Monthly food shop and budgeting

I’ve decided that going to do food shopping twice a month is one time too many! One unfathomable thing for me in a month is people enjoying going to the shops. Even worse are the people who don’t enjoy going to the shops but still go food shopping two or three times a week. I just don’t get it.

We used to go shopping once a week and get everything in that we needed. In the past few months I’ve been able to cut that down to once every two weeks that we have to go. For this month I’ve decided that just once is going to be enough!

When I talk to my friends and colleagues most of them feel the same about my shopping habits as I do about theirs- our worlds do not collide and we can’t picture the way the other person shops. A lot of people ask me how I can just go to the shop fortnightly and I ask them how they have the time to go multiple times a week 😂. Even with the limited amount of time I spend on food shopping it’s still too much for me, I have a lot of other things that I could be doing during that precious food run. It’s the time of the year where we get our meat shop delivered so I figured this would be a good month to layout and make a plan of attack for a whole month of shopping. (A small side note is that I will go to our local shop for bread and milk in between our big shop, it doesn’t have a long enough shelf life for me to store it. I do freeze bread but with everything else in I can only fit one loaf in!)

Now I’m not going to lie, it did take a bit of prep to shop for the full month but I don’t mind doing it cause it involves lists. I do love a list ❤️ I did a comprehensive inventory of my freezer and store cupboards including spices and things to see what I was missing. I then did a monthly meal plan. It won’t work out exactly like it does on paper but my meal plans mean I know what I can make and then that can be slotted in with my enthusiasm level on any given day. Then it’s just like playing a match up game, based on what I want to eat- what do I actually need to buy in. Then how many packets of it do I need to cover all the times we’ll have that meal. Voila my shopping list and meal plan are all complete in one!

I’ve put a list below to give an idea of meals. Whenever I talk food with people they assume that if I’m feeding us cheap I’m feeding us rubbish or the same meal every single night. That’s not the case, I just use my slow cooker to full avail. It also helps that I just makes sauces and things from scratch- I don’t need to worry about whether I have a particular sauce in, I just use some of my stores.

The only other thing to mention is I’m veggie so anything listed that’s a meat content will have the equivalent veggie substitute cooked.

For breakfast we eat the same things consistently:

Honey loops
Hipster Pot (overnight oats)
Chucky eggs and toast
Banana and toast
Bacon, scrambled eggs and toast

For snacks we’re cutting down cause we’re both chubby so our only snacks are fruit and nuts just now. We’re trying to not buy crisps and chocolate and biscuits.

For lunches I’ve planned in:

Brie and apple salad
Mugshots
Beef, broccoli and rice
Cajun chicken pasta
Pasta pesto
Cheese tomatoes
Brie and bacon paninis
Pot Noodle
Super noodles
Spaghetti and cheese
Chilli and rice
Honey and soy sauce chicken and rice
Egg and potato salad
Chilli baked potato
Cheese and beans baked potato
Egg mayo sandwich
Egg muffin cases with veg

For dinners I’ve planned:

Cauliflower, chicken and lentil curry
Burgers
Slow cooker sausages and spaghetti
Sausage, chips and beans
Spaghetti carbonara
Slow cooked meatballs and spaghetti
Chilli and rice
Chicken Tikka and rice
Fish and chips
Spaghetti bolognese
Red Thai curry and rice
Honey and mustard pork medallions with potatoes and veg
Macaroni cheese
Chicken stir fry
Pasta, sauce and garlic bread
Beef stir fry
Salt and chilli chicken and rice
Bacon wrapped chicken and chip
Diet Coke chicken and noodles
Chicken madras and rice
Chicken fajitas
Homemade chicken Kiev, chips and sweet corn

If anyone has other recipe suggestions I am always on the lookout. I have now done my big shop- it cost £80 and I’m going to keep a record of how this 4 week shop actually works out. Based on my current calculations we’re living in the lap of luxury and going to be spending £3.70 a day to feed both of us for breakfast, lunch and dinners.

 

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Spring planting

IMG_8200IMG_8201Spring is supposedly in the air but Scotland doesn’t seem to have noticed yet! This year for my vegetable growing I’ve tried to be infinitely sensible. Instead of starting seeds on the 1st January, when they have no hope of developing into beautiful healthy crops, I waited. Then I waited some more and some more and then the snow came…

It has been the most snow that Scotland has seen since 2008 and it keeps on coming. Everytime I think the weather is turning another flurry of snow or icy winds comes in from the East. It’s driving me crazy! It’s also making growing challenging.

