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How To Drastically Reduce Your Grocery Bill

For me, September was the month of getting organized. I created a spring cleaning calendar, which inspired me to clean parts of the house that I’d previously ignored, and I’ve started being more intentional about how we are spending money.

Related: Your Ultimate Spring Cleaning Guide

Glen and I are pretty good at saving money where we can and we tend not to indulge too much, bar the occasional late night trip to find dark chocolate (which, surprisingly, hasn’t happened in a few weeks). Even though we’re doing pretty well at saving, I’m still trying to cut down on our grocery bill and I’m doing a pretty good job at it!

So, this is what we’ve been doing and how we have saved a ton of money:

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Make the most of store sales

A lot of stores have their “Best Before” dates a few safe days away from the food actually being too gross to eat. Once those items reach those dates they get put onto a Sales shelf and their prices are reduced. If you are looking for something in particular, check out the Sales shelf and see if you can find it at a better price.

Buy what’s in season

There’s a reason I get excited about avocado season. It’s because when they’re not in season they are just way too expensive to justify spending money on. If you’re shopping for what’s in season you are going to be spending less and eating what nature intended.

Make a list and plan properly

This is a point that I cannot stress enough. I know people who shop daily and buy what they feel like eating. Those people spend in a day what I spend in a week, so I think I’ve got a better system. All you have to do is make a list of what meals you are eating in a given week (or month, if you are able to shop monthly), create a corresponding grocery list and only shop for those items. If you are consistently putting things into your trolley that you don’t have on your list, you are going to spend more.

Related: Meal Planning For Newlyweds

Related: A Weekly Planner (Including a Meal Planner)

Know what’s in the house

Before you go shopping, you need to know what you already have in the house. Last week I made the mistake of having to go to the shop three additional times because I kept forgetting that we didn’t have butter, honey and then cheese. It was annoying, a waste of time and I ended up spending extra money each time. Keep track of what you’ve got in your kitchen and you won’t accidentally buy something you already have.

Don’t shop hungry

If you go to the shop on an empty stomach, you are going to put more food in your trolley. It’s a proven fact. You are also probably going to give in to the temptation to buy yourself a shopping snack to nibble on.

Pay in cash and keep a tally

If you’re paying with your credit card you kind of feel like you’ve got an unlimited budget. If you take cash with you, you know it’s going to be awkward if you don’t have enough money once your bill is rung up. So, use that handy calculator on your phone and keep a tally as you shop.

Use coupons

OK, this one only works if you do it right. If you are already planning on buying something and you have a coupon for it, then use it. The coupon method becomes a nightmare when you start buying things because you have the coupon, not because you need them.

Don’t buy convenience items

Do you really need someone to shred your cheese and peel your onions? Probably not. If it’s faster and easier, it’s probably going to be a lot more expensive. Buy whole butternut and cut it up yourself. Buy whole carrots and peel and chop them instead of buying baby carrots. It doesn’t take that much longer and it’s worth it!

Buy store brands

This is something I do often. In my opinion, most peanut butter brands taste pretty much the same, so I’m not going to be true to one brand if I can buy the cheaper one that tastes the same. The same goes for milk, cream, rice, pasta and mayonnaise. Don’t be fooled by brand loyalty if you can get a better deal on something that tastes the same.

Compare prices on the shelves

The reason I often buy store brands is that when I compare the prices, those are usually the cheaper options. When you’re buying yoghurt, for example, take a look at all the options and compare their prices before making your decision.

Cook from scratch

Baking your own bread, rolling out your own pasta dough and making your own jam is not only more fun, but it’s also way cheaper. Save money by doing it yourself whenever you can.

Plan one meatless meal per week

It’s no secret that meat is pretty expensive. Plan on having one meatless meal each week and get your creative juices flowing. Being able to indulge in fancier, meatless options means that you can save money and still have a gourmet meal.

Cook double batches for another meal

You can either put your second meal in the freezer and save it for later or you can portion it up for another lunch or dinner. These meals will come in handy when you’ve accidentally forgotten to thaw your meat and are tempted to get takeaways.

