A thrifty mum-of-three has garnered a legion of online followers after wowing friends with her healthy budget meals.
Feeding a family of five and her dogs for just £38 a week, Danielle Ross has clocked up 22,000 followers on Facebook.
The self-described “budget queen” is now saving hundreds of pounds a month.
Mrs Ross, 30, is a spa host at a local spa and has three young sons and a 35-year-old husband, David.
She said: “If I wasn’t sticking to a budget I would be spending £600 a month. And my friends spend that much.
“For parents it’s the snacks for kids.”
Mrs Ross set up a Facebook page to show just how cheaply a pack lunch can be.
The Colchester-mother 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 eight-year-old Ollie and five-year-old twins Sam and Max when she goes shopping each week so they “learn the value of money” and learn to budget.
Her husband, David, is banned from spending money on £3 meal deals at chain stores and must also bring a pack lunch to work.
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.
Mrs Ross has always been a saver – despite her husband wanting to spend more. The mum-of-five thanks her mother.
She said: “At my local shop they used to sell 2p cans of beans but it was limited to five cans per person. So my mum would get people in the queue to stand there for her.
“So saving has always been with him – I’m just a budget queen.”
Bringing children up to be savers means Mrs Ross includes them in her cooking. “My eight-year-old 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.”
Mrs Ross does try and take her three young boys out as often as she can. But she refuses to go anywhere without a voucher.
The thrifty saver refused to take her three boys to Chessington World of Adventures until she found the best voucher online.
She said: “I have people on my Facebook page, Healthy Family Meals on a Budget, have people all over the world commenting on it.
“They ask for advice all the time for me but I’m not a nutritionist though but now there are so many people on there other people give advice to one another about gluten-free or whatever.
“I’m just a normal mum but it would be nice to start a movement I guess.”
“My top tips to save money are these:
“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 sources outright so spag bol can always be made thicker with vegetables in them.
“3. Never deviate from the shopping list. 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 don’t need to because I can be flexible about products because I know what a £40 shop should look like.
“4. Always set aside for splurges. Every one 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 packed lunch rather than buying lunch every day. It doesn’t have to be just sandwiches, but you can alternate with pasta so easily.”