Bring the Sunday roast back home!

One of my best memories growing up is sitting down as a family every Sunday for a roast dinner.  My sister and I would go to church with my Mum on a Sunday morning and my Dad would stay at home doing jobs around the garden with a note on the kitchen table instructing him what time to switch the oven on and put the meat in.  By the time we got home we were always welcomed by an amazing smell of meat roasting when we opened the door.

But it seems like the traditional home cooked Sunday roast is falling out of favour and that weekend family meals are more about easy take aways or meals out.

I enjoy going out to the local pub or carvery for a roast as much as the next person (if not more!) but it’s so expensive in comparison to eating at home, and you miss out on the benefit of the leftovers too!

Since having children I have been conscious of the importance of sitting down to eat as a family as often as possible.  I’m really lucky that my husband works really close to home so we are able to eat all together almost every evening, but I know that many are not that lucky, and so the opportunity to eat together at weekends is golden.  What better way is there for your children to learn good table manners and conversation than by sitting down together and sharing stories and thoughts while eating yummy home cooked food.

This week we had roast chicken.  I got a medium chicken from Waitrose as part of the 3 for £10 offer, and there was not only enough meat on it for dinner for the family last night (2 adults and 2 children) but also Daddy Saving Money had leftovers in his sandwich for lunch today and the remainder went into a risotto for tonight’s dinner.

img_8074-1In fact, the total cost of our Sunday dinner this week was £5.73.  That included chicken, stuffing, roast potatoes, parsnips, carrots, brocolli, cabbage and apple strudel for pudding.  If we’d gone to the (albeit quite good value) carvery down the road, it would have cost us £23.16 for the roasts plus about the same again for drinks and puddings. The kids would have got bored in the queue and it probably wouldn’t have been the relaxing family meal out we all dream of!!

I know it takes a bit more effort to cook at home than to go out for dinner, but there is very little skill needed to successfully cook a roast.  You basically stick it in the oven, set a timer and forget about it until the timer beeps!  If in doubt, consult Delia who is the Queen of traditional cooking and roasts!

So next time you think about going out for a Sunday roast, at least consider cooking it at home instead.  Even if you buy a more expensive joint of beef or lamb, it will still be cheaper than eating out.  And always buy a slightly bigger piece of meat than you need, as the opportunities with leftovers are endless…pie, risotto, curry, pizza toppings…yum yum!!

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Value veg

Have you ever thought about how much the veg you buy costs per portion?  I hadn’t until recently, but when you start to be aware of it, there is a staggering variation between different varieties.

img_8037.jpgIf you think back to the veg that your grandparents used to serve, you probably think of things like cabbage and carrots. These are native to this country, easy to grow and therefore cheap.  Much of the veg available now is imported, and when you look at the cost per portion it is significantly more expensive.

You could save a lot of money just by thinking about the veg you’re buying and how many portions or meals you will get out of it.

Carrots and Brocolli are super cheap at around 5-10p a portion.  Tenderstem brocolli however is much more expensive.

Cabbage is often overlooked these days but full of goodness and only 10p a portion.

 

Cauliflower surprised me when I looked at it.  On the assumption that you can get around 6 portions out of a cauliflower, that’s around 17p per portion.

Green beans used to be a regular weekly purchase for us, but are actually quite expensive compared to other veg available at around 20-30p per portion.

Frozen

I think there is often an assumption that frozen veg is inferior to fresh.  But often this is not the case, in fact sometimes it is the opposite.  Frozen veg is frozen so quickly after it is picked that often far more goodness and vitamins remain intact than in the fresh equivalent.

img_8038Everyone should always have a bag of frozen peas in stock, and frozen sweetcorn and spinach are also great to have in as well as good value.

If you often find you end up throwing away fresh vegetables because they’ve gone off before you get the chance to eat them, why not buy enough fresh for 4-5 days of the week, and plan to use frozen veg the other days.  You’ll probably find that your fresh veg lasts for more meals than you expected, and this way you won’t end up wasting food and money.

