Amazing Aldi

If you are a regular reader you already know that I love the discount supermarkets. They save me so much money on groceries – I found I reduced my bill by about £30 a week when I started using Aldi or Lidl rather than the larger, traditional supermarkets.  That’s a saving of over £1500 a year without even trying!

However, they are also great with their special deals on various home and lifestyle products.

Gluten free

This week Aldi has done particularly well. If you or one of your family have a problem with gluten, they have a whole shelf of interesting looking deals on gluten free food, including this Betty Crocker cake mix. I am having a dinner party on Saturday and one of our guests is a coeliac so I will make that for her dessert. They had lots of other yummy looking things too. As the cashier told me, these products move fast, so be quick if you are interested.

Baby savings

Aldi also have a fantastic range of baby and nursery stuff currently. Amazing prices! A high chair for £19.99, a changing mat for £3.99, some very cute bean bags for £16.99 and reusable nappies for £9.99.

I spent £50 on the week’s shopping for the three of us. I will add cat food and Lactofree milk to this total, but I think that’s pretty good going. I bypassed the plants and garden deals. They are so good I can’t resist them and I have spent enough on the garden this month.

What about you? Have you tried the discounters yet and which do you prefer?

Should you ever buy branded groceries?

I quite enjoy the adverts on TV for Aldi, where they compare an expensive brand of coffee, tea or whatever with their own version. The message is that theirs is just as good, but cheaper!

When I initially started trying to save money on my grocery shopping the first thing I did was dump the brands wherever I could. I tried all of the supermarket basics first. Some we liked and some we didn’t. Value/Smart Price baked beans were a definite no-no, unless included in a veggie stew. Loo rolls didn’t last as long but were worth buying as they were so much cheaper. Value bacon may not look as good but it tastes pretty similar. The kids ate the biscuits even if they didn’t arrive in fancy packaging. I now wouldn’t dream of buying anything other than a basic fruit juice either.

Where we didn’t enjoy the basic products, I moved up to supermarket own brand. Most we liked, but occasionally we still resorted to a branded product.

With the advent of the discount supermarkets such as Aldi and Lidl, the situation has improved even more. Most of their own products are very good quality and as cheap or even cheaper than the old style shop own brands. I have found them to be better overall. 

I might consider something from a range such as a Tesco Finest if it is on offer but I have found some of these are disappointing. I think they are a marketing ploy and another way to squeeze a bit more money out of their customers. 

Generally speaking if I buy a brand it is because 1. I really like it more than the alternatives (such as my Millicano coffee mentioned in yesterday’s blog post) or 2. It is a really good price. I don’t need to pay for a company’s expensive branding – they pay marketing people a lot of money to work out how to make us spend our wages. I bet at least half the time if people did a blind test to decide which product was branded and which was a supermarket’s own brand they wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. So, if you really want to save money on your groceries chuck out the brands and try some supermarket own labels!

Saving money on coffee

It was a madly busy day at work today, followed by a visit to the hospital to see my mum. She was in a lot of pain today, although she did manage a little walk along the corridor on her frame with the physiotherapist.

Luckily my daughters had sorted dinner when I got home – Quorn bolognese, as one of them is vegetarian. 

I hardly drink coffee at all as I can’t do too much caffeine, but I do enjoy one decent cup each morning. I usually buy Millicano. I try to find it on offer as it’s not cheap, so I was interested to try this Alcafe Barista Moments coffee from Aldi. It was a pretty nice cup actually, not quite Millicano but not bad at all. It cost £2; Millicano is usually at least £4.30. I might mix the two to save a bit of money!

Anybody else tried this? What did you think?

I’m hoping to go and collect Mum tomorrow and take her home but we will have to see what her consultant says. Fingers crossed!

A cheap packed lunch 

I can’t believe I am still using up various cheeses from Christmas. It is quite nice to have a bit of Brie in my sandwich at work as I wouldn’t usually buy it except as a treat. 

Every day I take a pot of home made soup, half a bake-at-home baguette filled with whatever needs using or sometimes just butter, and some fruit. The baguettes are really cheap from Aldi – they cost 45p for two and I only have half. So my lunch costs about 11p for the bread,the soup is made with mostly home grown veg so is probably only around 10p a cup and a couple of pieces of fruit – 50p? With a bit of cheese let’s say approximately 70-80p for a very nice satisfying packed lunch. Not bad I think for my low spend January! 

