Tag Archives: Big Budget Challenge

Big Budget Challenge – Weeks V & VI

I’m now into my sixth week of the Big Budget Challenge, hosted by the lovely Laura @ KeepingHealthyGettingStylish.  I’m still really enjoying this challenge, largely due to the fact that I’m finding ways to make lots of savings without feeling that I’m depriving the family or compromising on the quality of the goods I’m buying.  That’s the way to do it! 😉

Here’s a rundown of my money saving attempts over the past two weeks:

1. Avoid waste.  Still haven’t thrown away any food!  In the past, I would often end up throwing away half-used pots of hummus that were hiding at the back of the fridge.  Since taking on the B.B.C. challenge, I’ve made sure that I make regular checks of what’s in the fridge and use up everything before it starts to grow fur. 

Last week, I found myself with a large bag of organic carrots that would soon be past their best, so I decided to make some carrot and coriander soup.  I asked M to stop at the supermarket on the way home from work and buy some speciality bread to make the meal a touch more special.  By the time he arrived there, all the freshly made bread was being sold off at a fraction of the original price so he picked up some fantastic bargains, including some carrot and pumpkin seed bread for 50p a loaf!

The soup was so delicious… really creamy, yet I didn’t put any milk or cream in it!  If anyone’s interested in the recipe, I can post it.

2. Shop around for the cheapest deals. I did another large online grocery shop last week and used www.mysupermarket.co.uk again.  So simple and quick to use (took me less than 20 mins).  Again, the website confirmed that Tesco was the cheapest supermarket for my grocery basket (£127 at Tesco vs £145 at Sainsbury; £147 at Asda; £168 at Waitrose).  I saved £15.85 by multi-buying (2-4-1s, etc) and a further £16.40 by using the website’s ‘Swap & Save’ function.

This week’s top bargains from Tesco:
– 750g Natco Cashew Nuts for £5.00 (compared to £1.99 for 200g in the Tesco own label range)
400g Natco Jeera Ground cumin for £1.99 (compared to 85p for 43g in the Tesco own label range).

3. Make use of home-grown foods.  Still using tons of home-grown apples, stewing them, making puddings, and puree for apple pancakes. 

Apple Cinnamon Pancakes are so delish!

 4. Go foraging! I didn’t go far this week… just into the garden.  With the crazy weather we’re currently experiencing, lots of plants that we normally see in Spring have started shooting up now… including the stinging nettles.  For years I’ve been saying that I’m going to try cooking the nettles and, last Tuesday, I finally got round to doing it!  The Nettle Bhajee (which featured in yesterday’s post) was really tasty and I’ll definitely make it again 🙂

5. Make use of vouchers and deals. This week, I did an online shop at Goodness Direct to stock up on nuts and seeds, as well as buy some delicious healthy organic treats.  There are a few codes available on the web that give you £10 off your order with Goodness Direct, including the one on the right-hand side of Laura’s website. You also get free delivery when you spend over £35. 

It felt like Christmas had come early when the box arrived on the door step!  Here’s what I got…

I bulk-purchased some of the foods that we consume a lot, and this saved me a small fortune.  My top two bulk purchases were 3kg of brown linseed for £5.07 (this will keep us going for the next year!) and 500g pitted dates for £1.55 (I bought 2 bags).  These prices are way cheaper than anything I’ve ever found in the supermarkets or local health food stores.

Another tip… if you buy broken Brazil nuts, they are much cheaper than whole Brazil nuts.  For ages, I’ve been buying whole Brazil nuts then spend ages chopping them up!  At Goodness Direct, 250g of broken Brazil nuts are £1.99 compared to £3.33 for the whole nuts!

So, with all these savings on bulk purchases, free delivery, £10 off, I felt I deserved a few delicious organic treats (even if I am in the midst of the Big Budget Challenge 😉 )  At the moment, I am absolutely loving Meridian’s organic wild blueberry and cherry & berry spreads, and their Green Pesto (in the ‘Free From’ range).  Regardless of the fact that it’s vegan, I think this is the best pesto out there!  Not only does it taste great, but it’s also got an amazing texture (little bit crunchy, just how I like it 🙂 )

I’m definitely going to explore bulk purchasing more.  Do you bulk buy any grocery items?  If so, what’s your top bulk purchase items and where do you buy them?

