Archives for posts with tag: budget

I’m now into my fourth week of feeling unwell and, although the sore throat (which turned out to be tonsillitis- ouch!) has subsided, I am still well & truly under the weather.

That said, I’m conscious that I have still to share the next instalment(s) of my comparative noodle eating. So, here goes.

My second noodle was one of these lesser known brands called Shanghai Garden. I opted for the chicken flavour, although curry flavour was also available. They are the second cheapest from my Tesco shopping list at just 18 pence.

Again, I followed the instructions to the letter and noticed that this brand required a lot more water, 300 ml rather than just 200 ml for the Tesco value range. Then I realised that you actually get quite a lot more in the packet – 108 grams versus only 65 grams on the Tesco Value noodles!

After waiting a moment or two for the cogs in my brain to turn, I worked out that the Shanghai Garden noodles are (only a little bit) cheaper than the Tesco Value noodles when priced per gram. They also taste better and the consistency is more pleasing. Okay, there’s not a huge amount in it, but if you were on a tight budget (let’s face it, most of us are!), then you could actually stretch this to two meals, or to feed two people as suggested in the instructions.

The following day, I opted for the Tesco standard brand noodle (for those who shop elsewhere or who live outside the UK, there’s Tesco Value, Tesco, and Tesco Finest, although they don’t seem to make any Finest instant noodles!).

Knowing what to look for following my previous tests, I noted these were 85 grams and cost 28 pence. The price per gram is almost double that of the previous two, so the expectations rose a little. Alas, the expectations were not met; the noodles were fine, the flavour and consistency were okay, but for the price, I wouldn’t bother.

So far, the Shanghai Garden noodles are the cheapest, most flavoursome and the noodle with the best consistency. I still have the premium brand SuperNoodles to try, but I’m a little noodled out just now, so I’ll have to get back to you!

I’ve not been very well this last week or so, and in the last 48 hours, my throat has been painful to the point that it’s pretty uncomfortable to eat solid food.

Today I headed along to my local Tesco to pick up the essentials for a poorly person (hubby was at work so I had to go it alone): paracetamol, ibuprofen, Strepsils, orange juice, smoothies, soup, noodles and ice cream.

Not the healthiest shop by a long shot, but when I’m feeling lousy, the last thing I want to do is cook proper meals. Juice, smoothies and soup are my vitamin boosts (along with a daily multivitamin) and noodles go down easily without hurting my wee throat too much.

The supermarket trip nearly wiped me out, bit the most tricky part was buying noodles! The cost of a packet of noodles varied from just 11 pence for Tesco Value brand and 69 pence for SuperNoodles. That’s more than 600% more! Okay, it’s just pennies, but if you’re buying more than one pack, it could really make a difference.

After much deliberation, I settled on buying four different types of noodles, with the intuition of establishing whether or not there truly is a difference.

Today I had the Tesco Value brand chicken flavour instant noodles, priced at 11 pence per pack. I followed the instructions on the pack easily. They softened well and were ready to eat in just three short minutes. They tasted fine and the texture was okay. They were close to the consistency of any other noodle I’ve tasted. The down side is that they only had chicken flavour; there was no alternative.

Tomorrow, I will try another of the four varieties of noodle, and report my findings here. Not the most exciting product in the world, but to any students out there, this could have a big impact on your weekly shop (I jest, please pardon the stereotype!)

Yes it’s true. I left school 11 years ago and set off for Art School. A year later I dropped out as I wasn’t happy. I guess I took longer to ‘find myself’ than some of my peers.

Since then, I’ve probably found myself several times over: trained in Graphic Design at a vocational college, landed a job as a junior designer, quit job as a junior designer due to lack of progression in a small company, worked in retail, been promoted to manager, stepped down, and now I’m working as a sales person.

Anyone who has worked in retail will appreciate that it’s not the most rewarding job. In fact, at times, it’s downright insulting! I’m an intelligent girl, but I’m flighty. So guess what? I’m at a careers crossroad again.

I’ve flirted (a lot) with the idea of beauty school or teaching. I’m pretty set on the latter, so tomorrow, I’m going to school. I have a friend who works in the local high school and has kindly agreed to allow me to shadow her and sit in on her classes. Eeeekkk!!!

I haven’t stepped foot in a school since the start of the millennium (class of 2000 y’all!). So I’m pretty nervous, but also bubbling with excitement. Before you say it though, I am well aware of the shortage of teaching jobs at the moment, but think I may have a plan (top secret, y’know).

