Monday, 9 March 2009

Into the Lists Rode the Brave Knight...

So NixdMinx is catching the zeitgeist and running a Credit Crunchista Carnivale. As we are being chewed ferociously by the dreaded 'R' word here chez Potty, I have been racking my brains on useful tips to share so that I can participate in this, but I have to say that I haven't come up with anything ground-breaking so far.

There are the obvious ones of course; turning your heating down a degree or two, and making sure that if you have pre-paid mobile bills you use those minutes up each month rather than simply picking up the landline whenever you want to make a call at home.

Unfortunately that one is easier said that done for me: we live in a basement flat, my mobile is rubbish, and the moment I wander too far from the window click, the connection goes. So why move from the window, you ask? I don't know about you, but a rather demanding 3 year old screaming for chocolate / the television / contraband remote controls will usually send me racing for the bathroom to make a call in peace. And as our bathroom has no windows, well, guess which phone I normally pick up first? The end result is that I end up getting to school and nursery pick-ups early in an attempt to catch up on all the calls to my mobile that I've missed when I'm in the flat with a phone not in service. I always wondered what those harrassed-looking women frantically yabbering into their nokia's and checking their diaries in parked cars were up to. Now? I'm one of them...

But enough moaning. The Credit Crunchista Carnivale. I haven't gone as far as a girlfriend I visited this morning who has invested in her own bread-making machine (only 200 loaves and she'll have recouped her investment, hurrah!) or my beloved Husband who purchased a Nespresso machine last February, arguing that having been made redundant he would easily save the cost of it in money not spent in Starbucks, Costa and Cafe Nero. (We won't talk about the resultant caffeine highs here. But they're not pretty and I insisted he include some decaff in his 'varied' diet as a consequence...)

No, the most far reaching change I've implemented and which really has impacted on my spending is one of the most simple you could think of, and whilst it makes me feel elderly in the extreme to do it, is so embarrasingly easy that I can't imagine why I never did it before. Well, I did do it - but only on special occassions. High days and holidays. You know, when you need that little bit extra?

Have I made it sound naughty and exotic yet?


Not surprising, because it really isn't.

Each week, twice a week, I sit down at the table. I check my diary for our plans that week. I work out our evening meals for the next 4 days. I check what's in the cupboard. I write down what we need to make those meals happen, and then I go to the supermarket. And - here's the really exciting bit - come hell or high water I only buy what's on the list. (OK, OK, the odd bar of Green and Black's might make it through, but apart from that, I promise, I stick to it.)

Radical, huh?

If you have any sense, you've probably been doing this for years, but to be honest, I always thought it was something Norma Nomates did and which would remove all spontanaity from our diet. How wrong I was. Since I write my lists in a handy notebook I can now check what we ate last week and make sure I don't replicate it again too soon. (With the exception of sausages, of course, which as we all know are one of the main food groups for 3 and 5 year old boys).

Actually writing that down has made me shiver with a bit of revulsion; I knew that sharing this tip might make me feel 'middle-aged', and it certainly has. However, since technically, I am middle-aged, I suppose I just need to suck it up...

In any case, we now have less packaged pasta and a more interesting diet than we ever did before. Previously, I would wander round the supermarket picking up a little bit of what I fancied here, a bogoff there, and before you know it I would have spent more money than I needed to and have gone home to throw out exactly the same stuff that I had bought the previous week. Which had not been used and which had now gone off. So much for spontanaity.

Looking back I can't believe how slow to catch on I was to this basic housekeeping measure, but I swear, I just never thought of doing it before. Since I have, however, our food bill has dropped by around 30%. That's around £1,900 a year.

Who'd have thought that only buying what you need would save you money?

For what it's worth, that's my tip, then. Lists Rule!


  1. yeah...I had this idea too but my boyfriend who IS middle aged, believes it is too middle aged (nice reasoning there)thus no way in the world.

  2. and i'll add charity shops, freecycle, scrapstore recycling, and the shop at the local tip... where i am sadly known as 'basket lady'. great.

  3. You're absolutely right, PM. I always make lists and stick to them. No browsing for me in the supermarket! It's the most dangerous thing you can do. I sometimes make an exception and buy a little sweet that's not on the list, but only if I think I deserve it for having been especially good at something the last couple of days. It's a sport to come out of the supermarket having spent the least amount of money that I could and still have gotten everything on my list. I love to make the food budget last every month.

  4. Screamish - do it for a week and then point out the amount of extra beer / wine / whatever his poison is he would be able to buy with money saved. That might help...

