No Meat for a Month Challenge

So this March my husband and I are really going to challenge ourselves. We’re going to give being pescatarian a go. Okay technically not ‘no meat’ cause we’ll be eating fish and shellfish etc but that’s a good start for us, who’ve never really had a vegetarian meal in our lives. A number of reasons lead ourselves to this decision. In no particular order; we hope it will be cheaper, we might eat healthier, I get to learn how to cook new recipes (cause I’m pretty tired already of just making pies and different types of chicken like, all the time) and we decided pescatarian over just good ole vegetarian because well for me I’ve never really eaten fish, and I wanted to challenge myself to be able to cook fish meals (and hopefully I’ll convince my husband to give mussels a go!)
I know what you’re thinking, going cold turkey on meat is a bad idea. I understand I probably should wean myself off it, but heck I love a good challenge. It’s not something that’s just popped into my head either, I’ve been thinking about this for a while now and in preparation I’ve scoured through my recipes books to find some great recipes that sound and look yummy. Obviously I can’t post every single recipe, but here’s just a few of the recipes I can’t wait to cook!

  • Mini Salmon and Broccoli Pies
  • Roast Butternut Squash
  • Spicy Salmon Fish Cakes
  • Prawn and mussel Paella
  • Margherita Pizza (I totally forgot I can still eat pizza, just take away any meat toppings and there you have it)
  • Asparagus and Tomato Tart
  • Mushroom Vol au vents
  • Slow cooked Potato Stew

I got all these recipes (and more!) from my favourite recipe book ‘A Year Full of Recipes’. As I start the month of March and Begin trying out these recipes, I’ll be sure to post my favourites! For now though Google will do the work for you, just type in any of the meal ideas and you’re sure to get great recipes online!

Also side note I made my first ever soup today! I have no idea why I was so anxious to try making a soup, to be honest it’s actually the easiest thing to make. Today was Butternut Squash Soup, and even if I say so myself it was uh-maze-ing. I literally just threw it together this morning in the slow cooker so it would be ready for when me and my husband came home later this afternoon. 1 chopped butternut squash, roasted in the oven for 25mins in a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper. Whilst the butternut squash was in the oven in the slow cooker I had 2 carrots chopped , 1 red onion chopped, 2 celery sticks chopped and 500ml of vegetable stock. And then simply put the roasted butternut squash in with the rest of the ingredients. That was literally it. I had it cooking on low for about 4/5hours, came home, blended it, threw some croutons on top and there it was a really tasty, healthy and (most importantly for my challenge in March) vegetarian meal that I really enjoyed. So along with any other recipes I posted earlier I am now pretty confident I could make a good few soups as well to help me through this challenge in March.

So what about you? Do you think you could give up meat for a month? Who knows you may prefer it or at the very least you’ll learn a ton more recipes (which is my goal!). Let me know if you’ve ever tried a no meat diet or even a pescatarian diet, and if you have any recipe ideas then definitely share them!

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How to save €1000 in One Month! 

 save 1000 in a month how to  save money budget expert We all want to have the security of some savings behind us for when those unexpected bills pop up; flat tire, new washing machine or even some savings for a rainy day. But a lot of us are stuck in the cycle of living pay day to pay day which is a hard routine to get out of. Maybe saving little amounts at a time doesn’t work for you because you don’t see results, or maybe you only have a short period of time to save some money up and that’s when you can set yourself big goals, A.k.a. saving €1000 in a month! 

If you have a partner and you share both your incomes together then of course this is going to be a lot easier than if you’re saving on your own. If that’s the case don’t worry just try to save €1000 in two months or a goal that’s big enough to challenge you but also doesn’t mean you’ll be living off ramen for the next while.

My husband and I decided that we needed a couple of no-spend months, just so we can build up a good amount of savings and then relax a little. So we sat down and decided that we were going to basically live off one Income. My husband’s wages every week would go into our joint bank account where all our bills comes out, including petrol money and groceries. Basically that’s how we plan to save €1000 in a month. However, of course we still had to work out how we were going to just live off one income. So here’s my top tips for saving €1000 in a month!

