Exercising on a budget

Well, I’m just back from my first jog in about three years. It’s been three years because between now and then I’ve had my two babies, and that was a really great excuse to sit on the sofa and eat ice cream.

But now my return to work is looming, and there’s a family wedding in a couple of months, so I’ve been attempting to be good. I’m down a stone and a half already, so now I have to keep the pact I made with myself and start exercising.

Anyway.

Since we lost the Robinson centre, the nearest gym is a bit too far for me. Plus, the outside is free. I don’t really like jogging, but I really want to get back down to my pre-baby weight.

When it comes to running gear, I really have pushed the boat out. My t-shirt was a free one I picked up on New Years at Palookaville, and my running trousers I got free at a swapping party. My trainers are Kalenji from Decathalon, that were on offer and have already put in quite a few miles.

I jogged/ ran for about an hour there and back, and I have to say, I really enjoyed myself. I mean, I know that its partly endorphins, but a large part of it was just enjoying being out in the fresh air as the sun came down over Belfast. You don’t need to spend hundreds of pounds each year to  gym that you may or may not go to. Plus, the outdoors has things that gyms don’t have.

When I stopped to take a look at a couple of cherry trees to grab a couple of ripe ones, I found a wild plum tree. For a minute I was really excited- I’d thought for a minute that I’d found a greengage tree, especially when I tasted one and it seemed ripe. I grabbed a few and shoved them in my little teeny jogger’s pocket. I realised once I got home that I’d been a little hasty. They weren’t ripe at all. Maybe they’re wee Victoria plums, and I’ll have to wait until they go yellow before I pick more. I should have remembered that with plums if you have to pull them off the tree, rather than just plucking them, they aren’t ripe. Still, the tree was covered, so I’ll be back.

About the size of big grapes. I’ll leave them with bananas and see if they ripen up

There were also a ton of rowan berries, which you can make a jam from, but I hear isn’t overly worth the work. Maybe I’ll see what I can do.

I also found a little apple tree that I didn’t see before, and possibly a bigger one. It certainly looked like an apple tree. I’ll keep my eyes on it when I’m out on future jogs (if I stick to this running malarkey) and see if anything grows.

Advertisements

Keeping my eyes open

I think the best tools in existence for living on a budget are these: 

A healthy curiosity and an inquiring mind. A set of eyes helps too.

I called in to IKEA the other day, I’ve covered my love-hate relationship with IKEA before, but I wanted some kids storage items, and it’s a good place for kids when you’re at a lose end. 

Anyhoo, when I was leaving, I had to pull over to fix the baby mirror in the back of the car and when I did, I noticed that the hedges had a plant covered in red berries. And what red berries?

Raspberries. Delicious, ripe raspberries. 

I took this photo first, thinking that perhaps this was a one off. Then I looked around. The whole of the hedge was full of big, fat raspberries. I took a few. More than a few. 

As I was leaving the IKEA car park I glanced to the left into the hedgerows beside the airport. Raspberries everywhere. I want to check to make sure I don’t have to worry about pollution from the aircraft, but I reckon I’ll be back for more. 

Another thing I’ve seen all round Belfast, and I do mean everywhere, are hazelnuts. Stormont, the Comber Greenway, along the outer ring, Victoria Park, even Belfast Zoo. 

Of course, these hazelnuts are not as big as those bought commercially and you do have to compete with the grey squirrels, but there’s enough to go around. A couple of years ago I collected enough for a gorgeous dukkah. 

The best baby gift in the world

When a baby is born, it’s shocking the amount of stuff that you suddenly need to own. Moses baskets, prams, cots and so many itty bitty baby clothes.

And don’t get me wrong, baby gifts are awesome. They are, and we’re grateful as hell, but suddenly there is way more laundry than you ever saw before in your life, and the sink keeps filling itself with dishes, and that little job that’s nagging at you is still not getting done.

And this is why the best baby gift out there isn’t material. It’s the gift of time. On Monday my mum came round and helped me tidy my house. She sat with the girls whilst I did dishes, put a load of washing on and cleaned the bathroom. Then, while I drank a cup of tea, she cleaned the dining room. 

My house is in no way clean, but it’s a damn sight cleaner. And I therefore feel a lot less stressed.

So next time someone you know has a kid, toys and clothes are good, but time is a really precious gift.

