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Budge it - shadows of echoes of memories of songs — LiveJournal
Budge it
I don't know what to do about budgeting for food. sion_a and I have been sharing evening meals, and basically he's been paying for pretty much everything, which is clearly unfair; but when I suggested trying to allocate a set amount for food he was unhappy about the idea & said he'd prefer to go back to the way we used to do it -- on a completely ad hoc basis, buying food roughly once a week but often more, and sort of taking turns to pay. I can understand why he wouldn't want to do that -- there's no reason why he should have to go without everything he wants just because I'm skint -- but I don't think I can cope with that kind of system and still claw my finances back to a sensible point.

On the other hand, I have no idea how to budget for feeding just one person, because more or less ever since I've lived out I've been sponging off one boyfriend or another, and cooking for at least two people. Basically I'm just not used to living a single life, but it's about time I learned.

How much do people think is a sensible amount of money to allocate for a week's food (lunches and evening meals) for one?

For ages I've been eating at the pub on Thursdays with the rest of the crowd -- is it stupid to try to build that into a budget? (The pub food isn't expensive, but it's still eating-out rather than eating-in. Last night's meal cost £3.25, and that's not quite the cheapest option.)

So far this week I have spent the following:

£ 1.19   5 avocados and 2 bananas
£ 0.99   1 bag of new potatoes
£ 3.25   meal at the pub
£ 2.40   1 pint of beer
£15.00   karate lesson

The potatoes and avocados between them have made lots of salads for lunches. I feel like I've been reasonably good about money, but the evening meals have mostly been covered by stuff that sion_a's bought, so really I'm just sponging still. :-(

Bank balance is looking more healthy, but there's still £86 owed to a friend to come out of that -- and no, I can't pay back in instalments, I just want to clear the debt in one go -- and money for a birthday present for somebody else. Salary comes through in less than a week now, but I know I mustn't see that as the point when I can start spending money again!

Food tonight is sorted: I'm working a shift at the pub so I'll have my usual sandwich or bowl of chips. And more money! Hurrah.

Current Mood: displacing

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livredor From: livredor Date: May 21st, 2004 03:25 am (UTC) (Link)
I've lived on my own and mostly budgeted on my own for about four years out of the seven since I left home. I find that the best way to handle food budgeting is to set a budget and make sure it includes everything you eat. That sounds obvious, but what I mean is that a strategy of only spending a fiver on your weekly shopping, and 'not counting' buying snacks, alcohol, eating out (because that's 'entertainment' rather than 'food') and so on leads to spending more money than a strategy of setting a higher limit but including everything.

Following that rule I try to stick to £20-£25 a week (and usually succeed, I would add). That means I can either buy stuff a bit nicer than absolutely basic essentials when I go to the supermarket, or I can eat out occasionally, or I can allow myself a little slack for buying snacks from the newsagent or getting a kebab because I can't be bothered cooking one evening. But probably not all three of those things every week. If you really want to scrimp, you can probably survive on £15 a week.

Beyond that level, food really isn't a sensible place to economize. I really, really suggest going without other things before you cut your food budget so much that you aren't getting adequate calories or nutrition. £2 a day means you're doing most of the food preparation yourself; at that level you can't afford to pay someone else to cut and butter your sandwiches. If you're used to cooking for two or more, can you cook large quantities and freeze some?
julietk From: julietk Date: May 21st, 2004 03:41 am (UTC) (Link)
I'd agree with those figures - when I was doing my MPhil I was managing to average just under £15/week, but that was pretty damn minimal (buying veg at the market, very rarely buying expensive things like cheese (wasn't vegan then), etc etc. And obviously, being veggie helps ). £20-£25 allows you a little slack for the odd nice thing. I don't think it's at all wrong to build in a cheapish meal at the pub to your budget - if you cut out all the socialising etc you'll just make yourself miserable, & will find it much harder to stick to budget.

I actually found that keeping snacks, eating out etc in the 'entertainment' budget worked better for me, but YMM and obv does V :-)

And seconding the comments about making sure you're eating enough - and healthily, not just sufficient calories. Also about making large quantities of things & freezing - also means that you've got a non-takeout option on evenings when you come in & can't face cooking, or have run out of groceries, or whatever.