  1. Budget Aggressively. Work out how much you need a month/week to pay all your bills and necessities. If you need more of a guide on this then here’s a link to how to start budgeting so you’re not living Paycheck to Paycheck. Seriously try to work out how little you need to spend in a month and most importantly stick to it! I’ve often read about the 30day rule, which basically means if you want something wait for 30 days, and if you still want it after those 30 days then you can go buy it. Most of the time the desire for whatever it is you wanted to buy has passed by then, so it really narrows down impulse buys and you’re left with only purchasing the important things. Even better the 30day rule means you should have a whole month of no spending once you begin! Hence saving €1000 in a month should be easy as ABC! 
  2. Meal planning! This is something I’m pretty passionate about and here’s a more detailed post on how you can Meal Plan in 5 Simple Steps. So once you’ve budgeted a certain amount for food, simply planning your meals out can help you stick to that budget. With a meal plan you’re less likely to buy food that you’re just going to waste, and you’ll save petrol and time by planning one big shop a week instead of several smaller trips (where you end up buying things you really didn’t need in the first place). Also try different shops and compare prices, sometimes you’ll find a better deal in the bigger supermarkets in the sales over a typically cheaper shop like Lidl or Aldi.  
  3. Entertainment Now here’s where things can really make a difference. If you’re the type of person who lives for the weekend or loves going out for dinner with your friends. Instead of going out and spending €30 each on dinner and a glass of wine, why not invite a friend round and learn how to cook a meal together. You can even split the cost if you ask them to pick up a few of the ingredients. You’ll get to spend some quality time with your friends doing something new together and save a pretty penny too! Or if you’re a big movie buff and are always forking out on expensive cinema tickets and the crazy popcorn prices, try going to matinee showings which are nearly always half price. Big tip: If you eat beforehand you’re not as tempted to hand over your life savings for a small Coke and popcorn. You could cut the cinema alltogether and still get your movie fix by signing up to Netflix to save even more bucks. Another idea Is having a pot luck Dinner, invite friends round but have them bring round a dish each. You get loads of food, and even better the pressure is off you to buy, prepare and cook everything! There’s loads of ways to cut back in this area! Just find your weak points and brainstorm cheaper alternatives. 
  4. Travel. Here’s another area where you can cut back alot on. Running two cars is very expensive: Fact. Both me and my husband are young drivers so the insurance is sky high for us, not to mention money for petrol, tax, maintence and repairs. If you have two cars and its a necessity then by all means run the two cars. For my husband and I we didn’t have a notion how we were both supposed to get to work with only one car, especially because I start work an hour earlier than him and finish 2 and a half hours earlier than him. That’s when compromise kicks in. He compromises getting up early with me at 7a.m. And brings me to work, and for the days when he can’t collect me I have to compromise and hang around work for a couple of hours until he’s finished. We’ve both worked out ways to try and make the most of this time though. I spend the extra hours waiting after work writing blog ideas or doing research (a.k.a. Spending hours on Pinterest looking up kittens). Although this may not be ideal for us, we’ve made it work for now at least. If there was a bus stop near our home then we’d definitely consider using it more. Public transport can be a great way to save money if you’re trying to go car free. Once you start using buses/trains/trams you learn the routes and schedules, and nowadays you can get almost anywhere with public transport! 
  5. Don’t get discouraged. The worst thing you can do is give up before you’ve even gotten started. Saving doesn’t come naturally to a lot of us in fact it could be your worst nightmare. So don’t set yourself a goal that’s unattainable, you’ll only disappoint yourself later. You have to start off small and build your way up to be a pro. So if you’re not ready for the challenge of €1000 in a month then set yourself another goal that you know you can accomplish. Everybody is different and we all use different techniques in order to save, so makes a savings goal that’s personal for you and figure out what strategies work best in your circumstances. Once you start you’ll never look back! 

But remember saving isn’t about how much money you have, or how much money you wish you had. It’s a personal savings account for you and your circumstances.  Someone who is saving for a deposit on a house is going to be very different to someone who is saving up for a holiday. We all have our reasons but let yours be to give you peace of mind to know that your wages aren’t going down the drain. Now you can sit back, relax and make the most of your spare time! 

Happy Saving! 

    5 Simple Steps to Easy Meal Planning! 

    5 Simple Steps to Easy Meal Planning? Really? Yes I know what you’re thinking, ‘Meal Planning‘ and ‘Easy‘ don’t belong in the same sentence. But guess what? It does now. Meal planning is definitely something that takes a little bit of time and a bit of dedication, but after doing it for a couple of weeks, you honestly won’t even know how you ever made it through the week without it. This is also one of the easiest ways to save money. All of a sudden you’re not going to and from the shops 4 times a week, you have cupboards full of food that is ready to be made into a meal and wasting food because it went out of date tends to not happen, like ever. 

