7 ways to slash your food bill

Make (almost) everything from scratch.

If you’re not a particularly skilled cook this is probably the most intimidating thing I could say, but seriously, cook everything you can from scratch. Instead of buying a jar of pasta sauce buy a tin of tomatoes, some herbs and some garlic – boom, two servings of sauce for pennies. Even for things like complex curries there are thousands of recipes for free online, and as soon as you’ve built up a bit of a spice collection you can make almost anything out of tomatoes, rice, and a few veggies.

 

Eat less meat.

Again, a slightly controversial one – the fact is that meat is damn expensive, and even replacing half of the protein in a meat dish with beans or pulses will dramatically reduce the costs of cooking. Using less meat you’ll also be more likely to pad things out with vegetables, which as well as being cheap are way better for you in the long run.

 

Buy healthy snacks in the baking aisle, not the snack aisle.

If you like nuts, seeds, and dried fruits for snacks, you’ll find them in unbranded packaging in the baking aisle – and unlike snacks, baking ingredients don’t get slapped with VAT. And unlike a bag of £1.50 crisps you might eat in one sitting, a large bag of almonds for £3 will likely last all week, and can be used on porridge and yogurt for breakfast too.

 

Substitue ingredients.

If a recipe tells you to use kale, use spinach, chopped up sweet potato can be used for carrots, quinoa can be subbed for rice or couscous, and fresh herbs switched for dried. Don’t be afraid to play around with recipes to swap in more affordable ingredients.

 

Don’t buy branded ingredients.

I won’t pretend that branded packaged food always taste exactly the same as unbranded (aside from cereal – honestly, give it a try and you can save pounds per box), but if you follow tip 1, that shouldn’t be too much of an issue. But when it comes to ingredients, at the end of the day a tin of tomatoes is a tin of tomatoes, noodles are noodles, and dried pasta is just dried pasta. Don’t waste money on things that won’t even affect the final dish.

 

Meal plan.

I can’t believe I ever used to do shopping without a plan for the weeks meals, because it honestly makes life so much easier. By planning what you want to eat you can put a shopping list together, meaning you never buy excess food and you hugely reduce the number of days when you’re staring into your fridge and thinking about throwing it all in and going out for dinner. Having a shopping list means you won’t impulse buy, either, because if you’re not heading down the crisp or sweet aisle you can’t be tempted.

 

Buy in some freezer food.

I know this seems like it goes against all the other tips I’ve given, but hear me out – you won’t always be up for cooking, and sometimes you’re just too tired to do anything at the end of the day. Instead of rushing out and spending £15 on a takeaway pizza, have some in the freezer ready for these kind of days so you’re not tempted. Even buying my favourite branded pizzas only costs me £2.50 per go, which is a huge saving.

 

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Why I’m not buying clothes for a year.

This September marks the start of my masters degree, which although is really exciting, also marks the start of a year where I’m going to have some huge financial changes.

Due to the number of hours I can work at my part time job without burning out alongside the very low student loan I receive from the government, although I have some family help to get me through the degree I will be living on less than the UK minimum wage until next September. I’ve already got plans to drastically reduce my food and transport spending for this year (more about that in another blog post), but it never seems to be the essentials that leave me with pennies in my account at the end of the month – rather, it’s the non-essentials that I somehow keep justifying to myself that add up.

It’s for this reason that I’m targeting clothes specifically. Most of the clothing I do buy is either from eBay or charity shops, so it’s not like I’m splashing major cash around to fill my wardrobe, but the fact is, I don’t need more clothes. However limited or unfashionable, I do technically have enough items of clothing to see myself through the seasons without too much of a hassle. The reason I keep buying them, despite having more at home, is because I’m a very self-conscious person. I’m a chronic over-thinker and a plus-sized person, so I use clothes as a substitute for confidence. I somehow convince myself that if I just buy the right outfit, or have the perfect wardrobe, no-one will notice that I have awful social skills or think that I’m actually much thinner and prettier than I actually am.

So, the things I’m hoping to get out of this challenge are this:

  1. To save money. If I’m not spending it on clothes, it can go into savings to help me pay off my student overdraft.
  2. To appreciate what I already own. If I’m not buying anything new I can lose interest in what I already have, plus I will be much more likely to take care of my clothing.
  3. To become more confident. I’m hoping that by wearing the same things over and over again, my thought will be less focused on my appearance and on more important things – namely, my masters degree.

