How to present clothes on eBay

A picture is worth a thousand words

Often I look at items for sale on eBay and they are so poorly presented I know they are unlikely to sell – or not for a good price. They are screwed up and unironed, in poor light or out of focus. Occasionally they are upside down! So, how to present clothes on eBay to make attract the attention of customers?

There are thousands of potential customers for the items you are selling, but there is also plenty of competition from sellers. However, with a little effort and common sense it is possible to make yours stand out.

Invest in a mannequin

The first thing you should do is invest in some kind of mannequin. The one in the photos cost me just £9 from eBay and is similar to this one.

Take the photos below. Which would draw your gaze and make you believe in the trustworthiness of the seller? The first is screwed up on the floor and the lighting makes the dress look fairy princess pink rather than the salmon pink it actually is. The second is better; on a hanger against a plain background. But the third is the best shot as you can see what it might look on.


Present your clothes for eBay as if it was your shop front

How often do you see dresses in shop windows in a screwed up heap on the floor? Never! Owners of chic boutiques know that to draw in potential customers they need to present their clothes to their best advantage. Dresses will be pinned tightly to a mannequin and accessorised.

Which of these looks the best? A sideways floor shot is never a great decision. Presenting on a hanger works better, but in this instance the photo has been taken from above, making the top look shorter than it actually is.  Again, the mannequin against a plain background is the best way of presenting this item.

Don’t forget the details

Queen of the eBay photo is Mr S’s sister. She sells high end designer stuff and accessorises with beautiful scarves and jewellery to grab the customer’s attention. If you are looking for something special you are drawn to her clothes.

She is good at focussing on the detail, showing pix of fancy buttons, the back of a dress, a lacey hem, etc., so that the customer can see exactly what is on offer. I have learned from her to include as many photos as possible.

Be honest when you present clothes on eBay

Use your pictures to show any flaws such as small stains or pulls to the fabric. Believe it or not, this often doesn’t put people off buying. If they know they are getting an honest description it gives them confidence in you as a seller.

I don’t claim to be the world’s best photographer and don’t own a fancy camera. The one on my phone does the job. The camera on your phone will enable you to crop any unnecessary background, sharpen the image and rotate it so that it is the right way up.

Get out the iron!

Most households own an iron so there is really no excuse to post photos of creased clothing on eBay. If you can’t be bothered to iron, how do I know that shirt you are selling is in clean, used condition, as you claim?

I hope this post will help you to present clothes on eBay so that you can sell them quickly and for as much as possible. More advice on selling on eBay can be found here.

Please note that if you are buying items with the intention of re-selling them, you do need to register as a business seller with eBay. Buyers are also covered under the Consumer Rights Act, the same as if you were a shop. More information is available here.

 

The best garden in Suffolk? A trip to Helmingham Hall 

I’m not a gardening expert but I  know what I like. Of all the gardens I have visited – and there have been many – I like Helmingham Hall Gardens in Suffolk the best!

Everything in the garden is rosie

This was our second visit. When we went before, the spring bulbs were at their best and Helmingham Hall was ablaze with bright tulips and daffodils. Just a month on, the roses and cottage garden flowers are starting to take over, with stunning shapes and colours.


The vegetable gardens are also doing well.  Huge, perfect lettuces with no sign of slug damage were in the cold frames and there were broad beans ready to eat. The microclimate created by the ancient walls in this part of the garden means that figs and peaches can already be seen and it looks as if they will provide a bumper crop.

We met the gardener

Where else can you find an actual member of the aristocracy in the garden doing the weeding and chatting to the visitors except at Helmingham Hall? The Tollemache family have had the house and garden since the 1400s. Both times we have visited, the current Lady Tollemache has been working alone in the garden. She is a Chelsea gold medal winner and is clearly passionate about her gardens. We had a chat about what a nightmare bindweed is! Lovely lady.

I love that she literally gets her hands dirty and is not at all grand. We look forward to visiting for their Autumn Plant Fair on 18th September, although we might be tempted along before then.

I just wish I could have a nose inside the splendid moated mansion. Sadly, this isn’t open to the public.

If you are in the area, I urge you to visit Helmingham Hall Gardens. I can’t recommend this fabulous garden highly enough! More information and opening times can be found here.

This month’s achievements in our frugal garden: May 2017

frugal gardenAs we head towards the end of May, it is time to look back at our  achievements in our frugal garden.

It is always hard to accomplish exactly what we want in the garden. We both love getting out in the fresh air to plant, cut back and keep it looking tidy. Time is limited because we have to do that boring going to work thing! If only we could stay home and tend our garden it would be our little piece of paradise!

frugal gardenWe also don’t have endless cash to spend. This can be frustrating as we know what we would like but can’t always justify the expense. But it’s easy to have a frugal garden as well as a beautiful one if you are creative and put in some time.

