Monday, 29 October 2018

Bringing Down The Grocery Bill - Part 1

Good morning :)

On Saturday night as I was planning our weekly menu that would be turned into our shopping list, I thought I would do a post about this as it is such a key part to keeping on track with grocery spending, being organised and making sure we are eating a balanced healthy diet. By being organised like this we are more likely to avoid the very unnecessary takeaway dash because there is nothing quick and easy to prepare on those nights when we are time poor or are just a bit to tired at the end of the week.

Over the past year with the big sporting focus our grocery bill has shot up massively! This was due to eating specific meals that fueled our bodies for our sport, a different focus to 'normal' eating on the amount and type of proteins and carbs along with plenty of colourful veg not to mention the quantity (you get a bit hungry as an athlete training 10-15 hours a week whilst balancing a day job and family).

I will confess often we weren't menu planning but rather just going to the supermarket and making a loose plan as we went around. Did this work for us? 50/50 really.  Half the time we would be getting enough to see us through the week but overall our meals were not the cheapest to prepare or the quickest.  I would also often find we would be shooting past the shops midway through the week because we didn't have what we needed. I also really shudder at the amount we were spending week to week, I know most of it was a necessity for the stage we were at but as I reflect back I know if I had been a little more savvy with the planning I could have made it less expensive.  The issue for me here though was I was juggling way to many things on a day to day basis and really I was just bone weary tired but just trying to get through.

An adaption of Courgette Slice - great for lunch or post training

Once the race was all over and done with in September we came home from our big adventure and knew it was time to knuckle down.  Our grocery spend had crept back to $350 or so a week and sometimes it was ending up costing more! I wrote a few years ago a Living Series and reading back I talked about our spend then.  This is the same amount we used to spend when the kids were babies and our spending was not monitored and we dug ourselves into a bit of a deep hole.  I do NOT recommend digging deep holes!

A little treat in Italy, the Gelato's were to die for!

We made massive efforts to get our grocery bill down all those years ago and it did get down to around an average of $180-200 a week.  I know that this is not realistic for us at our current stage of life; our boys now eat twice as much (my goodness tweens eat so much! and yes they are going to get worse...bottomless pits spring to mind), I myself have to eat wheat free as much as I can due to a health issue and well lets face it, in NZ and I am sure it is the same all over, grocery prices have risen twofold in the past few years.  Have you found your grocery bill has fluctuated significantly with life changes? I'm pretty sure my Mama crystal ball is showing me what we are in for with teen boys - any advice with feeding them nutritiously and keeping them satisfied whilst on a budget is welcome!

The cost of living is becoming a nationwide issue for many.  We are a big agricultural hub and yet we find a block of butter is well over $5, it costs nearly $6 for a 3litre bottle of milk, meat is pretty pricey depending on the cut and our fruit and veges are no longer as affordable overall as they used to be.  Chuck on fuel prices nearing the $2.50 mark in some regions and it becomes super hard for most NZ'ers. We can't do anything to change this ourselves but what we can change is how we operate with our weekly grocery shop.

I have been keeping a closer eye on our spending and how this is being spread out and the biggest eye opener for our grocery bill was the fruit and veges.  Our fruit and Veges are twice the amount that we used to spend when we lived in the country.  A big reason was having our own vege garden and previously we lived in the heart of vege land with growers on our back doorstep and now we don't, so that will account for some of the fruit and veges being more expensive. It is a catch 22, we eat a well balanced diet and are very mindful of eating healthy and so fruit and veges are a mainstay of this but it's a large proportion of the overall grocery spend. Through strict planning we have very little to no wastage so we are going through it all.  This then leads into making changes in the rest of the grocery bill.

Meal prep Sunday's

So I am working over the next wee while of bringing this astronomical amount down to a figure we can live with - and our budget can live with, so we can redirect those much needed funds to where they are really needed.  This will mean breaking down each part of the grocery bill each week and getting an idea of how we are spending and where we can save. It involves making sure meal planning and sticking to shopping lists happen.

I hope if this is an issue for you also, that perhaps with this approach you can break down what you are spending your money on with your groceries. This may then assist in narrowing down where you can make cuts and therefore savings, in your grocery bill.

To be a worthwhile a goal has to be realistic, practical and achievable, otherwise it becomes to hard and you end up letting it all go out the window right? How do we begin to achieve our goal once we have identified where we can tighten up the spending?

