Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Cool thoughts on Budgeting

In a discussion the other day someone pointed out that when we go to buy a fridge, or similar household appliance, we take some time reviewing the options, weighing up cost against quality, value for money etc. and work hard to find the best product to suit our needs, and at the right price.

It's also an opportunity to review how a fridge is used, the relative size required between fridge and freezer, the electricity consumption, the merits of having frost free and the design and usefulness of the interior.

When spending money on a household appliance the cost can be anywhere from £200 to £1000, quite a major individual purchase and certainly requires due consideration.

However when considering our annual spend on food this amount pales to insignificance especially when you consider a fridge is likely to last over five years or more. And yet generally, in spite of spending anything upwards of £1500 a year on food, most people have a much more casual approach towards its purchase.

I have to say this really made me think. When considering purchase of food, it would clearly be a good idea to plan more carefully. After all, we have all heard statistics about the amount of food households throw away

Even if you currently plan your meals and make a list, supermarkets know how susceptible we are to impulse purchases which is why they ply us with special offers and tempting displays. They encourage us to spend extra, whilst at the same time getting us to congratulate ourselves for finding a bargain and being such a savy shopper!! Supermarkets draw attention to the 'bargains' they want us to buy - rather that the low cost alternatives that are always available. And remember - even if its a 'bargain' if it's not something that was planned for - it's extra spend.

Combine that with the fact that we can be creatures of habit, we may not notice, least of all try, more inexpensive regular alternatives to our normal food choices.

How many people plan how much they want to spend on food over the year and then look at how to achieve that? How about doing an annual budget for food with some plans to reduce the bill. Ideas might be a monthly or weekly 'cook-in' to bake several quiches, a large quantity of spagetti bolognese or other favourite dish to freeze. It's much cheaper and more nutritious than buying ready made, and will save on your overall electricty or gas bill for cooking. Plus you will always have a 'ready meal' in your freezer. Dates for cook-ins could be planned in advance. 

Plan for one or two meals a week that are budget meals using low cost ingredients such as pulses or lentils. And of course always take a packed lunch to work - this is so much cheaper than buying a take out lunch.

I would love to hear from people who carefully budget their food bill, and have some great ideas for reducing waste, and getting more, for less money. Does anyone out there have an annual food bill review? Comment below or get in touch - zerocredit.penny@googlemail.com

Meanwhile I am planning my first cook-in in a couple of weeks time and will report back on progress.


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