Monthly Archives: October 2013

Coupons, Coupons, Coupons…(or Vouchers if you are English)

I love getting vouchers and coupons and will use them at every opportunity to try and save a little more money.

A couple of years ago I found some websites that list various discounts available that you can download coupons from.

I started using a couple of these and purchased various products, however it did not take me long to realise that if I was not careful and selective over which ones I used it was actually going to cost me MORE!!

The reason being is that most of these vouchers are basically a bait to entice you to buy products that you would not normally buy and I found that on a few occasions I was doing this.   I quickly realised that if I was using a voucher and buying something I do not usually buy or need, I was not actually saving money but spending more so as much as I dislike not taking advantage of an offer it is not always a saving (why my supermarket keep giving me a discount voucher for Polish beer I do not know…)

Now at the time it was coming up to Christmas so I allowed myself a few extras as special Christmas treats but there is also another trick in this:

Many of the downloadable vouchers are not specific to a particular store (although some are) which is great when the voucher is for a free item so you can pick up the product quite easily.  (Sometimes if I have a voucher for a free item that I do not need I will get it anyway and pass it on to someone else). 

Between the various supermarkets you will quite often find that an item is on discount or offer at one of them so the best thing to do if you do want to sample a product you do not normally buy is to use the voucher in the store which has the offer on (you can search the online websites of most of the major supermarkets to check which has the best price)  I have even managed to get money back occasionally or certainly pay very little. Usually they have a reasonable expiry date so if you wait you will often find that the item will be placed on offer at some point before then.

Some stores are wise to this trick however and will restrict how you can use the vouchers but others will simply take the value off your total.

I sometimes get vouchers that are “Save £x when you spend over £x”.  These are great but again they are trying to get you to spend more and if you are on a strict budget then these can be a downfall if you are not careful.  (I’ve occasionally passed these on to someone who has a bigger household if it is too much over my budget)

As I usually prepare a shopping list, I can check prices online and know how much my shopping will be.  On the weeks that I have a “spend over” voucher I will plan to buy the things like loo rolls or extras of something that I buy on a weekly basis.  I will still stick to my monthly budget but instead of buying items every week I will buy for the whole month to take advantage of the money off.  Many times I have managed to get my shopping to a few pence over the required amount by keeping note of what I have put in my trolley and adding it up before heading to the checkout.  (a small calculator in your shopping bag is handy although many phones have a calculator option on them now).  Of course you also have to make sure that you do spend less in the remaining weeks.

Many restaurant chains also give vouchers from their websites, so if you know you are going to one it is worth checking their website beforehand to see if they have any offers.  Some of these require that you sign up to like their Facebook page or go on their e-mail lists for free drinks or deserts etc (I got free deserts for 3 people at the weekend when we went out saving over £10).  Don’t fall into the trap though of saying “Oh I’ve got a voucher for x so lets go there”.  Unless you are already planning a visit you are not saving money if you go simply because you have a voucher – it is costing you more!!

My purse is full of loyalty cards but many of these can give you a lot of extras.  I get free coffees, additional discounts and vouchers or save points for vouchers every 3 months.  Even my credit card gives me money off vouchers which increase as it is used so I pay for everything with that to gain extra points and vouchers. (Remember you must pay the card off in full every months otherwise it will end up costing you a lot more in interest).

It is sometimes worth “liking” the Facebook pages of shops and products that you use as they will often let you know about special offers and discounts or give you opportunity to win or download additional vouchers or prizes.

I have not quite managed the “Extreme Couponing” I’ve seen in a TV program where people purchase whole stockpiles of goods but all these little extras you can get help keep the budget under control and occasionally allow a little extra treat.


More Cake please?

When I made some cakes at the weekend using my usual method; (  I had looked on the internet for a Diabetic Friendly recipe as the purpose of the event was in honor of a couple of friends.  One of whom is trying to follow a diabetic diet, and I also knew there were several other people who needed to be careful with their sugar intake.

I was amazed that nearly all the recipes seemed to use Sugar Substitutes and artificial sweeteners.  Having read that these can actually contribute to the Development of Diabetes ( I was reluctant to use any of them and concluded that the best thing to do was to just make small “fairy” cakes and leave some un-iced so that my friends could choose a lower sugar option.

This bugged me that it was a less than satisfactory solution and so I set about doing a little more research and established that it was not just the sugar that was a problem but the sugars released from carbohydrates too.

I already knew that whole grains and wholemeal flour etc had what is known as a Lower GI(glycemic index) giving a slower and more controlled release of sugars and established that this was a better option for Diabetics so making cakes with wholemeal flour would be a better option and saw that I could buy Wholemeal Self Raising Flour in my local supermarket.

Having some pears in the fridge I thought that if I cooked them down into a puree, I could substitute them for the sugar in my basic cake mix

So off I trotted to my supermarket to get some wholemeal flour and proceeded with my plan.

