Mrs MummyPenny Talks is back for Season Five.
This season I’ll be joined by Faith Archer of ‘Much More With Less’ and our seven episodes will focus on practical advice for dealing with the Cost-of-Living Crisis.
We’re grateful to our sponsors, PensionBee, who are on a mission to make pensions simple. To find out more and or sign up to PensionBee you can use this referral code where both of us will get a £50 credit to our pensions http://refer.pensionbee.com/mQeBiQC
Episode 2 is FOOD. Here is the transcribed show notes
Welcome to episode two of Mrs MummyPenny Talks Cost-of-Living with Much More With Less. We are very happy to have you back again, and we are really looking forward to talking about this essential subject, food. I’ve been talking about cost-of-living subjects recently in terms of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. We need to focus on the bottom layer of that, which is food, water, shelter and security. The first thing we need to do is feed our kids and feed ourselves, so we thought we’d start with food. I just want to shout out our sponsors PensionBee. Thank you for sponsoring this whole season five of Mrs MummyPenny Talks, and now over to me talking about PensionBee and their podcast. “So, we get it, pensions can be complicated, but PensionBee’s on a mission to make them simple with its podcast. Whether you’re just starting on your savings journey, nearing retirement, or somewhere in between the Pensions Confident Podcast can help you to get the best out of your pension. I joined them for Episode Five to discuss the cost-of-living crisis, why it’s happening, and when it will all be over. You can find this and other episodes of the Pension Confident Podcast on all major podcast platforms, which are available to listen to today” So let’s get into the nitty gritty of food and exactly what we can do to make some quick savings and really make a difference on our food budget.
Absolutely. Because food is not just essential, it’s usually one of the biggest bills for families after their rent or mortgage. I think we’ve all noticed the prices going up at the till every time we buy food. So, biggest savings for the least effort? Lynn, what do you reckon?
So, a few years ago when I set up Mrs MummyPenny, I used to do my shop at Tesco. About five or six years ago I made a big shift, and it takes a mind shift to do this. I went to Aldi and that move, about five years ago, saved about 40% on my weekly shop by switching from Tesco to Aldi. Of course there’s Lidl as well, or Iceland. Actually no, Iceland is not actually that cheap, is it? So, Aldi and Lidl are great, great alternatives. Get rid of the snobbishness. Their food is brilliant. They’ve got really good fruit and veg, really good meat, really good basics, really good reduced section.
Excellent and I think that’s the thing. Just switching your supermarket and switching your brand. You can buy exactly the same stuff, but from a cheaper supermarket. It will cut a huge chunk of your bills. My confession time is I’m looking back at when my husband and I were both working living and working in London, with London jobs and no kids – Ocado deliveries! I sob now to think how much I could have saved.
I’ve never done that in my life. I’ve never done an Ocado shop. Have you ever shopped at Waitrose?
Oh, yeah. Not anymore, but I have.
We’ve just had a massive M&S open near us in Stevenage. It’s really difficult to not go in there.
My other biggest saving with the least effort would be around meal planning. Do check what on earth you’ve got in the house. Shop from the contents of your cupboards, fridge and freezer first. It doesn’t need to be a big deal, jotting down a few meal ideas to use up what you’ve already got. Then just buying what else you need. Just those extras. If you’re hearing the siren call of M&S and if there’s a few targeted things that would make a massive difference to the taste of your meals, then maybe go for it. Otherwise, biggest saving and least effort is to switch your supermarkets and switch your brands. Dangerous!