    Food is one of those things that everybody needs, and you’re always going to have to spend money on it. So why not take control of that, otherwise you could be wasting hundreds every year on wasted food and take outs. Not only that but without a properly planned diet bad eating habits become your worst enemy. Alas, not all is lost, I’ve given you 5 Simple Steps to get you Meal Planning like a Pro

    1. Make a list of all the meals you love and other recipes you’d like to try. Gather as many ideas as you can so you have a great go-to list of dinner ideas. Scour through recipe books and if you’re cooking for a family then get the family together and share ideas. Including your family in the process can help make meal planning a breeze and placing your meal plan somewhere for everyone to see in the home is a must! My husband and I leave our weekly meal plan on the fridge so at a glance we can see what we’re going to be eating that night, which makes meal times something to really look forward to, instead of dreading the thought of trying to come up with something to eat.
    2. List the ingredients for each meal. This part is optional, but for those who want to be super organised and often forget ingredients whilst shopping this can really help. Maybe write down all the ingredients you need for each meal on flash cards, on your phone or anywhere that is convinient for you. This will help when it comes to creating your shopping list because you already know all the ingredients you need for each meal, hence forgeting something whilst shopping will be a thing of the past!
    3. Work out how far ahead you want your meal plan to be. Are you planning a week at a time? 2 weeks? 5 days? Whatever your time scale, work it out. I like to work week by week, simply because fresh food doesn’t last that long, but if you’re into monthly shopping and like to prepare in bulk and freeze a lot of your meals then that’s fine too! Everyone is different and so it may take a couple of go’s before you get it figured out, which is completely fine! 
    4. Now pick the same number of meals to match the number of days you’re shopping for. And remember if you don’t want to, you don’t necessarily have to assign a meal for a specific day. I like to pick 7meals for 7days and then be able to pick freely which meal I’m in the mood for or go in the order of which ingredients go out of date first, that way I’m cutting back on the amount of food I’d be wasting through the week too! Sometimes after  I shop and I know the use by dates of the veggies and meat etc I will assign a meal to a night then. 
    5. Now create your shopping list! The first few times I was doing grocery shopping I found myself going up and down the aisles multiple times because I kept forgetting things on the list that where in the same area as each other . Now I try to keep dairy food together on my list, canned food listed together and meat listed together and so on and so on. Don’t forget to take into consideration enough food for the week for lunches or breakfast too (Of course if you want to make a plan for breakfast lunch and dinner then go ahead! The more planning the better!)

    And there you have it! That’s how easy meal planning is. And if you’re like me then obviously you have to have a stack of great stationary to help out with all your organisation. Personally I use a range of stationary from Kikki.K.

    Amazing Dinner Planner and handy perforated ‘to buy’ section:   

    Meal Planner for Pros:
     Shopping List for the Super Organiser: 

    I know, cute stationary right? Anyways back to the main point, don’t be afraid of meal planning. Once you start you’ll never go back, and once you get the hang of it, planning your meals out becomes an ease. Let me know how you plan your meals out in the comments! 🙂 

    How to stop living Paycheck to Paycheck! 

    how to stop living paycheck to paycheck

    Budgets….bluergh!

    Who needs one of those?….Wellll if we’re honest we all do actually, in some form at least. We live in a world where money seems to be ‘the be all and end all‘, but wouldn’t it be great if it didn’t have to be?

    One way you can stop worrying about money so much is by having a Budget. It takes the stress out of bills/debts or savings because you know you already have everything accounted for and so you can spend time on the more important things.

    I’m going to share with you how my husband and I personally manage all of our expenses and how you can too! (Bear in mind this is super easy to do! the hard part is STICKING TO IT!)

    So here’s a step by step guide to help you start your budgeting adventure:

    1. Work out your Monthly Expenses

    That’s right, go grab a pen and paper, and sit down with your spouse (if applicable) and together work out every bill that needs to be paid in a month e.g. Rent, Car Insurance, Pet Insurance, Electricity, Mobile Phones, Internet, TV etc.

    2. Other Miscellaneous Payments

    Now include in your Monthly Expenses anything else you need to spend money on during the month that aren’t necessarily ‘Bills’ but still something you must spend money on, such as Groceries, Petrol, Clothes.

    3. Add up all the Monthly Expenses

    Okay so here’s the scary part, total up all of the amounts you’ve written down and minus it from how much you earn in a month. Hopefully, you’ll find that you have some extra money left over. If not, then changes need to be made.

