I had a lovely email last night from someone who wishes to remain anonymous, who was in a bit of a quandary. She needs to start living more economically, indeed really frugally but does not want to advertise the fact to friends and family.... could I help?
Well of course there are all the basics, that I've no doubt you have read on here and many other Blogs before - stocktake your cupboards, menu plan, shop with a list and a non-hungry tummy, it's surprising the difference to your trolley if you don't fancy eating half the items on the shelves, and it's so much easier to resist temptation if you completely avoid the crisp and sweet aisles.
Buy just what you need and if you can pay in cash .... handing over your hard earned money is a good way to stop the bank account dwindling at an alarming rate. If it scares you the thought of doing this and potentially not having enough at the checkout then have your debit card tucked way down in the bottom of your bag but only use it if you really have to. Don't shop for food with a credit card unless you can pay the full amount off each and every month. It's no good shopping for value products and then paying whopping amounts of interest on your credit card every month.
A good start is to immediately switch to buying the own labels. the basic ranges and the value products that most supermarkets are now selling, ...and so that your family and friends don't know you have done this, a brilliant way to disguise the fact, is to display your cooking ingredients in glass jars.
Do you recognise the jar this dried milk powder has just gone into - yes it's a washed out coffee jar. Start saving all your empty glass jars for this purpose. You really don't have to go out and buy lots of expensive jars and also look in boxes at car boot sales you can get some lovely storage jars for not much money.
Don't forget to label under your jars, or on the front if you have some nice labels or you can cut out the wording from the pack the food came out of without giving the game away. At first you may only have a few jars but eventually you may end up with lots of similar looking products and if anyone else cooks in your kitchen it could make for some confusion without the labels ;-)
You can either store your jars in the cupboard ...
... or on full display, as I do.
Even I can't remember which jars have full price branded goods in them and which have bargain or value range products.
It works with even the tiniest things, this was a little sample coffee jar just begging to be re-used.
I decided to add in the dregs of my Parsley jar to the value Mixed Herbs ...
... and then I got a bit more carried away, well I mean in most cases Mixed Herbs can be any herbs and as I'm a pretty basic cook I very rarely use specifics and find that most things are interchangeable. And to make it a win, win situation I now have one jar on the shelf instead of four ... I love simplicity :-)
Sometimes refilling your usual boxes with a value product can work well. Either buy the value ones and gradually add to the branded, giving the box a good shake to mix them up, this will get everyone in the family used to the new taste without them noticing too much ...
... or simply refill the empty box with the bag of value flakes and if anyone comments that they don't taste as nice, simply agree and say "yes, we must eat these up quickly so I can go and buy a new pack" ... you can guarantee that by the time the box is emptied and refilled with more Value flakes everyone will simply be used to the taste of the new flakes and won't complain anymore. It also works with Rice Crispies and Frosties .... my boys lived through this change with little complaint.
Once your box gets tatty surprise the family with lovely new plastic storage boxes, you can get them cheaply at shops like Home Bargains or B and M or again watch out for them at car boot sales. Once you have these you can smuggle in the Value cereals and fill them up over and over.
And if you think the top picture looked pretty with the dried herbs in front of their fresh counterparts, this is what usually sits there and YES this too is not what it seems. The hand-cream in the jar is not what is on the label. It's actually full of lots of emptied out free hotel sachets and bottles picked up my Lovely Hubby when he has to stay away on business.
It's good too to start reading some of the Blogs on my sidebar in particular Elaine's over at 'Mortgage Free in Three', Jane over at Frugal Queen and Jack's at A Girl Called Jack all have lots of recipes using good wholesome but cheap foods that you can find by typing your request into the 'Search' boxes and on Jacks you can actually type in the ingredient you have and specific recipes containing it will come up for you.
And Jack and Elaine both have books out that will really help you make every bit of your now reduced money go further and yet still fill up plates and hungry tummies. Make sure you don't waste any food either, another brilliant book that I would recommend asking for as a birthday present is The Leftovers Handbook by Suzy Bowler of Sudden Lunch blog fame. Even little tiny bits of left over food can be saved and turned into whole new meals and this book is full of brilliant ideas all listed alphabetically so they are easy to find. You could always email Frugal Queen and ask for her Feed a Family of 4 for £40 meal planner too which is a brilliant tool for planning your months menu.
I hope these few ideas have helped a little and if you would like any more tips please let me know.