 

Like most challenges, there will be a few rules that I’m going to stick to:

  1. I can buy socks and underwear if the situation gets desperate. I don’t think this one needs too much explaining, plus it would be good to use the money saved from clothes shopping to invest in some more expensive and hardwearing items if needed.
  2. I can get things tailored. I am in the process of losing weight, but I don’t want that to give me an excuse to run out and splurge if I do end up ultimately going down a dress size. I can get some pieces taken if if needed, which is not only cheaper than buying something new, but still means I’m appreciating and caring for things I already own.
  3. I can borrow items from other people/ accept hand-me-downs. In case of emergency (like halloween costumes or cocktail parties) I will be able to borrow items from other people, and if someone (like my mum, who is the same size as me) offers me some of their old clothes, I can accept them, but only if I know I will actually wear them and they will add something to my wardrobe that I didn’t already have.

 

I will hopefully be posting some updates over the next few months about how I’m getting on, possibly alongside some of the outfits that I’ve been putting together with what I already owned. Wish me luck!

Spending Diet

Today I’m going to talk about something that I haven’t before on this blog, and that topic is money.

Since the beginning of the year especially, and after reading The No Spend Year, I’ve been attempting to become more conscious with where my money is going and what I’m putting into savings every month. In the last week, I’ve accepted an offer for a masters degree, which although is a really exciting opportunity, comes with a whole host of new financial worries. With my fees for one year of study coming to just over £6k, and the government loan for postgraduates stuck at £10k, there will have to be some serious lifestyle changes that come with my next round of studies. That’s not even including this summer, where I will be getting no support from student finance, and even with working extra hours will have nothing left over once the essentials have been paid.

I will be keeping my current part time job in order to help pay the bills, and luckily with the loan and my income combined, all the basics will be covered during term time, leaving about £60 a month spare. Although this is much more than I ever had ‘spare’ for the majority of my life (and even the majority of my degree), since having a little extra income my spending choices have adapted to meet my disposable income.

So, in light of this, I’ve decided to put myself on a spending diet, from now until graduation. Instead of doing the tempting thing, which would be to ‘make the most’ of my spare money while I still have it, I will bring down my spending to what it will have to be over the next year. Everything that I have coming in that is ‘extra’ will go straight into my savings account, meaning that if I do desperately need more than what I have coming in next year, I can feel more comfortable dipping into what I’ve put aside.

I’m also hoping that choosing to reduce my spending now, as opposed to being forced to come September, will make the transition easier and that I won’t feel tempted to over spend or use up my savings.

I’m hoping to keep a mini weekly diary of my spending in order to keep track of it, as well as little ways that I’ve managed to save money on day to day costs.

Why We’re Not Buying Valentine’s Day Gifts This Year

As January is finally drawing to a close, almost every shop on the high street right now is filled with red and pink Valentine’s displays. With giant A3 cards, pointless teddy bears, flowers that won’t last the week, and ‘sexy’ lingerie being advertised to ‘give him a night to remember’ (don’t even get me started on how awful these campaigns are) staring out of shop windows, I suggested that this year, the boyfriend and I take a break from buying each other cards and presents.

Luckily this year, the boyfriend has been able to get the 14th off from work, and it falls on a day where I don’t need to be at university, so the fact that we’d already be spending the day together got me thinking about what I really want to spend my money on. We’ve planned a day out in Leeds to go to their Valentine’s Fair, with lunch at our favourite sushi place, then home to a bottle of wine and a film. In my head I had already started adding: with the cost of rides, a nice lunch, and petrol money, that’s already double what I would normally spend on a gift and card!

Not only that, neither myself nor the boyfriend has anything we particularly want at the moment – so not only is there the upfront cost on top of our day out, but also we’d just be bringing more clutter into the house for the sake of giving. After some thought (and I small initial protest of ‘but I like getting presents!’) we decided that the day would be much more enjoyable if we spent the money from presents and a card on food, activities, and a rare day off together.

Have you done anything to cut costs with your partner this Valentine’s Day? Let me know in the comments!