Best before dates

Please ignore any best before or display until dates on fruit and veg.  They are there to help the shop make sure they only stock fresh items, but most veg will be fine for days and even weeks after this date.  Don’t throw it away just because it’s gone past the date – if it still looks ok then it is.

Loose vs pre-packed

Loose veg is often, although not always, cheaper than pre-packed.  Make sure you check the price per kg.  And even if something that comes in a pack seems really good value, ask yourself if you are likely to use the whole pack, or whether you really only want to buy one or two, in which case you are better to buy loose.

 

I realise you might not want to pick your veg purely on price, especially if you’re conscious of the nutritional content.  But next time you’re shopping just work out a rough cost per portion in your head and you might find yourself changing your shopping (& eating) habits.  I am confident that you can still buy a wide variety of veg, and manage to eat the suggested rainbow of colours, whilst still keeping the costs down.

Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t shop at Waitrose!

I will say right from the beginning that I know there will be people who read this and don’t agree, or don’t see why you would choose to ‘pay  more’ to shop in Waitrose.  I agree that if you’re on a really tight shoestring budget then there are cheaper options than Waitrose for your shopping, but I also think that if you play their offers and vouchers right that you can get some really good value shopping there.

If you’ve ever done a food shop in Asda on a Sunday morning you’ll know it’s a traumatic experience…shopping in Waitrose however is a much more civilised affair (once you’ve worked out how to get round the middle class old ladies trying to choose which cheese to buy!)  So it’s no surprise that I choose to shop in Waitrose when I can (and Daddy Saving Money is a big fan – it makes him feel classy!)  People always assume that Waitrose is a premium shop where everything is more expensive, but here are my tips to slash the cost!

Choose wisely

There are some products which there is no denying are expensive in Waitrose – some fresh meats, fruit and veg and cooked meats definitely cost more, so unless you really need them I would suggest either buying an alternative or going somewhere else.  But they also do the same 3 for £10 deal on fresh meats that other supermarkets do, and they regularly have offers on, so if you stick to those you won’t pay any more.

 

My Waitrose – discount vouchers

If you haven’t already got one of these cards then sign up!  They regularly send me (or actually hubby for some reason!) money off vouchers, and while the minimum spend value seems to vary, the discount nearly always comes to 15%. This time I have 4 x “£9 off when you spend £60” vouchers to use within a 4 week period. If I have a really big shop to do (or want to stock up on gin) then I have no shame in asking the cashier to stop when the total reaches £60 so that I can split my shopping into 2 transactions and use 2 vouchers.  Before Christmas I had the most helpful cashier who told me to lay out all my vouchers and she would work out the best way to put the shopping through to get the best discount!  She saved me a fortune 🙂  She also told me that the value the till takes as ‘minimum spend’ to use the vouchers is the total before multibuy discounts and My Waitrose discounts are taken off, but you need to find a helpful cashier to get away with this one!

My Waitrose – pick your own offers

Waitrose offer a scheme where you can choose a selection of 10 items to get 20% off.  Not every product is available for this but there is quite a large selection.  Download the app on your phone, then select the offers as you’re going round the store to make sure you’re getting the maximum discounts off the products you’re actually buying.

Often the items available to choose for the 20% off are already on offer or are on multibuy.  If they are on multibuy, the till will take the 20% off the full value of the item rather than the discounted multibuy price, which means you can bag a real bargain.

Eg.  Waitrose Breaded Ham £2.99 per pack is always on a 2 for £4 offer and is also available to choose for the 20% off through pick your own offers. But the till will take the 20% off the £2.99 price, so the total you actually pay for 2 packs is actually £2.80 – less than the full price of a single pack.  Crazy isn’t it?!

Good value items

Some examples of things I think are good value in Waitrose:

Waitrose Toilet roll – pack of 9 for £3.75 – 20% = £3 a pack for really soft good quality toilet paper. (Also often on offer at 2 for £6.50 making it even cheaper)

Pork Mince – 500g is £3.19 or 2 for £5.  Combine with the 20% My Waitrose offer and it works out at just £1.86 for 500g.

