The spending diary

We had bean burgers for tea the other day, courtesy of A girl called Jack. This remarkable blog details a mother’s life leaving below the breadline and has all sorts of inspiring recipes in it.

We decided to try one of her recipes as we’re currently working on budgeting very carefully because the maternity payments have run out. For the next 3 months or so, we’re living off one income.

Ahead of our first budgeting attempts we’ve borrowed an idea from Quaker Social Action’s Made of Money and Futureproof projects and we’re keeping a spending diary.

It is a remarkably easy way to start reining in your spending – just write it all down and justify it to your partner (or to yourself). For example, after several months of not managing to stop eating crisps, now I don’t want to be seen to be spending money on them so I’ve stopped eating them. Okay, this isn’t such a good example as my colleague Mike sometimes gives me a packet from his multipack, but you get the idea.

Two-and-a-half weeks in, I’m suddenly very good at making sandwiches in the morning or taking in leftovers from the evening before.

As well as writing down what we spend, we’re putting the money spent into different columns. The key one is provisions – everyday items including food for the week. Another is food out, which includes all meals out as well as packs of crisps, rounds of drinks and so on. And a couple of others, such as travel and baby spending.

Last week our average spend took a hit because we spent £70 on a B&B in Bangor. But keeping an over all average spend gives us something to aim at – particularly to try and reduce but we’re also seeing why our spending goes up sometimes.

In the past we’ve been quite good at making meal plans for the week but just now we’re getting really good at it. One of the issues for us is that we’ve been doing baby-led-weaning with our baby and we want our child to be able to eat the same meal as us each evening. This has helped us reduce the amount of salt content in our food. And we’ve stopped buying ready meals – particularly ‘freezer options’ from the supermarkets.

Which brings us back to the beanburgers because these carrot, cumin and kidney bean burgers only cost about 9p each according to Jack, whereas a supermarket version from the freezer section would have cost us about £1.50 or more (here’s a pack for £1.89 from Sainsbury’s). So, making burgers for about 9p each and having 2 each, plus one for the baby costs us around 50p. Although ours may have cost a little more as we added in some cheese. Still, it’s a fair result. And it’s homemade food so is that much more satisfying too. Of course, there is some effort in the preparing and cooking, but we’re just about getting by with that too. And we had sweet potato chips with it, which everyone in our home loves.


On Saturday we had the first day that we didn’t spend any money, which was on the one hand particularly satisfying and on the other just a little bit disconcerting – that in almost 3 weeks this was the first spending free day. But it turns out to be quite hard not to spend any money when you’re not used to having to think about it. We couldn’t manage a second day in a row and bought some fruit, flour and milk yesterday.

Another consequence of having the spending diary is that we’ve gone back to baking our own bread – hence the flour purchase. We’ve had a couple of failed loaves but so far we’re pretty pleased with most of the results and it means that our bread maker is beginning to justify its presence in our kitchen again.

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