Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How to survive on £50 a month for food

Although it may sound impossible, there are ways to shop very cheaply if your food budget is tight and it does not have to mean cutting back on meals. If you only have £50 to spend on food for a month, you will have to plan every penny very carefully, but it is possible to keep within this budget.

First things first, you need stock up on staples - those cupboard essentials that serve as the basis for any meal you prepare and give you the energy you need. These include rice, pasta, potatoes, pulses, eggs, fruit and veg. The best advice is to try and buy these staples in bulk, so they will last you the entire month and the price will invariably be cheaper. If you are on a tight budget, it is essential you shop around for the best price. Rice is expensive in the supermarkets, so the best place to buy rice and lentils in bulk is your local ethnic store, where 2kg bags sell for as little as £1.85. Here you can also pick up essential herbs and spices for a lot less too, as little as 39p a bag. For pasta and potatoes, ALDI and LIDL are your best bet, the latter of which is currently offering 2.5kg of King Edwards for just £1.

If you manage to keep your staples budget under £25, you are well on your way to frugal success. The other £25 will be earmarked for bread, dairy, meat and incidentals. For these items, the best advice is to shop for offers and discounts and sometimes the best stores for these kind of bargains are your local Tesco or Sainsbury's. With the recent recession, the discount shelves in these stores have become increasingly popular. You can buy a perfectly good loaf of bread for as little 39p (reduced from £1.40), if you are smart you will buy 3 loaves and freeze the other 2, which will give you your monthly bread supply for a little over a pound.

You will find large blocks of cheese are also often on sale. Although meat and fish won't be a daily indulgence, you will definitely find some incredible offers on the bargain shelves; bacon, sausages and chicken are often found for a fraction of the original price. Again, freezing your bargains is often the best way forward. The only items you're unlikely to find reduced are milk, butter and kitchen essentials such as olive oil - so you should factor up to £10 a month for these, depending on your needs.

Once you have managed to buy everything you need for the month, the key is to make your food last and not be wasteful. Eggs and bread are a great source of energy in the mornings and keep you full until lunch. The same goes for baked potatoes, vegetable stir-fries with rice and pasta dishes; just be mindful of saving your left over's for another snack. It is very possible to manage on a tight budget; it just takes a little more imagination!

Garry Hudson writes for Baines and Ernst - http://www.bainesandernst.co.uk

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