Let's go over that in Part 2 :)

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Representing NZ & Slowing Life Back Down

I thought I would share what has been happening for us in the last year and what has brought us right back to where we started from with needing to simplify and reduce our spending :) 

The long and the short of it was that MrW and I both qualified with our cycling to race in Italy (oh my Italy! A visit here has been on my bucket list forever) and so we saved super hard to travel to Italy and represent NZ in the Masters Road Cycling Champs race in a beautiful part of the country called Varese. It was an amazing Once In A Lifetime opportunity that we grabbed with both our hands and ran with :)  Oh and we were able to take our boys to provide them with a trip that will stay with them forever. What a beautiful place it was to visit as a family.

Some say we were very lucky, I have to confess luck had nothing to do with it really, it was all down to us putting in the hard work to train, save, make compromises in other areas and do whatever we could to make it happen. It was a bit of a tough year, I had a crash at the start of winter which set me back and we had quite a bit of sickness but we managed to get there. It was such a feeling of achievement when we finally boarded the plane to Milan - for all four of us :)

Laveno, one of the seaside villages close to where we stayed

Earlier in 2017 we qualified for the World Masters race in France however we had only six months to raise the funds to travel to France to race and it meant we wouldn't be able to include our two boys in the adventure.  So we made the conscious decision to pass by France and we spent a year working hard at our training to qualify again and we focused on saving saving saving so we could make it happen the best we could.   We knew this would probably not happen for us again so we visited as much as we could in the two and a half weeks we were there.  I look back and still can't believe what we managed to fit in :)

We visited Venice, Verona, Lake Como, Florence, Monteriggioni, Pisa and we spent alot of time in our immediate surrounding areas around Lake Maggiore. The course our race was on was 130km in a big circle that went from Varese right out to the Swiss border and back in around Lake Maggiore.  We had 4 alpine climbs and it was the toughest race I have ever done! I unfortunately didn't go into race day feeling very well and in my starting bunch there was a nasty crash not far from the start on so I made the decision very early on that getting around in one piece was more important so I dropped back and rode to enjoy and savour the ride.  It's hard to describe the feeling crossing the finishing line, what an accomplishment for both of us! and to share this whole experience with our boys was the icing on the cake.

If you ever are given the opportunity to travel, then I say if you can, grab it and run! Do whatever you can to make it happen because it is such a life changing experience. I have only ever traveled once  before to Australia and so this was a real eye opener for me.

So now that this is all over and done it's time to shift our mindsets back to living simply and frugally, paying off what we need to and saving for our next dream - owning our own home.  It will be a real team effort, it's not going to be easy, things like this never are but it will be worth it.

The biggest thing to remember when working towards these big goals is to stop and take some time to Smell The Roses along the way

MrsW x

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Smelling The Roses

I love to take time and stop and smell the roses, don't you?

It's been over a year since I tried to kick start myself again with my well loved blog and you know, I just can't remember what happened to make me not come back after my last post but it must have been something of impact, either that or I wasn't really in the right place to reconnect at that time.  Funny how life works....

Have you ever found that?

I have been thinking about our life and the stage we are now in (next year we have a 'turning teen' Master *double gulp*) and my blog has been in my thoughts recently. I've been yearning for my old garden as spring has arrived for us here in NZ - oh how my garden used to bloom beautifully at this time of year. My 'Roses' mind as I call it has been waking up and letting me know that now it really is time, time to come back to the simpler things in life after we embarked on a life-changing and very grand once in a lifetime adventure earlier this year (more on that in another post). Life is like that though as I have learnt and am still learning, you cruise along one way and then something will shift, change will be created for even the smallest of reasons and it sets you off on a different path. This isn't bad, it's just what happens and unless you run with it things don't always turn out for the best.

Spring has sprung

As I sat assessing my next few steps I thought I would log in and see if over the past year I've had any readers come by. Imagine my surprise when I found a comment waiting for me from earlier this month; Thanks to my reader Heather, I really hope the next time you make the lovely loaf of bread it turns out alright with the advice I left for you :) I was considering if this blog will still be part of my journey or whether I would let it go and carry on as we are, but I don't feel entirely done yet with Smelling The Roses.

