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!

Bank of Ireland open farm weekend 

On the 17th and 18th June a number of working farms across Northern Ireland opened their doors to the public. And it’s a free event, so it’s always worth a try.

My sister had invited me two years ago when DD1 was about 2 months old, but we figured that taking such a young wee thing along wasn’t the best idea. This year we thought we’d give it a go.

Saturday was busy for us with a morning trip to Hillmount for some free ice cream and then a church fete, so we tagged along on Sunday morning.

Foote’s farm on the Moira road had never taken part in the open weekend before, and as we were newbies too it seemed fitting that we went to this one.

Foote’s farm rear chickens for Moy Park, and although the part that we coukd visit was small, they’d done a lot with it. We were able to look inside one of the big poultry barns, see a lot of farm equipment old and new, hold a 8 day chick (my kid loved this) and there was also this:

How could we resist? 3 please.

We got to sample strawberries, cherry tomatoes, fruit drinks and crisps.

My little girl had a great time playing with the peddle cars and peddle tractors. There was a man dressed as a scarecrow that she didn’t like unfortunately, but the other kids seemed to be having a whale of a time with him.

It was a short and sweet outing, but it was great fun. Next year we’ll try a different farm and report back. It was a great free day out for the kids. We’ve also entered a couple of free competitions, so here’s hoping.

Wild cherries. Get them before the birds do

I was out walking today, and I’ve noticed that the wild cherries are ripe (and quite delicious).

You can see a few in the photograph below in amongst the leaves. They look, basically identical to those you would buy in the shops, but nowhere near as fat. These little cherries go purpleish red when ready.

I plan, if I get a chance, to take a wander down the Comber greenway tomorrow and see if I can get some more than the couple I grabbed today.

These wee cherries grow everywhere, you just have to keep your eyes open for them. I’ve also noticed them around the Stormont estate, along Bangor seafront, and pretty much everywhere in Newcastle. I’ve never really managed to collect them in great numbers- just a few here and there to snack on, though I’d love to get enough to make a liqueur.

The problem with these cherries, is now that they’re ready, there will be a lot of competition for them. The trees in my work each year are covered with cherries, and every year the birds get to them just before I do. I’ll see if I can have any more luck this year.

DIY haircut

I’ve been cutting my husband’s hair for about 6 years now.

I was doing the sums and I reckon that mean’s I’ve saved us over £500 in that time. As well as that, having the skill meant that I’ve been able to cut his hair at very short notice, like when he needed a haircut one evening before going to a funeral the next day. It’s also easy to get his hair cut in the evening after the girls are in bed, rather than rushing to try and slot it in during the working day or at the weekend.

The first time I cut his hair, it actually went ok, but I was so worried that I’d make a mess I kept it longer than I would have liked, meaning that a barber would be able to fix it if it all went wrong. I remember that it took forever, using a pair of scissors that weren’t specifically for hair, but it turned out alright, and I’ve been doing it ever since.

After that, I upgraded to a pair of hairdressers scissors. It was faster, especially as I got better at what I was doing. I still use those for tidying up around the ears and around the base of the neck.

Braun hairclippers that my husband got free for a review


Most recently, my husband got a free Braun beard and hair trimmer (AKA clippers) in return for a review, and I gave that a go. Like the first time I cut his hair, I purposely kept it as long as I could, just in case I had to fix it, or get someone else to fix it.

I have to say, using a trimmer like the one that I had made it a breeze. I cut the majority of it using the longest setting, then switched to a shorter setting for the sideburns. The top I kept long in his normal style.

There are a ton of YouTube videos on hair cutting that will do a better job of explaining the actual ins and outs of particular styles.

Don’t be afraid to give it a go. But remember these tips:

  • Get the right tools for the job
  • Keep the haircuts longer until you’ve got the confidence and experience to get it shorter.
  • If you have anyone with experience of cutting hair, why not ask for some pointers.


Have you ever tried cutting someone’s hair? How did it go?

Lagan Towpath

We took a walk along the Lagan Towpath, from the car park near Cutters wharf to the Lock keepers Inn. The weather was lovely, warm and sunny, but not muggy.

f the

A view of the Lagan near Lough Keepers. There is a little family of ducks in the background


It’s a lovely walk, clean, pleasant with wild beauty everywhere. There’s not a ton to forage for right now, but I made some notes about what to come back for later in the year.

