eats). I refuse to stand and peel tons of tiny spuds to make mash etc so the potatoes have been going bad sat in the cupboard. Instead, I have swapped to a potato-free box and am buying bigger spuds at the supermarket. This may not seem like money saved, but it’s certainly less waste.

4. Watered down milk

Came across this tip accidentally via the Money Saving Expert forums. When my carton of milk gets down to about half-way, I add one cup of cooled boiled water (important to boil it first otherwise the bacteria decreases the life) to the milk. Little shake and voila. I’ve managed to drop down from 3 x 2ltr bottles to 2 by doing this (and being a tiny bit more stingy with milk on my cereal). As I buy organic milk, it’s a saving of around £7 a month.

5. Did my big shop ‘on offer’

I discovered a Sainsbury’s coupon — £15 off a £75 online grocery shop — for new customers (coupon code: 3646-KLQ7-VDK9) so did my regular big shop there. I saved the obvious £15, but have discovered some of the stuff I bought was cheaper than equivalents at Tesco so may have saved more than that overall.

Did you see the 5 ways I saved money in June?

Meal Plan Mondays (16th July)

Thank you for the support (comments, retweets etc) on last week’s meal plan: it was cool to see how many of you also meal plan. Definitely reinforces that I’m doing the right thing to help with this budgeting malarkey. Anyway, on with things…

Monday: Chicken risotto
Chicken (which only cost £4 in the end) from yesterday’s roast, got the other ingredients already. No specific cost.

Tuesday: Lasagne
I confess, this is one of the few dishes I don’t make myself. I keep meaning to try doing one but never quite get round to it. This is a Tesco ready meal, cost: £3.85

Wednesday: Fish fingers ‘n’ chips
Cheaty one for the fish meal this week, but I fancied fish fingers. Birds Eye battered cod fish fingers, £1 for a box of 8. Chips will be made by me. Two boxes of fish fingers: £2 Bag of potatoes (different veg box this week, no spuds): £1.74

Thursday: Vegetable soup
Using up any leftovers from the week’s veg box, and anything that’s ready in the garden. No cost.

Friday: Toasties & beans
Using up the leftover cheese from last week. Bread at a cost of £1.15, beans multipack: £1.40

Saturday: Cottage Pie
Proper hearty home cooked food, mmm. Mince cost £2, other ingredients in already.

Sunday: Gammon, mash & peas
Just got to buy the gammon for this one, would not expect to pay more than £4

Total cost this week (including veg box): £33.09

This week I also plan on doing my “big shop” to stock the cupboards. This is how I usually have the majority of the ingredients in for my meals. I buy tins, flour, huge bags of pasta, rice, dried herbs etc. I have a coupon for Sainsbury’s online shopping: “3646-KLQ7-VDK9” £15 off a grocery shop of £80+ for first time customers. As I would normally spend around £80 to last 4-6+ weeks this should save me a chunk.

Meal Plan Mondays (9th July)

As promised on twitter, I’ll now be sharing my weekly meal plans with you lovely folks. I’ll include costs where possible (and you’re welcome to tell me if I’m over-spending) and recipes when I remember to type them up.

Monday: Quiche with salad
The eggs are leftover from last fortnight’s order from Riverford and the salad from the garden. Pastry ingredients already in the cupboard. Cost for pot of double cream & new block of cheese: £5.18

Quite expensive for quiche and salad but the rest of the cheese will be used in Karl’s sarnies and on the pizza on Friday. The cream will go on my cake(s)/in my coffee.

Tuesday: Spaghetti Bolognese
Got most of the ingredients for this one from my veg box or in my cupboard. Cost for the mince: £2.00

Wednesday: Baked fish & veg
River cobbler at a cost of £2.00, vegetables from the veg box.

Thursday: Bangers & mash
Potatoes from the veg box, sausages at a cost of £1.50 (on offer). Will serve with peas (frozen), cost £2.15 (I will only eat Bird’s Eye Petit Pois!)

Friday: Homemade pizza
No cost, all ingredients leftover from the week or in the cupboard

Saturday: Stir Fry with noodles
Carrots / onions from this week’s veg box, peppers from last week that need using up. Mangetout from the garden. Noodles cost £1.79.

Sunday: Roast chicken with trimmings
Whatever potato/veg is leftover from the week’s box, and a chicken which I’ll buy for about £5 from the butchers on Saturday.

Total cost this week, including veg box: £32.47 (would have cost less if I’d remembered to give my coupons to the cashier!)

5 ways I’ve saved money in June

I’m on a mission to reduce our outgoings over the next 12 months. We’re not massive consumers anyway, which I think makes it harder to make significant cuts. Nonetheless, these are things I’ve done this month which I know has saved us money.