This is the year that I am trying to be more organised in my growing. I’ve completed a garden plan so I know where all my crops are going. I just need the ability to clear the space. Currently my vegetable patch is a riot of roots, bulbs and far too much heather that is smothering everything. I need to dig it all out and then start warming my soil. This is where the weather is killing me, I can’t even see the ground for the snow. Even if I could it’s so frozen that it’s not worth trying to pull anything out. Now I know I should have put my garden to bed at the end of the last season. Unsurprisingly I didn’t, I just left it because I wasn’t organised at all last year so now I pay for my sins by trying to eek an hour here or there digging.

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I’ve also started my seeds much later. I sowed my first batch just over 2 weeks ago which should have been the perfect time. They however are also thwarting me. Only about 50% of the crops I’ve sown have sprouted. Some of the veg hasn’t done anything at all apart from mock me with its bare brown soil. I know that a lot of this is due to temperature. My poor chillis and aubergines want the tropical climates to get themselves up and going and all I’m giving them is a weak bit of cold sunlight and some artificial heat every few hours. It’s just not good enough for them.

I will not be defeated in my quest to have a glut of veg this summer though. I was up with the dawn again today to sow my second batch. I’ve currently planted basil, autumn sprouting broccoli, peas, aubergines, cucumbers, patty Pan squashes, onions, garlic and Rosso peppers. I’m also going to get my potatoes in bags and boxes before the end of the month I hope. I planted them all again today and I’m trying a couple of different things. I’ve tried planting them in smaller pots to start off, see if I can get some heat in them. I’m going to cover the tops of the pots with warming fluff to incubate them and put them further into the house where the heat lingers until the first leaves poke through. I’m also trying to cloche some of them off and watering with lukewarm water to get that soil going. I hope to report success in the next week or two and continue with my planting schedule. C’mon weather- give me a bit of a break please!!

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The first debt free emergency

IMG_8063.JPGSince Friday we feel like we’re being tested to see how strong our resolve is to avoid debt…

On Friday we were given the news that husbands truck is on its last legs. We have two months before it’s MOT expires and it won’t pass again without a significant cash injection from us. The money we’d have to outlay would be more than we paid for it four years ago. This has been a bit of a blow as we were hoping both our cars would make it through this year. It’s also a bit of a pain as we’re both attached to the truck! It’s a rickety rust bucket that feels like it’s held together with one central nail but it’s ours and it’s done us well.

The other consideration is an agreement we made last year. We agreed that if husband didn’t buy a motorbike using a loan last year when we were still in debt, that he could buy one this year before we fully funded our emergency fund. This has been the principal we’ve been working on. The goal date was the start of May, this would be when he could buy a bike and he had a budget of everything minus £1000 in the joint account at that point. As we were looking at having to outlay a few grand for a new car then husband spent Friday night with the prospect of losing his beloved truck and also not being able to buy a bike for this summer. A double hit!

The ‘easy’ option would of course have been to get finance of some sort. Either a loan or to use a credit card to be able to get a new (to us) car. That is the absolute last thing that we wanted to do though. After having gone through last year we have become allergic to debt. I have a physical feeling in my stomach at the thought of using debt to buy anything ever again. We just don’t want to do it. That doesn’t mean that the temptation isn’t there. It would be a quick and easy way to solve the issue and we’ve got ourselves out of more debt before right?

We had thought that the next car we bought would be the newest car we’d owned. A car that would do us for a few years and was more expensive to buy but would last us for longer. The idea was that now that we’re debt free we could start on a cycle of trading up on the things we own because we can actually afford them. After this weekend we just had to discuss and change our mindset slightly. Instead of this being a long term car what we’re looking for is a car that will just see us through this next year or maybe two. That started us looking at little beaters again, something cheap but reliable enough.
Yesterday morning we found one as well. It seemed a great deal- £800 for a car with a full years MOT, good size so we can still transport things in it and low mileage for its age. We saw the car online at 930am, saw the car at 1015am and had it bought by 1030am! The most impromptu breakfast trip we’ve taken! So we went home pleased with our new car, we have also looked and we might get some money back to scrap husbands truck so it looked like we’d be pretty even for our funds.

I then left to take my car to work, got 10 minutes away from the house and my back wishbone snapped 😩. My car is now unable to be driven. We managed to go from having two working vehicles to two useless cars within the space of 36 hours- must be a record of some sort!

