Category Archives: Finance

Cheap packed lunch ideas

Eat, Pret, Yo Sushi, McDonalds, wherever you go for your lunch everyday, you’re probably spending at least a fiver a time.  When I worked in London I EASILY spent a tenner every day on my morning coffee, lunch and an afternoon snack. With 20 working days in a month, that’s £200 on soups, sandwiches, fruit, chocolate and coffees.

Crazy right? Just think how good it would be to have that money to spend on more interesting things! So how do we do it, while still filling our bellies at lunchtime?

Stop spending a fortune every day on your lunch break

When I started working in Berkshire, my office didn’t have many coffee shops or takeaway food places nearby so I started taking in packed lunches everyday.  I also made my own coffee (with a cafetiere at my desk).  WHAT A DIFFERENCE IT MADE. Not only did I lose half a stone within a few months but the cheap packed lunch also made a real difference to my bank account at the end of every month.  WHAT  a revelation.

The biggest barriers to packed lunches are a) that they’re a hassle to make and b) they are boring.  Well with the first point, deal with it – you’ll save money and you might lose weight – and with the second point, duh make them more interesting.  How? I hear you ask.  By making your own version of your high street favourites.

‘Make your own’ salads from Tossed, Chop’d etc

chop'd
www.chopd.co.uk

You know those great places where you choose 1 base, 1 protein, 4 veg etc? Well make your own at home. For a couple of days’ worth of salads, I buy a bag of spinach, a bunch of spring onions, a pepper, carrots, a tin of sweetcorn and a packet of bacon.  Each morning, all you have to do is cook a few rashers of bacon and prepare the rest of the salad (with lots of freshly ground pepper). Then chuck it in a tupperware and take it to work.  Buy a bottle of salad dressing and keep it in the fridge at work so you can add it just before you take lunch every day.  Easy.

Chicken pot pie soup from Eat.

EAT_Soup_Sm
www.eat.co.uk

Don’t worry. This is going to be better than a packet of soup from the shops. But first of all, forget about the pastry.  It’s really really really bad for you.  If you don’t believe me, check Eat’s website.  For the soup, here’s how you can recreate it as a packed lunch.

For 2-3 portions, buy a carton of covent garden chicken soup, 2 chicken breasts, a large carrot, 2 celery sticks, an onion, frozen peas, a little chicken stock and a little double cream.  Stir fry the chicken, dice the veg and fry off and then add all ingredients together in a pan to cook slowly.  Reheat in the morning and stick in a flask for work.

You can follow this process for a number of other soups, basically jazzing up the standard (and dull) soups available in the supermarkets by adding additional meat, some creme fraiche or cream, perhaps even some cheese.

Pret baguettes

pret baguette
pret.com

Can’t stand sandwiches but love Pret’s baguettes?  Then it’s simple.  Buy a bag of frozen baguettes rather than a loaf of bread and make yourself your special lunch every morning.  I won’t give you any more detail because I’m sure you know how to make a sandwich but remember to include a salad dressing or mayo and plenty of pepper like Pret does. The trick is to not to scrimp on the filling, and to add a generous amount of pepper so as to ensure your sandwich is far from bland.

Leftover roast beef from your sunday lunch would go really well in a sandwich with some horseradish!

Sorry there’s no homemade sushi option but that’s just too much hard work 🙂

If you prefer something more substantial for your lunch like a curry or a pie, then this is simple too. It just requires some planning. Rather than spending £6 a day on a bowl of pasta, make several portions yourself in advance for a fraction of the price. These can then be chucked in a tupperware and reheated at work. Lasagne would work well.

Have I missed any other cheap packed lunch options?

There are many MANY other ways to save money, and they don’t involve stopping your spending! By knowing the tricks of WHEN to shop and HOW to shop, you can buy what you usually do but spend less! To get the guide and save hundreds of pounds a month, sign up below!

