Plant-based diet. Benefits, tips and recipes to try

Plant-based diet. Benefits, tips and recipes to try

Recently myself and a few colleagues ditched the typical midday desk munching, and went out for a proper burger-joint lunch.

What happened next took me by complete surprise.

There we sat, civilised chat, much needed vents and menus primed. We laid our eyes over the options…A typical burger-joint selection of beef patties and chicken breast burgers, and string fries. Nothing unusual.

Then our eyes moved over to the right-hand side of the menu – Beetroot? Mushrooms? Chickpeas? Beyond Meat? Polenta Fries? We were intrigued.

The orders commenced – “2 Beyond Meat Burgers, 1 Chickpea Burger and 1 Beef Burger please.”

How times have changed.

The Western World is going plant-based at an exponential rate.

According to The Vegan Society, the number of vegans in the UK quadrupled between 2014 and 2018. And even more interestingly it’s not just vegans or vegetarians eating meat-free, with a staggering 92% of plant-based meals consumed in the UK in 2018 by non-vegans.

My colleagues and I were a case in point of this phenomenon. We were made up of 1 vegetarian, and 3 meat eaters with all but 1 choosing the meat-free option.  

So, why is this happening?

  • People are demanding more natural, less processed foods.
  • There’s a lack of trust for food industries and companies worldwide. Take a look at documentaries like Cowspiracy, What the Health, and Vegan Everyday Stories and you’ll see why.
  • We share an increasing collective concern for our environment and its inhabitants, and eating a more plant-based diet generally has a lesser impact on the Earth (if done properly).
  • It’s healthier and significantly reduces our risk of developing Heart Disease, Obesity, stroke, and some types of Diabetes and Cancers.
  • Eating a plant-based diet is typically much cheaper than a traditional Omnivore diet. A 2015 study in the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition found that a plant-based diet could save Americans about $750 a year!
  • There’s a common misconception that plant-based meals are bland but that’s simply not true, they’re delicious! There’s a world of fresh and colourful ingredients out there, and if you use your creativity and stay open-minded the options are truly endless.

The power of plant-based.

There’s no denying the vast benefits of following a plant-based diet – But what I love most about it is the beautiful ripple effect it has on not just our own health, but our external environment too.

It’s a movement making a change and reshaping our traditional ways of doing things – Our health and school systems, agriculture and farming practises, food and drink industries, and even politics.

Going plant-based is not just for yourself, but taking a stand for others! And when enough of us are demanding more and saying no, the big players can’t turn a blind eye to us anymore.

My plant-based journey:

The plant-based diet I follow is as simple as food writer Michael Pollen’s advice, summed up in 7 words:

“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

There’s no ‘buzzwords’ in that, no fads, no craziness. Just simple, honest, humble advice.

I’ll be honest, my journey adopting a more plant-based hasn’t been smooth sailing. Naively I thought as soon as I adopted this diet i’d feel full of energy, my skin would clear up, and i’d lose weight.

But that simply didn’t happen.

  • I felt bloated
  • I was tired all the time
  • I had breakouts
  • And I had a lot of gas (thanks beans).

What I realised is it’s a process, and requires an investment from yourself to get educated and seek the right advice to know what the right foods for you are, and what support you need to ensure your vitamin and iron levels are ok.

Lesson learned…you can’t just swap chicken for mushrooms and expect to be the epitome of good health!

Apart from these downsides eating a more plant-based diet has been a fantastic journey – I’ve learnt to appreciate simple ingredients, to cook new and interesting recipes, I feel healthier, and am supporting a greater cause that I truly believe in.

My top 10 tips and recipes.

Throughout my journey i’ve learnt some great plant-based diet tips, and have discovered delicious recipes that are not only nutritional but easy to make, low-cost, and great to put leftovers in the freezer for lunches and dinners.

So if you’re just starting out, wanting to try more plant-based meals, or you’re already following a plant-based diet I promise there will be something in here for you…

My top 10 tips for a plant-based diet:

  1. Start slow, first with plant based breakfasts, then lunches, then dinner
  2. Eat seasonal fruits and vegetables
  3. Opt for local produce
  4. Get pantry stables like beans, peas, rice & lentils
  5. Start your own vegetable or herb garden to save more
  6. Don’t splurge on gourmet alternatives
  7. Plan your meals ahead to stop temptation
  8. Make your plate a rainbow, the more colour the better!
  9. Find plant-based alternatives to your favourite meat dishes
  10. Opt for fresh or home-made over produced, just because a packet says ‘vegan’ doesn’t mean it’s healthy.

