9 Insanely Cheap Online Shops!

Everyone loves a good bargain. And I for one am happy to use charity shops, reduced-price sections of supermarkets, value high-street retailers and farmer’s markets to try and get everything at an awesome price.

But what about the savvy online shopper? And what about items you can’t find in your home town? I’m sure you’ve already got your own go-to websites or stores for certain things but, just in case, I’m sharing nine incredibly cheap online shops with you!

1: Hidden Fashion.

Hidden Fashion - 9 Insanely Cheap Online Stores

Hidden Fashion is a UK clothes store that sells all sorts of fashionable, current clothing for men, women and children. They do deliver worldwide, but expect to be charged by the kilo, which could add up outside of Europe!

They seem to work with high street surplus, so the quality goes up and down depending on the season and where they got it from, sort of like 99p stores, if you’re familiar with them. There is a lot of variety and the sorting tool makes it easy to find whatever you want.

Their clothes are some of the cheapest I’ve seen around, at £5 or less for everything. I wouldn’t use it for anything fancy as you may not get the best quality, but for one-off items and everyday wear I would definitely recommend it. Delivery costs for the UK start at £2.99, so really you’re paying £4-8 per item, but when you can get leggings or shoes for £1, it’s probably worth it.

2: Nut Site.

NutSite - 9 Insanely Cheap Online Stores

Another thing that can get expensive in stores are seeds, nuts and grains. It seems the little packets come with a surcharge that makes them crazily expensive, but at the same time nobody buys them in large enough quantities to drop the price.

Nut Site is a US based wholesaler for nuts, seeds, candy, you name it. Pretty much everything in bulk. Which means that as long as you’re happy to deal with 10kg of peanuts, you can save a good few dollars compared to in-store prices.

As far as I can see, they don’t offer free delivery. But if you try and make a purchase from them, please tell me what delivery options they have and how reasonable the pricing is!

3: Buy Whole Foods Online.

Buy Wholefoods Online - 9 Insanely Cheap Online Stores

And if you’re from the UK, definitely try out this site. It’s basically the same deal as Nut Site, except I actually have personal experience shopping there and they’re great.

They have a wide variety of nuts, seeds, legumes and grains, as well as organic foods and specialist products, all at next-to wholesale prices. They offer free delivery on UK orders over £30 and deliver to various European countries, with free deliver on orders over £100.

The delivery service is fast and trackable and the quality of the foods is excellent, especially when you can buy crushed nuts and seeds to cut your costs.

4: A’Gaci.

A'Gaci - 9 Insanely Cheap Online Stores

A’Gaci is a US-based store that sells reasonable quality womens’ clothing. They have some high street stores, but if you’re not near any of them, you may not know about their clothing.

The lines are fashionable and, whilst the prices aren’t exactly dead cheap, you can get top-end quality for mid-range prices. Shopping online with them is apparently very easy and the delivery costs are reasonable even for small purchases. Though, be warned, they only deliver to mainland USA, that is, excluding Hawaii and Alaska.

5: 5.99 Fashion.

5.99 Fashion - 9 Insanely Cheap Online Stores

For a middle ground, try out 5.99 Fashion. Every item besides the sale is $5.99! They have a good range of surplus clothing that is often trendy and comfortable. And the sale area lowers the prices even further, down to $0.99!

They also stand out as a clothing store that not only offers womens’, mens’ and kids’ clothes, but also plus-sized clothing (up to 4XL and 18 tops and size 24 bottoms, as of writing this) which is all at the same reasonable price, often present in the sale area and just as cute, fashionable and suitable as the regular sizes. They also offer free returns and exchanges, to make any less flattering purchases that little bit less embarrassing and expensive.

6: Everything £5.

Everything 5 Pounds - 9 Insanely Cheap Online Stores

For a similar, UK-based store, check out Everything £5, where, you guessed it, everything besides sale items will be exactly £5! Again, there are some delivery costs, so it all depends on the weight, but even a few pairs of boots, which would be quite heavy, come up at flat delivery, so you’d probably have to be buying a crate to make delivery expensive.

And it’s another site with reasonable plus sized clothing at the same price as regular sizes, in fashionable cuts and up to 4XL, or UK size 44. So if you’re a British plus sized woman, this store will offer you the same benefits as 5.99. The only difference is that their policy on refunds doesn’t seem quite so kind!

7: Tesco clearance.

Tesco Clearance - 9 Insanely Cheap Online Stores

Another thing worth checking out is the clearance sections of supermarkets and general stores. Not the reduced aisles, the clearance on their online stores! You can snap up some straight-out-the-warehouse bargains alongside your grocery shop by checking out Tesco’s online clearance section!

8: Walmart clearance.