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Save a fortune on your food bills in 7 simple steps

After rent or the mortgage, food shopping is often the biggest piece of expenditure each month with the average family spending £83.60 per week at the supermarket, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Perhaps that figure shocks you. You can’t possibly spend anywhere near that on your food, right? Well, if you were to check your bank statements, you might be in for a shock.

The good news is that it’s really simple to cut your food bills.  And by a significant amount too.

Here’s my guide to the steps you can take to reduce your spending on food. So get yourself a cup of tea/glass of wine, and let’s do this.

1. Impulse buying or same online order every week? Stop!

First of all, you need to look at how much you are spending per month and where you’re buying your food from. Do you do a big weekly shop and then top up at smaller branches as and when you need something? Do you have an online delivery service already in place, where you order the same things every week? Perhaps you live in a city centre, don’t have a car, and just do all your shopping at a metro supermarket each day on your way home from work. Impulse food shopping is often very expensive so a move to planning in advance will make the biggest difference to your spending. If you order the same thing every week online, it’s likely you’re missing out on special offers and food is going to waste if you have plans that mean you won’t be around every night.

2. Do a stock check so you don’t buy what you don’t need

Before you do another food shop, take a stock check.

Go through everything in your freezer and write down what you have. Then do the same with your fridge and your cupboards. In the freezer, you may find you already have some sausages, or chicken breasts or even a ready meal which will save you buying more protein on your next shop. In the fridge, you might find some ready meals, jars of sauce or other things that will last a few weeks and can be used in a dish or two. If there are any items like meat or veg that are reaching their use by date, cook them and freeze them so they last longer. Finally, in the cupboards, you should make a list of portions of pasta, rice, potatoes, sauces and other seasonings.

Do you know I found 4 jars of paprika in the cupboard the other day?! When you don’t know what you have, you can end up buying duplicates of things. This will very easily help to cut your food bills.

3. Plan, plan, plan

Open a word document or Notes on your computer or phone and write down the days of the week with breakfast, lunch and dinner. Next to each of the 21 entries, write a meal or mark OUT if you have plans and won’t be eating in. Breakfasts are probably very easy – for me, I just write ‘toast’ and I buy a loaf of bread which I keep in the freezer so it lasts the week. Lunches and dinners will be more difficult but the web is FULL of inspiration. Here are just some of the sites that I get dinner ideas from:

Ocado
Waitrose
Sainsburys
Tesco
Morrisons
BBC Good Food

You can also pick some dishes which allow you to cook batches of food to have on other dates, such as bolognese which (with a few tweaks) can become the base of many, many other meals.

When planning, try to work in a few of the things you have in the freezer to your first or second weeks’ plans as you’ll need the freezer space for other things! Supercook is great at working out meals with what you already have in your cupboard.

4. Go frozen

Replace fresh with frozen. As you’re going to be buying a week’s worth of shopping, you need the sell by dates to last longer than a few days. If, like me, you need a portion of veg with every meal, then go frozen! It’s just as fresh as the unfrozen stuff (if not fresher because it’s frozen as soon as it’s picked) and it’s much cheaper. I would recommend bags of cauliflower, broccoli, peas and sweetcorn. However, if you have limited freezer space, you can buy frozen bags of mixed vegetables and they cost about £1!

The same applies for herbs. You can buy little bags of most seasonings and herbs including coriander, basil, chopped chilies, garlic, chopped shallots and ginger for about £1.20 each and they’ll last in the freezer for ages, unlike fresh herbs which go off in the fridge very quickly.

Just by swapping from fresh to frozen should significantly cut your food bills (as many of the items will last a few weeks) and you’ll be wasting a lot less food too.

5. Shop around for the best deals

Yup, now we shop! Each supermarket has its own pricing plan so it’s important to use a comparison tool to ensure you’re getting the best deals. Go to mysupermarket.co.uk and add all the items you’ll need for the week to your shopping basket. Remember to refer back to your kitchen stock so you don’t buy anything you already have. Once you’ve added everything, check the Switch and Save option on the right hand side of the webpage. This will show you how much your basket will cost you at each supermarket.

