Resourceful woman who spends just £4 a week on food shares her tips

Helen Morrison and her husband, pictured next to a large food shop collection. (PA Real Life)
Helen Morrison and her husband live off a weekly food shop that costs under a fiver. (PA Real Life)

A woman has managed to slash her weekly food shop by as much as £50, now spending just £4 a week.

Helen Morrison, 55, from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, decided to try and cut down her spending and waste after she switched to a lower-paid job in November 2021 for a better work-life balance, as well as to help with the cost of living.

She has achieved her savings with tips and tricks like making her own butter, using a food sharing app and getting creative with what's in her fridge.

Morrison also lives with her husband Darren, 56, with the cheap weekly shop serving them both.

Read more: Single parents most likely to skip meals to cope with the cost of living crisis

Helen Morrison's fully stocked fridge with free food from OLIO. (PA Real Life)
Morrison stocks her fridge full with free food. (PA Real Life)

"I don't shop like normal people," Morrison says. "Normal people go to the supermarket in the day and buy their shopping." Instead, Morrison explains, she stays glued to a surplus food app called OLIO from around 8.30pm nightly, 'waiting for the food'. She estimates that 75% of her household's food comes from the app.

After halting her career as a wedding planner, due to the lack of work-life balance, Morrison had to alter her spending habits.

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

One of Helen Morrison's food dishes. (PA Real Life).
Morrison can still make tasty meals while spending less. (PA Real Life)

To help reduce waste, OLIO connects people with each other so surplus food can be shared free of charge instead of being thrown away.

Shocked at the amount of leftover food from her collections, Morrison started planning clever hacks to help make the groceries last for as long as possible. "I collect on the way home from work and then make a plan of everything we have and how I'm going to use it," she says.

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"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."

A frozen herb tray. (PA Real Life)
One of Morrison's frozen herb trays, ready for whenever she needs it. (PA Real Life)
Garlic butter. (PA Real Life)
Morrison's pride and joy – homemade garlic butter. (PA Real Life)

Trying to be resourceful and cut costs has meant Morrison has developed more of an open mind in the kitchen.

"I've become very experimental over the summer months," she says. "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 crème fraîche in pasta and I would never have bought that before."

And making her own butter, one of the most commonly bought groceries, has proved to be a big success. "I love making butter," she says. "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!"

Read more: Mum bags over £40 worth of food for just £1.40 by buying reduced items

Frozen chillis. (PA Real Life)
Morrison freezes fresh chillies in ice cube trays. (PA Real Life)

As well as using the thrifty app, Morrison has joined community grocery stores.

"I also use a couple of other facilities. One of them is called The Bread and Butter Thing," she says. "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."

It has taken Morrison just 10 months to cut her weekly shop by £50, only having to stop at her community grocery store every couple of weeks for essentials. Her purchase from the The Bread and Butter Thing, which she only needs to do occasionally, lasts around two 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," she adds.

"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."

One of Helen's large food collections from OLIO. (PA Real Life)
A large collection from OLIO. (PA Real Life)

Her mission to cut costs has also influenced her wanting to help stop waste.

"The amount of food waste that’s out there really upsets me," she says. "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.

“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.”

Morrison both adopts other people's food and gives it away, with 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," she says.

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

A meal of chicken, noodles and broccoli, costing 24p. (PA Real Life)
Chicken, noodles and broccoli that cost Morrison 24p for two servings. (PA Real Life)
A meal of sausage and salads, costing just 30p. (PA Real Life)
Morrison only spent 30p on this meal, buying just the sausage, while the rest was free from OLIO. (PA Real Life)

Batch cooking is another of her tried-and-tested tricks for getting more for her 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," she explains.

Read more: Mum saves £5k a year by buying everything second hand – including Christmas presents

"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!"

Helen, pictured her with her husband Darren in the pub. (PA Real Life).
Morrison and her husband, who are benefitting from the cut costs to their groceries. (PA Real Life)

Morrison's top tips on saving:

  1. Use apps like OLIO; sharing apps are great for saving money and stopping food going to landfill

  2. Don't turn down your nose; think differently about best before, buy wonky veg, and look at reduced items

  3. Batch cook; prep is everything, freeze your food in portions and remember butter, cheese, milk and bread can also be frozen

  4. Get creative; try different foods and don't be afraid to put things together that you wouldn't normally

Additional reporting PA.