My budgeting efforts will have to (at least) double as I head into 4 years of full time education. Bring on the beans on toast!

Rainbow over the old town

Nearly sunset, though the rain

The Balmoral Hotel as evening falls

Views like this are priceless. I was lucky enough to snap these pictures of beautiful Edinburgh on my way home from work. I really do love this city!

The steps at The Mound

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is coming to a close and I can’t help but feel I’ve missed out a bit this year. The Fringe festivities are on for almost a full month, but sometimes it’s tricky to get round to it of it unless you plan ahead.

As you may know from my previous post, I had a week off last week. However, I ventured off camping instead of spending time with my beloved city, Edinburgh. So on Sunday my husband, Chris, and I decided to make a day of it. We took the car in to make the most of the free parking available in the city, and to give us more flexibility. As we had nothing planned (and because I’m saving the pennies!), we headed straight for the Half Price Hut at the bottom of The Mound.

We gazed at the screens listing the many shows that had become available at 50% off until something took our fancy. Any of you who have been to the Festival before will know that there are some great shows available, but there are also a whole lot of duds too, so it can be difficult to select a good’un when there are so many to choose from.

We eventually purchased tickets for a show called Korean Drum for only £7.50 each, rather than the usual £15 price tag. We had a few hours to kill before the show started so we headed off for some lunch, walking past the Royal Mile on the way. If you want to truly experience the festival, a visit to the Royal Mile is a must. It’s full of colourful characters, street performers and stalls, and best of all, it’s free!

Edinburgh Festival: Looking down the Royal Mile

We arrived at Red Box Noodle Bar for a late lunch. We’ve been there a couple of times before, it’s great value at only £5.30 for a very generous portion of noodles, served in cool American style boxes (here in the UK, noodles are usually served in plastic tubs, like disposable Tupperware, so these boxes hold the novelty factor!). There is a choice of noodle (egg, rice, udon, ramen, etc) and ingredients. I ordered chicken satay udon and Chris ordered Thai red curry beef ramen. Yum!

Oodles of Noodles

We hurried our full tummies along to the show. I usually choose shows in the Dance & Physical Theatre section of the Fringe Guide, whilst Chris prefers music or comedy. This show was a great combination of music and dance. The performers were extremely energetic, but also showed amazing levels of precision, which certainly impressed the audience. Suitably entertained, we headed off to meet a friend for a drink at the East End. We stopped in at the Omni Centre, which I would say is probably best avoided during festival time as it was so quiet and lacking in atmosphere compared to venues in and around the Old Town.

It was a great taste of the festival though, if only for one day. Next year I’ll plan ahead… Honest.

Like most people in the UK, I’ve been reflecting on the riots that broke out in London, Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester, Salford, and the many other acts of violence and vandalism in many other British cities and towns over the last week. I’m still feeling a sense of disbelief; how can this possibly have happened in the UK?

I wasn’t directly effected, living in Scotland, where, for once, we are considered to be the civilised ones! I have spent a lot of time in London though (a long-distance relationship in my late teens had me there every other weekend) and every time I visit, my heart swells a little bit with excitement and, perhaps pride is the word, or love for the city. What I mean to say, is that I feel connected. My parents grew up in South East England, and made their marital home in Ealing, where my oldest sister was born.

I wasn’t just a tourist type when I visited either. My visits to London in my younger years included time spent in Brixton, Streatham, Clapham (one of my sisters lived there for a while), Peckham, Elephant & Castle, Croydon… Most of these places have been struck by violence from a so-called lost generation.

The happenings over the past few days have really got me thinking. There is a complete a lack of community in Britain today. Young people feel isolated, whilst some older generations feel threatened. There doesn’t seem to be a solution.

Today’s youth have grown up in a society that is obsessed with consumerism. A teenager without a laptop, mobile phone or games console is practically unheard of. So is it so surprising that so many people seized the opportunity to get something for nothing? Articles in several newspapers and on blogs have all pointed out that, in some ways, the greedy youths looting all over England parallel the MPs claiming excessive sums of money to kit out their homes. Great example? Why should the already wealthy MPs be have these sums of money covered by the government, whilst others struggle to pay rent or buy food?

I do not, by any means, condone the theft, violence and damage caused by the rioters, but perhaps if the whole nation was less materialistic, then there would be less envy. Fewer people waiting to get their fair share. This country needs a shake up. We need to pull together and work on our society. We need to stop worshiping ‘things’ and start respecting each other. Young people are the future of Britain and they need to be nurtured before they can thrive. The culture needs to change.

