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

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

Why I stopped mindlessly shopping and own less things

Why I stopped mindlessly shopping and own less things

I used to love to shop, and I mean shop! I’m talking about the kind of shopping where there’s no intention, no list, no vision other than to mindlessly wander around a mall spending. It was about that instant gratification of having new stuff, things, this-and-that to fill my home and for a brief moment, comfort me.

A new cushion for the couch (already overdressed with an array of textures and colours), or that beige Zara top, a colour I had never worn well with a skin tone as pale as an uncooked chicken (thankfully aided by Bondi Sands when Summer rolls around).

What I was doing wasn’t healthy, not for myself, my partner, my bank account or my mental health. I was buying things without a thought, and in return, they were giving me nothing back, and neither was I.

This needed to stop.

It wasn’t overnight that my habits changed – like many things it took time, many conversations, sifting through my things, analysing my spending, looking at photographs of myself. Who was I? What did I value? Where did I want to go? All these ‘things’ were a result of me not knowing these answers.

I needed to define my ‘why’.

Seeking change and a challenge, my partner and I decided to do what many Kiwi’s do in their 20’s and move to the UK. Why? Because we wanted to become more resilient, more confident, and to experience new cultures, people, and challenges that Auckland at the time didn’t offer us.

The change.

To get there we made many changes, which forced us to be more intentional – no longer could I walk through a mall mindlessly spending. The cushions and beige top needed to go.

We moved into a tiny house (7×3 metres) to save on rent, which meant downsizing – It meant researching and discovering new processes and ways-of-living I had never heard about before, all to get us to our goals and to minimize what we had…

I discovered these movements:

  • The Tiny House Movement
  • Minimalism
  • Capsule Wardrobes
  • The Fire Community
  • House Sitting
  • WWOOF

These new learnings aided and pushed me forward. Yes, they helped us save to go to the UK, and they stopped me going into malls, buying without intention and owning things for owning-things-sake. But they also taught me the beauty of less, and to value more what we so often take for granted. My friends, family, education, and opportunities – these are the things that gave back to me and in return, I can give back to.

Owning less will give you so much more.

Owning less is not about depriving yourself, it’s about being more mindful with the things you have and the things you buy.

Next time you go shopping, go with a plan, think what do I need? What do I like? What brings me joy? Does this purchase align with my goals? And if you keep this in mind I promise you there will never be a mall visit without intention or a rogue beige top finding its way into your closet.

THE LADDER GIRL

Want to save more? 4 steps to define your ‘why’

Want to save more? 4 steps to define your ‘why’

Let me take you on a little trip to Dalston.

Last weekend I met up with some friends at a newly opened café in Dalston. It’s the kind of cafe you’d expect in Dalston – so underground it’s not even signposted, a gig-venue come café come art-gallery, with a menu hosting ‘<insert hipster café name> fruitcakes’, which really just means blueberry pancakes. All the complex frills required to claim its place in the Dalston Directory of Hipster Approved Cafés.  

Now to the setting. All accounted and seated we began our pre-coffee ramblings – And in typical Antipodean fashion there’s no time for niceties, we’re straight into the deep and meaningfuls, quick.

We discussed an array of things (some things my pre-coffee self just couldn’t compute) – I’m not one for Brexit in the morning, but one thing that did spark up my brain was the subject of savings (my geekish self rejoiced).  

By fruitcakes-time we all collectively agreed we needed to get better at savings, but when asked why? No one had a clear answer. “It’s something we should be doing” seemed to be the general consensus.

Within this response lied the problem, you see by not knowing our ‘why’, we’d already set ourselves up to fail.

Why the Why?

Savings in itself is pointless if you don’t know why you’re saving in the first place. It’s like driving along a highway without an end destination in mind. Do this and you’ll very quickly find yourself off-course, without gas, and allured by other the attractions along the way – such as <insert hipster café here>.

