Friday, 3 May 2013

Bowls, brands and basics

It's nearly a year now that I handed in my notice at my fundraising job to become a stay at home mum, so for almost 12 months we've been adjusting to the realities of living on one salary. In that time I've had to get used to having less disposable income than before. It's hard at times, having to think twice about buying things that a year or so ago I'd have thrown in my basket without a second thought.

I have learned a lot about saving money, though, including, but not limited to....

Drop the brands. It is such an eye opener to realise the difference between branded goods and supermarket own brands lies only in the price. Take cereal, for example. I challenge anyone to tell the difference between a bowl of Cheerios and some Sainsbury's multigrain hooplas. There is none....despite the £1 or so more that the Cheerios cost.(Plus Cheerios are made by Nestle - another reason not to buy them).

We go through about three boxes of cereal a week as a family of seven. That's £3 a week we save - £132 a year, just by switching brands. I could buy seven of these lovely Emma Bridgewater cereal bowls with what I save to eat our Sainsbury's rice pops from. So if you're trying to save money, go for the supermarket own brand versions - you'll knock a fortune off your total shopping bill. Even the value lines are worth a look, though they can be hit and miss. The meat, dairy and cheese are probably to be avoided; experiment with what's good and what's best avoided. I recommend the Sainsbury's basics pancakes, 20p for six. Avoid their basics scourers though, the pancakes would probably do a better job of cleaning your dishes.

Make do and mend. I know, I know, it conjures up visions of patched up jeans and tights darned in about seven places. That's not what make do and mend needs to mean though! It's more about not chucking something out if it gets a stain on it, or gets ripped - instead, buy a couple of transfers and cover up the stains. I sound like my granny here, but clothes are not made to last as they were perhaps a decade or so ago - however, it's worth making the effort to patch them up or cover up stains and tears. 

Ditch the meat  Aside from the moral and environmental implications of eating meat, it's expensive! Particularly if you're buying the organic/free range stuff. Try it for a week, and see how much money you save.

Learn to cook from scratch. Sounds obvious, but I say this as a person who used to buy READY MADE MASHED POTATO. I know! Home made food tastes so much better....and costs so much less. It doesn't even need to take much time, once you know what you're doing. 

Meal plan, and shop online if you can Looking back, I cannot believe how much money, and food, I used to waste. I would go to Marks and Spencer's once a week and buy far too much food, then find myself five days later with three ready meals in the fridge, all of which went out of date two days before, none of which were freezable, trying to decide which one to eat and which one could last another day. Inevitably, something would get chucked out. 

I'd walk round Tesco, simply throwing things into the trolley without any real thought for how I'd use them....maybe I'd make a risotto with those fresh veg, or some pasta sauce... Then a week later, discover a rotting artichoke, aubergine and butternut squash at the back of the fridge that I'd forgotten about. That's not to mention the 'extra' purchases that you make when you go to the supermarket - a book here, a couple of magazines, some new pyjama bottoms, a cute little dress for Rose...then I'd be shocked when the bill came to £200. 

Now I plan all our meals. It makes life so much easier not to have to think too hard about what we're eating every day, and means you're not left with a fridge full of out of date food at the end of the week. And a top that you realise is actually quite disgusting when you get it home. Shopping online is free if you spend over £100, and it's so worth it.

Buy frozen Fresh isn't necessarily always better. Fresh fruit and vegetables can lose up to 45% of their nutrients by the time they reach your plate, and they're also far more expensive. A study by Sheffield Hallam University found that frozen fruit and veg can be nutritionally superior to fresh - so instead of spending £4 on a punnet of fresh raspberries, spend £2 on a bag of frozen ones - you'll get four times the amount, and they may even be healthier.

Hope these are helpful - please share any more if you have them!


  1. Super helpful hints, my top tip is shop at Aldi.....saving me so much hooray!

  2. Thanks! I know, we don't have one particularly near us but every so often I do pop in and am amazed at how cheap it all is!x