Managing our time

frugal gardenThis year, we decided on a little and often approach. Rather than being intimidated by the amount of work to do in the garden and waiting until we have lots of time to do it, we have been focussing on one task at a time. Weeding a single bed, cutting the hedge, sowing the vegetables, etc. We might only spend an hour or two in our garden over a weekend but it makes all the difference. Even 10 minutes in the evening helps.

Seeing the fruits of our labours (literally in the case of the redcurrants) encourages us to do a bit more. I might pot up a few plants after work, Mr S will whip round with the lawnmower, etc or attack the weeds on the patio.

Flushed with success

frugal gardenYesterday it was a boiling hot day but I was determined to sort the greenhouse. It needed to have some compost dug in and the tomatoes, chillis and cucumbers planted. We were sweating like pigs by the time we had finished but it’s all done. A heatwave wasn’t perhaps the best time to choose for this task!

I managed to pot up half of my geraniums, purchased as plugs when they were on sale in Wyevales recently. Because they were cheap we ended up buying loads. These will make a lovely display. I will finish the others over the next couple of days. Little and often!

Ways to save money: growing from seeds and cuttings

frugal gardenTo save time and money we are focussing on planting flowering shrubs in the beds. We have grown some of these from cuttings, such as beautiful wallflowers and spreading geraniums. They fill a space in no time and cost literally nothing. Others have been purchased very cheaply in places like B&M, Home Bargains, Lidl and Aldi. These stores are also good for bags of compost at very reasonable prices. We  grew sweetpeas from seed and these are beginning to grow in pots up wicker frames that I picked up for a fiver.

frugal gardenLook in the reduced section

We managed to find trays of violas and pansies for just a pound each recently on the reduced section at the garden centre. These are all over the place now and looking fabulous. It is often worth looking as the reductions are often substantial and you can coax plants back to their best with a little love and attention.

Growing your own food in the frugal garden

frugal gardenIt’s a win-win. A pack of seeds costs a pound or two and you can use half and reseal the pack for the following year. You can have top quality fresh produce on your plate ten minutes after it has been picked!  We have cut down a little this year but the veg patch still has rainbow chard, broad beans, runners, courgettes, pumpkins and Jerusalem artichokes. We haven’t grown stuff that will be cheap in the shops. This, on top of the produce in the greenhouse, should save a lot of money over the summer and give us some exercise too.

frugal gardenWhat have you achieved this month in your frugal garden? Do you find it saves you money or do you spend a fortune in the garden centre?

Today’s Boot Sale Haul

It was a beautiful morning for a boot sale. I got up early to beat the crowds and headed off to the nearest one in Colchester.

Look for labels

I always set myself a limit of £25 when I go to boot sales. I look for items of clothing that I either want for myself or I can sell on. I hope to pay around £2-3 an item. I will pay more for designer labels and new clothing though; today I bought an almost new Karen Millen top for £4 and a new with tags Boohoo prom dress for the same amount. I will try to get that listed today as proms are still going on!

Other good finds at the boot sale  included a gorgeous purple Oasis dress in perfect condition, a Coast skirt, a brand new Quiz dress and a lovely Alex & Co summer skirt with labels attached. The lady selling this told me she paid £60 but never got around to wearing it. Another of the more-money-than-sense brigade!

The hard work begins

I have a busy couple of nights ahead of me getting these washed, ironed and listed. It does all take a bit of time but it is worth it. I actually enjoy a rummage around a boot sale! Clearly I am not alone as by the time I left the place was heaving. I could easily have stayed longer but I need to stick to my budget.

I also had a lot of work to do in the garden today, which I will tell you about tomorrow. Love a bank holiday weekend. Whatever you are up to, be it at a boot sale or elsewhere, have fun!

SHOMO Awards: who will you nominate?

SHOMO Awards 2017

I mentioned recently that I had joined the UK Money Bloggers group and was featured on their site, here. The group runs annual awards for bloggers, the SHOMO Awards, each September. I have booked my ticket to attend and I’m so excited to go. This will be a great opportunity to meet other bloggers and attend helpful talks and workshops. If anybody wants to nominate me I would be very grateful.  I am hoping to get nominations in the Best Money Saving Blog and the Best Frugal & Thrift Blog categories. You can find out more and make your nominations for all of your favourite money blogs here.

Much More With Less

SHOMO Awards UK Money BloggersToday I went to meet one of the group to compare notes and swap hints and tips. Faith Archer lives just up the road in Hadleigh. She has a lovely blog, Much More With Less, documenting her move from London to the countryside, with frugal ideas and lots of beautiful photographs of her garden. We had lunch and a long chat about blogging, exchanging thoughts and tips. Hadleigh is a lovely Suffolk town with lots of charity shops, which Faith very kindly guided me round. I hope to see her again at the SHOMO Awards.