Activia yoghurts – a pack of 8 is £2.90 or 2 for £5.  Combine with the 20% My Waitrose offer and you pay £3.84 for 16 yoghurts (24p each).
This morning I did my weekly shop in Waitrose.  The full value of my trolley was £73.35, but after multibuys, My Waitrose offers and a £9 discount voucher, I only paid £55.38.  I got quite a lot of shopping for this and some really good value offers.

If I’m trying to get the cost of my shopping down to a minimum then I will choose Lidl for my weeekly shop.  But if I’m looking for best value rather than minimum spend, and if it’s a week where I’ve been sent a voucher, then I will always choose Waitrose.

Family days out without remortgaging (part 2)

Hopefully if you’re reading this you’ve already seen Family days out without remortgaging (part 1), giving you lots of ideas of things to do that won’t cost the earth.  But once in a while we all want a day out to a big attraction, and these usually come with a hefty price tag.  I don’t have any magic answers to save you paying the high entry prices, but I do have a few other little tips to stop the cost of the day out from soaring any higher:

Plan & Budget – If you decide to go on a ‘big’ day out then make sure you can afford it. Plan ahead, budget, and try not to go during the same time as all your other big expenses hit.  I try to put aside the money from when I sell items and I use this for one-off expenses like big days out.

Look around for discount tickets – Cereal packets, O2 priority moments, McDonalds etc often have offers on (particularly for Merlin attractions) such as 2 for 1.  You can also pay with Tesco Clubcard vouchers at many attractions, but you may have to convert your points in advance so don’t leave it too late!

Book in advance – Most attractions now offer a discount if you book online. Sometimes you have to book a day in advance but sometimes it will let you do it just before you leave the house, or even on your phone when you arrive.  We visited Thomas Land at Drayton Manor theme park a little while ago where an adult ticket is £25 in advance compared to £39 on the gate!

Pre-school tickets – If you’re going with children who are not yet at school, try to visit at off peak times as the prices are often significantly cheaper.  Some attractions also offer reduced rates for pre-schoolers with an accompanying adult at certain times.  Eg Thomas Land adult ticket advance rate is £25 and child age 2-3 is £7.  However, during term time they do an adult and toddler ticket for just £20 for both.

Annual membership –  these often look very tempting, but always look at how many times you would need to visit in the year to make it financially worthwhile.  Taking Whipsnade zoo as an example, an annual membership for 2 adults and 2 children is £243, so you would need to go 4 times to make it worthwhile.  Now I love the zoo more than most people, but I’m extremely unlikely to go 4 times in a year, especially given that it’s an hour’s drive away.  Merlin have an annual sale on their passes in January, so if you’re considering membership at any of their attractions then that may be worth a look.

Take a picnic!  – This seems so obvious that I almost feel silly writing it, but often it takes so much effort to get the kids out of the door that making a picnic as well is just too much effort.  But if you plan ahead (make it the night before?) then not only can you save significant sums of money but also time (& prevent hungry whinging children!).  We recently went to the Cotswold Wildlife Park, which was a fab day out.  Due to a number of factors, we ended up buying lunch costing around £30 for chicken nuggets and chips for 4 of us.  It wasn’t even particularly nice and I had to entertain a hungry 2 year old for around half an hour while Daddy queued up for the food.  Never again!  You could always take most of the picnic and just buy some chips as a special treat accompaniment?  Or promise ice creams (or hot chocolates!) instead of lunch in the café?

The dreaded gift shop – Kids always love the gift shop, but how often do you end up buying an expensive cuddly toy or some other overpriced tat which then sits unused in your child’s bedroom for years to come?  Why not give your child a set amount of money (something small like £2) to choose something they want.  They can choose a pencil or a pocket money toy, so they have something to remember the day by but without wasting money that could be better spent on something else.  It’s good for your kids to understand that the toys they’re looking at are really expensive and that if you buy that then you won’t be able to spend the money on something else. (see my previous blog post on “teaching our kids the value of money“)

We’ve had some lovely family days out already this year, some of them to places with high entry fees.  But by budgeting, planning ahead, and trying to keep the expenditure down while we’re there, we haven’t had to make sacrifices elsewhere in our daily lives to fund them.