App review: Job spotter

Do you ever see a shop with a ‘Help wanted’ sign in the window? That sign is worth money, as the app, ‘Job Spotter’ will pay you to take photos and upload them.

When you spot a help wanted sign, you need to log into the app. This is a bit of a pain, as it would be good if you take the photos and upload them later, but anyway. Once inside the app, you’re required to take a photo of the help wanted sign and then one of the front of the business. Then you submit it. 

After either no time at all, or days and days later (it’s not been consistent) you’ll be paid in points that you can redeem as an Amazon gift card. I’ve never totally got how they calculate the exact number of points paid, but you get more points for small businesses, named job positions, and good photographs. 

So far, I really like the app. It just sits on my homepage until needed, and then when I’m wandering around the town and I see a help wanted sign I fire it up. It’s very easy and I imagine if you were often in the city centre you would rack up points very quickly. I’ve gone right off Amazon recently, so I wish you could opt to be paid into PayPal instead, but it doesn’t matter. I like to think of each job spotted that I’m paid for as loose change, that will add up for little work. I think its a great idea.

You can download the app in the play store.

Let’s talk about Muscle Food

I’m a member of a Facebook page called ‘feed yourself for £1 a day’ and time and again they recommended Muscle Food for being good value, especially when they had a good offer on.
I never thought much about it because I assumed that it wasn’t available in Northern Ireland. Then, when the UPS guy was dropping off a delivery, I noticed a Muscle Foods parcel in the van. Being observant/ nosey can pay off now and again.

So, onto their website I went. 

And they did have an offer on. They were offering a fresh summer meats selection, reduced from £91.65 to £50. Sounded good, right? But for me the test is how much extra it is delivery to Northern Ireland. A quick search surprised me: there were no additional postage charges to Northern Ireland. 

What’s more, according to their website the delivery would normally arrive 24 hours after being picked and packed.

So I went ahead and made my order. It let me chose the day I wanted. Tuesday would have been the soonest order, but Wednesday suited me better. I selected this option. 

Then I received this email:

A bit of a pain in the bum, considering if I’d known I would have ordered for the Tuesday, but hey ho. And the extra ice packs were a good touch.

The order, by the way, is delivered by DPD, and upon placing your order you can opt for like a upgrade to the courier service meaning they’ll send you extra texts to keep you updated on your order. Save your money, you get texts anyway giving you an hour or so notice of when your order would arrive. That’s much more accuracy than most couriers would give. And if you’re not in, they’ll leave it somewhere safe.

When my order arrived, I was so excited to see how it would all go. I signed for the courier, took the box straight into the kitchen and opened it.

Muscle Food meat comes chilled, not frozen and they have a patented system that should keep food chilled for 72hours.

But, when I opened it, the contents felt warm to the touch. I got my candy thermometer and put it into the packet of chicken and it was over 12C. 

I’m not a fan of food waste, but I’m also not a fan of food poisoning. I froze everything to get its temperature down, and then emailed Muscle food to ask what I should do. I must admit that I felt nervous that they wouldn’t believe me, or would think that I was some sort of chancer. But the customer service was very good- they asked me some questions and then said that a repeat delivery was on its way. It was very sad to have to throw £80 odd worth of meat in the bin but rather that than giving myself salmonella.

It was a very warm day the day my delivery arrived. Perhaps even with Muscle Food’s special cooling packaging, the trip to Northern Ireland was too long.

Take 2

The next Wednesday the repeat delivery arrived. I hadn’t been there to sign for it, so I was a bit worried that after having sat on my doorstep for two hours it would be too warm, just like last time.

The box looked a little damaged in the bottom corner, but all looked good when I opened it.

Once unpacked, it looked something like this:

That’s a lot of meat. 

(That’s what she said)

I split the big bags of chicken up into bags of 2- just the perfect size between 2 adults and 2 little ones. Everything, except the rump steaks went into the freezer straight away. 

These, I cooked on the ol’ George Foreman grill for dinner, medium rare with a bit of pepper sauce and they were awesome. 

Don’t be put of by the company name if you’re not an elite athlete, because- and I know this may come as a surprise- I’m not. Yes, they do packages for building muscle, and special things like high protein pizza, but this is just good meat, no fillers, no crap and it’s cheaper than in the supermarket, particularly if you catch a good offer. 

For example, the chicken in my order was £4.80 a kilo, while the cheapest from tesco is £5.79 (the cheapest comparable, not the cheapest which are full of fillers). And this one has won awards, so even better.

