Former foodbank user Jack Monroe shares useful way she keeps weekly Asda shop under £20

Anti-food campaigner Jack Monroe has shared how to manage to keep the weekly food shop costs at a minimum in the hopes it may help other shoppers save some cash while feeding their families.

The former foodbank user took to Twitter to re-share their hack, originally posted in February, and put it into practice for a bank holiday weekend trip to Asda.

The 34-year-old swears by taking stock of absolutely everything in their cupboards, fridge and freezer every couple of months, and using that to work out what’s in, what’s needed, and what nutritionally balanced meals can be made from it.

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Jack said: “One of my best tips for keeping the food shop down to £20 a week is to do a full stocktake every now and then of what’s in the cupboard, fridge and freezer. Let me explain how it works.

“I get an A4 sheet of lined paper and divide it into 4 vertical columns: proteins, carbohydrates, fruit and veg, and the end column is split into two, flavors and snacks. Then I go through the fridge, freezer and cupboard and note down every single thing I have in. When I’m feeling extra meticulous I weigh it all, but usually I do an estimate of the number of units or portions.”

The Bootstrap Cook highlights things that need using imminently, including fruit on the turn or fresh produce nearing its use by date, planning meals around them, adding in flavors and products from the other columns.

She added: “Starting with protein first, and trying to pick one thing from each column, helps visualize and create balanced meals.It also means that my shopping list for the week is made up of ‘gap filling’ – so if i’m running low on fruit and veg, I’ll prioritize that. If I’m short on whole grains, I’ll pick up some brown rice.”

On Good Friday, Jack headed out to Asda armed with a strict shopping list, wheeled trolley and 32l backpack.

The savvy shopper added: “Before Asda brought the Smartprice range back in full nationwide, I would take either my 32l backpack or my wheely trolley to do my big £20 shop. It’s a testament to how much further that £20 now goes, that I filled both to the brim today. It still makes me a bit emotional tbh.”

Though she notes that the food shop is ‘actually difficult’ requiring ‘a military extremely amount of organization and self-control and good mental health’. Returning from the shopping trip, Jack laid out everything she had bought to see their household through the week, which totted up to £21.23.

She said: “To reiterate – this takes a LOT of planning, research, literal hours, being in a good place mentally and physically, ten years of experience, the willingness to do about five laps around the shop, a calculator, and a household with no tricky allergies or dietary needs.

“And over the last ten years I have built up a store cupboard of spices, flours, pastas, dried beans, frozen veg and fish, tinned fish etc, which all helps, in the same way that I won’t use everything in this picture in the next seven days so some of it will roll over.”

She shared a snap of the Asda receipt which included 50p onions, 23p lemonade, 75p bacon and 33p potatoes. One of the most expensive items on the list was pork belly slices, at £3.23, which was one of only two items that cost more than £1 – the other being £1 sausages.

Coconut milk came in at 82p, kidney beans at 30p, beans at 50p and two packs of tomatoes at 28p each. Meanwhile spaghetti hoops were only 16p, baked beans 22p and UHT milk cost 59p.

Jack added: “Asda currently have bags of carrots, parsnips, potatoes and broccoli for 20p each at the moment. Seems to be a nationwide thing; I found mine on the ‘end’ at the fresh produce bit.”

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Other items on the shop included a 41p bottle of squash, radish for 50p, 46p celery, apples and pears costing 72p and 52p respectively.

There were a total of 37 items on the receipt, including spaghetti, bread, mushrooms, garlic, banana and eggs – as well as maize crisps which were only 88p for a multi-pack.

Jack joked that even she strays off list sometimes, and initially had no intention of buying baked beans, mushrooms or ginger, adding: “”Even I am not immune from straying off-list in the dazzling lights of le supermarche.”

Jack said the stringent planning has ‘revolutionised’ the way she cooks, saying it helps reduce anxiety around buying food, reduces waste, and helps prevent impulse purchases, thus keeping the total food bill low.

She added: “It also helps me plan balanced meals, and sparks off all kinds of avenues of creativity I hope this is useful to someone; it won’t be for everyone, and I am aware that ‘check what you have in’ is useless advice for those who have absolutely nothing in the cupboards – I know, I’ve been there, it sucks, and I’m sorry .

“But for the majority of people looking to save a bit of money on their food shop, give it a go. It’s quite laborious the first time you do it, but as someone who has lived in food poverty, I find it quite powerfully reassuring to have a physical list of all of the food I have.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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