What’s Cooking Wednesday (#2)

I wasn’t the greatest at updating last week’s post, but I’m hoping to improve over time! I’m struggling for cash a little this week so trying to use up what I have, and  hopefully come up with some inventive recipes involving lentils at some point…

Thursday – Stir Fry

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I try and make a stir-fry a regular occurrence in my meal planning. I find them cheap (and a great way to use up vegetables), healthy, quick, and satisfying – something about noodles just screams junk food! I’ll often just use veg, but I cooked a roast chicken a while back, and when stripping the meat off the bones filled three freezer bags. I just defrosted some of this shredded meat and tossed in it.

Just look how colourful this was before I drenched it in sweet chilli and soy sauces!

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Friday – Sausages & Mash

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I love sausages and mash! I throw my sausages (completely uncooked) in the slow cooker with some gravy, and it makes a really easy dinner. Throw some carrots in too, and you’ve got soft and stewed carrots (the best way to have carrots in my opinion!), serve with peppery mash and a load of green veg, and you have a very healthy and easy dinner.

I didn’t have carrots with mine, as I forgot to throw them in with the sausages (and I hate carrots unless raw, stir-fried or slow cooked), but I did eat two types of cabbage and some broccoli.

Saturday – Wahaca

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I met my boyfriend and a friend in London, where we did some sight-seeing (far too early for so many Christmas displays Harrods!), caught a showing of Matilda (highly recomended), missed my last direct train back to Canterbury and ate yummy food. I will do a post soon on the newest offerings from Wahaca, as there are some fabulous things!

Sunday – Toad in the Hole

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It was fellow blogger Libby’s turn to cook our house meal this weekend, and she went for for Toad in the Hole. Check out my version!

MondayI will be going for a pasta dish, probably a tomato-free bolognese (recipe coming soon…)

Tuesday – Some form of lentil curry, ideas welcome! (I have red lentils and mung beans, curry paste, various spices and stock, if that helps?!)

Does anyone have any really cheap and healthy budget recipes?

Saving Money: Buying & Eating Meat on a Budget

I’m hoping this post reaches you all before you do your weekly shop!

This is somewhere that I should make note of the saying ‘practise what you preach.’ I can’t say that I’m a huge fan of eating meat simply because of its cost – I generally have a list at the end of term of the meals I want to eat at home. Beef stew, belly pork, toad in the hole, roast chicken. I generally really struggle to justify the cost of meat. However during the last year of university I really noticed the difference that a diet lower in protein made, and so this year am making the effort to buy and cook meat more often, and hopefully grab some great bargains and learn some lovely budget meals. So far I think it has been going well, as some of the posts I’ve linked to above will hopefully show.

I would like to add that I ate remarkably healthily compared to quite a few of my fellow students. I just shied away from eating meat under the pretence that it was too expensive. I’ve learnt that on the whole I was wrong, and today I am going to give you the tips that I have learnt so far.

  • Check out the clearance section. I always tend to pick up some really good bargains here – just yesterday I managed to get 750g of Tesco Finest lean steak mince for under £4. I will be getting at least 10 meals out of that, so under 40p for a portion of meat is I think excellent value. Obviously only buy things that (1) you know what to do with, and (2) you will have room in the freezer for.
  • Have a browse in the butchers. I never thought that meat from a butchers would be  cheaper, but it actually seems to be. For certain things at least (not, as I unfortunately found out, fresh chicken). One of the main advantages in shopping in this way is that you can buy exactly the amount you need, you get advice about how best to cook things, and they often have cheaper alternatives ‘out back’ if you discuss exactly what you need. That’s how I got the steak for my beef stew.
  • Bulk buy. This is in conjunction with the first point really – if you have space, buy things when you see them cheaply. At the beginning of term I like to take advantage of the “three for £10” offers that all supermarkets have. Of course check the shelves first to grab any bargains!
  • Make the most of your freezer. I couldn’t live without decent freezer space. I like to make up meals and freeze them as ‘ready meals’ and I also like to freeze meat bought cheaply. I buy these bags, which make freezing meals easy, and take up far less space than boxes. Normal freezer bags are fine, but its difficult to prevent spillages when they haven’t quite frozen.
  • Bulk out meals with inexpensive ingredients. I always try and throw a spoon or two of lentils into a mince based dish, my beef stew is well bulked out with carrots (I LOVE slow cooked, stewed carrots) and I like spinach in my curry. Not only do these additions mean I need to use less meat per meal, but they also add a lot of health benefits.
  • Buy better quality. Two contrasts points next. Buying better quality is something hugely important to me. For one, I just think better quality meat tastes nicer. I also like to think that the meat I buy is as cruelty-free as possible. And secondly, I find spending just that little bit more than your basic price means that the meat is less fatty and gristly. To put it simply – I believe that cheap meat is a false economy.
  • Buy cheaper cuts. This appears to contrast with the statement before. But it does mean different things. Buy the best quality level of meat you can afford. But stick to cheaper cuts. For example, boneless chicken thighs are just as good (if not better) than breast, and there are multiple cuts of stewing steak that work differently in different situation.

