Cheap ways to get healthy in the New Year

The Christmas treats may be mostly eaten, but too many Proseccos and Quality Streets may have taken their toll on your waistline. Your wallet is likely to be feeling fairly flat though, even if your belly isn’t. Here are some ideas for cheap ways to get healthy this new year.

Everybody knows that exercise makes you feel loads better. We all understand the benefits of a good diet as well. It’s just that sometimes it’s hard to get started. The new year is the perfect time to find your motivation!

Write down your goals

If you want to stick to your new year’s goals it can be helpful to write them down. Put them where you can see them. By the kettle or on the fridge door are good spots.


This is my favourite way to keep fit. I love to get outside in the fresh air, whatever the weather. Apart from a comfy pair of  shoes and a warm jacket, walking is free. If you choose a good route it can be interesting too.

We started the new year with a 6.5 mile hike yesterday. Our aim is to take a walk of at least 5 miles each weekend.

I wish I was close enough to the office to walk there and back each day. I aim to do a brisk mile at least three times a week over lunchtime. If you can build walking into your day it won’t even feel like exercise.

We use Map My Walk to record our mileage. It’s a great free little app if your budget isn’t up to a Fitbit or similar.


I am not a runner. I have dodgy knees! Otherwise I would be very tempted by the NHS’s Couch to 5K, a nine-week running plan for beginners. There is so much great information on this site to help you get fit for the price of a decent pair of running shoes.

You Tube

Whatever form of exercise you want to try, there will be a You Tube channel with some bouncy young thing showing you the way. From yoga (my exercise of choice) to aerobics, from pilates to boxercise, it is  more than possible to do a full work out from the comfort of your own home. I found this article, which gives suggestions of some of the best You Tube workout channels.

Eat less sugar

There is much evidence to prove that high levels of sugar are bad for your health. From John Yudkin’s classic book Pure, White and Deadly: How Sugar Is Killing Us and What We Can Do to Stop It* to a recent NHS report suggesting we should all halve our sugar intake, there is good reason to at least cut back.

Last March I went sugar free for a month. I felt very much better. The biggest surprise was the improvement in my IBS symptoms. However, I have gradually allowed my sugar consumption to rise, especially over Christmas. I don’t intend to go completely sugar free, but I am going to reduce the amount I eat dramatically.

If you want a bit more inspiration, a few years ago Zoe over at Eco Thrifty Living lost 16 lbs giving up sugar.

Eat your five a day

I know some people think it is too hard to get their five a day on a budget. I don’t believe this to be true and blogged about it here. Meat is expensive! An apple is cheaper than a chocolate bar, and frozen fruit and vegetables are excellent value.

I find it easy to get my five a day because I incorporate fruit and vegetables into my meal plans. It is easier still since I decided to become vegetarian. I always take a couple of pieces of fruit to work and often a home made vegetable soup, so that’s three portions with very little effort. I dollop a bit of stewed apple or a chopped banana on my morning porridge then have some veg or a salad with dinner.

Get more sleep

This is something I struggle with. As a long term insomniac sleep sometimes eludes me. I make the situation worse by crashing on the sofa when I am tired in the evenings. Annoyingly, I often spring into life when I go up to my bed!

My New Year’s resolution is definitely to tackle my insomnia. Sleep hygiene is key. Not eating late at night, turning off my phone and PC a good half hour before I go to bed, getting more exercise and avoiding stimulants such as alcohol and caffeine can help with good sleep.

If you sleep well, you function better in the day – it’s common sense to try to get your 7-8 hours a night.


A regular meditation practice has many benefits. It helps with anxiety and depression, can improve sleep and gives you a more positive outlook on life. There has even been some research done suggesting it can lower blood pressure.

I have times when I practice meditation most days and then I don’t do it for weeks. I know I feel better with a 10 minute meditation at the end of my yoga practice.

A really great little free app I have found is Calm. The reason I like this so much is that a soothing voice takes you through short or longer relaxation sessions. All you have to do is find a little time and a quiet place to sit.

The app offers 7 days of calm, 7 days of sleep, 7 days of gratitude, etc. I can’t recommend this enough.

