NHS worker mum reveals savvy hack to get food for FREE as she 'scrimps & saves' to fund daughter's hobby

SAVING money on groceries can be difficult, but one savvy shopper has proven it’s possible to pick up supplies completely free – and make it stretch with some budget-friendly batch cooking.

Laura Bailey, an NHS PA from Leeds and mum of one, told money-saving community LatestDeals.co.uk how she has managed to save big when it comes to her grocery shop.

"I recently managed to pick up two loaves of finest sourdough bread; three bread rolls; two bags of mixed pastries; three cranberry cookies; a box of flapjacks and sic sandwiches. Total cost? £0!" she said.

"The Olio app is great as everything is free (food; clothes & household goods). You just download and away you go! They only ask for good manners and that you don't sell on what you are given.

"I am a big fan of the Olio app. No payments and no swaps. It's great if you live far away from a charity shop or don’t drive. Everyday there is free bread going. Sometimes pastries and sandwiches. Also plenty of fruit and vegetables too. 

"You simply request what you would like and go to the person’s house to collect it. That’s it! You can also volunteer for Olio and collect the food from supermarkets or cafes and people will come to your home to collect, so you save it from going to landfill. Sometimes you can pick up fancy sandwiches or tasty salads from places like Pret A Manger .

"When I got this huge haul of bread, pastries and sandwiches, I gave some to my neighbour, and my daughter had the sandwiches for lunch. I froze the bread which was used up gradually as there is only my daughter who eats it as I am allergic to gluten, pork and coconut."

Laura also knows a thing or two about grabbing yellow sticker bargains and reduced groceries.

"I mainly shop at Tesco. Their reduction time is 7 – 7.30pm every night and around 3pm on Sundays. It is important to know the times the local supermarkets do their reductions," she explained.

"Sometimes I use the Too Good to Go app but only for buying from The Junk Food Project (a charity that redistributes food past its sell by date) and you get a huge bag of fruit and vegetables plus eggs, drinks, sweets and other groceries for just £4.25 (single person) or £9 for a family bag. 

"It is important that you plan what you will do with the food before it goes off, like make some jams or chutneys or even batch cook meals in advance. I don’t let anything go to waste. I boil up chicken carcasses and make stock for soups, gravy, paella and risotto. I even fry potato peelings to make snacks!"

Laura knows what it's like having to stick to a strict budget, especially when you have children.

"I have to scrimp and scrape as I have a daughter who is a brilliant ballet dancer and her lessons cost a lot. She has been offered a place at full-time ballet school The Hammond in Chester so I am currently fundraising for her," the mother said.

The busy mother is also a fan of batch cooking, which she does regularly.

"Batch cooking is really important for two reasons. One, it saves money by making a large amount and freezing the rest, two, if you are having a lazy day you can have a home cooked meal straight from the freezer and into the microwave – much cheaper than a takeaway and healthier too," Laura said.

"When I go to any supermarket I go to the reduced section first. It is important to have good knowledge of food so you know what you can make with it.

"One summer I picked up several cucumbers at 3p each and lots of tomatoes. I made gazpacho and froze it in containers which I then took to work, and had the perfect chilled soup (as it defrosts during the day). Sometimes I just cook any vegetable I have to hand, chuck in some herbs with homemade stock and blend for a quick cheap hot soup in winter.

Some of her favourite bargain meals include homemade soup, potato peelings and batch-cooked chocolate cake that easily freezes.

She added: "I also got an Olio haul that was entirely sweets so that kept us going for a while! Recently I got a bargain dinner – Indian chicken and paneer sizzle made up of a 10p packet of rocket, 25p tomatoes, 70p chicken breast and £1 paneer. 

"To anyone looking for similar discounts I would recommend checking the Olio and Too Good To Go apps regularly, learning when your local supermarket has reduced items out for sale and learning how to make ingredients stretch with batch cooking."

Tom Church, Co-Founder of LatestDeals.co.uk, said: "Laura certainly knows how to keep costs low with her impressive money-saving tricks. I’m tempted to try the Indian chicken and paneer sizzle myself!"

Meanwhile in other DIY kitchen stories, savvy hack sees mums turn Ikea play kitchens into functioning ones and now toddlers are making their own meals.

Plus this unconventional mum allows her three-year-old son to cook for himself, even handling boiling water – and he's been doing it since 14 months old.

And a mum of 10 kids reveals how she starts making their packed lunches at 5am.

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