How to save money on groceries and make your food shop go further

How to save money on groceries and make your food shop go further

Have you ever gone into a supermarket intending to buy a punnet of eggs and some milk, only to come out with 2 bars of chocolate, some of that new fancy organic shampoo, and a ‘treat yourself’ snack?… Then you freeze mid-exit, a bag full of unnecessary luxuries and think “wait, what was I here to buy again?”.

…If you’ve done this you’re not alone.

Supermarkets are smart, really smart. Each year the industry spends an exorbitant amount of money on advertising, consumer and market research, and shopping data to create strategies that will increase our ‘basket spend’.

That bag full of luxuries you walked out with? Well that’s just proof their strategies work.

I’m not saying supermarkets are evil, but when their main objective is to get as much money out of you as they can it pays to have some tricks up your sleeve to say “stick-em”, keep your pennies and make your grocery shop go further.

Here are my tops 9 tips to save money on groceries and make your food go further.

1. Write a list

  • There’s a reason this is a top tip for saving on groceries, it really does work.
  • Think about it, if you walk into a supermarket without a list you’ll most likely end up buying things that don’t go together or make complete meals. Curry sauce and lasagne sheets? Biscuits and baked beans? Creative perhaps, but also a recipe for food wastage and money poured down the drain.
  • Take a look through your recipe books, your mum’s handed-down family favourites, or create a recipe board on Pinterest, and pick meals you want to make for that week. Have fun, and try new things!
  • Write down your list of ingredients and any necessities you need before you go into the supermarket. And stick to the list.
  • As you walk through the supermarket tick off the items once they’re in your basket, and don’t stray.  
  • An extra way to make sure you stick to your list is to set yourself a maximum time to spend in-store. I set myself a timer and try to aim for 10-15 minutes max. Not only does this mean you save on your shop and only buy what you need, but you save on time too!

2. Plan meals with similar ingredients

  • This trick is a game-changer, by planning meals with the same or similar ingredients it’ll ensure your shop goes further across the week, you save money, and there’s zero food wastage.
  • Pick your key ingredient for the week, such as a large whole chicken and plan meals around this ingredient – Think a roast on Sunday, pie on Tuesday and risotto on Wednesday.  
  • Or you could pick a cuisine like Italian, and buy ingredients from within this cuisine family. Think pasta, risotto, spinach, tomatoes, mozzarella, anchovies, polenta, salami, olives, and fresh herbs…
  • By picking key ‘family’ ingredients that you can use for multiple meals it’ll save you a tonne of money, and channel your inna Nonna within!

3. Don’t buy pre-chopped veggies

  • I get it the onions bring you tears and chopping a pumpkin feels like a 10 minute bootcamp you’d rather not endure. Buying those pre-chopped veggies takes out the hard work, but at a cost.
  • Those pre-chopped veggies might save you the tears and the muscle power, but they’re a lot more expensive in the long run.
  • My advise, 1. Pre soak your onions in water before you chop them to rid the tears, and 2. Invest in a knife sharpener.

4. Buy Own-Label

  • I’ll let you in on a little secret, most of the supermarket own-label products are the exact same products as your favourite branded labels! How do I know this? I work with a lot of big brands in the UK who produce these products for supermarkets.
  • Supermarkets on their own don’t have the factories and infrastructure to produce the tens-of-thousands of own-label products they offer, so they partner with brands to produce these products for them. It’s a win-win for the brand and the supermarket.
  • When you buy brand all you are paying for is the name, the advertising, the and the packaging.
  • So next time you’re in a supermarket, instead of buying the fancy branded yoghurt, rolled oats, tomato sauce, or soup try buying the own-label equivalent. You’ll be surprised at how little (or no) difference there is.

5. Freeze your leftovers

  • When cooking meals, try to make large enough portions so that leftovers can be frozen and reheated for lunches or dinners.
  • Having leftovers in the freezer is a lifesaver for when you’re skint on time. As instead of popping to the takeaway store for burger or supermarket for a ready-meal you can pop in the freezer and pull out something you’ve pre-prepared to eat.
  • Some of my favourite frozen meals are veggie lasagne, moussaka, pie, and meatballs. They often taste better after being reheated too as the flavours have had more time to absorb. Making this one is delicious saving hack!

6. Make it yourself

  • I used to buy everything pre-made… sauces, drinks, cereals, hash browns, guacamole, the list goes on.
  • The truth is there’s so much we can make ourselves that will not only save us money but be far more nutritious than the store-bought version, which often has a tonne of  artificial ingredients and additives in it.
  • The below is a list of things we make at home that are simple and fun to do!
  • Kombucha: All you need is a scoby, some sugar, water and tea
  • Sourdough Bread: Get yourself a starter, look after it and it’ll look after you for life
  • Curry Paste: Homemade curry paste is ten-fold tastier than store-bought
  • Snack bars and energy balls: Pinterest is your friend here, think peanut butter balls, raw date bars, and coconut bliss balls
  • Sauces: Again, homemade pasta sauces are so much tastier and more nutritious
  • Juices: Get yourself a decent juicer and you’re set!
  • Muesli: Grab some of your favourite dried fruits, grains, nuts, seeds, and spices and get creative!
  • I recommend giving these a go and having a look at what other things you can make at home, think beyond food too. What cleaning or beauty products could you make to replace store bought?