My top 10 plant-based recipes:

1. Vegan BBQ Black Bean Meatballs

  • Perfect for family dinners with salad or grains, and freezes well.

2. Creamy Coconut Lentil Curry

  • I absolutely love this dish, it’s so simple and my go-to mid-week meal.
  • To inject even more veges you can add more to the recipe, I like to add peppers and spinach.

3.  Crispy Zucchini Fritters

  • These fritters are so versatile, super simple and quick to make!
  • They’re perfect for weekend brunches, lunches, or even dinners.
  • I like to serve them with roasted tomatoes and a fresh salad.

4. Fennel, Sage & Kale Pasta

  • If you love pasta (and wine) as much as I do this one is a winner, a fresh warming pasta salad packed with veges.

5. Sweet Corn Polenta with Eggplant Sauce

  • When I first saw this dish I thought it looked odd, but after reading the reviews I decided to stop being quick to judge and gave it a go.
  • And i’m so glad I did!
  • This little gem is truly delicious, it’s made from a corn and feta polenta base with a hearty aubergine and tomato sauce.

6. Vegetarian Chilli

  • This dish is perfect for when you’re craving something Mexican!
  • I like to make this with homemade guacamole and tortilla chips.
  • To make the tortilla chips simply slice up the tortillas into strips, glaze with olive oil and pop in the oven on low heat.. in 5 minutes you’ll have your very own tortilla chips. A perfect pairing with this vege-packed chilli!

7. Slow roasted cauliflower salad with sweet potato hummus and nut Dukkah

  • If you’re after something a little more fine-dining this dish is guaranteed to impress!
  • It may be easy to make, but damn it looks beautiful on the plate!

8. Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpea Soup

  • This dish is so tasty and filling, and perfect for cosy winter afternoons.
  • Make it with homemade vegetable stock to up your nutrients!

9. Roasted Mediterranean vegetables with feta and grains

  • Fresh grains, roasted veges, nuts and feta… a beautiful combination!
  • This dish is so simple but so tasty, and great either as a meal on it’s own or as a delicious side dish.

10. Vegetarian Skillet stuffed shells

  • It wouldn’t be right for me to only include 1 pasta dish on this list.
  • This dish is a little bit naughty but so tasty – cheese and spinach stuffed pasta shells smothered in a rich tomato sauce.
  • If you don’t eat dairy this one can easily be compensated with your favourite vegan cheese alternative.

I hope you’ve found value in this post, and have gained some tips and delicious plant-based meals to try!

THE LADDER GIRL

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

What is an Emergency Fund, and how can you build one?

What is an Emergency Fund, and how can you build one?

Let me tell you a story about a girl and her broken car, the girl being my 24-year-old younger self and the car being my 2002 Golf, AKA Silver Sally.

It was a sunny Sunday Auckland afternoon, I was driving Silver Sally to the supermarket – the windows were down, the music was up and life in this moment was pretty good.

I pull up to the traffic lights. Somewhere in between the lines of “ohhhhh, we’re halfway there” and “ohhh ohhh, living on a prayer!”a beat chimes in – it went something like “thud, thud, thud, errrrk” then silence.

Sally was broken.

Literally the only phrase to describe this moment was “Oh fuck”.

Toots were blaring out as I sat stagnant in the middle lane, but I get her started again and head to the nearest mechanics… panic sets in.

Like a fish out of water there I was, standing in my dress and sandals on the oil-slicked mechanic’s floor.

“You alright miss?” the mechanic asks. I explain the situation about my golf…”ok sounds like you’ve got a real problem here!”

“What could it be?” I say, as if just by looking at her he could tell, like some sort of mystical car-reading mechanic.

He lifts up the bonnet, a turn here, a knock there…

“Well it’s hard to say miss, it’s going to take some investigating”.

All these feelings were whirling in my head.

“Investigating? What does this mean?”

“Surely it won’t be that much, maybe she just needs some new oil”

“But what if it’s something bigger, what if she needs major surgery!?”

“I can’t afford this right now”…

My problem, I wasn’t prepared.

Living in Auckland is almost impossible without a car, I needed to get Sally fixed but I didn’t have the money.