I have some chocolate rice cakes if I need an afternoon snack. Theses are sooooo nice! They cost 95p for four, so my treat is a little cheaper Han anything from the vending machine at 80p an item. Lower in calories too at only 93 per bar.

I could spend £3 on a sandwich from the shop, 60p for a bag of crisps, £2 for a coffee and get an 80p chocolate bar – £5-6 a day? Over £1000 a year? Nah, don’t think so …

Mr S to the rescue

 I went to Aldi to do the weekly shop on Saturday. I always get there as they open at the weekend. If you don’t you can’t get in the car park! The stores aren’t huge but I think all the car parks are too small. This isn’t helped when a massive delivery lorry turns up and takes up half the car park, which seems to happen quite often.

They had some lovely plants in there and I couldn’t resist. They are so cheap! I also found a solar  hurricane lamp for a friend’s birthday, but when I got it home we liked it so much we decided to keep it and go back and get a few more as presents. Of course when we got there it was absolute bedlam!

I thought my 15 year old Miele dishwasher had finally bitten the dust on Saturday as it started making a terrible grinding noise. I bought it in the sale and even then it cost £450 but it has been brilliant for a long time.  Mr S came to the rescue though and pulled some bits apart and found a prune stone – it must have got into the works somehow! It works fine now 😀. I could have spent £100 getting an engineer out but I probably would have just scrapped it as it is so old. Every household needs a Mr Shoestring!

He also repaired two garden chairs I got as a set from the charity shop. The table and two of the chairs are solid but the other two were slightly damaged. Now we have a full set and just need the sunshine back.

Honestly, he is a gem 😀😀. Hope he doesn’t read this – don’t want his head expanding!

Enjoying life’s little affordable luxuries

When you are on a tight budget it can feel a bit grim and relentless sometimes. When I start to find the going tough, I give myself a boost with a small treat. This could take the form of a long hot bubble bath, a glass or two of icy white wine, a bunch of Aldi’s fabulously good value flowers, a proper home pedicure, maybe even a supermarket takeaway if I can run to it.

For people who go out to eat or to the pub often or who can afford a weekly visit to the beautician these might seem silly. To me they are things that I enjoy and have the power to give me a boost.

The point is that, whatever your budget will run to, it is important to have the occasional treat, even if it’s just a bar of Cadburys!

What’s your favourite affordable luxury?

Slow cooked beef and mushroom one pot casserole

imageI managed to make dinner in 5 minutes flat yesterday morning, and threw it in the slow cooker before I left for work. No fuss winter grub. This serves 5-6. All of the ingredients were from Aldi.

Pack of three frying steaks (you could use stewing steak but as it happened this was cheaper)
Medium onion, chopped
2 sticks of celery, chopped
2 large carrots, sliced
Tin chopped tomatoes
1/2 pint beef stock
Large handful of chopped mushrooms
Tin potatoes
Heaped teaspoon dried mixed herbs
Splash of Worcester sauce
Seasoning to taste

imageChop it up and throw it on the slow cooker on medium for 6-8 hours. It was so easy and delicious, and the meat was really tender. We had some broccoli with ours.

I love my slow cooker! I frequently just tip it all in and rarely follow a recipe and it usually works perfectly.

What are you cooking in yours?

President of the Aldi fan club!

I love doing my food shop at Aldi. I can see why the discounters have got the big supermarkets running scared. I have shopped at my local one since it opened 4 years ago. To begin with it was very quiet; the car park was empty. People took a while to catch on. Then the recession hit and folk started to actively look at ways to save money. Now the car park is usually full, and I try to avoid going at the weekend as you can’t even get in unless you are there on the dot of 8 am.

I have heard all kinds of comments about Aldi that really quite annoy me. A Facebook friend suggested that only chavs and the great unwashed shopped there, but went a bit quiet when I told him that I rarely noticed this when I went in to do my weekly shop. I have since seen him in there!! A colleague’s wife said she wouldn’t be see dead in there in case people thought she was short of money. In my experience it is frequented by all sections of society and I have often seen brand new BMWs and Jaguars parked next to the old bangers like mine. Most sensible people enjoy a bargain!

For those who are on a low income, and for people who need to budget like myself, shops like Aldi, Lidl and now Kwiksave are an absolute Godsend. Yes, you have to change the way you shop and they may not sell absolutely everything you want. I have to go elsewhere for the Lactofree products I use and my gluten free flour. However, I find now that I plan my meals around what I know is likely to be in stock. I really enjoy the smallness of the stores and that I can get round and stick to my list in a very short time span without being distracted by clothes and household goods that I can’t afford and aren’t on my shopping list. I still manage to find some nice treats for us all – the chocolate and alcohol is excellent! The quality generally is brilliant; you just don’t have such a huge choice.