Family days out without remortgaging (part 1)

With half term and then the dreaded summer holidays looming not too far away, parents will be looking for ways to entertain the children.

I was shocked recently when I learned that a family ticket for Whipsnade zoo now costs a whopping £70.50!  Add in travel, lunch, snacks and souvenirs and you’re looking at over £100 for a family day out which means they become a rare treat for most people.  This got me thinking about ideas for cheaper family days out…

Park/picnic

My kids are only 2 and 4, but they love a trip to the park, especially if it’s a new one they haven’t been to before.  Add in some friends and a picnic and it becomes a proper day out and yet costs virtually nothing.  And all you have to do is change the park (& the company!) and you can repeat this one several times a week during the holidays.

The Beach

A trip to the beach can be lots of fun and doesn’t have to cost anything other than travel (& the obligatory ice cream!)  Just make sure you pack a picnic, bucket and spade, spare clothes, hats, sun cream, plenty of drinks (including hot drinks if it’s traditional British weather!) and try to pick an area of unspoilt beach that isn’t surrounded by cafes and arcades.  That way you won’t be tempted to waste lots of money on high priced tat!!   You will probably have to factor in the cost of parking though.

National Trust

We are very lucky to have the National Trust property Cliveden very near to us, and as such are regular visitors and members.  They always put on activities during the holidays and even if there aren’t any special events going on, there are lots and lots of NT places with large open spaces for the kids to explore and often great playgrounds too.  People are often put off by the entrance fee for National Trust properties, but if you buy annual membership it can be extremely good value at less than £10 a month for a family membership.  And if you have membership, make sure you explore as many places as you can as your entry will be free!

It is also a great idea to use NT places as stop offs on long journeys – so much nicer than motorway services and gives the kids a chance to let off steam before getting back in the car!

If you can’t/don’t want to pay for membership yourself then keep it in mind next time you’re racking your brains for your next Christmas present from your parents.

Gruffalo spotting

A simple walk may not sound overly appealing to kids, but add in the excitement of hunting for gruffalos and I’m sure they’ll be much more enthusiastic about it!  Have a look at the Forestry Commission’s website for locations and details.  And best of all its free!!

Geocaching

I haven’t tried this yet but I really want to.  Get out and about hunting for real life treasure!  Just download the app and follow the instructions.  I’ll keep you posted when I finally get round to doing it!

Open Farm Sunday

One Sunday a year, farms all over the country open their doors (or rather gates!) for families to go and explore.  We did this for the first time last year and it was great – cows, chickens, goats, rabbits, tractors, go-karts, even the local countryside police were there letting people sit in their car!  Most of the farms have free entry with some optional payable extras, and there’s often a BBQ where you can get locally produced lunch!  This year Open Farm Sunday is on 11th June 2017.

 

I could spend all day writing ideas for days out, but I think you get the idea – you really don’t need to spend a fortune to have a fun family day out!  Whatever you choose to do, make sure you take enough food and drink with you as well as any extras you might need (like buckets and spades) so save any unnecessary costs once you get there.

Watch this space for part 2 with ideas on how to cut the cost of visiting theme parks and other attractions.

Teaching our kids the value of money

This post is going to be a bit different from my others so far.  It’s not going to contain any money saving tips, but I believe it’s something really important to think about while your kids are still young.

When I was growing up my parents were (as far as I know) comfortable financially.  We lived in a nice house and had nice things, but my parents were always quite careful with how they spent their money.  I don’t remember them splashing their cash on new things very often, and our holidays were generally spent camping.  It’s this upbringing that has given me the attitude towards money that I have today.  Just because you have money it doesn’t mean you have to spend it.  And you certainly don’t have to spend money to have fun and have nice things.