Does anyone have any tips for buying meat on the cheap?

What’s Cooking Wednesday (#1)

I have been hugely inspired by the weekly posts on one of my favourite food blogs – Buns In My Oven. Karly (the writer) does a post every Wednesday where she lists a load of links to other blogs with yummy looking recipes. I’m going to do a little twist on the theme – I’m going to write what I’m planning on cooking over the next week (seeing as I meal plan and shop every Tuesday, this should be pretty simple for me) and include any foodie blogs where I get inspiration. I’m also planning on starting a Fabulous Friday Finds for other blog links, so keep your eyes peeled for that!

Enough of my rambling – here’s my weekly menu. I’ll try and check back during the week and add a short review and picture of my meal, and eventually write up the recipes on new posts and link them in. I’m also going to ATTEMPT at some rough costings in a bid to see how much I actually spend on food over the week.

Wednesday – Chicken and Spaghetti, in a Creamy Mushroom and Spinach Sauce

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For the sauce I used a small onion (10p), a handful of chopped mushrooms (25p) some garlic (10p), a can of condensed mushroom soup (90p), 1/4 of a tub of creme fraiche (25p), a stock cube (10p) and some dry mixed herbs (negligible). This made 4 servings, so around 40p a serving. Please correct me if my maths is wrong as it’s been a long day!

I used one chicken breast, but then froze half in a portion of the sauce – so around 75p worth of chicken per portion. Then around 100g of spaghetti. I bought 500g for 23p from Aldi, but say 10p per portion. Then I added a handful of spinach for around 30p.

All in all, a very healthy and very filling dinner for not much more than £1.50. Winning!

 

Thursday – Tomato Free Lasagne

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My recipe turned out to use 27p worth of meat in each serving of bolognese sauce – coupled with a basic cheese sauce and a few lasagne sheets, this recipe definitely wouldn’t be expensive (as long as you weren’t using super expensive tomato substitutes). This dinner was massively filling, especially with the garlic bread, but it provided much needed comfort food on a night I wasn’t feeling too great!

 

Friday – Homemade Tomato-Free Pizza

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No picture of the finished dish tonight I’m afraid, but the main ingredient in my ‘tomato free’ recipes is often this pesto from Waitrose – I hope they never stop selling it!

 

SaturdaySpicy Sausage Stew.

Sunday – In my house, we all take it in turns to cook a ‘family’ dinner on Sundays. This week Katie (who doesn’t have a blog!) is doing a roasted turkey breast with stuffing.

Monday – Thai Red Curry (with chicken and extra vegetables)

Tuesday – I have a late-running extra careers session at university, so the current plan is to eat out on campus. However if this changes I will reheat a Three Bean Chilli.

Wednesday – Due to aforementioned careers session, we won’t be going shopping on Tuesday next week. So on Wednesday I will rely on whatever that is still fresh, or use one of the many meals I have cooked and frozen.

Does anyone else plan their meals in advance? Which of my meals are you most looking forward to hearing about?

Recipe: Spicy Sausage Stew

As you know from this post, I have a huge love for my slow cooker, so I thought I’d share with you one of my favourite recipes. I will admit that, due to the sausages in this, it isn’t the cheapest recipe on my blog. However I do know it is possible to get just as nice spicy sausages from places other than Waitrose, they just have tomato in. So as always my advice is to shop around.

