Sunday, 12 May 2013

How to save a fortune every week

Hello there! I have been on a quest to save money for a while now, but one aspect of my life that I was reluctant to change for a long time was buying lunches at work. I just didn't think I could be bothered making something for myself the night/morning before work, plus I loved having the treat of going out for lunch. My sister Alice had switched to making her own lunches, and had tried to persuade me, but I was having none of it! I thought I would quickly share with you how I FINALLY kicked the habit.

I'd never really worked out how much buying lunch at work was costing me, but once I did I was sold on the idea!! I had been spending around £3 a day on lunches for work. That's £15 a week, and that's when I didn't treat myself to a dessert as well! I realised I could spend £1 a day on lunches if I brought my own, which would save me a whopping £10 a week. Even allowing for four weeks off work a year, that would save me a total of £480 every year!! To me, that could pay for a decent holiday (something I had been unable to afford for years)! Suddenly, the 'treat' of buying lunch at work seemed a horrendous waste of money!

One thing that helped to wean me off expensive shop-bought lunches was buying cheap ready meals instead. I know that's not very healthy, but it was a great way for me to persuade myself to take lunches to work, as there was no preparation involved. I'm slowly starting to cook proper meals now, with leftovers for lunches, but the ready meals softened the blow of not eating out for lunch, because at least I didn't have to put in any extra effort. You can get plenty of frozen ready meals for £1; Asda do tasty Sharwood's oriental ready meals for this price, and Iceland do 3 for £3 on Weightwatchers ready meals. Don't worry if you don't have a freezer at work, I let my frozen meal defrost for the morning (you can keep it in the fridge or even at room temperature) and just adjust the cooking time. If you don't have a microwave at work then you can always make sandwiches! I've now started making my own cooked lunches from time to time. I make a big batch of pasta sauce and pasta, or a big batch of vegetarian (because it's cheaper) chilli. As long as you keep it simple, it only works out at around 50p a portion and it's really healthy!

If you're reluctant, like I was, to take your own lunches to work, just give it a try! I'm sure you will be convinced when you realise how much you could save. And there are lots of options for cheap lunches available, you just have to find something that works for you!

If you have any more cheap lunch ideas, please comment below, I'd love to hear them :-)

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Saturday, 11 May 2013

Venturing into the World of Aldi...

Hello there! I was planning on doing a couple of blog posts today but I'm a bit poorly so I slept for most of the day. Oopsies!!

Anyway, I thought I'd tell you all about my Aldi experience. I know I always talk about Lidl, because it's a bit easier for me to get to than Aldi, but in the name of being a helpful blogger, I thought I would take a slight detour to see what Aldi has to offer. I'm so glad I did!! I always assumed it would be a bit more expensive than Lidl, as it's known as being a bit more 'upmarket' (if you can call Aldi and Lidl upmarket...) but it wasn't at all! I got all this for £10.72!!

Lemon Antibacterial Wipes 75p
Antibacterial Handwash 75p
Gnocci/Tortelloni/Ravioli 65p each
Pasta Sauce 75p
Crumpets (6) 37p
Extra Large Granary Baps 79p
Baby Leaf Salad 79p
Crispbreads (fake Ryvitas) 59p
Cherry Tomatoes 79p
Penne 500g 29p
Chicken Slices (4) 89p
Frozen Chips 1.5kg 82p

My verdict so far...

First I want to start by saying DO NOT BUY ALDI CRUMPETS!! I don't know if I got a dodgy batch or something, but they were so disgusting I only managed to eat one and had to throw the other five away! Not good. I've heard people say they were nice, but they were certainly not to my taste. I'll definitely be sticking to Lidl or Asda crumpets in future!

I've been impressed with the other things I've tried so far though. The salad, granary rolls and chicken are all pretty good considering how cheap they are. The chicken is obviously not the highest quality but it tastes quite good and I can't afford to be fussy at the moment! The tomatoes are by far my favourite purchase so far though; they're sweet and delicious, definitely nicer than any other tomatoes at that price!