    Grit - you'll be writing your own post then? (Assuming you can see through the slats in the basket, that is?)

  5. Irene, I'm not there yet. Just sticking to the list is enough of a step for me so far!

  6. I don't understand why that is being middle-aged? I think it is just using common sense and being organized.

    I'm forever putting food on our google notebook so that The Man can see what is needed on the way home. He does the grocery shopping which is an added benefit because he shops the discount bins and often finds what we need at a fraction of the cost. I never even knew they existed when I did the grocery shopping!

  7. I go even further and shop on line. I admit, I did it in the beginning because there was no way I was shopping with babies, but by god it takes away all temptation - and makes for a happier mum into the bargain. (Feeling a bit better now BTW).

  8. yeah, I do it too, but like to think it's being organised. It saves me thinking & planning time later in the week. And it helps to look back at what you'v eeaten in prev weeks, not tjustto avoid repetition bu tto jog th ol (middle aged) memory abt what we haven't eaten for a while.
    I'm also a compulsive ebay shopper, tho I'm not sure i save money doing this,it's too easy, too addictive & I get quite competitive when bidding agst someone!

  9. You can tell your friend from me that the bread-making machine is a totally false economy, because the bread is so delicious that you eat at least twice as much. So you save no money and get fat.

  10. Great idea. Now I feel better because I did something similar today, and then in Tesco I actually used the clipboard attached to the trolley - and pinned my list to it. Sad but true, and necessary in my case!

  11. Okay, I need your guidance. Seriously. I went into Sainsburys today to buy one lemon, some fresh broccoli and a chicken. I bought all of that PLUS some blueberries (because I fancied them - I didn't once I got them home), a magazine (that has remained in the bag - who has the time to read glossy mags?), a sandwich (because I didn't fancy reheating the soup I made yesterday BUT went home and reheated and ate the soup anyway) and, most shockingly extravagant of all, a bottle of wine for ludicrous amounts of money all because I heard Queen Bee Mummy raving about it the other day. I daren't drink it, each glass would be about a £3.50.

  12. hmmm, when do you start knitting underpants? with pretty cath kidston floral gussets? #

    oh look, i've just given you inspiration for a thrift website where you can sell your wares. it will take off, gain you massive income, you can sack all the thrift stuff, buy manolos again and double dipper caramel topped soya doobie lattes from starbucks.

    i'm scared by your list thing. it makes me feel guilt.

    but i do shop at lidl, so that makes me feel righteous.

    really really rambling here, it's time for bed.

  13. I do a big shop once a fortnight and only buy fruit, veg and milk outside of that shopping session AND I check out the prices in various supermarkets before I go and divide the list accordingly. Own brand goods are fine for almost all basic foodstuffs, bogoffs are good but only if they are freezable or have a long pantry life, buy fruit and veg in season preferably from a market. Have 1 or 2 meat free meals a week. Make double quantities of soups, casseroles etc and freeze or re-invent (eg, one day's Bolognese is another day's Lasagne). It generally doesn't take much longer to cook the larger amount and the second meal is more re-heating than cooking which saves both power and time. Switch all electrical appliances off, do not leave on standby. Use re-chargeable batteries wherever possible. Going to stop now 'cos I sound obsessive, but with rare exceptions this is how I have shopped or done things for years now and it works. Oh, and the bread machine, yes I have one and now only use it occasionally as we were eating too much bread just as Iota says. However, it makes some very good 'fancy' loaves when it is used for far less expense than the equivalent would cost elsewhere...

  14. Yes, we've been doing the same for a year or so. Like you we've saved money, and are also eating a much more varied menu. We've also cut down by only having meat once a week, as it's just so expensive and I have annoying ethics about meat (happy hens) which stop me buying value stuff.

    Husband and I have been talking about how we should do this for about 5 years and then both of us get overcome with inertia and have to lie down. Then he goes to the supermarket (WHY is it open 24 hours?) to get a bottle of wine and comes back with $45 of crap.
    Publish your list and your meal plan on the carnival.
    I actually thought that if someone made a really simple website 'Meal plans for dummies who have a husband and 2 fussy children' then it would be a winner. You won. SEND ME YOUR LIST!!!!!!

  16. We have started doing this to an extent, recently. We do all of our shopping locally and in small quantities (daily or bi-daily), so have set a £15 a day limit, with the leeway to balance that out over a few days if necessary. I think that we could save even more, though, if we planned a couple of weeks' of meals and bought some of the non-perishable ingredients by online delivery.