This is the result:

I asked my friends to test this and they gave it the thumbs up saying that it help to keep them feeling full and did not appear to have any significant effect on the blood sugar levels

Sugar Free Pear and Almond Cake (Diabetic Friendly)

Makes 12 “fairy” size cakes or 6 Muffins

You will need:

3 ripe Pears

2 Eggs (check weight)

Wholemeal Self Raising Flour (equal weight to the eggs) – wholemeal flour gives a slower carbohydrate release which is better for diabetics.

1 tsp baking powder

Margarine or Butter (again equal weight to the eggs)

25g Ground Almonds

Lemon Juice


Peel and chop the pears into small pieces, place into a pan or microwaveable dish with a little lemon juice and water and cook gently until the fruit has softened enough to mash. (save the peelings and put them on a baking tray in the bottom of the oven while the cake is cooking until they are crisp and you have some pear crisps to enjoy)

Set aside to cool.

In an bowl mix together the flour, eggs and margarine and baking powder.

When all the ingredients are blended together add in the cooled pears and almonds (optional) and mix together.

Divide into 12 lined “fairy” cake cup or 6 muffin cake tin (you could put all the mix into one cake tin if preferred)

Bake in a preheated oven at 170degrees for approximately 15 to 20 minutes (longer if doing single cake).

You could substitute some sweet apples with a teaspoon of cinnamon as an alternative to the Pears and almonds

Where is the Foodbank Collection Box???

Foodbank’s have been in the news a bit recently along with a lot of news about food wastage.  About a year ago I began to get involved a little with our local Foodbank helping on a couple of occasions when they needed extra help.

Recently I spent a couple of hours at the entrance of our local supermarket giving out leaflets to help with a collection of extra stocks the foodbank needed.  Many families on low incomes need extra help over the summer holidays because their children are at home and not getting the school dinners that they are entitled to, and there had been a huge increase in the numbers of people needing help so stocks were running low.

The majority of people were friendly and keen to do a little to help – we were just asking them to purchase something extra with their shop and donate it at the collection point on their way out.

A few people though were antagonistic and said that it was all the governments fault or the supermarket’s greed (their annual results had been published that day) and I thought to myself “I hope that you don’t find yourself needing to go to a Foodbank one day”.

Anyway the days collection was deemed successful and the supermarket involved made a donation too as well as allowing some of their staff to help with the collection on the day.

Today as I walked through a supermarket,  I noticed a collection box for food donations for one of the animal charities (sorry didn’t notice which one) – It was packed full which was great.  Then I looked around and thought “Why is there not a collection box for the Foodbank or some other similar charity?” and yes; being a little cynical wondered if those same people who objected to the Foodbank collection felt the same way about the animal charities?  My hunch was that they would have gladly given to a pet charity.  At the end of the day – which is more important? – where are our priorities?

Now don’t get me wrong, I love animals and think the animal shelters do a fantastic job, but why are we so reluctant to do the same for our fellow man, why do we happily give to overseas and animal charities but ignore the needs of our neighbour?

Just a thought.

How to avoid Wasting food

Big headlines today about Tescos announcing figures on the the amount of food that is wasted so of course I had to comment.

Although the reports centered on the amount of food thrown away at the supermarket, it also highlighted the huge amount that is wasted by families.  The BBC report states that an average of £700 worth of food is thrown away by each family.

Much of this waste is easily avoided by applying a little thought and discipline to your weekly shop.  Yes it takes a little effort but you will soon find that following some of these tips will not only save you from throwing away food which also impacts the environment but will save you a huge amount of money.  It will also save you time in the supermarket as you can avoid the aisles where you don’t need anything and whiz around quickly.

My first tip is:

1: Make a Shopping List

I always make a list before doing my weekly shop.  Some while ago I made myself a list of the things that I regularly buy or like to have in stock as an “aide memoir” so that I can check my stocks to see if I need to buy a particular item and put it on the list.

This brings me on to my next “tip”

2: Know your Fridge, Freezer and Cupboards.

Before going shopping check your fridge to see what is still in there.  Most of it will be still usable so plan to use it in the next day or so.  This will also help you avoid duplicating something which you did not need to buy.

At least once a month go through your freezer and check what is in there.  I make a list in the back of the same book I do my shopping list in and cross things out as I use them.  Check the dates on things and plan to use up some of the older items.  Again this will help you avoid duplicating things.

Similarly go though your cupboards on a regular basis – make a list too if it helps and identify tins or dried foods which are getting older and plan to use them.  Most of these are still safe to use even when out of date but plan to use them as soon a possible.

3: Plan your Meals

Now you know what is in the freezer and cupboards etc make a plan of what you are going to cook for the week.  I have a multi column calender in the kitchen where I write down what we have each day and plan the meals for the week.  Alternatively you could use a small white board or something to write your plan on.  I have found though that sometimes I get to a planned meal and just don’t feel like it that day so I will either swap the meals around or have a couple of back up ideas to cook.  Remember though to keep a check on food which is fresh and may become unusable if you don’t use it soon enough.

