As if I haven’t mentioned it enough recently, most of you will know that I’ve recently moved to London. Leaving the Northern nest was a big step but so far – so good! I have an amazing, rewarding job, which involves working alongside the most inspirational, friendly people and I’m slowly but surely making new friends with anyone and everyone. I’ve been in London just over a week now and although the full-time work fatigue is still kicking in, each day gets easier and I feel more settled.
Anyway onto the topic of the blog post – coming from a household where we have blueberries on tap (literally) and a fridge full of M&S fresh food and organic vegetables, the word budget never really crossed my mind until now. My parents have been amazing – caring, supportive and provided me with everything and more to allow me to move to London and become independent. But now, it’s time to become responsible, independent and accept my current financial situation. And so I’ve been working out the best ways to save money and eat well on a budget without deprivation. I’ve collected a few key strategies below which are definitely worth considering.
- Waitrose free coffee – YES, that’s right, FREE COFFEE. As anyone living in London will know, there is pretty much a Waitrose on every street. By registering for a Waitrose card on the website, you can take your card into store, get it scanned by a member of staff at the checkouts or reception and they will give you a paper cup to grab yourself a coffee with no charge. The coffee machine offers americano, cappuccino, latte and espresso with additional condiments of milk, soy milk, sweetener, sugar etc! And the coffee actually tastes pretty good. So save the coffee shops for special occasions and get your free coffee on a daily basis – probably saving £2.50+ each day!
- Avoid expensive ‘whole food’ shops or only shop here for select ingredients. Whilst most foodies dream of lunch from Wholefoods Market on a daily basis. Being brutally honest, these stores are likely to shred your bank account. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to do my weekly food shop in Planet Organic or Wholefoods Market but living on a budget doesn’t quite allow for this. Personally, the only products I buy from these stores is Skyr vanilla greek yogurt from Planet Organic as it’s unavailable in other supermarkets and the belgian chocolate hazelnut spread from the nut butter machines in Wholefoods Market as it’s worth the price inflation from Nutella (trust me on this one).
- Use the freezer – frozen vegetables and frozen meat are both cheaper than fresh! Alternatively buying meat in bulk and freezing it immediately will save you money too. Bread can also be frozen – I tend to have a whole pack of bagels in the freezer as well as Artisan bread which I buy fresh, cut into slices and freeze immediately! Take it out the night before to defrost and it tastes just as fresh as when bought if eaten the next day! This also prevents food waste as it’s hard to get through a whole loaf of bread or a pack of bagels on your own before they are past their best. Frozen vegetables are also very convenient – you can get mixed vegetables which mean you can get 2-3 of your 5-a-day in one serving.
- Fruit is EXPENSIVE. I’ve not touched any kind of berries since moving to London. If you need your daily fix of blueberries or strawberries then be sensible – ration them and make them last! Personally I’ve found bananas and kiwis are the cheapest fruit. Bananas are cheaper if you buy them loose rather than a bag of 5 or 7. And kiwis are also relatively cheap – you can pick up 6 or 7 for less than a pound in most supermarkets! Alternatively scoot round the supermarkets at the end of the day and pick up the reduced fruit, it may not last too long but it’s perfect for dessert or breakfast the next morning.
- Staple foods – Stock up on a few essentials like tins of beans (1 of your 5-a-day!), tinned pulses like chickpeas and lentils and cans of sweetcorn and chopped tomatoes. Tinned foods are great for bulking out meals or adding extra protein/fibre. Most tinned foods cost less than a pound and can provide for several meals. Additionally peanut butter – it’s cheap, energy dense and is the perfect topper for toast or porridge with banana! Eggs are also convenient for a cheap source of protein. Whilst smashed avocado on toasted Sourdough with poached eggs may be off the menu for a while, eggs themselves are versatile – they can be cooked in several ways, packed into lunches or eaten for a protein rich breakfast to keep you satisfied all morning.
- PREP like a PRO. Definitely stole this catchphrase from my mother, who probably stole this from some fitness guru but still, it’s an important message. Pre-prepare your lunches for the next few days or make double portions for dinner and save half for your lunch the next day! This will save your life and bank account! No more cheeky trips to Itsu for a £10 lunch. Instead roast a whole tin of sweet potatoes, add a portion of veg (peas/sweetcorn/carrots) and add a source of protein (eggs, chicken, tuna, tofu). If you can get into a routine of prepping a packed lunch the night before, you’ll save yourself time in the morning and money!
- Make eating out an occasion – save it for once or twice a week at most! Order tap water with your meal as it’s free and be careful to order too many sides as they soon add up with cost. If you have a slight cafe/restaurant obsession, then make a bucket list of places you’d like to visit and each week visit somewhere different! This will make eating out more special and you’ll soon be ticking off as many cafes/restaurants as you desire.
- Don’t stress – if you forget to pre-prepare your lunch or find you’re running late and have no time then picking up food in supermarkets can be quite cheap! Avoid sandwiches and salads as they are expensive but instead, buy a fresh bagel and a banana and keep a jar of peanut butter in your locker at work for a quick lunch or pick up a pack of pitta bread and a tub of houmous with some carrot sticks! There are many food combinations which you can cheaply put together to provide a quick, convenient lunch.
- Supermarket markdowns – get to know how your local supermarket works! M&S for example have an initial markdown in the morning between 9:30 and 11:00am then a second markdown at about 4:30 – 6:00pm. It’s ideal to grab some bargain priced food and freeze it or eat it for lunch/dinner that day!
- Check out your local market or greengrocers for fresh fruit and vegetables, quite often you can get them much cheaper than in supermarkets!
- Buy carbs in bulk such as brown rice and pasta – it might seem a little more at the time but it will last you much longer! And on this note, when shopping in supermarkets start looking at the price per kg or price per 100g as this will indicate what is good or not good for value.
- Finally, make friends and talk to people. A little smile or comment can make someone’s day and before you know it, you can get discounted lunch or free drinks with your meal! This one takes time and patience but if you do it right, you can get pretty lucky!