No spend year: how we use our food budget 

A few people have asked for a detailed breakdown of our shopping list and what we do with the food.

So here it is – WARNING: it’s a long post.
Firstly, I want to point out that I’m not the best cook so don’t expect to get any Nigella-style inspiration here. However, I am learning how to fill myself up on cheap food that’s still nutritious.

Secondly, we don’t eat meat so that keeps the cost down.

Thirdly, there are some things that we had in the cupboard already from previous shops that we used, I’ve put these things at the end of the shopping list.

Fourth, we do all our shopping in one go but use different shops to get the best deal and because not all shops stock exactly what we need.

And lastly, I’m not putting this up because I think we have everything exactly right; it’s purely to illustrate what we’ve been doing and I’m sure as my confidence grows I’ll be able to be tighter with the budget/ cooking.

And for those that need a recap: I was given £30 a week for groceries (food, toiletries and cleaning products). Frank is joining in with the food challenge so in theory we have £60 per week for 2 but we actuay think this is too much so have been trying to get the shop to under £45 per week. 

Bought on Saturday 16 Jan


8 x tinned tomatoes (31p each) £2.48

Jar peanut butter £1.18

2 x tinned chickpeas (33p each) 66p

2 x jar sundried tomatoes (on sale 49p each) 98p

Clear honey £1.35

Large bottle balsamic vinegar 99p

2 x bags of pasta (29p each) 58p

Breadmix £1.09

Gravy granules 99p

Oats 39p

Chocolate chips for baking 65p

4 x large onions 85p

2.5kg potatoes £1.49

3 pack of peppers 79p

Spinach 59p

Bag of carrots 45p

Spring onions 45p

Beetroot 75p

Kitchen roll £1.48

Foil 67p

TOTAL £18.86


14 bananas £2.14

2 x garlic bulbs (30p each) 60p

4 x soya milk (85p each) £3.40

1 x almond milk £1

Margarine £1.20

Frozen berries £2.20

2 x tubs of mushrooms (£1 each) £2

2 x loose parsnips 54p

TOTAL £13.08


375g soya mince £1.89

TOTAL £1.89


2 x tofu blocks £2.80

TOTAL £2.80

Grand total = £36.63

* Note that we would have bought the bananas, mushrooms, parsnips and garlic in Lidl rather than Sainsbury’s but there were none left.

Other stuff used in the cupboard this week – all of this has been bought from either Lidl or the Chinese supermarket in previous weeks

A packet of quinoa that was floating around

Dried basil 

Teaspoon of marmite

Salt and pepper


Soy sauce

Olive oil

Vegetable stock powder


So what did we do with the food?

We did our shop on Saturday night (rock and roll!) so this food will cover us from Sunday until when we go shopping again – sometime on Saturday.


Breakfast: we used the oats and milk to make porridge with a few tablespoons of berries and a drizzle of honey. Cups of tea as standard!

Then we went out for a walk so had late lunch/early dinner of pasta with olive oil, crushed garlic and a few sundried tomatoes.

Weekends are also used for batch-cooking lunches for the week. This week we decided to make a big spag bol. This list of ingredients makes 12 portions:

½ bag of soya mince

½ tub of mushrooms

8 x tins tomatoes

2 x large onions

3 or 4 x garlic cloves

2 x tablespoons of basil

Splash of balsamic vinegar

Teaspoon of marmite

1 litre of veg stock



Recipe: cook onions on low heat with garlic, basil, vinegar, and marmite. Add in pre-soaked soya mince, tinned tomatoes and mushrooms. I then add a litre of veg stock and cook it down slowly over a couple of hours. But if you don’t want to keep the cooker on that long then reduce the amount of stock in and cook down for a shorter period.

I decided not to buy more pasta and use the quinoa instead because we had it in the cupboard and I don’t think it matters if you eat spag bol with grains or pasta!

I also used half the bread mix to make a loaf so we had some of that later on too because neither of were that hungry.

We also tucked into some flapjack biscuits that we made with oats, peanut butter, flour, choc chips honey. If anyone wants this recipe then give me a shout – conscious that this blog will get too long!

The biscuit recipe makes about 25 biscuits so plenty to keep us going on our bikes.

As you can see Sunday is a big cooking day and a lot of time has to be given over to preparing food for the week but it means there’s food available.


