Food & wellbeing – How We Live Well On A £50 ($65) A Week Food Budget (Family of 4)
The food budget is one area that most people find difficult to challenge for savings.
Whilst chatting with a friend, she mentioned to me that her food budget is £200 ($260)/week.
I nearly fell off my seat because we live on a fraction of that and happen to also be a family of 4.
She, of course, could not believe it when I told her what we spend on food every week, and was curious to know how!?
Our Food Journey
Our current budget is £50 ($65) per week even though we can choose to spend £200+ per week on food.
I personally don't find it reasonable to spend £200 on just food per week. My brain can't process that.
In the same way, for many of you reading this, your brain can probably not process £50 per week!
Well, you'd be surprised how easily you can adjust as time passes. We live healthily on this amount and embarrassingly have to tell you that we too have food waste sometimes.
Since I met Mary years ago, we’ve always had a £50/week food budget as a guide.
I can’t remember exactly why we chose £50, but it stuck out as a neat round number.
Maybe it followed from the £30/week virtual budget I had when I was a single man and barely cooked anything.
Mary grew up in Hackney in London. If you have no idea where Hackney is, it used to be a somewhat run down and edgy part of London.
Today, it continues to be edgy but super trendy after a totally different “crew” moved in. It’s now so expensive that you’d struggle to buy a studio flat there.
Mary grew up there for 27 years and during special occasions when the family would host others, she would seek out bargains at 5 am weekend wholesale markets with her mum.
These are markets where you go to buy quality bulk fish and meat at unbelievable prices. Details below.
I, on the other hand, grew up in Lagos until I was 14 and then moved to London. What’s interesting about doing life there is that I’d gotten used to scarcity as an option.
What I mean by that is, if I suddenly got poor again tomorrow, I'd adjust very quickly.
Over there, you eat what you kill. You learn to be resourceful very quickly. In fact, it's a must if you want to survive and thrive.
There are no benefits as we have in the UK, USA, and similar countries.
So you can see, I already had quite a lot in common with Mary when we met. Although, we didn’t quite realise it.
When you’re courting, you can’t be seen to be too frugal as I’ve touched on re money and relationships.
Anyway, the honeymoon phase came and we carried on with our neat £50 budget as a guide.
You’d find this hard to believe but we continued this budget even when we had our two sons.
That’s right, even with the need to buy baby food, nappies, etc. Having two boys helps as we bought nothing new for the second child.
There were the odd weeks when our spend exceeded £50 and maybe hit £60 for the week.
But on the whole, it has hovered around the £50 – £55 mark on average.
It is hardly ever below this amount, although there have been a few occasions when Mary made it happen.
Now here is the thing, as time passed, resistance against this food budget grew. Resistance is a good thing by the way.
Mary would speak to her friends with larger pots for shopping and would then later drop the hints about our low budget.
I’ve always quietly laughed at this because £50/week is quite a decent amount of money.
However, given our incomes have increased over time (beyond inflation), there is a case for an increase.
In time though, she has gotten used to it although now and again she would give me that look.
I personally think that having this budget is symbolic and has helped slow down our potential lifestyle creep.
It has also helped us among other things towards paying off our mortgage early.
Our Food Habits
Our eating habits and choice of food has also changed over the years. When I met Mary, we used to love buying Spanish chorizo for example.
I also loved my steak and meatballs and would buy luxurious yogurts and the like.
We also used to buy juices of various kinds and enjoyed them with every meal. We’d eat all kinds of things from seafood to meat dishes, and also went out to eat a lot.
Over time, things started to change as we gradually moved away from eating red meat.
We did this primarily for health reasons although once in a while we might eat meat.
By once in a while, I mean at social gatherings but not at home. This is deliberate.
To get deeper into the micro details of our weekly shopping, I’ve invited Mary to write the rest of this post.
If it’s not clear, I’m the Chief Financial Officer of our home whilst Mary is the Chief Operating Officer.
These are fun titles to have but hopefully, indicate to you that Mary does a lot to keep things running well at home. In addition to work etc.
As Mary does the school runs and gets home earlier, she also shops for us and decides how the food budget is spent.
I make sure the cash is available although more recently we now spend for reward points on our AMEX.
I’ll now hand over to Mary to get into a bit more detail.
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How We Spend It
Guys, below are some of the tips on how we shop and live on £50 per week.
The biggest point is that we now have a mostly Vegan inspired diet. A lot of our shopping consists of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Below is a sample from a recent shop:
Note that in addition to fresh vegetables we also buy some frozen vegetables to add to the above.