With sion_a - the only other option, I guess, would be to suggest that you'd do dinner on certain nights, & he could do them on other nights, but that you'd have to stick to your budget for the nights you cook. Then you avoid sponging (because you're buying half the dinners, and he can choose either to cook at the same financial level on his nights, or spend more and accept that that's his choice), but you're also able to keep your spending in order.

And that budget-so-far does look like you're being pretty successful - yay!

jiggery_pokery From: jiggery_pokery Date: May 21st, 2004 03:47 am (UTC) (Link)
How much do people think is a sensible amount of money to allocate for a week's food (lunches and evening meals) for one?

Dad and I had this argument back in about 2000, when I was gainful for the MSO and earning your sort of money. Dad suggested £4 per person per day; at the time, I argued for a figure higher than that. Prices may be slightly cheaper in Middlesbrough than Cambridge, too; I would guess that we habitually shop roughly one-third at Safeway, Morrisons or Asda (unpretentious mid-market supermarkets), one-third at Kwik Save (working class supermarkets, but not Aldi) and one-third at independent greengrocers, butchers' shops, bakers and the like. If you habitually use Sainsbury's or M&S, add another 10% (???) again.

At the time we could exploit economies of scale because Dad was still working part-time, we could cook for three and so on. Nevertheless, if I had to put a figure on it, I would answer your question "£30-£35 for respectable but not rich living".

A page quoting NUS survey results suggests that, in terms of typical living costs for students in the UK, "Food/household shopping: average outside London is £28 per week; inside London £33.40."
jiggery_pokery From: jiggery_pokery Date: May 21st, 2004 04:00 am (UTC) (Link)
respectable but not rich living

Poor choice of wording on my part; anyone who gets by on less is at least as worthy of respect as anyone who spends any particular amount. Apologies to anyone who takes offence. I could delete, edit and repost, but that's not how real conversations work.

We're probably really getting into class issues here, which I don't profess to understand. I have no idea what class I am, or what class this family is, or what my quoted figure says about me; nor do I have a clue how much we actually spend. Still, I stick by my figure (no matter how much the chattering classes might tut and ask "who does he think he is?") and suggest that this isn't a competition to see who can get away with spending, or quoting, the most or the least, or who can get the best value for money, or who has the BIGGEST WAD. Worthington's Law! It's more fun than Godwin's Law!

Foot, mouth, hole, stop digging.
From: vyvyan Date: May 21st, 2004 03:48 am (UTC) (Link)
I can feed two of us on about £15-20 a week. I buy staples from a supermarket (bread, marg, pasta, cheese, tinned tomatoes, quorn - all ultra-economy brand where possible) where they're cheaper; fresh fruit and vegetables from the market (because they're cheaper than the supermarket, and actually taste of something); and other stuff (spices, rice, milk, tinned fruit) from the assorted "ethnic" small shops on Mill Road (because they're cheaper and nicer than from supermarkets). I cook everything from scratch (well, ok, I don't usually make my own bread), basically never buy snacks or desserts or treats, and always make a list of what I need before I go out shopping and only buy that.

I should say that this doesn't include alcohol, which we both spend far too much on. Still, 3 bottles for £7 at Londis is possibly about the cheapest way to do it.

When I was an undergraduate I lived largely on packet soup, tea without milk, and toast with peanut butter. That was very cheap (£5 a week?), but I doubt it was particularly good for me :-)
mobbsy From: mobbsy Date: May 21st, 2004 04:04 am (UTC) (Link)
All these comments have left me feeling both a bit embarrased at how much I spend feeding one person, and like I should reduce it.

I haven't worked it out in detail, but it wouldn't surprise me if it was above £50 per week. I probably spend £20/week just on lunches (4 sandwiches from shop + 1 pub meal + whatever at weekends).

…and that doesn't count beer, which is probably another £25-30.

julietk From: julietk Date: May 21st, 2004 04:33 am (UTC) (Link)
Why? If you've got it, and you enjoy spending it, and it's not causing you financial problems, why shouldn't you spend as much as you like on food?