On my first visit to the site, I saved 25 quid doing this!

Select the cheapest option and then book a delivery slot. For this new way of food shopping to work, I’d recommend picking a day and time that will work for you every week so that you’re always planning ahead one week at a time. The delivery costs should be under £5 for any of the supermarkets so factor that price in when you order.

6. Don’t waste anything

Save leftovers and freeze them. They can be used for other meals i.e roast chicken can go into risotto, bolognese can be used in lasagne or cottage pie.

7. Repeat

Keep redo-ing the planner each week and using mysupermarket.co.uk to find the cheapest retailer. It will allow you to save some items as favourites which is really valuable for the items you may need every week like milk (or nappies!)

Of course, you will need to pop to the shops occasionally during the week for items you’ve forgotten or if your plans change but as long as you avoid buying too many impulse items, it won’t cause too much damage!

How to save a fortune on your food bills

What are your naughty habits when incomes to food shopping?

How to get some Jimmy Choos or £575 in two months

I want these Jimmy Choos:

Jimmy Choo Lucy 85 £525
Jimmy Choo Lucy 85 £525

and I want these Louboutins:

Christian Louboutin Pigalle 100 £455

So the way I see it, I can do one of two things.  I can either do nothing about trying to get them and simply moan that I’m too poor to ever be able to own something as lovely as those shoes….OR I can take steps to gather the money to afford them.

You can too!

Set yourself a target (like the shoes above) and then start saving. And I wouldn’t be a money blogger if I didn’t tell you how to do it. So here’s your Jimmy Choo ownership guide!

1. Start making packed lunches.  Swap your high street cafes or takeaway shop meals for home-prepared grub for two months and instead of spending £7-8 every week day (that’s 40 days), you’ll spend only a tenner a week (or less) and save yourself approx. £220!  Heck you’ll be nearly halfway there!

2. Switch your utility provider and telecom provider via a cashback site like Quidco or Topcashback.  How does it work?  Well click on the links to sign up and then search through the utility providers to find the deal offering the most cashback. As an example, at the time of writing this, Topcashback was offering £126 cashback – that’s £126 cash to you in your account – if you sign up to SSE’s New Customer Superfast Fibre Broadband + Talk Anytime by clicking through its site.  There’s nothing to pay (apart from your bills) and you should expect your £126 in your account within a few months!  With Quidco you can earn £38 in cashback just by using Simply Switch to change your gas and electricity provider. For more details on how cashback sites work, click here.

Right, so where are we….. £220 + £126 + £38 = £384 in two months.  Still some way to go. So….

3. Have a clear out.  Go through all your old dvds, cds and books and for all of those still in good nick, sell them to a site like Zapper at about 35p each (although some will be worth more than that).  It doesn’t seem like much but they cover your postage and if you can get hold of about 100 items – actually quite easy once you have a proper look through all your old collections – you could earn £35.

4. If you’re going to start saving money thanks to this blog(!) then you need to ensure you have a good savings account. Sign up for an ISA with Standard Life via Quidco and earn £50 cashback. For info on the new limit for ISA saving, check out my article on the recent Budget.  You might as well review your current account provider too. If you open a Nationwide FlexDirect current account via Topcashback, you’ll earn £36.75. Again, for more details on how cashback sites work, click here.

So, £384 + £35 + £50 + £36.75 = £505.75. Hurrah! Enough for the Louboutins! But not quite enough for the Jimmy Choos, so….

4. Finally, to get to £525 and reach the Louboutin mark, we turn to the trusty mobile phone. A new smartphone is released almost every month so we’re not committed to such long contracts as we used to be.  And that’s a good thing as phone contracts can be expensive! I used to pay £49.50 per month for the same number of texts and calls that I get now through Giffgaff for £10 a month.  Yep, £10 a month.  Switch now and in two months, you’ll save yourself £80.

