A frugal mother who feeds of her family of five – and her dog – for just £38 a week has become an online celebrity with her meals on a budget.
Danielle Ross says she saves hundreds of pounds a month through careful meal planning and thrifty shopping.
Such is her money-saving success that she is now being followed by almost 25,000 people on Facebook.
“If I wasn’t sticking to a budget I would be spending £600 a month. And my friends spend that much,” said the 30-year-old. “For parents, it’s the snacks for kids (that add up).”
She caters for husband David, 35, and their sons, eight-year-old Ollie, and twins Sam and Max, aged five. Mrs Ross, a spa host from Colchester, set up a Facebook page – Healthy Family Meals on a Budget – to show just how cheap a packed lunch can be.
The couple hope to eventually save enough money to buy a house and saving the £780 annual spend on meal deals could help them get there.
She explained: “You can just have sandwiches, carrot sticks, apples but really I don’t buy more than one loaf of bread a week. A loaf is much more than a bag of pasta because that’s 30p per bag.
“So they can have sandwiches but then they will get cold pasta for lunch.”
Mrs Ross gives £1 to each to her boys when she goes shopping each week so they “learn the value of money” and learn to budget.
Hubbie David is banned from spending money on £3 meal deals at chain stores and must also take a packed lunch to work.
She has several pieces of simple advice to help other families keep their food bills in check, including using vouchers wherever possible, and shopping at the cheaper supermarkets.
Bringing children up to be savers means Mrs Ross includes them in her cooking. “My Ollie is really fussy but when he cooks with me he can try new things more readily because he’s cooked it.
“My twins, however, have been eating curry since they were really young – I just couldn’t have another fussy eater.”
Danielle’s top tips:
1. Cook with your kids – they’re always much more likely to eat it when they know what’s in it – or at least they think they know what’s in it.
2. Having said that you should blend your vegetables – if you blend or grate them into your sources, it’s a great way to bulk out meals on a budget. You can put lentils in tomato sauces. I never buy sauces, so spag bolognese can always be made thicker with vegetables in them.
3. Stick to the plan – everyone has shopping lists but never ever deviate from it. I used to look up prices before I even went out but now I’ve learned more about vegetables and ingredients I can be flexible about products because I know what a £40 shop should look like.
4. Allow yourself a treat – everyone deserves a treat now and then. Thrifty people can always get a voucher online to treat their families even when they’re saving money. I use vouchercloud.com but I always trawl the net. There’s always a way to get a voucher.
5. Stay away from deals – deals are always encouraging you to buy things for £2 but the own store brand will be something like 60p. Don’t be taken in when there is always cheaper things than the deal.
6. Packed lunches – you can always save using a packed lunch rather than buying lunch every day. It doesn’t have to be just sandwiches, but you can alternate with pasta so easily.