Thrifty mother-of-two slashes her grocery bill by £300 a month after inputting the entire contents of her kitchen into a SPREADSHEET (and here’s how you can do it)
- Paula Marshall, from Luton, inputs her freezer contents into a spreadsheet
- System allows her to organise family meals up to six weeks in advance
- Paula prepares tasty meals like tuna pasta bake for only 50p per head
- Family of four have slashed monthly shopping bill from £650 to just £300
A thrifty mother-of-two has managed to halve her family’s monthly food bill by planning meals up to six weeks in advance.
Super organised Paula Marshall, 32, from Luton, inputs her freezer contents into a spreadsheet, enabling her to cook up healthy, balanced meals for her family of four for as little as 41p per head.
The frugal blogger created detailed databases to keep tabs on her food spending 12 months ago, in a bid tobring her and husband Phill’s food shopping bill under control and eat healthier – and estimates she has saved a staggering £300 a month.
The couple, from Luton, were spending a hefty £650 on groceries every month – totalling £7,800 each year – due to unplanned supermarket shops, takeaway meals and mid-week convenience store splurges.
She now regularly prepares nutritious meals like beef stew for as little as £1.10 per head, meatballs and pasta for £1 per head, and pasta bake for only 50p per head.
Now that’s thrifty! Paula Marshall (pictured with children Kayleigh and Ethan) inputs her freezer contents into a spreadsheet, enabling her to cook up healthy, balanced meals
Part of Paula’s spreadsheet database showing how much she spends on each of her meals, with some – like her leftover chicken stew – coming to just £1.20
It was only when Paula went through her bank statements that she realised just how much their spending had spiralled out of control.
She vowed to whip their finances into shape and started planning all the family’s meals by using the skills she had gained in her job in finance.
She took an ’emergency stock take’ of her fridge, freezer and cupboards, recording every single item on a spreadsheet to prevent her from making any unnecessary purchases.
Paula buys meat hampers from MuscleFood.com filled with chicken breasts, lean steak mince and low-fat sausages, then supplements the meat with low cost ingredients to make enough meals for around six to eight weeks.
One of Paula’s signature dishes, chicken pie and vegetables, which leaves enough leftovers for lunch the next day. Altogether the ingredients come to £4
Paula’s £1.20 leftover chicken stew (left) and £3.40 beef stew, served with dumplings and potatoes (right). The frugal financial assistant created detailed databases to keep tabs on her food spending 12 months ago
Paula’s toad in the hole. Since overhauling her shopping habits, the mother-of-two now cooks up healthy, balanced meals for her family of four for as little as 41p per head.
Paula’s chilli steak and jacket potatoes
• Steak (2 steaks) – £4.80
• Potatoes – £0.35
• Peppers – £0.40
• Onion – £0.10
• Spices – £0.05
Paula’s meatballs & pasta
• Meatballs – £3.20
• Pasta – £0.30
• Tomatoes – £0.30
• Carrot – £0.05
• Onions – £0.10; herbs – £0.05
This means that Paula’s weekly evening meals for her, 34-year-old Phill and children Kayleigh, nine and Ethan, seven, tot up to just £25 on average (comprising five dinners for four people).
Paula said: ‘I never really knew how much money we were spending on food every month until I sat down with our bank statements one day and totted up everything we’d bought that month.
‘I was shocked beyond belief when it came to around £650 – I just couldn’t believe it.
‘My husband and I made the decision to clean up our spending and I started documenting my meal planning and prepping on my blog, Mummy vs Work.’
Paula says the key to keeping meal costs low is making the ingredients go further, and buying the cheapest, home brand essentials wherever possible.
She said: ‘Bulking out meals with low cost ingredients is a fantastic way to help them go further – I try to do this wherever I can so I can freeze a few portions.
It was only when Paula (pictured here with husband Phill and children Kayleigh and Ethan) went through her bank statements that she realised just how much their spending had spiralled out of control
Woman on a mission: Paula vowed to whip their finances into shape and started planning all the family’s meals by using the skills she had gained in her job in finance
Before overhauling their shopping habits, Paul and Phill were spending a hefty £650 on groceries every month – totalling £7,800 each year
‘That way, there’s always something in the freezer ready to be re-heated so we’re not so tempted to reach for the takeaway menu when we get home from work.
‘Doubling up on tins of tomatoes, mixed beans and other cheap veg in dishes is a cost effective, healthy way of stretching meals out that bit further.
‘Even compared to other quick options like ready meals, we’re still saving up to £3 or £4 every mealtime when you take the two adults and two children into consideration.’
Paula added: ‘The money we save goes into a kitty at the end of every month and last year, it helped us save for a family holiday to Greece. This year, it’s going towards funding home renovations.
Shopping haul: Paula now regularly prepares nutritious meals like beef stew for as little as £1.10 per head, meatballs and pasta for £1 per head, and tuna pasta bake for only 50p per head
Paula buys meat hampers from MuscleFood.com filled with chicken breasts, lean steak mince and low-fat sausages, then supplements the meat with low cost ingredients
Paula’s chicken pie
• Chicken (2 x breasts) – £2.10
• Carrot – £0.10
• Mushrooms – £0.20
• Onions – £0.10
• Puff pastry – £1.50
Paula’s tuna pasta bake
• Tinned tuna – £0.80
• Pasta – £0.30
• Coleman’s pasta mix – £0.50
• Milk – £0.20
• Cheese – £0.20
‘There are hundreds of families across the country that are likely in the same boat we were in.
‘My best advice would be to take the time to really look at your finances and tot up what you’re spending on food every month – the total will probably shock you. Then, start to make realistic meal plans and stick to it.
‘You haven’t got to be a gourmet chef to make it work, just fill up on store cupboard essentials and get creative.
‘Make use of discount codes, offers and cashback apps wherever possible too. They may only save you a few pennies each time, but it soon adds up.’
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