Walmart Clearance - 9 Insanely Cheap Online Stores

And if you’re from the USA, have no fear: Walmart also has its own online clearance section for you to peruse a couple of times a week.

9: Argos clearance.

Argos Clearance - 9 Insanely Cheap Online Stores

And for all sorts of random things, have a look at Argos’ clearance sections. After all, if you’re shopping at Argos anyway, it’s no trouble to sneak a peek at the clearance!

And those are nine online stores where you can get all sorts of awesome stuff cheaply and save your family money on clothes, household goods and expensive groceries.

Where do you like to shop online? Have any hidden bargain stores you’re just dying to share? Please mention any! And feel free to share your experience shopping at any of the above stores. All input appreciated. 🙂

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

10 Ways To Get Cheap And Cute Clothes.

Regardless of how we want to dress, we all want to dress nicely. And dressing nicely can easily become expensive. On the other hand, all my clothing, including shoes, suit clothes and a fur coat, cost me around £100, at my closest estimate. I recently overhauled some of my wardrobe thanks to Hearthie’s expert advice and got seven new tops and a pair of shoes for £7. And I feel pretty cute in all of it, to be honest.

And the truth is, cheap cute clothes didn’t stop when your older sister had her last growth spurt and have to give you that perfect, tags-new dress for free. There are still loads of ways of getting adorable clothes at low prices.

The first five are for the unadventurous, those with little time or those wary about germs and bacteria.

1: Charity Shops.

This is where I get most of my clothes. The reasons being that it’s quick and easy to nip in whilst you’re about town, you can browse a wide variety of clothes and usually try them on first, it’s going towards a good cause and they’re cheap.

Some people are concerned about hygiene, but, as someone who volunteers at one and has been round the back of many others: they have this thing called a “steamer”. It’s like a cross between an iron and a hoover which they use to clean and iron all clothes. The steam is so hot that light exposure could easily scar you. Anything obviously soiled or that smells when we steam it is thrown into the rag pile. So yes, they’re clean!

Example.

2: Vouchers.

An easy way to get brand new clothes at discount or even insanely cheap prices is to use vouchers. It’s up to you how far you go. You could go for 10% off, or work out which vouches you can use in conjunction and whether you can use them with any other discounts or during a sale.

There is also a surprising number of vouchers available online, so if you’re short of them, try searching for the store and “voucher” or “coupon” online. You’re bound to turn out some reasonable results.

Example.

3: eBay.

If you want brand new clothes and are short of vouchers or reasonably-priced stores, you can always turn to eBay for your every clothing need. With a simple search function, easy categories and clear pricing, you’re bound to find what you want, brand new, at the lowest price available.

Example.

4: Wholesale and Clearance.

You can do this in stores and warehouse sales, but it’s far more convenient to do it online. If you are happy to sell on any surplus, some stockists do sell-offs of orders that weren’t collected, oversupply or just small wholesale jobs for the odd customer.

The other option is clearance, either from a warehouse or a regular store. The clothes may be out of season, not selling or just the last in the batch, but you can find some amazingly good deals on trendy, seasonal and brand new clothes when you work out where to look for them.

Example.

5: Presents.

This one is fairly simple. Over the year or over the months leading up to your birthday or Christmas, compose a list of items you would rather not spend money on and drop hints or directly give it to your relatives when the celebration is getting near. That way anyone who wasn’t sure what to get you can contribute to your wardrobe. Another way is simply saying that when you get gifts, you love to get shoes, scarves or something trendy for the season and see what they surprise you with!

The next five ways of getting good clothes on the cheap are for the more adventurous and crafty. They may be messy, hard work or a little more questionable.

6: Swap Shops.

These are gaining popularity, but sometimes viewed with caution. Basically, you show up with clothes, get a sticker for every item you donate and then put the stickers on any item you see that you want. There is always the risk that there will be nothing you like, rarely will be dressing rooms and can become a mess. But, if you’re trying to completely change your wardrobe, it may be the best way!

Example.

You can also go for the online experience, which is cleaner and easier.

Example.

7: Volunteer.

I’d recommend volunteering at charity shops, clothes banks or rag merchants. Often anything that doesn’t sell is available to staff at discount rates. You can also buy assorted items sent for the rag heap at rag prices, which are usually a few pence a kilo, making a shirt only 20 or 50p. If anything is damaged you will have to bear that in mind, but often the only thing wrong is that nobody bought it on time, or someone put it into a rag bag rather than donate it to charity.

Example.

8: Updo.

Regardless of where you got them, you can also improve, mend or freshen old clothes to make them look better, turning something free or very cheap into something you would have paid good money for.

