In the ’90s when ever I thought of frugal recipes I turned my attention to my copy of How to Feed Your Family for £5 a Day written by the incredibly talented and innovative cook Bernadine Lawrence. Bernadine’s book was updated in 2012 and imho is the best frugal food cookery book out there. Now that we have the internet every one has access to lots of frugal recipes and frugal foodie sites, but I would still highly recommend you buy a copy of Bernadine’s book.
I always wanted to try out the baked cheesecake recipe which has a filling made from sweetened mashed potato, lemon and sultanas but for one reason or another I never got around to it. Well what better day to bake some thing new from my favourite frugal recipes book than a miserable grey Sunday? Having explained to my children that I was making a “fake bake” cheesecake using mashed potato and being met by looks that suggested care in an institution might be on the cards I set to work. My daughter decided to join so an hour or so later the fake bake was ready. So far three of my children have sampled the cheesecake and all declared it a resounding success. I must confess I’ve already happily munched my way through more than one slice and am having to restrain myself from sampling some more!
I am trying to raise some money to buy beds so am resorting to Ebay selling to fund this. I have had a clear out of wool that I will probably never get around to using so at the moment it’s trying to sell balls of wool to provide the cash for bed frames. This weekend Ebay is offering free listing to private sellers so I am hoping to have a clear out and get some more items listed today. My camera is not the most reliable and I don’t own a fancy mobile capable of taking decent images so it is a bit hit and miss as to what the photos end up looking like.
Apart from Ebay selling I have been busy this week mystery shopping and have added Frugal Living Mum to Facebook & Twitter. I’ve also been cooking with the £1 for 500g steak mince from Westin Gourmet which has gone done well with the troops. If you missed out on Westin Gourmet’s steak mince offer make sure you keep checking their site for more weekly specials.
Getting free samples is always satisfying. Yesterday I went to the dentist’s which is never a cause for celebration in my book, even when it’s only for a check up but I did manage to get some free toothpaste samples whilst I was there. I am taking three of the children for a check up this week so I’ll be sure to get some more free samples then. The secret to bagging a few free samples is not being shy – if you don’t ask you don’t get!!
There are a lot of online resources dedicated to letting you know about all the latest free samples. Large companies give away free samples hoping that you like their products and go on to purchase their products on a regular basis. This week as well as mystery shopping I have found out I have been accepted on to two new consumer test panels. Being accepted on to consumer test panels means you are typically given free products before they are launched to test and give your feedback to the companies concerned. In the past I have done this for a large cosmetics company but I am now trying to target consumer test panels for groceries so I can make my money stretch a bit further on the household food shopping bill.
Places to find free samples
- Student Cash – not just for students – freebies, price glitches & reduced price items
- Magic Freebies – free stuff from solar panels to product samples
- Hot UK Deals – hot deals, free samples & UK competitions
- Facebook – a hunt around Facebook can be profitable. Just by liking a producer you are often able to request a free sample.
If you know of other sites dedicated to bringing you links to free samples please feel free to add them as comments.
Raising chickens for eggs always becomes more popular during a recession and more people seem to be getting a couple of back yard hens for egg production. We have two garden hens who very generously provide us with two eggs a day. Our chickens are Columbian blacktails which is a hybrid bred specifically for egg production. They are in their second year of lay so in theory their egg production should be starting to reduce, but so far nobody seems to have told the girls.
According to Channel 4’s Super Scrimpers programme based on having two hens raising chickens for eggs will save you about £150 a year. You also know have the assurance that your eggs truly are fresh daily and are free range. Keeping hens in the back garden or yard is not difficult. If you live in a flat it may not be practical, but you could always rent an allotment and put a few chucks on there.
What you need for raising chickens for eggs
- A coop – we purchased a ready made one in financially rosier times. Making your own is a lot cheaper and there are plenty of plans for chicken coops online.
- Woodshavings for the floor of your coop – agricultural merchants sell large bags and are cheaper than pet shops
- Food for your chickens – what type of food your birds require will depend on what age your girls are when you get them. If they are just about to start laying when you buy them or already in lay you will need layers pellets. I pay about £8 for a 20 kilo sack which seems to last forever.
- Oyster shell – this helps your girls with egg shell production
- Containers for food and water
- Hens!! When you are raising chickens for eggs do some research and pick a breed you like the look of. If you are new to poultry keeping I recommend hybrid hens as opposed to pure breeds as being bred for egg production they are hardy and will give you the best return for your money.
www.woohoobingo.com lets you earn free vouchers for playing bingo. I’ve played at Woohoo for some time now and managed to earn a fair few free vouchers so I’m happy to recommend it to you. It is totally free to sign up at the site and you play bingo with free points that are provided daily. There are various ways to increase the number of points you have to play with such as completing challenges and participating in chat games. The site is easy to navigate and if you need any assistance there are plenty of friendly chat moderators to help you out. Most of the players are happy to chat too.
You play with free points to earn various coloured stars which you can exchange for vouchers or free gifts. The vouchers I always save my gold stars up for are £20 Amazon vouchers as these come in handy for my love of purchasing second hand books. You could save your Amazon vouchers to put towards Christmas or birthday presents too. Lets face it there is plenty of choice at Amazon. Love2Shop free vouchers are also available for playing bingo at Woohoo along with chocolate, sweet and champagne hampers so there is plenty to choose from.
