Student loans are great when they first come in, but sooner or later that pot of gold starts to disappear and you need to be savvy with your money. Recently, I had to tighten my metaphorical belt somewhat and reduce my budget for each month.
There are plenty of guides out there on how to save money by minimising your food budget, but I’ve found the majority don’t cater to vegetarian diets. So, with a little research and practise, I have reduced my essential food budget to just £50 a month. Yep, you heard that right - £50 a month!
There are many ways to reduce your food budget: avoiding brand names, bulk buying and freezing, to name a few.
I reduced my budget by bulk buying and making enough food to feed four people every time I cook. I then freeze the excess portions for a later date. Now, I’m going to take you through how I plan and get through the month with £50 for food.
To manage on a small budget each month I have to plan my meals in advance. This means I can buy only what I need and don’t get drawn into any impulse purchases. Here is a typical meal plan for me:
Monday: Fruit and a glass of juice | Sandwich, crisps and cucumber sticks | Ratatouille
Tuesday: Cereal, fruit and a glass of juice | Sandwich, crisps and cucumber sticks | Homemade soup*
Wednesday: Fruit and a glass of juice | Sandwich, crisps and cucumber sticks | Bean burger
Thursday: Cereal, fruit and a glass of juice | Sandwich, crisps and cucumber sticks | Vegetarian chilli
Friday: Fruit and a glass of juice | Sandwich, crisps and cucumber sticks | Vegetarian stew
Saturday: Eggs and orange juice | Sandwich, crisps and cucumber sticks | Bubble and squeak*
Sunday: Eggs and orange juice | Sandwich, crisps, apple and cucumber sticks | Pizza/pasta/etc
*Soup and bubble and squeak can be made out of pretty much any kind of vegetables. I’ll share my favourite combinations with you below.
I normally don’t stick so rigidly to the plan on Sundays and eat something that’s not entirely homemade – such as oven pizza, pasta, etc. Every day also includes all of my five-a-day (except for Sundays, but Mondays include seven, so it balances out).
One of the best things about this meal plan is that it means you can afford to treat yourself to a takeaway without worrying about how much you’ve been spending. Whether you’re a pizza fiend, curry lover or have a soft spot for fish and chips, nothing beats a guilt-free takeaway.
When you want to eat a portion, simply allow it to thaw in the fridge for 24 hours and then heat through on a low heat for 5-10 minutes. You could also try adding a potato to the mix to make it more substantial. Simply dice and boil that with the carrots.
Here is a breakdown of everything I buy in a four-week period. All prices are based off of Tesco’s prices at the time this article was written, and are subject to change.
Monthly: This is what I make dinners out of
That works out at £9.95 per month, excluding any spices (although these are normally around £0.85 each) and carbohydrates, such as pasta and rice (bulk buying these is very cheap).
That works out at £10.01 per week. Times that by four, add £9.95 to it and you’ll reach a grand total of £49.99 to last four weeks. That’s approximately £12.50 a week! Of course, this budget is just basic and only covers your standard daily meals, but with all the money saved you can buy any extras or treats that you want.
If you’re on the hunt for tasty, healthy recipes that are also cheap and affordable then I would recommend checking out Jack Monroe’s website. She has loads of recipes online and in cookbooks, as well as tips and tricks for saving money on food.