The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

How to save money in 2008

bechamel sauceI loathe making béchamel sauce.

But it’s delicious and useful and can pull round a flagging handful of dreary ingredients.

So I left work early and immediately began to make six pints of the stuff. Not a sado masochistic culinary whim. I found 6 pints of milk for just 25p on a late night shopping expedition a few days ago and I am on a super cost cutting regime.

Making six pints of béchamel sauce was a doddle. It took about 15 minutes longer than making just one pint and has saved me loads of time. The scary thing is that I hadn’t realised that if you buy 6 pints of milk in one pack/bottle at the normal price you save 30% over three 2-pint bottles. That discovery inspired us to consider buying food in bulk. I knew that packagng was expensive. I had no idea that it could impact so much on the price of milk.

Having survived the 2007 non flower buying challenge I have decided to not buy flowers again. Ever. A chill crept up my back when I typed that. I saw some wonderful tulips today and for a split second prepared to speed into the shop. And then I remembered.

I have set a tough new challenge for 2008 – I want to cut our weekly outgoings by 25%. That’s our food, drink and housekeeping consumables.

I have been working on this for the past year or so, chipping away bit by bit but the boundaries need to be firmed up. I’ve saved nearly £500 by not buying flowers in 2007. I could save substantially more in 2008. It will be a real challenge – I love good food and wine and companionable supermarkets.

Saving money takes time. If I work six days a week, I don’t have time for an extended search of the bargain shops. The warm arms of Waitrose beckon with great food, always fresh and top quality but a bit on the pricey side.

We sat down this evening and planned our tentative campaign. Why visit three supermarkets once a week? With good planning (gulp) the cheaper emporiums could be visited once a month. We are going to withdraw the cash for the shop each week. There is nothing like fingering notes to bring the message home.

Needless to say this discussion developed into bigger plans. These would require military style precision. We need to put feelers out first. Hopefully by next month’s post we will have progressed and have exciting plans to share with you. If not they will be interesting.

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  1. Mildred

    I agree with you too Steph, we use Waitrose for a home delivery grocery shop, and the fact that you are not walking around with a cavernous trolley to fill with tempting items makes a big difference. I still pop into Tesco for their cheap sultanas (for the birds) and their mixed nuts (for the tame squirrels) and for basics as required, but every other week we have a Waitrose delivery (and what a joy not having to lug all the heavy things such as flour etc into the car and out again!). As you mention, you can keep a good check on the items in your virtual trolley and as you go over the list to make sure it is all in order, you are more likely to delete something than you would if you had dropped it in your real trolley.

    I also found that, as I hated going round Tesco so much, I should give myself a treat to compensate, such as a new book or a dvd . . . now we have joined for all our reading requirements, and for all our dvd rentals – more money has been saved!

    I also think that the more home made food dishes you make the less ‘bought’ foods you want to buy – and just reading the lists of ingredients on processed foods is enough to put me off!

    Overall, I have found that making our own bread, baking (we always have a couple of cakes/slices on the go at once), making butter (with cream from the farm working our cheaper), and simple home cooked supper dishes complete with home grown veg where possible, not only saves money but adds significantly to our quality of life.

  2. Kate(uk)

    I agree with Steph- I get a vegbox and just buy basic ingredients from Waitrose/Ocado to compliment it,making sure I take full advantage of any special offers on things I regularly buy and use:it is as cheap as anywhere else for that and the veg box makes you just cook with what you have supplemented by whatever has grown, despite the weather, in the garden. Cleaning- get e-cloths, vinegar and bicarb and the occasional lemon and that covers just about everything.
    I’m going to see just how stingy I can be this year…

  3. Hi Fiona,

    I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of months and love it – but have lurked up to now!

    I live with my partner, just the two of us, in the UK and we also like good food and are both busy running our own business. I researched into supermarket and bulk buying, being realistic with what we would be miserable without too, and also I refused to compromise on quality ingredients for health as well as contentment.

    I found that a bulk buy from a wholefood co-op would tie up an waful lot of money and still leave us without a lot of things.

    I next investigated supermarkets. I listed what we needed and compared the delivery costs and petrol/time costs of going ourselves too as we live in a more remote location – at least as far as major supermarkets are concerned.

    I found, item for item, that my local Tesco is more expensive for us the Waitrose. Seriously. I think the bigger players are cheaper if you buy processed food and ready meals, but for basic ingredients for us, Waitrose came out on top. It wasn;t just the same for better quality, it was cheaper. I went to a box scheme (Abel and Cole – can’t recommend them highly enough) for veg, leaving just groceries from a supermarket and ordered a fortnightly delivery via Ocado (Waitrose themselves don’t deliver in my area).