7. Shop online

  • I was recently opened up to the world of online grocery shopping, mostly out of necessity as I don’t have a car in the UK, and was often too optimistic with how much I could carry home…which made for some pretty challenging shopping-bag hikes.
  • Online grocery shopping has so many benefits – It saves you time, is convenient, and they often give you freebies with your order. But the best part? It enables you to have more control of your shopping budget and to stick to it.
  • The strategy of writing a list remains, but the thing I love about online grocery shopping is before you reach the ‘check-out’ you can see what your total is.. if you’ve gone over you can review your shop and cut back or buy the cheaper alternative if needed. It would be a bit awkward if you did this in a real store, as I don’t think Billy in the que behind you would appreciate you trecking back for the cheaper feta!
  • My two favourites are Ocado and Amazon Fresh. And thanks to Amazon Fresh they’re offering a free trial to new customers! Click here to find out more.

8. Don’t go shopping hungry!

  • A simple trick, but one that’ll set you up for success is to never shop on an empty stomach.
  • If you shop on an empty stomach 2 things will happen, 1. you’ll fill your trolly with foods you don’t need and 2. you’ll choose more high-calorie foods as your body is craving energy.
  • To avoid this, try shopping just after you’ve eaten or keep a snack in your bag to avoid feeling peckish.

9. Eat more plant-based meals

  • Eating a more plant-based diet is a great way to save on your weekly shop, by replacing often expensive meat ingredients with cheaper vegetarian alternatives.
  • Pick a couple of meals a week that are vegetarian and get creative – play with colour, new types of vegetables and experiment!
  • Some of my favourite meals are vegetarian (and i’m a meat eater). I love slow-roasted cauliflower with polenta, spinach and feta stuffed pasta shells, vegetarian chilli, and kale and lemon pasta.
  • I’m not saying you have to make every meal you eat plant based, but by replacing 1 or 2 typical meat dishes with the vegetarian alternative you’ll save on meat and get more variety in your diet too.
  • For some plant-based inspiration, check out my Pinterest board here full of recipes i’ve tried and love!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and have taken away some tips and tricks to save money on your own grocery shop and to make your food shop go further. Now, time to write that list! (and stick to it).

THE LADDER GIRL

My top 10 budget-friendly places to eat out in London (that aren’t Pret)

My top 10 budget-friendly places to eat out in London (that aren’t Pret)

London is known for its wide range of cuisines from across the world, a melting pot of spiciness, freshness, bitterness, sourness, sweetness and saltiness… it’s lively and effervescent, but it’s not always cheap.

With its growing living costs not looking to slow down anytime soon, Londoners and tourists alike have been putting the breaks on going out.

But as much as we’re enjoying our homemade lasagnes and spag bols at home or in our hostels, to live or visit this city without exploring some of its culinary treasures would be like visiting London without seeing a red bus or Big Ben, pretty tragic.

So to help you enjoy a delicious meal on a minimal budget, here are my top 10 places to eat out in London. From the classic avo on toast, to the best Ramen in town, all less than £10 pounds per meal…it’s time to lap up the sauces, and savour your pennies.

1. Padella

Located in the heart of Borough Market, this Italian gem serves fresh hand-rolled pasta dishes to share. Get yourself on the waiting-list, then head into the market for a pint of Guinness and explore the market stalls.

Then, on to enjoying a buttery gnocchi dish with a £4.50 price-mark. I promise you it’s well worth the wait!

2. Broadway Market

This is hands-down one of my favourite food markets in London.

Located in trendy Hackney, what a lot of people don’t know about this market is it’s over 3,000 years old, and once a busy cart-track bringing food supplies to London. Turn the clock forward to 2019 and it’s still delivering food to Londoners.

Arrive on Saturday morning and enjoy tasty British treats like Scotch Eggs, mouth-watering Haggis and caramelised onion toasties, and finish off with a red velvet doughnut to share.

Walk off the indulgence by taking a stroll alongside the nearby canals, walk past the house-boats until you reach leafy Stoke Newington and check out the boutique shops, and another treat of course.

3. Dishoom

Located in various boroughs throughout London, Dishoom has earned its stripes as a must-visit culinary treasure.

It’s a Bombay restaurant serving delicious Indian brunches, lunches and dinners – think bacon naan rolls, spicy omelettes and bottomless Chai for breakfast, through to traditional samosas, grilled meats and hearty curries for dinner.