For myself, I think by now I'd *resent* spending money on sandwiches from a shop, even if I could afford them, because I know how much more cheaply I can do it myself, and in general I find the sandwiches I make for myself much nicer than the ones you get in shops (if I wind up at work without lunch, which happens occasionally usually due to incompetent grocery-shopping, I tend to go buy bread & hummous from Sainsburys, which still works out cheaper than most shop-sandwiches). But if it doesn't bother you, then that's fine - it's your lunch & your money, after all!
From: bibliogirl Date: May 21st, 2004 04:19 am (UTC) (Link)
It has been a long while since I was budgeting for food for one rather than food for two, but my sister is a single student at present and I can therefore suggest some stuff from her.

She uses the make-big-pots-of-X-and-then-freeze-it plan a lot; X itself varies somewhat but is very often chili-based. This is because she can get veggies cheaper in large quantities, likewise beans. Unless you do two or three different values of X, though, you can get very bored very quickly ;) (exactly _how_ quickly depends on your tolerance for eating the same thing a lot, obviously. I am married to someone who spent the year he lived out of college eating exactly two different meals, when he was cooking them; sausages with spuds and carrots, or pasta with tomato and cheese sauce). Sauce for pasta is, of course, something else which you can make in quantity and then freeze.

If you don't have access to a freezer, things will obviously be a bit more tricky.

I think it's absolutely reasonable to build the meal at the pub into your budget!
bopeepsheep From: bopeepsheep Date: May 21st, 2004 04:25 am (UTC) (Link)
I have lived on less than ten pounds a week, I wouldn't recommend it. I do live on something more like thirty pounds a week (each) - I don't really recommend that either, we do seem to waste food somewhat and certainly could make economies if prodded. Fifteen seems like a minimum to me, I'd be happier around twenty, which gives you scope for a few treats.

What's currently in your cupboards - are you starting from a position of "I have no food at all" or do you have a base of pasta, rice, herbs and spices, tinned tomatoes, etc? If you have no stock cupboard, a reasonably-sized investment of thirty or forty pounds (when you get paid) on a decent amount of basics would ultimately save you a lot more. We buy a lot of meat etc (which drives our food bill up) but we do always have pasta and tomatoes on hand for forgot-to-shop moments. Should we suddenly become exceedingly skint indeed we could eat for weeks on what's in the cupboards/freezer (they might be quite dull meals after a while, but no spending beyond milk and maybe bread would be necessary).
j4 From: j4 Date: May 21st, 2004 07:26 am (UTC) (Link)
Currently in cupboards: there's a lot of stuff, but mostly bought by Sion and therefore not mine. Also lots of stuff which is off or we will never use but he won't throw it away because that's wasteful, and I won't eat it because I don't like it / don't want food poisoning / etc.

The stuff that's mine is all cake stuff. Though I suppose I could live for a week on dried fruit, and use the flour and water to make sort-of-bread. Maybe.

Pasta is good. I could happily live on pasta and tomato and tuna for weeks but Sion doesn't eat tuna, and tomatoes make him ill. <sigh> He likes cheesy stuff, and cheese is more expensive. Though less so if you buy plastic economy cheese, obviously.
gnimmel From: gnimmel Date: May 21st, 2004 04:30 am (UTC) (Link)
When I was in a similar situation I found cutting out all luxuries was generally counterproductive; after a week or so I'd just go 'sod it' and splash out on something because I was feeling miserable. Having the pub meals in the budget rather than outside of it is a good idea IMO.

ghoti From: ghoti Date: May 21st, 2004 05:30 am (UTC) (Link)
I think that an averae of a pound per person per meal is generally doable but boring. Buying rice, pasta and lentils in bulk helps, as does eating frozen veg, and not buying fresh veg in supermarkets. I've always found the greengrocer on Milton road to have good prices and reasonable stuff.

Are you vegetarian? I can't remember. If not, then frozen mince and tinned fish, while not the nicest of things are fairly cheap.

Herbs and spices are your friend, but I suspect you know that already.