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There’s my beloved slow cooker (number two), halfway through preparing for this. I decided to be ‘fancy’ and fry off the ingredients, but I have been known just to throw them all in at the start of the day and cook from raw. It works absolutely fine that way, and to be honest I probably prefer it, so don’t feel you have to cause more washing up!

This recipe is warm and hearty, a great winter dinner. I like to serve it with just some boiled green vegetables, but I have been known to omit the potatoes and make some mashed potatoes to go with it. This type of dinner is definitely my idea of perfection! It’s also given a modern twist with the spiciness, which just makes it even better in my opinion!

Like with all my recent recipes, I’ll be attempting to work out the costings of this. As I have said, I’ve had to use slightly expensive sausages and so am calculating it with those, but feel free to chop and change ingredients to suit your tastes and budgets.

Ingredients

  • Spicy Sausages X2, I used these but you can get a pack for under £2 in ASDA (£3 per pack, £1 in recipe)
  • Vegetables – I used half an onion, half a pepper, two carrots, half a tin of potatoes (see here) and a mushroom (probably around 50p)

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  • Some kind of beans – I used a small tin of butter beans, but I am starting to use more dried beans in cooking (42p)
  • Gravy – I used a mixture of chicken and onion (approximately 15p)
  • Cornflour (to thicken if needed, price negligible)
  • Spices – I used the ones in the picture below (around 10p)

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So all in all, this recipe probably costs around £2.15 to make in this way, but it could be a complete meal as it doesn’t NEED the green vegetables alongside. This amount actually made enough for two meals, bar the sausages – so I have a portion of the sauce in the freezer, and next week will just fry off some sausages and reheat the sauce. So TECHNICALLY I’d probably put this recipe at maybe £1.80 a portion. Let me know if you think my costing is way out!

Method

Remember that I don’t think you always need to fry off the ingredients first – if you want just throw everything (vegetables chopped) into the slow cooker pan, mix up the gravy with around half a pint of boiling water (but make it quite thick), add the spices to the gravy, pour in, and switch the dlow cooker on. Done. But if you want to do it with a bit more prep…

Fry off the sausage in a little oil until browned.

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Then fry off the onions and the peppers until slightly softened.

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Followed by the carrots and the mushrooms until a little golden.

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Throw everything, including the potatoes (I try to keep these at the bottom, particularly if using raw, to make sure they cook through) into the slow cooker.

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Add your liquid, cover and cook on ‘low’ for around 6-8 hours.

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If it needs thickening, mix some cornflour with cold water to a thin paste, and slowly add whilst stirring. Turn the heat up to high, leave the lid off, and cook for another 10-30 minutes, stirring often.

Served on its own, or with some green vegetables. Some nice crusty bread to mop up the juices wouldn’t go amiss either!

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What do you think of my first slow cooker recipe? Do you have any budget ones to share?

Recipe: Potato Curry (+ Tomato Free Curry Pastes)

This was another recipe I made on a whim that turned out pretty damn amazing, even if I do say so myself. This time, luckily for you, I did decide to take photographs of the process, and so can share the recipe far more easily with you (rather than with this noodle recipe!).

I found this to be quite quick (definitely around the half an hour mark, and that was with taking photographs and trying to keep things tidy!), really filling (you definitely don’t need the rice with it, but I had a microwaveable packet that needed using up), and healthy. If I was organised I would potentially cook some lentils up the day before and add these, but it isn’t necessary, and would only serve to bulk it up a bit more. Mine tasted pretty much exactly like a takeaway bombay potatoes, and I’m definitely cooking it again. It’s cheap and healthy, where can you go wrong?

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Again, I will try and work out costings for you, but I reckon off the top of my head this will be pretty damn cheap!

Making Tomato Free (with the help of Marks & Spencers)

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I’ve always had a big issue with finding tomato free curry pastes. I don’t really want to make curries from scratch all the time, as I find the ingredients are expensive, and they are so time consuming. Sometimes I want the convenience of a paste. Thai curries, and Malaysian ones (I love, love, love Massaman curry, and really want to try making one at some point – does anyone have any recommend recipes?), always tend to be safe for my tomato allergy, but when you are craving an Indian style curry, only that will do! Marks & Spencer came to my rescue on this occasion – at the time of writing (please ALWAYS check the label yourself!) their Tandoori and Balti pastes were both free from tomatoes. I prefer their Tandoori one, as I find the extra oil means it keeps better once opened, but both are good and well worth the slightly extra pennies you have to spend for M&S products! If anyone has any other tomato-free pastes or products they recommend, feel free to leave a comment.

