This whole Corona virus thing has got us all thinking too. I don’t want to be in a position where we have eaten everything down to the bare minimum and end up self isolating for a period of time. It seems there’s going to be a bit of scaremongering in the next few days, which naturally may result in people panic buying. Given we are normally stocked up for 3 months plus with food etc, this is probably the worst time this could have happened. We still have a good amount of food in though, so I am not worried, it’s just typical and shows it’s always good to be prepared, or have a plan A and B at least. Anyway, I’m not spending time worrying about that until we know more.
Generally, even though we are working our way through what is in stock in the said areas, generally there’s left overs from those and I will reuse them in something else. Eg if we roast a (raw) chicken for a Sunday lunch, I will reuse left overs in a pie and eat one for another meal, then freeze one, so the pie goes back in the freezer in a differed “state” (ie cooked chicken, not raw) to how it came out, which is fine.
That takes me to the title of the post, The Food Challenge. What are we trying to achieve? An organised, prepared, useable stock of short term and long term food items which are adaptable, healthy and budget friendly. Easy right? I will do a separate post on supermarkets and why I believe you should have a menu plan, shopping list and shop efficiently to help you lower your outgoings. Given everything we have in stock, there’s absolutely no reason we should be maxing our grocery budget, or even coming close, for a month or two at least. For the record, our budget it £300 a month, which is reduced from around £600 from when we first moved in 4 years ago.
I didn’t choose my words without giving this a fair bit of thought.
Organised: this is a task that can be fairly quickly achieved and is tangible. Physically organising the freezer, fridge and pantry which are they key elements in this challenge, is something I can be getting on with. It doesn’t stop there though, once they are organised, how do they stay organised and how do we benefit from them being organised? Keeping an inventory is key here. That makes this task a little bit more time consuming and if you can get a helping hand to either write the list as you go through the items, or vice versa then that will save you a bit of time. I’ll set myself aside some time to do this and report back.
Prepared: this is a reference to a few different things. I need to be prepared (and organised) with regards to menu planning, writing shopping lists, doing the weekly shop etc. Also it means preparing ahead, getting up on a morning and taking tea out of the freezer, batch cooking, taking time to prepare meals ahead.
Useable stock: what is the point of having a tub of quinoia, pearl barley, blue food colouring and eastern spices if I am never going to use them? Over the years I have been pulled in to advertising, expensive recipes, following the ideal and impulse buying. Not any more. Everything we have in stock needs to be useable. That may mean I have to be inventive with recipes, avoid others, think differently and so on. That’s fine, bring it on. I like the idea of having almost a capsule wardrobe pantry, does that make sense?
Short term and long term: to me, there’s a obvious need to have fresh and non fresh items. Dried, frozen, pickled, preserved, whatever it may be. What is the ideal amount and what benefits can we get from both? Time will tell.
Adaptable: Something that will not work for us as a family is restrictions. We eat at 6:30 on an evening, after we have done the jobs outside and caught up with each other. Sometimes though, something happens, chickens escape, the wind has blown down a fence, the greenhouse takes longer to water and then everything gets shunted along time wise. Tea needs to go from a 45 minute Aga time to 15 minutes. Instead of making lasagne with the ragu, I’m going to heat the ragu and throw it on top of some quick cook spaghetti or penne with a garlic bread. See what I mean? I may have some dump bags (idea adapted per The Batch Lady slow cooker) that I can use as a stir fry, or to add to longer cook rice or short cook noodles. So for my family, adaptability is key.
Healthy: I guess this speaks for itself. One thing that was important to us when we moved here was moving to a more healthy lifestyle, food and drink included, where I cook as much as possible from scratch. That doesn’t mean we won’t eat fatty food or drink red wine, far from it! It about a balance and as long as the scales tip in favour of the healthy, I’m happy with that.
Budget friendly: 2020 is about minimising our outgoings and I can not see that ever changing. Why would you want to spend more than you needed to? For us, it’s to allow us to pay our mortgage off early, other people will have their reasons. All to the same goal though.
I told you I had given it some thought 😂.
