The Frugaldom annual grocery challenge is based on a maximum of £1 per person per day for all meals, so 2016 presents us with £366 per adult, as it's a leap year.

grocery challenge

Frugal living can be great, but it may be much more difficult for those of us who live in rural areas to budget for basic foodstuffs and growing your own is not always as simple or cost effective as some would try to have us believe. Country life reduces the opportunity to nip to the shops, pop out to the supermarkets, eat out or stop off for a takeaway because we simply don't have those things close enough to even think about them, but we do have the ability to get creative in the kitchen, even if it is with the very basics. So, let's take a look at how easy (or difficult) it is to keep the meal budget in check.

Is it still possible to live by the £1 per person per day rule?

In a nutshell, YES! We have been doing it for years and the more you learn about food, the less it seems to cost to eat well.

Eating a healthy diet is important, even while on a strict budget.

I can recommend taking a look at Portion Sizes for your 5 a day fruit, vegetables & pulses so you are aware of what the Government considers to be suitable portions and then base that on your own lifestyle to calculate it up or down depending on how active or sedentary your lifestyle is.

Starting from scratch is the most difficult part, as most of us have built up stores over time and grow some fruit, vegetables and herbs, possibly rear our own poultry and rely on a basic diet of plain food, nothing too gourmet. I have stuck roughly with this budget for the past several years and I am still sticking to it, once again, to see if ir can still be achieved in 2016. The following are a few of the activities that make this possible.

We go foraging for blackberries, sloes, rowans, rosehips, crab apples and elderberries every year, so I never need to buy jams, jellies or similar preserves.

We follow a 'waste not, want not' strategy. As far as food is concerned, there's a zero tolerance on waste. Anything that doesn't get eaten gets used in the next meal or frozen for later use. Anything else, depending on what it is, gets fed to the livestock, used in pet food, fed to the wild birds, added to the compost bins, put into the wormery or if it's safe to burn, it gets used as fire fodder.

Batch cooking is an essential skill, providing many more meals for the household in one go, rather than cooking small quantities every day and wasting precious energy - electricity, gas, logs ... they all cost money.

Home baking and bread making, in my opinion, are essential, as we can't rely on a guaranteed, steady supply of electricity keeping a month's worth of loaves frozen when storage space is at a premium, especially during wilder weather. Besides, electricity costs money, which adds to the cost of your food, so freeze what saves you the most money and store bread flour in sealed tubs - it lasts for a very long time under the right conditions.

Surplus garden produce, whether it he eggs, vegetables, fruit, berries or herbs, get traded between friends and neighbours. No matter how little space you have, even if it's just a windowsill, grow something.


Other things I can recommend you do

Learn to love (and make) homemade soup, broths and stews

Learn to love (and make) porridge

Learn to love (and make) puddings

Learn to cook with whatever is readily available without having to jump into a car and waste fuel driving to the shops all the time. Travel adds to your costs; there is absolutely no point gloating over a £3.99 chicken you got for £1 if it cost you a gallon of fuel to get to the store to buy it.

Always include the costs of 'getting' your food when calculating your budget.

For the benefits of all town, city and suburbs dwellers, things are very different in the country.

A few more facts and figures before we get into actual food budgeting

It cost our household approximately £10 per week to own a car. That covered road tax, insurance, MOT, servicing and basic maintenance/repairs. It did not cover the actual purchase cost of the car, the value of which depreciates by the day and takes it one day closer to needing renewed, nor did it cover the cost of fuel. And don't forget to factor in lease fees, interest payments or tax deductions if those apply!

I work from home and at the point this post was originally published I was driving only about 3000 miles per year, so that was approximately 17.3p per mile excluding fuel and the actual cost of the car.

Fuel was up at around £1.40 per litre at that point, which equates to a shocking £6.37 per gallon (4.55 litres to a gallon). The old car did about 35 miles per gallon, owing to the type of roads we have about here - mainly slow, winding, narrow, muddy etc. That added another 18.2p per mile in fuel costs. Basically, every time I jumped into the car, it cost about 35.5p per mile without factoring in buying or replacing the vehicle.

The nearest village store is 7 miles round trip from the house (£2.66 every trip) and the nearest 'big name' supermarkets are a 40 mile round trip - that's £14.20 in real terms, just to go to the supermarket.

homemase choc chip cookies


This is the reason why I bulk buy, bake, fit as much into one trip (and the oven) as I possibly can and prefer to order online whenever possible for cheap home delivery. Fairly recently, we were 'blessed' by the arrival of Asda online - we don't have a local store but the company decided to test run a delivery route in our rural area. I think we passed the test because over the past year, my main grocery shopping has all been delivered to the house by the Asda van at the unbelievable cost of £1 each time! No car can compete with that.

Never underestimate the cost of buying (or growing) your food. It's like thinking you own all of your wage packet while forgetting how much it really costs you to have that job and get to it in the first place.

Every year, we set a challenge for the followers of our frugal living challenges. The first one was published in 1999, so it's coming on 17 years since I first recorded my foody spends. Over those years we have seen some huge changes in prices and, indeed, in the types of food we eat, but our basic ethos remains unchanged - everything in moderation and a little bit of what you fancy should do you no harm. Most importantly, waste not, want not, so adopt a zero tolerance to food waste.

Christmas is certainly a time of indulgence but if we prepare accordingly, we can stretch the grocery budget far enough to cover all sorts of delicacies and take us right through the festive period in frugal gourmet style with enough leftovers to refill the freezer and see us through another new year.

This challenge could easily be reduced to £5 per person per week if essential but we do prefer to incorporate a few luxuries along the way. We do this because we can and because we enjoy this lifestyle. 

Join us online in the frugal forums to take part and/or follow our 2016 grocery challenge of £1 per person per day (or less).

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