These are my thoughts and opinions. I’m not really a political person but the recent goings-on have hit a nerve. I’m on a quest to save money in a society that seems to revolve around material possessions. It’s difficult so stop wanting things that just about everyone around you already has. The temptation to spend or acquire consumer goods needs to be removed; Britain needs to change.

I need to curb my spending to avoid the downward spiral of debt. In order to do this, I must address my needs versus my wants, and be disciplined enough to resist. It’s not easy, and it’s not always successful, but it’s all I can do for now.

I recently booked some flights from Edinburgh to Dublin on a well-known-but-not-so-popular budget airline. You guessed it: RyanAir.

One of my sisters lives in Dublin so I’ve been planning to visit her this year. I’ve been eyeing the prices for this route for a few months awaiting a good deal, and last week, I found it.

The best advice I can offer when flying RyanAir is not to get excited until you see the final price. There are so many hidden charges that can pop up, so when the price is advertised at £9 (usually in not-so-subtle red writing on a bright yellow background), you can at least double or triple it.

On this particular occasion the overall price for a return flight for one person worked out at £50.50, with £20 of that figure being added at the last minute (as soon as you select which card you would like to pay with – as if there’s an alternate payment method!). I still feel that the overall price is reasonable though.

The other factor to consider when booking with RyanAir is the amount of luggage you will be taking on your trip. On this occasion we’ve opted for hand luggage only to avoid extra charges. We’re only going to be away for 3 nights so we’ll just have to pack lightly, wear layers for travel and go easy on the toiletries/liquids!

I think the biggest bug bear that people have with budget airlines is that flights are advertised at one price but the actual price is considerably more. In 2009, I purchased a flight to Dublin that was advertised as costing £1.49, after all the taxes and admin fees were added, it was £17. In fact, I once paid £23 for a flight advertised at £0.01! Crazy, right?

So here are my top tips for flying RyanAir within budget:
Be flexible with dates;
Travel light;
Measure your hand luggage (RyanAir restrictions are listed on their website)
Weigh your luggage – if you opt to add hold luggage, the limit is usually 15kg. DO NOT EXCEED THIS! Hand luggage should be less than 10kg;
Don’t get excited about the price until you get to the screen where they ask you to input card details. Once you’ve selected your card type you will see the final price;
Don’t buy food on board – its overpriced- the food in the airport will be cheaper;
Buy a bottle of water in the airport, especially for longer flights;
Wear layers when travelling (I like to wear a pashmina as a scarf, which can double as a coverup on sunny holidays or a blanket if the ‘plane is too cold)
Arrive early (they’re very strict about check in times and the ‘plane will usually board up to 40 mins before the departure time on your ticket);
Don’t bother paying extra for speedy boarding, just get to the gate more than 40 minutes before your departure time;
Make sure you only have ONE ITEM OF HAND LUGGAGE! You will NOT be allowed to carry a handbag onboard in addition to your hand luggage. It MUST fit in your main bag;
If you want to purchase duty free items, ensure they fit in your hand luggage. Additional shopping bags are not permitted.

If you know what to expect, then RyanAir can actually be a good (and cheap!) way to travel. I have had some great deals from RyanAir over the last few years: Edinburgh Marrakech £98 return, Edinburgh to Dublin £17 one way, Edinburgh to Malta £114 return, and many more.

I hope these points are of use. I travel RyanAir more often than other airlines solely because it is cheaper. However, if there’s not a huge difference in price, check what’s included and what the final price will be. You may be surprised.

… make chocolate & lime cupcakes. I made these chocolaty delights yesterday after finding the recipe on the BBC Good Food website. The recipe is for ‘easy chocolate cupcakes’, I added the lime twist based on the old-fashioned sweets Chocolate Limes. This recipe is extremely easy to follow, but I felt it was just a little too chocolaty for me so made a few adjustments. If you love bitter chocolate then go for the higher measurements on the cocoa and plain chocolate, if you like your chocolate sweet, then use the lower measurements or switch to milk chocolate instead of plain. My adaptation is as follows:

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Preheat to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. This mix makes approx 10 muffins or 24 cupcakes.