I was naive in thinking these kind of situations wouldn’t happen to me, I thought any expense i’d know about ahead of time, but the reality is life happens – your phone breaks, you lose your job, you become unwell, or like me your car kicks the bucket.. it happens to all of us and we NEED to switch our thinking and plan for these emergencies.

After a day of mechanical investigating I heard the news, I needed multiple parts to get Sally going again. The cost, $920 NZD (1/3 of the cost of the car itself), the solution? Put it on the credit card which meant more debt, more hurdles and heading further away from financial stability.

I never wanted this to happen again.

The solution? Build and Emergency Fund.

What is an Emergency Fund?

An Emergency Fund is VERY important to personal finance, because of the very thing its name suggests. It helps you in an emergency.

It needs to be there to help you with life’s hurdles – you lose your job, you get sick, or like me your car kicks the bucket. Without it you cannot have financial stability, full-stop.

How much should an Emergency Fund be?

This varies depending on your living situation, but generally $1,000 – $2,000 is a good place to start.

There are two types of ‘Emergency Fund Buckets’ to aim for:

  1. Everyday fund: $1k-$2k amount for an everyday emergency.
  2. Long Term fund: 3-6 months of your expenses for those greater emergencies like job loss or an illness.

If you are paying off debt or have little savings, start with $1,000 and build from there.

How do you save for an Emergency Fund?

Here are 8 tips to help you save an Emergency Fund:

1. Set your goal:

  • Set a goal for how much you want to have in your Emergency Fund, and by when?
  • These could be daily, weekly or monthly-based goals.
  • In my personal experience it’s good to have an end date in mind for your total savings amount, and then break this down into smaller more manageable amounts to save each week or month.
  • Be realistic, start small to get yourself in the habit of saving. Then overtime once you’ve developed a good practise of saving you can increase your goal.

2. Keep it separate:

  • There’s no point saving for an Emergency Fund if you keep chipping into it for new clothing purchases, and coffees (I can’t deny caffeine is an emergency, but get yourself a good plunger and grinds and you’re cool).
  • Keep this fund separate from your checking account, this could either be in a separate savings or bank account.
  • Do not put your fund into an investment or Term Deposit that’s too hard to access, as in an emergency you’ll want to be able to access the money right away.
  • Remember your Emergency Fund should be hard to reach, but still liquid.

3. Treat it like a bill:

  • Treat your Emergency Fund like a bill, make it a non-negotiable.
  • Add it to your line items on your budget and stick to it.

4. Extra Income:

  • Any additional income you get put it into your Emergency Fund.
  • This could be a tax refund, bonus, or gifting money.
  • If you put this towards your Emergency Fund straight away you won’t be tempted to spend it on other things.

5. Celebrate key milestones:

  • Saving for an Emergency Fund is not easy, it’s a hard slog at times so it’s important to celebrate when you hit key milestones.
  • This could be with your favourite bottle of wine, a trip to the movies, or a new coat of nail polish… whatever you choose.
  • Having key milestones and celebrating these will keep you focussed and motivated to stay on track.

6. Budget category allocations:

  • Take a look at your budget categories and where you are spending your money, and define where you could make changes.
  • Think creatively, i.e. instead of going out to restaurants or getting take-out twice a week, try cooking at home.
  • By contributing $10 more to your supermarket spend each week and cooking at home, you could save yourself $40 a week on take-out and restaurants, meaning that money can go straight towards your Emergency Fund.
  • Then next month change it up. Use Uber a lot? Try taking public transport more often.
  • Be creative and have fun with these challenges!

7. Cull unnecessary expenses:

  • Additionally to moving money around within your budget categories, take a look at where you are spending your money and cull the unnecessary expenses.
  • These could be things like monthly subscriptions, a gym membership you don’t use or buying coffee everyday (tips on how to do this here).
  • These small amounts really do add up, and will help you get to your Emergency Fund goal sooner.

8. Create a side hustle:

  • Get creative, think about the skill sets you have that you could leverage to make more money.
  • Could you do babysitting? Sell items you no longer need? Are you good at crafts, cooking, or baking? Do you have a passion and knowledge for something you could teach others about?
  • Some of the side hustles I did to make extra money were making candles, up-cycling vintage clothing, and writing product reviews for an online magazine.
  • The options are literally endless if you keep an open mind and are motivated enough.
  • Who knows… your side hustle could even develop into a thriving business.

