Home is where the heart is

Ok, so a warning to everyone reading: This post is going to be offal. Which really is a bad name for it, and might be part of the reason we’re so queasy about the stuff. There is an argument that if we’re going to raise an animal for meat then we really should be less wasteful and eat as much of it as we can. Everything but the ‘moo’, so to speak.

We had two packs of beef hearts in our freezer. They’d been on sale for pennies, so we’d bought them and forgotten about them. Note, no matter how cheap something is, if you don’t use it you’ve just wasted your money, so as part of our clear-out, we were adamant that we would use them and use them asap.

Beef heart is, obviously, meat taken from the heart of a cow. And as ‘meat’ is really just muscle, then it sort of follows that the heart, the hardest-working muscle in a mammal, should be more than edible.

I have eaten offal before. I couldn’t stand the taste of kidney and I didn’t much care for the texture of liver, but I once made stuffed lamb hearts, and those were delicious.

However, as Google suggested that beef heart is tougher than lamb heart, I decided to dig out my slow cooker, which will be getting a lot more work over the next few months, because winter and slow cookers are best friends.

Slow cookers not only look after your food when you’re out, cooking it very economically, the long, low cooking also makes tough meat more tender.

I had some rendang sauce that I wanted to use, and some coconut milk that was… more than a little out of date. I’m not going to tell you how long past its best before it was, because I pretty much ignore best befores.

I cut the heart into strips, added it to the slow cooker and mixed in the rendang and coconut milk.

Then I left and went and did some other stuff whilst the little cooker did its thing.

Ok, so as it was, the sauce was fiery. When I tasted it it nearly blew my head off. I cooled it down with some tinned tomatoes and yogurt. A heck of a lot of yogurt. Then it was damn good, though I’m sure it’s not rendang any more.

A bit of rice to go with it, and then we ate.

The texture, thanks to the slow cooker, was just right. The taste was nice, if (not unexpectedly) quite irony. The first half was delicious, but it was very rich, and I found that I couldn’t manage to finish about half of what I’d made.

There’s plenty left and frozen away for future meals, but maybe I’ll spread it out with some more veg or something.

I wouldn’t say that I’d be rushing out to buy it, but nor would I balk if it was reduced again.

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Fighting back against bad customer service

We recently phoned up our broadband provider to terminate our contract. We could get a much better deal elsewhere, and there was cashback available through topcashback, making it even more appealing. There is no point staying with a company like this if you aren’t getting value for money. Particularly when, in general, broadband providers have poor customer service.

broadWhen we phoned up to cancel, we were told that when we’d made changes to our package a couple of months ago, we’d signed up to a new contract. We were shocked. At no point during the conversation were we told that we’d be agreeing to that, and in fact, because we were at that time hoping to move house somewhere where they weren’t available (welcome to Northern Ireland!), we had specifically said that we would not be interested in any new contract. The cancellation guy was adamant that not only had we agreed to a new contract, but that we’d been sent a confirmation.

I knew that none of this was true.

I could been philosophical, I could have shrugged and got on with my life, but the point was, this was about more than just money. This was about a company taking action without my informed consent, and against my express wishes. I was raging!

So I asked for a copy of our contract, I asked for proof that we had been sent the confirmation email. Then I said I’d be in touch.

Then I wrote an email. I told our provider that I was furious over what had been done. I asked that they send me the recording of the original conversation during which I had apparently agreed to this new contract, because I knew that if they had it, there would be no arguing with me. I finished by telling them that if they didn’t release me from the contract I was quite prepared to go to the Ombudsman and fight it.

Today, I got a phone call from my broadband provider.

They apologised, they admitted I was right and they were wrong, they said that they wanted to keep us as a customer and they offered us a large discount.

I thought about it. I weighed up the fact that the discount was very good, bringing us under the price of the other provider, with faster speed.

I was still annoyed about the whole affair, but I accepted the apology and the deal.

Now I’m saving £13 per month against what I was paying, or £156 per year. And I got an apology.

The point of this, I suppose is that:

a) You should always fight back if you think a company has mis-sold you a product, whether it be something like what happened to me, or PPI or whatever. Unless you’re a very well paid person, £156 for a half hour of work isn’t bad.

b) your broadband provider charges its customers lots of different prices for the same product. Ask for discount. Ask again.