Check out some freezer friendly meals here: Befriend the Freezer

Don’t buy processed food

Anything frozen for your convenience, or coated in preservatives isn’t healthy and it isn’t budget friendly. Rather buy fresh produce and fresh meat and make something healthier and more affordable.

Stop making dessert

This wasn’t a huge deal for us, because we don’t really eat dessert. We do like our dark chocolate and we’ve been known to make late night trips to the shop to get some, but we don’t really bake desserts and make puddings. If you are a dessert person, rather opt for fresh fruit and yoghurt on the side. It’s healthier and cheaper.

Shop weekly or monthly 

I alluded to this earlier and it’s something I’m pretty adamant about. If you shop daily you will spend more money. Creating a plan, using your handy shopping list and doing a weekly or monthly shop means that you always have something to eat in the house. You won’t have to have that “What do you want for dinner?” conversation.

Grow fresh herbs

If you’ve got fresh herbs in your garden, you’ll always have a source of flavour that isn’t found in sugary packets. We’ve got a flourishing rosemary bush, a new basil bush and a beautiful lemon tree.

Keep your fridge organized

You don’t have to get all Pinteresty with cute labels and fridge organizing gadgets. The point here is to give everything a spot so that you can look into your fridge at a glance and see what you’ve got. This will come in handy when you go shopping and you need to make a grocery list.

Related: How To Be More Organized

Start stockpiling

Create a little pantry where you can store items that you buy in bulk. Things like flour, cereal, tinned items and anything else that can be used in meals to come. You’ll end up saving money later on when you only need to be a few ingredients because you already have the rest.

Related: Simple Ways You Can Save Money

Simple ways you can save money

Before I even start, let me say that I am the worst at saving money. When I get money I just want to go out and spend it on things I don’t need. So, I am not claiming to be a money expert and I know that there are plenty of things that I can do to be better at spending more wisely.

With that in mind, Glen and I found a few simple ways of saving money. In our first year of marriage we started living more wisely and our spending began to fit into that lifestyle. We are far from perfect but I figured that things like this which come naturally to us might really benefit a newly married couple.

Simple ways you can save money

Groceries

Shop once a week

Or maybe you shop once every two weeks (something I am currently experimenting with) or even once a month. The point here is that if you shop every day you are going to spend more money than you would if you had to shop less frequently.

Shop with intent

Make a shopping list and stick to it. Don’t just buy things you feel like eating now, but keep the rest of your week in mind. Also, don’t be caught out by upsells – you know, those chips and sweets at the counter.

Create a meal plan

It really helps to stick to your shopping list when you know what meals you want to eat. Keep your meal plan handy, or you might end up with a “mystery box” of ingredients to work with.

Buy house brands

You usually pay extra for pretty packaging and the product inside usually doesn’t taste much different from the cheaper house brands. Of course, you might be fussy about your wine, for example, so buy your favourite brand. However, if peanut butter all tastes the same to you, buy the cheaper one.

Buy fresh veggies

If you have the time to peel and chop your own veggies, don’t pay extra for someone else to do it for you. Those items are there for convenience and a good way to save money is to just buy a whole butternut and chop it up instead of buying butternut cubes.

Don’t buy packets of sauce

We very rarely purchase ready made packets of sauce, or even those packets that require a bit of milk. Rather stock up on garlic, spices, olive oil, lemon juice and honey. They last for ages and are packed with natural flavour.

Related: Meal planning for newlyweds

Related: A weekly planner [free printable]

At home

Drink water

Not only is it great for your skin and overall health, drinking water keeps you fuller for longer and is a great way to stay hydrated without spending money and consuming sugars. We don’t keep juice at home, because we don’t enjoy it so we drink water with our meals. We’re also in the habit of ordering water when we eat out.

Snacks

To avoid late night trips to the convenience store, we always have snacks at home. We like fruit, yoghurt, popcorn and sugarfree rusks.

Blankets, not heaters

What’s the best way to spend all your money in winter? By using heaters! Your electricity or gas bill will go through the roof if you aren’t careful. Instead, use hot water bottles and warm blankets.