    I find ordering online curbs my tendency to add things I don’t need. I book a delivery slot in advance and fill my basket, leaving time to go back through the basket before the deadline and remove all my impulse buys LOL! It works well for me – I have saved a lot this way as I do tend to buy food eye candy in person.

    I know this probably sounds a bit bizarre – a higher end shop saving you money – but I think if you are bothered about quality and there are only two of you, it’s well worth investigating.

    Needless to say, the service is excellent too, and the time and transport costs work out cheaper for us too.

  4. This is a good thing to be doing, Fiona. As hard as it is not to buy flowers, we can live without them. I just try not to look at flowers at the store and instead, encourage some of my houseplants to bloom. They seem to last a lot longer too.

    It’s a satisfying feeling in the end, too, to know that you’ve cut down costs.

    Happy New Year!

  5. Kethry’s suggestions of and (Martin’s money tips) are good ones.

    I would also highly recommend which is a cash referral site. This is such a worthwhile thing to do we’ve earned literally hundreds of pounds back from purchases by going through quidco. In brief you decide what you want to buy, check if quidco are affiliated with the store you want to buy from and if they are then you can earn money back by going via the quidco site. Car insurance is particularly good for this – I got £120.00 cashback on what was already the cheapest quote by far.

    I’m trying to be better at all this. Hubs on the other hand is an expert! 25% is a pretty tough order, I wish you lots of luck, I have every faith you’ll do it though!

  6. Toffeeapple

    You could save money on cleaning stuff, get a microcloth, some bi-carb and a lemon or two and you can clean almost anything.

  7. Michelle

    Bravo to you! It’s a tough road that some find by necessity and others from responsibility and still others from somewhere in between. I’m still working on mine. I’ll tell you the two things that changed us the most though. One was buying a chest freezer. Then we could buy things in bulk and not worry about space as well as cooking in bulk. The other was a book called Tightwad Gazette. This is an amazing and inspirational book that is filled as much with philosophy as tips and ideas and recipes. She also helps to teach you how sometimes things seem like they are saving money but they are not.

    Good luck!

  8. Good luck Fiona, and Minamoo too. Planning. So easy to say, so hard to do, because the moments that trip you up are the ones when you haven’t planned well in advance. My resolution is to make sure that there really are emergency meals in my larder and freezer. (One problem is that I don’t want to eat them unless it’s an emergency, and then, by the time it is, they’re less than appetising … rotation is the answer, I suppose …)

    On saving, I have found that getting a vegetable box is a good plan. It puts veg at the centre of the meal, and that’s the least expensive foodstuff. Guy Watson at Riverford sends periodic calculations that his veg are cheaper than ordinary Tesco veg, never mind organic ones, but I’ve never double-checked on that.

    There’s another thing about a veg box: you’ve always got something to eat in the house, so you don’t need to go to the supermarket. Coupled with a periodic delivery of heavy/large stuff, I don’t often go to the supermarket, where there’s so much temptation to impulse-buy. Inspired by you, I’m going to try to make savings from this bit, and go to a cash-and-carry, which I’ve vaguely been meaning to do for several months, and which, spurred on by you, I will now make a higher priority.

    But I’ve got a long way to go on this, so I’ll be really interested to read your thoughts and actions … best of luck


  9. Can i make two suggestions that might help with all this?

    1) use – you can compare the prices of things at major supermarkets before you go to the shops.

    2) start using – there are shopping pages, OS (old style – as in how our grannies would’ve lived), green pages, gardening pages, everything! The guy who’s running the site who is a financial journalist is doing his own TV show on wed 16th jan – 7.30pm, Channel 5. if you get time. 🙂 if not, then look at the forums on the site. and yes, the kethry there is me. There are loads of tips on how to save money in the supermarket on those forums..


  10. Minamoo

    Fiona I have to do the same thing too and I’ve been meaning to for ages but somehow when you’re living on your own you just tend to buy so much more crap to eat cos you have nobody to talk to. Ahh……..the joys of living in student halls….Reading your post though I have decided that I really must make an effort to be good and not spend tons of money on food I just end up throwing away this year. I however need to go one step further and not buy any more junk food (she says staring at the multipack of Jaffa cakes and the breadsticks on her desk) and buy only fruit, veg and some meat and fish. I have gained a crazy amount of weight over the last couple of years and it’s about time I stopped moaning about it and actually did something proactive (I don’t know if ‘something proactive’ will be covering sit-ups anytime soon though….they are the work of the devil). If I cut down on my food expenditure and exclude non-essential junk food from my shops I will not only lost weight but save money too. I think that we can do it. I shall think of you every time I reach for that packet of jaffa cakes next time I go into (eurgh) Morrisons! Good luck to us both is all I can say!

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