Have you ever fought back against a company that mistreated you? What was the outcome?

 

 

 

 

Quick! IKEA advent calendars are selling like Kanelbullar

Just a quick post tonight, because you still have time to get yourself over to IKEA to buy some of their advent calendars.

This is a fantastic offer. When you buy a  £2.95 advent calendar, you get handed a £5 voucher. Then inside the calendar (as well as delicious Swedish chocolate) is another voucher. Most will be for only £5, but you could be lucky and scoop one of the 10 £100 ones.

There are only 75,000 advent calendars across all its UK stores and:

  • 50,000 contain a £5 voucher
  • 20,000 contain a £15 voucher
  • 4,990 contain a £25 voucher
  • 10 contain a £100 voucher
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Not the most festive appearance, but full of winter cheer!

At a minimum, each calendar you buy will give you a profit (if you plan to spend money in IKEA, of course) of £7.05. It might give you a much bigger profit, of course, but it’s all down to luck. Either way, I consider that I’m being paid to eat chocolate…

There are terms and conditions of what you can spend them on, of course, but they seem to be valid on basically any normal purchase of (non-food) items at IKEA.

ikea
No £100 voucher in this one. Oh well. 

The vouchers are only valid from the start of December to the end of January, so they could be useful to have for the sales.

Most IKEA websites say that the calendars are 1 (or 2) per person, but when I asked in Belfast, the lady at the till didn’t mind, so I bought one for everyone in my little family.

There weren’t many left as of this afternoon. So I suggest you go now if you can.

 

 

Money for Nothing Part 2

I said in my last post that I’ve recently been doing a major clear out of things from around my house to declutter and to recoup some of their value. These are mostly things from around the house that I haven’t used in a while, so I consider these to be money for nothing. Let me give you a rundown of the things (some of which are slightly surprising!) that I’ve sold on eBay in the past two months.

My husband and I decided that as we no longer watch them, it was time to do a major clear out of our DVDs. For most DVDs there isn’t really much money in them at all- people probably aren’t willing to spend more than 99p, and then you have to pay postage. The problem here is that the big companies such as Music-magpie have the market tied up. They buy used DVDs for pennies, and they pay a much-reduced postage price compared to private sellers. You won’t be able to compete. I advise you sell locally on Facebook, or just donate them. Do check though, there is a chance that you have something a little bit rare that’ll be worth a bit more. However, whilst single DVDs do not really keep their money, box sets do hold up a bit better.

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Completely Round the Twist

Father Ted

Lark rise to Candleford

Lion King Trilogy (Bluray)

All these sold for in and around (or more than) £10.

My husband agreed to let me sell his old MegaDrive games, some of which actually go for decent sums. Street Fighter 2, Revenge of the Shinobi and Golden Axe have all sold. We have another six on for sale for various sums. We’ve had some offers, but no bites yet. We’ll keep our fingers crossed.

I also sold my husband’s copy of the original Pokemon blue for the Gameboy, with his permission. It was a little faded, so didn’t expect too much and therefore were happy with what we got for it. Then, after going through my Mum and Dad’s roofspace, I found my copy of the manual for the same game. A quick Google showed that people were selling them, and mine was in better condition that the ones going for sale. I put it up for £15, plus postage, but left offers on. When someone came along and offered me £10, I was happy enough.

pokemon.png

I’ve sold other Pokemon items in the past, including Pokemon cards (I must dig those out and sell some more) and some Pokemon comic books. I suppose vintage items hold their value.

I’ve also been selling a few items of clothing: a Superdry jumper, a Jaques Vert Silk dress and a Wool flat cap that Eoin had never worn. We’re not talking big sums of money for any of these, but the point is that small sums (particularly when you’re not using them) add up. And they’ve cleared out some space. Why not take a look in your own roofspace?

I still have 26 active items, with some more to be added. I have a few auctions that will end on Sunday that will sell, including a The Puppet Company puppet that has already had plenty of interest. So fingers crossed.

Oh, and I finally sold something successfully on Facebook Marketplace. I cleared out a good iron that I don’t use as we got given a new one. Didn’t get much for it again, but it’s more space, and a little more money for the Christmas pot, plus it helped out someone who was setting up a new home. Win win win.