Entertainment

Special offers

A lot of restaurants have “2 for 1” deals. Make the most of any special offers and save money while eating out.

Have nice food at home

Now, there is nothing wrong with going out for a nice meal. However, Glen and I tend to do that when we aren’t particularly excited about the food we have at home. If you buy nice things, you’ll be less tempted to eat out.

Potluck dinners

If you’re having friends over, get everyone to bring something and cook together. Gourmet burgers, pizzas and mexican food like tacos and nachos are some of the things we love.

Games

Who says you have to go out to be entertained? We’ve got a lot of board games and card games and we’ve really enjoyed playing them with friends.

Shopping

You don’t need takeaway coffee

Glen, are you reading this? My husband is a big coffee lover and he always wants coffee. Always. When we’re out shopping, we are usually tempted to treat ourselves to a warm beverage. So, to combat this we always have nice hot chocolate and coffee at home. We’re less tempted to get takeaway drinks if we’ve got nice stuff at home.

Shop where there are benefits

You know those stores that give you points when you shop? Even if those points only result in getting a small discount or cashback voucher, you’re getting something in return.

Treat yourself

This might sound counterproductive, but if you never treat yourself you are more likely to succumb to a shopping binge. Every so often I buy myself a magazine, pretty nailpolish or a slab of my favourite chocolate. Those smaller treats aren’t super expensive and they prevent me from splurging on bigger things that I really don’t need.

How to save money on wedding invitations

Are you looking to save money on your wedding invitations? There are plenty of ways to do that. While these might not work for everyone, you are definitely going to find a way of cutting down costs creatively today.

How to save money on wedding invitations

1. You don’t need the upgrades

Envelope liners? Fancy ink? Intricate details? You don’t need anything of that, and it always costs extra.

2. It’s all about the paper

Instead of opting for fancy paper, pick something more affordable like craft paper or even recycled paper.

3. Order more than you need

Spend a little bit of extra money now to print a few additional invitations that you can use if you need to. It’s cheaper than going back to the printer to print more invitations later.

4. Don’t include extra details 

You know those pretty images of a map to your venue? Your wedding registry details? An enclosed menu so guests can place their orders when they RSVP? You don’t need any of that on the invitation.

Option 1 – create a free wedding website, which includes all the details. Put your website URL on your invitation, so guests know where to find information.

Option 2 – just put an RSVP email address, and send your directions/map, wedding registry details and any other additional information to each guest as they RSVP.

5. Go digital

Save a few hundred trees by using an Evite service. Print a handful of invitations for your grandparents and anyone else who isn’t up to date with technology.

6. You only need one page

Instead of printing two pages for your invitation, one with ceremony information and one with reception information, put it all on one page.

7. Proofread

Proofread your invitation. Get your parents to proofread. Ask your bridesmaids to proofread. Get your siblings to proofread. Find a friend and get them to proofread. The point here is that if you find a typo or mistake after printing 100+ invitations, you either have to live with it or reprint.

8. Print them yourself

If you’ve got a killer printer, why not print your own invitations?

9. Address the envelopes yourself

You don’t need names and addresses printed onto your envelopes in beautiful fonts or calligraphy. Write these by hand and you’ll save a few bucks.

10. Standardise your envelopes

Odd-sized envelopes often cost more to post so avoid things like large squared envelopes.

11. Get your DIY on

Get your bridal party together and make the invitations. Form an assembly line and have everyone involved in something. It’s fun and you’ll save money.

 

How do I know if wedding suppliers are overcharging me?

I often get asked for my opinion on quotes sent to my clients and to my engaged friends. I’ve become pretty good at deciding if someone is being overcharged and it is a skill that takes years to learn. This got me thinking… how would a newly engaged couple know where to begin when comparing quotes and booking wedding suppliers? I’m here to help! I’ve got some tips for you on how you can keep costs down, book quality suppliers and get what you’re paying for.

