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Money-saving tips

9 Jul

The lovely folks at Moneysupermarket.com, one of my favourite money-saving sites, have asked me if they can guest post some of their hottest money-saving tips here. Those of you that know me well, know that I *love* getting a good deal. I like to equate almost every saving going, into the next little treat. A pedi, a bottle of bubbly, a night out with the girls. The savings all add up. My favourite pages on their site, are the shopping page, and the vouchers page which are well worth a look if you get the chance.

Saving moneyinahurry

So, over to Rachael at Moneysupermarket.com.

Being a parent can be very expensive! This is why it’s important for mums and dads to save money where they can. The recession has had a negative impact on many families’ finances, and many of us are finding that we have less and less money to spend on ourselves at the end of the month. We at moneysupermarket.com are experts at saving money and love sharing a few of our ideas to help you make your money go that little bit further…

Food shopping

For many people, the weekly grocery bill is a major expense, especially if you have a large family. Food prices have increased dramatically over the past few years, and with many incomes being squeezed, it’s more important than ever to make savings where you can (a mummyinahurry speciality!). There are the obvious tips like never shop when you’re hungry and always stick to your shopping list, but sometimes that’s just not enough. To make real savings on your weekly shop it’s worth considering shopping in local independent shops, such as the butchers and fruit and veg shops. Meat from the butcher tends to be cheaper (and tastier) than from the supermarket and it is likely to be from a local source. Local suppliers means less food miles too, so great for the environment too. Your butcher is unlikely to use fancy packaging, which means they can pass those cost savings on to you. Greengrocers work on the same principles, so you’re more likely to get more for your money when you shop locally. And if you walk  to the local shops, rather than driving to the local supermarket, you will save on fuel, and get some free exercise (who needs to pay for fancy gym memberships?).

Another option, which is a Mummyinahurry favourite, and the stalwart of many time-pressed parents is to shop for groceries online. Not only is it easier to stay away from those calorie-laden treats and refrain from the smell of freshly baked bread, but there are always an abundance of vouchers and voucher codes available on the internet for most major supermarket chains. An internet shop can also help you stick to budget, as if you overspend, you can simply edit your basket. Much easier than trying to edit a trolley full of groceries at the supermarket!

Utilities
It is shocking how expensive necessities such as gas, electricity and water can be. Rising energy costs have eaten into family budgets everywhere. One quick and easy way to make savings is to  compare energy providers online. Often, switching can save substantial sums, or you can use the threat of a move to get your current provider to give you a better rate. Another way to save money on utilities bills (and gain ‘eco-points’) is to be more aware of the energy you’re using. You can buy an energy monitor which tells you exactly how much energy you’re using in real time, allowing you to see which are the most expensive appliances to run. Even small changes such as turning off all electronic appliances when they’re not being used, can lead to noticeable savings.

Vouchers
Thrift is chic. Money-off vouchers have lost their stigma and have become increasingly popular during the course of the recession. Everyone loves a bargain, and vouchers give you the chance to buy things you may have been looking at anyway at a discounted price. Whether you’re out and about or shopping online, you’ll more than likely be able to find a printable voucher or voucher codes to use on that product. Before purchasing anything, do a quick search on moneysupermarket’s vouchers channel to see if you can get money off, or if not, consider looking for an alternative product or brand who offer discounts on their merchandise. We recommend spending a few moments printing off the vouchers for your regular stores and restaurants and keeping them in your bag or purse in case you need them while you’re out and about, so you never miss out on an opportunity to save some cash, (or treat yourself to a glass of wine or dessert with the savings).

Sell things you don’t need
Ever received a Christmas or Birthday present that you don’t use or like? Dig out all of the items that don’t use/wear anymore and sell them. There are countless online trading stores you can sell items on, such as the online auction house Ebay which allows you to sell or buy items, usually at a much lower price than in the shops. Sell that unused footspa that your aunt bought you for Christmas, along with that dress you’ve never worn and earn yourself some extra cash, for a rainy day treat.