It is luckily fixable (I didn’t know that when I went round the corner and it snapped) but husband came to the rescue and he can fix it. The poor man has had the worst weekend, he hadn’t even had a chance to eat his breakfast yesterday before we’d bought a car and then he had to come and find me in my busted one!!

Overall it has felt like a test to see if we were financially mature enough to not just go back into debt at the first signs of trouble. I’m glad we’ve been able to avoid it. I feel super thankful and grateful as well for the baby steps. We went out yesterday and spent £800 and still had over £1000 in our emergency fund. It wasn’t an emergency anymore. The first time we’ve had that. It did turn an emergency into an inconvenience. It’s made us more determined to get our full emergency fund built. We have to think that there’s nothing that could impact us so badly once we have 10k sitting in our emergency fund. ❤️ come on completion of baby step three!!

 

 

Forward February fantasies! (Hopefully realities)

IMG_7259For a new challenge in February (and onwards) I want to try and reduce my plastic usage. There are so many things that I didn’t even consider had plastic in them. I definitely haven’t made enough of an effort to reduce my usage in the past and I want to rectify it. I’m not currently looking to cut out all my plastics, my aim is to reduce just now with a long term view of eradicating most of them.

I did a post last year on making beeswrap, it has been really useful for carrying my sandwiches to work but I have also still been using clingfilm! I’ve just used less than I would have because of the beeswrap. I think that if I make some more and invest in some resin for this lot then I’ll be happier that I can keep all of my foods protected when in the fridge or my lunchbox.

I’ve been reading through some articles and I’m amazed at some items that have plastic in them. I’m also guilty of not even thinking about some of the plastics I use because they’re such a ‘norm’ in my life. For instance I never even considered the fact that my toothbrush is made of plastic! It seems ridiculous but it just never consciously entered my mind. I also tend to make things from scratch for meals so, again, I just didn’t think about the fact that my passata cartons are coated inside with plastic lining, my cherry tomatoes come in plastic tubs and of course bin bags are plastic as well…

Some of these things I think I can make changes on quickly and easily. For others it’s going to require more research and shopping around. I’ve decided that the things I’ll change just now for definite are:

– switching to loose leaf tea instead of tea bags
– Buy all condiments that I can in glass jars (including my passata etc) and then keeping the jars for future storage
– Make the change to non plastic handled toothbrushes
– Try and source shops where I can buy pulses etc in bulk and by taking my own containers
– Experimenting with different non plastic wraps to go on the freezer

The non plastic wraps for the freezer may be my biggest challenge. I use my freezer as my main way to store our food. We buy meat in bulk for husband and I portion and plastic bag or clingfilm it before putting it away. It means a lot of waste when I take it out as I won’t wash and reuse a bag that chickens been in. I’d be too scared of contamination! We are also looking to get our chest freezer up and running which will mean even more space where I can store goods. I want to get a handle on the plastic usage before that happens.

If anyone reading has ideas or ways they’ve reduced their plastic usage then I am all ears!

The other thing I definitely want to do in February is to start costing our meals per portion. I’m feeling a bit stagnant when it comes to our meal budget. It costs me £30 per week to feed two of us for all meals and some light snacking! It has been at that level for a long time though. I also already use fillers like lentils (much to husbands dismay) to stretch our meals further. I watch a lot of the money saving programmes for families whose spending and waste is out of control. We don’t really ever waste anything if I’m honest with food so I’d like to do a per portions spend. I think it’ll give me a new lease of creativity and budgeting- well that’s the plan anyway 🙂

I’ve done my first meal today which was a really warming curry. It’s vegan and made with squash and lentils, chickpeas, butterbeans, sweet potato and tomatoes so full of nice things. I’ve costed it out to 54p per portion. If anyone wants to know an actual recipe then you can let me know. Alternatively if you have any great and cheap recipes then please also let me know!

 

Debt update anniversary!

January debt update!

Well what a difference a year makes- this year we have absolutely no debt excluding our mortgage. 100% consumer debt free!

I wrote our first blog post one year ago on the 5th January. We had 12.5k in debt and a holiday to Florida still to pay for along with some other things. We set the goal to clear it in a year and we did, through Gods grace clear, a total of £21,162.

This year it’s a whole different outlook although still an intimidating challenge!

We relaxed a bit over the last month since we became debt free. We wanted to reward ourselves and enjoy the festive period but we are totally back on it now!