At work we are experiencing a bit of a shift in mindset, I work with a very talented bunch of people of whom many share my different passions and love for the simpler things in life, for cooking nutritious home cooked meals, for gardening and composting, for reducing and recycling waste, for sewing and crafting; all the wonderful things we used to live and breathe day in and day out in our little slice of paradise where we used to live.  I have been having some inspiring conversations recently!

I have been visiting my favourite blog every now and then, Down to Earth. I was sad to see the last time I visited that Rhonda has decided it was her time to wrap up. I definitely understand this, Rhonda has been blogging about her simple life journey for a very long time and her blog holds a wealth of information that will carry on sharing goodness to her readers. Luckily we will still get to refer to this as she is leaving the blog on the web. I would like to say a big Thank You to Rhonda, without her inspiration all the way back in 2011 I never would have come as far as I have with sharing for others and my own self to gain inspiration from. It was always a treat to grab a cuppa and visit Rhonda to see what adventures or inspiration she had to share.

Anyway, I have to go and sort dinner for my troops but I promise I will be back.  I have some dinner ideas I REALLY want to share as they have been seeing us through the past few months helping the grocery bill :)

See you all soon,


Monday, 22 May 2017

Making Do

Isn't life filled of 'I wants'? Often in this day and age our 'I wants' can be immediately obtained - money or no money, cash or plastic fantastic, our 'I wants' can be fulfilled at our wish or close to; but at what cost?

Made with love treats are the best!

When we moved into this place in the city we downsized in the size of the house and yard considerably from our house we lived in for the previous 5 years in the country but the rent of course up-sized, and quite considerably so!  The thought between us at the time of the move was that this little place would get us up to the city and the kids into schooling and a year or two down the track (and hopefully being back on two or at least one and a half incomes) we would look at finding a bigger place. Well we are at the two year mark now and for us to up-size in this rental market we would be looking at around $100 or so extra per week!  That is what we jumped up to by moving here and we could increase that much again (just) but at what cost?  We would lose any ability to save, be living month to month and we would definitely be on the back foot financially again.  So moving will not be happening at this point in our lives and so we find ourselves saying...

"We Will Just Have To Make Do"

Restraint on our part now will help us reap the rewards later.  It took us a while to learn this lesson in life but I feel we are there now (mostly) :) Have you been in this position? Gosh it's a really hard place to be isn't it?

Although it is a cute little place we now live, warm and reasonably dry, located near some lovely little beaches, close to both our workplaces and has a cosy homely feel in general, one of the things that really doesn't work in this house for us is the kitchen - it is tiny! No storage and a very small amount of bench space. I really needed to be able to make the kitchen function better to support the costs savings we need to start making again.  For the past two years it has been get in and get out as fast as we can, no stock piling groceries, only shopping weekly as that is all the space we had and I didn't enjoy being in there for hours on end like I did at our old place.

We have a lovely little deck to sit and enjoy the sun 

When we moved in we put our large fridge over an entry door and shut that off leaving the kitchen as one way in and one way out.  In the space beside the fridge we put a little storage cupboard so that we could fit in all our kitchen supplies.  This cupboard got me thinking about what we could do to help alleviate the lack of storage space for stockpiling.  So off I went down the Mitre 10 and purchased another storage cupboard for $70 - a $70 solution to saving on moving house....that's a bargain! ;) well in the least it will help us make do.

So after MrW worked his magic and put it together we placed it into the space we had in the laundry and it fitted perfectly.  We spent most of the weekend stripping the kitchen cupboards apart and re-organising everything :) Although it is now feeling a little more cluttered having the extra cupboard in the small space I am very thankful it has achieved the purpose! We were able to spread things out better, make each cupboard serve it's own purpose without overcrowding rendering it impossible to find anything and most of all we now have a cupboard that is just for stockpiling!

We went from this:

Our only food storage area and check out that jumble of plastic containers :/

To This:

A 'larder' again! Oh how I missed having one of these!

Ahhh nice and organised :) 

I can't do much about the available bench space but by keeping the benches as clear as we can of clutter it will help.  Now it's time to start shopping fortnightly if we can and begin stocking up on items we use regularly as they come on sale and lets start to reduce the grocery budget!

I celebrated by making Scones for lunch and a Banana Cake for the boys to take away on school camp this week - some happy time in the kitchen :)

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