 

 

Money for Nothing

As part of our effort to declutter our house I’ve been donating and selling things from round the house. Things I no longer want or need and that are just taking up space.

Some things have gone to charity shops, some on Freecycle and a lot more have been or are being sold. I’ll do another post on some of the things I have been selling, but for now, let me talk about the means I’m using to sell them.

First off, let’s talk about Facebook marketplace.

It’s one of the little icons on the Facebook bar. It’s quick, its easy and it’s good for people to see your item, particularly if it’s a impulse buy.

However, I find that I’ve not had much luck with it. People always ask you to deliver (Dude, it’s a £3 item and you live half an hour away), or else you go though the whole rigamarole of organising pickup and then they don’t show. Not my favourite.

Next on the list is Gumtree. It’s one of the best local selling sites in the UK, and particularly in Northern Ireland, where some of the other selling sites (e.g. Sphock) haven’t taken off here yet.

There is an app (see below) but I just use the browser these days as on my phone there just isn’t space.

Gumtree is good as you can filter for only those sellers who are close to you, so you don’t have people asking if you’ll deliver from Belfast to Fintona. However, you do get a lot of emails giving you silly, and insulting offers.

“Hey that sofa you’re selling for £60, would you take £5? I’ll pick up tonight.”

No I won’t. No you won’t.

Still, for selling big, bulky items, like furniture, Gumtree is the way to go.

Next, of course, is eBay.

Email is the biggest online auction site, so successful that there are lots of people around the country who sell on eBay professionally. I’m not planning to do that, but just reduce the amount of stuff in my house, and make a little money for nothing. In fact, I love eBay so much that it’s my first app on my phone.

The good thing about eBay is that when you post an item, you’re posting it into a worldwide marketplace. The bad thing is that, as a seller you’re at a disadvantage if your buyer decides there’s an issue with your item as eBay will almost certainly rule in their favour. Good if you’re a buyer though.

The fees are also a little high- if you sell something at £10, you lose £1.54 in fees, but honestly, you are selling to a wide audience, so are probably getting more than you would otherwise. I’ve been at this a while now, and have feedback of 1688, so people trust me.

I’ve been selling anything and everything on eBay recently, and have a lot more things still up for sale. As much of it is stuff I’ve taken from the backs of cupboards, it really is money for nothing. In the past 2 months I’ve made close to £200 from selling things that were just taking up space.

Shopping from your own cupboards

We recently planned to move house- I say ‘planned’ because, for a number of reasons, we decided to call the move off- and as part of this, I vastly reduced the number of shopping trips I did and decided to instead, work through my cupboards, eating through the food stores that I’ve built up for the last year or two.

Part of this was in an effort to reduce the things I’d have to bring with me when we moved, and part was to save money. I wouldn’t say that we were over-reaching with the house we were moving to, but it was definitely a step up in spending each month.

I had a ridiculous amount of dried food- beans, lentils, beans and four hundred and seventy-three types of pasta (might be hyperbole, but only just!). Then, there were my freezers, which were packed to the gills as well. For three weeks, I slowly worked out way through my cupboards, and honestly, as well as saving over £70, compared to normal months, I actually became a better cook. Though, to be fair, there were some weird ‘fusion’ meals like spaghetti Bolognese with naan bread.

Once of the best things I made was my own rice pudding, made from half a bag of 13p pudding rice bought about a year ago that had languished in the back of my cupboard unloved and uneaten for far too long.

There’s still a lot more things in our cupboards to eat through. There’s also our freezers- tonight we found beef heart at the back of our freezer from about 6 months ago. I’ll make something with that for lunch tomorrow

Vintage Scratch- yay or nay?

There are a lot of new apps downloadable on android that promise to pay out in real money. Vintage Scratch had some good reviews, so I thought I’d give it a go.

The premise is fairly straightforward- watch an advert and you’ll be given a virtual scratch card, where you might just win some points. If you save up your points you’ll be able to purchase gift vouchers, such as for Amazon. You might also win pieces of puzzles. Collect enough of these and you’ll be able to get bigger payouts of perhaps a few dollars depending on the rarity of the puzzle.

Dear reader, do not bother with this app!

Whilst the games themselves are eye-catching, they are as they are designed to be, exceedingly frustrating. Payouts of points are minuscule- nearly always winning the lowest possible amount (5 points) and considering that it’s 9000 points for a £1 Amazon card that’s 1800 games you have to play!