So over the coming days and weeks I will add updates as to where I am in The Food Challenge journey. I will share my inventories, subsequent menu plans and shopping lists, where I shop to get them and recipes for making the meals. Please join us on this journey, we would love to hear how these things work for you guys and learn from how you do things too. I’m planning on doing a YouTube video or two on this for anyone who is interested – I will let you know when it’s ready.
In the mean time, I’m off to start the inventory lists, which will inevitably result in a cleaning session too! I’ll grab some pics of before and after.
As usual, at the beginning of each year I will reassess our budget to include changes. For example, my daughter is going to senior school and we promised we’d get her a mobile phone for when she does. She is the only one in her year who doesn’t have one and throughout this year has been very mature about that, not giving in to peer pressure. So there’s an extra monthly expense. Not much, but it all adds up. The insurances need to be reassessed as I have an additional insurance to take out for Annie, so that needs to come from somewhere. Also oil has gone up since 12 months ago and I think our budget still covers it, but I will check to be safe.
A big one that can easily spiral out of control is groceries as per my previous post. Last year, on average I went over our (£250 a month) budget by £15 a month. Some people spend that on coffee each week so it won’t seem a lot to them, but taking into consideration what we are trying to achieve (self sufficiency and 1 dependent wage only) then again it all adds up. However I am really pleased that we got anywhere near the budget and that I think, is the home raised meat, fruit and veg earning its keep. So if we do even more this year, we should be able to meet the new budget.
2018’s grocery cash budget is £2650 which works out at ~£220 a month. However I expect to spend more in February-April before we reap rewards of this growing season and then at the end of the year as things tail off. In the height of summer, I hope to have this down to a minimal amount. Throughout January we are eating from the freezer for the teas, which I will need to top up with fresh veg etc but for the main expensive part (meat?) will be from the freezer.
The grocery budget also includes household items which I think I said – so shampoo, laundry liquid, bleach, toothpaste etc.
Vouchers and freebies will not come out of the budget – let’s call that luck.
Now remember, I have 2 young kids who have packed lunches every day and who I won’t see go short for things they like (they aren’t demanding, this is my decision). So sometimes, there’s things on the list that are not necessities, but if they fancy having their friends round and eating junk a few times then that’s fine with me. To be fair, they very rarely ask to do this, but I’m just making my point. I also have a huge husband who eats almost as much as my horse! Ste and I are taking lunches to work, usually soup, salad or left overs.
I am updating my standard shopping list for each week with items that go into the packed lunches including fruit, wrap/bread/croissant and filling, yoghurts, a treat, pepperoni or equivalent, a drink, cheese (if they feel like it). This may be the actual item, or the ingredients to make them (like the bread and treat).
Once January is through and we’ve made a dent in the freezer, I will then look at batch cooking again and doubling up on what I am cooking to make one for the freezer.
I plan on giving weekly updates with grocery/eating out spends.
As is customary on long text posts, here’s a cute photo 🙂
It’s a new pay month for us (July’s pay paying for August’s food etc). I’ve reduced our grocery budget for the month to £250. That covers the next 4.5 weeks. I’ve done this as at the moment we’re getting as much food for free as we will this year, so I’m making sure I make the most of it. Let’s see if I can make it work.
This weekend we had my parents over for a BBQ on Saturday afternoon. It was lovely, the weather was just right for us all. They helped with some jobs around the place before settling down to homecooked food. We managed to get quite a lot of weeding done in the veg garden with them and I very much appreciate their help. The menu I did was on this week’s menu plan and it went down really well. Homemade coleslaw is amazing, I will never buy shop made again!! Here’s a picture of the redcurrant and red onion relish I made. First time making relish too and I’m mightily impressed with how easy it is.
|Full of goodness and has a whopping great kick (which you can tone down next time!)|
The puppies enjoying their breakfast together followed by a play on the lawn. I call them puppies but they’re just turned 1 now so moving on rapidly!! Rodney is the rougher haired and Buster the tan smooth hair. Gorgeous boys.
|Buster (bottom) and Rodney (top)
We also discovered we have a grape vine. How I didn’t know is beyond me. I guess I don’t come to this end of the garden very often. The grapes are miniscule so whether we’ll get a crop I don’t know, but something to look in to all the same.