The white Flower heads of Cow Parsely, with nettles (also edible) in the foreground


The little white plant is cow parsley. The first time I ever tried it, I was so worried that I’d confused it with hemlock I could hardly bring myself to eat it. I checked about 30 resources to make sure it was ok. When I finally tried it though… it wasn’t worth it, the taste was just, bleugh. In retrospect, it’s hard to confuse cow parsley with hemlock, and I wouldn’t make that mistake, but it wasn’t worth it. I did see hemlock along the Lagan too, though I forgot to photograph it, so do be careful as the two do bear a passing resemblance.

Brambles (blackberry bushes) in flower


These are blackberry flowers. If you’re new to foraging, start with blackberries as everyone knows what these look like and there isn’t a lot to confuse them with. The brambles (blackberry bushes) are covered with flowers, so I’m expecting them to be prolific this year.

Wild roses. I’ve never used the flower, but I have made syrup from the rose hips in Autumn


Wild alpine (dog) roses. I’ve never made anything with the flowers before, but I will this year. I have made rosehip syrup, which is rich in vitamin C (and costs a bundle to buy). Apparently you can also make an effective itching powder from the tiny little hairs inside the rosehip, but I’ve never tried that either.

I might attempt a cider with these bad boys, but failing that, apples are full of pectin that can be used in setting jams


It’s maybe not that clear, but these are little apples. I’m not sure if they are eating apples or crab apples, but either way I can make something with them.

There was also some honeysuckle, which I THINK is edible, but I need more research before I’ll pick it.

There are many species of honeysuckle, don’t eat them unless you are sure what species you have


There were also tonnes of hawthorne and even a blackthorn bush, from which you get sloes, but I didn’t stop to snap them.

A note of caution though, whilst there were lots of edible things to forage for, I also saw hemlock and ivy berries that are poisonous. I’ve also previously seen water dropwort along here. Please check and check again, or better yet, check with some experienced before trying a wild food.


Making Elderflower wine

About 5 days ago I wrote about how to forage for elderflower and start making elderflower wine. Well, yesterday I started step 2, starting the actual brewing process.

Really, I’ve already done the hard work with the foraging and the processing. Now for the fun part.

First I strained the contents of the fermentation bucket through cheesecloth (a very fine sieve) and binned the elderflower- it’s done its job now. I poured the liquid back into the fermenting bucket. Next, I added, or to use the proper terminology, ‘pitched’ a sachet of white wine yeast (although there is a great homebrew store in Ballyhackamore, it was cheaper on eBay) and a heaped teaspoon spoonful of yeast nutrient. Then I stuck the lid back on and left it overnight.

Next morning, I knew the yeast was doing its job when I could see the lid of the bucket bulging. This shows it was making CO2, and more importantly, alcohol.

When I lifted the lid though, I noticed a little mould around the rim. This is a bad sign and may mean that the wine might not work as it may have been contaminated, but I’m going to forge on ahead anyway. Homebrew wine is more forgiving than beer as the higher alcohol content can kill off many nasties. Here’s hoping…

There was enough of the elderflower liquid to fill one demijohn, but it only half-filled the other. Mould and other contaminants thrive in the space, so it’s a good idea to top it up. I was just going to use sugar water, but I remembered I had some of last years elderflower cordial, so I added a 1:3 dilution of this instead. This is the bottle with the black spot in the photo.

Next I added a bung (cork) and airlock (the s bend that prevents bacteria and other contaminants from getting inside the demijohn. The airlock has some sodium metabisulphate solution inside to kill off anything that attempts an invasion. 

Well, so far so good. The demijohns are bubbling away happily, the yeast eating the sugar and excreting out alcohol. With bubbles of CO2  ‘glu-glu-gloobing’ (that’s how it sounds) out of the airlock, I’m hopeful that the pure batch and the diluted batch will both be successes.

Really hoping I was wrong about the mould getting in. There’s not a lot that beats a good elderflower wine.

Budget Bacon and Lentil soup, botched

I mentioned in an earlier post how I planned use up a lot of the things in my cupboard this month, I made a start today when I used up the last of my Lidl’s cooking bacon (all of the unsuccessful slices of bacon packaged up together. It’s tasty, cheap and like a fun little bacon-y Russian Roulette as you just don’t know what you’re going to get) and some lentils to make a lentil and bacon soup.