Drink more water

We are always being told to drink more water, but how many of us actually do this? If I allow myself to get dehydrated I get tired, grumpy and my head starts to throb. I keep a big glass bottle of the stuff on my desk at work and make sure I drink throughout the day.

It is claimed that drinking lots of water helps keep your skin clear, prevents constipation and makes you feel fuller – great if you are trying to lose weight. If you want a boost, drink plenty of water. It is free from the tap, although I tend to filter it.

Give up smoking

I hate to preach so I will keep this brief. Smoking is literally burning money and makes your body more susceptible to many cancers and diseases. If you want to give up, the NHS has some good advice here.

What are your cheap ways to get healthy?

So these are my cheap ways to get healthy in the new year. What are your tips for getting fit on a budget? I would love to hear them so please add a comment.

*This is my affiliate link.


Home spa! Giving myself a treat 

I had a late night yesterday as my friends were round for dinner, followed by an early start with my daughters at a boot sale, so I am a bit knackered! I thought I would give myself a cheap treat, so I have nicked some of my daughter’s posh products and some of my own for a lovely home spa.

home spa

I started with a deep bubble bath and washed my hair, then put on a hair mask – I used an organic avocado and honey one, which was lovely and not at all expensive.  Next I applied a snail face mask – sounds gross but was actually quite nice! I used some of the gorgeous Body Shop shea butter body scrub I had for Christmas. It leaves your skin so soft. I had a good soak then rinsed it all off and applied somebody Body Shop shea body butter. Bliss!

Paying attention to my feet

Then I used my Ped Egg on my feet to get rid of all the  hard skin and some nice foot lotion, did my nails and I am currently chilling with a nice glass of white wine.

You need a treat every now and then, but it doesn’t need to cost much to have a nice home spa.

I bought more bargains at the boot sale to list tomorrow. It was a bit grey and I thought it might rain but it held off. The girls all bought loads of clothes but none of them spent more than a tenner. I love a boot sale! I am going to have a lie in tomorrow though!

What cheap treats do you enjoy?

Sugar free Easter

Well, why not go sugar free when there is so much sugary chocolate about?

I recently blogged about how I had a sugar free March. I didn’t find it difficult generally and lost a couple of pounds, even though I ate as much of everything else as I wanted. Mr S didn’t do it as strictly as me but he also felt a lot healthier.

Less bloat

I noticed that my IBS symptoms improved massively, which was a big surprise. There are a lot of foods that I now avoid (cabbage, onions, milk products unless they are Lactofree, cauliflower and highly spiced food are some), but I had never considered that sugar might irritate my sensitive gut.

I have allowed myself some sweet stuff again in the past couple of weeks – mainly chocolate, which I love – and have had an upset tummy most days. It’s hard to avoid the realisation that these two things are inextricably linked!

We ate half a Lindt Easter bunny between us last night and I feel awful today, so I am going to cut sugar right out of my diet starting now.

Researching sugar free living

I now realise there is a whole area of research around sugar, candida and yeast infections which I intend to research. Perhaps that is the root cause of my IBS?

Speaking to a colleague today, he has also given up sugar. He was advised to start to exercise and eat healthily as he was diagnosed with diabetes. A couple of months in, his blood sugar is normal, he no longer has diabetes and he has lost a stone! Living proof that a high sugar intake and a poor diet have massive health implications.

sugar freeSugar sneaks into many foods, even savoury. I bought some cup-a-soups on a whim recently as I had run out of home made for work. They are full of rubbish (plus they taste horrible). Sugar is the third ingredient! Whatever possessed me I don’t know but I won’t be buying them again. I will try to avoid refined sugar wherever possible.

I have told everyone that I don’t want any more chocolate over Easter. We will have a fruit salad for dessert on Easter Sunday.

Has anyone else gone sugar free? How have you found it?

Going sugar free: giving up the drug…

Sugar really is a drug, so going sugar free is a challenge! It being Shrove Tuesday, we had our pancakes with lashings of lemon, sugar and Nutella last night.