Breakfast: smoothies made in the blender that we both take to work. One banana, tablespoon of frozen berries, scoop of oats, half milk/half water.

Lunch: spag bol and quinoa of course!

Dinner: I was out so had some pasta with oil, garlic and sundried tomatoes when I got home because I was tired. F was in and made himself a tofu scramble using a third of a pack of tofu, turmeric, spring onions, quarter of a pepper, spinach, flavoured with turmeric and soy sauce on some of the homemade bread.


Breakfast: smoothies

Lunch: spag bol and quinoa

Dinner: I had spag bol and quinoa again as I was going out with a friend and needed something to heat up at work (I’m freelance but go into an office 3 days a week).

F was also out and had some pasta with sundried toms, garlic, and oil for a quick and easy dinner.


Breakfast: smoothies and I also snagged 2 x bits of toast at the office I work in

Lunch: spag bol and quinoa

Dinner: made falafels with 2 x tins chickpeas, garlic, cumin, and onion. Had with roasted potatoes and salad. The recipe made loads – 20 falafels so loads left. There’s also extra potatoes.



Breakfast: smoothies

Lunch: falafel, potatoes and salad for me and F had spag bol with quinoa (pic above).

Dinner: used carrots, parsnips, potatoes, onions, gravy and veg stock to make a stew. Threw some quinoa in there too for added protein.

Made a loaf of bread with the remaining half of the bread mix and had some bread with the stew for mopping up.


Breakfast: smoothies

Lunch: Spag bol and quinoa

Dinner: Rest of the stew and bread



Breakfast: tofu scramble using the left over veg like spring onions, pepper, spinach and mushrooms. Also used up the potatoes making some roasted chipped potatoes (pic above).

Lunch: quick pasta with oil, garlic and sundried toms before going out

Then we did our foot shopping on the Saturday and the cycle starts over again!


Writing down how we use the food this week has been a really good exercise as it’s made me take into consideration all the packets of stuff that have little bits and pieces left in them.

We went through the cupboards and pulled out all the odds and ends of packets and realise we still have plenty of staple foods like rice, pasta, an old packet of risotto rice that we still need to use up. We plan to use it all up this week and so we were able to keep this week’s shop to a record low of £22.97.

Thanks for reading!




25 thoughts on “No spend year: how we use our food budget 

  1. Well done! And thanks for the recipe link.

    If you can find the time to soak and cook chick peas dried work out much cheaper than tinned ( and they’re nicer if you add olive oil and salt to the cooking water). I know sometimes it’s worth paying for convenience but you can freeze cooked chickpeas so you don’t always have to plan 24hrs in advance!

    Bread flour and yeast will be cheaper than the bread mix too, but it depends how often you make bread and I’m aware I’m probably teaching you to suck eggs…

    I’d lose the kitchen roll too. I’d use cloths for wiping and old cloths/rags or paper bags,if you ever buy market veg, for draining etc.

    Sorry, I’m not being critical, just trying to help. I think what you’re doing is great and I look forward to hearing more.


  2. Great post Michelle! I love reading how you shopped frugally and made nutritious meals out of very simple ingredients. No meat at our house either, it really does take a strain off the budget not buying meat! (and no cute, furry animals get hurt either!) I would love more of these posts. They are very inspiring for others trying to cut back on grocery spending 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Clare. Happy to write more of these. I think the meat free shopping list makes the biggest difference to budget – it’s amazing what you can whip up from simple ingredients too. Hope you’re well. M


  3. Interesting post, I am enjoying your year long Challenge.

    You do eat very like me, simply, quite repetitively (nothing wrong with that in my opinion, but I do get it pointed out to me time and time again), non-processed foods and no meat. It does really keep the spend down, but as my Lovely Hubby does eat meat I usually search high and low for bargains.