They also have things which you won’t find for sale in the supermarket in their exotic selection, such as ostrich, crocodile and horse (you were eating it before without realising anyway!).

Conclusion

I was impressed by my order at Muscle Food: first of all was great value meat, then the fact that the delivery to Northern Ireland was free with my order was great. Next, the customer service was fantastic and finally the food has been delicious so far. 

I recently discovered that I have insulin resistance, meaning that carbs are not my friend, but healthy fats and proteins are. I’ll definitely be returning to Muscle food in the future to try some of their other products- particularly when they have a good offer on!

If you would like to try Muscle Food, I have a referral code that will give you a free gift, as well as giving me money off my next order (currently £5). 

My referral code is LC653360

Ask and you will receive

Just a wee quick post tonight. 

A week or so ago I put a post on my trashnothing if anyone ever had fruit trees that produced more than they used and if I could pick the surplus. So far I’ve one picking (for want of a word) lined up, and I’ll ask again soon. 

Yesterday I saw a post giving away Gooseberries. This is kind for two reasons:

  1. They’re tasty and plentiful
  2. Gooseberries have nasty thorns. The offerer had done the hard work of picking them for me.
This is only a small part of the gooseberries

I was visiting my sister yesterday too, so I gave her half of the gooseberry bounty. Y’know, what goes around and all that.

I don’t know what I’ll make with these wee berries just yet. The Freegler suggested jam. I’m avoiding sugar right now, so I’ll have a think and let you know.

Rethinking second-hand stuff. Charity shops

So I know that we all prefer for our belongings to be shiny and new-of course we do- but that doesn’t mean that ‘second-hand’ or ‘preloved’ are dirty words.
It’s always a good idea to have a look and see how the price of new compares to the price of second-hand. So let’s discuss charity shops.

When I was little, I was mortified when my mum dragged me into a charity shop. If anyone from school would have seen me going in, I would have died on the spot. Now I get it.

Yes, charity shops are a place where people send their unwanted goods, and yes they do get a lot of crap, but they also get a lot of good things. When prices are a fraction of what you would pay new, it’s worth a go. So let’s leave the ego at the door and delve in.

Kid’s clothes

Kid’s grow really fast, and the younger they are the faster they grow. This invariably means that unless people are planning for more kids and are holding on to baby clothes, they’re going to be offloading a tonne of clothes every year, most with minimal wear. Don’t be afraid to have a look.

This was brand new with tags. It cost £22 new. It cost me £1

I would highly recommend the Homestart shop on Ann Street in Ards for kids clothes. They have good stuff and it’s well laid out, so you can easily find a bargain.

Prams

Brand new prams are expensive. The pram we liked in Mothercare was £600. Charity shops sell them for less than £80 or so. My mum picked up a gorgeous double buggy for me in Newtownards. It needed a damn good clean, but now it looks almost brand new. Brand new it would have cost about £300. It didn’t cost a tenth of that.

Shoes

Ok, ok. Be careful with shoes. You only get one pair of feet in your life so don’t go mistreating them. Every individual wears shoes in a different way (that’s how police can identify a criminal from shoeprints) so wearing a well worn pair of shoes is a bad idea. That said, it’s easy to see if a pair of shoes are at the end of their lives. Many people donate shoes without ever wearing them- they get the size wrong or don’t go to the event they were bought for- so don’t be afraid to take a look.

These cute shoes from my local Concern shop had to be snapped up! Ignore the white fleck on the toe, that was a petal I didn’t see when I snapped the photo
Look inside, there’s no sign of these being worn and they’re genuine leather
No wear to the soles at all. And they’re M&S
And this was the princely price I had to pay for them.

DVDs and books
You can pick up DVDs and books for pennies. Buy them, watch them and donate them back.

Furniture

There are charity shops that specialize in furniture, such as the one near the top of Ormeau road (Concern, I think) or the Re:store shop in Connswater shopping centre. These are great if you are starting out or if you’re into upcycling. There’s also an Aladdin’s cave in the Balloo industrial estate in Bangor, but I can’t remember what it is. I’ll find out and get back to you.

New items

I’m sure it’s true for many charity shops, but I’ve noticed it most in Oxfam. Shops donate tonnes of unsold seasonal goods to clear space for new stuff. Generally, there will be 4 or 5 of an item in various sizes.