You can take plain t-shirts and add some sparkle to them, turn trousers into shorts or skirts, mend holes and tears and basically turning something drab or broken into something wearable.

Example:

Stripy fabric cut into a skull-shaped patch, tartan fabric, beads, silver thread and cross stitch. Shorts from cutoff jeans and tartan fabric.

Plain top decorated with stripy fabric cut into a skull-shaped patch, tartan fabric, beads, silver thread and cross stitch.
Shorts from cutoff jeans and tartan fabric.

9: Freebies.

This one is where most people will draw the line. Basically because, unlike charity shop items, new clothes or hand-me-downs, you don’t really know if something free is clean, hygienic or in good condition.

Generally, if you can check it first you will see any serious problems and if you wash it when home it’s fine. Try finding things on freebie websites and learn when, where and from whom to buy. Just as you’d be happy with a pillow from a neighbour, but not one left outside a university dorm, there are places and people to accept freebies from.

Example.

10: D.I.Y.

And the final option is to just make whatever you want. There are thousands of awesome patterns and tutorials out there, teaching you how to do everything from crochet to making a ballgown. So hone your crafty skills, because you’ll soon get bitten by the crafty bug and not know when to stop!

Examples:

So those are the top ten ways of getting the clothes you want at the price you want. Beauty was never so affordable!

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

What is your top thrifty shop? Where do you go when you want something cheap and cute? All hints, tips and ideas welcome. 🙂

How to… keep household accounts.

Keeping accounts is a pretty useful thing. Whether you own a small business, are saving up for something or keeping a home, having a record of your incomes and outgoings can be useful, insightful and even life saving.

It is also boring, gets complicated and can seem very time consuming. Otherwise, everybody would be doing it.

The great thing is: everybody can do it. You just need to follow these tricks to make your accounts something simple and easy.

1: Create a table of outgoings. The fixed costs.

Usually your incomes will be fairly fixed and, even if they aren’t, outgoings are the more important one to track. You can easily guess at what your income is, but outgoings are mysterious numbers on your bank statement at the end of the month.

Your table will be divided into two. The first half will be fixed costs on a monthly basis. These are everything that goes out on the regular, like phone contracts, insurance, unmetered bills, etc.

2: Yearly costs in your fixed cost table.

When it comes to yearly costs, make a separate bank account to save for them. Divide the total cost by 12 and make a payment of exactly that much every month. Then, add that payment to your fixed cost table as a monthly payment.

3: Random costs table.

Random costs are the ones that move around a lot, like fuel, food, pets or metered bills.

Your random costs table will not be like your fixed costs table. It should cover every day of the month, from the 1st to the 31st, including weekends. It should have a column for bills, one for groceries, one for car, one for services and one for unexpected bills.

4: Payment method column.

Your payment methods also need to be kept track of. Make a column for every payment method you use. Every single account, credit card or online money trader. Also keep a column for coupons, discounts, points and other forms of payment.

In the end, your tables will look a little like this:

Month.

House.

Water bill.

Home insurance.

Pension.

Account 1.

Account 2.

Jan.

400

10

8

150

-568

0

Feb.

400

10

8

150

-400

-168

Etc…

APRIL

Day.

Groc.

Elec.

Serv.

Fuel.

Unex.

Ac1

Ac2

PP

Cred.

ISA.

Coup.

1

0

67

0

15

0

77

5

0

0

0

2

Food.

25

0

0

0

0

0

20

0

0

0

5

3

Pet.

12

0

Hair. 10

15

0

5

0

12

0

0

5

Etc…

Total.

-77

-67

-10

-30

0

-82

-25

-12

0

0

+10

And at the end of every month you have a total outgoing in assorted expenses. The coupons and the likes are counted as a plus simply because that’s money you didn’t spend, so you got a 10 haircut, but got 5 back, if that makes sense.

Try and use a calculator page so that you can add up every column for it’s total, as well as at the end of the month add up all your expenses into one bar at the bottom! Otherwise, be sure to add up your random expenses daily, so you don’t have to sit around crunching numbers for hours at the end of the month.

6: Using it.

At the end of every day, go through your receipts and add the expenses to the calculator. Add the money out twice: once to the column it belongs to (Food), once to the payment method used (Credit Card). If you haven’t got it on a calculator page, be sure to add it to the total. Do not add the coupons at all yet!

At the end of the month, add together the fixed expenses and that month’s total. Take away the month’s total saved in coupons. That is your monthly outgoings.

7: Income.

If your income is fixed, just take note of it and take your outgoings away from it to see how you’re doing. You’re done!

If your income is not fixed, we move onto step 8.

8: Random income table.

This table is very similar in the way it works to the random outgoings table. Take every day you work. I will use two examples, one for my income and one for Jon’s. You want one column to be your working days. The other will be your earnings. You want to do a column a week for each category.