    We used to spent a fortunate in Waitrose buying lots of stuff (especially fruit and veg) that we just threw out a week or two later. Outrageous really, now we think about it! We think we're probably saving at least £300 a month, probably £400, which just shows how outrageous we were!

  17. Lists rock - and mean that you are far more likely to use everything in your fridge and not chuck away perfectly good food.

    I've recently become sad enough to save & recycle wrapping paper, ribbons, and bubble wrap. The beginning of the end I fear...

  18. Aims, it is common sense, you're right. I just never thought if before.

    EPM, I probably should too but actually it's quite nice to take Boy #2 and whizz around the supermarket with him (I know, it can't last!).

    Paradise, it's 'organised'. Not middle aged. I will remember that...

    Iota, good tip. Going to write your own post?

    Rosie, you used the clipboard? Oh, the horror... (!)

    NH Mum, don't do it! Don't do the top up shop. That way profligacy lies...

    Pig, I bow to your superior virtue? You shop at Lidl? Now who's knitting the underpants? (Check out Kitschen Pink's blog - she probably does it already!)

    Sharon, time to write a credit crunchista post, I think!

    More Than, meat only once a week? Good for you. I have to say I salve my conscience by only buying free range organic - which is, as you point out, far too expensive...

    Motherhood, am assuming you're joking? If not drop me an e-mail (address on 'about me') and would be happy to send the list. Am NOT posting it on the blog though. Even I know that would just kill it stone dead...

    Tasha, daily etc is good, but I just can't fit that in. Much easier to only go once every 4 days or so. Should probably be a week but even I can't stomach that level of organisation...

    Mud, I do throw away less than I used to, but have to admit, the swedes etc that turn up in the veg box very rarely get used...

  19. I so need to do this! I buy the same ol rubbish week in week out and wonder why noone has an interest and appetite at meal time. Oprah was talking about the same thing last week and asking people to envision that they weren't chucking away food that had gone past its expiry date, but actually throwing money away. She challenged everyone to write down how much every item cost being binned and to add it up every week - as an incentive to shop more wisely, plan meals and use lists!

  20. That's something we've been working at too lately and have been doing fairly well on only buying what we need. It is a great money saver. It also keeps me from keeping our turntable thingee...whatever it is...from being full of boxes and boxes of pasta because I thought we needed more. Not realizing we had like 100 boxes at home from the last "sale" they had on them two weeks earlier. *sigh*

  21. Oh and I've done some clothes shopping at the local second hand place for Jonathan. Sometimes I can't because she has no clothes in his size. Other times...score! Whoo-hoo!

  22. I love the Nespresso machine ... when can I come over?! I had one too and thought it would save money, but NOOOOOO. It's fun though.

  23. I am a huge fan of meal planning. Without one, I spend £150 a week in Sainsburys and don't really have anything to eat in the house, but plenty in the bin. With one, I spend £80 on lovely Waitrose goodies via ocado and have plenty of meals and no waste.

    Although I find that I tend to start making the same things over and over to save my brain hurting so our diet probably isn't massively varied. But I shake it up every now and then - usually with the children eating toast because what I've made is 'DISGUSTING!'

  24. Yep, I've been doing that ever since I left home. Twenty years of planning meals and buying what I need and never throwing anything out because it wasn't eaten in time. Never thought of myself as a "Norma Nomates" though, more a "reduce waste ecowarrior"! Feel quite proud now!

    Now, can you come up with a credit crunching way of still indulging in my favourite glass of something?

  25. I gave up refined sugar for Lent and have really stuck to it (I KNOW!) and my food bills have gone right down.
    Which basically means I was the greedy sod eating so much junk it was costing us a fortune.
    It's a win win situation for me!

  26. Oh and award for you my lovely x

  27. I'm a compulsive list maker, always have been... so I don't feel quite as middle-aged as I ought to about it! £1900 though, that's a lot!

  28. LOL Potty Mummy - can you write mine for me too :-D xxxx

  29. Now, thats a brilliant idea, but have you factored into account the cost of paper and pens :) lol
    We use freecycle a lot and have saved money with a water meter. Ive also started a spreadsheet of expenditure and worked out we spend an average of £110 per week on food. The shock of this spreadsheet of expenditure has lead to me not spending anything in an attempt to cut down on everyhing. Its frightening when you see where it all goes...

  30. Was totally NOT joking despite jocular tone and am going to email you for help. Have even written post on supermarket general failings now as am so beaten down.

  31. I save a fortune when I get around to planning our meals - I've just gotton out of the habit lately.

    Note to self: Must plan meals - Must plan meal - Must plan meals.



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