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

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

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