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Mission Competition

Top Money Saving and Comping Tips from a 21 year-old Student keen to make my limited budget stretch the semester!

Follow me on Twitter:@LaurieBeat and Instagram: @lornab22 or email any queries to lauriebeat@gmail.com

Join the Facebook group for more tips and a comping community!

Luck and love!

Monday, 28 December 2015

Twitter Competitions Tips and Tricks from @LaurieBeat

The world of comping is far greater than I could have imagined when I first set out on my 'mission competition' journey. I began by simply entering instant win completions such as 'Spring to Win' on Dorset Cereals and 'Belvoir Bagatelle' on the Belvoir Fruit Farms website. Wins were few and far between so I knew I had to switch things up a bit. I then discovered Twitter as a comping base.

To say that I instantly started winning would be a lie, but now that I have ironed out the issues and gotten into a good routine, it really had opened up a whole new barrel of winning opportunities! Here I will reveal my tips and tricks and I welcome you to comment your own, as there is always more one can learn as a comper! 

1) Set up a new account

Everyone uses Twitter for different reasons, some to keep in contact with friends, some to stalk celebrities, some to comp and many all of the above. However, if you are not a comper, it can be very frustrating to see your newsfeed clogged up with retweet after retweet of competitions and giveaways. This could result in people unfollowing you or blocking your account. Therefore, I would recommend setting up a whole new account for comping so that you can retweet to your hearts desire! 

When setting up this account, be sure to set a picture and include a bio - you are very unlikely to win anything if you look like a fake account! Also, it's good to comment on other things in your life,  as again companies don't want to give prizes to people who only want to win! Be an interesting character and appreciative of the brands generosity for giving out prizes (but more on that later). 

2) Be Selective

I mean this in two ways. Firstly, only enter the comps that you actually want the prize. For example, what are you going to do with that Star Wars Single bed sheet when you hate Star Wars and have a double bed? Also, somewhere out there, there is a kid who adores Star Wars and would be over the moon if their mum or dad won a Star Wars bedsheet for their single bed. Do you want to take away that wee boys happiness? You'll enjoy winning so much more if you like the prize!

Secondly, be selective with your searches. Using hashtags in the search bar is a great way to find competitions to enter, but once you have exhausted #win #giveaway and #competition there are many others that may open you up to more obscure comps, and therefore may have less entrants! For example I like to use #win followed by the word UK or Glasgow (my hometown) so that only certain people are likely to enter, and if it is tickets, I'll actually be able to go if it's based in Glasgow! 

Along these same lines, many competitions that require just a little more effort will have less entrants and therefore more chance of winning, such as competitions that require a photo or a caption to a photo. To search for these I type in the generic hashtag such as #win followed by 'photo' or 'caption'. This should bring up more particular competitions ready for you to get your creative juices flowing for!

Another great hashtag to look out for is #WinitWednesday and also #FreebieFriday. These are competitions run on specific days - Wednesday and Friday funnily enough! On these days, there will be even more competitions available and these are easily found using the hashtags enough! It's like a weekly Mother's Day for compers!!

3) Be nice 

The companies who are running these giveaways want people who are likely to become new customers, and also people who are likely to encourage others to become new customers. Therefore, when retweeting to enter a comp, it's good to show your appreciate of the product or company in the comments below (and be sure to include any hashtags to make sure your comment is read). This also increases your chances of winning as some companies will choose from the comments section for a winner. Also, once to receive your prize, be sure to send a picture in to the company that provided it - I once won another tub of Peanut Hottie by showing the company how I had been inventive in using it! This will attract other customers so the brand are likely to retweet your thanks! 

However, there are other people on Twitter who I am very glad I was nice to! Many compers are lovely people (although some may unfollow you, as they see you as competition if you retweet their retweets) but on the whole I have had a really great experience with compers, and feel I have made some 'Twitter friends'. These fellow compers then tag me in certain competitions that require you to 'tag a friend' (search #win followed by tag) and twice I have won from either tagging a friend or them tagging me. This also means that, if you win a big hamper but don't want all the goodies, you can share the prizes with your new friends if you so wish! 

One of my new friends has her own blog, where she shows just how much you can win from Twitter comping! Check it out here:

You can add these new comping friends to a list, which means you can see all the tweets that they have sent - another way to see competitions you might have missed! This feature can be found in the settings of your homepage. 

