The money-saving gourmet

Are money-saving and gourmet eating mutually exclusive?

Given the eye-watering prices stamped on the mouth-watering menus of high-end restaurants, many of us would probably be inclined to agree. I recently looked at the prices of meals at various Michelin-starred restaurants throughout the UK. The cost of an à la carte meal (3 courses) averaged out at £92.50 for the establishments I looked at. And, of course, that won’t include the cost of any sundries that you are likely to order along with the meal – bread (if they charge for it) as well as wine, a bottle of fizzy water, coffee and so on.

Of course, it’s great to have the occasional splurge on a slap-up meal in a fancy restaurant, so it’s worth remembering that prices are all relative. Imagine you only went to a Michelin star type place once a year. That £92.50 is only the price of about 16 fast food meals. So you could quite easily spend that kind of money over the course of a couple of months without realising it. Money saving is all about being smart – not about avoiding life’s joys! I am glad I managed to un-supersize my lunchtime fast food habit though – it saves money and I actually feel better for eating loads of salad – as does my bank account.

In terms of gourmet eating, its worth remembering that price isn’t everything. Indeed, a lot of chefs favour cheaper cuts of meat because they’re more flavourful (as well as, I assume, being healthy for the old profit margin too). Indeed, a lot of the things that we really revere today were once considered peasant fare – oysters for instance. So if you’re an inventive cook, the stuff you’re buying cheaply right now might be considered an absolute delicacy a few years down the line. In fact there was a very scary story about avocados recently – apparently a low future crop yield along with a surge in demand from China could result in the avocado becoming a less common sight on European plates. So today’s avocado could be tomorrow’s oyster.

It’s also worth remembering that only when you get into the basics of cooking do you get an idea of a dish’s true value. That £8.50 premium range supermarket ready meal lasagne for two might look like a handy purchase for your cosy Thursday night in dinner à deux but what are its ingredients worth when bought individually? You can buy lasagne sheets for mere pence, make a roux for pence too, and easily make a fantastic ragù for for not a lot of outlay. Smack ’em together, oven ’em and that’s a real homemade lasagne – gourmet style and money saving too.

Here are my top tips for sourcing cheap ingredients:

  1. Don’t be tied to one supermarket. The discounters are often pleasingly inexpensive as well as offering superb quality. But the big guys also occasionally have great deals too.
  2. Loose or bagged? The price of loose goods can be way cheaper, so always check.
  3. Deli counter or aisle shelf? At the deli counter you can specify the exact amount you want, which cuts the chances of waste. Just check the gram for gram price against the aisle equivalent.
  4. Shop local. We have this perception that supermarkets are always the cheapest. But your local butcher, greengrocer and baker may well have a few pleasant low price surprises in store. Plus, they’re often extremely knowledgeable and willing to help you out with tips and recipes.
  5. Look for cheap cuts. While we’re all programmed into thinking fillet steak is the absolute best, many butchers prefer the more humble onglet cut. Likewise, your tender pork fillet maybe much coveted – but pork belly is often much cheaper, and even make it onto Michelin star menus these days.

If you’d like to share any food money saving tips (gourmet or otherwise) get in touch in the comments. Bon appetit!

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Fighting the Financial Jargon

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Don’t let the banker beat you with his parlance

Have you ever received a bill, for example, and there are about 4 seemingly needless pages, filled with blocks of text that, you just really don’t understand? I’ve never met you, but I’m almost certain that you have.

These seem to come with everything these days – credit card statements, bank statements, insurance policies. And they do seem to have one thing in common, and that is money. Money is what makes the world go round, and the world is a big place. This has led to their being an almost foreign language being developed when the subject arises in anything official.

Admittedly, there is a lot to talk about when it comes to money, but there really could be an easier way to relay the needed information, but apparently, there isn’t. Banks especially, love this. In a rather furtive way, this is how they make sure that they get the best arrangement for your dealings, not you. You could call me paranoid, but it’s true. They reel you in with attractive and alluring offers, only for you to later learn that the attractiveness and allure of the offer in question only lasts for a year – then it turns into the ugly step-sister and flees in a pumpkin.

Okay, that argument may have turned into a weird, Grimm-like metaphor, but it still stands. But this is what you need to be careful of. Don’t let a lack of understanding or knowledge cause you financial problems down the line with a mortgage, a loan, a credit card – anything! Here are some examples to get you started on your newly found mission to conquer financial gobbledygook.

Fixed vs. Variable Rate

These are terms that you are likely to hear when applying for a mortgage, or even a loan. Fixed rate and variable rates are known to cause confusion at times when the person applying for the mortgage doesn’t really know what they are.

A variable interest rate is fairly straight forward I suppose; it is an interest rate that can change over time, either way. So, you might fare better off with a variable rate, if it’s going to be lower, but then again, you could end up paying more if it rises. It is a gamble of sorts, as banks will set these rates on the base rate set from the Federal Reserve.

A fixed rate on the other hand, stays the same – it does not change. However, this is usually just for a set amount of time. And this is where some people lose out. They are drawn in by attractive introductory rates, but end up paying a lot more down the line. Don’t let this happen to you, know exactly what you are paying, and how long you will be paying it for.

Unsecured vs. Secured Loans

These are options that you will come across when applying for a loan, surprisingly. They are the two main options when it comes to personal loans, and while there isn’t all the much difference between them, it is still a difference you should know.

