Christmas on a budget

This year will be my first hosting a Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve and since I don’t have a lot of money to spend on the food, it’s going to be a challenge. I’ve set a budget of 35£ for 5 people, which seems only reasonable and is a budget that will give me leftovers for a few days after. My guests will be my next-door neighbors and they’ve never tried traditional Finnish food before. The dinner will consist of a smorgasbord of a few selected, traditional Finnish Christmas dishes such as;

  • Finnish meatballs – pretty much the same as Swedish ones
  • Mini sausages – they’re called Prinskorv which translates to Prince sausages
  • Beet salad – a cold salad with beets, apples, pickles, carrots, red onion and cooked potatoes
  • Janssons Frestelse – a hot casserole called Jansson’s Temptation in English and is a dish with potatoes, onions, anchovies, cream and spices.
  • Mild smoked salmon – simple, tasty and very traditional.
  • Boiled potatoes – we’re a potato eating nation just like Ireland and Sweden
  • Julskinka – The Christmas Ham, cooked in the oven for a few hours before it’s coated with mustard and egg and sprinkled with breadcrumbs and then roasted at a high temperature. The ham is left to cool down and served cold in thick slices.
  • Ägg med gubbröra – hardboiled eggs with “old-man’s-mix” of anchovies, mayo, crème fraiche, chives and a few other things.
  • Morotslåda – a carrot casserole with rice and sprinkled with breadcrumbs that’s then cooked in the oven.
  • Potatislåda – it’s pretty much sweetened mash that’s cook in the oven. It’s sweetened with some treacle.
  • Peas – no words are necessary, it’s warm peas.
  • Toffee – hard toffee with chopped hazelnuts
  • Fresh fruits
  • Nuts and dried fruits
  • Aladdin – a Swedish box of mixed chocolates that’s always had after dinner
  • Twist – a bag of mixed chocolates and sweets
  • Merci – you know what this is, it’s more chocolate

All of this at a maximum cost of 35£, which isn’t that difficult really. The ham was the most expensive purchase at 25£, but that was bought a long time ago, so I’m not adding it to the cost. If you choose to do so then the total cost would rise to 60£, which would still be cheap for five people and a few days of food. Plus, the little sausages were given to me as a gift by my aunt when she visited me almost two months ago – not cost for them. A lot of the condiments – such as mustard, ketchup, salt, pepper, spices – are already in my cabinets and will not be purchased which will further lower my out of pocket expenses a bit too.

I will be posting all the costs as they come up since I’m not buying everything at once. I’m very allowed to use coupons, reduced items and any other methods to save money. Reduced items can be a huge savior and it has: I’ve bought all the herbs and the smoked salmon reduced and simply put them in the freezer, with the ham, until it’s time to use them. The herbs I chopped before freezing just to ease the process a bit.

I’ll start a separate thread for the expenses of the Christmas smorgasbord.

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Sorry for not posting!

I’m sorry for not having posted in a while, it’s just that I’ve been VERY busy the last week and a half! I just came home from London (UK) where It’s been a few crazy days.

I’ve bought a house Dover at an auction in Maidstone West and it’s an amazing feeling. It’s my first auction and I had no idea whether or not I would get what I wanted – but I did. So, I’m moving next month probably, if the paperwork and payment gets through in time.

While I was in London I managed to do all of my gift shopping for Christmas, without going over budget. Plus I had time to squeeze in two musicals too; Les Misèrables and Wicked, all in four days! 

Now I’m really tired and I’m going to bed, so that I can start cleaning the apartment here in Stockholm tomorrow and do a bit of the paperwork for my new home.

Have a nice weekend folks and happy holidays!

Gingerbread recipe!

I’ve just made gingerbread for Christmas thought I would share my recipe with you. It’s a basic recipe that tastes really good on its own, but you can definitely play around with the spice mix a bit. I eliminated the dry, grounded bitter orange peel because I have a severe allergy to citrus fruits. Remember that this recipe takes a bit of time to make since the dough need to rest for 24 hours before you actually make the cakes.
Ingredients:

  • 125gr butter
  • 3 tbsp dark syrup 
  • 3/4 dl water
  • 2dl granulated sugar 
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate 
  • 2tsps cinnamon 
  • 2tsps dry ginger powder
  • 2tsps bitter orange peel
  • 1 tsp clove
  • 8dl flour

Instructions:

  1. Measure the water, syrup and sugar in a small pot and bring it to a boil. Boil for about 1 minute and the put it aside to cool. 
  2. Put the butter into the pot and allow it to melt while the pot cools down. 
  3. Measure all the dry ingredients in a cake mixer, with the bread hook or cookie hook on. 
  4. Once the butter has melted, and the pot has cooled of a bit, whisk everything together a bit.
  5. Put the liquid into the cake mixer and start it. First on low and the turn it up to medium.
  6. Wrap the dough in cling film and let it rest in the fridge for about 24 hours.
  7. Before you start rolling out the dough, put the oven on 200 degrees Celsius, 390 Fahrenheit.
  8. Roll out the dough and use different types of shapes to make the cookies.
  9. Bake the cookies in the oven for 3-5 minutes at 200 degrees centigrade.

