I was on a Money Coaching Course on Saturday, and was given lots of handouts. One of these handouts was explaining how to fill out a living expenses form for the courts (so the courts can decide how much you can afford to pay back of your debts). And quite frankly, I was surprised at what the courts consider a low-level way of life. You can have a minimum budget of £30-£35 per week per adult (13+) for food and sundries, with another £20 a week for children under the age of 13. In our family situation, that means the court would allow us £110 a week for food and sundries (and this doesn't include leisure, travel, or clothes).
£110 a week?!
I spend far less than that on a regular basis. In fact, the only time I ever spend more than that on a weekly shop is if I am hosting a large party, or it is Christmas.
I am happy if I get my spending below £70 a week for food for 4 of us, and I am successful most weeks. I do this by meal planning, buying in bulk and stocking up the cupboards on offers on things I will use anyway. I make my own laundry liquid (although I am going to have to make some changes to the recipe as the hard water in our area renders the liquid pretty useless), and I make a lot of jams and chutneys. I get a veg box delivered as I find that I make less waste that way. We eat very well, with luxuries like milk being delivered each day, meat most days of the week.
And somewhere, in God's economy, the weeks that I am hosting a meal for someone, or making a meal for a family who need one, and having to be extra careful, or buying more than I usually do, the shopping bill is even less than I usually pay.
I have a lot of inspiration from other websites, such as Money Saving Expert and Down to Earth, and Frugal Queen and because this way of life has become second nature to me, I find myself feeling surprised when people say they don't meal plan!
Hubby and I have decided to be really disciplined with our spending this year. And to actually make savings each month and really watch what we do spend rather than spending when we feel like it (all on stuff that is useful etc, but not necessarily fully researched etc) and using the buffer to dip into. What was the buffer has been reduced and that amount is put into savings as soon as the pay hits the account. Hopefully we'll have enough in 8 months time for our new bathroom :) Ok, the bathroom will be paid off in 8 months time, taking out a loan for the cost is a great way for us to get used to 'losing' the extra amount in the buffer each month.
I have also decided to stop using my debit card unless it is online shopping, and to use cash instead. Watch this space for my 'Adventures in Cash' series!