So, seeing as I work five or six days a week for random earnings, I fill mine in like this.

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Week 1 +

Week 2 =

??????? +

Week 3 =

??????? +

Week 4 =

??????? +

Week 5 =

MONTH

F1

M4

M11

M18

M25

S2

T5 N/A

T12 N/A

T19 N/A

T26 N/A

W6

W13

W20 N/A

W27

T7

T14

T21

T28

F8

F15

F22

F29

S9

S16 N/A

S23

S30

Total.

Total.

Total.

Total.

Total.

And seeing as Jon works 3 or 4 days on, 3 or 4 days off, sometimes days, sometimes nights, his looks like this.

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Week 1 +

Week 2 =

??????? +

Week 3 =

??????? +

Week 4 =

??????? +

Week 5 =

MONTH

4 D

11 OFF

18 N

25 D

5 N

12 D

19 OFF

26 N

6 N

13 D

20 OFF

27 N

7 N

14 D

21 OFF

28 N

1 D

8 OFF

15 N

22 D

29 OFF

2 D

9 OFF

16 N

23 D

30 OFF

3 D

10 OFF

17 N

24 D

31 OFF

Total:

Add your salary to the table every day and then total it at the end of the week. Add week 1 to week 2 and the total to week 3 until you reach the end of the month. That is your income.

And that is how you do your household accounts the easy way. At the end of the month, be sure to make a note of how much is in each money source to make sure you aren’t overspending and that no accounts are getting too empty!

And please share your accounting tips in the comments, I’d love to hear them! 🙂

TTFN and Happy Hunting.

Wonderful Wednesday Wok. Fruits of the Forest Pie!

Because he’s off for Friday and is only working the morning tomorrow, Jon decided to come home for lunch today. So we had the Wok and an at-home lunch on the same day. Always makes me happy when that happens. 🙂

20140430_130542

Recipe 1: Cottage pie.

Made entirely with cheap ingredients, as a bit of a challenge. Around £2 for the lot and it made 4 servings, so that’s pretty good. Jon gave it a 4/5 in terms of quality, but that’s not bad considering how little it cost and how filling it was!

Ingredients:

-800g/28.2oz potatoes

-300g/10.6oz mince

-100g/3.5oz bacon

-1 tin peeled plum tomatoes (400g/14.1oz)

-1 carton chopped tomato (400g/14.1oz)

-50g/1.7oz butter

-2tbsp herbs

-1tsp chilli

-1tsp pepper

-1tsp salt

-1/2tsp cinnamon

20140430_125821

Utensils:

-chopping board and knife

-small pot

-potato masher or fork

-deep baking tray

Recipe:

1: Wash,  maybe peel, and slice the potatoes into small cubes.

2: Boil them.

3: Take the tomato, the bacon, 25g/0.9oz of butter, the chilli and the herbs. Mix together in the tray.

4: Put the bacon mix in the oven at 180-200C/355-390F for around 20min.

5: When the potatoes are soft, almost entirely drain them.

6: Mash the potatoes with the last of the butter, the salt, the pepper and the cinnamon.

7: Add the mince to the baking tray.

8: Spoon or pipe the potato evenly on top of the mince mix.

9: Bake at 160C/320F for around 1h.

There is no way to make this look more attractive. In many ways it's kind of worse than curry...

There is no way to make this look more attractive. In many ways it’s kind of worse than curry…

Recipe 2: Fruits of the Forest Pie.

Very, very easy and very cheap if you don’t use expensive jam or swap it for honey and a dash of fruit juice. As it stood, we had a jar of 100% fruit jam that I wanted to use. Also amazingly good. Jon gave it a 4.5/5.

Ingredients:

Makes 6 large slices or 8-12 smaller ones.

-200g/7oz plain flour

-150g/5.3oz butter

-100ml water

-3tbsp sugar/honey/concentrated grape/other sweetener

-200g/7oz mixed berries

-100g/3.5oz raisins/sultanas/currants

-2tbsp berry jam

-1 egg

Utensils:

-2 mixing bowls

-1 fork or cutter

-1 spoon

-1 rolling pin

-1 small, sharp knife

-1 brush

-1 baking tray

Recipe:

1: Mix the flour, sweetener and butter together until crumbs are formed.

2: Add the water little by little until the consistency of the dough is firm to the touch, elastic and not sticky. You won’t need all the water.

3: Place the dough in the fridge to cool.

4: Mix the berries, jam and raisins together in a bowl. Don’t worry about rehydrating the raisins, they will rehydrate themselves when cooking!

5: When the dough is cooled, take it out and break off 2/3 of it. Work the dough until it’s pliable again.