Organise your direct debits
Keeping track of your bank account can be tricky, especially if you’re always on the go and buying things for the house or the kids. Its may be worth considering altering your organising all of your direct debits so they come out of your account around the date that you get paid, then after they’ve been taken out you will know that the money left is yours to spend. It may not be possible to get all direct debits to come out on the same day, but aim to get them taken out of your account within one week. Alternatively, set up a second account. Have your salary paid in to the account that your bills get paid from, then transfer a set amount into your spending account, operated on a debit card. Then when you check your balance, you will always know where you stand.
For many ‘mummysinahurry’, 24 hour online banking is the answer to that ‘can’t get to the bank in time’ dilemma. You can post/email/phone and fit your banking around your busy life. As mummyinahurry would say, whats not to love?!

Cheap Champagne and Purse Pleasing Prosecco

5 Jul

First of all, my apologies for the slight pause on the blog. I have been diverted by the sheer panic of trying to offload 3 years of clutter, cleaning the new to us but old and in need of tlc house, meeting with architects, builders and the like.

But priorities, priorities, I just had to sit down tonight to the season finale of Desperate Housewives, and my head was turned by the Sainsburys ad for a whopping 25% off Wine and Champagne.

Too Good to be True?

And while I was there I noticed that they have some fab recipe ideas for the kids (that may also keep the mums pretty happy too). Here are a few ideas

Its the last week of the Ocado World Cup Recipe competition, and my contenders, while out of the World Cup, could still be winners, so if you have the chance please click the following links

French Apple Tart

New Zealand Kiwi, Lime and Ginger Cheesecake

Back soon….

Frittata, Sausages and Spinach (The spendthrift’s challenge, Day 1)

18 May

Day one of the challenge, and I have already had my resolve tested by an almost too good to turn down 15% off voucher from Ocado. I resisted and turned off the computer, only to receive a text from Sarah (yes, Sarah’s Lime and Ginger Cheesecake Sarah) trying to lead me astray with a report of £2 a bottle off one of our favourite bottles of wine. I returned to the ‘loosely drafted’ rules and noticed that there was  no mention of alcohol being included in the budget (trust a lawyer to try to find a loophole). However in the spirit of good housewifery, I will observe the spirit of the challenge and only use supplies from existing stocks.  

BREAKFAST  

A cinch. Cereal, bananas and toast for the children, fruit, yoghurt and muesli for me.  

LUNCH  

A fridge raid at 11.30 in the run up to lunch yielded the following ‘bounty’  

  • 6 or 7 slightly greying cooked jersey royals from Fridays lunch
  • 2 handfuls of grated cheddar
  • 2 little gem lettuces with a week old sell by date
  • a ‘dollop’ of preserved lemon mayo left over from Fridays lunch
  • a slightly limp looking cucumber

Not exactly a mouth-watering or inspiring collection. Yet this sorry list was wondrously transformed into a delicious lunch in less than 15 minutes, with some butter, herbs, and some delicious ‘Happy Eggs’ (yes there really is a brand called happy eggs, and I really do buy them).  

Method  

  1. Slice potatoes. Place in medium non-stick frying pan with a dessert spoon of oil and butter (the oil allows the butter to cook at a higher temperature without burning).
  2. Add 1 teaspoon chopped garlic and chives, and cook until the potatoes are golden brown.
  3. Whisk 4 ‘Happy Eggs’ with a tablespoon or two of yoghurt/cream/milk and add to the pan. Jostle and jiggle the mixture around then add the cheese and leave on a low heat for about 5 minutes, until the edges start to come away and the centre is still a little wobbly.
  4. Add a handful of grated cheese, then place under a hot grill for 5 mins. Keep a close eye to make sure it doesn’t burn.

While the top of the frittata was browning, I rinsed and chopped the lettuce (for me) and dotted the leftover mayo on to dress the leaves. For the children I chopped the cucumber into batons.  