I'm really pleased with the other bargains I've picked up. To get so many items for under a £1 each is incredible, and at that price you can afford to take the gamble of trying them. I'm interested to try the different varieties of dried filled pasta, and the gnocci; I really want them to be good because it's normally £1 or more for fresh pasta. I'll keep you posted on that one. I'm a bit dubious about the chips, but I thought I'd give them a try because, if I can tolerate them, it would be a huge saving for me (and I eat a lot of chips)!

Lidl versus Aldi

Product-wise, it's too soon for me to say. But I hope the crumpets are not a good representation of Aldi's food quality because I found their store so much nicer and better. It was a different world to Lidl; the shelves were all fully stocked, the store was quiet, clean and spacious, and the staff were friendly, polite and smartly dressed! Lidl is the complete opposite, I have been horrified by the poor customer service and general laziness of some of their staff (i.e. texting on their phones while on the till, not saying hello to the customers or even giving them eye contact, etc.). I realise that it varies store to store; the Aldi I went to was a very recently built store, and I've been in ones that are not as nice as that. Likewise, there are probably Lidl stores that are not quite as shocking as my local ones. But comparing my local Aldi to my local Lidl, Aldi wins hands down. I will still definitely be sticking to Lidl when I'm buying crumpets and shampoo though (because they are my faves)!

Are you considering switching to Aldi to save money? Or are you an Aldi shopper already? If so, what are your favourite Aldi products (can be food or beauty)? Please comment below :-)

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Thursday, 9 May 2013

My tips for spending less on takeaways (save £s and lose lbs!)...

If you're trying to save the pennies, takeaways are one area where you could potentially save a LOT of money!! We're all guilty of taking this lazy option from time to time but here are a few things I've done to help me stay away and save money: -

  • Make sure your fridge and cupboards are never bare. You're much less likely to be tempted to a cheeky Chinese if you've got something tasty in at home! One great way to do this is to plan your meals for the week (and shopping list) before you go to the supermarket (not as tedious as it might sound, trust me); this will help you budget and save money on your food shop too!
  • Stay on top of the washing up/dishwasher duties. This is easier said than done (especially if you're a natural washing-up shirker like me), but it really helps! Cooking a proper meal seems a lot less daunting/time consuming when you don't have to wash up loads of dishes first!
  • Don't deprive yourself entirely. In my experience, you'll be less likely to stick to it that way! You could try allowing yourself one takeaway every 2 months (or only on special occasions). Alternatively, treat yourself to takeaway-style food from the supermarket (e.g. curries, pizzas etc) every once in a while. It's a lot cheaper, and probably a bit healthier too!
  • Just can't resist the temptation? Have a look on the Food Standards Agency website for hygiene ratings in your local area. You may find that your favourite takeaways have really low ratings; suddenly their food may not seem so appetising! 
  • If you're a fan of Domino's and you just can't give it up, NEVER pay full price for it! You can get plenty of half price and £10 off deals online if you search for Domino's voucher codes. 
  • One final tip is my Dad's favourite phrase: 'Don't have eyes bigger than your belly'! If you DO splash out, make sure you don't order more than you can eat. This sounds so obvious but I'm guilty of throwing lots of take-away food away in the past because I'd ordered too much!

How do you resist takeaway temptation? I'd love to hear your suggestions! Please comment below :-)

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Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Mini Primark Hall

Just a quick one today (I'll save the huge blog posts for the weekends). I went to Primark on my lunch today to get some short-sleeved t-shirts for work as it's absolutely boiling on my office (it's on the sunny side of the building and if there is air conditioning, it certainly doesn't work)! I was really pleased to find 3 lovely tops for £10!! Bargain!! [Btw my office is fairly laid-back so these t-shirts aren't too casual]

Black top with lovely lace detailing £4

Blue stripey top £3

Green stripey top £3

I'm really pleasantly surprised by the quality and fit of these t-shirts. I wasn't sure about the length of the stripey ones but they look a lot cuter (and more smart/stylish) tucked loosely into nice trousers. I'm so glad I finally have some tops for work that I'm not going to melt in! :-)

One last thing I got was this cute owl wrapping paper. It was only £1 for 5 metres, which will keep me going for a while! Yay!!