Can I also add one? I’ve got another one. Sorry to take over because Episode Two is meant to be Faith’s episode. We’re sort of taking turns with episodes and food is a specialist area for Faith. But I’ve got this really cool strategy of how you walk around a supermarket, which is ignoring what they get you to do. What I say is, number one, get a half size trolley rather than a full-size trolley. You can’t fit as much in it! Then when you get into the supermarket and they’re trying to get you to go down the power rail with all the offers stuff – ignore that. First place you go is the reduced section. So you’ve got your list folks, we already talked about your list. First place you go to is the reduced section, and tick off the things from your list that are in that reduced section. We all know where that section is. There’s a particular time of day in supermarkets when it’s the best time to go. I know Co Op is normally eight or nine at night. You can get food that’s like 10% of the actual normal cost. With reduced stuff, most of it you can freeze. I did not know you can freeze cheese, you can freeze milk, you can freeze vegetables, you can freeze fruit, you can freeze pretty much everything. Breads – I’ve got so much bread in my freezer. That’s if you’re blessed with a big freezer I must point out, because I know a lot of people have got those small freezers at the top of the fridge – freezer compartment. So, first place you go is the reduced section. Then you go to the freezer section, you can get much cheaper meats when it’s frozen. You can get a bag of chicken breasts, a bag of salmon fillets, whatever. I have to say I do serve chicken nuggets to my children, because they love them, which I get from the freezer section. I don’t make my own chips, I buy oven chips, but I’ve got a great tip on oven chips when it comes to it. The next section I go to is canned. Then, once I’ve ticked off all those things off my list, that’s when you go to fresh fruit and veg, fresh meat and your grocery items like that.
I think it’s very sensible being aware of all the shenanigans that supermarkets get up to to try and force you to spend more money. My main things about food; if you want to bring your bills down, you need to buy less, pay less for what you buy, and waste less. So, you’ve talked about buying less, because you’ve talked about taking a smaller shopping trolley so that you don’t overfill. You’re talking about paying less because you’re going for those yellow stickered short-dated foods. They’re not a bargain if they go in the bin though, and you do need to think about how you can store them. Then making sure that you try different forms of your food. Again, this is somewhere where the swaps can come in. Maybe it might be worth, rather than salmon, trying something cheaper like mackerel. If you’re going for fruit, then buying fruit that’s in season; going for the apples rather than the mangoes. Or, if you really want some mangoes, maybe go for the frozen version that will store better and you can just use the smaller quantities. I think those are my mantras – buy less, pay less for what you want, and waste less. What I really hate is the idea of throwing fivers in the bin. The average UK family throws away £60 of food a month according to Love Food Hate Waste. That’s 720 quid a year, I would rather be spending that on other things.
I hate waste, hate it. I hate waste in every kind of scenario, not just food. Like clothes. I hate clothes being thrown away. Give them to a charity shop or give them to your friends. We’ll maybe come on clothes in another episode. But I agree. I think we’re definitely singing from the same hymn sheet. I can’t believe I just said that!
One thing I want to know your views on, because one of my big tenants is that it’s a tradeoff, as so many things are, between time and money. To me, what I have found personally, is that if I really want to bring my food bills down, I end up cooking from scratch. That is more of an investment in time. If you’re cooking with raw ingredients, they’re likely to be cheaper compared to buying ready meals and prepared foods, especially compared to take aways or eating out. It can be healthier because you know what is actually in there. Bear in mind that you do pay extra for convenience. If you’re going to buy, for example, those little sachets of porridge oats, where it’s all been weighed out in paper sachets, that is going cost more than if you just buy a big box and weigh it out yourself. Where do you stand on the cooking from scratch thing?
It goes in fits and starts. Bear in mind how my life works. I have one week where I have me and my three kids. Then I’ve got the next week where I’ve just got me rambling around in my house with Trev.
Trev the cat.
Sorry, yes. Trev the cat, not Trev the man. Also I have a very busy life. One of my children plays football three nights a week. Then on the other two nights, another child plays football. So, I’m busy every night. My eldest plays football for Cambridge United, so I’m having to drive from Hertfordshire to Newmarket. It’s like four or five hours out of the evening. So, I don’t have time to cook from scratch during the week. Do I do at the weekends? No, sorry, I don’t. But I do things!
You do cook some stuff, because I’ve seen your recipe for spaghetti Bolognese?
And that Bolognese sauce is great. And I’m guessing that, when you cook it, you do a whole vat of it.
Yeah, you’re right. I do.
It doesn’t take that much longer to cook twice as much. If you freeze half of it, portioned out, you’ve then got your own homemade ready meals.
What I was going to say is I’ve got more time at the weekend. So that’s when I’ll do my batch cooking. So yeah, I’ve got this amazing recipe for spaghetti Bolognese that my mum taught me. Do you teach your children how to cook? Up?