Savings is not the why, eventually you’ll need to spend your money and that’s a good thing! The why is what your money will give you in return, that aligns to your own goals and values.

So to solve this problem of the millennial fruitcake “should be’s”, let’s look at how you define this thing we call why.

Here’s what you need to do:

1. Investigate yourself

  • Before you can begin to define your why you first need to investigate yourself. It might sound a little strange, but by doing this and asking yourself these questions you’ll create a clear picture of who you really are and what your ideal future looks like. Get a pen and paper and write down your answers…   
  1. What do I want my life to look like in the future?
  2. What do I enjoy, I mean really enjoy?
  3. When do I feel most myself and happiest?
  4. What kinds of people do I want to be around?
  5. What are my core values and how do I want to live according to these?
  6. What do I want my professional life to look like?
  7. What do I want to learn?

2. Define your core goals

  • Now that you’ve written down your answers, it’s time to identify the patterns within them to define your core goals
  • Examples are if you wrote you want to experience new places, learn a new language, and get enjoyment out of travel then your goal might be to go travelling in 1 years’ time
  • Or, if you wrote you want to be around family more often, value your freedom, and want more time for hobbies your goal might be to work more flexible or go part-time.

Identifying these patterns will give you your goals. 

3. Prioritise

  • It’s important at this point to put a reality check in place
  • We only have so much time on this earth and to have goals are great, but if you set too many goals you’re unlikely to make progress  
  • You need to prioritise what is most important to you
  • Analyse what you’ve written down and select your TOP 3 GOALS
  • These are the 3 ‘whys’ you’ll begin with, to plan to shape your future

4. Plan and save

  • Now that you’ve identified your top 3 goals (aka your whys), you can put a plan in place to reach them
  • Give yourself a realistic timeline for each goal and build in the pitstops (small saving milestones) to get you there along the way
  • Ask yourself “does this decision align with my long-term goal?”, by doing this regularly you’ll stay on the highway.

Remember no one else is going to drive to your goals for you. But it’s you that has the control of the wheel. You define your whys. No one else.

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.

The year I got my shit together by creating a budget

The year I got my shit together by creating a budget

Turn the clock back to 2016. When Ed Sheeran was serenading our speakers, cauliflower steaks were all the rage, legends were lost  – Bowie, Prince & Glenn Frey to name a few, and we got Trumped. It was a year of great gains and great losses.

It was a year of uncertainty, of instability and a reflection of my feelings in my own life. I decided to not let these feelings carry through into 2017, but to take control of what I could, starting with money.

I’d never been one to care much about where my money went, or what I did with it. I got my paycheck and very quickly converted it into superfluous purchases – Bento Boxes, Free People clothing, debt payments, plane tickets, weekend trips away, and lots and lots of coffee. Not surprisingly at the end of the month, I had nothing left.

My problem – I had no visibility of where my money was going, and I quite simply didn’t care.

If I wanted to take control I needed a goal, and I needed a plan to get there.

The goal, move to the other side of the world (I’ll do a post about that later)

The plan… I still needed one.

I Googled, I YouTubed, I Podcasted, I asked, searching for that hidden gem of an answer – but time and time again one simple thing popped up that we’ve all heard about before, The Budget.

It’s a very simple task – you write down your income, you deduct your expenses and then you see what you have left to play with.. this is either your Bento Box money, or it’s your savings money (more posts on this later).

It’s something so simple, but so many of us don’t do it. I used this very basic Excel template to build my budget, and still do to this day.

What the budget gave me was a plan to meet my goal, 2019 and 3 years later I’m in London. Granted there are days when I don’t always feel in control, but by having a budget I can plan and build a pathway to financial freedom.

It’s this very simple tool that got me going and that’s opened my eyes to a world where you can take control, you can have choices, and you don’t need much to get there!

What’s my new goal? To spread the word, and help others build their own pathway to financial freedom.

THE LADDER GIRL