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Top Money Saving and Comping Tips from a 21 year-old Student keen to make my limited budget stretch the semester!

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Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Supermarket Swaps

Supermarket Savings: Simple switches to save money on your shopping

Every time I go to the shops I find myself buying the same old things and then being surprised at the same old same xpensive bill at the end. Sound familiar? Well, there are some simple ways to save the pennies and pounds each week, and one of them is to shop smarter. I always shop around for the best bargains, and places like Home Bargains, B&M and Poundland/PoundWorld are brilliant places to do top up shops. However, as they aren't always close by, and don't always stock everything you need, I have decided to make some supermarket swaps (focusing on Asda to keep things simple) to see if buying cheap really does mean sacrificing on flavour...

1) Tomato Ketchup
Okay, I thought I'd start with the big one. 'It has to be Hein....' yes yes, I know. I thought so too. But just bare with me here. When I first picked up the 42p bottle (compared to £1.48 for Branston or £1.50 for Heinz equivalent size) I was dubious. I thought it would be watery and tasteless and just...not ketchup. Now, I am one of these people who can eat ketchup with just about anything so this was an important one.

That night as I cooked up my chips (a classic with ketchup, right?), I was still doubtful. However, when I squeezed the tomato-ey goodness out of the bottle, I was pleasantly surprised at how thick it was! On top of that, the flavour is really pretty similar to Heinz. There are no great differences, and certainly none worth paying over a pound more every time!

Saving: £1.08

2) Diluting Juice

Time for another BIG BRAND, and another one that I consume a lot. Like, every day, a few times a day. So a saving on this one would be brilliant! I felt safe with my favourite flavour (apple and blackcurrant) and pleased to see that for a similar amount of double concentrate squash the Asda Smart Price came in at just 42p (they seem to like that price) or 5.6p/100ml compared to my usual Robinsons at £1.49, or 14.9p/100ml. I was hopeful, I really was. But deep down I knew, as soon as I diluted that juice and it came out more of a pink than a purple, this wouldn't be the same. And I was right.

I am sorry Asda. But Robinsons wins. The Asda Smart Price just didn't quite get that rich flavour correct, opting more for sweetness to flavour it than, well, flavour! However much I wanted to save on this, Robinsons is worth the money.

Saving: £0.00

3) Marmite/Yeast Extract

Now, I know this one will divide readers, not because I used an Asda Own Brand, but because of the Marmite controversy. Any readers who wish to skip this section purely because they dislike Marmite so much they can't cope with me describing its rich, luscious flavour, you may. I won't hold it against you. Too much.
Anyyyyyway, back to the savings. I have only recently tried Marmite (I know, have I been living under a rock?) but have quickly fallen in love within our 4 month relationship. So was I going to cheat on Marmite so soon into the relationship? Well, just for you dear readers, yes. Yes I was. 
With Marmite coming in at a hefty £2.35 for 250g, no wonder it's got the nation split down the middle. I instead decided to try the Asda Chosen By You 'Yeast Extract' (apparently Smart Price Marmite isn't a thing) at £1.88. The difference I noticed was the consistency, but this was a good difference. The Asda Yeast Extract was far, far easier to spread, and was much less sticky than Marmite, something which I much preferred. Other than that though, no real differences, and I have decided I actually prefer this to Marmite. So all you Marmite haters out there, there's hope for you yet...try Yeast Extract, it's toooootalllly not the same thing (mwa ha ha).

Saving: £0.47 

4) Beans - Reduced Salt and Sugar

If you are a regular blog reader of mine (hello, you lovely lot, comment below so I can express my thanks) you will know about my slight love of baked beans. No it's not weird, it's just a life choice, okay? I have, however, been trying to cut down on the amount of salt and sugar in my diet and so have been trying the Heinz 50% less sugar variety of beans. Now, these do taste different from normal beans, but not horrendously so, and I quickly got used to the difference. If you are wanting to know the best normal bean to try, check out my blog on baked bean recipes

For some reason, and I find this a lot with diet or 'reduced' foods, these are more expensive than normal foods, but fear not, there are still savings to be had. I compared the classic brand Heinz at 
75p a can to the Asda Chosen by You at 32p a can, which is, refreshingly, the same as their normal Chosen By You beans. Thanks Asda for supporting us in our attempts to be healthy!

But the thanks to Asda in this scenario stops there. These beans were overloaded with sweeteners, perhaps to make up for the lack of sugar and salt, resulting in my favourite savoury treat becoming....sweet. I struggle with sweet foods in the morning, and so when I went to have my favourite hangover breakfast of beans on toast, I felt a little worse afterwards due to how sweet it was. So not a win for the supermarket own. HOWEVER, that's not to say that there is a cheaper brand that does it well. Branston comes in at 62p a can, not a huge saving, but a saving all the same, and it comes much closer to the Heinz flavour.

And for all of you who just love normal beans, salt and all, the Asda Chosen By You is a winner, beating the Asda Smart Price beans and even the Heinz in a hidden taste test with my parents (hee hee hee).

Saving: Reduced Sugar: 13p
Saving: Normal Beans: 43p

5) Bran Flakes

As a creature of habit, I eat bran flakes every day (with a sprinkling of muesli on top, in case you wondered), so a saving on this would be a big bonus. For this experiment I tried two types of bran flakes (all 750g): Asda Smart Price (88p), Asda Chosen By You (£1.38), both compared to the classic Kellogs (£2.79):

Asda Smart Price
At just 88p, this was an instant contender, as long as the taste matched up. Now that I am used to the plain and simple packaging, I realise how little of an issue it is. It keeps the food just as fresh, just with less pictures to keep me entertained at breakfast time. I found these a little thicker and crunchier than normal bran flakes, which is an instant bonus. No changes to the flavour at all, I really struggled to find any critique of this one at all. Thumbs up all round!