You’ve heard of credit ratings, correct? Well, this is what decides whether you get an unsecured loan or not. The lender will look at your credit rating, and decide whether you are financially responsible enough for them to loan you their money. Pretty straight forward.

A secured loan on the other hand, depends on whether you are a home owner or not. If you are, and you want a loan, with a secured loan you are telling the lender that if you are unable to pay the loan back, you will pay the balance by selling your house.

There is more to know about the difference between secured loans and unsecured loans, so make sure you read up enough to make a properly informed decision when it comes to taking out a loan.

Simple vs. Compound Interest

More terms that you will hear when it comes to borrowing, and it can make quite a big difference to the payments that you will be making.

Simple interest is, well, simple. That is why it’s called simple interest. When paying simple interest, it is based or set by the original amount of money borrowed. So, if you borrow x amount, then you will be paying interest on x amount.

Compound interest, however, is different, much different. Again, if you borrow x amount from the bank, and you are paying y interest on this amount, when the interested is next computed (period lengths change from bank to bank) then you will then pay your y interest on the original x amount PLUS the amount equal to the y interest already compounded – hence the name. So, basically, the longer your borrowing period, the amount you are paying interest on will rise.

Again, don’t let yourself be caught out with this. Make sure you know exactly what kind of interest you will be paying and how long for.

And the others…

These are just a handful of examples from the world of finance, but still definitions that you should know. However, there is a plethora of other terms out there. Chances are, you won’t come across them all, but at the same time, you likely will come across a few of them.

This makes it worth doing the research. There are other, more expansive guides out there that will help you learn your financial terminology. I’m not saying you should sit down, read them all and have them memorized in the off chance that you will encounter them; nobody has the time for that. What I am saying is that when you are looking to borrow, or take out a mortgage, or do anything financially related really, know the product or the service. Go in with an understanding of exactly what it is you are undertaking. This will always give you a better chance of not only getting the best deal, but it will also help you with general management of your finances. If you know what lies ahead, then you aren’t going to be surprised down the line.

Scottish night out’s that won’t leave you out of pocket

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We all love a night out, but we also love not spending ANY money, because it’s ours and we deserve to keep it. So how do we have fun without giving too much of our precious money away?

Ghost Walk – Edinburgh

One part history lesson, one part spooky fun. Great night out, and you’ll learn a little about the city as well, prices start at £8 and go up to £15. Then once it’s over you can go for a quiet drink and discuss how you’ll ‘never get to sleep tonight’!

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Red Raw, the Stand – Glasgow & Edinburgh

Everyone loves a laugh, and Red Raw delivers. Everything from brand new, never once been on a stage acts, to some of the best in Scottish comedy (Frankie Boyle & Kevin bridges have appeared quite a few times). £2 a ticket is unbelievable pricing, with a decently priced bar as well and usually a competition to win free tickets for another red raw show. It’s well worth a try for comedy fans.

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ICW – All across Scotland

Made popular after its smash hit BBC documentary, Insane Fight Club, ICW has become a staple of the Scottish night out, and a great laugh. Only grown in popularity since the return of Scotland’s ‘Chosen One, Drew Galloway – Scotland’s most successful wrestler – who was recently released from his WWE contract and came back to where he started out. Wrestling fan or not, it will be plenty of fun, and might convert the uncoverted. Lot’s of their Glasgow shows start in Box, which has become the unofficial home of  ICW, so you can start their to get you hyped up for the event.

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Frugally Festive

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Alright, I’m sorry to be that guy but we are now in the season to be jolly. Or more skint and in debt than usual, however you want to look at it. Between work nights out, presents for family members and of course, just remaining in the festive spirit, this isn’t a time of year for tighter purse strings.

There are ways to keep things a little cheaper, a little more manageable at home, though. We can’t be frugal at this time of year but we can be creative.

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Is Scottish Football Value for Money? – The Update

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In October, when the season was still young we wrote a post asking the question ‘Is Scottish Football Value for Money?’ where we pulled data and made forecasts and made some calculations and with this and some other technical knowhow, we came to the decision of – undecided! Yes that’s right, undecided. As a lot of the data was as we said, forecasted from the games that had been played up until that point, we couldn’t really say for sure. Now we can! We think? The respective leagues of all the teams and competitions involved are now finished and we have the definitive data. The absolute data if you will. So, we’ve decided to make the updated version to the table.

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New Homeowners Checklist

Shop around for your energy supplier

When you move into a new home, energy suppliers might not seem like much of priority but what if you’re missing out on good deals for the sake of taking the easy route? Take meter readings and get in touch with your property’s current supplier to make sure you are getting the best possible deal you can from them.
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How To Change Energy Supplier

Have you ever considered changing energy suppliers? Does it seem like a lot of hassle for very few benefits? You are not alone. According to a recent study, 33% of Brits are concerned about their energy bills  but almost half of British bill payers admit that they don’t feel it’d save them much money and a quarter said that shopping around would be “too much hassle”.

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What is Earth Day?

Earth Day takes place each year on the 22nd of April. It is a global environmental movement with more than 192 nations taking part across the world, united with one goal in mind: to celebrate our earth and the environment.

The first Earth Day affected some major environmental polices in the United States, which led to the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency and paved the way for the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species acts to be introduced.

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