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!

 

Advertisements

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?

Meal planning and budget

Its the end of the month for us and so the budget has been done ready to go into August. This means that there’s one big thing left for me to do- our meal planning!

I am trying to be a lot stricter with this in terms of budget and also look for more ways to save. Roughly a year ago I did a big over haul of our eating and food spending habits. At that point I cut down our monthly food budget from around £210 per month to on average £130 (that’s for 2 adults, 3 meals a day). After that initial cut I feel I’ve plateaued, the saving was great but I still feel like there has to be so many other ways I can cut the budget even more. So that’s what I’m trying to plan for and do!

My mantra for this year is definitely ‘can I make it myself’. Therefore every meal we make, if we’ve had to buy any ready made ingredients, I want to know if I can do it instead.

The first thing to go was shop bought pasta sauces- this one for me was purely a laziness factor. It initially felt a lot easier to just open a jar than to make one up. I have now stopped being lazy though and started making my own (FYI it takes roughly 1 minute more to make my own basic tomato sauce). This has saved me from spending up to £2 on jarred sauce and instead only costs me 60p for my home sauce ingredients. The eventual dream is that I’ll get good at growing tomatoes and be able to make my own passata base as well.  The next thing that has saved us some money is that I am now mainly vegetarian – much to husbands disgust! It means that our meat order goes twice as far because its just husband eating the meat and I use pulses or meat substitutes instead which are a lot cheaper.

The other area where we’ve saved a lot of money is by me getting a good pizza base recipe. We committed in June that we would stop getting takeout. It was our Saturday night treat to order in pizza. A treat for me that I didn’t have to Cook and a treat for husband cause he loves pizza. However, because he dislikes sharing pizza, it was costing us around £60/£70 per month just on 4 meals. That 50% of our entire months food budget. An absolutely ridiculous waste of money when we’re trying to clear debt. So instead I’ve been making the bases and we’re having delicious cheesy pizza for pennies instead.

Aside from this we also chose a cheaper supermarket to shop in which has helped as well. Although due to the nature of that shop it doesn’t always have everything we need so we do still go to another store once a month for bits and pieces!

How I actually meal plan is simple. I take an inventory of the freezer and pantry first of all. I have a good rough idea so its really just firming up that I have what I think I have. Then I print out a blank monthly calendar and write in all my shifts that I know. That then just leaves me to match food to days. We have a basic ‘bank’ of meals that we eat with the occasional experiment meal thrown in so I try to cycle through them as I go. I usually start with the nights I won’t be in for dinner as these have to be meals husband can make himself which limits the possibilities. Then I choose what days I want lazy meals so ones I can quickly prep or shove in the oven. That just leaves my days off when I have time to make more elaborate meals so they go in as well. That gives me my full months dinners and I make my shopping list on a weekly basis for the fill in ingredients from the planner. The calendar gets stuck up on the fridge and that’s it all done =)

TOP TIPS

– don’t be swayed by brands: own brand is normally just as good. There’s only one or two things we still prefer branded.

– plan round how tired you think you’ll be: I used to be terrible for not taking into account what I was working. I would plan in a meal that took time to prepare and then be to tired and hangry to cook. When that happened we would end up buying takeaway…

– always label the extra portions that go into the freezer. I have too many mystery boxes in the freezer that I was convinced at the time I’d remember what they were.

– weigh your ingredients. I weigh out our pasta and rice portions and cheese etc. Its good for a not being fat point of view but also saves on waste.

– make use of your freezer. I buy frozen instead of fresh for what I don’t grow generally. For mushrooms and peppers I buy, chop and freeze on the day.  For our big meat order I spend a couple of hours on delivery day portioning and wrapping it and then put it in the freezer.

– plan in advance to use any leftovers from dinner and change them into something for lunch the next day.

 

 

Debt update- March

Another month has flown by and it’s payday again (yay!). This meant we had our final budget meeting of the month last night. We learned a couple of lessons from the month as there were some unexpected monies that we had to pay out and silly things we hadn’t considered.

The first of which was because our hoover packed in. Not ideal when you’re decorating and have an extremely fluffy dog who sheds everywhere! So we had to buy a new one. Now we do put aside money for the house each month as we’re still in the middle of decorating it. However we have that currently earmarked for finishing the downstairs. So we decided to use our ‘spare’ council tax money for the month instead and buy a new hoover. This took away some of the over-payment we’d been intending to make to the debt.

The second lesson we learned (which realistically we should have thought off before) is to take into account the number of weeks in a month. As husband gets paid on the last day of the month, it does make a difference to our monthly budgeting. March was a 5 week month for us and this means that we should have increased our food and petrol allowance. We didn’t so that of course meant we overspent. It was a good lesson to learn and will help us going forward.

We’ve also spent a bit of time organising all our paperwork that just seems to pile up… I was horrified to realise that off the 5K a year we pay to our mortgage, only 1.5K off that actually gets removed from the capital amount. That’s a depressingly small amount! We’ve discussed it and the aim is for us to be debt free by the time we’re both 30 and mortgage free by the time we’re 40. That means that we need to make a massive change or we’ll never achieve it. So… In order to do that and also to help with the debt we’ve cancelled our last sharesave. That gave us a couple of grand back in cash to pay to debt and also frees up £110 per month. That £110 is now going to be an overpayment to the mortgage each month. That’ll start from the beginning of April. One of the reasons for that is we’ll have a lower LTV ratio when it comes time to re-mortgage next year at the end of our fixed rate term. In order to achieve being mortgage free by 40 we will need to start paying 1K a month to our mortgage so we are even more desperate to get rid of this debt so we can do that!

Ok now debt figures… We started the month at £9918, our standard payment of £300 has come off so now to figure out the over-payment! It turns out that we were slightly over enthusiastic last month when it came to paying extra money, we actually put our holiday money to the debt as we’d forgotten it was holiday money… Nevermind! It does mean that we can’t pay as much as we’d thought we could this month though. Our extra payment this month will be £1600. This will take us to £8018. We’ve also managed to sell my old car and I have a couple of makeup jobs which will bring in an extra £400 that can go straight to debt. Also in April my pay rise starts so we will have another £100 per month that can again go to debt each month.

The last thing we have in favour of our debt is that 1K of it isn’t actually our debt. When we were consolidating our debt into a loan we included £1500 to give to one of our friends. (There was a very good reason for doing it). This is paid off at £50 per month and will continue to be. So if we don’t include it then we are down to £6618 that we have left to pay. That works out at just £735 per month for the rest of this year and we’d be done! It is an amazing thought that we could finally be rid of this by 2018. I am desperate for it to become a reality…

Love, Kimmy x