If you haven’t tried doing your main shop at a discount supermarket, then I urge you to do so. I estimate that I save around £30 a week by doing so. Not to be sniffed at! If you aren’t fortunate enough to have one locally then try the Value and Basics brands. If you read her blog you will see that a Girl called Jack practically lived on Sainsbury’s Basics and it doesn’t seem to have done her any harm….

 

 

Quick and Dirty – dinners for the frugal woman in a hurry!

I have managed to stretch this week’s shopping to 11 days this week to make up for the expense of our day in London and lunch out.

Tonight I will do the smallest shop possible in my fave discount supermarket, Aldi, and stretch things even further. I managed to get into town on Saturday so I brought the fruit for the week and some broccoli for £4.50, so that helped.

I have some pork chops lurking in the freezer, so they will be dinner tonight, tomorrow will be veggie curry and rice, Thursday I have some taco shells to use up so will buy mince and make a chilli, Friday will be an easy end of the week tea of omelettes and chips as I have eggs. I am out all day on Saturday so will get chicken thighs and get the girls to make a casserole. I have lots of parsley sauce mixes from Approved Foods so on Sunday it will be fish, probably Aldi’s basa fillets. Monday has to be quick as I rush in then straight out to my yoga class, so we will have quiche and salad.

I am sure I would eat differently and even more cheaply if I had more time as I would do a lot more scratch cooking, but this being the real world I will cheat and use some convenience foods as and when I need to!

What are you eating this week?

Personal Grooming on a Budget

I should begin by saying that I am a low maintenance kind of girl. I don’t have time to spend an hour getting ready in the morning and I don’t have the money to splash the cash on loads of expensive products. However, I do like to wear makeup every day, look after my skin, get my hair styled every now and again and keep the grey hair at bay.

I am not convinced by so-called miracle products that claim to banish wrinkles and make you 10 years younger. In my experience, at the grand old age of 50, the people who look youngest for longest are the ones with good genes, who don’t spend hours in the sun and who don’t smoke. I can tell a smoker by the wrinkles around the mouth and the leathery skin of the long term sun worshipper is a dead giveaway. I have always used a moisturiser, but I have never noticed any difference between the effectiveness of my £1.99 night cream from Aldi (brilliant stuff for my dry skin) and the £30 pot with a lot of fancy packaging and a mega advertising budget.

I also use a nice hand and body lotion from Aldi and their cotton pads are very reasonable. I buy a large bottle of cleanser from the nearby hair and beauty cash and carry every 3 months or so for £8 and we all use it so it’s worth dropping in if I’m passing. Sometimes I buy their very large hairdresser’s bottles of shampoo and conditioner for around £15, which last ages. Other times I go to my local Home Bargains and buy whichever branded shampoos are on offer, plus razors (we all use men’s disposables, but rinse and dry them after use and they last ages), soap, etc.

I colour my own hair once a month or so. This costs me about £3, as I buy a packet of dye, mix up half in my little mixer bowl that I got for the purpose and just brush it onto my roots. The other half is fine until the next month as long as you don’t mix it up. I get a cut and blow-dry every couple of months, but try to find a salon with a junior to do this. My last cut cost me £10! When I worked part time I used to use the local college, which was even cheaper. I found that because they were learning they were very careful, and the tutors checked everything to make sure I got a good cut.

I spend a lot of time in the garden so I don’t bother paying for expensive manicures or false nails – they would be destroyed! Once a week I give myself a manicure and, because I have brittle nails that break easily, treat myself to a bottle of Sally Hanson nail hardener, which works a treat.

If you can’t live without your waxing, highlights, massage, false nails and eyelashes or reflexology treatments, check out the local college – if they have a hair and beauty course they need guinea pigs and will offer treatments for a few pounds. They may take longer than usual but in my experience try very hard to do a good job and are a real bargain.

Most of all, if you really want to save money, stop buying the glamour magazines! They are hugely expensive and mostly full of glossy adverts and articles trying to convince you that you have to spend £50 on a lipstick in this season’s colour, which really isn’t very different to last season’s colour and you could probably buy a similar one in the supermarket for a fiver. Don’t believe the ad men. They want your money!!