But today is the day – I’m going sugar free for a month. I am a bit nervous as I think I am going to find it really hard! I rely too much on a mid afternoon  biscuit or a bar of chocolate when I need a boost.

going sugar freeSavoury alternatives

I popped to the supermarket and bought some savoury bits and bobs to take to work: poppy seed crackers, breadsticks, cheesy oatcakes, hummus and soft cheese. I am terrible for snacks so  I need to be prepared. Hopefully I will lose a bit of weight but not if I snack too hard on the savoury stuff. I will have fruit and vegetable sticks too. Honestly. Talk about first world problems!

Some swine has been at my bank account. They got hold of my bank details somehow and went on a spree at Boohoo. Fortunately the bank spotted that this is not normal for me and stopped the card quickly, but it’s annoying as I now have to go to the bank in person when I need cash. I got some cash out at the weekend just before my card was blocked but not enough. Let’s hope the new card arrives soon. In the meantime this will focus my attention and keep my spending to a minimum. I have had two no spend months, so will carry on as before!

I hope whoever cloned my card enjoys their new clothes. Hopefully everything will be just a little too tight or very itchy 😀. Have a good day!

More DIY hair cutting

DIY hair cuttingMy daughter watched my recent efforts at DIY hair cutting with horror. She was sure it would all go horribly wrong! When it didn’t she agreed to let me cut hers. She has the most beautiful hair in generally excellent condition, but it had a few split ends and was so long it was getting in her way.

DIY hair cuttingWe watched a couple of You Tube videos where long hair was pulled into a very tight pony tail at the front of the head, and a lump was taken off which created layers. There are a lot of folk practising DIY hair cutting it seems.

DIY hair cutting

We decided to be quite cautious and only took 3 inches off this time. It is still very long but looks a bit neater. We will take more off next time but first I will purchase a better pair of hairdressing scissors. The ones I have were sharp enough for my hair but not sharp enough for her very thick locks. I have quite a lot of points on my Boots card so I am hoping this will cover it! More DIY hair cutting may follow!

DIY hair cuttingA  kitchen let down

I don’t know when we all stopped eating bananas, but I had a pile of black ones this week to use up plus some I had put in the freezer. A recipe from Nigella Lawson’s  How to be Domestic  Goddess for banana muffins looked promising. However, I wish I had stuck to the usual recipe I use as these were just weird: chewy and bland. The recipe uses no eggs or sugar, although it does include honey. They are ok if you cut them open and smear a bit of jam on, but not my favourite! Disappointed, Nigella!

Happy Sunday everyone! Anyone else done any DIY hair cutting?

Frugal beauty products that last and last…

Frugal beautyLast April I blogged about buying a solid deodorant bar from Lush. Ten months on, it is still going strong! I have occasionally used a roll on deodorant on hot, sticky days but other than that I have used the Lush one. Not bad for a £5.50 investment. I will definitely be purchasing another one of these when it eventually runs out. As well as being a frugal beauty product it has less plastic packaging.

It made me think about other health and beauty products that seem to last forever. One I tried and really wanted to get on with (but didn’t) was a Mooncup. I love the idea that these produce no waste and, after the initial investment, cost nothing. However, I didn’t find it comfortable to wear. I also tried washable sanitary pads and these lasted quite a long time, but were awkward when I was out and about so I eventually gave up on those.

Making hairdryers last

I make my hairdryers last for years – in the past I have gone through them in under 12 months. Now I make sure I buy one with a two year guarantee and never use it on full power, as this is what makes them blow. My current one is four years old but I hope it will keep going for a while yet. I do blow dry my hair every couple of days so work it quite hard.

I have had the same plastic hairbrush for ever – easily 15 years I should think. I remember brushing my daughters’ hair with it when they were younger. It’s practically a family heirloom!

I make other things last too. I have been known to water down shampoo, shower gel and conditioner, I squeeze the last drop of toothpaste out of the tube by snipping the top off and the same with foundation. I found that putting a little baby oil on the mascara wand as it neared the end made it last ages longer.