Making extra money as a polling clerk

With the general election just around the corner, I have been recruited as a polling clerk! I am quite excited to see the wheels of democracy at close hand. It is a very long day: 6 am to 10 pm. It’s not the best paid hourly rate but will nevertheless provide a nice chunk of cash for my savings. I am always on the look out for ways to make extra money and it should be interesting.

Has anybody else helped at an election?

Frugal Friday May 2017: How has your week been?

Frugal Friday is a good day to think about this week’s frugal accomplishments. I returned home from holiday on Tuesday to find quite a bit of food sitting around – darling daughter didn’t appear to have eaten much whilst we were away! I hate food waste. There was a lot of fruit hanging about so I thought I would tackle that first.

Frugal Friday achievement no 1: Banana loaf and fruit salad

frugal fridayWe had a large bunch of black bananas that I couldn’t just dump. I considered putting them in the freezer to make something later, but I decided to bite the bullet and use them up straight away. I also had quite a few oranges and a bag of walnuts, so it had to be Delia Smith’s super frugal banana and walnut loaf. The recipe asks for lemons as well as oranges, but since I had none I just doubled up on the oranges. You only use the peel in the recipe so I shredded that then cut up the fruit to make a fruit salad with some grapes and apples that needed using. I made two loaves, one to eat now and another for the freezer.

Frugal Friday achievement no 2: Excellent value on holiday

frugal friday

Fabulous pic of the Caves of Drach taken by Mr S!

Our holiday turned out to be excellent value for money so I can add that to my Frugal Friday list. Because we went fully inclusive we barely spent anything. We did have a delicious meal in a restaurant for Mr S’s 50th, however. It was a beautiful place overlooking the port on a gorgeous sunny evening.

The food was excellent quality and well worth splashing out on. We also had a trip to the Caves of Drach in Porto Cristou. They were truly stunning and I highly recommend them if you ever visit Mallorca. Other than that, we had a very relaxing time, walking, swimming and sunbathing (oh, and eating and drinking far too much!).

The hotel very kindly delivered a bottle of fizz and two glasses to our room for Mr S’s birthday. We saved this for the following day and sat decadently drinking it on the beach!

We had to catch the coach to the airport at 7.30 am on Tuesday, so we shot into the restaurant first and grabbed some coffee and breakfast and also made up some cheese and ham rolls to have on the plane with some fruit. Well, we were fully inclusive and our frugal tendancies got the better of us!

Frugal Friday achievement no 3: A frugal shop

As I said yesterday, I restocked a few things in B&M, as they are excellent value for money. I nipped into Sainsbury’s too for some Lactofree milk and yogurts as they aren’t available in Aldi or Lidl. It would save me so much money if the discount supermarkets stocked Lactofree products. I plan a bigger shop once I have used up what we already have in the fridge, freezer and cupboards.

Frugal Friday achievement no 4: excellent eBay sales

I was very pleased that I sold several items whilst I was on holiday. As my daughter was at home and works shifts, she was able to package them and take them to the post office for me. I have done the best ever in my 60 day total. I hope to list some more things at the weekend.  This is a really useful extra income stream for me.

So, this is my frugal Friday, and this is what the cat thinks of it all!

frugal friday

Bargain-hunting and a freebie

Fresh back from my holiday, I need to be mindful of my spending. I have therefore gone straight into bargain-hunting mode.

bargain-huntingI had to go and get a few essentials because lots of things had run low whilst we were away. First stop was B&M. I pop in there occasionally to stock up on cat litter as this is the cheapest place for the wooden pellet variety that I prefer.  £5.59 for a large 30 litre bag, which is so much cheaper than elsewhere.

I have a lot of birthdays coming up so I stocked up cards. These were mostly 99p each which is pretty much the most I will ever pay, since they end up in the recycling anyway! Home Bargains is even cheaper for cards but I thought I may as well get them whilst there.

bargain-hunting

More bargain-hunting in the toiletries aisle. I bought my hair dye as I always do my own. This one was only £3.49, which was a good price. I treated myself to a moisturising foot masque for 99p because my feet feel very dry after walking around barefoot on the beach. My daughter has tried it and said it is nice. The makeup was a revelation in B&M. More bargains! I bought a bronzer to keep my holiday tan going. Only £2.99! It seems very nice and I used it today.

What a beautiful day it was yesterday. It felt even hotter than Mallorca, although I suppose I was rushing around doing laundry and shopping rather than lying on the beach sipping a gin and tonic 😀😀. No more showing my all inclusive arm band and getting everything done for me!

I managed to get three loads of washing done and dried, doing my my usual trick of giving each item a big shake before hanging them on the line and folding them up as soon as they were dry to minimise the ironing. There is enough to do without a massive ironing pile.

Free Manufacturer’s vouchers

A nice little gift arrived recently: £10 in vouchers from Purina. I wrote and told them how much my cats were enjoying Felix and they were obviously delighted to receive the compliment. I was very pleased because I had heard that companies sometimes send you vouchers if you contact them but I had never tried it. It was worth the effort! I might write to a few more. Has anyone else done this?

bargain-hunting

This meant I got the cat food for free as 48 sachets of Felix were only 9.99. I wasn’t lying – my cats really do enjoy Felix!