Well, I’ve tried. I’ve tried got George cookery book!
It depends on your children, doesn’t it? Certainly, my youngest really enjoys cooking. I taught him how to make scrambled eggs the other week, and he now can make scrambled eggs by himself. So just go ahead and make them for me as I don’t have a husband there! Although, does your husband help you cook?
We have a deal where he cooks one night a week. Not just cooks, he has to also think about what he is going to cook. I’ve got one very picky eater!
Not just get to take away!
Exactly. Think about what he’s going to cook and buy it. That’s because I said my evening off is not about me saying ‘right, here’s all the ingredients, here’s what you’re going to cook’. He’s takes responsibility for that one. I think the point you were making about what a busy life you have, that’s one of the things that I definitely take into account when I’m planning about my food shopping. I actually check my diary. What I would hate to do is fill the fridge with fresh food and then it’s a week when you’re out all the time. You’re eating with other people, you’re on the run, you can’t cook any of it and it gets wasted. When you’re thinking about your meals, plan for the nights when you’re not going to need to cook. Plan for the nights when cooking would be a complete nightmare. I don’t know about you, but we’ve got a bank of super quick recipes. You know; pasta with pesto, pasta with creme fraiche, ham and frozen peas. The kinds of things that you can whip up.
That’s a good idea, what’s in it?
Pasta. While it’s cooking add frozen peas for the second bit. When you’ve drained it, dump in some creme fraiche, dump in chopped up ham or chopped up salmon trimmings, or leftover chicken from a roast would be great. I actually use Grana Padano rather than Parmesan cheese because it’s cheaper. And it’s on the table in about a quarter of an hour.
That’s amazing. So that’s got carbohydrates, it’s got protein, it’s got one veg. I’d maybe add in another veg.
And some salad maybe. But my kids will actually eat it
I think mine would as well.
So, it’s thinking about what nights you’re going to be around and how you can have quick meals on the days that you need to. When you have time, like your weekend, that’s when you can do your batch cooking, and have food in the freezer to save you on those nights when you cannot face it. You mentioned chicken nuggets, we have the concept of the emergency pizza.
You’ve told me about that. I think we’ve all got that emergency pizza, haven’t we?
You need something like that to prevent the lure of the takeaway, when you’re really tired. Just have that really easy thing that you can bang in the oven. It means that you save the money compared to getting a delivery.
Let’s talk about fake-aways. My kids, they absolutely love Wagamama. And they absolutely love Five Guys. How do we get around this?
Wagamama have a cookbook. I borrowed it from the library before. You might have to have a look if there are particular recipes they really like because there might be specialist ingredients. I’ve never actually thought of doing that. The great thing about having a conversation with Faith is that I learn stuff from you. We’re literally recording this podcast live and I didn’t even think of getting the Wagamama cookbook. We did that because we’ve had three offers from those HelloFresh and Gousto boxes. When you first sign up as a new customer, you can get massive discounts off the boxes that send you pre-prepared ingredients and recipe plans. My son loves it. He loves having the sheet with all the little picture, instructions, and bags that you take out. But, when you’re paying full price, it’s pretty pricey for what it is. So, the cookbook we got it was the HelloFresh cookbook. We can talk about what recipes he wants to cook; I can go and buy the ingredients and he can make this food that he really enjoys.
So, let’s talk about recipe boxes. I know that’s something that we’ve discussed before, and you’ve been a bit disappointed in me!
Oh no! Look, it’s up to anybody how they spend their money. If you want to buy a glittery catsuit, go for it.
I would love that.
Absolutely. But it’s more that if you’re in a position where you’ve got to choose where to put your money, we can suggest ways to save money in some areas to free up money to spend elsewhere.
I do like the idea though of trying HelloFresh, getting the good deals for like the first four weeks, then canceling your direct debit. Then moving to Gousto and getting the good offers there. You just have to be really smart with canceling the subscriptions.
That’s the thing because it turns up if you’ve forgotten to pause it, or you’ve forgotten to cancel. Suddenly you suddenly get a box at full price with maximum meals for maximum people. Yeah, forty quid. It can be way more than that!