For the cakes:

  • 100g plain chocolate , blitzed into small chunks in a food processor (don’t use one with a high cocoa content)
  • 200g self-raising flour (a little extra may be required)
  • 200g light muscovado sugar
  • 2-4 tbsp cocoa to taste (I used 4 tbsp of Green & Black’s cocoa and it was VERY chocolaty!)
  • 150 ml sunflower oil , plus a little extra for greasing
  • 100 ml soured cream
  • 2 eggs (keep ’em free-range folks!)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • zest of 1-2 limes
  • juice of 1 lime
For the chocolate topping:
  • 60-100g plain chocolate , blitzed into small chunks in a food processor (don’t use one with a high cocoa content, adjust to taste)
  • 3 tbsp light muscovado sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp sour cream
To finish:
Sieve the flour and cocoa and add the sugar. Beat the eggs and add the other wet ingredients (sunflower oil, vanilla extract, lime juice & zest and sour cream) then gradually fold into the dry ingredients. Add the blitzed chocolate chunks and mix well. At this stage I found the mixture a little bit too runny so I added about 4-5 tbsp self raising flour. The consistency should be sticky rather than runny; it should spoon into the cupcake cases rather than pour. Pop on the oven for about 20 minutes. The cakes are done when you can insert a cocktail stick into them and it comes out (just about) clean. Leave them to cool on a wire rack.
Gently heat all of the ingredients for the chocolate topping in a small saucepan until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes. Pour a teaspoon of the topping onto the cupcake and sprinkle the crushed chocolate limes on top. Unfortunately I couldn’t seem to find chocolate limes in the shops, so I used lime zest to decorate instead. There are a number of online retailers that sell chocolate limes, including chocolatebuttons.co.uk.
I have made a stash of these for a birthday party this weekend, which brings me to my little money saver this evening. My good friend Janine is celebrating her 30th birthday on Friday, and rather than having an expensive bash, she’s invited a few of her nearest and dearest to her favourite spot in Scotland, a little village called Findhorn, on the north east coast for a beach party and camping. Okay, maybe it isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, but camping out makes weekend trips so much more affordable and flexible. My husband and I are heading up for one night, whilst others are there for a long weekend.
Luckily I love camping, and might just borrow this idea for my own birthday celebrations. And when life hands you lemons…

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Evening all! And a beautiful evening it is too. The sun has been shining on Edinburgh this week, but sadly I have been indoors with the fluorescent lights instead.

I’ve been getting hair envy from reading Fluff and Fripperies, a blog from the beautiful Emma. Now, my hair has been in need of some tender loving care since I let the hairdresser douse it in bleach when I kissed goodbye to being a redhead. I’m loving the colour (blondest blonde), but I am most certainly NOT loving the condition.

In my efforts to save money (Kiehls and Shu Uemura are seriously over budget for me), I decided to go a little bit old skool and make a home made hair mask. I have a friend that swears by a mix of egg and olive oil to nourish and revive tired and damaged hair, so that’s what I did.

I mixed 2 eggs with about 20ml olive oil and 30ml argan oil, which I had left over from my trip to Marrakech earlier this year. I then smothered the mixture onto my damaged tresses, covered it in cling film (to minimise dripping) and left it to work its magic for 20 minutes. I then rinsed the concoction out of my hair and shampooed as with Herbal Essences Dazzling Shine Shampoo followed by Herbal Essences Dazzling Shine Conditioner (left on for 2 minutes before rinsing). I used a little Moroccan Oil through the ends of my hair before blow drying.

I have to say, I am very happy with the results, my hair definitely feels smoother and stronger. There are lots of variations on this mask and other home made conditioning treatments available online. I looked at Daily Glow and Girls Love Style before mixing up mine. I think I might try the avocado or banana mask in a few weeks!

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I’m writing this post from the Spiegel Garden, which is part of the Edinburgh Jazz Festival. The atmosphere here is buzzing; lively crowds of twentysomethings sitting in scattered groups on the (plastic) grass, whilst others sit at picnic benches chatting intently with the sound of the bass coming from one of the three performance tents. The excitement of the Edinburgh festival is creeping in, happily egged on by five days of sunshine.

This is far from my most frugal evening. We’re seeing the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble play later, and at £16 a ticket, this is definitely more pricy than a cheap evening in front of the telly with a frozen pizza in the oven, but it is definitely possible to enjoy the jazz festival on a budget. As I look around me, there are plenty people with a drink in their hand, but there are quite a few without too. It’s free entry to the garden, and if you’re happy not to drink, or to nurse a half pint like I am, then it’s actually a pretty well priced (or even free!) taste of Edinburgh Jazz.

It’s the same scenario during the Edinburgh Fringe. It’s great fun (and free!) to just wander around town, soaking up the atmosphere, watching the street performers, perusing the stalls… and on a lovely warm evening like tonight, it’s perfect.

Sadly my iPhone battery died before I could finish uploading. The gig was awesome, I will post about it tomorrow. G’night!