So a good day for bargain-hunting! I will make this month’s money last 😀. As a plus, darling daughter had watered all the plants and the garden is looking green and lush. Mr S will need to get the lawnmower out.

Save Time: 10 Ways to Achieve More in your Day

If only it were possible to actually make more time! The things we would all achieve! As a busy full time working mum, I frequently lament my lack of time and wish I had more. It’s true that my full time job uses up the best hours of my life, but still there are tricks I have found to make me feel I have a few more precious hours. If you can’t make extra, you can save time at least.

There are things that I like to do rather than need to do, such as yoga,  gardening, blogging and making extra money on the side such as going to boot sales and selling on eBay . If I want to do these things and have time to spend with my loved ones, I need to be organised and not waste any! These are my favourite tricks to save time:

1. Do the cleaning as you go along. 

I used to spend the whole of Saturday cleaning the house. Now I clean a room or two a night during the week, which gives me a whole extra day a week! I also get the family to help – I don’t make the mess by myself.

2.  Stop being house proud.

This relates to number 1. If you insist on perfection you will spend a lot of time trying to achieve it. This is unless, of course, you can afford a cleaner, in which case you can be as obsessively perfect as you like!

3. Train your family to be tidy. 

If they put their clothes away on hangers or in the wash bin, tidy up their games, toys and books when they are done, rinse out the shower, make their own beds and wash up their cups and plates as they go then you won’t have to.  We make a rod for our own backs when we let our families develop into messy monsters.

4. Batch cook. 

If you are making a casserole, chilli, tomato sauce, quiche, meatloaf, etc, why not double or triple the quantities and freeze? It is really very little extra effort to make a large batch rather than a small portion of  anything you can freeze.

5. Freeze your leftovers.

Not only does this reduce waste and save you money, freezing leftovers saves you time. You will have a frozen ready meal or two for when you need to eat and run.

6. Invest in a slow cooker.

Another money saver, as they cost very little to run, your slow cooker can also save you time. Throw some meat and veggies in before you leave the house in the morning and you will be rewarded with a delicious meal ready to hit your plate when you arrive home.  You can find some yummy recipes, but it’s not rocket science and I tend to chuck in whatever is available.

7. Set up direct debits for all your bills.

There is enough paperwork to do without having to sit on the phone or go to the Post Office to pay your regular bills. This is also good for your budget as it ensures the essential bills are paid on time.

8. Give up ironing

This was an easy win for me as I HATE ironing! When you hang your clothes out to dry give them a really good shake. Hang or fold them as soon as you get them off the line. If you use a dryer they will tend to come out pretty much crease free anyway. All but the pure cotton garments will be good to go; I still iron these but deliberately buy few garments that are likely to get very creased. Don’t buy linen if you don’t want to waste time ironing it. Back to the perfectionist issue: underwear, towels and sheets do not need ironing!!

9.  Plan your week’s meals in advance then do the shopping in one trip.

Repeated visits to the supermarket take lots of time and are likely to cost you more on impulse buys.  Alternatively do your shopping online and get it delivered.

10. Use your lunch hour to keep fit.

A brisk walk or run at lunch means less time (and money) spent in the gym or exercise class. Freshen up with some baby wipes if you manage to work up a sweat. Alternatively, could you get up half an hour earlier and do a quick workout to set you up for the day? This is my preferred way to keep my fitness regime on track and save time.  I go to work relaxed and full of energy as well, which is a bonus.

There are many ways you can save time. I hope you find my suggestions helpful!

Five Fabulously Frugal Things I have Done this Week: 19th May 2017

As mentioned, we are on holiday in Mallorca this week and having a lovely time on this beautiful, sunny little gem of an island. Going on holiday isn’t a fabulously frugal thing to do in itself, of course. We could have stayed at home and had a staycation, but this blog isn’t about never spending any money, it’s about having the best life you can with what you’ve got. We love a holiday and it’s Mr S’s big 5-0, so we put money aside to allow us to come away.

However, just because we are spending money it doesn’t mean we are wasting it. The first fabulously frugal thing we have done is to make the most of the all-inclusive facilities here. So far we have had all of our meals at the hotel, taken advantage of the free bottles of water to carry out with us and made full use of the free bar (hic!).

Today we are off to visit the Caves of Drach in Puerto Cristo. To save money we have found out about public buses to get to there rather than paying for an excursion. This will cost us 14 Euros each for the bus and entrance instead of 30 Euros each. 

I have saved money using Boots three for two offers on sunscreen and fake tan, as explained here.

We were fabulously frugal on the plane here, Packing up sandwiches, fruit and snacks rather than purchasing expensive airport food. We found cheap bottles of water in the duty free section to keep us hydrated, which meant we only bought one cup of tea each during the flight. 

