But whilst I have been on maternity leave this past year, we also had a drop in income but our expenses and bills stayed the same. Something had to give, but I wasn't sure what or how to go about it. So I did what I always do and started looking around online for inspiration. This is when I came across this beauty and wow!! I was totally hooked.
Meet Jack Monroe. She's a pretty normal brit who knows how to cook great, healthy, fabulous food all on a ridiculously tiny budget. I stumbled across her blog and I was totally sucked in by her amazing recipes, positive 'can do' attitude and her truly heart wrenching story. Due to a few hiccups along the way that could really happen to anyone, she found herself in a freezing cold Council house living below the breadline and trying to support her cute as a button son.
I read her story and scrolled through all her recipes, my mouth dropping at the cost per portion (9p burger??!! Hello!!) and tried out my first recipe one cold wintery evening when little R wouldn't settle, I was bleary eyed from a total lack of sleep and I needed a quick pick-me-up. I made a hot cup of peanut butter hot chocolate and oh my!! It was exactly what I needed to shrug off the tiredness and carry on. You can find the recipe here YUM!!!
Since then I've tried out a few more recipes and bought her first book, it really is awesome and the pictures are just delightful.
You can buy her book from amazon and now that there is a new book out (yes! she's written another one!!) it is definitely at the top of my list to purchase for my meal planning process.
Because of this super individual, I have been inspired to cut down on the amount of expensive meat I used to buy. Over the summer we cooked a lot with chick peas and kidney beans which pack a great nutritious punch and cost a damn sight less than a pack of chicken. I also scour the co-op shelves each week for reduced items that are on their final 'best before' date that I can stick in the freezer. I no longer buy crisps. We cut them out of our daily lunches and we feel so much healthier for it! Now I try to eat some fruit with my little R each day, a few bits of banana and orange go down a treat and I can finish up the rest!
However, both Joe and I are still real chocaholics. Yep, we just love opening a bar of our fav chocolate in the evening and sharing it! I don't think I can ever really cut down on that (a girls gotta have a few treats!) so we buy whatever is on offer in the co-op or what we can buy in bulk and stash in the pantry.
These are just a few tips for how we stay on budget each week, obviously every household is different and what works well for us might not work for someone else. But just as a guide here is what I have covered in my meal planning series;
Planning Your Shopping - plan your meals, check what you're running low on and shop around. Don't just hit one supermarket, compare some prices and buy in bulk online! and don't be afraid of swapping any fancier looking ingredients for a value pack. After all, it is usually just pretty packaging...
Batch Cooking - this is more a 'quality time' saver but if it works for us, it might work for you too.
Get Inspired - meal planning doesn't have to be boring. Look in your favourite cook books, read a few blogs and find some recipes that inspire you.
Cut Down and Swap Around - not the portion size!! just the type - cut down on more expensive foods and try to buy more 'from scratch' or value ingredients. Sometimes things are more expensive just because they're in fashion so get creative and buy cheaper.
I think that is pretty much it for my meal planning method! Do you have any delicious recipes you love to cook or inspiring blogs that you follow? Do you ever look at what you're buying and have a swap and a shop around?
x x x