Ingredients & Costings

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  • Curry paste (discussed above) – you can get a decent one for under £2, and you use less than 1/4 of a jar (50p)
  • I used a new discovery for me – tinned new potatoes. I initially turn my nose up at things like this, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. And at 15p for a big tin (which served me for two meals) from Aldi, you can’t go wrong (8p)
  • Half an onion – I buy four big onions from Aldi for 59p, but the average price for this amount of onion would not be more than 10p
  • Half a pepper – probably around 20p
  • Some oil (price negligible)
  • Half a bag of spinach (around 50p)
  • Optional – some dry spices, and lemon juice (around 10p, if that)
  • To serve – a naan bread. I buy 6 for £1, but average price maybe 20p

Price for the recipe: approx £1.70. I reckon you could easily make this for under £1.50 per serving though, by shopping around for curry pastes, and not using extra spices.

Method

Chop up your onions, and fry off in some oil, until softened. You don’t want crunchy onions here – they’ll take around 10 minutes.

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Meanwhile, drain and wash your potatoes (to get rid of any brine-y water).

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Chop your peppers and add to the pan – cook for around another five minutes. Keep stirring the pan occasionally (I should have mentioned this before!) to prevent sticking and burning).

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Choose your dry spices. I used these:

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Add your dry spices to the pan, and fry whilst stirring constantly for around 2 minutes until fragrant. This cooks them out and stops the finished tests from tasting powdery.

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Add your curry paste, and stir round.

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Throw in your potatoes, and mush up with spoon as they heat to make the consistency you want. Make sure they are heated through properly too – I recommend cooking for five or so minutes.

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I ended up with mine looking a little like this…

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Throw in your spinach and your lemon juice, and let it wilt, around 2 minutes maximum.

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Serve up with naan bread, and rice if feeling greedy, and enjoy your homemade takeaway!

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Does anyone have any yummy curry recipes?

Recipe: Toad in the Hole (+ Yorkshire/ Pancake/ Fritter Batter)

This is a great recipe, one of my favourite meals, and a complete British classic. It is wonderfully simple to make, the basic recipe is ridiculously versatile, and yet so many people shy away from it as (1) they say it is “difficult to make” and (2) apparently it uses “expensive ingredients.” I’m hoping this post will blow both of these concerns out of way!

Firstly, it is so, so, so easy to make, and my recipe requires no scales, no measuring, just a jug, spoon, fork, and a tin. And an oven of course. If your kitchen doesn’t have these, its not really a kitchen.

Secondly, a lot of the ingredients are really basics that you would already have. 1.5kg of flour (ASDA smart price at 45p) lasts me more than a term, salt and pepper at also cheap (and realistically every meal needs them, so I haven’t included them in my costings per portion), milk lasts my house of four a week (6 pints at £1.48). Eggs are £1 for six, and that’s buying free range, as I utterly refuse to buy intensively farmed eggs. I use lard for my toad, but any flavourless oil such as sunflower is fine. Then sausages need not be expensive. Buy the best you can afford, obviously, as the best you buy the better your meal will taste. But you can get 8 decent sausages for under £2. You can get away with using two per person in this recipe but I was greedy and used three for me (but I bought my sausages from Waitrose heavily reduced – 8 for 90p!). I’m going to attempt to include some rough costings within this recipe, but I apologise if these are wrong. I’ve based everything on ASDA prices, using smart price flour, but their standard range everywhere else. My costing will also include some vegetables and gravy (and I use Bisto, so this could be a lot cheaper for you – although Bisto is available in the £1 shops!) I will also include the cost of EVERYTHING if you are making from scratch with an empty kitchen. I hope none of you are doing this though! My estimations are very generous, so the recipe will probably be cheaper!

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I hope I have convinced you to give this recipe a try. It takes little to no time, a tiny bit of pre-planning (although if you are really pushed it isn’t necessary!) and results in a filling and tasty meal that really does remind me of home. Definite comfort food for this dreary, rainy, grey weather. By the way, the photo above is an old one, but the recipe is still the same!