Do you have any frugal beauty products that are reusable or that just seem to last and last? Do you dilute products to extend their use?

Cutting my own hair

I am getting so into this no spending lark I couldn’t quite face booking myself in for a £30 cut and blow dry. I haven’t even been that happy with my last couple of haircuts. But my locks were looking a little lank and frizzy so I thought I might have a go at cutting my own hair.

After all, I have witnessed many haircuts over the years. I have watched how my layers have been cut by pulling sections of hair up and cutting them straight across. I always cut my own fringe as hairdressers tend to take it too short.  How hard could it be?

cutting my own hairCutting my own hair using You Tube

I had a look at some of the many tutorials on You Tube and decided cutting my own hair wouldn’t be that hard. There are many videos showing  long hair being dragged into a high pony tail and cut, creating a few shorter layers.

Mine isn’t that long so is perhaps a little more complicated. I decided to divide it into four sections with a fifth section at the top of my head where the shortest layers are. I pulled this section up towards the ceiling and cut an inch off. I took the side sections and pulled them horizontal and took an inch off those too, then pulled the back sections out and up on the diagonal and snipped those. 

cutting my own hairI was cautious as it was the first time I had attempted to be my own hairdresser but it seems to have turned out OK so I will take a bit more off next time 😄. At least the dry ends are off!

Anyone else cutting your own hair?

We got our new (to us) freebie sofa yesterday. It needs a throw but is really comfortable. I also got a call back from the British Heart Foundation to say they can collect my old one after all on Wednesday. Until then our sitting room looks a bit like a furniture shop but we will cope!

How about you? Any good freebies? Have a good Sunday everyone.

Reducing plastic waste and saving money on toiletries

reducing plastic waste

Almond oil makes a good cleanser and moisturiser

A while ago I blogged about trying to reduce plastic waste.. I knew that this could save me money too, and it has! I focused on my toiletries and stopped buying handwash and shower gel, instead reverting to good old fashioned bars of soap.

Reducing plastic waste with shampoo bars

I began buying solid shampoo bars from Lush. These aren’t that cheap to buy at around £6.50 a bar, but they do last a long time. I am on my second bar since April and think it will last me another couple of months. I like them! I did try a solid conditioner bar but this was not a success. It didn’t feel like it was doing anything. They are a good way of reducing plastic waste as they come packaged just in paper.

I also tried almond oil purchased in a glass bottle but it made my hair rather lank. I am back to cheap conditioner in plastic bottles and still looking for a decent alternative that isn’t expensive. I know you can use vinegar to get a good shine but my hair is dry so I need a bit of moisture.

reducing plastic waste

The solid deodorant has so far lasted 3 months

Almond oil

The almond oil has proved a decent cleanser and I also use it as a body lotion. Mine cost £2.50 for 250ml from a shop in Hackney.

My solid deodorant, again from Lush, has been a huge success and looks as if it will last at least 6 months. It really works and I use it on my feet too so no more expensive aerosol sprays. Mine is based on bicarbonate of soda but they have others. I’m not sure they would work as well.

I have explored other items sold in glass or metal containers which look nice but are far too expensive for me. They tend to be hand made or luxury items. What a shame the mass producers don’t think about their environmental footprint when producing and packaging their goods.

Any more ideas?

Come on ladies, don’t be fooled by that pseudo science!

pseudo scienceThe skincare and cosmetics business is a racket! Wild claims of eternal youth using pseudo science to back them up means companies can charge a lot for a pot of cream. On the very rare occasions that I venture into a department store I am always stunned by the cost of products on sale. £45 for tiny tub of miracle moisturiser? I could feed myself for a week for that.

I don’t buy them anymore, but I know the pages of the high end glossy women’s magazines are full of impossibly beautiful, photo-shopped models and celebrities selling products claiming to reduce wrinkles, to revitalise your skin, to ‘replenish, hydrate and protect’, to ‘firm and lift’. One product I found claims to renew cells overnight; I’m sure that happens anyway!

