Living On A Tight Grocery Budget

Yesterday the Sunday Independent in Ireland carried 2 pieces about how a family of 5 (2 adults, 3 children) would struggle living on a tight grocery budget of €175 per week for groceries. As you may know, our budget is far lower. Here’s how we have been getting on since Friday and I’ll update this post again later on on the week.

Friday

I took out €90 for the week ahead. We needed a bin tag. Each bin lift is €8.75 which we get once a fortnight, less often if we jump on the bins.

Remaining Amount: €81.25

The 4 year old has been screaming in pain with his ear so I bring him to see the GP. Thank goodness and every last bit of luck for having a medical card due to a low household income. I didn’t have to pay for the GP. She recommends that he be referred as soon as possible to the local paediatric hospital for possible grommets, he has been struggling with his ears and deafness for a number of months. Both ears are bulging with pressure, she’s not sure it’s infected but gives me a prescription for him just in case he gets worse over the weekend to save me having to call an out of hours service. Trusting me with my judgement that I won’t give it to him unless he’s far worse, she says I should keep him topped up with alternating pain relief of infant paracetamol and neurofen. I get both in the chemist next door costing €14.50. I’m aware that sugarfree options are cheaper but it makes my children hyper so I opt for the more expensive medications.

Remaining Amount: €66.75

I have to pick up some essential lady supplies, I spend the best part of 10 minutes trying to figure out which is the best value in the long term. Cost €3.30.

Remaining Amount: €63.45

Saturday

The 4 year old is running a temperature and I can’t seem to control it with pain relief so I decide to get the antibiotic. Dispensing a prescription on a medical card costs €1.50 per item. I buy it and guiltily look the other way when the counter assistant recommends that I get a probiotic to boost his immune system. It’s not in the budget so I’ll boost him with food instead. Still having the Mammy-guilts over that one.

Remaining Amount: €61.95

I need meat for the house for the week and I know that the budget is running low. I drop into the butcher and get a whole chicken, pound of minced beef and a pound of sausages. This meat will cover our main meals for more than 4 days. Cost: €12.99

Remaining Amount: €48.96

On the way home I walk into our local Supermarket. We need fresh bread, some supplies for lunches for the week, fruit and vegetables. Whatever I get I need to fit it on the buggy. I spy some golden syrup on special for 99c per tin. Dither over whether to get 2 or 3, not because of space in the shopping basket but whether it’ll tip my budget over the edge. I pick up a high quality cheese cake in the yellow sticker section for €2.95. I’m delighted with the treat but know I’ll have to pinch it elsewhere in the budget during the week. I come home with bread, milk, apples, bananas, onions, broccoli, raisins, salami, cheese cake, 2 tins of golden syrup, pasta, juice and sausage rolls also from the yellow sticker section. Edited to add: I just checked my receipt and this shop also contained a packet of dried coconut flakes, a box of tea & a toothbrush.Cost of shopping: €26.17.

Remaining Amount: €22.79

Sunday

I have to make a trip to Drogheda. We have a dither moment as to whether to take the long way (which uses up more diesel) or to take the short way and pay the toll charges. We decide to pay the toll charges to save time and diesel costing €1.90 each way.

Remaining Amount: €18.99

Plan for the rest of the week:

I’ve enough money to get us more bread and milk during the week when we need it. Here’s hoping there are no major emergencies or unexpected expenses. My larder and fridge are full and I’ve meals planned for the week ahead. We will eat extremely well on what I have in the house and the kids will want for nothing.

Note: This is not a poor me post. I frequently always get asked with incredulity how we manage on such a tight budget. We do it because we have to. Yes it takes a bit of knowledge, skill and yes it is time consuming.

  • http://blog.makeupfordolls.com/ Makeup For Dolls

    Love your blog. Found it purely accidentally. Now am addicted – you have a lovely no-nonsense writing style and your photos are beautifully taken. Nice one!

    • http://wholesomeireland.com/ Wholesome Ireland

      Awh thank you for your lovely words. Much appreciated!

  • Minnie .

    We are a family of 4 and spend €100 a week on groceries, often less. I don’t even spend €175 at Christmas. We are €11 over threshold for a GP card and the last GP visit cost me €60 to see both kids and €71 for antibiotics and steriods for both, meaning we had ZERO for food that week. It’s so tough.

    • http://wholesomeireland.com/ Wholesome Ireland

      Oh Minnie that is very tough. I know how difficult we would find it if we didn’t have a medical card. Like you say we would have zero for food on the weeks we had to visit the doctor without it. If I can suggest that you get your GP & Pharmacist to give you a printout of your costs for the last calendar year and submit them with a new application. If your income is that close to the limit, the bills might be the amount to tip it in the right direction.

  • http://twitter.com/silkscarfmum Mum with silk scarf

    It’s amazing what you can do with your budget, I’m always over ours leaving us short then for bills sometimes! Our budget is €100 for 5 but its tight, great post.

    • http://wholesomeireland.com/ Wholesome Ireland

      It is very tight. You are doing fantastically don’t sell yourself short. x

  • Looking for Blue Sky

    My budget is not as tight, but I can’t imagine spending €175 a week for the 4 of us, and that’s with three fussy eaters. It would also be a lot less if we just drank tap water…

    • http://wholesomeireland.com/ Wholesome Ireland

      Milk & Juice are expensive I know. Then there’s my tea habit to be maintained…. ;) I’m sure if I had the budget I’d spend it.

      • Looking for Blue Sky

        Well you can add coffee to that, capri suns, squash, coke zero for my teenager, the odd bottle of wine, it all adds up!