So, if you manag eto use cheap stuff for most of your dinners and lunches, nd just eat cornflakes or something for breakfast, then you can probably manage to have your thursday pub meal, and maybe another nicer meal a week, and still be under 20 pounds (particularly if you can face a couple of dinners of spaghetti-tinned sardines-fresh tomatoes which wouldn't cost more than fifty pence, or lentils/onions/tinned tomatos with rice, or something, and if you can cope with lunch consisting of cheese or ham sandwiches on death bread, some fruit and maybe economy crisps, you can cut lunches down to less than a pound, too, and you can always have omelettes or other more excitin things at the weekend. That way you can have more in the way of yoghruts and biscuits without feeling guilty)

Personally, I sponge rather than do that, but I have no conscience.
oldbloke From: oldbloke Date: May 21st, 2004 06:02 am (UTC) (Link)
The frozen mince is very adaptable.
chili, lasagne (with the supermarkets' cheapest nastiest lasagne sheets... ugh), shepherd's pie, burgers, dolmades. etc
From: kaet Date: May 21st, 2004 05:31 am (UTC) (Link)
I find that £20 is easily doable, even if you buy lots of ready-made things (like pizzas, pies, etc). £15 is okay, but can be a bit boring. The real killers are anything "lifestyle": icecream, pre-packaged wattnots in those airtight containers. For most things I find the co-op good, but I'm not a food officionado. I tend to use the supermarkets, though, for their delis and butchers and things, because they're cheaper by the pound than in those silly presentation packs. It really helps, I think, to bake fill-er-up things like flapjack, which satisfies the need to snack cheaply, :). I'm currently investigating how to make ice-cream without buying silly gadgets (as homemade icecream existed before them), but ice cream is a silly amount of my grocery bill at the moment, :).

What's really costly, though, is doing the buy a sandwich/sausage-roll etc in town at dinner time thing, anbd buying goodies at work. That can add up to another £30 a week for me, or at least did till I realised what it was costing me, :). When things are really dodgy, tea is a good alternative to eating, :).

I go to the Naz for exotic stuff, but there aren't many differentiated shops this side of town. I usually go shopping on Sundays, too, which is a habit I should get out of because it means no market, or many of the small shops.
angoel From: angoel Date: May 21st, 2004 05:42 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm currently investigating how to make ice-cream without buying silly gadgets (as homemade icecream existed before them), but ice cream is a silly amount of my grocery bill at the moment, :).

It's not *difficult* to do, just horribly labourious. Basically, you stick your ice-cream mix in the freezer, and then every half hour or so while it's freezing get it out of the freezer and give it a good mix to break up all the ice crystals that have formed. And if you imagine the consistency of fully frozen ice cream, you can see that it's not exactly easy to stir it.
claerwen From: claerwen Date: May 21st, 2004 06:24 am (UTC) (Link)
Hmm, sharing and food shopping dilemmas, that takes me back... If I'm being budget-y I buy Asda fresh pasta and Covent Garden soups. They sound like they should be expensive but actually aren't - two packets of the pasta costs £2 something and is enough for four suppers for me and doesn't need anything adding other than pepper and a spoonful of oil, and likewise the soup is under two quid a carton and equals two supper-type meals if you mop it up with loads of bread. And recently I've discovered that couscous (a) only creates one pan of washing up and (b) doesn't need much in the way of added veg to make it nice. The other day I did a cup of couscous, an onion and two red peppers and it was enough for two people, and that can't have come to more than a couple of quid all in.

I think the above suggestion about taking turns to do meals where you each shop and pay for the meals you cook is a good one.
k425 From: k425 Date: May 21st, 2004 07:07 am (UTC) (Link)
I agree with bopeepsheep that £20 should be okay for a week's food - and yes, you really should budget that pub meal in, it's a treat and treats are important.

What I would suggest is
Decide before you go shopping roughly what you'll cook, and what meals you can have two days in a row, or what different meals you can make with the same ingredients. For instance, one tin of tomatoes can make a simple pasta sauce and a veg chilli. It takes organisation but beats coming home with a bagful of things that looked like a good idea at the time but then you realise you haven't a clue what to do with them.

Buy your fruit and veg loose. It's cheaper that way, you make sure you only get as much as you need, and you can check there aren't any manky peaches (or whatever) that you'll have to chuck straight in the bin.

Keep an eye in the "dead food" section. Sometimes you can find a real treat or bargain there.

Someone mentioned couscous. I think couscous is wonderful. Make a double portion, have one portion hot for dinner, and the other half cold the next day for lunch. I have a nice recipe if you're interested.
oldbloke From: oldbloke Date: May 21st, 2004 07:24 am (UTC) (Link)
It's not just couscous that last L two days. All our takeaways (idea for tv series...) seem to turn out to be one meal for me but two for her. Mind you unless you have a remarkably cheap takeaway that's still stretching your budget.
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