I've been using Twitter as a comping Hub for about 4 months now and it's fair to say the winnings are varied in frequency. Be prepared for weeks without anything and then winning two prizes in one day! Just keep going, when you're out and about just use the Twitter app to retweet a few tweets and keep your fingers crossed for a win! I've won some brilliant things, from cases of tea, tickets to shows and events and my favourite - a£200 voucher for an online clothes store which meant I could stock up on all my uni clothes before going back next semester! 

For more advice, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @LaurieBeat where I will be retweeting the best competitions and let me know if you're a fellow comper and we can help each other out and I can add you to my comping list! Good luck and see you on Twotter!

Luck and love, Laurie 



Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Homemade Christmas Ideas - Cards and Primary Decorations




Homemade Christmas

My exams are finally done *does a wee happy dance*, and now I can really start to get excited about Christmas (the countdown on my fridge that started at 100 is now at 7 - one week people!). However, thanks to exams, and the fact that I am a student, I am going to need some low cost, small timescale ideas...and here's what I came up with:

1) Cards

I have always loved scrapbooking and making cards. I feel it is such a lovely way to add a personal touch to your gift. But card making needn't be expensive! See all those little ribbons on jumpers that annoy you so much? Cut them off, and save them in a little box for adding bows and edges to cards. Same idea with the buttons you get with cardigans (I have a huge tub just full of buttons in my house, which is weirdly satisfying to rake through). The ideal personal touch though, is photos. I have an account with Snapfish and, when I downloaded the app, I got 50 free prints every month for a year. A whoel year. All I have to do is pay the £1.99 postage! Now, as you are reading this, this offer may not still apply, especially for my American readers (hello! Lovely to have you!), but there are so many other photo sites that will give you an introductory offer when you sign up. Perfect for making all your Christmas cards!

Here is an example of a card I made last night, using my old maths jotter as the card base (did I mention my exams are over?). Almost anything can be used if you put your mind to it:



Decorations
Okay, now I had a lot of fun with this. I felt like a little kid at primary school, in the last week of term before Christmas and all you do is make decorations. If only university was like that. Instead they gave us exams for Christmas. 

And so to celebrate the end of these lovely exams, I invited a fellow ex-primary, current university student round to my flat (as featured in the yellow card above). We had the most magically festive and childish afternoon creating decorations for my shamefully bare flat! We had the Christmas tunes blaring and a plate of homemade apple crisps to keep us going (the recipe can be round by following this link)



For our first make, we went old school - pasta decorations. It's so much fun to play about with the pasta until you get a design you are happy with! You can make angels using the 'bow' pasta for wings (I always called it butterfly pasta - am I the only one?), penne for the body and a bead for the face. However, we both went down the same lines and made festive stars! Great minds think alike! As we were being resourceful, I used nail polish to add a bit of sparkle to my star, while Catherine used some tricolour pasta to add that festive vibe. A bit of PVC glue and some beads and you have an instant, old school Christmas decoration!



One of my favourite decorations is bunting. You can have it up at all times of the year, depending on the colours you go for! Again, being resourceful, we made a mess of my kitchen table and cut out loads of triangles from magazines that made us feel festive - just choose whatever is personal to you! We went for: chocolate (of course), sparkly nail polish and some festive colours. To make it a little more personal, I then picked some favourite photos from last years Christmas celebrations and added them to the bunting. It makes me smile when I look at it, and its nice to think that next year I will be making one with this years memories that are still to come! 

To hang up all your lovely pictures and magazine snippets, I used some glittery string (yes, reused from last years wrapping) and some super cute wooden pegs (these can be found on places like ebay or in Poundland for dirt cheap). Then decide the order of your pictures and peg them up. To add a little more body to it, we also made some hanging beads from string and a random box of beads I have (having random boxes of stuff comes in so handy for last minute decorations and cards!)
 The result, well, I'll let you judge that:



In the first picture, you may also see another decoration, and this one is one of my favourites (which I cannot claim credit for, thank Catherine for this one). The mistletoe outline you can see hanging from the bunting was made using toilet roll tubes and not much else! To create the leaf shape, pinch either side of the tube and cut a 2cm width out of the tube, This will leave you with the perfect leaf shape. Then simply arrange them as you like (I made a Christmas tree as shown below) to make some really great decorations. I love the fact that if you hang them up on the window, you can see the blustery cold rain of Glasgow, while we sat inside with hot chocolate. The perfect winter scene in my eyes.



