How to Review Your Family Budget As The Cost of Living and Food Rises

2022 brought with it the hope of better times out of the dark of the past two years of the pandemic. There is much to look forward to but also much uncertainty, particularly in how we will manage our lifestyle and crucially our household budgets.

One thing that is certain is that we are spending much more time out of our homes.  With the end of the majority of covid restrictions, we are planning family outings and holidays, something we have all missed.

However, in order to be able to comfortably return to a pre-pandemic lifestyle, we must reassess how we have been spending our household budgets in the past two years.  Many of us have shifted travel and vacation spending into ‘luxury’ food deliveries and takeout treats during the pandemic, and we must now work towards tightening that spending to unlock funds for essentials such as work commutes as well as the fun stuff.

The economic backdrop is poised to make this transition even more difficult. The cost of living continues to increase and 2022 geopolitical events fueled record-high inflation.

In 2022, food prices are expected to increase between 9 and 10 percent. And we are all well aware of the rise in the cost of fuel prices which could see the average family’s bills rise to over £2000 per year.

So it is clear that before we even consider booking any fun activities our budgets need to go further than ever to cover the cost of everyday living.

We must focus on the things we can optimize in our monthly budget and how. One of the biggest family expenses after mortgage or rent is our food budget – the average grocery family bill in 2020 was over £5,028(UK household) and $4,942(US household) and this does way up when we include takeaway meals eaten at home.  We can cut this budget significantly if we adopt a more food-savvy approach that ensures that we are using all that food we buy, not wasting it due to a lack of planning or falling into the common food waste traps.

1. Say ‘no’ to takeout

Takeaway food has been on our menu more than ever in the last 2 years.

Firstly, let’s stop ordering those takeaways.  A number of billion-dollar food delivery companies have grown four to seven times larger since 2018, feeding on our inability to move freely. Moreover, industry analysts predict an increase in the cost of delivery services once the workforce shifts back to their pre-pandemic jobs like restaurant waiting. Even now, the cost of takeaway food is higher than ever, according to recent publications in FOOD&WINE and WSJ.

Now that we have the option to visit restaurants, let’s focus on the special occasions to spend our hard-earned cash and save takeouts only for emergencies.

Cooking food at home will undoubtedly save you serious money and even more importantly, will ensure that your meal ingredients are healthy and fresh. For example, the average takeout meal is 700 – 1200 calories per person so keeping control of what you are eating will benefit your health, energy, and productivity.

Sometimes we resort to takeouts because we are stuck on ideas on what to cook, even though we have a fully-stocked fridge. If you are lacking inspiration we can suggest a new approach, enabled by our mobile app, CozZo. The digital cookbook feature of CozZo will help you avoid the urge to reach for the takeout menus by matching instantly all ingredients to products you have in stock and finding new recipe ideas for you to choose from.

2. Prepare for a normal or a hybrid work setup

Now that life is beginning to return to some normality as many as 50% of employers are suggesting they will continue with a hybrid approach to where/when employees work in the future.  This new work arrangement will inevitably present a tough challenge for many families as it is combined with the return of kids’ clubs and social engagements.

With all the many permutations of who is home and when the pre-pandemic way of meal planning could benefit from a 2022 update. We’re in dire need of a more flexible approach that would ensure the food doesn’t end in the bin and fits into our schedules, unpredictable change of plans and fluctuation in cooking energy and enthusiasm.

So how does this flexible, zero-waste meal planning work?

Plan your meals with CozZo while in the office or on the go

By using a CozZo app to plan your family meals you can start the week with a basic plan – but have the flexibility to move that around as necessary. The plan is seamlessly shared with selected members of your household to encourage their participation in the shopping and cooking. CozZo is designed to be the tool to assist you in planning your meals for those weeks when your routine is easy to anticipate and those weeks when you need more flexibility.

When you’re working in the office or you’re on the go, CozZo provides the ability to browse the food stocked in your fridge or pantry and see which recipes can be cooked with available ingredients. You can use the integrated messenger to discuss meal ideas with your partner and decide who will purchase any missing ingredients on the way home.

On weeks when your family routine is fixed the CozZo meal planner will assist you to get everyone’s wishes into a well-laid-out plan. Just remember when meal planning that it is best to be realistic about the number of meals you will need to prepare.

So that is our take on flexible meal planning. A less daunting and straightforward approach. And above all, one that accommodates your lifestyle and schedule instead of fighting against it.

3. Don’t lose sight of those leftovers

Many times when we cook in the evening we have leftovers, so let’s get into a habit of using these rather than packing them into Tupperware thrown in the freezer never to be seen again.

Could that extra chicken pasta make a nice packed lunch for later in the week? If so make sure you use it by making a note in the CozZo meal planner that will remind you to get it out of the fridge.

Returning to the office will be a sharp reminder of how much money it costs to commute and to eat out at lunchtime.  Leftovers and a bit of planning at the start of the week could save a lot on the cost of your lunches.  Homemade salads and sandwiches are far more cost-effective than a coffee and lunch from a shop each day.

If you do a weekend “batch cooking” like cooking 2 chickens in the oven you will save on electricity, plus you will be less occupied with dinners for the next few days.

All those savings soon add up

4. Once a month reset

Once a month it can be useful to have a week where you buy only minimal food and use up the items in your freezer and pantry. With this, ‘low spend week’ we bet you will be amazed how many meals you can create with items you already have in stock. As a family, you can have fun creating meals from what’s in the freezer, have a competition to create the best homemade pizzas using the bits in the fridge. Tacos are another great way to use up cold meats, rice and beans.

With CozZo food inventory you can immediately see what’s in stock and do a focused check on your cupboards and fridge if you are not sure about something.  You can make an ‘essentials’ shopping list for weeks ahead, which is particularly handy if you tend to do a larger shop on a monthly basis.

As part of this monthly shop make sure you stock up on items that do not perish quickly as this is a great way to save money and always have ingredients to create a meal during your low spend week. Tinned beans, frozen veg, herbs and spices are all inexpensive, last for years and add tonnes of flavour to meals.

Try this once and see how much you save in that week and if it’s a success you can make it a monthly habit.

Including just a few of these changes in your weekly shopping habits will help to ensure that you are prepared to cope with any financial stress that 2022 may bring. You can learn more about how to plan your meals and cut your food waste by taking our Food Management course.