Woman spends £4 a week grocery shopping with help from free sharing app, also making butter and freezing herbs

A savvy saver cut her weekly expenses by £50, spending just £4 a week on groceries and butter, among other things.

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

Using a free sharing app, OLIO, as well as hopping from mainstream supermarkets to community grocery stores, Helen, who also lives with her husband Darren, 56, has become a whiz in the kitchen, concocting fabulous parties with the free food of OIL.

Helen with her husband, Darren (Collect/PA Real Life)

As well as reducing food waste, Helen has reduced her weekly shopping by £50 for two, now spending just £4 a week on stocking her pantry items.

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

“Normal people go to the supermarket during the day and do their shopping.

Helen stocks her fridge with free food from OIL (Collect/PA Real Life).

Helen stocks her fridge with free food from OIL (Collect/PA Real Life).

“Instead, I sit on the app from about half past eight in the evening waiting for my food. I would say that 75% of our food comes from OIL”.

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

“At 55 I decided it was time to take an easier job in life,” said Helen.

Helen says she's gotten more creative in the kitchen since she cut back on her food spending (Collect/PA Real Life)

Helen says she’s gotten more creative in the kitchen since she cut back on her food spending (Collect/PA Real 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.

“I had to reevaluate my life however that meant less money going into the house.

“So, I started looking for tips on how to save money and someone mentioned OIL.

Helen only spent 30p on this meal, only buying the sausage and the rest was free from OLIO (Collect/PA Real Life)

Helen only spent 30p on this meal, only buying the sausage and the rest was free from OLIO (Collect/PA Real Life)

“In January, I was so impressed that I decided to become a food waste hero myself. Now I have regular collectors and I love doing it.”

Shocked by the amount of leftover food from her collections, Helen began devising ingenious ways to keep the groceries from ending up in the trash.

“I collect on the way home from work,” she said.

This meal of chicken, noodles and broccoli costs Helen 24p for two servings (Collect/PA Real Life)

This meal of chicken, noodles and broccoli costs Helen 24p for two servings (Collect/PA Real Life)

“I make a plan of everything we have and how I’m going to use it.

“Vegetables are prepared, packaged and frozen. I make my own soups and freeze portions of them using one a day for our business lunches.

“I make my own pasta sauces because tomatoes are often not required over OIL. I simply add some of my frozen herbs to give them flavor.

Helen, pictured with her husband Darren, started cutting back on food expenses in November 2021 (Collect/PA Real Life)

Helen, pictured with her husband Darren, started cutting back on food expenses in November 2021 (Collect/PA Real Life)

“All the harvested herbs are chopped in the food processor and frozen in ice cube trays with a little oil for future use.

“I became very experimental during the summer months. I put the 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 started putting creme fraiche in pasta and I would have never bought it before.”

Helen's Homemade Garlic Butter (Collect/PA Real Life)

Helen’s Homemade Garlic Butter (Collect/PA Real Life)

And the cooking whiz has even started making his own butter.

“I love making butter,” Helen explained.

“You put the cream in a food processor and literally run it for 5-10 minutes.

Helen Freezes Fresh Chillies in Ice Cube Trays to Save Food (Collect/PA Real Life)

Helen Freezes Fresh Chillies in Ice Cube Trays to Save Food (Collect/PA Real Life)

“At first it will look like whipped cream, then it will look a little cheesy and then finally all the milk comes out of the cream and you’re left with butter.

“You can add garlic or parsley or even make chili butter.

“The price of butter at the moment is ridiculous and so it tastes even better in the morning!”

Helen mixes all her fresh herbs for the freezer (Collect/PA Real Life)

Helen mixes all her fresh herbs for the freezer (Collect/PA Real Life)

In addition to using OLIO, Helen has also entered community grocery stores.

“Most of my food comes from OIL,” Helen explained.

“But I also use a couple of other structures. One of them is called The Bread and Butter Thing.

One of Helen's collections from OLIO (Collect/PA Real Life)

One of Helen’s collections from OLIO (Collect/PA Real Life)

“You get three shopping bags for £7.50. You don’t know what it will be, but you know you’ll get a selection of fruits, vegetables and basic necessities.

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

“It’s amazing: a bag of pasta costs only 20 cents.”

Helen says she gets upset about how much food is wasted (Collect/PA Real Life)

Helen says she gets upset about how much food is wasted (Collect/PA Real Life)

In 10 months Helen cut her weekly shopping by £50, only needing to stop by her community grocery store every two weeks for essentials.

“If I buy from Bread and Butter Thing, I spend £7.50, but it lasts about two weeks,” said Helen.

“Some weeks I don’t need anything, so I probably spend it every few weeks.

As a heroine of food waste, Helen collects excess food and distributes it to collectors, as well as collects it for herself (Collect/PA Real Life)

As a heroine of food waste, Helen collects excess food and distributes it to collectors, as well as collects it for herself (Collect/PA Real Life)

“We easily saved £50 a week on the grocery store.

“One of the most important things for my husband and I are our business lunches, we used to spend £5 a day each and now we spend nothing.

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

Helen collects excess food from supermarkets every day as heroin of food waste (Collect/PA Real Life)

Helen collects excess food from supermarkets every day as heroin of food waste (Collect/PA Real Life)

However, in addition to her shop being cheaper, Helen is determined to help stop food waste.

“The amount of wasted food out there really shocks me,” Helen said.

“It’s crazy to me that people don’t use certain foods just because of the expiration date. We really need to rethink our attitude towards food.

Helen makes butter by mixing whipping cream (Collect/PA Real Life)

Helen makes butter by mixing whipping cream (Collect/PA Real Life)

“We shouldn’t turn up our noses at reduced items. We need to start thinking differently because there’s nothing wrong with this food we’re throwing away.”

Advising fellow savers not to be shy, OLIO’s food waste hero is on a mission to get more people to pick up their bread.

She said: “I feel good about sharing food and giving it away, and I have regular collectors.

Helen's Homemade Butter (Collect/PA Real Life)

Helen’s Homemade Butter (Collect/PA Real Life)

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

“Just last Friday I had 12 people at my door picking up food.”

She added, “Batch cooking is a great way to save money.

Helen's Frozen Herb Tray (Collect/PA Real Life)

Helen’s Frozen Herb Tray (Collect/PA Real Life)

“You just have to be adventurous. I think we all need more than a basic understanding of how we can keep our food a little longer, like freezing.

“We always have a lot of surplus bread when I take a collection. People don’t seem to realize that you can freeze it.

“It is a staple food and some households can eat a loaf of bread a day.

“So if it’s £2 a day, during the week, that’s £14 you’ve saved. It’s just crazy money.

“We saved so much and thanks to this I was able to have a better work-life balance!”

Helen freezes fresh herbs in ice cube trays to flavor her cooking (Collect/PA Real Life).

Helen freezes fresh herbs in ice cube trays to flavor her cooking (Collect/PA Real Life).

Here are Helen’s savings tips:

– Use apps like OIL; sharing apps are great for saving money and tasty treats from going to the landfill.
– Do not turn up your nose; think differently about the best first, just because a food is reduced doesn’t mean it isn’t as good, buy flaky veggies and look at the reduced items.
– Batch cook; preparation is everything, freeze food in portions but don’t forget that butter, cheese, milk and bread can all be frozen.
– Get creative; Try different foods and don’t be afraid to mix things together that don’t normally go together.

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