It has something for everyone’s spice (and price) level and my advice, go balsy! Pack on the spice.

4. Kanada Ya

This authentic Ramen house has 3 locations throughout London and is well worth the trip.

Come here if you love a good brothy bowl with lots of hearty toppings! From pork, chicken, vegetable and truffle toppings, I promise you if you love Ramen it won’t disappoint!

5. Honest Burgers

As the name suggests this joint does burgers, honestly. No frills, just good buns and good fillings.

It is home to the plant-based Beyond-Meat burger, so if you’re vege or keen to try a plant-based burger that feels, smells, and even bleeds like meat it’s well worth it.

Located throughout London, my personal pick is the Brixton location – they have the best service!

6. Brixton Village & Market Row

Number 5 leads us on nicely to this tucked-away South London gem, Brixton Village and Market Row.

Exit the Brixton tube station, take the first 2 rights and you’ll find yourself in a colourful culinary paradise.

It has something to offer for everyone’s taste buds. From Federation Coffee serving classic breakfast dishes and great coffee, to Japanese omelettes, French Crepes, Caribbean stews, and middle-eastern cuisine. It’s well worth the trip to the end of the Victoria line!

7. Lanzhou Lamian Noodle Bar

This is my go-to place for an after-work or late-night noodle fix!

No frills, just great food and yummy homemade noodle dishes! Walk in and watch the chefs at work as they pull, kneed, and cut their noodles to shape.

From thick and chewy, to light and slurp-able you’ll be lapping up the noodles and their sauces here. Be warned wearing white here (unless sauce on your shirt is your thing) is for the chefs only!

8. Grind Coffee

Great coffee, great breakfasts, and great late-night cocktails.

Grind in Covent Garden is my go-to for a guilty millennial flat-white and avocado toast fix.

Beautifully designed interiors and branding, Grind is guaranteed to get you positively caffeinated without paying a fortune for the pleasure.  

9. Carluccios

Simple Italian dishes, cooked the way Italians like them.

Carluccios is the real-deal, and I have my Italian colleague to thank for helping me discover this place – she goes here almost everyday for her fresh pasta fix.

Starting at £4, enjoy a daily takeaway spread of freshly cooked pasta dishes, meats, salads, and breads all topped with grated Parmesan.

Little tip, I find it better to eat takeaway, it’s cheaper and you can enjoy it outside admiring one of the great London sites!

10. Pizza Pilgrims

No big city would be complete without a pizza joint, and if you’re going to have one pizza in London make it a Pizza Pilgrims Pizza.

Located in various boroughs throughout London, expect a humble environment and classic flavours like Margarita, Gorgonzola, Olives, Mushroom and Salami, all supported by the freshest, softest and doughiest base. Starting at £5.50 a pizza, I think that means you can have two, right?

I hope you enjoy this list, and can make it to some of my favourite food spots in London. I promise you great flavours and saving on the pennies. Enjoy!

THE LADDER GIRL

Stop pouring your money down the liquid brew

Stop pouring your money down the liquid brew

Coffee is one of those things that if you’re like me you couldn’t go without – although hopefully, you don’t end up as cranky as I do without a liquid fix in the morning…there’s nothing worse than an uncaffeinated Holly.

Despite my dependence and borderline addiction to the stuff there’s so much to love about coffee and the culture surrounding it – walking into a cafe in the morning and smelling the morning buzz, exchanging banter with your favourite barista, watching the creamy liquid being poured into a perfect fern shape, hearing the sizzle of the steam nozzle – it’s electric and it’s addictive.

With the start of the new year I wanted to get an overview of just how much I was investing into this little liquid love affair, so I did a tally of coffee spend in 2018, and it added up – £1,006 to be exact (yes I geek sheeted this out). My daily morning routine stopover at F Mondays for an Oat Flat White the largest proportion of this amount (at a £2.90 per cup) – quite a staggering amount considering that could have paid for a trip home and back.

Coffee is something I enjoy and adds value to my life, but I knew this amount was going overboard – the thing is if you enjoy something and it’s not doing you much harm you don’t have to give it up (and I certainly wasn’t going to put up with an uncaffeinated self anytime soon), but you can be more intentional with how you allocate your money towards what you value.

I’ve seen people carrying their reusable cups in the morning, imagining some kind of dishwasher liquid swimming around under the rim, but if I wanted to reduce my spend and do good for the environment I needed to suck it up, stop being a snob, and give it a go!

Cam had a nice Frank Green reusable cup, so I gave it wash, purchased some supermarket ground beans, a bottle of Oatly, and pulled out the flatmate’s French Press – to my suprise I enjoyed the taste too.

Going to a cafe everyday isn’t essential, and not necessary to enjoy coffee. Being more intentional means cutting back and ultimately valuing more. I’ve pulled back on my weekly coffee spend and still enjoy a cafe brew on the weekends, but now when I do go out I value that liquid fix so much more.