Savvy shopper slashes grocery bill to £4 using Olio

Savvy shopper reveals how she’s slashed her grocery bill to as little as £4 a WEEK using a free food app

  • Helen Morrison, 55, from Newcastle slashed her food shop by £50 a week 
  • She now just spends £4 amid cost-of-living crisis and price hikes in shops 
  • The former wedding planner now gets free food from app OLIO 
  • She makes her own butter, pasta sauces and soups and never has to buy lunch  

A savvy saver has slashed her weekly shops by £50, spending as little as £4 a week on her groceries and making her own butter among other things.

Helen Morrison, 55 from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, started cutting down her food costs and waste after she switched jobs in November 2021 for a better work-life balance after working as a wedding planner.

Using a free food sharing app, Olio, along with switching from mainstream supermarkets to community grocery stores, Helen, who also lives with her husband Darren, 56, became a whizz in the kitchen, concocting fabulous feasts out of free food from Olio.

She’s one of many people who, amind the cost-of-living crisis, are turning to alternative methods to save money, including one mother who spends just £10 a week at Aldi and now has an large online following for her budget meals.   

Helen, pictured her with her husband Darren, started cutting her food spending down in November 2021

Olio was first launched in 2015 with the aim of reducing food waste – food must be edible but it can be raw, cooked, sealed or open. 

The food can be used by companies or individuals. UK supermarkets such as Morrison’s, Tesco and Sainsbury’s have dubbed the site an ‘online food bank’. 

By 2020 the app had over 2.3 million registrations. 

Helen only spent 30p on this meal, buying only the sausage and the rest was free from food app Olio

Helen stocks her fridge with free food from the app, and spends only £4 on her weekly food shop

Helen says she has become more creative in the kitchen since slashing her food spending by £50 a week

Helen spent nothing on this meal of sausages, chips and chill; all free from food saving app Olio, created in 2015

This meal of chicken, noodles and broccoli cost Helen 24p for two servings for both her and her husband

Alongside cutting down food waste, Helen has slashed her weekly shop for two by £50, now only spending as little as £4 a week to top up her cupboard items.

‘I don’t shop like normal people,’ explained Helen.

‘Normal people go to the supermarket in the day and buy their shopping.

‘Instead, I sit on the app from about half past eight at night waiting for the food. I would say that 75 per cent of our food is from Olio.’

Originally a wedding planner, Helen left her job in the hope of finding a better work-life balance; however, due to the switch she was forced to re-evaluate her spending.

She said: ‘At 55 I decided it was time to take an easier job in life.

‘I worked as a wedding planner. It was a fabulous job but it was seven days a week and there was no life balance at all.

‘I had to re-evaluate my life, however that meant less money coming into the household.

‘So, I started researching tips on how to save money and somebody mentioned Olio.

‘By January I was so impressed I decided to become a food waste hero myself. I now have regular collectors and I love doing it.’

Food waste heroes arrange for produce to be collected from supermarkets and redistribute it to those in need.  

Helen freezes herbs that she gets from food app Olio that can be used in dishes, she puts them in a tray and then into the freezer, where they can last longer and be deposited into dishes when cooking 

Before freezing the herbs, the 55-year-old blends them up before putting them into freezer trays

Shocked at the amount of leftover food from her collections, Helen started planning ingenious ways to keep groceries from going in the bin.

She said:’I collect on my way home from work. I make a plan of everything we have and how I’m going to use it.

‘Vegetables are prepped and bagged and frozen. I make my own soups and freeze portions using one a day for our lunches at work.

‘I make my own sauces for pasta as tomatoes are often not requested on Olio. I simply add in some of my frozen herbs to give them flavour.

‘Any herbs collected are blitzed in the food mixer and frozen in ice cube trays with a bit of oil for future use.’ 

Helen and her husband Darren now have a lot more time to spend together since she stopped working as a wedding planner 

Since using the app, Helen has found that she has become more adventurous with dishes, even using cocktail sausages in a pasta dish, which she called ‘weird but delicious’.  