6: Roll it into a ball and roll it out until its as big as the pan, plus the height of the sides, plus about 1cm.

7: Grease the pan.

8: Carefully lower the dough into your pan. Press it into the corners.

9: Place in an oven at 160C/320F for 10-15min.

10: Whisk the egg.

11: Take the pie base and brush it all over with the beaten egg. Place back in the oven for 5min.

12: Fill the pie with the berry mix.

13: Take the other 1/3 of the dough and work it.

14: Roll it into a ball and roll it out so that the sections will go across the pie.

15: Using your sharp knife, slice the dough into a quadrilateral. Slice it into 6 or 12 strips.

16: Lay the strips over the top of the pie, weaving them.

17: Squish the strips onto the side of the pie and add egg to ensure they stick.

18: Glaze with more egg.

19: Bake at 160C/320F for 50min.

You can save the remaining egg for scrambled eggs or an omelet.

A more photogenic dish.

A more photogenic dish.

Mmm, pie!

Mmm, pie!

 

And that’s what Jon had for lunch today. He was very pleased. 😀

First garden update.

First garden update.

Considering the garden is doing reasonably well, I decided earlier this week I’d show the progress I’ve made since mid January. Granted, most of the fruits of my labour are small or yet to sprout or be collected, but the difference is marked and I thought I may as well offer an update now and another when we have hens, the cabbages are huge and the bushes bearing berries.

So, this is what the garden looked like in mid January.

DCIM100MEDIA

DCIM100MEDIA

Both photos taken from the patio.

Frost on the ground, flowerbed a bit weedy, no signs of pretty or edible plants beyond the pots. Much work needed to be done!

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The first step I took: turning the flower bed. For some reason it made me very proud.

DCIM100MEDIADCIM100MEDIA

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The first batches of things I planted. The berry bushes are just sticks and the peppers and beans in the trays didn’t grow. The second batch of peppers and beans are doing nicely, though.

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The first lot of seeds.

.

Now for the garden as it currently is. Firstly,the patio pots have been reorganized. There are flowers and bushes and herbs already in some. The two troughs have peas in them and the empty pot next-to them will have coriander. There are multiple flowers in that green pot, along with a solar-powered light, to guide us up when we get home late and to guide students back when they leave late. In the far background there’s a birdbath+table, a hanging bird table and a pallet for the birds to hide under and sit on.

Later2

Later1

Also, note the chicken coop and run. On the 26th there will be four re-homed ex-battery hens in there. I found it on Gumtree along with all the necessities for keeping hens (bedding, feed, anti-mite-spray, feeders, etc) and cleaned it, set it up and painted it myself. All in all, around £130, including petrol and the huge bucket of waterproof paint.

Later3

The path is lined with three battery-powered lights (with butterflies as dispersers, because), to light the way at night. I dug a new flower-bed. At Jon’s request, there is a strip of greenery left between the two beds and a grassy path leading to it. We will be putting a bench there and there are already solar-powered lights set in. For this photo I was standing on our compost-heap, near which I will dig another bed to plant pumpkins in (they like very rich soil).

Plants3

The current batch of seedlings and seed pots. Lettuces, tomatoes, beans, beets, sunflowers, leeks, peppers, chilies, etc.

Plants4

Some of the parsnips I planted in January seem to be taking (thin leafed shoots to the right of the daffodils).

Bed1

New bed I dug. The little green things in the bottom left (near the border) are peas and beans. The big leafy things at the back are rhubarb. The rows of green are mystery bulbs. Not sure what they are, but looking forward to finding out! The slope in the back is where peppers, tomatoes, chilies and courgettes will be transplanted when they’re stronger. Not sure what’s going between the peas and beans and the mystery bulbs yet.

Bed2

The flowery corner of the flowerbed. Sadly can’t find the photos of when the primulas and daffodils were at their best. We’ve had many visiting bees trying to nest there, so I may get a bee home for them.

Bed3

Further up there are the berry bushes interspaced with sunflowers. See that leafy green thing in the mid-right? That’s a redcurrant. Most noticeable growth goes to the redcurrants and gooseberries. Award for least activity goes to the blackcurrants. Award for fussiest plant goes to the raspberries.

Bed4

Those teeny-tiny things are seedlings from when I went crazy and just spread random seeds everywhere. I think they’re the forget-me-nots. Looking forward to seeing them come up.

Bed5

Leaving good space between these, but may plant some annuals in-between. Two roses and a leafy bush. Want them to grow big and strong! 🙂

Map.