That gets you to £585.50 in two months (ish).  So you can get the Jimmy Choos!

Get ready to treat yourselves!

Non-alcoholic cocktail – Guilt free gin and tonic (and a money saving tip)

It’s Monday and you may very well be craving a drink of the alcoholic variety. Anticipating that, I have cleverly prepared a non-alcoholic cocktail post for you to try. *bows*

lime-907124_1280

With all the scare stories we hear about the dangers of heavy drinking, P and I try not to drink alcohol during the week.  I say try because there is always a reason why a drink or three has usually passed our lips before 6pm on a Friday: evening plans, special lunches, or just simply a shit day.

Anyway, when the latter does happen, I revert back to  a guilt free gin and tonic – a non-alcoholic cocktail “recipe” my husband introduced to me after a PARTICULARLY stressful Monday at work a few years ago.

I came home and P thrust a glass in my hand. My coat was still on, and I was desperate for the loo so I can’t say my concentration levels were high but it did look suspiciously like alcohol.

Clear liquid? Check. Ice and a slice of lime? Check. The special gin and tonic glasses? (We have big glasses for water because I drink MASSES of water and then normal sized glasses are used for gin.) Check. The bastard is trying to make me drink a GIN N TONIC!!!

In response to my scared face, he shouts “Try it!!!” several times. Prone to giving in to peer pressure, I surrendered. “Do you like it????” he asks hopping. “Yes but you know I like gin and tonic.” I say sulking.

“It’s not gin!!” he laughs as if he’s the cleverest person on the planet. “It’s just tonic and lime!”

Folks, it turns out that if you remove the gin from a gin and tonic, it tastes EXACTLY THE SAME!!! Honestly, I would have this on nights out if there weren’t additional reasons for drinking alcohol. It’s AMAZING!

If you can bear it, order it occasionally when you’re out and you’ll save a ton of money. Say you go out to the pub twice a week, and on each outing you buy a couple of drinks.  Each time, swap one glass of wine or one cocktail for a Fake gin and tonic. Essentially it’s just tonic but with the right amount of lime, it’ll taste just like the real thing (TRUST ME).  So 8 nights x (£6 drink less the cost of tonic water at £1.50) = £36.

Try it! There’s no need to thank me! Ok, you’re welcome.

4 ways to save money on insurance

Here’s another super helpful money saving tip for you.  I haven’t done many of these so far but there are lots more on their way.

Today, the topic is insurance. We all need it.  Whether it’s for our car, our home, or our health and belongings on holiday, insurance gives you the peace of mind that should the worst happen, you’re covered financially. The problem is it can be very expensive.

So, here are some ways to save money on insurance when you come to renew.

Check you’re not covered already

First of all, check that your bank doesn’t already provide you with car/home/travel insurance as a privilege of being a customer.  Several banks do this as a perk of signing up.  As an examply, my bank provides me with annual travel insurance so that saves me about £25 every time I go away.

Let comparison sites do the work

Secondly, to save money on insurance, try a comparison site such as Money Supermarket or Compare the Market.  They search hundreds of insurers on your behalf to find you the best deal for your requirements. So, enter your requirements and let them do the hard work for you.

Get cashback on your premium

My best advice to save money on insurance is to visit a cashback site.  All the main insurers will feature on these sites and will pay you a typical amount of £50 cash if you take out insurance with them via a cashback site.  In fact, on Quidco currently is an offer with Hiscox insurance for £80 cashback when you take out buildings and contents insurance! For full details of how cashback sites work, click here.

Also, some of the comparison sites offer cashback so you can earn money on the cheapest deal too.  Quidco has its own car insurance comparison cashback tool which means you get the cheapest cover and cashback!

Don’t forget your home insurance

Finally, don’t be tricked into buying mobile phone insurance, camera insurance, or ring insurance.  You don’t need it as all of this should be covered under your home contents policy.  BUT please check the wording first!

More finance tips to come…..