The batter recipe can also be used for individual Yorkshire’s (cook in a muffin tin, for around 5 minutes left), fritters (add your ingredient, I like sweetcorn, and fry in a pan until crispy), or pancakes (leave out the salt and pepper, and fry in flavourless oil for around 1 minute on each side). So it is definitely a good recipe to learn!

Ingredients (I would eat this amount on my own, but with mashed potatoes would serve two!)

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  • 2 eggs (£1 for six, 33p in recipe)
  • 2 spoons of flour (45p for 1.5kg, approx 5p for amount used)
  • Milk (£1.48 for six pints, approx 15-25p for amount used)
  • Salt (29p for 750g, negligible in recipe)
  • Black pepper (29p for 25g, roughly 1p in recipe)
  • 2 sausages (based on £2 for 8, 50p in recipe) – ignore me being greedy and having three!)
  • A chunk of lard, or some oil, around 25g/ml (39p for 250g, approx 5p)
  • Gravy – I use Bisto’s Onion (£1.75 for 170g, approx 30p in recipe)
  • Vegatables – I would have around 1/5 of a cabbage, 1/4 of a broccoli head, and a handful of frozen peas (roughly 50p maximum)

Total cost of recipe – £1.99 including vegetables and gravy, per portion. Starting from scratch would be around £10, but this would leave plenty of ingredients left for other dishes. Scaling up this recipe wouldn’t double the cost, particularly if you just made mashed potatoes instead of extra batter.

Method

Take your two eggs and crack into a jug. Ignore my bloody, plastered finger – I decided to slip with a knife earlier in the day and have badly sliced my finger. Typically I am left handed and it is very painful to write, so am instead drafting lots of blog posts (lucky readers!).

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Add two rounded tablespoons of plain flour to your eggs, beating between each spoon, and trying to beat out all of the lumps (though lumps don’t hurt!).

Add in around 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of black pepper. The batter will go a funny colour if you use ground pepper, but I find it gives a better flavour.

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Add enough milk (no more than 1/2 a pint – I used two ‘splashes) until you have a thick but pourable consistency that coats the back of a spoon, similar to this next photo.

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If you have time, cover the batter with cling film and leave in a cool place. I like to make this on days (i.e. Wednesdays) when I finish at lunchtime. I will make it as soon as I get in, winding down from lectures, then get on with some work until dinner time. Come then my batter is nicely rested and I have very little prep to do. Here’s my batter resting by the window, with our pretty little garden – we got lucky for a student house!

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When you are ready, heat your oven to about 200 degrees.

Throw your lard in the pan, and let it melt in the oven.

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Once melted add your sausages, and throw back in the oven. If you are using oil, add the sausages straight away.

Cook your sausages until browned all over. This takes about 10 or so minutes, and you may want to poke them with a spoon to ensure they brown evenly.

When your sausages are browned, removed the tin from the oven then quickly pour in your batter.

Put back in the oven, and set your timer for 15 minutes – do not open the oven in this time, or you will end up with a soggy bottom (to your Yorkshire!).

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Try and time your veg and gravy to be ready at roughly the same time (cabbage wants 4-6 minutes boiling, broccoli 2-5, peas 5-6). You can prep your veg whilst it is cooking (here is what I had tonight!)

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Occasionally your Toad may stick to the tin slightly – if it does then add some washing up liquid and pour in boiling water before it cools, and it should just scrub off easily. Mine stuck tonight – it is a rare but annoyance!

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Serve up your toad, add your veg (drain it well) and cover in gravy. Then devour and enjoy!

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Does anyone have any tips for making the perfect Yorkshire Puddings or Toad in the Hole?

Budget Beauty Buys: Skincare

This is a post for the girlies out there! Over the last few months I’ve realised I’ve never taken care of my skin properly. Sure I’ve cleansed reasonably often, but definitely not morning and night, and even more naughtily I’ve often forgotten to take makeup off. Not only has this left me with blocked tearducts, but I feel it has had a drastic effect on my skin. Dry patches, oily patches, a few lots spots. This has been made worse over the past summer by bruising and swelling from my operation leading to me wearing more foundation, not taking it off, and then really clogging up my skin. So I’ve recently began to revamp my skincare items, on my tight student budget, and here are my favourite products so far.