 

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Filed under Being Frugal, Breakfast & Elevenses, Dinners, Growing Fruit & Veggies

Big Budget Challenge – Weeks III & IV

As it was the half term school holidays last week, which began with a mini break to Sherwood Forest followed by Lil’ L’s 8th birthday, I didn’t get round to posting an update for Laura’s Big Budget Challenge.  Many apologies Laura!  To make up for this, I’ll give a rundown of my ‘money saves’ over the past two weeks vis-a-vis my 5 budget rules

1. Avoid waste. I’m pleased to say that I’ve managed to avoid throwing away any food over the past two weeks 🙂  There was a close call with a bag of spinach that was starting to look sorry for itself, but Laura’s post on Monday inspired me to make a spinach, butternut squash and chickpea curry.  I even roasted the squash seeds (for the first time ever) and we had them with the hemp burger and roasted squash dinner on Monday.  No seeds will ever get thrown away again… they’re so nice lightly roasted! 🙂

2. Shop around for cheapest deals. I’m planning to do another big online grocery shop tomorrow and I’ll definitely be using www.mysupermarket.co.uk again.  It saved me quite a few pounds on my last big grocery shop and I’m intrigued to see what I can save this time round 🙂

3. Make use of home grown foods.  We’ve been eating lots of home-grown apples (still not sick of them 😉 ).  We’ve also had some very generous donations of home-grown produce from friends and family, including these amazing courgettes/zucchinis.

As well as using the zucchini in lots of savoury dishes (roasted veg & pasta; lasagna; fajitas), I made some wicked date and zucchini brownies last week, which I pictured in yesterday’s post.  (I’ll be writing up the recipe and posting it very soon).

All the donated produce has been used up now, so I’ve turned my attention to some rather unusual home-grown produce… dandelion leaves and nettles.  I didn’t intentionally grow these, but as they’re growing so beautifully in my garden, it’ll be fun to see whether I can turn them into something tasty 😉

4. Go foraging! Whilst cycling round Sherwood Forest last week, I couldn’t resist a quick pause to collect sweet chestnuts.

The cases are so prickly!  I used my feet to squeeze the nuts out of the shells, while M adopted a more hands-on approach.

I didn’t have a bag with me, so I crammed as many as I could into the back pocket of my cycling jacket.

You won’t believe how many I actually managed to cram into that pocket!

I absolutely adore roasted chestnuts!  They really remind me of childhood Christmas Eves when my Dad would roast chestnuts, sprinkle them with salt and tip them on a newspaper.  We’d then sit on the living room floor and tuck in!

Today, I decided to use some of the nuts to make a sweet chestnut casserole with herby dumplings.

The dumplings were flavoured with fresh rosemary from the garden.  This is one of the few edible plants that the slugs and snails actually leave alone!  It’s a really easy herb to grow and seems to look after itself.  Our plant has been here the whole time we’ve lived in Bath (11 years now) and it hasn’t need any attention at all. (That’s SO my sort of plant 😉 )

5. Make use of vouchers and deals. We used our Tesco vouchers again on Lil’ L’s birthday, saving us £21 on the entry fee into a sea aquarium.  I’m glad we didn’t pay real money for this trip as the aquarium was awful (in my opinion).  The image of the snake-headed turtle pounding up and down its tiny tank is still haunting me 🙁

So that’s my big budget challenge update for weeks III and IV!  Have you had any great money saves in the last month?  If so, I’d love to hear them! 

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The Big Budget Challenge – Week II

I’m  now in my second week of ‘The Big Budget Challenge’ hosted by the lovely Laura @ Keeping Healthy Getting Stylish.  I did okay in Week I, but Week 2 has been even better 🙂 

Here’s a run down of my top ‘money saves’ this week:

1. Avoid waste. No food thrown away this week!  

See these sad-looking bananas….

I turned them into this:

It’s banana cinnamon ‘ice cream’.  It’s so creamy that you would think it was proper ice cream!  To make it, I simply cut the bananas into slices, froze them, then whizzed them in the blender on the ice setting until they were all chopped up.  I then transferred them to a bowl, added a dash of nondairy milk, lashings of cinnamon and a tablespoon of ground linseed.  I then pulsed them using a hand blender until they went white and creamy.  The bananas were so ripe that I didn’t need to add any sweetener.  Lil’ L loves this dessert and it makes a nice change from apples 😉

2. Shop around for cheapest deals.  I finally got round to trying out www.mysupermarket.co.uk that a friend recommended way back in the summer.  I was really impressed with it.  It’s so simple to use.  At a click of a button, it allows you to import your online shopping basket from your usual provider (mine’s Tesco). You can then easily edit the basket, deleting items you no longer need and adding new items. 