A quick sketch of the current plans for the garden. Still got much to do, but it will be lovely when it’s done. 🙂

Pretty much every bag of seeds cost from 0-99p, every bush and plant cost 99p-£1.50, all the lights cost 99p each and the coop cost £130 total, so it’s not like I’m going all out and spending hundreds on it, either. Maybe nearing £180 by now, but doing well.

Money-Saving Book: Sneak-Peek.

So, it isn’t quite finished yet, I don’t have a proper title yet and everything is likely to be polished up and changed a little, but here’s an excerpt from the book I’m writing on money-saving tricks, tips and techniques.

All feedback appreciated and, if you’ve personally tried any of these tricks, feel free to leave a testimony/review, as it will be added to the book. 😀

From what’s currently chapter 3: “FOOD”.

1.- Supermarkets: Scams, Scroungers, Savings!

Too many people nowadays seem to think that supermarkets are a necessary evil. Yes, they draw you in with “Offers” and then shove what they actually want you to buy in your face, but what can you do? They’re the only place where you can find everything you want at a medium price and just get it all over. Necessary Evil.

Except they aren’t either: not necessary, but not evil either. But more on that in the next chapter, just hold the thought! First, we’ll assume you don’t feel up to going to an outdoors market, or to specialized stores for everything you want. Let’s say you want to use the supermarket, you just don’t want to be conned.

Something I quickly found was that brand names do in fact, mean very little. For example, my boyfriend and I would usually only drink a certain brand of energy drink. It didn’t take long to figure out that, on offer, it was £2 a litre and, full price, sometimes £4 or more! What were we using it for? The taste? That was the main difference between our favourite and the cheaper brands and we used them largely for the odd (or daily) boost in the morning. So, we started getting some cheaper energy drinks. We quickly saw that cheaper brands were, at most £1.30 a litre, sometimes even cheaper than that! And, to be honest: you aren’t going to tell the difference at that time in the morning.

Another issue was baked beans. There is a certain, well-known brand of beans that does, according to my boyfriend, taste rather different to others. He prefers it. However, a preference isn’t a need and we soon found out that a splash of curry-paste or paprika in a cheaper brand did wonders! Plus, it goes really well with sausages. Yum!

Admittedly, there will be things everyone hangs onto. I still buy the expensive energy drink because I like to enjoy it with my boyfriend, it has connotations for us that make it pleasant. I also sometimes get a certain type of chocolate, as a treat. But these are odd treats: you don’t have to have it all the time and, even if a certain brand is truly “irreplaceable”, that doesn’t have to be how it is for every item in your house!

But what about offers? When is a deal really too good to miss? Well, there are two types of offers, as far as I’m concerned: offers on a product you usually get (same or different brand) and offers on something you haven’t ever got.

So: products you usually get. If it’s the exact same item you usually get, same brand, same size box… etc. and it’s just been discounted, it’s a no-brainer: get it. But what if it’s a “multi” offer? Where you have to buy more than you’d usually get so as to make a save? There are three main variables: perishability, quality and cost.

How perishable is it?
You’re more likely to get away with buying 12 cans of tomatoes than 12 actual tomatoes (unless your family are true tomato-lovers!). Think about how long it would take to use it all up. For example, as I am usually at home on my own, I wouldn’t ever get more than 10 bananas: I just can’t eat them that fast! However, if there was a deal of “12 for the price of 6”, I may get the 12 and just make sure I eat A LOT of bananas. Basically: know your limits. If it’s 1 for £1.20 or 2 for £2, ask yourself: Is there any humanly possible way we can get through two before they go off? Do we want to? Depending on your answer, you’re halfway to seeing if it’s worth buying!

How good is it?
If it’s the same brand you always get, you won’t have to ask this, but, sometimes, you see a new or different brand on offer and wonder “Would this work?” I often find myself looking at discounted new or popular brands and try and weigh the pros and cons of getting it. So, here’s a check-list to see if it’s worth being adventurous and getting those 12 cans of unknown-brand tomatoes!
– Is it something fairly generic?
Good example: apples. Apples are apples are apples. As long as you can see what it is on the outside, you can have a quick guess as to whether these Granny Smith’s are better or worse than your usual choice.
– Does it have the same (or better) stuff in?
You don’t want to be swapping your favourite, wholesome pasta-sauce for one filled with preservatives if you can avoid it!
– Could we eat our way through it or make it work if it turns out we don’t like it?
Not necessary if you can return it, but returning is a major annoyance and most people I have known wouldn’t return something just because they don’t like it.
– Is this something everyone eats?
Why bother getting 2kg of pork when Bobby is a vegetarian, Mommy is dieting and Luke won’t eat anything that isn’t reared to his standards? (Unless, of course, Daddy is going through a bodybuilding/strength-training phase.)