Please comment below and let me know if you've got any great bargains recently!

Hannah x

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Monday, 6 May 2013

Frugal and fun ideas for nights in with your chummies

I used to spend a fortune going on nights out, to the cinema, for meals, etc. I still do this about once a month as a treat (not so much the nights out bit, I get horrendous hangovers now I’m a bit older!) but I also socialise a lot at home now. To be completely honest, some of the funniest/most memorable times I've had with my friends over the past few years have been at home! Not convinced? Here are a few suggestions: -

Make your own cocktails

Instead of going out to a snazzy bar, why not make your own cocktails? Look for recipes online and give it a try! Aldi and Lidl do delicious cheap own-brand versions of Baileys, Archers, etc. Not only does this idea save money but it gives you and your friends something fun to do too!

Take turns to cook each other dinner

This is such a simple and well-known idea but sometimes the oldies are the goodies! You don’t have to literally take turns; if you cook for your friends they’ll normally repay the favour one day (or if they’re lazy they may even take you out for a nice meal, bonus)! I’m not talking about spending loads of money and cooking a three course meal. Just make a nice simple home cooked meal. Your friends might even be nice and bring cake or wine! This idea is so much cheaper than going out somewhere for a meal, and it’s a lot more sociable! [I stole this idea from my boyfriend because he does this a lot and it always goes down well; I'm a bit too nervous about my cooking skills to cook for lots of people myself].

Have a picnic-style lunch

I would say ‘go for a picnic’, but the weather’s not often nice enough in this country! If you do get to go for a picnic then yay, but you can also have a picnic at home. Buy some nice fresh baguettes/crusty bread rolls, some continental meats and cheeses, arrange it all nicely in the centre of a table and you and your friends can help yourselves. You might think this is really expensive but a) It’s a lot cheaper than going to a cafĂ© and b) Aldi and Lidl do some lovely continental meats and cheeses for less than you’d pay at other supermarkets. My favourite bargains are Mozzarella for 44p and freshly baked bread rolls at 75p for 5 (both Lidl). I bought all this (serves 3 people) for £5.16!

Continental-Style 'Picnic': Bread Rolls 75p for 5 (20p each), Mozzarella 44p, Babyleaf & Rocket Salad 79p, Milano Salami £1.49, Italian Prosciutto £1.49 (Lidl)

Have a board game night

I realise this suggestion might not be for everyone, but my friends and I are obsessed with playing board games these days (hooray for my sister Alice for getting me into board games)! We've got really into it over the past year or two, mainly because we can’t afford to go out as much as we used to. It’s great fun and free (even if you get in some tasty nibbles and wine, it’s still loads cheaper than going out anywhere). Of course, if you don’t own any board games already, there’s the initial cost, which can be up to a hefty £30, but you could try going halves with housemates if you share a flat/house with someone, or ask for a board game for your birthday/Christmas. I've certainly got my money’s worth out of my board games (and most of them were presents anyway)! I recommend Articulate* (definitely good for socialising), Carcassonne, IngeniousTicket to Ride and 7 Wonders, but you can find plenty of old-school board games for a couple of quid in charity shops. Can't be bothered scouring the charity shops and don't want to invest in a pricey board game? Try Mini Articulate (£4.99) or Yahtzee (£7.12), and there are always plenty of games to play with playing cards!