For Mummyinahurry

 

Frittata Finale

 

For the children

 

 Once cooked, gently cajole the frittata onto a plate to serve. This was declared as ‘delicious’ by my almost 4 year old, and saved a few sad leftovers from the landfill. If it wasn’t for my undying attachment to my dishwasher and tumbledryer, I could almost feel like an advert for eco-mum!  

TEA BREAK 

The Cake. Mmmmm

 

I have been craving cake for the past week, and as we had guests after school, I took that as a perfect opportunity to make Nigella’s Never Fail Victoria Sponge, to have after the school run with a cup of tea. Annabel and I made the cake after lunch, and for the filling used up some apricot jam that had been skulking in the back of the cupboard since my hubby declared that he ‘doesnt really like apricot jam’  . That was about a year ago, but at least 5 years of me regularly buying it for him!!  

DINNER  

The starting point was a pack of defrosted Free Range Lincolnshire Sausages from the freezer (bought half price when on offer – yet more thrift in action). Although Mr Mummyinhurry is working late again, David had a school friend for tea, so I had an extra mouth to feed. For the children, I pan-fried the sausages, then served with mash, broccoli and (blush) tinned spaghetti. 2  out of 3 clean plates after dinner. A good result.    

After my mid-afternoon carb fest with the cake, I wanted something a bit lighter and healthier than mash to complement the sausages. I settled on a side dish of wilted spinach, butter beans and tomatoes. Easy, delicious and light.  

Sausages, Wilted Spinach with Beans and Tomatoes

 

INGREDIENTS 

1 bag spinach  

250g mini plum tomatoes  

400g tin butter beans  

chopped garlic and olive oil  

METHOD  

Place a little oil in a wok style pan with some chopped garlic and sweat it off for a minute.  

  1. Add spinach until it wilts
  2. Add chopped mini plum tomatoes
  3. Add a can of drained butter beans
  4. When all is warmed through, strain, season with salt and pepper then add a drizzle of olive oil
  5. Serve

As the sausages were already cooked, once the salad was made, dinner was served.  I had the children in bed and the kitchen tidied by 7.30pm, leaving me time to catch up with a neighbour over a glass of fizz (her treat of course!!)

The spendthrift’s challenge

17 May

In the current climate of cutbacks and budgets, it feels right to try to ‘do my bit’ to see if I can save a few pounds on the weekly shopping bill, ready for the inevitable cost of living rises that the gloom-mongerers are almost cheerfully predicting.

Unlike the politicians that often claim to have no personal agenda, I have to confess my motivation may also stem from our (hopefully) imminent house move, where I am going to have to shrink the contents of my large kitchen (23 cupboards and 7 drawers of storage), into a kitchen with 1 dresser, a handful of shelves, and floorspace of 9ft by 6ft !!

No matter how ‘frugal’ I am feeling, I cannot seem to get the weekly shop (along with top ups) at less than about £150 (that does include all other things aside from food, like dishwasher tabs, nappies, toiletries etc), and quite often it goes well beyond that.  I really don’t mind spending a bit more on food these days, as nights out are currently few and far between, but I do wonder if I might be able to employ a little more thrift from time to time.  For the past few months, for one week a month, I have made an effort to avoid the big weekly shop, and have  made do with small local shopping trips. On those weeks I have managed to bring the total spend in at around £80 but that’s about as good as it gets.

This month I seem to have been spending left right and centre. So, on a whim (which I may refer to as ill-conceived later in the week), I have decided now is the time for drastic action.

The Challenge. To feed a family of four, for one week, using only the food already in the house and with an additional daily budget of £5 (total for the week £35) allowed for top ups of essentials a nd fresh foods, such as milk, eggs, fruit and veg.

The Prize. If I stick to the budget, I can pop out for a salon pedicure while Mr Mummyinhurry stays at home with the little ones and counts the change from the weeks housekeeping.  I am kidding about the last part. There will be no mention of change or the handing over of any savings made.