    I got a brilliant one from our local farm shop of all places when they sent me a £10 off a £20 spend voucher last week and I managed to get 8 big steaks for just £10, meaning they were £1.25 each. Now that sort of bargain doesn’t happen very often but really helps my limited but really helps my limited budget when it does. I also intend to turn at least one of the steaks into steak, onion and veg pasties so I get more than just 8 meals out of them for my hubby. You can save a lot of money by wrapping things in pastry 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a fantastic post! It’s nice to see others out there who are conscientious about food spending. We do a clear out of our cupboards/fridge each week before the next shop as well. My husband is a meat eater and I am Vegan, so it does take a bit of planning. He is slowly giving up meat-down to 3 dinners each week. He says I’ve been coaxing him to the “dark side” :), but feels better for it…so, progress. We budget 70 pounds per week for food and 50 pounds per week for toiletries, household needs, and dining out. It has worked out pretty well so far. I make a weekly menu for all 3 daily meals and have culled my recipies down to 14. Mainly, we don’t use them as we always have a protein, veg, starchy carb, and salad for each dinner with fruit thrown in for something sweet. This allowed me to make a master list of grocery items for my weekly shop. We are also a zero waste family, so we purchase everything in bulk or from farmer’s markets, trying not to produce any trash. The decision to go zero waste cut out many choices for us like processed/prepackaged foods. It sounds difficult, but our life is so much easier and healthier too! Lastly, after I shop for the week, I take a few hours to chop, cook, combine our items to prep for the weekly meals. I store everything in glass mason jars, so meal time is really fast and easy. I use a few slow cooker recipies as well. Thank you for the post! How was your no spend Christmas? I thought about the two of you during the Month of December.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Tracey, thanks for sharing details of your bills etc. it’s really interesting to see what other ppl do. Not eating meat definitely keeps the costs down! I’ll admit I hadn’t done a cupboard clear out for a very long time and was really surprised by just how much food was in there. It’s definitely kept the food shopping bill down this week.

      Christmas was good thanks. We had a present amnesty. I didn’t buy anything for anyone and they didn’t buy anything for me. It was alright actually, although the tree (we have a fake one) did look a but bare! I made presents for my nephews (little plastic cars) at a creative workspace in the City so they didn’t miss out. My family extended the present amnesty and only bought for the kids in the family this year – I may have started something there! Would you be interested to see a blog about Christmas with dinner cost breakdown etc? M

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, that break down would be fantastic! For Christmas this year, we flew from Colorado to Phoenix, Arizona to visit my parents for a week.We had a present amnesty as well. It was so enjoyable just spending time together! We did buy a real tree this year, but decorated with white twinkle lights and red glass candy ornaments we already had. I purged the rest of Christmas decor in November except for those items and two sentimental ornaments from my children. We decided to only decorate for the season with natural elements from now on, so donated the remainder of everything. I was able to use pine boughs cut from the base of the trunk for a swag on the front door, bundled with twine and also use them in vases/baskets throughout the home. Next year, we plan to dry orange slices and make gingerbread cookies to decorate the tree 🙂 We have also decided to purchase a live tree with root ball so as to plant in the back garden each year. I started my no spend year in Jan with a small approved shopping list for items that are due to be replaced/needed. It has already been so eye opening as to the default mindset I have with purchasing, even when I don’t realise it! I had to empty my wish list on Amazon for starters, and delete apps on my phone and kindle as well. Have you found any trouble spots so far?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Your Christmas sounds lovely. Especially the natural decorations. That’s a good tip for Xmas this year.

        Sounds like you’re doing really well with your no spend year. Getting rid of the amazon wish list was a good idea!! Trouble spots aren’t necessarily things for me but going out and experiences. I look at travel blogs and think how much I’d like to go to a certain place etc. Also going out with friends has to be so much more organised and we can’t just nip out for dinner and catch up. Especially hard when the weather is cold but I think it will be easier in the summer and we can hang out in the park. M

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Looks like you’re mostly vegan (apart from the honey) – and I thought you may like Jack Monroe’s vegan recipes (thrifty too) – I love her mixed bean goulash – and the genius of washing off bean sauce from cheap tinned baked beans for use in recipes. I know it’s better to get beans/chickpeas etc dried, but if you’re not that organised her tips are great.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. As a single mother of three growing boys,every cent counts.
    I get at least 3 meals out of a chicken
    Roast dinner,chicken curry or a chicken pie from left over chicken and I boil the bones of the chicken and throw in all my veg which is on the turn for a lovely chicken soup. I now cook all meals from scratch and this makes a huge difference to my grocery bill. I only buy what I need and have very little waste
    I used to hate baking but am now starting to enjoy making my own pastry
    I made all my own mince pies last Christmas for the very first time as I’d think nothing of buying a box of mince pies a day on the lead up to Christmas.

    Liked by 1 person

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