A pseudo science racket

My daughter worked as an assistant in the beauty department of a national newspaper as a student. They were sent hundreds of such products to review and she brought me some to try a couple of times. One was an anti-aging serum which retailed at, wait for it, £120!!! I used it a couple of times but i didn’t rate it. I truly prefer my £1.99 Aldi face cream. Another freebie was a ‘natural’ moisturiser which was so highly perfumed I could only stand using it as a hand cream. This one would have cost £48 to buy.

I wonder if the pseudo science claims of the companies producing these items have ever been scientifically tested? I doubt it.

I do think it is a good idea to use some form of moisturiser and also sun protection. But you can purchase these things for less than a fiver. I have been using my Aldi creams for about five years now and I swear I don’t look a day over 25 😉. Don’t waste your money on moisturisers backed by pseudoscience.

There are lots of ways to be beautiful on a budget. So ignore those fancy ads and take a holiday with what you save!

Losing weight, not money!

I mentioned a month or so ago that I had joined a slimming club with a few work colleagues. We have a weekly weigh in, pay a pound a week and the person who has lost the most at the end of the month wins the pot. It has proved a good incentive for losing weight.

I have found it easy to lose weight steadily without spending lots of money on organised slimming clubs, special diet foods or an expensive gym membership. I have lost 8lb  and I can really feel the difference in how my clothes fit.

I am planning another 4lb and then I will be on target. Any more and my mum will start telling me I am too thin and trying to feed me up!!

losing weight  I haven’t followed a particular diet or felt deprived in anyway. I have simply stopped snacking during the day and now just eat fruit, I have reduced my portion sizes and avoided anything fatty or heavy and given up sugar and chocolate. I have allowed myself the odd glass of white wine in the evening plus maybe a Ryvita with low fat cheese or a bag of Aldi French fries, which are only 65 calories. This way I have lost 1 or 2lbs each week with no pain. I guess if I was very heavy I would be more stringent, but I only need to lose 10-12 lbs. I would like to get just under 10 stone, which is fine for my height and build.
  I have increased my exercise with a short walk most lunchtimes and a long one with Mr Shoestring at the weekend. I am also doing my usual yoga practice but trying to make time to do this more often. I feel better all round when I do.

Yesterday we had an epic walk – longer than intended! We thought we would try the Flitch Way near Braintree, a long straight walk along a disused railway track – all the way to Bishop’s Stortford in Hertfordshire if you do the whole thing, which would be a 30 mile trip there and back. We decided to walk about 3 miles and find a pub for lunch, a nice manageable 6 mile trek. However, a lack of preparation meant that we failed to find a pub at all – at 4 and a half miles we discovered we would need to walk another 2 to get to one in Felstead, so we turned round and headed back to Braintree.

 We stopped at the little café in Rayne and called a few places nearby to check they were still serving food but they weren’t. At this point we gave up and stayed at the café for tea and sandwiches! It was 2.30 by this time and we were starving, so they went down a treat.

By the time we reached the car park at Braintree station we had walked over 9 miles! We had also burnt about 800 calories each so I was happy. Got blisters though!

Home made cosmetics from the larder

Can you use simple, home made cosmetics to save money? Or use items that you keep in the larder? A recent blog post about budget beauty led to a suggestion from Lizziedolittle that almond oil made a great cheap cleanser and moisturiser. On investigation it appears this is true. You can spend quite a bit on it if you buy almond oil packaged for this purpose, or you can get a small bottle for cooking much more cheaply and splash that on instead – it is just a couple of pounds in Sainsbury’s. If it’s good enough for eating then it’s good enough to use on your face, surely?

 home made cosmeticsPerusing the larder for home made cosmetics

It got me thinking about what other cosmetics you can make cheaply at home rather than splashing the cash in the shops and I have come up with the following. I haven’t tried them all, so it would be great to hear if you use any. I am thinking here about speed and simplicity.

It is possible to make all sorts of fabulous and luscious home made cosmetics such as bath bombs, soaps and body butters. I used to make beautiful soap before I started working full time, but I want to explore the quick and the cheap! Scouring the internet I found the following, some of which I have tried, some I use regularly and others are completely untested, by me anyway.