The rules

We will not be eating beans on toast every day. Come on, anyone can do that.

I will (try to) produce a variety of quick, tasty, home cooked foods, for the entire week, using only the food we have in the house. Top up shops are allowed but without spending more than £35 in total for the week.

I do have what may be considered as a slightly unfair advantage, in that I seem to have a reasonably well stocked freezer that I am slowly working on emptying. A quick check reveals the following

  • Sausages and chipolatas
  • Chicken thighs
  • Chicken legs
  • Ready to bake rolls
  • Ice Cream
  • Breadcrumbs
  • A selection of herbs. Garlic, ginger,lemongrass chilli etc
  • 3 types of home made soup
  • Salmon fillets
  • Prawns
  • Cranberries
  • Raspberries

I also seem to have a slightly eclectic mix of dried food and tins that I obviously dont like very much because it seems to have been there forever.Aside from the usual staples this includes

  • Jar of curry sauce
  • Dried rolled dates
  • Stir fry sauces
  • Fruits in syrup (like apples – what was I thinking?)
  • Tinned potatoes (why why why??!!)
  • Grilled artichokes (an improvement at last)

The fridge is generously stocked with the usual half used jars of mustard, jam, capers, mayo etc, a packet of near its sell by date parma ham, and some cheese.

As I went shopping today for fresh fruit and veg and milk and eggs, I am deducting the cost of that £16.08 from my budget.

I will be posting my daily menus (just so that you can see that I have not been cheating), and pictures of the good, the bad and the inedible.

Any suggestions, additional rules or offers to join me in a cookalong, are welcome. Or have a look at the poll and vote on the outcome!

Bon appetit!

Lazy laid-back lunch

14 May

Two of my favourite foods are now in season. British asparagus and Jersey Royals.  Add some steamed salmon and preserved lemon mayo, and you have a no fuss easy to make lunch that cannot fail to please.

Salmon, Roasted Asparagus and Preserved Lemon Mayo

I was lucky enough to have a lunchtime visit from one of my former housemates today. We don’t get to see each other anywhere nearly often enough, so when we do, the last thing I want to be doing is fussing with food in the kitchen.  As usual we had to fit it in around the demands of school runs (mine and hers), and me trying to restore some sort of order to our out of control washing mountain.

This lunch was assembled in moments, and the preparation time was perhaps as long as it takes to boil the kettle and make a couple of tea.  You need to allow about half an hour for the total cooking time, but there is no real supervision required.

INGREDIENTS (feeds two)

2 fresh salmon fillets

handful of jersey royals per person

bunch of asparagus

preserved lemons (if you don’t have these try the zest of a lemon instead)

good quality shop bought mayo

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees

First I rinsed the potatoes then put them on to steam (about 20 mins once it comes to the boil). Once cooked, place in a bowl with a few dots of butter and some chives and cover to keep warm.

Season the fish. Make a foil package and just douse with a little oil and a sprinkle of whatever herbs you have to hand – I used garlic and chives from the freezer). Seal the salmon in the package.

Remove ends from asparagus. Place on foil (to save washing up) and drizzle with a little olive oil and crushed salt.

Put the salmon in the oven on a baking tray. After 5 minutes add the asparagus and cook both for a further ten minutes.

Put a generous ‘dollop’ (a very technical term, in this case meaning 2 dessert spoons full) of mayo in a bowl. Finely chop the rind of 3 small preserved lemons. Mix. If you have yet to discover preserved lemons then I would really recommend them. They are the laid back relative of fresh lemons, with a gentler, less tart flavour than fresh lemons. Still lemony, but with a delicious, salty, mellow taste, and the marriage with the creamy mayonnaise is just heavenly.

Serve.

Jersey Royals with chives and butter

This can be served ‘hot’ fresh from the oven, or warm, and still tastes delicious.  I quite often cook fish this way and at the same time cook an extra fillet or two, as a get-ahead shortcut to the preparation of another meal.

