17 easy ways to slash your grocery bills.

Being a parent usually means the income you are accustomed to suddenly changes drastically. Either one of the parents stays at home to look after the children or both parents work having to pay large nursery or child minding fees. Unless you are lucky enough to have an extended family member or friend look after the children at no cost.

It is therefore often necessary to look after the pennies once a baby arrives. Below I have listed a few ways in which you can try and cut your grocery bills.

  • Lidl half price weekend offers: A lot of news reports have highlighted the rise of the discount chains Lidl and Aldi. They are definitely a place where you can save on your weekly shopping. However did you know that Lidl also do half price weekly offers where they have three or four products half price. They are often really good deals. This weekend for example they have a 200g bar of premium chocolate for 49p, Kiwis for 12p and 100g of Grano Pandano cheese for 59p. Now these deals might not be your cup of tea, but it is always worth checking out what the weekend offers are going to be just in case they’re something you buy on a regular basis. You can find the deals on the Lidl Website or you can download their app.
  • Aldi super six: Again just like Lidl, Aldi is a discounter where you can save on your weekly shopping compared to the bigger supermarkets. However you have to remember that it is pretty much all own brand food. Whilst a lot of it is just as or nearly as good as branded food, other things in my opinion aren’t so it would be trial and error to see which staples you can replace. They do however have a weekly fruit and veg offer called super 6. This is where they offer 6 fruits and/or vegetables at great prices. This week for example the best deal they have is blueberries at 69p for 125g(£5.52 per kg), the current cheapest per kg price for fresh blueberries at Tesco is £12 per kg. You can find the Super six deals on the Aldi website or with their app.
  • Freezer fruits and vegetables: That lead me nicely on to my next point. The cost and convenience of freezer fruits and vegetables. Not only are they often much cheaper, there is less chance of wastage. In the Aldi section above, I mentioned that the cheapest fresh blueberries at Tesco worked out at £12 per kg. Well the cheapest frozen blueberries at Tesco are £5.72per kg, which is less than half price. Other examples are Broccoli(fresh £1.40 per kg/frozen £0.99 per kg), Green Beans(fresh £4.42 per kg/frozen £1.12 per kg) and sprouts(fresh £2 per kg and frozen £1 per kg). Of course there are seasonal variations in the cost of fresh vegetables so the difference will change as well. Additionally they will often save peeling and preparation time.
  • Approved food: Approved food is an online retailer of goods that are often near their best before date or which have just passed it. The majority of the time there is absolutely no difference in taste if an item is slightly over it’s best before date. The savings that you can make can be big, although you do have to buy a reasonable amount due to the delivery fee. The delivery charge is based on weight, up to 25kg is £5.99 so it is wise to mainly go for lighter purchases. Stock availability changes regularly and they also do special daily deals so every time you go on it they can be different. For example, as I’m writing this, they have; Old El Paso Creamy Poblano Pepper Casserole Recipe Mix 40g at 5 for £1 (best before 20th Feb). the rrp is £1.30 each so that is a saving of over 80%. They also have 5 x Hellmans extra hot 450g tomato ketchup best before 20th of Dec 2014 for £1, compared to an rrp of £1.29 each. Again this is a saving of over 80%.
  • Go vegetarian: I myself am an avid meat eater, but it is a lot more expensive. As we’re on a budget we are trying to have two to three vegetarian meals a week. For example this could be a vegetarian stir fry, pasta dish or curry. This does make a big difference in the amount we spend and the dishes we make are still really tasty.
  • Use cheaper cuts of meat: On the days that we do eat meat we try and go for the cheaper cuts. These are often cuts that need to be cooked longer at a low heat. This is perfect for stews and casseroles in the winter. A slow cooker is great for this as you put the food on in the morning and it’s ready for dinner time. Using a slow cooker for eight hours is also cheaper to run than an electric oven for one hour.
  • Discount Stores: I’m thinking of the likes of B&M, HomeBargains, Poundstretcher, etc. These places often have really good deals and a bit like Approved Food it sort of depends what they’ve been able to buy in bulk, for whatever reason. It could be cheap chocolate after Valentine’s Day, sweets after Halloween or sometimes it’s just nearing the best before date. I have had some great bargains from these kinds of shops before, however I would not make a special trip, but if you’re passing one it’s worth just popping in and checking out what they’ve got on the day.