Asda Chosen By You
As I have said previously, I cannot stomach sweet foods in the morning, and perhaps this has given me an ultra sensitivity to it, as I found these much sweeter than either the Smart Price or the Kellogs. The texture was just the same as Kellogs, but I really wasn't a fan of the flavour at all, and ended up giving the remainder of the box away to my dad, before promptly popping off to buy a box of 88p Smart Price cereal - the clear winner.

Saving: £1.91

The verdict

It just goes to show, a couple of swaps a week can really add up, these 5 examples saved me almost £5 in one small shop, and I will certainly be trying more next time after this success! Just remember, just because it tastes different, doesn't mean that it tastes bad! I found that after a while I git used to the other diluting juice and have added it to my weekly shop! If you have any particular supermarkets you want me to try out, or any opinions on the products I tested, just comment below or tweet me @LaurieBeat

Happy Saving!

(Note: All opinions are my own and all products were bought and chosen by me)

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

I've Bean Eating...Baked Beans. Baked Bean Meal Ideas.

Okay, in advance I warn you about the bean puns I will be making. In Heinz-site it wasn't a good idea. (come on, that was funny)

I love baked beans. Like I'm beginning to think it could be an issue. I feel they go well with any meal. People say 'once you pop you can't stop' with Pringles, but I feel this should apply to baked beans. And anyway, they are healthier. With your average 1/2 can of Heinz containing one of your 5-a-day and plenty of low salt and sugar varieties available, these don't have to be a one off treat. But for me, the skint student and avid money saver, I've bean (heehee) trying out the cheaper own brand varieties in an attempt to find one that can match the expense of Heinz or Branston (depending which team you are on...because everyone is loyal to a baked bean).

Now, there are two levels of supermarket bean...the value range and the supermarket own range, with only about 4p difference per can (28p and 32p respectively). This 4p does make a difference, and I would recommend splashing out, and treating yourself to those 32p beans. Crazy, I know. The reason for this is that the cheaper ones, in most of the places I tried (Tesco and Morrisons particularly) the beans were much harder. This can be reduced by cooking them longer but I just felt overall the supermarket range (especially Tesco) were nicer. In a blind taste test, I got interesting results (shout out to my parents who were guinea pigs for this blog, they've bean good to me). My mother is a die hard brandist, and her bean team is Branston. My dads is Heinz. You can imagine the family rift. I cooked up many a batch of baked beans and left them unlabeled for them to test. The winner? Asda own brand 32p beans, which my dad thought was Heinz. Result. It just goes to show that saving 43p per can tastes doubly good. 

So now that I identified the best bean, it was time to get creative. The classic of beans on toast (with a little cheese and marmite personally) is a timeless food staple that reminds me of my childhood and now of student life. However I feel like this, along with the comforting baked tatty (potato for those non-Scots among us) are just the beginning. And so I introduce to you, my top 3 bean dishes:

1) Beans and Rice

This is such an awesome comfort food. I would like to point out that the lovely structure of my meal above didn't last. I quickly mixed it all up into a delicious mixture of rice beans and veg all happily living together (sorry for those of you who hate when different foods touch, this probably isn't the blog post for you). As you can see, another way I save money (and calories) is to bulk up your rice with peas and grated carrot, adding flavour and filling you up in the process. Anyway, back to the beans. This combination is one I love and is so super cheap. I use half a can of beans at a time, and put the other half in a sealed container in the fridge (just make sure you eat it up within a couple of days) tehrefore costing 16p per portion. This meal can be changed up even more by adding spices to the beans as they are cooking or, if like me you are team Marmite, some of that deliciousness. A definite love,

2) Beans and Pasta

Okay, I admit, this one took me a while to make as the idea of it just felt weird. Even now thinking about it, part of me isn't sure about it. But as I look at the notes I took when I ate it, apparently I liked it. The sauce just coats the pasta nicely and the beans add a nice stodge, perfect for the winter months, when comfort food is life. This also works really well if you get the beans that have sausages in them, although maybe not if you're on a health kick, which can also be found in the savers range. Alternatively, strips of ham accompany the beans really well.

3) Beans on Pizza

Growing up, we had shop bought pizza with beans once a week (the creatures of habit we are, every Monday night). This is a great way to save money rather than having the take away variety, and tend to be far healthier as you then go back and cook it in the oven rather than how they cook it in a pizza place. When I was walking round my local Tesco, I saw these mini pizzas (perfect for one person) for a mere £1.60. Not for one, for four. However, they came plain, so I decided to see if I could save money by buying cheap plain pizzas and jazzing them up with things I already had. By combining these two challenges, my bean pizza has ended up on this post. I found a pepper needing eaten up, some soft cheese and, of course, some beans. For this, I would recommend putting the beans in the center of the pizza so that they don't pour over the edges, and trying to get mainly beans without the sauce for the topping (that sauce will be lovely with the remainder of the beans as a side, trust me). Then put in the oven and cook for a couple more minutes than it says on the packet, just to make sure its all cooked through. The result reminds me of the cheesy beanos you used to get in school (anyone else remember these? Comment below if you do :)) and a combination I wish I had tried years before.

So there you have it, my 3 new favourite ways to eat baked beans, for only 16p a portion! If you have any thoughts or any unusual ways that you like baked beans, let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading, and feel free to follow me on Twitter @LaurieBeat :)