We will take some fruit and water from the restaurant on our trip today plus Aldi’s version of Nakd bars – raw fruit bars – to give us energy whilst we are out and about.

We have bought spending money with us, of course, but so far we have barely touched it and will be taking a lot of it home with us I think!

I’m linking up with Cass,  Emma and Becky in this week’s ‘Five Fabulously Frugal things I’ve done this week’ linky.  Check out their frugal achievements this week!

Yoga for fitness: getting fit and healthy for less

Yoga for fitness

I am as guilty as the next office bound worker of letting things go from time to time with my fitness programme. By the time I have done the nine to five, fought my way home through the traffic , cooked the tea and cleared up there is little time or energy left for fitness.

However, I am stuck in an office at my PC for much of the day. I know how important it is to work at your fitness. Sedentary jobs zap your mental energy. They can also leave you with aching neck and back, tight shoulders and poor posture. You can feel physically exhausted without doing anything remotely physical.

I am a fully qualified yoga teacher. There are no good excuses for not exercising when you have studied how the human body works and understand the benefits of keeping active! It doesn’t matter how shattered I am, half an hour on my yoga mat will revive and re-energise me, both physically and mentally. I know how great yoga makes you feel and yoga for fitness is a good choice for many people.

Fitness is important at any age, but as you hit middle age it really is a case of use it or lose it. As you age, it is harder to get back to full fitness once you have let it go.

The benefits of yoga for fitness

Yoga is a great activity for any age and fitness level. It also has the hugely positive side effects of relaxation and stress relief. Studies have shown that a regular yoga practice can reduce blood pressure,  ease anxiety and depression and improve your balance (leading to fewer falls in old age).

It has benefits too for those struggling with conditions like ME, fibromyalgia, cancer, MS and arthritis. If you look at the British Wheel of Yoga website you will find specialist classes alongside general ones all around the UK, as well as interesting articles on yoga. It is also a great exercise during pregnancy.

But this article was headed ‘getting fit and healthy for less’, so how to learn about yoga with no money?

The great thing about yoga is that you really only need a non slip mat once you have learned some basic principles and postures (I prefer the sticky sort). Depending on where you live, classes tend to be cheaper than, say, pilates. If you belong to a gym already you might get a few yoga classes thrown in. Before you do them, check to see if the teacher is properly qualified through the BWY or one of its accredited partner organisations. If your gym doesn’t offer yoga, ask them why not? They might start them if there is demand. You might as well get value for money! Yoga is a great exercise to do alongside running or the gym.

Yoga books for frugal fitness

However, if money is really tight, start with some books. Your local library will usually have a decent selection. Once you know what you like they are worth buying as you will come back to your favourites again and again. Here are my recommendations on great books for yoga for fitness.

The Easy Yoga Workbook by Tara Fraser

This is a nice book for a beginner as it’s not intimidating and you don’t need to be a contortionist! It is well explained with good illustrations.

Yoga for You, by Tara Fraser

Again, lots of nice, clear images to follow alongside the explanations, plus a bit more background on yoga.

Yoga for the stiffer body, by Craddock and Bunyard

Does exactly what it says on the cover – great for those who think they aren’t flexible enough to take up yoga. One for your Kindle at a great price.

Yoga over Fifty, by Mary Stewart 

I bought this when I was about 40, so ignore the title! It is a book for anyone with an interest in yoga. It is insiring to see older people in advanced positions but some are quite advanced. I like the sequences in this one so come back to it time and again.

Yoga Mind, Body and Spirit, by Donna Farhi
A really comprehensive book for the keen yogi, with very well explained postures and great emphasis on correct alignment. This is an interesting read! I find this very inspirational to dip into when I am planning a yoga class.

Yoga: the spirit and practice of moving into stillness, by Erich Schiffmann

Another very full and comprehensive read, with instruction on yoga alongside meditation. For the serious student of yoga.

I could go on – I love reading books on yoga and have a whole shelf full of them. There are so many great books out there to start you off on your frugal fitness journey.

To get you started, I have a nice easy yoga sequence here.

This post contains affiliate links to Amazon UK. If you choose to purchase anything through one of my links I will earn a small commission. Many thanks!

Sun protection – it doesn’t cost much to get a tan 

 

holiday essentialsMy favourite sun protection cream

Regular readers will know that we are on holiday at the moment. There are lots of very sunburnt people here. I don’t understand this. It’s so dangerous and bad for your skin. Too much and you soon look like a piece of old leather! Not attractive! You can get good sun protection very cheaply, so there is no excuse.

I really like this one from Boots as it isn’t greasy or highly perfumed. I am using SP 15 but probably need 20. I am putting lots on frequently.  It cost £4, plus you get the Boots points, of course!

