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Month: January 2017

Food shopping tips for families

Food shopping tips for families

Budgetting and saving money are both more important and more difficult when you have young children. More expenses, less free time.

Families come in all shapes and sizes and are all different. There’s no one size fits all with budgetting, and no where is this more true than the food budget. That’s why I decided to ask lots of different families what works for them.

Food shopping tips for familiesEveryone I spoke to did things differently and had various tricks up their sleeves to help them keep control of their food budget. Whilst one family swore by one tip, another completely disagreed.

Check out some of these tips to see if any will work for you. Perhaps some won’t, but hopefully some will! The answers come from families with 1 child, families with more than 1, families with babies,  families with school age children, and single parent families to (a special salute if that’s you!) A lot of their tips are relevant to people without kids too!

Food saving tips for families… from families

Money saving on baby food;

I’ve rarely used (baby) jars, I’ve always made a bit more of what we’re eating and frozen smaller portions, so there’s always something in for the toddler. I’m not Mary Poppins though, sometimes you have to pay the price of convenience!

Making the food shop a little lot less painful!

I shop online (especially if I’ve got both the girls). You can’t get yellow sticker offers, but it saves throwing a load of random stuff in the trolley whilst dealing with a toddler tantrum. Also, a delivery slot when they’re in bed is normally cheaper- think later on Sunday evening- and means I can unpack without little fingers going after the strawberries as soon as they arrive.

Making the most of free school dinners;

My daughter gets free school dinners, so if I know I won’t feel like cooking, I’ll have a cooked meal at lunch and just put together a light supper. It’s cheaper than getting a takeaway in the evening.

Cooking together (for the brave!);

We sometimes cook together at the weekend. By making a homemade pizza or burgers together, it’s an activity we can do without spending money (other than what you’d spend on dinner anyway) and its cheaper than a takeaway.

Old school;

We’ve got a milkman! I got fed up of constantly popping to the shops for the basics. I’d always end up with a kinder egg or frozen breakfast cereal or something else in the basket. The price is a bit higher but I save more just by avoiding the extra shopping trips

Food saving tips for families… and everyone else

Not falling for “deals” (and how organised is this??);

When I write my shopping list, I write the maximum I want to pay for items alongside them. For example, I might say 50p for biscuits. It means when chocolate hobnobs are on offer for £1, my list reminds me I only want to spend 50p.

Using cash:

We withdraw cash – £200 per month- and put it in our food purse. Watching what we spend and what we have left keeps us in budget every month. It’s a good deterrent from buying too many Kinder eggs 😉

Anyone else noticed a kinder egg theme?

Meal plan and shop once:

I come up with a meal plan for the week and go shopping once… I take a list and make sure  I’ve eaten. Shopping hungry, especially without list, is always a bad idea.

Homemade treats:

Making homemade hobnobs or fairy cakes is a way to keep costs down on sweet treats, as long as you don’t fall for all the fancy looking decorations!

 Smart choices:

Chicken breast meat is the easiest to cook with and easiest to eat, but you get so much more value from buying a whole bird or chicken thighs.

 And another smart choice (one of my favourites):

I make life easy with frozen veg- it also means less goes to waste when a last minute schedule change means we have less time to put dinner together or have to switch round the meals on our plan.

Know how to cook

It’s difficult to control what you spend on food if you can’t cook, but you won’t become an accomplished chef overnight. It’s ok that you’re not perfect as soon as you start. Following a recipe to the letter is not a guarantee of success (I have a lot of personal experience of this) . But practice, practice, practice. If your first homecooked food is pasta tossed in passatta with grated cheese, it’s step one. Omelettes are another easy and cheap meal. Keep taking those steps. Don’t be too ambitious.

One step at a time

You don’t have to make lots a changes in one go. Like I said, every family is different. Some of these tips might suit one family, but be completely unworkable for another.

Try one or two at a time and see what works for you. Over time, new habits will form and saving money on food shopping (even when you’re super busy) will start to become automatic.

Do you have any other tips that help you and your family save money on food shopping?

5 Super Easy Ways To Save

5 Super Easy Ways To Save

Super easy ways to saveCheck out these 5 super easy ways to save. I know that saving money can feel like hard work. Really hard work.

That’s why, when I try something new that saves money and is actually quite easy, I wanna share it. Might as make saving a bit easier for everyone!

Whether you’re looking for some easy ways to start saving or you’ve done all the big, obvious things, these are 5 super easy ways to save a bit more money.