*all links and prices are for Amazon

Watch DVDs instead of going to the cinema

This is a well known suggestion but I don’t know why people don’t do it more often; your sofa is probably a lot more comfy than a cinema seat, you can wear your pjs, and there are no annoying teenagers sat in the back playing on their mobiles! Plus, you're not tempted to buy expensive cinema snacks (you can buy loads of ice-cream and snacks from the supermarket instead, for a fraction of the cost). I know what you’re thinking ‘Hannah, you still have to buy the DVDS!’ but not necessarily; I mostly just borrow DVDs from my friends and family (I normally ask them first…)

Have a pampering session

Paint each others' nails and do face-masks (which you can pick up for £1). It sounds really cheesy but I did this a couple of years ago and it was actually a really good evening! 

I sadly had to crop myself out of this picture as I looked like a thumb!

One last thing...

My final suggestion is a bit odd but why not spend no money at all and just have a good old-fashioned catch-up!? Why do we always feel the need to go out somewhere or plan an elaborate night in when we meet up with our friends? If it’s a close friend you haven’t seen for a while, forget making plans for your night in, you’re probably not going to be interested anyway, because you’ll be too busy talking/laughing your heads off! This is something I've realised now I see my friends less (because they’re all scattered across the country now); sometimes there’s just no entertainment needed!

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Sunday, 5 May 2013

Follow me (not in a stalker way) :-)

If you like my new frugal blog so far, please follow my posts with Bloglovin. Thank youuuuuu!

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Budget Beauty Reviews: Lidl Cien Provitamin Shampoo (for Dry/Damaged hair) 75p

I’ve been desperate to review this shampoo since I bought it (before I even had a blog) because I was so blown away by it!

I always assumed Lidl’s own-brand beauty products would be useless/horrible, because I always think ‘If something seems too good to be true, it probably is’. But I’d heard some good things about their body lotion while watching Superscrimpers. Even so, I was dubious about buying anything of theirs in case I wasted my money. Thankfully my housemate, who is also on a quest to pay off his debts, happened to buy this shampoo around the same time. It was fate! So I ‘borrowed’ some to try it, and I was amazed (and went out and bought some the next day)!

My first impressions were mixed. I can’t describe it but the shampoo feels a bit gloopy/greasy/not foamy when you use it, so I was a bit like ‘Oh dear, what is my hair going to look like when it dries!?’ On the plus side, the smell is pleasant enough (not as nice as the Aussie shampoo I was using, but it’s not worth paying an extra few pounds just for a nice smell).

I didn’t change anything about my hair routine. I used Aussie’s 3 Minute Miracle conditioner and, afterwards, used Aussie’s leave-in conditioner. But despite only changing my shampoo (I had been using an Aussie 2 in 1 shampoo/conditioner previously, as I was so desperate to tame my frizz), my hair looked so much better! It was shinier, less dry looking, softer and more manageable. I kept saying at work ‘Look at my hair!! Look how much better it is!! 75p from Lidl!!’ (I’m sure my colleagues all thought I was mad, but they’re used to it by now)! I will never go back to using the expensive stuff now I’ve discovered this; my lifelong quest to tame my frizzy hair is over! Of course, my hair is not magically free of frizz/dryness (I’m just unlucky in the genes department) but it is 10 times better! I can’t wait for my conditioner and leave-in conditioner to run out, so I can try out the Cien conditioner and hair mouse.

I DO have one warning about this shampoo. It makes my hair greasy slightly earlier. Nothing major, but I used to wash my hair every 3 days and now it’s more like every 2 (but I still don’t have to wash it every day)! For me, it’s a price I’m willing to pay for shiny/non-frizzy hair, but if you’re prone to greasy hair you might want to try the same range but for a different hair type. Of course, I’ve not tried the shampoos for other hair types, so I can’t guarantee they’ll be as effective, but at 75p what have you got to lose?

Coming Soon: I review Lidl’s Cien shower gels (45p and 79p)*

*I promise I don’t work for Lidl, I’m just really impressed with the bargains I’ve found there :-)

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