It may have taken some time, but I am very much a converted Aldi shopper.
Being out of work and a stay home mum for the considerable future, meant that we had to look at where our pennies were going each month. One area that was taking a good chunk of hard-earned money, ranging between £60 and £80 a week (or sometimes two weeks), was the weekly food shop.
This had to change.
We decided a reasonable weekly amount was £40. Now, it was pretty obvious that this wasn’t going to go far in the likes of Morrisons. So, a tad hesitant (on quality) and reluctant, we gave Aldi a whirl, and it’s been our go-to for a year now. It still amazes me what we get for so little and I do get asked how I do it, to which I reply
“It’s just a case of being organised with meal planning and shopping list writing. Checking your cupboards and fridge. With a dollop of reality checking and a whole load of restraint.”
Meal planning has so many positives in regards to the food shop. Like, not spending money on perishables for example, that you end up not using and throwing away. Everyone knows what is for tea, therefore can make different lunch choices. Or vice versa with set school meals. I can have tea prepped or near enough ready for everyone being home so there’s no waiting around and or deciding what to have.
A negative that I do get faced with would have to be the ‘But I don’t fancy that for tea’ conversation. We’re all guilty of it. However, as I go on to remind myself and my family, we have a varied weeks eating, plus the only reason I’m able to keep the costs of food down is due to meal planning. As there are times when this conversation has been brought up and we’ve ended up with a takeaway or going to the shop to ‘find’ something and therefore intern spending more money/going against the whole point of watching what you’re spending.
I try to vary our meals. We all have favourites that we can easily get stuck in a rut with making each week, so I do try and spend some time researching new meals. We do however have two days where our meals are set – Sunday and Monday. But they are by far our families favourite meals.
Working on a basis on a meat every other day plan also gives room for variation. I’d love to be more plant-based, but have yet to find many recipes simple enough and that also don’t contain fish or nuts. Help on a postcard.
Weekly meal plan done and it’s onto making that shopping list. Now, bear with me on this crazy that is about to come at you but, this is how I personally do it – I know my store pretty well now, so I actually write my shopping list as if I were going around it. By that I mean, in my head I take a trip around the store and write that I need from each section/aisle. For example, I know that upon entering, you’re greeted by the flowers, then it’s cereals on one side, tea and coffee on the other then come the bread etc. So my list is written so that I can easily tick off my items as I go round, rather than standing in an aisle and then finding something or looking for something on my list.
I warned you it was crazy.
The Food Shop.
I generally enter the store with just £40 in my hand. My bank card is sometimes with me, just in case I do go over, which is never by more than a few pounds and is normally when I’m buying nappies, wipes and dog food. I feel having the cash in my hand and also my shopping list, it makes it difficult to give into the temptation to buy anything other than what I need. One thing I’ve not done so much recently, as I’m getting to a point where my mental arithmetic and also knowledge has meant I can do it as I go or estimate from just my shopping list what my total will be, but I began this by using the calculator on my phone to add everything up as I went around the store. This lets me see not only that I was in, within or over budget as I went, but also allowed me to make some choices on the products/food I was buying. How big a pack, or what type etc.
We do live and eat from week to week. If you were to see our fridge and cupboards on a Thursday they’re near empty. Although we live like this to watch our spending, living week to week and doing the steps above does ultimately meal that we throw less away. Obviously, the amount of packaging is out of our hands and we recycle like anyone else. But we have so much less wastage. Even leftover of meals. We cook for three, not 8 or 10 (or the five thousand as I used to say to my mum!).
I hope this has answered some questions and maybe given food for thought for your own circumstances. I’m going to follow up this post with one dedicated to meals/recipes we use from week to week, so keep an eye out for that.