Today I decided to try a little experiment. The children and I will fly back to the UK next summer for my sister’s wedding (woohoo!) The flight cost 435,000 yen…which today amounts to 2553 pounds sterling and 45 pence. This is a lot of money, but going home is important, and I’d like to continue going home at least once every two years if possible. It will have been three years since our last visit. Since this is the first time with F, that makes a difference of course, but as she will still be flying as under two years old, the prices are only going to get higher before she goes off to nursery at four and I can work more outside the home.
So I tightened up the purse strings on the things that I could control somewhat. I’ve always kept account books and written down purchases since I’ve been married. We often lived outside our monthly income and relied on bonuses and rebates for daily life. There are times when I have skipped months, and times when I’ve not been as strict as I could have been about accounting for everything, but now is the time to take hold of the income and not let it take hold of us! We are very lucky to be able to live the way we do, to have the basics and more, and I am very grateful that we can support our family of five with only one income (and a very little one from me) coming in. I am grateful that Y sees my role as important even though it doesn’t hold a salary, and that I can have a chance to be at home full time with my children while they are young. I know for many families it is not an option, even if the wish is there. So, after finding that we spent around 70,000 yen a month on food, we have spent the last few months living on 45,000 and it’s been ok. More of an organised process, but ok. The hard parts are as follows…
1. It’s hard to eat a more western diet (for want of a better term) on a lower budget. Cereals are the killer..Low sugar and salt cereals and wholegrains, even more so. I bake my own bread every other day, and I use wholewheat bread flour and white bread flour 50/50. It works out at around 250 yen for a 2 pound loaf, so it’s cheaper than getting the same thing from a baker, but not quite as cheap as buying white sandwich bread from the supermarket.
2. It’s hard to budget when there are different preferences in the house. This is especially true for Y and myself. He will buy things that mostly only HE likes. His “only 300 yen” for some pickled thing to eat with his beer will be my “300 yen can pay for a cooked meal for all five of us excluding rice”, so the mindset I suppose, as well as the differences is tricky here.
3. Volume comes in veg. This is great for me since I love veg, especially the cheaper kind such as cabbage, beansprouts, daikon. Not great for the children who like pricier and sweeter veg. that doesn’t really go far for the price.
4. I’m still breastfeeding, so I have a big appetite, and Y’s is like a high school boy’s sometimes. I want to feed us adequately of course, a healthy balanced sufficient diet.
5. Y has a packed lunch/bento for work, which often means getting frozen sets since I have little time to prepare those from scratch all the time, although I have managed this week.
I usually shop twice a week. I have a list, but I’ll also see what there is at the supermarket and get “good deals”. The problem with this is that you often end up buying things that you wouldn’t usually, because they are reduced. So the new plan is to avoid this unless it’s something that I will use as part of a meal, or as part of/to substitute something that is on my list.
I am an avid reader of so-called housewife magazines. I suppose it’s partly the nosiness, but I’m genuinely interested in how others eat and plan/live. Plus this is a different country from the one I was brought up in, so it’s even more fun to see how others shop. In one of these magazines recently, there was a single mother of three (husband working away), one of her children a baby and one a teenager, who spent 15,000 yen a month on groceries. Her trick is to only shop with a 500 yen coin and only spend that every time she goes to the supermarket. My first thought was, how ridiculous, she can’t possibly get the best deals if she shops like that! Plus she would have to go every day, which sounds like a right royal pain. But it made me wonder, and this month, my experiment is this. I will go shopping for food every day. My budget will be 1000 yen a time, because I think 500 is impossible for me. If I succeed in this plan, our food budget will total around 28,000 yen. We already have around 50 kilos of rice that we bought from a farmer last month, and a small amount of food left over from previous shops, plus store cupboard items such as, miso paste, pasta, yeast, bread flours, sweetcorn, chickpeas, herbs and spices, sauces, grains, nuts, breadcrumbs, flour, salt, sugar, etc., so I really think it’s possible. My main concern is that I will give up, but we’ll have to see. Christmas meal budget will be 5000 yen including alcohol, because rules are meant to be bent a little. Today’s trip to the supermarket showed me that buying a single onion for 50 yen instead of a bag of 5 for 158 yen might make this challenge trickier (I refuse to not buy that in bulk!), but I’m hoping to balance it out tomorrow.
Orange juice – 128 yen Milk – 148 yen 10 Eggs – 208 yen (a bit pricey today, will have to find out the cheap egg day) Chicken Breast (200g) – 194 yen Bunch of bananas (5) – 98 yen Broccoli – 160 yen Bag of onions (5)- 158 yen Carrots (3) – 130 yen
Total – 1224 yen
Tomorrow’s budget will be 776 yen, wish me luck!