 

1. Unsubscribe from marketing emails

If you’re trying to save money, being bombarded with marketing emails doesn’t help. Even if you manage not to click through and buy, it makes resisting those great deals and new summer styles much more difficult.

Unsubscribing will make not buying things easier. And it’s just a click of a button.

2. Clear out your Amazon wish list

I love Amazon. Everything you could need in one place, next day delivery and great prices. The problem is it’s too good! Periodically, go through your wish list and wittle it down. There’s probably stuff in there you no longer need or don’t really want, so you might as well remove it. A smaller list means less temptation to buy things.

3. Washing clothes

I talked about saving money on washing clothes in my lazy frugal tips article, but here’s a bit more.

You can keep the costs of washing clothes down by:

  • Washing at lower temperatures
  • Choosing a shorter cycle
  • Making sure your machine is full (2 half loads use more electricity than 1 full load)
  • Using a combined detergent and fabric conditioner (I don’t like these, but it’s worth trying for yourself)
  • Using Aldi washing liquid (I highly recommend this. I prefer the biological liquid, but they also do non-bio)
  • Using less washing liquid and fabric conditioner than required. The escape artist does a good job of explaining why in his article The alignment of interests (or how much washing powder to use?)

4. Switch electricity provider

This may seem daunting if you haven’t done it before, but 20 minutes of work comparing providers and choosing the cheapest can save you money. All. Year. Long. It’s got to be one of the easiest ways to save a good chunk of money, and it could be several hundred pounds.

5. Downshift your toiletries and cleaning supplies

Last year, I tried loads of own brand stuff. I’d already swapped to non-branded food items, but didn’t realise I was still a brand snob where toiletries and cleaning products were concerned.

I swapped washing up liquid, detergent, fabric softener, hand soap, shower gel, tooth paste, toilet rolls, bleach and a load of other things I can’t remember. There were only two things not as good as my usual items, the fabric conditioner and the toothpaste, so I just swapped back.

Super easy ways to save

Saving money doesn’t have to be hard or time consuming. As well as these super easy ways to save, you might like my lazy frugal tips, and the weirdo things I do to save money (which aren’t so weird after all!)

Do you have any other super easy ways to save money? I’d love to hear about them. Hopefully I can rack up even more savings without too much hard work!

Lazy frugal tips

Lazy frugal tips

Lazy frugal tipsIf you’re looking for lazy frugal tips, you’ve come to the right place! Trying to fit saving money into a hectic schedule is not easy. It’s great to have a freezer full of batch cooked food, but you have to find the time up front to do it. So I’ve come up with some lazy frugal tips to help save money with very little effort. These are things I do week in, week out. Some of them even make life easier, so there’s no excuse!

Even if you do love traditional thrifty and frugal tips, you might find something here that fits the bill and makes things a little easier.

Wash clothes on a shorter cycle and/ or lower temperature

If you washing your clothes anyway, it takes no extra effort to use a different cycle. I started by washing clothes at 30ºc instead of 40ºc, and for lightly worn items that need to be washed, I opt for a 1 hour cycle instead of over 2 hours.

According to Which?, 20ºc is enough to clean most stains, so I’ll be trying this from now on. For bedding and towels, I stick to 60ºc.

Buy non-branded medication

If your buying medication, such as paracetamol, ibuprofen or hayfever tablets, it’s much much cheaper to buy non-branded drugs. You may need to take the effort to bend down to the bottom shelf (the expensive ones are the easiest to reach, obviously) but that’s the only thing you need to do differently.

Frozen vegetables

If you can put bags of frozen vegetables in your trolley (online or in store), boil the kettle and put the vegetables and water in a pan for a few minutes, you can make use of this frugal tip.

And it helps you be frugal in a few ways by:

  • Making cooking easier; you’ll be more tempted to cook from scratch than rely on convenience food when your vegetables are 5 minutes away from being cooked.
  • Producing less waste. You’re not going to have half your broccoli go mouldy!
  • Quite often, it’s cheaper than fresh. Green beans is a good example, where you can pay 80p or more for a small fresh tray, or £1.10 for a frozen bag.
  • Making it easier to reduce meat the amount of meat you eating. Eating less meat is an easy way of saving money on your food shop. A variety of vegetables on your plate makes it easier to deal with 🙂

Freeze without blanching

I recently learned that you don’t have to blanche vegetables to freeze them. I like to have veg on hand and often preserve fresh vegetables if I have more than I need for a meal, but blanching them (boiling in water for a few minutes then plunging in ice water before freezing) feels like a nuisance.