  • Buy cheaper products: What I mean by this is you should try out a lower priced alternative to what you normally buy. If you buy branded products try a supermarket own brand. If you buy a standard supermarket brand, try the value range. Sometimes you’ll find that the cheaper alternative tastes just as good, other times you’ll never want to buy the cheaper alternative again. However if you can substitute just a part of your annual spend to a cheaper alternative it could mean big savings in the long run.
  • Compare supermarket prices: Mysupermarket is a website whereby you can input a basket of goods and it will tell you what the cheapest supermarket is for that basket. When you are in need of just one specific item do you just go to your normal supermarket or do you walk into every supermarket to see if it’s on offer? With Supermarket Special Offers you just type in what you are looking for and they will let you know which supermarkets have got it on sale. So if you’re like us and there are 3 or 4 different supermarket brands with a similar journey time you can go to the one that has the offer on that specific item.
  • Look for reduced items: Most supermarkets have a reduced section. This usually consists of food that has a sell by or use by date of the day you buy it. It can be a good way of getting a discount. With luck it will be something you were going to buy and use that day anyway. Otherwise you could change your meal plan for that day. In the case of most fruits and vegetables they are often fine even after the sell by date. However with meat and fish I would take great care and use it on the same day or freeze it. In addition some supermarkets have a reduced section for long shelf life goods. Perhaps some cans that have been damaged, or they are products that they are not going to stock anymore. In these cases you can pick up items you need at a cheaper price.
  • Coupons: Coupons can also be a good way of reducing your bills especially if they are on things you would buy anyway. Good places to find coupons are inside free supermarket magazines or on a product for when you buy the product again. I recall when Nando’s had a £1 off the next purchase and Tesco had them at half price so they cost £1. In effect you kept getting a bottle free every time you bought one. You can also get coupons by joining online clubs such as the Cow and Gate Club, Pampers and Heinz. There is also a phenomenon called extreme couponing where you can find lots of coupons to use. Should you have the time and patience then you might want to check out these blogs extreme couponing  and http://www.ukcouponing.co.uk/.
  • Online initial deals: Most supermarkets give you a good discount code when you place the first online order with them. So you could save a bit of money by doing this with a few of them. I have written an earlier blog post about that here.
  • Receipt photography: This one might seem a bit strange at first but cashback sites Topcashback and Quidco both offer a service whereby you get cash back on your shopping if you buy certain products. You just need to send them a photo of the receipt as proof. At Topcashback it is called Snap and Save and current offers include 20p cashback when you buy Hovis soft white bread, 40p of Nutella and 50p of Special K. At Quidco the offering is called Click Snap and currently it includes 25p off any Aldi or Lidl shop, 15p cashback when you buy Cadbury’s fingers and 20p off Onken yoghurt. If you’re signed up to either of these services, it’s always worth signing up to at least one of them for cash back on most of your online shopping. It’s then worth checking even after you’ve been to the shops. You never know you might have bought something for which you can get some cash back just by submitting a photo of the receipt.
  • Packed lunches: Making packed lunches is another good way of saving money. Whenever we go out with the children, we always make sure to take a lunch with us as this is so much cheaper than eating out or even buying a sandwich. Someone who spends just £3 a day on a packed lunch will, if they buy it five days a week for 48 weeks, spend £720 just on their lunch. Home made lunches will come in at just a fraction of this.
  • Use freezer when stuff is cheap: When there are good deals on freezable food then it is always worth buying some extra and freezing it. For example, near Easter time Asda were doing leg of lamb for under £5 a kg. This was very good value so we bought a few to freeze for special occasions. You just need to have some discipline and remember what you have frozen and use it in a first in first out system so you don’t end up with food that has been sitting in your freezer for years.
  • Cook in bulk: Another good thing to do is to cook in bulk and then have the same meal a few times in the week or again freeze some of it. Not only can this save money it can also save a lot of time. It’s a lot quicker to cook a double batch of one meal than to cook two separate meals.
  • Go to the local market: This is one that I haven’t really tried myself yet, but a lot of people say that the food at local markets is a lot cheaper than in the big supermarkets. It is definitely something that I will try and check out for myself.