One of my many cupboards which needs emptied out.

Cooking bacon: ranges from teeny offcuts of bacon, to big bacon-like steaks like these

Bacon and lentil soup is a great comfort food, not to mention it’s frugal (costing pennies a serve). It’s especially good on a cold, dark Winter’s night where you need warmed up.


Now, whilst there are recipes out there for bacon and lentil soup (like this one maybe), I’m a busy mum of two young kids who are having a grumpy pants day. My recipe went something like this:

Bacon and Lentil soup. Botched up

  • Get the pressure cooker down and pour in some red lentils. Add a few more, for good luck.
  • Add water. A third of the way up the pan or so, I guess.
  • Throw in a stock cube. Is that one of the low salt ones? I think so. I hope so.
  • The recipe says to sweat the chopped onion and fry the bacon… eh, just throw it in the water, it’ll all cook.
  • What else can I add? This courgette looks a little old, I’ll chop it up and throw it in.
  • A potato? Why not?
  • And lastly a tin of tomatoes. Because the bacon and lentil soup you had that time in that restaurant was more orangey than this.
  • Lid on, whack it up to full power and then when the pressure cooker starts to whistle drop it down to a simmer.
  • Just before you leave the house , switch it off, give it a blend with the stick blender. Burn yourself slightly because you dipped your finger in for a taste, forgetting the soup was molten.
  • Feel smug, boast to your friends how easy it is to make soup.
  • Go home, put it back on to reheat and then get distracted by something in a different room.
  • Come back ten minutes later to discover that your kitchen is full of steam and the pressure cooker has spluttered (for want of a better word) blended lentils and water all over the hob, wall and surrounding worktop.
  • Clean up some of the lentil soup, rescue the soup in the pot by adding extra water.
  • Feed cranky children.
  • Clean up children, realising that white clothes, a baby and orange soup was not a good idea.
  • Clean up the rest of the soup in the kitchen.
  • Eat yours 45 minutes later, warmed up three separate times in the microwave.
  • Actually enjoy the soup and think about making it again sometime. Without botching it up.

What are your go to store cupboard recipes?


On appreciating free things…

I met a friend today Hillmount Garden centre in the Castlereagh Hills. I had a voucher for 2 free cups of tea/ coffee that had come in a flyer for the annual fête at St. Dorothea’s which we plan to go to this year for the first time.

I have a soft spot for Hillmount, because my Granda used to bring me here all the time when I was younger. I didn’t eat lunch myself, because I knew that I had food at home, but my kids are wee, and there’s no way they’d wait.

Hillmount have great little side salads for just £1, and they’re a great size for the money. One bowl, plus a sausage roll was more than enough for both my girls. Plus, we gave the staff free entertainment watching the baby. And the conversation was free, but valuable.

I grabbed a free magazine that lists all the events for kids in June and now we’re planning to go to a free open farm event on Sunday.

On the way home we stopped the car on the Middle Braniel Road for another freebie, the fantastic views of Belfast (this photo doesn’t do it any justice).

And this bunny:

So the moral of the story, I guess, is that freebies are great, and if you keep your eyes open there are more of them that you realise.

Ulster Museum

I’ll be honest, my kids are too young to really appreciate the Ulster Museum. Our baby slept as we pushed her round, and DD1 (just turned 2), who’d been exited when I said we were going to see the dinosaurs, suddenly decided they were actually kind of scary and she didn’t like them after all.

The museum is free, technically, but a donation is recommended, big or small, to help keep the place running. There’s also a really nice cafe, but we had coffee and snacks before going in, so we weren’t tempted to splurge.

We had fun looking at the taxidermy animals and running around the rock section, but then we headed to the art section on the 5th floor and it was the best thing ever as far as she was concerned.

As much paper as she could use and colouring pencils in every shade. We literally had to drag her away after about 30 minutes, with the promise of food. We bypassed the gift shop on the way out, because if I saw the plushy dinosaurs, I would be buying said plushy dinosaurs.
We had a great day out at the Ulster Museum, and though only a tiny bit appealed to our 2 year old, I can’t wait to go back and back again as they get older. It’s a great and frugal day out.