Instead of buying shoe deodoriser, sprinkle bicarbonate of soda in your footwear, leave overnight, then just tip out the excess before you wear them.

Dip your toothbrush into bicarbonate of soda and brush, or dissolve a teaspoon in a glass of water and use as a mouthwash. You can make proper toothpaste from bicarbonate of soda  too and there are lots of recipes out there.

The power of porridge

Oatmeal and water makes a quick hand scrub for when you have been gardening and it leaves your hands soft too.

Oatmeal also makes a nice face mask. Mix about quarter of a cup of instant oats with 2 teaspoons of runny honey. Leave 5-10 minutes then rinse.

Cold used teabags or cucumber slices really can reduce dark shadows under your eyes! Just leave on for 10 minutes whilst you relax then rinse and moisturise.

Lemon juice acts as a bleach. If you want a few lighter streaks in your hair try this on a sunny day. Mix a cup of lemon juice with quarter of a cup of water in an old spray bottle. Spritz you hair all over then sit in the sun for a couple of hours. Rinse off and repeat weekly. You will need to do it a few times before you notice the difference.

Hot oil treatment for dry hair: wash and towel dry your hair first. Warm some olive oil very gently in a pan. You want it warm, not hot! Rub it all over your hair from roots to ends then wrap in a warm towel. Leave for 15 minutes. Then wash your hair and dry normally. You can repeat this once a month. This would work well with almond oil too.

This is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to home made cosmetics from the larder. Now I am wondering why I buy any commercial products when they are expensive and full of chemicals! What are your top tips for making natural beauty products?

Budget beauty

budget beautyI have said it before: I am a low budget kind of girl when it comes to make up and toiletries. I am into budget beauty.

Don’t believe the hype

At my age I have tried so many products and I no longer believe the pseudo science or advertising hype. All I need is a cleanser of some kind, some cotton wool and a moisturiser without too much fragrance in it. I don’t get on with soap for this as I have dry skin.

I use an exfoliator once or twice a week – the St Ives apricot stuff is fine. We have shower gel in the house as the others like it but actually I still prefer soap and a flannel. I always use body lotion, again because of the dry skin.

Because I tend towards being too pale and showing any tiredness immediately I always wear a little makeup. I use a razor and soap to get rid of the fuzz, pluck my own eyebrows and do myself the odd manicure and pedicure. It would be nice to visit the beauty salon to be waxed and preened but it’s not in my budget.

I quite fancy getting my nails done, but I know I would wreck them in 10 minutes doing the garden! I dye my own hair but draw the line at cutting it…

budget beautyBudget beauty at Aldi

When I was in Aldi the other day buying the night cream that I use I had a good look at their range of toiletries. They are excellent value. This particular moisturiser costs £1.99 and is as good as anything else I have ever tried, including the Clarins range that I used to spend a small fortune on.  Home Bargains is another that I like for shampoos, shower gel and conditioner. They also sell the hair colour that I prefer.
In Aldi this week you can buy shower gel for 33p, face wipes for 89p, permanent hair colour for £2.39, hairspray for 79p, sanitary towels for 69p for 14 and an impressive looking beauty serum for £3.99, among other bargain beauty buys.

Check out the supermarkets

I look out for bargains in the supermarkets for makeup. The foundation I have now is really nice and was on offer for  £6.99. I know people who will spend £35 on a small pot of this stuff! Very recently I also discovered the MUA range in Superdrug which is incredibly cheap. £1 for a lipstick and £2 for a cream blusher! That will do me!

My daughter raves about the budget beauty bargains at Cosmetics Fairy and they do seem worth investigating.

Fragrance – the prices! I am sure you shouldn’t need to sell a kidney to smell nice! I go for the Body Shop range fairly often. Another good ploy is to buy the gift sets of fragrance and body lotion after Christmas. You can usually find them massively reduced. Perfume either smells good or it doesn’t. Who cares if Britney’s name is on the bottle?

You might think I am tighter than the proverbial bit of the duck’s anatomy. But if you need to watch the pennies  you can save money with a budget beauty approach. Start at Aldi. You may be surprised at what you will find!