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Firstly, I’ll mention the ‘stand out’ item in that photo – the multi-vitamins! Now we all know students may not have the best diets, and although I still manage to eat well I always recommend a multivitamin supplement, particularly in the months leading up to exams. I use one with extra iron and Vit C, as I find it works well for me. Now onto the more exciting things!

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First up is something I have used for many years, and despite occasionally venturing to other newer products (cleansing balms and oils currently have my attention – does anyone recommend any?) I always come back to it. It is cheap and cheerful, probably around £2-£4 depending on offers, lasts a long time, and is simple to use. None of these complicated instructions, I feel some beauty products these days require a degree to use! It has a light floral fragrance which doesn’t last when applied, is gentle on the skin, easy of the eyes (although I don’t recommend you use it directly on the eye area!), and is reasonably moisturising for a cleanser. It removes just about all traces of my makeup, and whilst it struggles a little with mascara it is my go-to cleanser when I need a simple one-step can’t-be-bothered refresh.

I also occasionally use the toner of this range, but it tends to dry my skin out and so for that reason I don’t thoroughly recommend it (although it sorts out caked foundation when gently pressed on, so possibly worth having for emergencies!). The moisturiser is also very good, but being in a pot lets it down big time for me – I can just imagine a lot of germs!

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This is a product you won’t see on most student’s dressing tables! Due to my operation I have had increasingly puffy eyes and dark circles, which I’m desperately trying to do something about – so recommendations of a decent concealer would be gratefully received! This moisturiser is light enough for my young skin, but seems to be slowly solving my problems. It stings a little if it goes in your actual eye, but is nice and refreshing, lasts for ages and is a great budget buy. I shall definitely repurchasing, as for an eye cream it is spectacular value for money.

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Recently I have developed a liking for good old traditional soap used to wash and cleanse. Granted this can be a little drying, but it seems the most natural thing to do (especially with my favourite range at the moment – Dr Organics) and is proving a lot cheaper. I buy these soaps at Holland & Barratt, and their full price is roughly £2.50, with offers pretty much constantly appearing. They last for maybe 6 weeks, depending on the storage you use (I definitely suggest a soap dish!) and obviously are easy to transport as they don’t have to be packed into a suitcase for flying. To use, I splash my face with warm water, lather the soap in my hands, and then massage in. I either wash off straight away using a flannel (rubbing for a bit of exfoliation) or leave it to dry (ala a face mask) before rinsing away. I also use this all over body in the shower, and find it wonderfully cleansing without feeling sticky or smelling sickly – and it doesn’t make the shower slippy which is a massive bonus for someone as accident prone as me!

My usual buy is the pictured pomegranate soap, which I love as the ingredients seem to combat a genetic skin condition that I have been lucky enough to inherit. I have however recently purchased the Vit E version, which I look forward to trialling soon.

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As mentioned above, washing with soap can be a littleeee drying on the skin, so I’ve been on the hunt for my perfect moisturiser. The hunt has been unsuccessful, but I have found four which I like to keep on hand, and then alternate depending on how my skin is feeling. The Garnier Moisture Match range has been around for a few months now, but for me is a revelation, particularly as a few formulas are oil-free. It isn’t exactly the cheapest option, with full price tubes being £5.99. However a limited range of the selection can often be found in Wilkinsons or Savers for £3, and they are regularly on offer in Boots, Superdrug (which they are at the time of posting, plus remember your 10% NUS discount students!), and various supermarkets. As with all things, it pays to shop around! I’ll give a brief overview of the moisturisers I love (keen eyes will note one is missing, as the formula was definitely not for me!) and you can choose the ones you’d like from there! Going from left to right…

We have the blue one! This is a pretty simple and generic moisturiser, for normal to dry skin, generic fragrance-free smell (doesn’t there always seem to be a smell?!), and I tend to use this after my nightly cleanse if my skin isn’t too dry, or if I used the Garnier cleanser above.

Then there’s the yellow one! This is probably my current favourite. It’s been an absolute revelation to find an oil-free moisturiser with SPF and illuminator. I have been using this both with (mixed in) foundation, and instead of foundation, and it really does give a lovely finish and glow to my skin. I wouldn’t recommend this for bedtime use due to the SPF, and it feels a little sticky, but I definitely can’t complain!