Even more noteworthy is the fact that there is no alcohol in our shopping. We aren't drinkers unless socially.
The majority of our shopping is done at the local Aldi Supermarket. This used to be at Tesco and Sainsbury’s.
Aldi does the Aldi Super 6 section. I buy from that section if it is something we will eat. As you can see below, it's near empty as it's very popular!
It took a while for me to adjust but I don’t buy branded products. For example, I didn’t like eating anything else but Heinz Baked beans.
What we found was that our palates just adjusted over time. We eat Aldi branded baked beans, cereals, etc.
Even if it’s Organic, it’s still much cheaper than the big branded products.
With shower gels, we always only ever used the brand called “Simple”.
Aldi had a brand that did the same thing, and when we tried it out, we found that it was just as good.
I’d say about 85% of our shopping is from Aldi. The rest of it we get from elsewhere.
Take milk, for example, we use Coconut milk and it can be expensive.
We tend to buy those from Coop or Sainsbury’s. If they’re doing a deal such as a buy 1 get 1 half price, I tend to go abit over budget and explain it to hubby as a future purchase.
It’s not so strict that we will stick to the £50 budget if we think it will save us money in the future.
Other things like rice, we buy big bags from the Asian and African shops and compare it to the price at Sainsbury’s.
If you know what products you buy on a regular basis, it is good to check on price comparison sites ‘cos it could be cheaper elsewhere.
For example, Aldi sells 2kg bags of rice, but it might make sense to buy a 10kg one from somewhere else.
I’ve found that Lidl sells some of the snacks that we like. Toilet rolls and things we buy on a recurring basis, we now plan to buy bulk from Costco.
Detergents, we also buy the much larger size to economise over a few weeks. This feeds into the £50 and sometimes breaks it, but again it’s a future purchase.
Some weeks we make savings because we don’t always finish our food. For example, we might have been invited to people’s homes or social events or eat out.
When that happens, the next week’s shopping will be slightly cheaper and also offer us the chance to buy things like Avacado, which is quite expensive.
If you eat red meat, one thing you can do is to buy frozen rather than fresh. Or even consider your local butcher.
For fruits and vegetables, I have a dirty dozen list which I refer to. These are the fruits and vegetables, which contain the most pesticides.
If you’re conscious of eating purely organic foods, it’s very good if you can afford to as they come with a markup price.
What we do is look at the dirty dozen list.
If there are items that are not on the dirty dozen list, we just won’t bother buying them organic.
For example, bananas, mangoes, pineapples don’t tend to contain as many pesticides, just because of the skin.
Whereas, apples and berries, for example, get bought organic if I see it. If you simply can’t afford organic, there are ways to get rid of the pesticides on your fruit.
For example, soaking it in warm water and vinegar. You can look online for other ways too.
Another important point is that we do not buy ready meals. This makes a lot of savings.
We also do quick meals and at the weekends, we cook in bulk and freeze. A lot of this food helps on some evenings and end up as packed lunches for work.
When we cannot be bothered with cooking, we might simply buy a fresh pizza and whack it in the oven with chips.
Another important point for those with children is that we trained our children to eat what we eat. This means we don’t buy them fancy branded meals, which can be very expensive.
Some parents might find this very difficult but I would say that it’s usually not the child making the choices but the parents.
Children adjust very easily and forget about things in a matter of days.
Interested in Meal Prep Ideas? Read:
Other Food Points
We typically visit family monthly, and once a month, we have cooked food from parents. This helps as we don't cook for about a day or two.
In addition, we travel for about 4 weeks a year and outsource our cooking to have a break. That too helps in some way.
I hope you’ve found some of that detail helpful. This continues to be a work in progress and is unique to our family.
I’d like to hear some of your tips. Please share them in the comments.
No matter what your current budget is, I'd say there is always room for improvement.
The key is to be intentional about the whole thing and be prepared to put some work in for savings if you want it.
Below are some links for wholesale purchases. These are some of the places I would visit quarterly when I lived in Hackney. I visited the fruit and veg market fortnightly:
Fruits and Vegetables – New Spitalfields Market
Meat Market – Smithfield Market
Fish Market – Billingsgate Fish Market
If you don’t live anywhere near London, there will no doubt be similar options near you.
I'd also highly recommend the Aldi Super 6, which is available at all Aldi Supermarkets.
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What Is Your Current Shopping Budget? Has This Increased Or Decreased In the Last Year?
Do please share this post if you found it useful, and remember, in all things be thankful and Seek Joy.