Currently we have £600 saved in our emergency fund and will add another £1000 to it by the end of this month. Our debt free goals for this year now are:

– Save 10k in an emergency fund
– Reduce our mortgage term from 30yrs to 15yrs
– Take an additional 5k off our mortgage capital
– Cash flow a kitchen and a motorbike

It is a lot but we just need to have the same drive that we did when we were trying to get out of debt. That seemed unachievable at times and we couldn’t see how we would make enough money to do it but it happened.

What we need to decide now is how to allocate our money. I received a text from our mortgage company yesterday saying our yearly statement is in the post for us. Im genuinely excited (sad I know) to get this in as all last year we were making overpayments. It means that we should see our capital have dropped another 1k. It doesn’t sound much but that’s roughly what we actually reduce our capital by each year through monthly payments. Essentially we’ve doubled what we pay! It will get better once we have the next baby steps sorted.

What debt goals is anyone else working on?

WE’RE DEBT FREE!!

WE’RE DEBT FREE!!

13 months
£21,162 debt cleared
£377 p/w average paid to debt

For every time we’ve said no to going out.
For every time we couldn’t buy new things.
For every time we’ve sat and budgeted instead of just spending.
For every time we had to ask our friends to do something free… this was why ❤️

As most of you know we’ve been determined to be debt free (aside from our mortgage) before the end of this year.

Well we’ve made it with a full month left to spare. It’s been a hard slog for us to be honest and has completely changed how we think and how we act. A lot of this year has been about learning that it’s ok to say no to things. We can say no to each other; say no to other people and say no to instant gratification because we have a long term plan. However that ‘no’ doesn’t mean that we can’t live now as well- we’ve just changed the things that bring us joy.

A year ago if you’d asked us what we wanted when we were debt free I have no doubt we’d have listed a big bunch of expensive things. Now, while it’s true we still want some of them, the top things we’re looking forward to buying are a bit ridiculous. I cannot wait to be able to buy a new liner for my slow cooker and some branded rubber gloves. For husband he wants basmati (instead of long grain) rice and to be able to buy some crisp snacks on a weekly basis when we shop. That might seem a bit sad but sacrificing little things like that for the last year has all added up to being debt free now!

We will finally be in control of the money that we earn. It still feels a bit unreal that when I get paid at the end of the month we don’t have to give that to anyone. It’s just ours, to save, give and spend as we see fit! Normally I get paid, it goes into our joint account and then straight back out to pay the loan or credit card. We own absolutely everything in our lives now apart from our house. No credit cards, no overdrafts, no car finance, no finance at all actually. It’s all ours. Our motivation now is to try and save almost as much as we have been paying to debt. If we can get anywhere close then we’ll have our emergency fund sorted in the next 6 months which would be amazing.

It has absolutely, 100% been worth knuckling down for a year. It has changed our spending habits for life and made us allergic to debt! We mucked it up loads of times as well so if we can do it then definitely anyone can ❤️

 

 

The stigma of money

One of the most valuable things I’ve learned on this debt journey is it becomes easier once you take away the stigma of money.

In general people are incredibly open about every other area of their lives, but when it comes to money that all changes. You’re not supposed to know how much your friends earn, you can’t know what debt they have, what they spend on things in their lives or what they have saved. It’s considered vulgar to talk about and rude to ask but, for us, it’s made it so much easier when we can talk about it!

We have great friends in our lives and the ones that we are closest too are the ones that we talk about money with. Just as it’s made our marriage even better by talking about money, it’s also made our friendships better as well. At the start it was a softly softly approach, the mention of a budget or a passing comment on paying off debt but then we realised how great it was to just lay out the numbers! We started telling people in detail what our numbers were. I started talking about how I was working on bringing areas of my budget down or started explaining why I was saying no to going out. All our friends know what we earn and it’s not to show off, it just gives a perspective on the debt payoff that we’re aiming for. The more I’ve talked about it the easier it’s got too talk about it.

Once we did start talking about it a fantastic thing happened- other people started talking to us about their finances as well. We realised that (although our numbers may be high) we’re not actually the only idiots in the world who didn’t know where their wages disappeared to!

It worked for us in three ways when we opened up about our money.
1- it’s easy to tell people that we can’t do something or suggest an alternative, free, plan of events
2- it took a bit of the guilt away for getting into this situation. We realised that everyone has debt in a varying degree and it didn’t make us terrible humans
3- it made us a bit more accountable for it. If you’re talking about it and being asked about it from people outside of your relationship then you want to keep on track that little bit more.

Peer pressure is a very real thing, it’s just changed now so that what we want to be doing well in is paying off debt, being self sufficient and planning for retirement 😂!

Have you found anything that’s made it easier to get debt free?