 

suppliers

Talk to your wedding planner or coordinator

If you have a wedding coordinator or planner, send her your quotes and ask her to suss them out for you. One of her jobs is to get good discounts for you and she will be skilled in knowing when someone has overcharged you. This is also one of the reasons I always suggest that brides book a wedding planner, coordinator, or even on-the-day coordinator upfront. Book someone who knows the industry well, is connected with other suppliers and is able to help you make decisions with her professional experience in mind. Your planner will remind you that booking good quality wedding suppliers will cost you more, because you are paying for a certain standard and quality of work.

Chat to engaged or newlywed friends

Before doing so, keep in mind that even though these friends of yours are planning or have planned their own wedding, they are not professionals and their thoughts and opinions probably won’t be as helpful as those that come from someone in the industry. However, you can compare notes. Ask your engaged friends what they have been quoted for certain services. You might just realise that the person who you think is very expensive is charging you roughly the same as other competitors. Again, this method isn’t perfect but it will give you a bit of an idea of what other people are paying.

Ask everyone for quotes

What’s the best way to compare quotes? Ask lots of suppliers. If you are trying to find a good wedding DJ (firstly, their price shouldn’t be your deciding factor), request quotes from at least five DJs and compare their packages.

Read the fine print

When comparing quotes, there are a few very important things to keep in mind. Imagine you are at a restaurant and you order a delicious steak that costs X amount. This meal might include chips, salad and veggies in that amount, while the restaurant across the road will charge you a little bit less and ask you to pay extra for all the fixings. Restaurant #1 is better suited to people who want all the fixings and will eat them all, while Restaurant #2 is for people who don’t think they’ll need all the fixings and are happy with the basic steak.

The point here is that all suppliers handle their quotes and invoices system differently. Some will charge a little more but include transport costs, all meetings prior to the wedding, an assistant for the day, etc. Another supplier might seem more affordable, but doesn’t include all the fixings. And when those fixings are added onto your original quote, you end up paying a lot more. So, find out what you are actually being quoted on and use that information when comparing quotes. Don’t forget to check if VAT has been included in your quotes.

Words of wisdom from a wedding industry professional

In defense of the wedding industry, I think that many people have an unfair assumption that they will be overcharged when mentioning the “W” word. Yes, you will be quoted more for wedding flowers than you will for flowers at a “big party”. (I’ll save the ethical debate for another day, but there are many brides who save money by requesting quotes and not telling said florist that the flowers will be for a wedding).

Some wedding suppliers do overcharge, but there are also hundreds of suppliers who are passionate about their work and will go above and beyond for their clients. A wedding is a once in a lifetime celebration for two people who want to share the start of their marriage with the people they love. Wedding industry professionals understand that, and the reason you might receive a quote that seems ridiculous is because you are paying for a service that requires attention to detail and countless hours planning, prepping, setting up, cleaning up and doing a whole lot more behind the scenes.

Most people planning a wedding will be in a situation where this is the first time they are sourcing professional photographers, caterers, florists, DJs, etc. This makes it difficult to know what you should be paying for good quality work, a work ethic that honours the bride, groom and those celebrating, and something that will produce a wedding day full of happy memories.

As the phrase goes, if you think we’re too expensive, wait until you hire an amateur.

Meal Planning For Newlyweds

One of the first lessons I learnt after getting married was that food is expensive. Grocery shopping and cooking takes up a lot of time, and don’t even get me started on doing dishes. In my first year of being married, I’ve learnt a couple of things that have helped us save money (I have also gone off book and spent waaay more on food than we budgeted for) and have delicious meals every day.

So, today I’d like to invite you into my planning brain and show you how I put together our meal plan and shopping list for the week.

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Step 1: Only shop once a week

Glen and I go shopping on Tuesdays, because it is generally a good day for us to spend time shopping. Choose a day that works for you and do your best to buy everything for the week ahead so that you don’t have to go to the shop again during the week.

