Anyway, for the past few weeks we have been thinking about the food budget. Keeping on top of the freezer and cupboard inventories by deleting things as they're used and adding new things bought or meals made and frozen has been a huge help, as has ticking off meals from the menu plan I made, and adding more to that. I have also stuck to writing a shopping list every week, which I think is almost certainly the best way to keep the spending down.
We normally do our shopping in Mr S****burys, simply because we like it - out of the 3 supermarkets in our local town (the others are M****sons and A**a) it's the nicest shopping experience (if food shopping can be said to be nice!), we like their wide range of products and they're pretty good quality. M****sons is ok, it's cheaper on quite a few things, although not all by any means, but their shelf edge labelling leaves a lot to be desired - the labels are often missing or in the wrong places. A**a I don't really like at all....it's generally far too busy for one thing, seems to have far more shoppers with noisy children in tow, and the staff aren't as polite! (apologies to any readers who might work there, that's just our experience of our local store). It's also not that big, so doesn't have as wide a range of products.
The week before last we tried L**l, last week it was A*di. I wasn't that impressed with L**l, A*di was better, although it was MUCH busier - a result of their massive TV ad campaign, I guess. But we found with both of those it just wasn't possible to get all of our shopping....they may both be pretty cheap, but are a lot smaller than the big supermarkets and with very limited ranges (I notice they both have loads of crap sugary stuff though, cereals, sweets and cakes!). So both times we had to also go to one of the bigger supermarkets to get what we needed.
So we've come to the conclusion that it's not worth doing our shopping in either of those.....having to then go on to another store to get other stuff is not cost or time effective. I think we will continue to do most of our weekly shops in S****burys, but perhaps try to extend the time between shops to fortnightly. And for dry goods that I generally buy in bulk once every couple of months or so, I'll check online first to find out where they're being sold the cheapest.
Now I have a clearer idea of what we need to buy and where we will be shopping (and how often), I can start thinking about when to begin with our new monthly food budget, and how much to set it at. We've got a holiday coming up very soon, followed by relatives coming to stay, so it may be best to start after that.