What I will also shout out, and I have no affiliation with this company just to point out, what food got me through lockdown? Mindful Chef. That’s how I learned how to cook vegan. With mindful chef, you pick and choose your meals. I set my settings as I only wanted vegan food. Meat is very expensive. Vegetarian isn’t. I mean, that’s just the whole money saving comment there, eat more pulses, eat more vegetables. Eat more, actually, tofu is quite expensive. I had one week by myself during lockdown and wasn’t even allowed to see people. I literally just had my cat for company every other week, I was fine with that, just did lots of zooms. But I really enjoyed getting the Mindful Chef boxes because I couldn’t go out to restaurants to eat. The food is really good quality. It taught me how to cook vegetarian and vegan food properly because, as you say the recipes are really good. Absolutely, it was my choice to pay money, but it was costing about £30 for four meals a week, which I used to make last two weeks. There’d always be leftovers because, even though they say it’s for two people, it’s actually enough for three. So, £30 for six meals just for me. That felt pretty good. What were you going to say? say,
I’m glad that it works for you. And I can absolutely see it’s a saving compared to restaurants. What I’d hope was maybe you hung on to the recipe cards so that you can cook from them?
I don’t need to buy a recipe book because I’ve literally got 40 Mindful Chef magazines packed full of recipe ideas.
I use the internet or I Google if I’ve got particular ingredients. The BBC website is reliable. There’s loads of brilliant food bloggers out there. But I think that £5 a meal for one person, that is a pretty expensive.
It’s nice, though. It’s a treat and it’s a much, much better alternative to take-away. With a take-away, honestly, you’re looking at £20/£25 per head. Even fish and chips. Fish and Chips has gone up loads. That’s the cheapest takeaway.
I think I’d go McDonald’s with the vouchers.
Oh yeah, good shout.
As you might tell, I’m not the biggest fan of take-aways.
I don’t like McDonald’s.
Fair enough. But, when you were talking about the ones you did like, like Wagamama, Five Guys and Mindful Chef, it’s thinking of the fake-aways. How do you recreate that at home? How can you go to a supermarket and look at things like the cost per kilo, so that you are buying the best deal you can to recreate those recipes you love.
I’m waiting to see what he does about burgers! I’ve got a really good tip about burgers. Gordon Ramsay. We all love Gordon Ramsay, don’t we? He’s got this YouTube video, the best burger in the world. My youngest found it and he’s like, ‘mummy, look at this’. So literally, it’s just some minced meat from the butchers, good quality minced meat. It’s garlic granules, it’s salt and pepper, so much butter you would not believe. You put it in the freezer and then you grate it in. Find the YouTube video for that. If you put in ‘Gordon Ramsay’s best burger’ you’ll find it. Anyway, we made it at home. It was incredible and literally the boys are like ‘this is the best burger I’ve ever tasted’. So, there you go. That’s how you beat Five Guys. I promise you. It might have to be from Trussells Butchers in Knebworth, which is famous in the Robbie Williams autobiography.
I would be really interested if you did a taste test. I’m all for supporting local businesses where you can. But, if you actually did a taste test, and you compare it to some mince that you’ve got in the supermarket?
I’ve done it. And the boys were like, “No. Tesco mincemeat? No.”
Did they know you were switching it?
They did know. Okay, that’s a good idea to do a taste test.
This is one of the things. One of the ways that I’ve saved a lot is switching down brands. So, if you think about it, rather than buying supermarket own brand, looking at the value ranges. I would recommend to anybody that you try switching down. If you find something and you don’t really notice the difference, you can buy the cheaper version every time after that, you’re going to save every time you go shopping. Sometimes it’s not exactly the same, but you know what, it’s fine.
Yeah. And it’s getting your kids used to it as well. I think that’s always been my biggest struggle. “It’s the kids saying, “oh, we have to have Nutella, we can’t have Aldi, chocolate spread”. It does my head in. And I have actually conceded on that.
Well, I think there are some things that you may want to concede on, but not necessarily everything. Or you might just do sneaky things like switching the boxes.
I’ve actually heard of people distilling Aldi chocolate spread into Nutella.
I’m not sure go that far, but certainly cereal, I’ve reboxed that.
Have you? That’s just as bad Faith.