        • http://wholesomeireland.com/ Wholesome Ireland

          It definitely does!

  • Laura Murray

    Thanks for this- i do something similar. I take out the cash at the start of the week and try to stick to it. It is still a process in the making- I haven’t prefected it yet but boping to get that bill down to €60 for the three of us.

    • http://wholesomeireland.com/ Wholesome Ireland

      It’s very difficult Laura but I think having the cash really strengthens your resolve.

  • MidlifeSinglemum

    Very inspiring post. I’m also trying to cut down on food expenses so I’m always on the look out for good tips.

    • http://wholesomeireland.com/ Wholesome Ireland

      There are loads of tips to be found in this category. Best of luck & thanks for dropping by!

  • Kim

    As a non-meat eater I find it much cheaper to east wholesome foods. You’d be amazed how long a bag of cous cous or polenta lasts. Aldi is great for cheap veg to go with it and even Super Valu are getting in on the act with loads of fruit and veg at 67c.

    • http://wholesomeireland.com/ Wholesome Ireland

      Thanks Kim. We don’t eat meat everyday anyway. :-) For fruit & veg we do grow our own but are only getting started in a new allotment. Our meat for the week as you see above has cost €12.99 so it’s a relatively small portion of our food budget.

  • Kim

    Thanks for the reply. You’ve a great blog here. I appreciate you don’t eat much meat. I still buy some for the kids and can’t get over how expensive it is for the “good” stuff like free-range etc. I’d love to grow my own veg too. Must be so satisfying.

    • http://wholesomeireland.com/ Wholesome Ireland

      It is a brilliant past time with the side benefit of saving money. Because we have an allotment it’s a community thing too. Very important in this day & age I feel. :-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/emer.cunningham1 Emer Cunningham

    great post. would love to hear how you translate the spend into meals for the week for you all. i am rubbish at meal planning and seem to throw out way too much food.

    • http://wholesomeireland.com/ Wholesome Ireland

      ;) There’s actually a savoury post planned for tomorrow around tonight’s dinner.

  • http://twitter.com/theleggalamb michael logan

    Great post, well done. I really liked the format….a steadily emptying purse certainly shows the reality.

    • http://wholesomeireland.com/ Wholesome Ireland

      Thanks Michael. I keep a log of all my spending so it’s really transcribing how my week is going. I didn’t give a thought to format! Lol

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  • http://www.betweenthelinesisanendlessstory.blogspot.ie/ Trish Hannon

    No need for the mammy guilts, good quality food is far better than supplements any day. Great post and very inspiring. So many of us trying to make money streeeeetch now-a-days.

    • http://wholesomeireland.com/ Wholesome Ireland

      Thank you Trish. I know you really have to make your money stretch!

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  • annreynolds

    I have started to take out the money once a week too for groceries but with a leaving cert student coming home nearly every day for more money re projects find it very hard to keep within the budget. Really do think schools need to buy more in bulk so that pupils can buy items from the school cheaper without having to drive miles to get item too.

    • http://wholesomeireland.com/ Wholesome Ireland

      Oh Home Ec – the bane of my life. One of the recipes a few weeks ago called for nutmeg. So I gave the 13yo a whole nutmeg. The teacher decided they couldn’t use their graters for it and she was told not to put it into the recipe unless she had bought a jar of ground nutmeg. Honestly!

  • jenna @ thehoneymoonkitchen

    Just stumbled across your blog. I really admire your honesty and wisdom in regard to how to budget and spend your money wisely. Prudence is an invaluable skill to have, and not just during the current economic climate. Thank you for sharing this!

    • http://wholesomeireland.com/ Wholesome Ireland

      Jenna thank you for dropping by & your kind words. Very much appreciated.

  • Shaye Walsh

    Hi! I wanted to know if you could email me back to discuss us possibly collaborating on something? Great read! Thanks so much!

    - Shaye

    shayewalsh1 (@) gmail (.) com

    • http://wholesomeireland.com/ Wholesome Ireland

      Hi Shaye my email address is in the sidebar if you need to contact me. It’s wholesomecook (at) gmail (dot) com. Thanks for dropping by.

  • Martina

    Hi, love your website and blog, its so full of interesting information. I was wondering could you recommend cheap cuts of meat that i cut buy to stock up my freezer either for stews or for daily dinners. we love meat and poultry in our house so like to stock up every few months. all ideas would be great.

    • http://wholesomeireland.com/ Wholesome Ireland

      Hi Martina & thanks for your kind words.
      When it comes to cheap cuts of meat, I’ve found that while you can buy cheaper cuts, they take longer to cook and more time to prepare so in the end cost near to the same as medium cuts. We normally use a lot of minced meat (beef, pork, lamb & turkey) as minced meat would be cheaper anyway. I also buy whole chickens because I’ll get 2 main meals and a load of stock from each bird. Cuts like stewing steak/meat can be cheap to buy but do bear in mind they will take longer cutting. It’s all something to think about!

  • Martina

    Thanks for that advise. I use alot of mince myself, bolognase, lasagne, mince and pasta, there is so many uses, its very versatile and yes we do eat alot of chicken also. I got such inspiration from your blog that on Saturday i spent the day cooking up dinners for the week – 2 lasagnes, 2 pots of soup (10 lunches made from that) and some lovely apple pudding. there was no much else to do on saturday with the weather. It was great to have been very organised for the week. so thank you for the blog.

    • http://wholesomeireland.com/ Wholesome Ireland

      Thank you Martina, you’re a ray of sunshine on a dreadful day!