She explained:’I’ve become very experimental over the summer months. I’ve put cocktail sausages in a pasta dish, it was weird but delicious.

‘I don’t think I’ve ever been as adventurous as I am now. I’ve started putting creme fraiche in pasta and I would never have bought that before.’

And the foodie has even started making her own butter.

‘I love making butter,’ explained Helen,’You put the cream in a food mixer and you literally just put it on for five to 10 minutes.

‘It’ll go like whipped cream first, then it looks a bit cheesy and then eventually all of the milk comes out of the cream and you’re left with butter.

‘You can add garlic or parsley – or even make chilli butter.

‘The price of butter at the moment is ridiculous and this way it tastes even better in the morning!’

Helen Morrison, a former wedding planner, makes butter by blending whipping cream to mimic the churning motion used in traditional butter making 

The finished product: Helen’s homemade butter, something she says that she ‘loves’ making herself at home 

Frozen fresh chilies that have been blended and then put into the freezer, each serving can be used for a meal 

Alongside using Olio, Helen also joined community grocery stores. 

She said: ‘I also use a couple of other facilities. One of them is called The Bread and Butter Thing.

‘You get three bags of shopping for £7.50. You don’t know what it will be, but you know you’ll get a selection of fruit, veg and cupboard staples.

‘I also use the community grocery store, which is £4 for five fruit and veg items and you can get seven shelf items.

‘It’s amazing – a bag of pasta works out as little as 20p.’

In 10 months Helen has saved £44 a week, only needing to stop at her community grocery store every couple of weeks for essentials.

She added:’If I purchase from the Bread and Butter Thing I spend £7.50 but that lasts for around two weeks.

‘Some weeks I don’t need anything, so I probably spend that every few weeks.

‘One of the biggest things for me and my husband is our work lunches, we used to spend five pounds a day each and now we spend nothing.

Food from the yellow label section in supermarkets, Helens says she is upset at how much food gets wasted

A sizeable Olio collection, which includes food from supermarkets that would have otherwise been thrown away

Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons have called the money saving app Olio an ‘online food bank’

As a food waste hero, Helen collects surplus food and distributes it to collectors as well as collecting for herself

‘It’s definitely not a normal lifestyle, but it’s saved us a lot of money, especially now the cost-of-living crisis is having an effect on so many of us.’

However, alongside her shop costing less, Helen is determined to help stop food waste.

‘The amount of food waste that’s out there really upsets me,’ said Helen.

‘It’s crazy to me that people won’t use certain food items just because of the best before date. We really need to rethink our attitude to food.

Helen’s tips on saving

– Use apps like OLIO; sharing apps are great for saving money and tasty treats from going to landfill.

– Don’t turn your nose; think differently about best before, just because a food item is reduced doesn’t mean it’s not as good, buy wonky veg and look at reduced items.

– Batch cook; prep is everything, freeze your food in portions but also don’t forget that butter, cheese, milk and bread can all be frozen.

– Get creative; Try different foods and don’t be afraid to put things together that normally don’t go together.

‘We shouldn’t turn our nose up at reduced items. We have to start thinking differently because there is nothing wrong with this food that we are throwing away.’

Advising fellow savers to not be shy, the Olio food waste hero is on a mission to get more people collecting bread.

She said: ‘I feel good that I’m sharing the food and giving it away, and I have regular collectors.

‘I know all of their stories, and it makes me quite sad, but it makes me happy to be able to share all of the food.

‘Just last Friday I had 12 people at my door to collect food.’

She added: ‘Batch cooking is a great way to save money.

‘You just have to be adventurous. I think we all need more of a basic knowledge of how we can keep our food a bit longer – such as freezing.

‘We always have so much surplus bread when I do a collection. People don’t seem to realise that you can freeze it.

‘It’s a staple, and some families can go through a loaf of bread a day.

‘So, if that’s two pounds a day, over the week, that’s 14 pounds that you’ve saved. It’s just crazy money.

‘We’ve saved so much and I’ve managed to have a better work-life balance because of it!’

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