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 journey …

Its been a long while once I wrote about our debt journey. We have still been working on it but have been having various amounts of success and setbacks.

As I’d previously said in November we very stupidly booked to go to Florida again which we did in June. This cost us a lot of money and we did put money on a credit card while out there so that was the biggest setback…we have made good inroads since coming back though and we’re really determined to still get this done by the start of next year. 

Our debt as it stands is a loan for £6695 and the credit card with £1135 so combined debt total of £7830 excluding our mortgage. 

We sat down and did a paper budget this month. As we’ve been decorating then the computer is dismantled so no spreadsheets! It was actually good to sit and write everything down although it is slightly depressing to realise that currently i work purely to pay our debt. However that won’t change till we get rid of it! Since we came back from holiday mid June we have so far managed to pay £1210 back off the debt. If we could continue this then we would make our final debt payment in February 2018. That’s against a final payment projection of September 2020 if we had continued with just our standard payments. So really it is good but its not good enough! My absolute ideal is to make our final payment in December of this year but unless one of us has an unexpected pay increase or bonus then I don’t think that’s realistic.

I get paid this week so we still have one final overpayment to make. It should be for £243 if I get paid what I expect too. Then based on our predicted monies for next month we should pay another £1100 to debt which would put us to just over £6700 left to pay. The figures are definitely going in the right direction.

I am also in the mood to sell everything (or a lot of things anyway) to try and make December a more feasible target for clearing debt. I’m currently just trying to figure out the best way to do it. I’m using marketplace and shpock app because they’re free to list but not having much success yet. So the next option is car boot sales I think, looking around for the best value ones to go to. I have also tried ebay but again nothing seems to be selling yet. 

That’s where we are just now, we both need to try and use our other skills to get it cleared faster and stay focused!

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

My 5 things- trying to minimise!

This year husband has set me a challenge- to choose five things per day that I can give away or get rid off. Both of us have hoarding tendencies so its one of the hardest things he could ask me to do. Its also one of the best! I’ve agreed on the proviso that he do it as well.

We had a bit of a false start with him trying to convince me that a half empty water bottle counted as one of his five… There was also the simple fact of starting, its one thing to say you’ll do it and another thing to actually do it. 

It’s a simple fact for me that, much like a child, my possessions have never looked so appealing as when I’m contemplating giving them away. I have items that have been in a box since we moved into our house three years ago. When I take them out though all of a sudden they’re the most interesting thing I own. This means I’m spending a lot of time putting things in the charity box just to take them back out again. 

I’ve started asking myself these three questions: 

1- Have I used it recently?

2- Do I need it?

3- Would I want to pack it and take it to our homestead? (when we get it!)

Its the last one that’s the real driving force. I need to get away from being materialistic. All that will happen if I keep it up is we’ll spend our money on things and never pay off the debt. So I figure if I get better at giving my possessions away then I won’t want to replace them. 

Here’s a selection of what I’ve picked out so far. I’m currently part of a bartering group so for a lot of the stuff I’ve put it on there to see if anyone else can make use of it. In return I’m asking for goodies for my store cupboard- beans, tomatoes, puree etc. Its marginally easier for me to give things away if I can see they’re going somewhere they’re appreciated and useful! 

The hardest thing for me to even attempt to give away is books. I love books. I also own quite a few of them. Some I haven’t even read but I can’t bring myself to give them away. I would adore having my own library and want to include a reading nook/room when we get round to building . A lot of the books I now own are digital which has helped but you can’t beat having a real book in your hands. The books in the picture above are the only ones I’ve been able to give away so far.

As the days go on its getting both harder and easier to do. Its therapeutic once you start to give things away. I have found myself looking in drawers and cupboards that have been untouched for other items I can put in my pile. Its getting harder though because obviously the longer we go on, the more attached I am to the possessions I’m looking at. I gave up all the ‘easy’ things in the first few days so now I am onto the ‘what can I live without’. A very different question to what I actually need to live…

I think I’ve made a good start but my pace is slowing, I’ve exhausted nooks and crannies and I have to start giving up items I want!

Any tips on not being such a hoarder?! How did downsizing go for everyone else?