How expensive is it?
Needless to say, if your weekly food budget is £40 and those tomatoes would push you into £45, they’re probably staying on the shelf. Something I advise, specifically for this sort of occasion, is to always have a small amount of change that you can throw onto a shopping bill. It may seem frivolous at first, but, if it saves you £10 over three weeks, would it be such a bad thing to have an extra fiver in pennies?

Tips for trying new stuff:

Return dates! If you are happy to make a return trip: do it within a certain time-limit! It’s very hard to return perishables much later than the next day. For non-perishables, return within a week or by the date given on the receipt!

Don’t experiment with staples! It’s hard to get through bread you hate when you’re having it for the next week and a bit.

If you don’t like it, try and swap with friends/family/neighbours! You may not make all your money’s worth back, but something is better than nothing.

But what if you haven’t ever got this item before? Here, I recommend the same cautions as with the untried brands… and even more! If at all possible, buy a “sample” to take home and try. You may find that certain products are on “loop-offers”: offers that they make and then repeat in a few month’s time. I found out that Lidl often keep a certain well-known brand of beans on a “loop”. The offer they were on made them cheaper than the cheapest brands! So I tried them and then, as I liked the taste, later stocked up on them. Now I alternate using that brand and cheap beans with paprika! But this was another brand issue. I would never consider swapping from say, potatoes to brown rice, if I’ve never tried the rice! I’d have to try it first, see if it works with what I usually have at home before I stocked-up on discounted rice.

Recipe Corner. 5 Budget-Friendly Healthy Dishes.

Phew! For the first time in my life, I think I can legitimately say I am a busy woman. I shall ignore the fact that having children will absolutely make me revise this statement and, for now, just feel satisfied that housework, tutoring, DIY, cooking, shopping, workouts, writing, reading and sewing makes me busy.

Also, I am currently nibbling on a “Peaches and Cream” tart which is divine and I shall share with you tomorrow, because I’m nice like that. :p

Yum. :D

Yum. 😀

Anyhow, onto the recipes.

I used to run a blog where I would make meals for £1/portion or less. I wound up a bit too busy to plan out every meal, as £1 was a bit restrictive in terms of what I wanted to eat (kcal count, variety, volume, etc), so I eventually gave up. But budget-eating is still very much important to me If anything, that blog showed me how well I could eat for very little, so the principles have been carried-over into my current cooking. Of course, the food isn’t quite as cheap as it used to be, not all the time, but Jon and I eat heartily due to our activity levels, so it wouldn’t be. In fact, that WAS the very reason I had to leave the previous blog. Yet considering he initially wanted to give me £50-60/week (that’s $83-100) for our food and toiletries and that at the moment I’m spending £20-30/week ($33-50) and still providing us with 1800-3500kcal/day, I’d say I still have the magic touch.

So, in the spirit of my old blog, here are five budget-friendly, healthy meals, complete with the cost. The cost is for the total we make and I will include how many portions we get out of it, though someone with a small appetite may get more and a bulking bodybuilder may get less. I’ll leave it up to you to decide how many servings it makes. Besides that, the costs haven’t been translated into any other currency because:

a: My blog’s readership is too varied.

b: The cost of things is too variable even within the UK.

It’s just there to give you an idea of my expenses and how I keep them down. 🙂

These are all things that show up on our table regularly or semi-regularly, are tasty and cheap.

Recipe 1: Lamb’s Liver Curry.

currylambliver

Pros: very quick and easy.

Cons: pre-made sauce or curry mix, not much variety of veg, kids may find lamb’s liver too strong.

Ingredients:

-400-500g/14.1-17.6oz fresh lamb’s liver (Sainsbury’s, reduced: 55p)

-1 large leek (market: 12p)

-1 onion (Sainsbury’s, family bag: 5p)

-100g/3.5oz broccoli (market: 12p)

-25g/0.9oz grass-fed butter (Kerrygold: 20p)

-2tbsp curry powder (Asian store: 5p)

-1tsp smoked paprika (Sainsbury’s: 5p)

-100g/3.5oz rice (Sainsbury’s, basics: 4p)

Total: £1.18. Makes us two portions.

Utensils:

-chopping board and knife

-frying pan

Recipe:

1: Wash and slice the vegetables. To include broccoli stalks, slice as thinly as possible.

2: Pan-fry the vegetables in a little of the butter until the onion and leek are limp and translucent, but not caramelizing. Take off the heat briefly.

3: Put the rice on to boil.

4: Slice the liver as desired. Add to the vegetables alongside the seasoning and remainder butter.

5: Return to the heat until the liver is as cooked as you like it.

6: Serve with rice.

Recipe 2: “Hellmince” bolognese.

spagbol

Pros: can make a lot of it, instant winner with all taste buds, not much washing-up, little involvement once the pot’s simmering.