To the orange tube! This is a gel based formula, very light and non-greasy, and lovely and refreshing on hot days. It also gives a good glow to the face, although at the same time manages to be matte (nope, I don’t understand either!). It mixes well with foundation, and spreads out evenly (probably better than the other types) but I definitely wouldn’t say this should be the only one you should buy as it definitely isn’t very moisturising, although I do have drier skin. Oily types, this is definitely one to try! One thing I will say is that I’m not a huge fan of the smell, it reminds me of the bright yellow antibiotic medicine I used to force down as a child…

And now to the pink corner! This is the richest moisturiser of the bunch, for dry to very dry skin. I have to say this is true – I wouldn’t use this except at night, and definitely not every night. But it is wonderfully softening and soothing, and gets rid of all my dry patches. I’ve found to excellent for the dry places on my body too, particularly the elbows. I believe that for dry skin this moisturiser could be a godsend!

 

And that is my best budget skincare (so far!). Does anyone have any recommendations?

 

 

Student Shopping: Tips on Auction Sites (And My EBay Addiction)

Sorry it’s been so long again. This operation really has taken a lot out of me, and coupled with trying to get on top of shifts at work (I don’t qualify for sick pay anymore, so wanted to make up for the shifts I missed!) I’ve had little time for blogging. I really have missed it, but my energy has been non-existent and the last thing I want is to be posting flat and tired posts. Hopefully this one won’t be too bad…

 

Over the few weeks between getting home and having my operation, I was tasked with clearing out my room. My parents aren’t planning on chucking me out anytime soon, but they are well aware I’m a little bit of a hoarder, and they also plan on redecorating my room next year. Embarrassingly, it took 3 trips to the dump to throw all of the non-decent stuff (and even more embarrassingly, only half of my room has been done – and it’s a small room!) and many black bags to house the various piles labelled ‘sell’ and ‘donate.’ Quite a decent pile of my stuff made its way to various charity shops, which always makes me feel like I’m doing my bit. I can’t say I give to charity as much as I’d like, sadly I can’t afford to donate often, but giving my unwanted goods for shops to sell makes me feel a teeny bit better. I also try and check out their clothing rails when I pop in – there’s often some excellent deals to be had!

I also had a lot of really, really good bits and pieces) that I felt I could get a bit of money for. I mean, most bits still had tags on! I have a really bad habit of buying things that I ‘might’ wear and then never wearing/using them, and although I’m growing out of that phase now (mainly as it’s my own money I’m spending!) it’s still left me with a lot of things to get rid of. Enter EBay. Not only did I find it an excellent way of getting rid of my unwanted things, I also found myself acquiring a few bits and pieces others didn’t want, which I did. This blog post will be a not-so-short guide to buying and selling on EBay.

 

Selling On EBay

  • Make sure it’s something that someone will want. Cheap items do sell, but is anyone really want to buy a broken Primark dress, pay postage, and repair it when they could buy a brand-new one for under £10. Special occasion items, like this here (I love it!), seem to sell well.
  • Set a reserve price just right. No point starting off your old ‘best’ leather jacket at 99p. But equally no point starting a well used t-shirt at £5. Judge it properly, and you’ll get interest.
  • Don’t charge ridiculous postage fees. It costs me £3 to post a small parcel (shorts/dress/t-shirt) and £3.50 for a pack of five postage bags. So to me, when someone asks for £5.50 postage for similar items, I get annoyed and put-off bidding. The ones EBay suggest are good estimates, and there for a reason, so do consider using them!
  • Take decent photographs, and lots of them. If you’re selling a patterned item, make sure your photos show it clearly. I also suggest taking photos of size/brand labels if possible, to avoid being accused of false advertising.
  • If selling clothing, please wash it before posting it off. I know people (me at least!) will most likely wash it when they receive it, but no-one will give you positive feedback for items with your dinner down them!
  • Make sure any items don’t smell. I won’t state which, but a clothing item I have received in the last few weeks had clearly been stored in a damp environment. Three washes and airings later it’s far improved, but I can’t stay I was impressed upon opening!
  • Don’t be disheartened if things don’t sell – list again, and again, and again, adjusting the reserve price if you feel it needs it. Remember that at certain times of the year (holiday periods) bidding will be less.
  • Ensure items are posted out quickly after payment is received. I always try to time my auctions to finish on a Saturday or Sunday, ensuring I have postage bags ready, so I know I can send them out the day after payment is received.
  • Keep an eye on items, as potential bidders may ask questions. It annoys me hugely when I ask a seller a question, they don’t respond, and so the item goes unbid on.