If you are too pressed for time to try this, then nip down to M&S, and treat yourself to their unrivalled dine in for £10 offer, which is on until Tuesday. And this month they have included my favourite the crème brûlée in the dessert list. I may just be tempted!

Supermarket Sweep 4 May 2010

4 May

Where did the last week go?  Here it is then, my weekly round-up of  supermarket best buys.

Starting in alphabetical order with Asda. This week you can stock up on your breakfast basics at bargain basement prices.  Activia yoghurts, 4 for £1, Tropicana Smoothie – mango, passionfruit & pineapple £1 for 750ml, and 2 for £3 on weetabix cereals, and 2 packets for £1 on Warburtons crumpets. They are also offering lunchtime deli wraps for £1 a packet.

Lidl.  Love it or loathe it you can’t knock their prices. This week there are the usual unbelievably low prices on a range of vegetables, the best one being cauliflowers at only 49p each. Add some cut price cheddar and you are halfway there to a cauliflower cheese, 500g Pilgrims Choice extra mature cheddar is only £2.99. Childrens favourite spread, Nutella is down to £1.25 a jar, and if you fancy a warm weather treat for the freezer, they are offering Bounty, Mars and Snickers Ice Creams at an ice cool £2 for a packet of 8.

Morrisons, are offering every mums’ emergency staple, Birds Eye fishfingers, at £1 for a packet of 8 and the obligatory (in this house at least) Heinz Ketchup for £1 (570g squeezy size). They also have lunchbox fillers Petit Filous Frubes down to £1 for a packet of 9, and emergency child bribe of choice for many, cadburys chocolate fingers at 74p a packet (these have also been found to work well on grown-ups).

If you are shopping at Sainsburys this week, take advantage of this weeks deals and invite a friend for lunch. Serve one of a selection of Sainsburys own brand soups at only £1 for a 600g carton, complemented with the Taste the Difference Gruyere and Garlic Fougasse, half price at £1.09. While you finish up with a home made cappuccino, and a selection of Lindt Chocolate bars (only £1 for 100g) the dishwasher can clean up for you with Finish all in one lemon tablets  down to £4.49 for 45 (10p a wash…..come on, at that price who wouldnt use a dishwasher?).

Tescos are also offering half price Finish dishwasher tabs, and Jacquart Champagne for only £13.49 a bottle. They have also added their Tesco Finest Premier Cru Champagne at £25 for 2. I haven’t tried their bubbles recently, but it usually attracts favourable reviews in the press. They also have some fantastic offers on a wide range of fruit and veg, the best ones in my book being vine ripened tomatoes at 99p a pack or satsumas at 99p a pack.

Last but by no means least, is Waitrose. Aside from 1/3 off Sirloin and Rump Steak there is no change from last weeks best buys, so I have included a link back to that post here.

Happy Shopping!

Cut price champers…offer ends 4 May

28 Apr

Although the recent sunshine has put a spring in my step the past week or so, as with life, the British Summer is bound to be unpredictable.

There is however, one thing that always brightens my mood. A glass of perfectly chilled, crisp dry champagne. Now couple that with cut-price bargain and I am halfway to heaven! Imagine my delight when I walked into Sainsbury’s this afternoon and discovered they are doing one of their fabulous 25% off all wine and champagne offers. The only catch is that you have to buy a minimum of 6. Oh, the hardship. I sometimes like to buy a few half bottles when they are on discount, as it doesn’t feel quite as decadent for a midweek treat.

The best deal on budget bubbly is the Sainburys own brand extra dry champers (already down to £14), and with the discount ends up at £10.50 a bottle. If you are happy with New World bubbles there is Jacob’s Creek , or Valdo Prosecco which you can pick up for £5.25 a bottle including the discount.

If you want to order online, or just to have a look at what’s on offer, you can look online at

http://www.sainsburys.co.uk/sol/index.jsp

À votre santé