 

Conclusion:

Since we’ve had our daughters it has been imperative that we try and keep our outgoings down as much as possible. We have used each of the above ways to trim our grocery spending.  I understand that following each of these ideas might be a bit extreme, but hopefully you’ve discovered one or two new ideas that will help you reduce your outgoings somewhat. I would also love to hear any other money saving ideas that you might have.

The Dad Network
Mums' Days

Cooking fun with your Toddler: Ditch the processed supermarket and takeaway pizzas and make your own.

Cooking with your toddler or a child of any age for that matter can be extremely fun. It also teaches your child valuable life skills. Eating freshly prepared food is also a lot cheaper and healthier than processed food.

I’ve made pizza’s with my daughter since she was about 19 months and she absolutely loves it. This recipe is enough for 3 to 4 pizza’s, but you can freeze the remainder to give you a quick meal another day.

Ingredients you’ll need:

For the base:

  • 650g Strong White Flour
  • 375ml lukewarm water
  • 7g sachet of dried yeast
  • 25ml olive oil
  • a pinch of salt

For the tomato sauce:

  • tube of tomato puree 175g-200g
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-4 garlic cloves depending on taste
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of dried herbs (Oregano, Basil, Marjoram, etc) or you can use mixed herbs
  • 250ml water
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the topping:

Anything that you fancy really. Examples, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, sweetcorn, onions, olives, ham, chicken, pineapple. anything that you and/or your child fancy. Although I do recommend using cheese on top.

Method:

For the base:

  • Mix the flour, salt and yeast in a big bowl, add the olive oil then gradually add the lukewarm water. It is best to do this gradually as if you have slightly too much water your dough will become to sticky and you will need compensate with more flour.
  • Now comes the exciting part for your child. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes till it becomes elastic.
  • Put in a bowl and cover with a clean, damp tea towel and leave to rise for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size. At this stage you can start on the tomato sauce and start preparing your topping
  • When ready knead again and separate into 3 or 4 balls.
  • At this stage you can freeze any balls you will not need
  • Roll out required balls on a flour covered surface and shape into pizza bases and put onto a baking tray or pizza stone

For the tomato sauce:

  • mix together all the ingredients except for the water.
  • gradually add the water until you reach your desired consistency, which could be quite a bit less than the full amount of water.

Putting it all together:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 200c
  • Spread tomato sauce over the base, you can freeze the rest in batches to use with your remaining pizza bases.
  • Let your child decorate the base with the chosen toppings, you might have to even thing out after they have finished.
  • Sprinkle with grated cheese
  • Bake in pre-heated oven for 10-15 minutes, until the edges start going nice and brown and the cheese has melted.
  • Enjoy

 

How did you get on?

I hope you like this recipe and try it out. I’d love to see photos of your homemade pizzas. I’ll hopefully be making this again in the next week or so, possibly today but my eldest is having a long nap, and will post the finished result.

 

 

 

 

 

Save time and money with a slow cooker

There’s nothing worse than a toddler skipping their nap and then being overtired whilst you’re trying to cook dinner. If you’ve already got a toddler then you can probably relate to the screaming and crying and constant attention seeking of an overtired child. That’s why I now try and prepare as much as possible beforehand.

A slow cooker is a godsend for this. With a slow cooker you can put your ingredients in in the morning, put it on and then leave it alone for the rest of the day. Whilst mainly known for stews and casseroles you can make just about anything in a slow cooker from soups, curries and pastas to sticky toffee pudding and other desserts. The food often tastes nicer too as it has had more time to blend all the flavours together.

Not only is it a great way to have better tasting food and to avoid pre-dinner tantrums it also works out cheaper. Having a slow cooker on for 8 hours costs about 11p whilst having an oven on for 1 hour costs about 30p.

I can really recommend using one and we tend to use ours at least 2 or 3 times a week and also do batch cooking in it. This means that on a lot of the days we don’t actually use it we are actually eating slow cooked meals from the fridge or freezer.

 

 

Save time, money and headaches by doing grocery shopping online

Supermarket shopping with one toddler can be a nightmare, with two it is even worse. Luckily in the modern age of 24 hour supermarkets and online shopping there are ways to prevent this. Firstly what I often do is do a quick shop in the evening once my eldest daughter is in bed and my wife is looking after the baby. This is ideal for little shops. For bigger shops, placing an online order is ideal and there are often discount codes and cashback deals to be had to make decent saving.

For example I use Topcashback and with their site you can get currently get the following deals at various supermarkets.

Tesco £5.05 cash back for new customers and £15 of a £60 shop with a voucher code.
Asda £5.55 cash back on a £25 spend
Ocado £6.06 cash back on first order over £40 and £10 of your first shop with a voucher code.
Morrisons has various cash back rated depending on the value of the order.
Waitrose £5.05 cash back on first order and £10 of a £100 spend with a voucher code.

To get these deals all you need to do is join or login to Topcashback and click through to the supermarket through their website. This is also great for many other online purchases.

Online supermarket shopping definitely solves a lot of the headaches that come with taking a toddler round the aisles of the local supermarket.