I’m not saying it’s any better. I’m just saying it’s easier physically than scraping!
Can I just say that Aldi Weetabix is the same as Weetabix. It’s the same. There are some things that are better. What do I think is better in Aldi than the other alternatives? Shampoo. The dupes are better.
They do have some brilliant dupes. So, we’ve had to think about how to buy less and using stuff up. We’ve had a think about how to pay less avoiding the titular supermarkets. And we’ve had a talk about wasting less by not overbuying. I do recommend storing your food properly. One of my other tips if you do a meal, especially with your growing boys; portioning it out onto plates, rather than putting a big bowl of food in the middle for everyone to help themselves, if you want to batch cook and freeze some. I’m not suggesting you starve the kids, fill them up with loads of vegetables, potatoes, that kind of thing. Yeah. But you portion it out for you.
Can I also talk about some of the articles I’ve written for newspapers? We’re probably going to go a little bit over 25 minutes on this one. We’re trying to keep the time limit on these podcasts quite short and snappy, they will definitely be less than half an hour. I’ve written a lot for The Sun and The Mirror about some great meal plans for a week. I’ve talked about packed lunches for 10 quid, for three kids, for a week. Now that is way cheaper. What would school dinners cost for three kids for a week? It’s £2.50 a day per child? £7.50 times five. That’s £37.50. £37.50 for school dinners. No way am I paying that when I can do packed lunches for a tenner. I’ll put links to all these articles that I’ve written. I did a really good one at the beginning of locked down for The Sun which was “How To Feed Your Kids for £40”. It’s for one adult and three children for a week and it’s utilizing like a roast chicken. I did buy a good quality roast chicken from Aldi, but it was their organic one. Then reusing the leftovers from the chicken for the Monday, and then for sandwiches on a Tuesday. So, you need to make sure you buy a chunky chicken, a big chicken. Then my spag bol was in there, but use the minced meat for spaghetti Bolognese and for a cottage pie. I revisited that article a couple of months ago and I price compared all the ingredients at Aldi. That £40 had only gone up to £42. On those specific items, some things had gone up, some things have gone down. I was obviously being really sensible, and everything was home cooked. I’d put a lot of thought into my meal plan, but it is possible to feed for people for around 40 quid a week.
Once you’ve put together that meal plan, you could potentially repeat that in future. It saves time in looking ahead.
I’m going to pop links to those articles in the bio. I also need to touch on if you’re really struggling. So, food banks. There are food banks everywhere. Unfortunately. We’ve just set up one in my village, Knebworth, because we didn’t have one in my village. I’m part of that project. That makes me feel sick but, I’m helping. I always put an item into the basket at the end of my Aldi or Tesco food shop. If you need to get a voucher, you get a voucher from the doctor, from your school, from your social worker. Then you can hand that voucher in at the food bank.
If you’ve got school aged kids and you qualify, make sure they’re registered for school meals.
Oh, absolutely. There’s no shame in it.
It will help. Not just for school dinners, but it will also help your school funding as well.
One other thing. There are these wonderful charities called the Food Waste Hubs. They’re all dotted around the country. I’ve got one in Hitchin, Welwyn and Stevenage. I went and filled two carrier bags for £2.50. It was fruit and veg, breads, cans of Coke, bottles of tonic water. It was amazing. Can I just point out that I didn’t pay £2.50 because I felt really bad. I paid £30 – it is a charity. There are all these charities popping up. The thing with Food Bank is it’s for grocery items. All the waste and environmental food hub things are for fresh produce. Be aware of what’s going on in your local community.
I think we’ve covered so many different tips about how to slash the cost of your food shopping. We’ve looked at how to buy less, pay less, waste less, and really make a dent in those bills at the till.
It was a really great episode and I’ve learned a lot. Thank you for listening to Mrs. MummyPenny Talks Cost-of-Living with Much More With Less, in collaboration with our friends at PensionBee. You can follow me on social media, Mrs MummyPenny UK or just Google ‘Mrs MummyPenny’.
And I’m on Instagram and Twitter at muchmore_less and my website is www.muchmorewithless.co.uk.
We’ll be back again for Episode Three next week where we are going to be talking about energy. Thank you for listening and goodbye.