Remember setting up an Emergency Fund is fundamental to your personal finance journey. It’s a gift to yourself, to provide you with freedom and flexibility to do what you want and most importantly to give you that peace of mind to know that you are prepared for those unexpected expenses.

Now back to Silver Sally.

She’s doing well, she’s recovered and lives in my parent’s garage whilst i’m in the UK. I’m heading home this year for a visit, so i’ll take her for a drive, put some Jovi in her speakers, and if she does decide to have a mechanical moment this time i’ll be prepared, I won’t feel like a fish out of water anymore.

THE LADDER GIRL

7 Steps for styling a room on a minimal budget

7 Steps for styling a room on a minimal budget

Ever since I can remember i’ve had a love affair with interior design, which to a large extent I have my parents to thank for (thanks guys).

As a kid, they’d take me along on these epic DIY adventures – We’d go to paint shops, tile shops, plant nurseries, garden shows, furniture stores, building supply stores, kitchen expos, the list goes on. Basically, if it was DIY related in any shape or form we’d be there!

I’d find myself walking through the isles of these stores, imagining my home growing up, what it would look like, what it would feel like. I got so excited by what could be, I got hooked.

This early obsession wasn’t without it’s troubles however..

There was the time I dug up my friend’s mum’s perfectly good garden and ‘redecorated it’, the time I lost a friend to boredom as I played ‘changing rooms’ and spent the day tidying her room, or the time my 6-year-old self stole an ornament from an antique store because I thought it would look great in my bright purple bedroom… thankfully overtime i’ve learnt to hold myself back, well just.

Roll the clock forward to 2017, and I land in Europe. I’m moving around, going from Workaway to Housesit, to Airbnb and i’m missing that itch – the itch to make something, dress a room, and be in something I helped create.

So to help with the itch, instead of being my 6-year-old self and gunning ahead I asked the owners of these homes I was staying in “can I decorate one room in your house using the items you have?”, not expecting many people to abide, surprisingly they did!

A lot of these homes were beautiful but they lacked a little aesthetic attention, which I knew I could give them with a little time and freedom.

So off I went, digging into cupboards, attics, drawers, rearranging, moving and organising. The results I was pleasantly surprised with!

Above are some examples of spaces I decorated during this time, mostly with items either found in the homes themselves or that I made. It really goes to show it doesn’t take a lot of money to create something beautiful. To see more of the before & afters you can view on my Instagram here.

Taking learnings from my own experiences and to help you with your own interior adventures, here are my 7 steps for styling a space on a minimal budget:

1. Pick a room:

  • Pick one room in your house that you’d like to redecorate.
  • Take ‘before’ photos (Something I wish I’d done more of to demonstrate progress)
  • Now clear it out. Take items away and strip it back to its bare bones. You don’t have to remove all items (i.e. larger items like a couch or a bed) but removing smaller items will help to give you a neutral space.
  • Now that you’ve done this step, take a breath and sit in the space, give yourself a chance to connect with it again.
  • Move on to step number 2.

2. Define your vision for the space:

  • While you’re in the room get a pen and write down your answers to these questions:
  • What does the room feel like now, and why?
  • Why do you want to change it?
  • What do you want the room to feel like?
  • What will it be used for?
  • What style do you like? (You can use a Pinterest board to help with this – If you’re into a bit of boho style, here is an example of my own Pinterest vision board.

3. Write a list:

  • Review your vision for the room and channel this into a list of things you’d like to have in your room, such as a shelf for books, a desk for writing, or a cosy nook to read in.
  • As you’re writing your list think what things can you utilise that you already own? (point 4 will help with this).
  • Remember keep it simple, you don’t need 15 cushions or 20 candles and you can always build on it later.

4. Utilise what you have:

  • Now that you have a clear space, a vision, and a list of the things you’d like it’s time to refine your list.
  • Review everything on your list and have a look around your home to see if there’s anything you already own that you can utilise, instead of buying new.
  • These are the cushions, throws, candles, frames, lamps, books and artwork that you’ve placed into drawers, behind the couch and in the spare wardrobes over the years.
  • Can these be repurposed? Can these complement the look you’re going for?
  • You’d be amazed at how an old item can look completely new in a new space, or reinvigorated with a coat of paint.

