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

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.

How to track your budget in a new country (and currency)

How to track your budget in a new country (and currency)

When I first decided I was moving to London from New Zealand, I thought oh shit! How on earth am I going to be able to budget for living life over there?… let alone understand what the Pound looks like against the NZD.

I had a budget template I was using back in NZ and decided to convert this into Pounds, job done. Well not quite… to understand this whole Pound-to-NZD thing I had a play with the sheet to see if I could use it as a tool to have an overview of both currencies – and it worked!

This spreadsheet has been my go-to budgeting tool whilst living in the UK, and although I’m earning and spending in Pounds it’s still nice to have a view of how this converts into NZD, particularly if you plan on sending money home from time-to-time, you’ll know exactly when is the right time to do so.

Below is a link to this very template:

DOWNLOAD HERE

How do you use it?

1. Fill it in:

Each month fill in your budget spreadsheet with the relevant category amounts (i.e. rent, power, groceries). The handy thing is once you’ve done this, you’ll notice on the left-hand side of your month’s Pound column it’ll show the live Pound-NZD exchange rate.

2. Lock in the rate:

Once you’ve done this step you then need to ‘lock’ in the NZD rate within the month you’re in – this will stop it constantly changing. To do this we’ll go old-school, you re-enter the NZD rate in each row (if someone else has found a simpler way of locking this I’m all ears!).

3. Forecast and repeat:

Don’t just set and forget. Every few days open up your spreadsheet and see how you’re tracking against your budget for the month – Ask yourself are you within your limits? Are there any new expenses coming up? What are some things you could save for now to make life easier in the future? (and not have to dip into debt). By keeping track, you’ll have complete visibility of where you are, plus the ability to navigate steps to get you to reach your goals!

By doing these steps you won’t have that “Pocket draining as soon as you walk out into London air” feeling, you’ll be in control, and ready to conquer the big smoke!