1. Cooking thrifty eats

I don’t recall who shared the link to The Resourceful Cook, but using the Frugal Favourites and Super Cheap Eats I’ve been able to knock up batches of meals like the Chorizo, Sausage & Bean Stew which have lasted us several days. I’m going to use the site when I set out my meal plans for next month.

2. Air drying

Common sense one: we’ve had some dry days, so the clothes and nappies have been on the washing line.

nappies on washing line

Days like today when it’s peeing down with rain I’m using indoor airers propped over the bath.

3. Cloth wipes

It’s so easy to spend a fortune on baby wipes when you’ve got kids; wiping bums, faces, sticky hands… then of course you get into the trap of using them to wipe up spills and even for dusting and before you know it you need another packet.

I have enforced a no-baby-wipe zone and for the past few weeks we’ve relied on a stack of cheeky wipes bought when Izz was in nappies and cheap flannels. IKEA do a 4 pack of wash cloths for 79p.

4. Watering down my orange juice

I started doing this when I was pregnant because I missed the taste of OJ but couldn’t handle the acidity with my constant heartburn. Watering down a glass of juice — approx 2 thirds juice to 1 third water — saves me over 1 litre a week which can add up to ~£12 by the end of a month (I drink quite a bit of orange juice)

5. Bought through a cashback website

We had reason to buy a new TV this month (you may find this odd, given that we don’t watch TV in itself but I’ll explain some other time); after having searched high and low for something that met our needs Karl discovered a cheapy Technika on Tesco Direct. It was already on sale, down £20 to £80, but clearing cookies and navigating to Tesco via Top Cashback meant we got back £3.23 too. I’ve made over £200 using TCB:

How have you saved money this month? I’m going to need all the tips I can get if we’re to survive on one income for the next 12 months…

Ps. You can now follow my blog with Bloglovin’


Now that I’m on maternity leave for the next 12 months, my monthly income has more than halved. At the end of my leave (last 3 months) I’ll be earning zilch. Nada. Nothing. With a mortgage, childcare costs, usual household bills etc I need to find ways to make all that fit. We have savings, but they are an emergency safety net and I don’t want to dip into them. So, here’s my plan:

  • Meal plans: I did meal planning for a while last year, and it helped me organise my evenings and optimise my shopping. I then ended up pregnant and morning all day sickness meant I had to ‘go’ with cravings. I think I could probably save £20-£30 per week by reintroducing weekly meal plans.
  • Making & baking: I am a sucker for buying delicious looking cakes, takeaway pizzas, carb-y snacks… all things I can easily make at home and for a fraction of the cost.
  • Cancelling my meat boxes: monthly organic meat boxes are no longer in my budget range; lentils and beans are going to be on my menu this year.

Things I do that I can tweak/step up a notch:

  • Cloth nappies: Oliver has been in cloth since birth; we’re using a mixture of some new shaped Lollipop Bamboo size 1s and Isabel’s old stash. I plan to save more here by using indoor airers and the washing line to dry them instead of relying on the tumble drier. I will sell on the size 1s when Oli outgrows them.
  • Sell off old stuff: I regularly ebay off old stuff but I’ve got bags and bags of Isabel’s old clothes gathering dust which I could sort through and sell; tons of nerdy books that would be more useful to some of you lot etc. I need to hold an online jumble sale!
  • Use my skills: I’m a competent web developer and a blogger of over 10 years… if I can’t use that to make some pocket money I need shooting :P

Lastly, there are things I won’t be doing. Things that would usually be recommended to those on a budget but would actually cost me more:

  • Ditching the second car: One of my biggest expenses when I was on maternity leave with Isabel was daily bus fare, and the ticket I’d need to get around is now £6. I could put that £6 of petrol (gas) into my car and get a few days travel minimum. The insurance etc is all paid for so unless something drastic falls off, it makes more sense to keep on driving.
  • Ditching the organic veg box delivery: I get my veg and milk delivered every Thursday by Riverford, eggs every fortnight and a fruit bag every 3 weeks. I could scrap this all off but having this stuff delivered saves me nipping to the shop for a pint of milk, only to come away with a pack of biscuits, tub of Ben & Jerry’s etc. If anything, I could probably save more money by adding some of my other weekly purchases to my order.

I’m hoping that combined, this will save me £150+ per month. Not being at work (and thus not splurging on lunches and cake from the café next door) should save me an additional £20+ monthly. If I can make this work, we’ll only be down about £250 per month after maternity pay. Child tax credits may even cover some of that.

Are you budgeting? What easy-to-implement things have I not thought of? If I can get our outgoings down, it’ll help with my long term plan to drop my work hours down… but more on that another day :)