And when you do watch your advert, scratch your card and win your measly prize, there’s an inexplicable and infuriating delay before you’re allowed to collect your coin (oh yes, and do you want to Brag about your win on Facebook?)

The adverts become excruciating every session as the same ones are repeated and repeated again and again, often trying to get you to sign up for other games, normally casino related.

But the jigsaw pieces, they must make up for the measly payouts- right?

Well, no. When you fail to collect any coins, not even your unimpressive 5, you then get a puzzle piece instead- collect 4 pieces from each puzzle to win. But they have to be different puzzle pieces, of course, you can’t just find the same one again, oh no. I have collected about 80 pieces of the lowest value puzzle, but just don’t seem to be able to find that last, elusive bit, so no payout.

And here’s the worst part about this app- it’s a time-eater of the worst sort. I, for one, am bloody determined, and I wanted my payout. It seemed that the more time I put in, the more I was determined that the game owed me something, and would pay out properly next time, or next time, or the time after that- in much the way real gamblers do, I imagine. I was halfway to the £1 payout when I realised that I was hating every second of playing the game, and I was only doing it to get paid. Plus, with all of the ads (generally about 30 seconds), the actual games, the interminable waits, it was using up a stupid amount of my time.

And that’s way more precious than a £1 Amazon voucher.

The peace of wild things

I haven’t managed to make any posts recently. Life, work, and of course my kids have been taking up a lot of my time. I cannot deny that the last almost-a-year has been amongst the most stressful I’ve known. And yet, no matter how stressed I’ve ever become, I’m amazed how nature always has that magic power to calm me down, wash away my worries.

Northern Ireland is currently experiencing a little bit of a heat wave- so my eldest girl and I wandered down to the park near our house to enjoy the weather.

And whilst there was a play park, we found far more joy in rolling down hills, blowing dandelion clocks, playing in the cut grass and making a nest for the shell of a bird’s egg that we found.

And I have had the poem ‘The peace of wild things’ by Wendall Berry bouncing around my head all day since we came home, particularly this part:

I come into the peace of wild things
 who do not tax their lives with forethought
 of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
 And I feel above me the day-blind stars
 waiting with their light. For a time
 I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

There’s something beautiful and freeing about being in nature, whether that be climbing up into the mountains, or popping down the road to the little park at the foot of the hill. Getting to share that with your kid is even better.

So next time you feel that the world is getting on top of you, take yourself off to where the wild things are and let yourself relax.

Have a coffee on me

I’ve written before about how you can get a free coffee an a Tuesday Caffe Nero through the O2 app. Well, did you know that you can also get a free coffee when you download the Caffe Nero app?

All you have to do is enter the code WELCOMETONERO2018 when you register, and you’ll get a QR code for a free hot drink. The code has to be used within 21 days and you can actually send it to a friend, which is nice.

The app is also great for collecting your Caffe Nero loyalty stamps and you can link a card for faster payment. I find the latter a little dangerous- a way to disconnect with your spending- so I skipped that step.

Freezing prices

I hope everyone had a good Christmas. I did. We didn’t break the bank, and had a few little last minute windfalls that helped me meet my sidehustle challenge (more on this later).

Someone once asked me what my biggest moneysaver was. It’s an easy answer: shopping in the reduced section of the supermarket.

Every evening at around 7pm, supermarkets reduce the nearly-out-of-date produce down to it’s lowest level in the hopes of clearing the shelf, and still getting something for it. We always do decently around Christmas when there are tons of stuff left over- I once filled a big trolley for about £20 which lasted us until March or so.

This year we did pretty well, finding things like this turkey mince and freezing it away until we need it (this label was wrong, but still a good price). Tescos lowest price seems to be 10% of it’s total price, whilst Asda just reduce everything down to a nominal price. For the Asda in Dundonald this is often 10p, but at the one in Larne it’s often 5p.

When we arrive at the supermarket, we first check the reduced meat section (best value), before moving on to the veg, then the bread. Some supermarkets also have a reduced freezer section which is great.

You might find that the things in the reduced section are rather random, but this only means that you might have to be a little experimental in your cooking, and there’s nothing wrong with that 🙂