4: Bulk Cook

Sometimes we will see an offer that is too good to pass or is more economical to buy in larger packs.  I usually take advantage of the 3 for £10 offers when I buy meat and split the packs down into small bags for the freezer.  (Learning some butchery skills like how to cut up a chicken can save you a lot of money too as a pack of chicken pieces can often cost as much as a whole chicken).

Alternatively when making a meal cook double (or more!), separate out into portions and put the remainder the freezer for another day.  This is also a great way of saving money by not buying ready meals or you can pop it in the microwave or oven instead of calling for a takeaway.

5: Portion Control

Many people have been brought up to eat everything on their plate so that nothing is wasted which is a commendable idea but also leads to overeating.  Try using a smaller plate and dishing out a smaller portion.  If someone really does need some more then it is there but you will probably find that the smaller portion is enough.  What is left over can then go into a container to be used the next day or go in the freezer rather than scraped off a plate into the bin.

6: Check Dates

Finally, on the news report I saw on the TV one “adviser” was saying that people should shop more frequently than once a week and buy  food for only 2 to 3 days as this would avoid your food going out of date by the end of the week.

I don’t agree.  I have found that if I go to the shops more regularly, I actually spend more and lose track of where I am with the weeks budget so I am now trying to be more disciplined and apply the rules above and as far as possible only shop once a week.  All you need to do is check the dates on items as you buy them.  I always check to ensure that I get the longest possible dates on perishable food or re-order the meal plan to make sure that food is used in the optimum order.  If this is not possible, then sometimes I simply don’t buy it.  A nice offer of 2 punnets of strawberries is no use if you are not going to be able to use them and end up throwing one away (make jam instead)

The list can go on and on and I will add to this another time but there is really very little excuse to throw food and you can save yourself a lot of money with a clean conscience too

The Tale of Squeaky Mouse


Today Squeaky mouse went for a good long run.

First he ran under my chair and then he ran along the front of the sofa and tried to hide under the corner of the red throw but he couldn’t hide for long.   “She” was after him, and soon he made a dash out into the hallway and then through to the kitchen but the fridge got in the way so after a quick circuit of the kitchen, he went back through the hallway and into the living room and rejoined his friends Ratty and Rattytwo by the scratch mat and all the toys.

“She” had been terrified of him when he first came to live here, sat on top of a spring he would squeak loudly whenever he was pushed and “She” would not even come into the room if he was there but watch from the safe distance of the doorway nervously.  “She” had never met a squeaky mouse before and really didn’t know what to make of him.

Eventually he got off his spring and as sat quietly by the scratch mat “She” got a little braver and with a little encouragement began play with him and he became one of her favorite toys with lots of midnight games of tag around the living room with squeaky mouse shouting each time “She” caught him and tossed him in the air or chased him around the room.

Sometimes he would manage to hide for a few days under the armchair or in the kitchen until the humans realized he was missing and found him and brought him back out onto the scratch mat along with all her other toys.

When we first adopted our cat, I bought this toy for her thinking she would love to play with it – it was a little fabric toy mouse on top of a spring on a board which the cat could pat and play with and it would squeak every time it was hit.

Did “She” like it? – NO! in fact she was scared of it and would not even come into the room while it was down on the floor so after several attempts to get her to play with it “Daddy” took the mouse off the spring and just left it on the floor along with a couple of other toys – it would still squeak if you hit or threw it and eventually she became brave enough to begin to play with it on her own.

Now she will suddenly spot it amongst all her other toys and leap on it and chase and throw it around the room as she did today – We’ve never understood why she disliked it before but it quickly became one of her favorites, even looking for it if we asked her “where’s squeaky mouse?”

Cats are fickle aren’t they.

Anyone for cakes????

It’s not often now that I bake cakes but occasionally I get asked to make some for church and as I am about to make a batch this afternoon I thought I would share one of my favorite baking tips.

Any bakers out there will know that this is a well established easy “tip” but it is amazing how many people do not know this so here it is:

The great thing too is that you will be able to leave the recipe book on the shelf:

For a standard basic sponge mix I weigh the eggs first (with or without the shells as there is very little difference) – usually this is 3 eggs.  Whatever these 3 eggs weigh becomes the weight required for self raising flour, margarine and sugar: so if 3 eggs weigh 180g then you need 180g of flour, 180g margarine and 180g caster sugar.  I sometimes add a teaspoon of baking powder as well to make the cakes even lighter.  Then simply beat all the ingredients together until the mixture is combined and creamy.  Divide into your baking tins and bake at around 170degrees until done.

The beauty also of this method that it is very adaptable and easy to adjust for quantities.  For example, sometimes as a treat for Sunday dinner I will make a mix using just one egg for a sponge pudding.  Alternatively if you need to make a bigger cake or number of muffins/”fairy” cakes then you can increase the proportions accordingly.

As most cake recipes give a number of eggs and then the various weights of ingredients you will often find that even though you use the same recipe, the cakes often come out differently each time.  This is because the eggs vary in size so much that the cake batter will be dryer or more liquid depending on the eggs you are using.  With this method it doesn’t matter what size the eggs are, you will always get the same consistency with your mix and I find that mine are always light and moist.