Carrots and broccoli are especially good. In the case of broccoli, just cut up your florets into whatever size you want, stick them in a freezer bag and straight in the freezer. Carrots are a bit more effort, needing to be peeled and sliced quite thinly, before freezing (I reckon you can get away with not peeling, to be honest, making this an even easier frugal tip). They just take as long to cook as if you hadn’t frozen them.

Drink tap water

It’s the easiest drink you can get yourself and surely the easiest way to be frugal. No cost of squash or tea bags, no need to use electricity. And it’s easy to wash up.

Watch TV snuggled under a blanket

If you’re watching TV (reading a book, surfing the net, or any other seated activity), rather than crank up the heating, see how long you can make do snuggled under a duvet or blanket.

Wash your hair less often

By washing your hair less often, you’ll use less shampoo and have shorter showers. I used to be adamant my hair needed to be washed every day, until I started to skip a day. Then, when I’d gotten used to that, I skipped two days! That’s as far as I’ve gotten so far, but I’m following in the footsteps of friends who have successfully extended their hair washing to once per week!

I used to buy a large bottle of shampoo and conditioner every month, at least, but I buy a heck of a lot less now.

Other lazy frugal tips?

Hopefully this goes to show there are some frugal things you can do that take little or no time.

Do you have any other lazy frugal tips? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Eeeek! I’m on the verge of a no spend weekend!

Eeeek! I’m on the verge of a no spend weekend!

I’m interupting my posting schedule (I know, there’s not much of a schedule anyway!) because I just realised I’m on the verge of a no spend weekend!! Whether you’re looking forward to your own no spend weekend, in the middle of a (scary sounding!) no spend month, or just looking for a few fun things to do without spending money, check out my plans for ideas!

How I ended up on the verge of a no spend weekend

I usually do our food shopping on Saturday or Sunday. Even when I get the food shopping done in the week, I still end up spending money on Saturday morning by popping down to the butchers for meat.

Looking in my freezer, I have plenty of meat and I got my food shopping done and dusted yesterday.

As I was folding my clean washing, I started thinking about how I’d spend my weekend.

Enjoying the great outdoorsDSCF1154

We have more snow forecast overnight and tomorrow morning looks sunny. Although I don’t really like being cold, I love how picturesque everywhere looks under a fresh blanket of snow and as we have snow so rarely, I always like to get out for a walk in the crisp fresh air.

So thats fun free* activity number 1!

Recovering from the great outdoors!IMG-20160626-WA0003

We were really lucky at Christmas, receiving not one, not even two, but three new board games! We didn’t get chance to get any out last week so I’m desperate to get them set up and start playing. We have plenty of tea plus boxes of chocolates and a big bag of kettle chips left over from Christmas, so we’re even sorted for treats!

For those of you counting, that’s fun, free* activity number 2!

Food glorious food

Next I got thinking about tonight’s meal. We received a few bottles of wine at Christmas that haven’t been touched as one or the other of us hasn’t been very well. As we’re having lamb leg steaks, I’m looking forward to enjoying it alongside a glass of vino.

And I’m sure you’ve clocked that this is fun, free* activity number 3!

It’s looking promising!

So far, I have an indoor activity, and outdoor activity and a home cooked meal to look forward to, all of which I don’t need to spend money on. Which made me think, it should be easy to keep this a totally no spend weekend.

Add in to the mix a visit to parents, a relaxing hour with my book and (of course) the season finale of Sherlock, I think I’m in with a really good shot at a no spend weekend.

Why does it matter?

In the grand scheme of things, a no spend weekend sounds like it doesn’t matter. Ultimately, you can divert your spending to before or after the weekend. You can go all out next weekend and make up for what you missed out on.

I think it matters because it is a start point for realising spending money every day doesn’t have to be the norm, that you don’t have to spend money to have fun, and you can most definitely live on less.

I’ll update you on how I get on next week!

In the mean time, let me know if you’ve got any free or frugal plans this weekend. Do you think you could manage to have a fun filled weekend without spending any money?

*There are obviously things I’ve already had to spend money on to be able to do these things, such as my well-loved walking shoes, but ‘free’ sounds a bit simpler than ‘thing which I have paid for prior to this weekend’.

 

Weirdo things I do to save money- Part 2

Weirdo things I do to save money- Part 2

Debt is normal so to repay it, you’ve got to be a weirdo. According the Financial Panther, that is, and I’ve got to say, it makes a lot of sense.

It got me thinking about what weirdo things I’ve done that have helped me repay debt. Easier said than done, because these ‘weirdo things’ are the norm to me. I’m pretty convinced some can become the norm for you (if they’re not already). I’ve already shared the weirdo things I do to save money in the household budget, but here’s a load more weirdo ways I’ve saved money on more personal expenses.