    Start by cutting back on unnecessary expenses. Clothing is something I’ve tried to work on dramatically, after feeling the urge to purge my wardrobes I decided to invest in a book. That doesn’t sound too amazing until I tell you I purchased ‘The life-changing magic of tidying up’ by Marie Kondo. No, I didn’t need a book to tell me how to purge my wardrobes but I did need a system and I had heard good reviews about this book. It’s safe to say that it got me motivated. I’ve dramatically cut down the number of clothing items I own. It’s still not perfect but it’s 100% better. If you want to save money, in the case of clothes and material possessions I definitely suggest first clearing and sorting through what you already own. This process lends itself to appreciation and it quantifies in your mind just how much stuff you already have. Now when I purchase an item I try to remember what I already own and where this purchase would live in my house. I’m a big believer in trying to buy second hand first. Not only do you give items a second lease of life but in the case of clothing, you also reduce your impact in the fast fashion industry. Save money, save your time, save the planet…okay that last one is a stretch but every little helps.

    Transport can be another area where money goes to die. Between petrol, insurance, tax, road safety tests, breakdowns, car washes, and those little green pine trees you hang from the rearview mirror, they cost a lot. Yes, you can walk more and use public transport, but if you already own a car you’re going to have to pay for a car anyway and also pay for bus tickets etc. You can at least focus on keeping your car well maintained and hopefully cut down on unexpected breakdowns.

    Food is another area where you can cut expenses. For example, I used to buy a lot more food than I needed every time I’d go grocery shopping for me and my husband. A lot of it went to waste. So to make changes I cut back and started meal planning, so now I know what and how much to buy. I even make extra portions some nights so I can freeze it and reheat it next week.

    What can also make a big difference is doing one big shop a week instead of loads of smaller trips- saves money on food and petrol, so it’s a win-win. Some might call this lazy but I’ve started to do my grocery shopping online. I didn’t think it would make a big difference but it really has. Some months during the year I go meat-free, I’ve been trying to make more conscious decisions regarding my consumption of meat. Buying my shop online has made me very aware of the food I’m buying, it feels less impulsive and more purposeful and planned. I don’t get tempted by cheap meat offers, I just search for organic or free range and that’s all I allow myself to see and buy. Choosing meat-free alternatives saves you a lot of money and you get to experiment with some new recipes. If you are anything like me I tend to eat the same meals over and over again so sometimes change is very welcome.

    You might even want to consider getting a side job or turning your hobby into a small business. A little bit of money on the side can be very helpful to get your savings started, or if you have to save for something in a shorter period of time. I’ve enjoyed working part-time from home as a virtual assistant, let me know if you want to know more about running your own virtual assistant business below and I can write a post or we can chat.

    4. Save, Save, Save!

    So once you have your monthly expenses equal less than your total income then you’re on the right track! All you have to do now is work out a system that makes you save as much as that extra cash as you can! This will help you stop living paycheck to paycheck and build up a healthy amount of savings for those unexpected bills.

    What sort of a System should I use?

    You need to find a system that works for YOU. My biggest piece of advice is to set yourself a very attainable goal at first, you’ll fall in love with the feeling of accomplishment and hopefully, stick to your saving routine.

    Here’s how we stopped living Paycheck to Paycheck!

    My system is actually very simple, I’m not a big fan of categorizing absolutely everything but Monzo has been a very big help. (Monzo is an online back that both my husband and I use. There are probably very similar bank accounts but that’s just what we use.) Monzo lets you make loads of different money pots, we have one for rent, food, petrol, emergency fund etc. As soon as we get paid, we move whatever money needs to go into each category, the rest we leave in our main account pot.

    The game for the rest of the month is too see how much we can save, instead of racing to spend our money. Since we have separated out the money we need for the month, including our savings, the money left in our current account is quite low, but just enough so we don’t feel like we’re completely broke.

    In effect, we pretend as if we are living paycheck to paycheck although, in reality, we are building up a separate savings account without really even realizing it!

    This is what works for us because some weeks we need to spend more and others less which of course is normal! A budget shouldn’t feel restraining, and if it does, then you may have to go over your expenses again and work out if they are a ‘need‘ or a ‘want‘.

    A budget should give you peace of mind that you have all the money you need to cover your bills and should help you get on track to build up some healthy savings.

    But remember money isn’t everything

    It’s true! Money isn’t everything! This should simply help you take debts and bills off your mind so you can go enjoy life a little less stress-free! Rethinking your view on possessions can really help you if you’re struggling to stop spending. Even if you have all the latest gadgets or the most fashion-forward clothes, that won’t result in happiness but understanding that money is just money can make you focus on the more important things. Budgeting can help you learn to live within your means and help you understand the real worth of money and help it go a lot further even when you’re living on less.

    What’s your biggest struggle when it comes to saving? Share in the comments below!