The cost of living squeeze continues to be in sharp focus. Inflation was reported as reaching 9.1 per cent this week and there were warnings of a rise to a £3,000 energy price cap later in the year.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t simple tips and tricks to help navigate your way around it.
Each Friday, one of our expert team of personal finance journalists rounds up five tips we think are worth noting that can go a little way to helping you save money, or make money in the midst of sky-high inflation and rocketing bills.
This week, it features takeaway swaps, a half meat trick, cheaper prescription sunglasses, getting your holiday money in order and turning to the library for entertainment.
Fast Indian: Instead of ordering from a takeaway restaurant, we use Cook – I like the lamb dupiaza, my wife the Keralan prawn and mango, both costing £5.50 (stock image)
1. Ditch takeaways for upmarket shops
Our household is not big on takeaways – we order an Indian once every few months and that’s about it
However, I do know that Friday night temptation after a long week at work and parenting. Cooking a curry from scratch or getting a pizza dough made and rising in the airing cupboard is not ideal.
The key to getting that takeaway ‘fix,’ is simplicity, but still having maximum flavour. In the pandemic, we turned to upmarket frozen food shop Cook for curries and we have carried on using it.
My wife and I have a dish each, usually a lamb and prawn number, total cost: £11. We boil some rice (get 50p microwave pouches if you really can’t be bothered) and stick a naan from the freezer into the toaster.
Give Olio a go?
Reader Pete emailed in and said: Download the Olio Food Waste app, or use its website.
There is absolutely no stigma involved, as the ethos is saving food from going to waste and charities get the first shout.
I’ve been using it for a couple of years and have saved £100s as a result. You can even sign up to collect and distribute leftover food yourself.
Thanks Pete. Have you spotted a good deal that could help our readers save cash?
Email with ‘money tips’ in the subject line: [email protected]
A takeaway equivalent would usually cost triple that and the Cook dishes taste great. It is also ready in the same time that we’d pick up the phone and wait for a takeaway to arrive – if not quicker.
It currently has an Indian for two for £15, including two mains, a side, rice and naan. A perfect opportunity to give it a whirl.
In terms of pizza, I pop into Wholefoods or Waitrose where they have The Northern Dough Co frozen pizza doughs.
They cost £2.50 for two. I like the rosemary flavoured one.
Defrost it, whack the oven up high (I have an inexpensive pizza stone too) put on some high quality peeled plum tomatoes from a tin, mozzarella (usually around £1.50) and whatever you have floating around in the fridge (often in this house vegetables and ham).
I guarantee it tastes much better than high street chains (at a fraction of the cost) and other quick pizza alternatives in supermarkets – and is not far off the quality of a good independent restaurant with a wood-fired oven. My daughter loves getting involved too.
I also tipped This is Money editor Simon Lambert off about the Northern Dough Co, who is by his own admission both a big fan of good quality pizza and picky about it.
Simon is a make-your-own-dough man, using a recipe that’s been honed by his ex-chef brother, which was in turn handed down to him by an Italian foodie.
Having recently bought himself a pizza oven (don’t worry it was second hand, so he got a deal on it), Simon gave the Northern Dough Co pre-made dough a try the other weekend. His verdict: really good quality, good tasting pizza dough, that was very easy to work with.
2. Half-meat trick
While we’re on food – food inflation is soaring which was a big factor for rising CPI – I’m on a bit of a health kick at the moment.
One step I’ve taken is halving meat from recipes – better for my waistline and the environment.
Let me give you an example: I often batch cook chilli – instead of using 500g of good quality beef mince, I’ve been using 250g and putting the other half in the freezer for next time.
I replace that missing 250g with one courgette, one carrot, one frozen spinach block and 50g of cheap red lentils.
It tastes almost the same, but the priciest, unhealthiest but tastiest ingredient has been partially removed. I do the same with curries (putting in sweet potato as a replacement for the half chicken). Give it a go!
Start spreading the news: A recent trip to NYC was expensive – but at least I had my travel money all sorted
3. Get a second current account for holiday money
Earlier in the month I went on holiday to New York. The exchange rate is lousy with the pound struggling against the dollar.
I like to take a mix of cash and card while abroad. I always order my currency in advance to pick up from a local exchange to lock in a slightly better rate.
When it comes to card, I’m a big fan of current accounts with no overseas fees for spending or withdrawals. I also like keeping it separate, a holiday savings account if you like.
I booked NYC last summer, so had been tucking away £50-100 each payday into it with a few taps of my phone, meaning when I went to go, my travel money was sorted.
I use Starling as my secondary account for this. Chase and Monzo also offer the same no overseas fees deal.
4. New lease of library life
Look, it’s no secret that the library is free and a great resource in local communities (if you’re lucky enough to still have one).
However, having neglected my local one for many years, I have a new lease of library life via my three-year old daughter.
At least one Saturday a month at the moment we trundle in and she spends hours picking out books from the vast children’s collection, going through them and it’s essentially is a free bit of entertainment which is good for her.
It has also saved me from buying more books that she outgrows fairly quickly.
Additionally, our local library has all sorts of free events on for children from Spanish classes to toddler story time.
It soon has a full load of summer holiday activities for children. It is worth looking at the website of your local one to see what’s on and help support it.
Queen of Cool: I can’t guarantee you’ll look as good as Her Majesty at the recent flypast for the Jubilee with her sunglasses, but you can at least get them for a good price
5. Prescription sunglasses for less
I never lose my prescription glasses. However, I do quite frequently manage to lose my prescription sunglasses, which is a total pain as a short-sighted person – especially in the summer.
I have been an avid customer of Glasses Direct for more than a decade. Compared to the cost of sunglasses at my optician, this website is far cheaper.
This time round, I opted for two pairs of basic sunglasses (rather than pricier designer ones) and they look great. They cost £30 each with proper UV protection after using a discount code, and these don’t only apply to new customers.
It always seems to have discount codes. For example, at the moment, you can get 30 per cent off designer frames using BTQ30 or 50 per cent off, with one pair free and half price tints with code 3IN1.
You just need to input your most recent prescription (as long as it’s in date) and from experience, they tend to arrive within two weeks.
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