Racking up enough gold stars to exchange for vouchers or gifts can take some time, but there are ways to maximize your chances of winning more gold stars. Every evening there are jackpot games in certain rooms so for example you can earn 100 gold stars at 7pm, up to 50k point at 8pm and 150 gold stars at 9pm. If you are already online at that time it isn’t much effort to log in to the site for the chance of winning free vouchers for playing bingo. Who said frugal living couldn’t be fun too?
Want free cinema tickets?
I am not a film buff, but if you offer me free cinema tickets and it’s a film I think would be interesting to watch I’m going to accept. A lot of people don’t seem to realise that you can get free cinema tickets, although you are limited to 2 free tickets for each account registered at See Film First. If a group of you wanted to go see the same film I guess there is nothing stopping all of you registering at See Film First.
The advantage of these freebie film tickets is that not only are they 100% free, but you also get to see films before they are on general release nationally. This Sunday morning I took my daughter to see The Big Wedding at the Odeon Sheffield. As usual it was fairly quiet at the cinema with less than half the seats full, so there are obviously a lot of free cinema tickets still available for these events.
Money Saving Tips – gas & electricity bills
This week I decided to look at ways I could use money saving tips to reduce my household bills and generally do a quick stock take of where my family’s finances are at. My house is a 4 storey Edwardian detached property and despite my best efforts to reduce our energy consumption we are still a high energy user. I’m pleased to say that by only having the heating on when needed and encouraging the use of showers instead of baths the gas and electricity bills are starting to come down, but not fast enough!
I don’t know if you saw the news that it’s predicted the average annual energy bill will be bigger than than the average annual mortgage payments within the next 12 years so I thought it was a good time to review whether I could save any money by switching to a new energy provider. I have been with First Utility for the last few years and been very pleased with the service, but at the end of April they withdrew the tariff I was on and switched me to a more expensive one.
So I went online and had a hunt around to see which was the cheapest gas and electricity provider for me by entering my energy usage for the last 12 months. I used a number of different comparison sites to ensure accuracy. According to the comparison charts Spark Energy could save me £999 a year but having seen they featured on Watchdog and have a terrible customer service record I didn’t think this was a good choice. So in the end I plumped for npower signing up through Energylinx which will reduce my bills by £577 a year and earn me £32 cashback at Quidco. I subsequently saw I could have earned £60 cashback at Quidco by switching to npower direct, so I could have done even better!
So in terms of money saving tips I’d advise to always review your utility bills regularly and see whether you can shave any money off them. However, I would never recommend using money saving tips that are going to cause you stress so if you see a provider has a poor customer service record with a lot of online complaints avoid them. True you may save more money in the long run, but if you have to spend hours on the phone you are wasting your valuable time when you could be doing something much more pleasurable.
I’ll be looking at other household bills I’ve managed to reduce in future blog posts. If you’ve recently reduced your own energy bills feel free to leave a comment and share your tips too.
What is a mystery shopper?
A mystery shopper is someone paid by market research companies to check on customer service in their clients establishments and the good news is you can become a mystery shopper. The assignments you will be sent on range from popping in to your local garage to visiting hotels and restaurants. You will then typically be asked to give feedback on your visit along with submitting a scanned copy of a receipt for items purchased. Payment for assignments ranges from £5 to £40 and will be paid direct in to your bank account.
How to become a mystery shopper..
Sadly there are a lot of mystery shopping scams out there. A genuine company will never ask you to pay a registration or admin fee to sign up with them. If you would like to become a mystery shopper and earn some extra cash I’d strongly recommend you register with Market Force which is an international company with a long record in consumer evaluation. If you are in the States the Mystery Shopping Providers Association also lists companies looking for mystery shoppers at mysteryshop.org.
You won’t earn a fortune mystery shopping, but by becoming a mystery shopper you are contributing to the improvement of customer service at local businesses. You’ll also be compensated for your time and effort so it can be quite interesting. Why not register and give it a go?
In an effort to cut my outgoings even more this week I’ve been looking in to cut price hair cuts. My hair has been coloured a variety of shades since I was the tender age of thirteen so I wanted to find somewhere I could get my hair cut and coloured at a budget price. I’ve tried leaving longer periods between hair appointments, but this has resulted in my kids begging me to go to the hairdresser as my appearance gradually degenerated in to unkempt cave woman with issues.
The other options I’ve trialed have been alternating between visiting an expensive salon and a cheaper one at varying intervals and just having my hair cut by a hairdresser but colouring my hair at home. My home hair colouring has been hit and miss with some very patchy results so I wanted to find somewhere that would give me the cut price hair cuts I desired and colour my hair at the same time.
Well today I went and had my hair cut at the local college. The cost for a cut and colour was £21. This is a quarter of the price the expensive salons charge locally and less than I would pay just for a cut in a cheaper salon. The college as well as offering cut price hair cuts and hair treatments also offers budget beauty treatments.
So was my cut price hair cut and colour a disaster? Well sorry to disappoint but I was very pleased with the end result and will be going again in the future. Students are supervised by their tutors at all times so the chances of your cut price hair cuts turning in to cut price disasters are slim. If you’ve a local college I’d definitely recommend giving them a call to see if you can further the education of the next generation of hairdressers at the same time as getting yourself regular cut price hair cuts. Some local salons also offer this service if you volunteer as a model for trainees so it’s well worth asking.