Cons: not as nice if you aren’t eating pasta or rice.

Ingredients:

-8-10 medium carrots (Sainsbury’s, basics: 50p)

-200g/7oz celeriac/swede/squash/beet (variable: let’s say 25p)

-1-2 large onions (Sainsbury’s, family pack: 10p)

-2 courgettes (Sainsbury’s, basics, reduced: 50p)

-900-1000ml/around 30-35floz chopped tomato (Sainsbury’s, basics, one carton, one jar: £1)

-1kg/35oz “hellmince” (Sainsbury’s, basics, frozen: £3.15)

-5tbsp olive oil (Sainsbury’s, reduced: 25p)

-4 crushed garlic cloves (Sainsbury’s, basics: 10p)

-smoked paprika

-salt

-pepper

-mixed herbs

Total: £5.85 discounting herbs and spices. Makes us around 6-8 servings.

Utensils:

-chopping board and knife

-large pot

Recipe:

1: Wash and dice all the vegetables. Keep the tuber and onion fine and the carrot and courgette chunky. Crush the garlic.

2: Mix them in a pot with the tomato, about one cup of water and the seasoning.

3: Bring to a boil and then turn down. Add the olive-oil. Leave to simmer for 40-50min.

4: Add the mince. Continue simmering for 20min.

5: Serve over pasta or rice, or just as a stew.

We served ours with spelt spaghetti, but I may thicken the sauce a little with rice flour, so it sticks better next time.

Recipe 3: Mixed vegetable chips.

chips

Pros: lots of nutrition, better than your average chip, kids should like.

Cons: not much protein, better as a side or a snack.

Ingredients:

-2 large carrots (Sainsbury’s, basics: 10p)

-1 large parsnip (Sainsbury’s, loose: 20p)

-200g/7oz celeriac (Co-op, reduced: 20p)

-200g/7oz swede (market: 10p)

-rendered lard or tallow (leftover: free)

-salt, pepper, onion powder

Total: 80p, give or take. Makes two or four servings, as it’s usually a side-dish.

Utensils:

-knife and chopping board

-small pot

-baking tray

Recipe:

1: Wash and peel the vegetables.

2: Slice them into evenly sized pieces.

3: Put them in the pot, add water and boil until they’re tender, but not falling apart.

4: Drain them and leave them on paper or in a colander to dry.

5: Once they’re drier, toss them in the fat and seasonings and place them in the baking tray.

6: Set the oven to 180C/355F and cook the chips until they’re browned. This should take around 25-30min. You will need to give them a shake or stir a couple of times.

7: Serve with freshly ground salt on top.

Recipe 4: Bubble and squeak.

Pros: delicious, cheap, good way to use leftovers, kids like it, good as a side or a main.

Cons: none, it’s marvelous.

Ingredients:

-200-300g/7-10.6oz roast or boiled potatoes (leftovers: free)

-leftover cabbage, carrots, onions and any other veg, around 200g (leftovers: free)

-200g/7oz bacon (Sainsbury’s, basics: 38p)

-25g/0.9oz butter (Kerrygold: 15p)

-salt and pepper

Total: 53p extra expense on the leftovers. Two servings.

Utensils:

-chopping board and knife

-frying pan and spatula

Recipe:

1: Chop up the assorted vegetables and mash up the potatoes. Dice the bacon.

2: Warm the butter in the pan. Fry the bacon until the fat is rendered from it.

3: Add the vegetables and cook until the potatoes are browned.

4: Add salt and pepper before serving.

It’s normal for this dish to make squeaking, crackling and popping sounds whilst it cooks.

Recipe 5: Chicken liver curry with rice.

Pros: nutritious, quick to cook, very cheap, good staple.

Cons: it’s still liver and some may disapprove, low calories.

Ingredients:

-250g/8.8oz chicken livers (Sainsbury’s, frozen: 50p)

-1 large onion (Sainsbury’s, family bags: 5p)

-300g/10.6oz mixed veg (Sainsbury’s, basics, frozen: 22p)

-100g/3.5oz rice, cooked (Sainsbury’s, basics: 4p)

-50g/1.8oz butter (Kerrygold: 30p)

-2tbsp curry powder (Asian store: 5p)

Total: £1.16. Two servings.

We sometimes add chopped leftover chicken or bacon to it, as the kcal content is a bit on the low side.

Utensils:

-chopping board and knife

-frying pan

Recipe:

1: Mix the butter and spices in the frying pan on a low heat.

2: Slice all the vegetables finely and fry them in butter at a high heat.

3: Finely slice the liver and add it to the mix.

4: Add the rice and some tomato puree or water.

5: Cook until everything is thoroughly curried.