I drink a lot of water and wear a hat as well. I am quite fair and I don’t want to get sunstroke.

Faking it

If you really want a tan, you can always fake it! That’s what I do 😀😀. I have found this one pretty good, Soltan instant gel – Boots again. I use a mitt to apply it and get Mr S to do my back. Boots sun products are three for two at the moment so I got my mitt for free. You still need to use sun protection cream on top, of course.

Mr S doesn’t need to worry about getting burnt and already has a tan. He still uses sun protection though. I think he looks like a handsome Simon Cowell lookalike!

holiday essentialsWe are sitting at the port of Cala D’or having coffee and looking at the yachts. It’s very pretty here. We also had a walk up the coastal path yesterday which gave us absolutely stunning views of the sea.

All in all, it is perfectly chilled. It’s nice not to be rushing around and I am surprisingly good at doing sod all 😀.

Off for another wander. Have a good day.

 

All-inclusive in Spain: the pros and cons of the package holiday

So this is what we work all year for! A holiday in the sun. We are having an all-inclusive week in Cala D’or in Mallorca. We fancied some sunshine and that is exactly what we are getting! The views are also stunning here, with clear blue sea and bright blue skies. Gorgeous. Check out the face in the rocks in the pic below!

As with anything we buy, we searched for a good deal before booking. We found the best price on Teletext Holidays. I didn’t know they still existed! Incredibly, when we looked, the all-inclusive was a cheaper price than half board. How can that be? It seems holiday pricing structures move in mysterious ways.  

We flew with Ryanair. The flight was absolutely fine with no problems or delays. However, I found the online check-in process frustrating and misleading. They wouldn’t let you check in more than seven days in advance unless you paid, and you couldn’t reserve seats until you had checked in, which they also charged for. I wanted to make sure we sat together so we had to pay more – around £50! I think this could have been reduced or avoided but, as I said, it was bewildering. We also had to pay a 15 Euro local tax when we arrived, which we weren’t expecting. We had a cup of tea on the plane but  brought some fruit and baguettes with us to save a bit of money on food whilst travelling.

I have never been on an all-inclusive holiday before. I usually like to self cater to keep my budget low. I wasn’t sure how the food would be, but so far it’s pretty good. Lots of salads, fruit and veg, free wine or beer, and you can have as much or as little as you fancy. However, this hotel is busy and so is the dining room, so not the place for a quiet meal. 

As well as your meals, you can have drinks and snacks throughout the day as part of the all-inclusive deal. We will be putting on weight!

The room is good, clean and basic, but there is no kettle! We couldn’t find a cup of tea anywhere when we arrived yesterday – something of a crisis for us tea swilling Brits 😀. We did have a very strong coffee at the hotel beach cafe in the afternoon but there was no tea there or in the restaurant. Apparently we had to find the sports bar, but we were too tired. Having been up to catch our flight at 3.45 am it had been a long day. 

Which brings us to our next problem: our room overlooks another bar, where there was loud entertainment until midnight. This will be ok when we are out in the evenings, but not when we want to relax in our room. I guess they intend you to chill in the sports bar with your evening cuppa! We are going to ask them to move us today. But it seems quite full so I’m not sure if it will be possible.

So, off to breakfast. If I don’t find tea, there will be trouble!

Grow your own fruit and veg to save money, even when you’re feeling delicate 

So… the downside of entertaining 😊. I did two loads in the dishwasher as we went along, but we didn’t want to stay up all night washing up. So many glasses!

Growing your own hangover

We had a lovely evening. Mr S enjoyed being the centre of attention and we even sang happy birthday. The cake was delicious. This is what it looks like inside. It was more sugar than I have eaten in almost three months though and gave me a headache, although that might have been all the prosecco I managed to quaff. I felt a little ‘tired’ when I got up.

Growing your own fruit and veg

It is a gorgeous day. Gardening and fresh air can be a good hangover cure!  We had a few jobs in the garden that needed to be done as we are off on holiday in a few days.  At Shoesbring Cottage we are always growing our own fruit and veg to save money – well some of it anyway. We had to get the runner beans into the vegetable patch as well as the courgettes.

We aren’t doing as much this year. I love growing our own produce and it definitely tastes better and fresher, but it involves a lot of work and we don’t have time to do it on a larger scale at the moment. Growing your own means that you can eat food that can be quite expensive in the shops and a tiny fraction of the price.  So we just have the aforementioned courgettes and runners, plus broad beans, pumpkins and spinach. I have also put in a globe artichoke for the first time and we have rhubarb that is now well established.  In the greenhouse we have tomatoes, chillis and cucumbers.

We have quite a lot of fruit: red and black currants, apples, grapes and raspberries. I will freeze some of these as they are lovely on our porridge throughout the year.

I am really happy with how the garden is looking at the moment. We have been working really hard to keep on top of it and it’s paying off.  I just hope my darling daughter waters it all next week as she has promised!