This recipe makes about 100-150, depending on how thick you roll the dough (and how much dough you eat 😉)

Today’s Christmas haul!

So this week my local ICA shop has some amazing deals on baking stuff, and so I had to take advantage with all the holidays coming up. 

  • 2x2kg flour 1.50€
  • 2x1kg butter 3€
  • 10 eggs 1€
  • Muffin forms 50c/pack
  • 4 tubes of toothpaste 4€ 
  • 2 bottles of shampoo 2€
  • 4 packs of freezer bags 2.50€

The butter, eggs and flour will come in handy when I start my Christmas baking next month!

How to save on holiday foods!

What you serve at your Christmas dinner depends on where you live, as well as when you celebrate it – on the 24th or the 25th of December. You might nog even celebrate Christmas, you might have Chanukka or some other holiday. But there will be food and it can often cost a lot of money to buy. How many of us doesn’t curse at the expenses of food during regular weeks? Imagine the costs during a major holiday. If you want to save, like I do, or can’t really afford the food – but still want to give your family a nice meal – then planning, coupons and the weekly ad will take you a long way. I’m going to give some general tips and then post some links to coupon sites.

I’m using Christmas as an example since I celebrate it, but the tips and tricks can be applied to any holiday.

 

Tips:

  • Like when you’re buying the holiday gifts, planning is everything. If you haven’t planned anything then you’re going to end up overspending, miscalculating dishes for the amount of people present, multiple and unnecessary trips to the shops.
  • Start planning any dinners/lunches where your extended family will attend at least 3-4 weeks in advance. Plan what dishes you will be serving, what the ingredients are and how much you need to make of each dish.
  • Remember to plan for the side dishes, condiments, snacks, sweets and drinks! It’s easy to remember mustard when you sit there at the dinner table and want some.
  • Lists are everything! Make lists of what you need to buy and group the ingredients after what type of food they are, for example:
    • Fruits
    • Vegetables
    • Condiments
    • Baking goods
    • Meats
  • When you make the lists, make sure to separate them buy shop chain as well! Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Aldi, Lidl, Tesco, Walmart, ICA, COOP, you name it!
  • Will anyone be staying be staying with you, other than your closest family (spouse and children)? They need food too!
  • Will it be a buffet, formal dinner or a regular meal? Each have their own advantage, but I’d recommend some type of buffet.
  • If you choose to have a buffet, first decide on what dishes you’re going to be serving or assign a dish to each guest (if you’re having them). If guests are bringing some of the dishes, you all save on food!
  • Shops usually start marketing their Christmas food at least 6 weeks before Christmas. Take advantage of this and start buying what you know you need. Some things we always have at Christmas, every single year, so why not buy them now and tick them off your list?
  • Always check the weekly ads in the shops closest to you! More often or not they have one or two Christmas foods on sale every week leading up to Christmas, make sure you buy them and always buy the full allowance. For example: you have a baked ham on your Christmas table and one week your shop allows you to buy 2 good sized hams for 10€. It’s one purchase per household. Buy those two hams, even if you know that you’ll only eat one. You can cook the other one too and have dinners and lunches for a rather long time after, if you freeze it.
  • Remember that manufacturers often put out a lot of coupons for their products during the holidays, since they want you to buy their products. Take a few coupons and save them. You should of course use some of them for the items that you need at the moment, if it gives you a good price, but after Christmas the shops often drops their prices to make room for new products. That means that you can score some incredible deals, and even freebies or money makers, if you took a couple of extra coupons when there were some.
  • If your shop allows overage – use it to buy the things that you can’t get coupons for
  • READ YOUR WEEKLY ADS LIKE IT’S THE BIBLE, PEOPLE!
  • Take a couple of hours to surf around for coupons and discounts and print as many coupons as you’re allowed.
  • Your shops usually have some kind of loyalty card. Make sure to sign up for that. That way you get instore coupons, deals and rebates. The instore coupons can be combined with a manufacturer’s coupon and make a product free, close to free or a money maker.

 

Links:

Coupons.com (US): https://www.coupons.com/

Grocery Coupon Network (US): https://www.grocerycouponnetwork.com/

Be frugal (US): http://www.befrugal.com/printable/restaurant/

Retail me not (US): https://www.retailmenot.com/coupons/fastfood

Coupon Mama (UK): https://couponmamauk.co.uk/

Money Saving Experts (UK): http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/deals/supermarket-coupons

Extreme Couponing (UK): http://www.extremecouponing.co.uk/

Extreme Couponing & Deals (UK): https://excoupuk.com/

Super Savvy me (UK): https://www.supersavvyme.co.uk/offers/coupon

Hot UK deals (UK): http://www.hotukdeals.com/groceries

Hip2Save (US): http://hip2save.com/

Southern Savers (US): http://www.southernsavers.com/

Deal shopping holiday gifts

The holiday season for me, and millions of other people, can be very stressful and puts a strain on a lot of peoples’ economy – unnecessarily. Whatever holiday you celebrate in December, gifts and good food are big parts of them. Studies show that we argue, fight and feel emotionally worse during the Christmas and Chanukka seasons, for loads of reasons. But, with good planning, and a few easy tips and tricks, you can avoid a lot of tears and sleepless nights. There are good and easy ways to save money and don’t go into debt or ruin to have a nice holiday.