5. Set a budget:

  • Now that you have a list, it’s time to create a budget.
  • For each item on your list put this into a spreadsheet, and give it an allocated amount. Doing this will give you an overall estimated cost, which you can refine if you find those 10 candles mean you’re going over your budget.
  • Think carefully about your budget, how much can you realistically afford? And If you do plan on buying any big-ticket items on credit, set yourself up a payment plan to make sure you can realistically pay it off before you swipe your card.
  • Have this number finalised before you go any further.  

6. Do your research:

  • For bigger-ticket items like electricals and furniture you want to do your research
  • Have a look online to see what’s out there, identify the products you like the look of and  take a look at the reviews, who’s selling it and at what price.
  • Update your budget for these line-items once you know the price, and you know where you’re going to get them from.
  • For more artful objects like paintings, candles, antiques, frames etc have a think about the stores you like, and check-in with your vision board  to ensure they align to the look you’re going for.

6. Go shopping:

  • Now that you have your budget and you know what items you’re going to buy, it’s time to go shop!
  • Big ticket items should be the first on your list, and more artful objects can be discovered as you go.
  • Second-hand artful objects can be great finds! Check out your local second-hand stores, or online stores like Ebay, Gumtree and Trademe.
  • For DIY supplies like paint, wood, and fabrics check out your local supply store and don’t be afraid to ask for a discount. 9 times out of 10 they’ll be more than happy to make you a discounted offer.
  • Be patient. You may want to buy everything all at once, but by having this mindset you’ll likely make rushed decisions, buy more than you can afford, and items you don’t love. Take it slow.

7. The fun part, putting it all together!

  • Now that you have your items, it’s time for the fun part.
  • Start with the big items – the furniture, the rugs, the shelves etc, and set up the room the way you want it to be.
  • Now have some fun, lay out all the smaller items in a space nearby and have a play. Dress the couch, set up the shelf, take photos, and experiment.
  • Refer back to your vision board, and have fun!
  • It’ll be trial and error but it’s all part of the experience, when you’re finished you’ll have a beautiful space to enjoy.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, and have found some useful tips to decorate your own space on a minimal budget.

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

The things I no longer buy to simplify my life

The things I no longer buy to simplify my life

Lately I seem to be focusing a lot on ‘things’. Reflecting on what they once meant to me, and how I clung onto these things as if I truly needed them to be better – A better person, more attractive, happier, more intelligent, more organised, entertained….you get the drift.

The reality is there’s not much in the world we actually need. We survived the caveman years living off what we could muster, and now turn the clock forward to 2019 and we’re ‘surviving’ off overindulgence/over everything…more, more, more!

We think we need the grams, the likes, the wiz-fix creams, trendy gadgets, and the latest and greatest. We don’t, we can live a simpler life and be happy, even happier.

I’ll admit, simplifying your life and the ‘things’ you let in isn’t easy, it takes time to retune your brain to turn these ‘needs’ off. It takes a plan and constant checking-in with yourself, but what you get back in return for sticking to it is more time, money, happiness and a chance to breathe!

After going through my own journey of simplifying my life I know longer need these things I once clung onto for ‘dear betterment’.

So here goes, below is a list of things I no longer buy to simplify my life:

Food & Drink:

  • Frozen ready-meals
  • Pre-prepared vegetables
  • Bottled water
  • Health bars
  • Energy drinks
  • ‘Trendy’ foods
  • Takeaways (Except the odd late-night Kebab shop visit)

Clothing & Accessories:

  • Fast-fashion
  • Anything ‘on trend’
  • More than enough socks
  • Costume clothing and jewellery
  • ‘Going out dresses’
  • Multiple handbags and purses

Beauty:

  • Sprays for this, that, and the other issue I didn’t realise I had?
  • Highlighter
  • Coloured eyeshadow (no one wants to see me with purple lids)
  • Body wash
  • At home hair dyes
  • Eye cream (I have one good quality moisturiser)
  • Nail polish
  • Makeup remover

Household & Other:

  • Room spray
  • Fabric softener
  • New technology (quality second-hand is just as good)
  • Subscription upgrades
  • Magazines

Intentional spending doesn’t mean depriving yourself of the things you love

Intentional spending doesn’t mean depriving yourself of the things you love

Last week I wrote this post, which talks about my own journey in becoming more intentional with my spending and buying less ‘things’.

But what I want to focus on today is how I go about bringing new things into my life, the principles I use when buying things, and how you too can apply these principles to ensure what ‘things’ you spend your money on are adding value to your life.

What do I mean by ‘things’?