Setting a ‘low’ budget for Christmas gifts

In particular, the gifts that my husband and I buy for each other. Our budget for Christmas and birthday gifts for one another has fluctuated between £30 and £50.

I could think of loads of ways that I could spend £200 at Christmas and another £200 on his birthday. He could think of ways to spend the same on me. We’d prefer to keep spending on gifts to (a still generous) £200 in the year, and have £600 to spend on other things. Weird, huh?

Don’t wear make up (or rarely, at least)

I wear make up so infrequently that it seems weird to me that people spend so much time and money on it, but equally I know that not wearing make up seem weird to lots of people. For me, a #NoMakeUpSelfie is also just a #Selfie.

It’s not that I never wear make up; I own a palette of 4 eye shadows and black mascara, as well as four or five bottles of nail varnish.

Drink tap water and carry a bottle with me

I used to have a Saturday job working in Woolworths (remember them?) The number of people who bought drinks; cans, bottles and cartons, soft drinks, juices, smoothies and water amazed me. It seemed completely weird to me.

It’s so easy to fill a reusable sports bottle and drop it in your bag before you leave the house; kinder on your wallet and the environment.

Avoid hand wash only items… like the plague!!

Far from insisting I can only possibly wear a dress once, I like to get my cost per wear down on my clothes. I can’t do this with handwash only items, because they either sit in my wardrobe, remaining clean, or they sit in my washing basket, waiting to be washed. Not only that, but they tend to be pricey for such an inconvenient item.

Play board games

“Shall we have a board game night?” is music to my ears, but it’s still quite unusual. More and more people are cottoning on to some of the amazing games available now (I’m not talking about monopoly here!) and I can’t help but think it’s a good thing. The opportunity to interact rather than stare at screens, to think strategically and sometimes cooperatively, to have an awesome night in for the cost of tea bags and biscuits… Maybe it’s weird, but I’ll take weird any day!

You can be weird too!

So here’s my rallying cry- come and be weird with me. Even share your weirder ways! Embrace it. You might find that weird is pretty normal after all.

What weird things do you do to save money on your personal budget? Do they seem normal to you, have they become normal, or do they still seem a little odd?

Weirdo things I do to save money- part 1

Weirdo things I do to save money- part 1

I recently read an article by Financial Panther that said debt is normal so to repay it, you’ve got to be a weirdo. It got me thinking about what weirdo things I’ve done that have helped me repay debt.

It took some thinking about at first, because these ‘weirdo things’ are the norm to me. But after scratching my head, I came up with enough to fill 2 posts!

Part 1 is about weirdo ways to save money on household expenses. Next week, I’ll share weirdo ways I’ve saved money on more personal expenses.

Buy used cars with cash

The most expensive car we’ve owned (the current one) was around £4,000. The car before was £2,500. And when we replace the current car, it will be around £4,000 to £6,000.

I’m not so weird that I walk round showrooms with a wadge of cash in my handbag, but we do save the money in advance and have it in our current account when we’re ready to purchase. The idea of buying a car on finance is completely foreign to me, although for many, it is the norm.

 

Buy cheap toilet rolls

I buy 18 rolls for £3.99 or under. I have to admit, the first time I bought a pack of 18, I did think people must wonder what kind of diarrohea nightmare was going on at our home. I felt like a bit of a weirdo.

I got over it pretty quickly.

I was concerned that such cheap loo roll would be so thin, you would use twice as much and not save any money. Fortunately, a work friend (#WeirdoWorkConversations!) reassured me that it was decent quality and I concur. We buy Nicky Elite and I recommend them to everyone.

Cook at home, rather than takeaway

Gradually, over 5 years, we have reduced the number of takeaways we order. We were never big takeaway eaters (at least I don’t think we were), probably averaging 2.5 takeaways for month.

In 2015, we cut this down to help pay for the holiday of a lifetime to 5 in the year, and in 2016 we had just three. Looking at it like that does seem a bit weird. But generally, in the week, when you’re used to not having takeaways, it seems normal.

I’m not completely weird, I do have lazy nights where I just throw a pizza in the oven!

Watch freesat TV

I must admit, we are currently going crazy with an amazon prime subscription for the first time!!

But we still have our freesat box, and this is what we’ve watched and recorded on over the last few years, saving that monthly payment going out.

Share

There are some things we don’t use very frequently, such as a strimmer for the lawn, hedge cutters, power tools, large numbers of glasses, etc.