First I’m going to discuss how to get nice gifts for you family and friends, tips & tricks and then put out some useful links to different discount websites, price comparing sites etc. I’ll get to food in my next blog post, since I suspect that this will be a rather long post.

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Gifts

For me, buying gifts is the most stressful of all! I celebrate Christmas and I’ve already started asking my friends and family what they want for Christmas, just so I won’t be stressed the week leading up to it. There are a million things to be done anyway and spreading out your shopping is a smart move. Let me give you a few tips that you can use:

  • Start planning NOW! Sit down with your spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend/children (if you have either one) and plan the holiday. Let you kids be part of the plans from an early age, they’ll love it!
  • Spread out you gift shopping – you don’t have to do everything at once. Do a few every week and always bring a list with you to cross check and cross off what you’ve bought. That way you won’t buy the same thing twice. The same thing goes for food.
  • WRITE lists of what everyone wants – you WON’T remember what your family and friends want.
  • Start asking the ones you plan on buying presents for what they want already, it pays to be early. Again, if you ask late then you’ll have to stress buy everything at once and that’s not good.
  • Order of the internet or try finding what you want on clearance. That saves huge amounts of money. Take some time to surf around and compare prices at different websites. Also, many websites give you free shipping if you order over a certain amount, so if you can – collect a few presents from the same site to get over that amount, providing that all the gifts are at a relatively good price.
    • There are more often than not codes for free shipping. Hunt one down!
  • DO NOT use the deal: “Buy now – pay in 3 months”. That costs extra money and could set you into debt. Only shop with money you have NOW, or don’t buy it.
  • If you have a stockpile at home, then you can make cheap gift baskets from that. Put together a basket and wrap it in a festive crepe paper and some beautiful satin bands, and give it away to relatives, recently married friends etc.
  • A gift basket from your stockpile can contain so many combinations, for example
    • Diapers, pacifiers, baby wipes, baby clothes that were on sale, laundry detergent, baby food and a little stuffed toy for the new parents, or parents-to-be.
    • Laundry detergent, washing up liquid, soap, shampoo, cleaning supplies etc. and other household items to the friend or relative who’s just bought a home or moved away to go to college and might be a little strapped for cash.
    • Pasta, marinara sauce, baked beans, tins, gift cards to food shops, travel sized shampoos and soap, coupons and other things to the person who’s just started studying at college or the university.
  • Set a budget and stick to it. Say: “This year our budget for presents is going to be X. How can I/we stick to it?”
  • Have savings account for holiday expenses just like you have one for vacation, emergencies and pension. Put a little sum in every week/month, depending on how often you get paid, and you’ll have a good start. This account can be used for other holidays as well and not just the ones in December. Just remember to always have money there!
  • Homemade food is always appreciated. If you have a garden full of various fruits, berries and vegetables, then do something with them and give away jams, juices, pickles etc.
  • Decide on how many gifts each person is going to have, for example: each of my children will have 4 each, my spouse 3, I’m getting 3 from myself and every other relative will get 1 gift each. That limits it somewhat.
  • I like to leave a gift for the mailman and the guys who empty my garbage every week. Usually I buy a couple of nice chocolate boxes, wrap them and write a card. Then I go out when I see them and wish them a happy holiday.
  • Hunt for coupons, rebates and discount codes. There are a million of them during the holidays.
  • Be aware that some shops actually mark up their prices a lot before the 25th of December and then dump them for the sales.

 

Useful links:

Pricerunner (UK): http://www.pricerunner.co.uk/

Pricerunner (US): http://www.pricegrabber.com/

Pricerunner (SWE): http://www.pricerunner.se/

Deal Extreme: http://www.dx.com/?Utm_rid=16341893&Utm_source=affiliate

Amazon (UK); https://www.amazon.co.uk/

Amazon (US): https://www.amazon.com/

Voucher codes (UK): https://www.vouchercodes.co.uk/

My Voucher Codes (UK): https://www.myvouchercodes.co.uk/

Missguided Voucher Codes (UK): https://www.vouchercodes.co.uk/missguided.co.uk

Official Coupon Code (US): https://www.officialcouponcode.com/

Voucher Cloud (US): https://www.vouchercloud.net/

Groupon (US): https://www.groupon.com/

Groupon (UK): https://www.groupon.co.uk/

Coupons (US): https://www.coupons.com/coupon-codes/

Ashley’s money saver (UK): https://ashleighmoneysaver.co.uk/coupon-detective/

Extreme Couponing (UK): http://www.extremecouponing.co.uk/

Supermarket Coupons (UK): http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/deals/supermarket-coupons