Do you grow your own fruit and veg? What have you got coming along?

How to get your five a day on a budget 

A basket of fruit showing you can have five a day on a budgetWe eat very cheaply here at Shoestring Cottage. However, not at the expense of our health, so we always eat our five a day on a budget. In fact, we eat a lot more than five portions of fruit and vegetables. I have around eight most days because I eat a lot of fruit. This has become easier since I gave up sugar. (Well, I have had the odd lapse but I have eaten very little, but that’s a post for another day!).

Check out your local market

It isn’t difficult to eat your five a day on a budget. There are so many ways to get some extra fruit and veg into your diet without breaking the bank. In the past when I was saving money I purchased from the greengrocer’s stall at the local market. If you have a good market and the time to get there this is still brilliant value. Now that I work so much I have little time to go into town, so I tend to get my fruit and veg from the discount supermarkets like Lidl and Aldi. Their specials are excellent. I also look out for yellow sticker reductions if I can get to a store later in the day. I always freeze these or use them up straight away. 

Canned, dried and frozen count towards your five a day on a budget

This includes canned tomatoes, sweet corn and pulses. We always have these in the larder. Canned veg such as peas, mushrooms and carrots are really inexpensive and quite good in casseroles.

Pulses can replace some of the more expensive meat in dishes like bolognese – who will notice a few lentils thickening the sauce? Or you can leave the meat out all together and have a mix of beans in a chilli sauce over your rice. How about a can of chick peas in with your chicken curry?

Canned fruit can be more expensive, but fruit cocktail and peaches are reasonable and make a nice dessert with a bit of custard. If they come in syrup I tend to wash this off – too much sugar!

Dried fruits are also worth considering in small quantities . A little pack of raisins in your lunchbox can be nice if you fancy something sweet and I have them on my porridge instead of sugar.

Another small treat I enjoy that count as one of my five a day on a budget is an Aldi Foodie Market raw fruit bar. They consist of cold pressed squished fruit and are around 90 calories a bar. I love the black currant and cherry flavours particularly. They cost £1.49 for a box of five. Much cheaper than a chocolate bar and so much healthier!

How do you get your five a day on a budget?

Amazing Aldi

If you are a regular reader you already know that I love the discount supermarkets. They save me so much money on groceries – I found I reduced my bill by about £30 a week when I started using Aldi or Lidl rather than the larger, traditional supermarkets.  That’s a saving of over £1500 a year without even trying!

However, they are also great with their special deals on various home and lifestyle products.

Gluten free

This week Aldi has done particularly well. If you or one of your family have a problem with gluten, they have a whole shelf of interesting looking deals on gluten free food, including this Betty Crocker cake mix. I am having a dinner party on Saturday and one of our guests is a coeliac so I will make that for her dessert. They had lots of other yummy looking things too. As the cashier told me, these products move fast, so be quick if you are interested.

Baby savings

Aldi also have a fantastic range of baby and nursery stuff currently. Amazing prices! A high chair for £19.99, a changing mat for £3.99, some very cute bean bags for £16.99 and reusable nappies for £9.99.

I spent £50 on the week’s shopping for the three of us. I will add cat food and Lactofree milk to this total, but I think that’s pretty good going. I bypassed the plants and garden deals. They are so good I can’t resist them and I have spent enough on the garden this month.

What about you? Have you tried the discounters yet and which do you prefer?

Scam supermarket voucher – watch out!

Scam supermarket voucher scheme

There are so many scammers on the internet. I love a bargain or a discount code as much as the next person, but if something sounds too good to be true then it generally is.

I was alarmed  this morning to find that my elderly mum had posted the coupon below on Facebook:

I was alerted to this by Mr S as his mother was already onto him trying to get him to print it off for her! I knew straight away it must be a scam and was very quick to post a comment and then rang mum to see if she had given any of her details. That is what the scammers are after; they collect them and can use them for identity theft.

Fortunately, she started to but didn’t submit as she began to have her suspicions that it wasn’t kosher. I love that she is a silver surfer but she is also a bit naive about scams such as this. I Tweeted Sainsbury’s to let them know and got a reply back confirming it was a scam.


Keep an eye for anything like this. The big supermarkets run a lot of promotions, but even they don’t have a budget to cover giving everyone a £75 voucher!

UK Money Bloggers

I have recently discovered a fantastic Facebook group, UK Money Bloggers, full of wonderful bloggers who write on various finance subjects. They are all so knowledgable and friendly, as well as being incredibly generous with their help and advice. I was chuffed to be featured on their website this week. Go over and have a read 😀 here.

Have a great Sunday!

Think you don’t like pulses? Ten thrifty recipes that might change your mind

We all know that meat is expensive, so if you are trying to save money on your groceries it makes sense to eat less of it. There is also a substantial body of evidence showing that a well thought out vegetarian diet is healthier too.

