Eating Frugally In January

Thursday, 16 January 2014

I haven't made any resolutions this year. I generally can't be bothered with them: changes don't need to happen in January to be worthwhile. There does seem to be a bit of extra energy in the air at the moment though. Maybe it was having those extra couple of days off work with nothing particular to do? I'm inclined to think that part of it is related to taking down the Christmas decorations. The house looks so clean and empty by comparison that you really want to keep it that way! Whatever the cause, things that have been put off for a long time are gradually being tackled and it feels really good.

The main thing I'm attempting this month is Project Mother Hubbard, aka superduper strict menu planning and shopping. The freezer (which badly needs defrosting) was positively groaning with food by the end of December and the cupboards were equally full. Other than fresh fruit & veg, bread and cat food, I was fairly sure I didn't need to buy anything this month.

I sat down in front of the freezer with my handy menu planner/shopping list thingy and got drafting. I'm not going to pretend it's an entirely glamorous way of doing things and I won't be winning Masterchef any time soon with my meal choices (well that freezer needs emptying and the fishfingers won't eat themselves!) but it's making life a lot easier and a hell of a lot cheaper. The rules are strict: no buying anything that isn't on the shopping list, and things are only going on the shopping list if they're definitely required as part of the weekly menu. Buy it when I definitely need it, not on the offchance I may need it.

It's working: the last weekly food shop cost a whopping £23 and most of that was expensive Whiskas for the fussy cat.

Might have run out of ideas for Friday...

Using things up is enormously satisfying. The sight of an empty freezer shelf is causing me almost as much glee as succesfully ticking a completed meal off the menu. My cooking creativity is on the up too. Half a packet of frozen puff pastry took 15 minutes to turn it into sugar, choc chip and ginger swirls (messy looking cos I'm a fool and made them a bit wrong, but damn tasty!) and teeny tiny palmiers (entirely more successful):

In a spirit of random energy, I even had a go at making granola for the first time. If you haven't come across A Girl Called Jack yet, her website is amazing for delicious, low-cost recipes. I took her peanut butter and honey granola recipe, used chocolate peanut butter for an extra cocoa-y hit and sprinkled in some sultanas. It's incredibly easy to make and tastes gorgeous!

I imagine that once the freezer is emptied then the bills may start to go back up slightly but if I can keep up the menu planning side of things throughout the year, I'll be more than happy. It's fun!


  1. You can come and gleefully look at my empty freezer if you like...! Genuinely empty. I ought to do this, though as it might make me better organised at food shopping and meal planning.

  2. I am so making that granola! Yum! Even better if I can miss the sultanas and raisins out.
    I tend to plan my weekly food, and cook up big pots of chilli and spag bol to freeze portions, makes it easier and cheaper. xx

  3. We've been doing meal planning for a couple of years now, but we really need to get onto our freezer! We did make a list a couple of months ago of everything in the freezer so we wouldn't double buy things, but ended up forgetting, oops! But proper meal planning does make such a difference, especially if you plan to have leftovers for lunch the next day too (somehow they taste even better?!).
    Sian xx Rebel Angel

  4. I'm super organised with my food shop, so it's nice to see other people do it!
    I always do a meal plan for the entire month, dateless so we can pick whatever. We do a monthly food shop and buy fresh food weekly and I really enjoy doing it in the winter because I like cooking warm, hearty meals.

  5. That granola sounds delicious, I'm definitely trying that soon. Far better than the plain one I sometimes make. It is so satisfying planning stuff isn't it? Although admittedly I'm not as strict as you've been and the odd takeaway slips in. Enjoy your scavenging day coming up!

  6. Love A Girl Called Jack recipes, they're pretty great, and though lots slate her, I think Nigella's recipes are great because she almost always will give alternatives to the ingredients she's using to change it up a bit.

    I have to menu plan to keep our foodbills down because I'm still supporting T whilst he's rounding off his studies, and it was a challenge to start with, but even he gets a kick out of it now because we've become quite competitive about finding the best price for things! Good luck.

    Also- the granola is freaking amazing. I made it without honey and have it for my breakfast when I arrive at work post-cycle.

  7. I love your planner/shopping list thingy pad :) must looks out for something similar to help get planning!

    also love Jack Monroe - what an amazing lady with an amazing story...

    Thanks for the post chicky xx

  8. Love Jack's recipes, I actually defended her on a message board the other day as someone was making rude comments about her left leanings and sexuality. Some people are so rude ey?Anyway... I'm looking for printable sheets for budgeting and meal planning at the moment. I've also used up loads of store cupboard things and have been buying some fabulous cuts of meat reduced and freezing them.

  9. Yum! This is a good idea. I need to do this with my cupboards (and freezer too)
    Hi Alex, how are you? Hope things are going ok with you! x

  10. Lists, ticking things off, using stuff up. An excellent way to spend January.

  11. That granola sounds AMAZING! I have been trying to be a bit more inventive with my meals recently and using up more freezer stuff in the process!"

    Maria xxx

  12. I love a good 'use-y up-y' week, sometimes those random combinations are the nicest!

    I've been trying to be good with food this week, I'm making meals for four and freezing half of it, so in reality next week I should only need to buy fresh things. We'll see.... xx

    Leanne - A Slice of My Life

  13. Excellent resolution Alex! If it saves you money too that's a bonus. I'm terrible for chucking the ends of veg away - a carrot here and half a courgette there. You might find on your scavenger days you end up being more experimental and turn odd bits into something delicious! Or resort to beans on toast, like I usually do... <3 Claire @ Jazzpad


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