Some good tips

  • Shop in affluent areas, such as Hollywood and Bangor. You might have to pay a little more, but you’ll find more brand names in these shops.
  • Shop in poorer areas too. The prices tend to be better. Larne, for example, is fantastic value.
  • If buying shoes and the shop keeps one behind the counter, check both before you buy- they are likely to have put the nicest one on display.
  • Pop in once a week or so to see what’s on sale. There’s a fast turnover so the goods change often. It’s been suggested that Tuesdays are a good day to go as the stores will have sorted the goods donated at the weekend.

Trash nothing

Have you heard of freegle or freecycle? If not, don’t worry. Now it’s Trash nothing that you want. 

Every day hundreds of usable objects- things that have taken natural resources to make- are thrown in the bin. Furniture, electronics, toys, things that could be given another chance at life, are discarded. The idea of Freecycle and Freegle is to bring the givers and the needers together.

Trash nothing is an interface that brings together freegle and freecycle into the same place to make it easier to give and receive. 

Having just typed in my postcode on the app, I can see that there are 20 groups (sorted into areas) that I could subscribe to. Whilst the Belfast group is the largest, you should be able to find a group nearby.

I have joined 4 nearby groups, giving me a large pool of trashnothing-ers to interact with.
We’ve never got anything too big on trashnothing, because honestly, I don’t want to be greedy, though we once got given a lovely antique sideboard that we upcycled and a leather armchair that I used as a breastfeeding chair. Those both would have been worth something.

We did save a clean fortune once thanks to trashnothing. We’d ripped up a pile of decking in our back garden. To get a skip in Belfast of the size we needed would have cost about £200, so instead, I advertised the wood on trashnothing. We got about 6 takers in the end. A couple of people picked through the pile for the good bits to make planters, the rest went to people who wanted it as firewood. It took a while, but every bit of its gone. We’re happy because we saved money, and we made 6 other people happy to. 

What’s not to love?

Kantar TNS postal panels team

Sometimes when I start to write a blog post I stop and go, “should I tell people about this? It’ll be competition for me.” This is one of those times, but we’ll plough on.

I’ve been a member of the Kantar postal panel for a little while and just today I got an email from them saying they are looking for new panellists. Particularly those over 65.

Kantar describe themselves as, “Kantar: home to the world’s leading research, data and insight companies.” I don’t know about that. But I do know that they’ve been sending me one4all vouchers for the past few months for really, not a lot of work. 

The campaign I’ve been involved with asks you to take photos of all of the post (including any flyers etc) that arrives at your house. The next week you’ll need to tell them what you did with that post. Each month I get £10 of vouchers that can be spent at tons of stores (many not available in Northern Ireland, but never mind) including Amazon and Toys’R’us. I believe that there will be lots of different surveys, depending on Kantar’s need.

Please note that I signed up to Kantar about 4 months before I heard from them, so if you don’t get on a panel immediately, don’t panic.

I’m a very cautious person when it comes to signing up to anything where people get my details. I found out about Kantar through Moneysavingexpert and then did some research to make sure they were legimate. Please do your own research, rather than just taking my word for it. The BelfastBudgetBlog recommends being skeptical of things that promise to give you money.

If you decide this panel might be something you’re interested in please click here

Please note, I’m not getting any reward out of spreading the word, so if you find it useful, say hi in the comments.

App review: Shopmium

A little while ago I reviewed a cashback app called checkoutsmart that gives you moneyback on selected items at shops and supermarkets. I’ve been road testing another one for a little while and now I’m ready to review it. 

This app is called Shopmium. Like Checkoutsmart, it shows you a selection of items that you can get for free or at a discount. You purchase them then take photos of your receipt and scan the barcode. Unlike Checkoutsmart you get paid into your paypal account as soon as your purchase is verified.

The major drawback of this app is that very often they will show you items that aren’t available in Northern Ireland because they are only on offer at Waitrose or Morrisons, or they simply aren’t carried by our supermarkets. When you do find an item though it’s like finding a prize in a treasure hunt. In a similar way as with Checkoutsmart, you’re much more likely to find the product if its a bigger brand name.

One more thing to tell you about is the ‘refer a friend’ section. If you sign up using my referral code ACKGKFCK (see below). You’ll get an extra freebie, and -full disclosure- I’ll get a reward too. Once you’ve signed up using my referral code, there’s nothing to stop you referring your friends and collecting rewards too!