 

Buying on EBay

  • When searching, always try to be specific – don’t search for skirts, search for ‘floral skirt’ or ‘maxi skirt.’ No point wading through hundreds of entries you’re not interested in! Ideally, search for your favourite brands/shops too.
  • My biggest piece of advice is to include the size you’d want as a search term -you don’t want to find the perfect item and then it be miles too big/small for you.
  • Ask questions before bidding, especially if the seller won’t accept returns.
  • I don’t bid on things I like straight away. I add them to my watch list, set a phone alarm for just before bidding ends, and then bid at the last moment. This helps me to avoid a bidding war, and keeps me to a budget.
  • To keep to a budget, decide on a maximum bid and stick to it. Entering the auction with minute to go lowers the chance of you being outbid, and so removes temptation to spend more than you would have.
  • Don’t bid on everything you like – consider where it is from, and how well it will be made. I’m sorry if you think I’m a snob, but I would not buy a second-hand, used item from Primark for £5+postage, as I know perfectly well I could get one for the same price that hasn’t been worn before.
  • Last of all, always, always, please, please, please give feedback to your seller!

 

That’s my basic guide to selling/buying on EBay. I will admit the majority of things I have been interested in are clothes (I am a girl after all!) and here are the three items I have won this summer.

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A lovely vintage-style Urban Outfitters skirt. I just adore the different buttons on this, plus it’ll be far easier when I inevitably lose one!

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A less vintage, but equally lovely (and apparently one-off) unbranded skirt. This is a little on the tight side, but I got overexcited and ignored the ‘to fit sizes 6-10’ in the description as it was the first item I bid on.

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An absolutely gorgeous (the photograph doesn’t do it justice) mini-dress from Mango. I can’t wait until the winter to wear this with thick tights and boots!

 

I have also used EBay to try and find some items of sentimental value.

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Since I was very little, I’ve had one cuddly toy, and it’s the only one that I ever truly loved. It, or he, came everywhere with me, experienced things a bear shouldn’t have to experience (being stuffed in a drawer after getting lost in Marks and Spencer’s, and being posted from Cornwall for Leicestershire after I left him in a holiday cottage) and was basically glued to my hand when I wasn’t losing him. I loved, and still love, Bear. Yes, my bear’s name is Bear. I was an imaginative child (the story is, he was actually bought for my mum when she announced she was expecting me, I fell in love with him as a child, but I wasn’t allowed him until I said the word ‘bear’ – it ended up being my first word, and the name stuck). Anyway, I decided to search on EBay to see if I could find another, and found several straight away. I duly purchased, not to replace my Bear (he is irreplaceable!) but to store for the future day I have children, in the hope that they too have a cuddly best friend to see them through their childhood and beyond. See, EBay can be used for sentimental reasons too, and that just shows how soppy I am at heart…

 

For all of you Filofax fans out there (and I know there are a lot thanks to Philofaxy publicizing my blog on their round-up posts) EBay is also a great source of cheaper Filofaxes. I greatly aim to get hold of a vintage Filofax one day, and probably spend a little bit of time twice a week searching for these on EBay. I’ve not found the perfect one at the perfect price, yet, but I’m sure I will one day.  I want something like this…

Filofax

Image from here.

I will say though, I’ve seen a few try to sell non-leather folders expensively by mis-describing them. I’ve also seen multiple sellers listing other folders (i.e. cheap store bought ones) as “Filofax-style” in order to try and gain more money. So do be careful with what you are buying – Philofaxy has a great advisory post here. My biggest piece of advise if buying a Filofax is to definitely ask on Philofaxy, or on one of the Facebook groups, just to check that you are getting the real deal.

 

So that’s it, my rambly guide to using EBay. Hope that helps the potential bidders in my readers!