Rather than everyone in the family having their own, we often borrow things from my parents and lend them things we have.

Avoid must have kitchen gadgets

There are so many ‘must have’ kitchen gadgets. Spiralisers, coffee machines, smoothie makers, marshmallow toasters, you get the picture. Don’t get me wrong, they look pretty cool. There’s a whole marketing team making damn sure they look pretty cool. Most of these things will be used once or twice, before taking up space on the counter.

If you’re thinking of getting a new kitchen gadget, borrowing from someone who has one might be a better idea (if they don’t mind) so you can get an idea of if you would actually use it.

My must have kitchen gadgets are electric scales and a food processor. I went a bit wild last year, asking for a hand mixer for my birthday and it makes cakes super quick and easy.

You can be weird too!

If you’re trying to save money or pay down debt, or are just trying to avoid the growing presence of unneccessary kitchen devices on your worktops, maybe try out some things you wouldn’t normally do. Embrace being weird. You might find that weird is pretty normal after all.

What weird things do you do to save money on your household budget? Do they seem normal to you, have they become normal, or do they still seem a little odd?

 

Why your ‘simple’ resolution isn’t easy

Why your ‘simple’ resolution isn’t easy

Lots of people choose resolutions that fit in one of two categories: Money or Health. It could be paying down debt, saving more or earning more. It could be doing more exercise or eating fewer cookies. Or, it could be cutting down on cigarettes or alcohol, saving you money and improving your health.

These are all quite simple, right? To pay down debt you need to spend less money and put it towards debt payments. To cut down on alcohol, you need to stay in more or cut alcohol out of your weekly shop.

It’s not like deciding you want to learn to play Vivaldi’s four seasons when you can’t even read music.

In spite of choosing resolutions that seem simple, lots of us don’t stick with them. They’re far from easy.

Habits are hard to change

If you decide to learn to play Vivaldi’s four seasons, you know you have to make time to specifically focus on learning a new skill, having lessons (most likely) and practicing in between. And you know it’s going to be hard.

If you decide to save money on the food shop, you’ve got to stop yourself from doing the things you automatically do, week in week out. Then, you have to start doing new things that aren’t automatic, so they take time and feel inconvenient. They may be simple changes, but its hard to stop doing things that come naturally to you.

The leniency of Christmas amplifies the severity of January

Here’s another challenge to our new year’s resolution. It’s fair to say that most of us are more lenient with ourselves in December. We build a bit more into our budget to treat ourselves, we share good food with families and friends… and in our house, we have the heating on much more often, so our guests aren’t cold!

When January comes, rather than just getting back to normal, we set incredibly ambitious goals and set about enthusiastically changing ourselves and our lives. The changes would be hard at any point in the year, but being so lenient with ourselves in December can lead to our goals seeming too severe by comparison. It’s hardly surprising so many people give up before the month is out.

January is a start point- work yourself up gradually

This isn’t a make or break month. It’s a start point. If you’ve spent 10 years ordering a takeaway on a Friday night or open a bottle of wine every Thursday night or every evening is cosied up on the sofa watching TV, you don’t have to quit that completely in January. You’re in the first 31 days of changing something about your life. Right now, January might stretch out in front of us, but we all know that time will be gone in a heartbeat.

It’s up to you to decide what will work for you. If you’re giving up takeaways, maybe reduce them by 50% in January. And try to replace them with a meal you can look forward to instead.

If you’re swearing to stay off the red wine until Friday at the earliest, perhaps pencil in a couple of Thursday evening strolls for January to give yourself something to do at the point when your brain is thinking ‘where’s the corkscrew?’!

Don’t wait until next year to start again

You might get to the end of January or February and realise you haven’t made a very good start at all. You might already have decided you’ve given up. It might even be summertime when you think “I was supposed to be getting fit this year”.

The first day of January is just a day. Just like tomorrow is just a day. You don’t have to decide to make your life better in a specific period of the calendar, you can do it anytime.

It will be worth it

Your goals are not about inflicting unnecessary suffering on yourself. They’re not about making life tough for no reason. They’re not even about showing others what you can do. They’re your goals and they are about making your life better.

There will be tough days, days when you feel like you’ve failed, days when you undo previous good work. Any action, any step in the right direction, is a success. You need to remember those successes and work to make more, rather than dwelling on failures.

Your goals may be difficult to achieve. But they will make your life what you want it to be. And surely, that makes it worth it.

Are you someone that sets new year’s resolutions? How do you tackle your goals, especially when you feel you’re failing?