Couple paid off their £16,000 loan in a year thanks to batch cooking

Have you ever added up how much you spend on food every month?

Grainne McNamee was shocked when she discovered that together with her husband Ryan, they spent over £500 a month on food alone.

With Ryan facing being made redundant from his job at a bank just as they took on a £16,000 debt, they knew they needed to do something.

The couple ditched takeaways, meal deals and top-shops and learnt how to batch cook meals for as little as £1 per portion.

Now Grainne buys meat in bulk from, combines with low cost vegetables, cupboard staples, and fresh spices, to cook around 45 portions for less then £60.

They’ve paid off their debt and now save so much, Grainne has managed to cut her hours of work down to two days a week.

Grainne, 33, who lives in Belfast with Ryan and their dog Jessie, said: ‘We were dealt a bit of a blow in 2017 when my husband faced redundancy, and it made us realise just how mindless we’d become with our spending.

‘We’d recently bought a new car on finance, but it was on a complete whim. We literally walked into the car dealership and drove out in a brand-new car the same day, having signed up to what was essentially another £11,000 loan.

‘This meant that each month, we were forking out over £400 in loan payments, just to meet the minimum required.

‘It was at this point that I made the decision to try and clear over £16k worth of debt in just 12 months – something that some friends and family thought was far too ambitious at the time.

‘But I was really determined to get our finances back on track so in order to hold myself accountable I made a dedicated Instagram page, @WannaBeDebtFree, where I began logging day-to-day spending, loan payments, and our finances in general.

‘It was quite intimidating to start off with because people are usually so tight lipped about anything to do with income, spending, and debt in particular, but I found a huge online community that were incredibly helpful using the hashtag #DebtFreeCommunity.

‘It took a while to get Ryan on board but eventually we were able to sit down and really fine tune our spending – cancelling memberships and direct debits that weren’t absolutely essential, and changing the way we viewed money in general.

‘Soon we were paying about £1000 in loan overpayments each month, and our total debt gradually reduced.’

The pair usually ate out or ordered takeaways once or twice a week and shopped day-to-day at various convenience shops and supermarkets the rest of the time.

As such, their food bill alone racked up to a whopping £500 each month for just the two of them.

So Grainne started to meal plan, batch cook and stuck to a weekly food shop.

In order to bring this cost down, 33-year-old Grainne decided to start meal planning, batch cooking, and doing a weekly food shop.

Grainne now prepares over a weeks’ worth of evening meals with leftover portions for lunches, for as little as £2.05 per meal.

Grainne continued: ‘When you’re really trying to be careful with your spending and get the absolute most for your money, Musclefood hampers are fantastic.

‘Using chicken breast, minced beef, pork, and steak as bases, I now cook up hearty but healthy meals like Chinese pork ramen, meatball marinara and chicken katsu curry.

‘And I can use any meaty leftovers to make a big meat feast pizza which feeds three for about £4.90 – which is better value than most supermarkets.

‘When meal planning, I usually make a mental note of one night where we will be eating leftovers, usually just before our weekly food shop.

‘This gives us an opportunity to raid the fridge of any veggies or produce that hasn’t been used. Not only does this save money it also cuts down on the level of household waste.

‘Another tip would be to learn how to eat repeatedly, so eating dishes throughout the week which have similar or the same components.

‘This may sound boring, but it gives you the opportunity to be really creative whilst being cost efficient as you can buy in bulk, and really make your groceries stretch further.’

Grainne now works two days a week, which gives her time to focus on her blog too.

Grainne added: ‘Our journey to become debt free hasn’t been easy, but it’s definitely been worth it.

‘Ryan and I got married last year with no debt, and we’re now saving so much money every month that I can actually afford to just work two days a week!

‘This gives me time to concentrate on my Instagram blog and I even wrote a book in December last year, called How to Get Out of Debt: An Eight-Stage Strategy to Pay Off Debt and Fix Your Finances for Good.

‘People often think that living frugally means being miserable, but I’m the happiest I’ve ever been”

‘Often all it takes is some time to re-address your attitude to your finances and make some little changes that all add up in the long term.’

Grainne’s low cost recipes

Chicken Stir Fry (serves 2)


Chinese Pork Ramen (serves 4)


Meatball Marinara

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