My children are only 2 and 4, but I’m already conscious of the impact of them seeing how we spend money and learning from it.  We went through a period where we ate out quite regularly in cafes and restaurants, and it became my daughter’s favourite thing to do!  This felt like a dangerous habit for her to fall into (especially aged 3!) and I want her to understand that eating out costs a lot more than cooking a nice meal at home and that it should be a treat rather than the norm.

We live in a nice house and I’m well aware that we have more toys than many playgroups!  Many of these have either been given to us or have been bought on offer or second hand, but my kids don’t see that.  Their norm is that they’re always surrounded by nice things, but what they don’t understand is that in order to get them, someone had to work hard to earn money.

Not only do I think it’s ok to say no when your kids ask for something, but I actually think it’s important to do so sometimes, and to make sure you follow it up with an explanation that if you buy that you won’t be able to do something else.

I sell a lot of things on local Facebook sites and so my kids are used to random people turning up at the door to collect items.  I try to explain to them that we’re selling the things we no longer need and that we can use the money to buy new things.  We recently bought my daughter a new bike, and she knows that we bought it using money earned from selling toys she’d outgrown.  I did, however, make the mistake of saying that if we wanted to buy more new things we would have to sell some more stuff first – cue long list of toys that 4 year old suddenly wants to sell (many of which she still regularly plays with and would be very sad to lose!!)

Something else I have just tried out for the first time was offering money as a reward.  I was always against this previously as didn’t want to be bribing my children with money or new toys, but thought I’d try a slightly different approach.  If my daughter got 10 stickers on her reward chart I said I would give her £1 to spend on whatever she wanted from the charity shop.  She was very excited by the trip to the shop and spent 75p on 2 books which she spent all day reading.  The 25p change went in to her piggy bank to add on to the next £1 that she earns (whenever that may be!)

I’m by no means a parenting expert and I don’t have any answers to the right and wrong ways to teach your kids about money.  I believe we should help them to understand that by spending money on one thing, you are choosing not to spend it on something else, and this will help them to develop their own sensible attitude towards their own finances later in life.

Kneading the dough

Hello fellow readers, inspired by the recent blogs by the Mummy Saving Money I thought I would share my one (and only) real money saver.

I will confess at this point that I love pizza and particularly take away pizza (Papa Johns if you’re wondering) and as you know they can be pretty expensive, albeit you can get some cracking 50% off and buy-one-get-one-free deals from most chains.

As a teenager a good friend of mine taught me how to make pizza from scratch, but it wasn’t until our kids were born that it occurred to me that making pizza for the family was not only a healthier choice, but also a great way of getting the kids involved in cooking, so I starting making pizzas from scratch – now, this might sound impressive, but actually it’s a really straight forward recipe and in keeping with this blog, a much cheaper option than take-away!

Basic ingredients to make 2 decent size pizzas are 450g of strong white bread flour, 1 tsp of salt, 15g of yeast and 250ml of warm water. All these are thrown into a mixing bowl and kneeded together until a compact ball is formed, I then cover with a tea towel and put is somewhere warm (like the airing cupboard) for a couple of hours to prove and the base is then ready to roll out.

IMG_8799

We tend to get small tins of tomato puree for the base and that will easily cover 2 or 3 pizzas, you’re then free to choose your own toppings.  We generally go for ham, peppers, (frozen) mushrooms, slices of mozzarella and topped with grated cheese – from here you can experiment to meet your own tastes, but we’ve tried wholemeal flour, pepperoni, cooked chicken, sweetcorn, sausage and pineapple (controversial of course).

IMG_8530I don’t have quite the same flair for costings as MSM, but by my rough estimates, the cost of a takeaway pizza is around £10, whilst all of the ingredients above are generally in our house (or I tend to use what we have) I would say each pizza costs around £2 to make and as I said, I think you get a much more authentic taste from home made and have a much greater control over levels of salt and ingredients than that from the chains.

So there you have it, my simple way to save money and if you eat as much pizza as I do you will be saving yourself a fortune in the coming months…

Have a look at MSM’s last post, “What’s for tea?” to see what else we’re eating this week!

DSM