Step 2: Plan your week

If you’re anything like me, you like to plan ahead. In planning what groceries we need, I’ll write out the days of the week and scratch out those that don’t require any cooking. If we are planning on going out on a Saturday night, there’s no point in buying food to cook on that day, is there? Next to each day that requires a meal, we’ll write out what we’d like to cook. Sometimes we feel like a particular dish (Asian chicken stir fry) and other times we’ll write out a type of meat and see what we find at the shop. Our supper plan looks a little something like this:

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Step 3: Make a list

Based on our plan for the week, we’ll make a list. If we have a particular meal in mind for any of the days, we’ll write out all the ingredients we need that we don’t have in our kitchen already. Usually our list will include all the meats we want, a selection of vegetables and any other things we need to buy for the week. We’ve been eating yoghurt and granola for breakfast and chicken salads for lunch (last week we bought way too much so we aren’t buying anything for this week’s lunches). Today’s shopping list isn’t very long, but it looks like this:

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Step 4: Look out for good deals

Sometimes we’re in the mood for beef, so we’ll look out for specials. If there’s a steak special, we’ll get those. There are some cuts of beef that are better suited to slow cooking, which is a great way to save money, because those cuts are almost always going to be cheaper. If you are flexible with your shopping list and meal plan, you can really save money and buy good quality ingredients that suit your budget and cooking style.

Step 5: Keep your meal plan on the fridge

What’s the best way to stick to your plan and avoid going to the shop again? Keeping your meal plan right in front of you! Our fridge looks like this:

I’ve got some more ideas I’ll be sharing with newlyweds, so keep a lookout on Lovely Pretty and say hello on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

I’ve upgraded my fridge meal planner and I’ve made one for you too! Get yours right here.

freeprintables2

Coming up later this week:

Cake tasting with the girls!

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14 Things You Can Eliminate From Your Wedding Budget

Planning a wedding involves making hundreds of decisions. Big decisions like “Which venue do we prefer?” and smaller decisions like “Which petals do we want to use for our confetti?”. If you want to simplify your decision-making and save a lot of money, here are 14 things you can take out of the equation.

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1. Matching bridesmaids’ dresses

Instead of buying matching dresses for your girls, ask them to purchase their own dress that they like. Give them a colour scheme and some length and style guidelines and you’ll create a mismatched bridal party that looks beautiful!

2. Bridesmaids’ hair and makeup

Get your girls to help each other with hair and makeup instead of hiring a professional and trying to fit in each girl’s hair and makeup session on the morning of your wedding. Professional makeup is a MUST for the bride but noone will notice if the bridesmaids have done their own.

3. An aisle runner

Unless you have a hideous floor, noone will notice the absence of an aisle runner. It’s an unnecessary expense that will get trampled on and forgotten.

4. Wedding favours

Thank each guest in person and they won’t notice that they didn’t get a keepsake at your wedding.

4 Wedding Favours Your Guests Don’t Want

5. An open bar

Put two bottles of wine on each table and guests will be happy to buy their own hard liquor. This isn’t tacky and it saves a lot of money.

Cash Bar or Open Bar?

6. Cake and Dessert

You don’t need both. Your guests can’t eat both, so why not eliminate your wedding cake or serve your cake as dessert?

7. Printed programs

Half your guests will read them, four people will keep them and they will be a waste of money to design and print.

8. Name cards

Another unnecessary printing expense. Create a big seating chart and allow guests to find their spot that way. It’s more fun anyway!

9. Menus

Instead of printing a menu per person or per table, create a big chalk board menu for everyone to see. Less printing, less hassle and less money to spend.

10. Champagne toast

Not everyone likes the taste of champagne, so instead of hiring champagne flutes and buying expensive bottles of bubbly, let everyone toast with whatever they’re already drinking.

11. Elaborate centrepieces

Big floral arrangements are not only expensive, but they often create a division between the one side of the table and the other. Go simple, pretty and practical.

Wedding Centrepieces On A Budget

12. Dance lessons

If you are doing a first dance and you really need additional help, look at YouTube tutorials. If dancing isn’t your thing, consider scrapping your first dance altogether.

13. Rehearsal dinner

A wedding ceremony rehearsal? Yes! Feeding half your wedding guests the night before your wedding? Not necessary. Go out to a restaurant and ask everyone to pay for their own meal.

Everything You Need To Know About Wedding Rehearsals

14. Disposable cameras

They are fun, but pretty expensive. Instead, create a wedding hash tag and ask your guests to use their phones to snap away.

>> Get a free wedding planning checklist right here <<