Then, it does something really useful…

  • It shows you how you can save money by swapping to cheaper items. If you agree with their ‘Swap & Save’ suggestions, you just click to swap.  I saved £6.36 by swapping some items.
  • It then compares the cost of your basket at four supermarkets.  If your shop would be cheaper elsewhere, you just click to swap.  I did a big grocery shop (83 items) and the total was £139 at Tesco.  In Asda, the same shop would have cost me £155; Sainsbury’s £166; and Ocado (Waitrose) a wopping £177. I’ve always done my big grocery shops at Tesco, so it was great to discover that it is actually the cheapest supermarket for me. 🙂 
     
    It’s interesting because the cheapest supermarket very much depends on the types of groceries you buy.  For my friend, Sainsbury’s came out £30 cheaper than Tesco!  Lately, I’ve been disorganised with my grocery shopping and have ended up buying bits and pieces on a weekly basis from the Waitrose in Bath.  By getting more organised and ordering a fortnightly Tesco home delivery, I should save a small fortune! 🙂 

3. Make use of home grown foods.  We’re eating tons of apples and there’s still hundreds left!  After watching Monty Don’s episode on how to ‘over winter’ apples, I challenged M to make me a storage contraption using old scraps from the garage.  He rose to the challenge and made a great storage system…..

… but it took him the whole of Sunday.  He’s now banned me from watching Gardners’ World as he’s fed up with landing Monty Don’s ‘Jobs for the Weekend’. 😉

4. Go foraging!  No foraging this week as I’m still working out what to do with all the nuts we found last week

5. Make use of vouchers and deals. HUGE savings here! Last Friday, me and my good friend J went to London to meet up with our gorgeous friends N and H for lunch.  I converted my Tesco vouchers into tokens for redspottedhankie.com and managed to get both our travel tickets for FREE!  A total saving of £66!  This meant we had more cash to spend on gorgeous eats and drinks 🙂 

So, lots of savings this week.  Good thing too because next week is going to be v. v. expensive 😉 

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The Big Budget Challenge – week I

With lots of fairly large expenses looming over the next 3 months, last Friday I decided to join ‘The Big Budget Challenge’ hosted by the lovely Laura @ Keeping Healthy Getting Stylish.  We set our own budgeting rules (mine are here) and, for the next 2 months, we’ll post a weekly progress update on how we’re doing on our budgeting adventure. 

It’s my first week into the challenge and I’ve been filled with enthusiasm about finding ways to cut our household food-related costs.  Here’s a summary of what I managed to achieve in the past week:

1. Avoid Waste.  I’m pleased to say that I’ve used up all fruits and veggies before they went brown, turned to liquid or grew fur. 😉  I also rummaged around in the kitchen cupboards and used up anything that was past its sell-by date, including 2 packs of ground almonds:

I was in foodie heaven when I saw these almonds on special offer. Please don't look at the BB date! They were fine, honest!

With these almonds, I made some vegan cocoa fudge (featured in yesterday’s post) and 4 fruit puddings made with home-grown apples, foraged blackberries, and an oaty-almond topping.  They were totally delish… although Lil’ L freaked at the purple coloured apple and said the dessert wasn’t attractive enough to eat! The cheek of it!

The idea was to freeze 3 puddings and eat 1 this week.  Instead, 1 found its way into the freezer, and 3 got eaten in less than a week!  Aren’t we a greedy bunch?

2. Shop around for the cheapest deals. I haven’t done an internet shop this week, so I’ll try www.mysupermarket.co.uk for price comparisons next week.

3. Make use of home-grown foods. On Saturday, we picked apples off our cooking apple tree.  M and Lil’ L had loads of fun, with M balanced up the tree throwing apples down to Lil’ L.  The idea was to carefully catch them and place them in the box, so we can overwinter them.  Unfortunately, most got dropped, some bounced off his head, and the picked apples definitely got mixed in with the windfalls!  I’m not holding out much hope for the overwintering now. 🙁

 

We filled up 3 boxes and there’s still hundreds of apples up the tree.  If anyone that lives near me would like some apples, please give me a shout as we have way too many for a family of 3.

So far, I’ve made all the puddings mentioned above, plus lots of apple sauce, which I’ve been using to make apple cinnamon breakfast pancakes. 

I normally buy at least one bag of organic apples a week and a couple of jars of organic apple sauce per month, so this little harvest is going to save us a fair fortune!

4. Go Foraging! I couldn’t wait to go foraging, so straight after school last Friday, Lil’ L and I put on our wellies and went to see what we could find.  Just a short distance from our house, we found a small strip of land literally covered with cob nuts!  We gathered them up, brought them home and weighed them.  In total, we had 2 kilos’ worth of nuts!  In Waitrose, cob nuts are currently selling for £3.99 a kilo!