I’m not talking about the kinds of things that at a human level, we need. I’m talking about the kinds of things that bring colour into your world, that light it up, and that make it a unique place, a place suited to you!

You might get your colour from..

A beautiful painting, classic leather jacket, a new novel, old-school record, paint brushes, plants, headphones, beautiful crockery, a guitar, bike, antique chair, camera, even someone else’s junk… the list of these ‘things’ is truly endless.

These ‘things’ are important.

Things help us express who we are, to be creative, learn, grow and enjoy life. A world without things is possible, sure, but damn it’d take the rainbow away.

So, how you can have these ‘things’ and still be intentional with your money?

There’s a common misconception that if you’re a frugal person then you’re cheap, you live without nice experiences or nice things and i’m here to tell you that’s simply not true…

You can have these things, if you have focus.

The above image captures the ‘things’ that I bought into my life over the past year. These are things that added value to my life, that were thought about and that I treasure. I applied a series of principles to my thinking to ensure there’s no throwaway fast-fashion trends, no impulses, no things gathering up dust in the drawer, and nothing gone to waste – And that to me is so important.

To help give you focus to be intentional with what ‘things’ you bring into your life, here are my top 4 tips:

1. Know your style:

  • It’s important to know what your personal style is, what you like and don’t like, as by doing so you’ll have a set of criteria to measure against when deciding on what new items to bring into your wardrobe or home.
  • To help you define your style this post has some helpful tips and tricks, or you could use a platform like Pinterest to create boards for different areas such as interiors, clothing, gardens, makeup etc, and pin what you like to give you an overview of your style across these areas.
  • By having clarity on your own personal style, instead of going into a store and seeing thousands of items and trends and buying something that you may not truly like, you’ll be able to focus on the items that align to your own personal style and make better purchasing decisions.

2. Quality over quantity:

  • When buying a new item, it’s better to lean towards the cheaper option right? Well not quite.
  • Sure, in the short-term you’ll have the item and had paid less for it, it’s a win-win, until that item wears out and you’re having to replace it a few months later.
  • By buying an item because it’s cheaper, it’s not being smart with your money, yourself, or the environment, and to help get the point across let me pull out 2 coats…
  • Let’s say you buy the first coat for £25, you use it all through Winter and at the end of the Season it starts to lose its shape and pull. You wore it a total of 40 times at 63p per wear and that’s the end of its life. Next Winter you’ll start again with a new £25 coat, and so on.
  • Now let’s say you buy the second coat for £100, you use it all through Winter and at the end of the Season it’s still standing strong, so you use it the next Winter, and the next, and so on. Over 4 Winters at 40 wears per season, that’s 160 wears and 63p per wear.
  • Now, you might think it’s the same cost-per-wear so there’s no difference between the two coats. But the coat that cost you £100 is delivering far more than just cost-per-wear. It’s made of a good quality fabric that is sustainably sourced, is a brand you love, that pays its employees a fair wage, fits you well and there’s one of them across 4 seasons.
  • Whenever you can, invest in an item, it’ll last you longer and you’ll get so much more than just the item out of it!

3. Know what brands and stores you love (and stick to them):

  • Much like knowing your style helps you to narrow your focus when making new purchases, so does knowing what brands and stores you love.
  • Make a list of the brands and stores you really love and buy 80% of the time within these. I keep a list on Google Docs and add to it each time I come across a new brand or store I love.
  • By doing this you’ll start to collate your own personal ‘mall’, and avoid going into stores that don’t align to your values or style.
  • It might sound simple, but it’ll save you a tone of time and almost always ensure what you buy you’ll love.

4. Give it time:

  • See an item you love and want it now? As much as you might want to buy it then and there, walk away (close the window if online) and give it 48 hours. If you still find in 48 hours you’re thinking about that item, if you can afford it and it fits within your budget allowance then buy it.
  • Most of the time however you’ll find after that period you won’t have it on your mind, which means you didn’t love it as much as you thought you did, and you can put your money into something else that you will.
  • Time is important, it gives us clarity and reduces those impulse and in-the-moment purchases we so often end up regretting, use it to your advantage.

I hope you find value in these 4 principles, and that they help you to buy more intentionally and to bring things into your life that you truly love. Remember being intentional and frugal with your money doesn’t mean restricting yourself of the things you love, but it gives you focus to bring in only the things that you truly do (and less of the stuff that you unintentionally don’t).

THE LADDER GIRL