However, I  have lost count of the number of times people have told me that they hate pulses whilst being known to happily scoff a nice pot of hummus, baked beans or a spicy lentil dahl!

Here at Shoestring Cottage we enjoy a wide variety of meals, some of which contain a little meat and some that are meat free. We often include beans and pulses in our meals. As well as being packed with protein, they are low in fat and a great source of fibre. You can buy them cheaply in cans and sachets, so don’t have to spend a lot of your precious time soaking and cooking them.

Here are some of our favourite frugal meals containing pulses (forgive my chick pea obsession):

Smoky chicken with chickpeas. This is mildly spiced and the cheaper chickpeas stretch the chicken and uses my favourite smoked paprika.

Tarka dhal, a recipe featured by Jamie Oliver. This is nice as a side dish or can be eaten with rice or bread for a simple, super frugal meal.

Chick pea curry. This is cheap, tasty and easy to make.

Red dragon pie. I have been cooking this for years from my old copy of Sarah Brown’s Vegetarian Kitchen – lovely book! This recipe involves a lot of chopping but is much easier if you use canned beans, as I usually do. This link takes you to a nice little website called Sprinkles of Love, which is an online shared cook book but sadly nobody seems to be contributing any more.

Spanish chicken with butterbeans, chorizo and tomatoes. One from the lovely Delia Smith. My friend cooked this for me at a dinner party one evening and it was delicious!

Chick pea burgers. Stick them in a bun with some salad and relish.

Cheesy mushroom and lentil cottage pie. I like this with lots of veggies and gravy.

Quick beany enchiladas. One from the BBC Food website. I like to double up when making the filling and freeze if for a quick ready meal to use with rice. They use frozen peppers, although I tend to use fresh since I always have some in the fridge.

Another one from Delia, although you can find versions of this all over the Internet: Boston baked beans. As I am generally pushed for time, I always buy canned beans to use in this.  It needs long, slow cooking.

Finally, the recipe that launched Jack Monroe’s career as a cookery writer, carrot, cumin and kidney bean burger. How can you go wrong when you can make a burger for around 10p?

Give beans and  pulses a try. They can help you stick to your budget and improve your nutrition.

 

Bargain fashion from Everything5pounds.com

New bargain fashion

I received my parcel from Everythingthing5pounds yesterday. It was all very nicely packaged – they use their packing as an advertising opportunity, as you can see.

I purchased 4 items. I am most happy with a black cold shoulder top. The label says Portfolio, which I think is Marks and Spencer.  I also bought a long cotton summer skirt, originally New Look, a floral vest top and a pretty long sleeved black top. I’m not sure where these were from originally. Annoyingly, I seem to have purchased the wrong size as the black top is an 8 and way too small. Never mind – the labels are attached so I will stick it on eBay and get my money back.

Would I use the site again? Yes, definitely.  I won’t browse now though – I have spent enough this month and I need to focus on making money, not spending it.

Second-hand bargain fashion

Talking of which, I bought a second hand pair of leather sandals the other day at a bargain price of £15. They were lovely quality and I was disappointed that they were too big. I listed them straight back on eBay at a cheeky £20 and they sold immediately 😀. I also sold a pair of Skechers that I bought used for the same price I paid for them. You can never tell how shoes will sell but sporty sandals are doing ok so if you are having a clear out they are the ones to list! Three things to pack and post from yesterday; as well as the shoes I sold a lovely little dress from Next.

Let’s hope the sales continue. I will be out at the weekend looking for more bargains to sell on!

(BTW this is not a sponsored post and all opinions are my own.)

Saving, spending and making money in April

I had quite an expensive month in April. I spent the holiday fund and a bit more on Mr S’s 50th celebration trip to Mallorca. Very excited about this but holidays don’t come cheap. I have also spent some money on clothes to take, which is unusual for me! I normally raid the boot sales but, although I have found some good things to resell, there hasn’t been much that I wanted to keep for myself.

As mentioned before, I bought some items from Everything5pounds.com –  4 at £20! These should arrive today so I will report back on those. I managed to get the postage free using Money Saving Expert’s offer code too. I have also purchased 8 items second-hand on eBay. Sadly, four of those were too big so I just re-listed them. One has sold already for a £5 profit 😀. I really must stop buying size 14 clothes as I appear to be a 12 now. I put this down to almost completely giving up sugar since the end of February. 

I discovered TopCashback and did a £25 Asda shop through them to get £15 cash back. I will be exploring that a lot more and we are looking at booking our airport parking through them. I am going to look at some of the other cash back sites too and will report back.

I have sold quite a lot on eBay this month which will positively impact the bank balance. I am going to look at sourcing stock from auctions as well in the future. 

My MOT is due this month so I have my fingers crossed that I won’t have to spend much on that.

So April was a good month! May has kicked off with a lot of wintry feeling weather but I am sustained because I know we will be off to the sun in two weeks! This is what the moneysaving is all about 😀.