 

Fortunately, I know someone who absolutely loves cracking nuts. 😉

So far, I’ve used the nuts to make veggie burgers.  This weekend I’m going to try roasting them with a little sea salt.  Again, if anyone living near me would like some cob nuts please let me know as we have way too many.

Last weekend, we also combined a bike ride along the Bath-Bristol cycle route with a foraging trip to gather blackberries.  We managed to gather 3 containers’ worth.  Some went in the puddings, the rest I stewed.  I adore stewed blackberries and ate 2 bowlfuls today.  I should be zinging with nutrients now! 🙂

5. Make use of vouchers and deals.  This is where we made a huge saving.  In preparation for our Friday night out, I exchanged some Tesco vouchers for reward tokens and we went to Pizza Express.  We asked for the £10 for 2 course menu (in our local P.E. you don’t get this menu unless you ask for it!) and Lil’ L had the children’s menu.  For drinks we had tap water (P.E. must hate people like us 😉 ).  The bill came to £27, which was paid for in tokens… thus FREE!  Normally we spend £35-£40 on a night out, so a bargain all round!

Outside of my 5 rules, we also came up with another way to save significant amounts of money… by parking 10 mins out of the city centre and walking in.  This week, we’ve needed to go into the city twice by car (normally we cycle).  By parking a little out of the centre, we saved £10 in parking charges!  I also enjoyed walking through parts of Bath that I never normally visit.  I especially enjoyed stomping through the crunchy leaves. 🙂

It’s amazing how many ways you can save money with a little bit of thought.  I’m going to pop over to Laura’s now and see how everyone else is doing on The Big Budget Challenge.

What’s your favourite money-saving tip?  I’d love to hear it! 

 

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The Big Budget Challenge

I’ve just been into Bath and, to my horror, discovered that the shops are already full for Christmas stuff AND the street Christmas lights have been installed.  Has the world gone bonkers? It’s the beginning of October for goodness sake!!  Is the commercial world on a mission to hijack Christmas?  Mmm that’s my suspicion… What do you think?      

December 25th shop

This shop is actually open all year round! Madness! (IMO)

 [Source]

However, seeing the Christmas lights did remind me that, in the next 3 months, I’ve got some fairly big expenses coming up… Lil’ L’s birthday at the end of this month; a potential trip to stay in Nottingham Forest during half term; M’s 40th in December and then, of course, Christmas.  So, when I spotted Laura’s Big Budget Challenge on Sarah’s blog, I jumped at the chance to join in.

The Big Budget Challenge is running for the months of October and November.  The idea is to set our own rules and keep track of our budgeting progress through our blogs. Laura will do a weekly round up of all budget-themed posts, so we can share ideas on how to save money.

Aside from mortgage and bills, food is our single largest expenditure, so this is where I’m going to try and make the most savings.  However, I’m not going to make any compromises on the quality of the food we eat.  We’re still going to eat organic as much as possible, lots of fresh fruit and veggies, and no junk. 

Here are the rules I’ve set myself:

  1. Avoid waste. I’m going to have a big sort out of the pantry, fridge and freezer and use up anything that has been languishing there for a long time. I’m also going to make sure that I use up all the fruit and veg before they’re ready to jump on the compost heap. 
  2. Shop around for the cheapest deals. A friend of mine used the site http://www.mysupermarket.co.uk/ and saved £30 on her weekly shop by switching supermarket. I must give this a go!
  3. Make use of home-grown foods. We’ve got tons of apples at the moment, so I’m going to try and make lots of interesting desserts and snacks using the apples, rather than buying desserts or lots of other fruits. 
  4. Go foraging!  I love the idea of wrapping up in warm clothes and boots, going out for a brisk walk… and coming back laden with free goodies.  I can’t wait to see what I can find! There’s lots of useful info on foraging on the web.
  5. Make use of vouchers and deals.  On Friday nights, we usually go out for a meal.  It’s a great way to end the week and catch up with each other.  For the next couple of months, I’m going to make use of websites such as Martin Lewis’s Money Saving Expert to find money-off coupons and 2-4-1 deals on restaurants.  I’ll also make use of my Tesco vouchers by converting them into restaurant tokens (each £1 voucher is worth £3 in selected restaurants so it’s a great way to use them).

At the end of each month, I’ll check my credit card bill and see how much I’ve spent on groceries.  I’ll then compare it with previous months to see if I’ve made any savings. 

Can you think of any other ways I can save money on food (without compromising on quality)? If so, I’d love to hear them.

Also, I’d love to know what you think about the early onset of Christmas paraphernalia in town.  Do you think it’s right to start stocking the shops and hanging Christmas lights in October?  Perhaps it’s just me that’s all ‘bah hum bug’ 😉

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