As well as a cardboard tree, we made a tinsel tree. This is super easy and super cute! All you need is some paper or card, some tinsel and sellotape. And a bow for the top if you are being super super cute! Simply create a cone out of the paper, making sure to cut the bottom to make an even surface for the tree to stand up. The sellotape the tinsel to the top of the cone and wind it round the cone until no paper is showing. then stick the remainder of the tinsel inside the cone. These can be made of all different colours of tinsel and they add such a nice sparkle to window sills and table tops.

The final make is the most primary school of them all - paper snowflakes. 

Do you remember making these in school? I do! 
Do you remember the mess they make? I do now!
We chose some festive tissue paper to make ours out of. This works really well as it still lets the light in from outside but adds a bit of colour to the display. To make, simply cut a rough circle out of your chosen paper and fold into quarters. Then start cutting triangles, rectangles or circles out of the paper, making sure that you dont cut all the way up the fold, as then it will fall apart. When you are happy with your design, unfold to reveal the snowflake and hang up with pride!




I had so much fun making these decorations, and I really feel it has added a lot of festivity to my flat! They would be great decorations to make with kids (or just big kids like us) as they are easy to do and only really use things you would have in your house anyway! 

Let me know how you get on and I would love to see pictures of your creations! Just tweet me @LaurieBeat or leave a comment below!

Have fun, and have an amazing Christmas!


Thursday, 10 December 2015

I am......(for Mental Health Awareness Week)


I am...

No, this is not where I should start. A bit of background. This is mental health awareness week, and this blog post is going to be completely different from all my other ones.

Okay, maybe now?

I am...

No, still not yet. Despite the fact that 1 in 4 people will experience mental health problems in a year, it is not commonly spoken about. Look around you. How many people are in the room. 4? Imagine one of them with a mental health issue. Would you think of them differently? This question is what stops me from writing posts like this. But its time to stand up to the stigma:

I am...recovering from depression.

I am that 1 in 4. I have mental health issues. But they are a part of me. They made me my worst possible self, and now they have made me stronger. To everyone who knew me at my worst, I am sorry. When I was at my worst days, lonely and hating myself, I hated the world as well. I could see no way out, like I was at the bottom of a deep, dark, gloomy well with no ladder in sight. The blackness was caving in and I needed help, I needed to get out.

I am...recovering from anorexia.

What came first, I may never know. I don't know if hating the way I looked made me depressed, or if the depression fueled the hatred of myself that made me want to starve myself. Can you imagine how much you have to despise yourself to force yourself, day after day, to deprive yourself of food, or stick your fingers down your throat in the desperate attempts to make yourself thinner? You think you will be happier when you reach that 'goal weight', and then when you reach it, you think of a new goal weight, and so where does it end? I didn't like the way I looked when I was that thin. Nor did anyone else. My boyfriend most certainly didn't. Although I don't know if he would ever be happy. He didn't like girls fat, he didn't like girls too thin. Why is everyone so desperate to get to that perfect middle point. Is there some magical weight where everyone will be happy? No.

'Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels'

A mantra I would repeat to myself. Well, I can tell you now, skinny beyond natural is not good. And by natural I mean however your body is now. That's what's natural to you. By eating the foods that you want to eat, by doing the things you want to do, your body is where it is. Unless advised by a doctor to lose weight, please please please, don't get hung up on it. For me, what started as a plan to loose a couple of pounds after my boyfriend described me as 'cuddly' and advised I should 'go out for runs more', quickly spiraled out of control. Note that at this time, my BMI was in the lower end of the healthy range, far from fat... yet 'cuddly'. How I hate that word now.

Two pounds was the plan...two stone down later and I still wasn't happy. Another half a stone and I was admitted to hospital. And where was he? Gone. He didn't have the time for it, told me it was 'self-inflicted' and so he had no sympathy for me. I was left heartbroken, weak and like a skeleton. I had to leave uni. I had to go to a psychiatric hospital. I had to recover.

I am...recovering

The process was tough, there's no denying it. The amount of times my dad screamed at me 'PLEASE JUST EAT' is uncountable. For me, losing the weight was easy compared to putting it back on. The Eating Disorder is like another person in my brain, a little demon, telling me I'm a terrible person, telling me I don't deserve to eat, telling me... SHUT UP! That's me. Fighting back. I named my eating disorder Evanna. Like ana for anorexia and ev for evil (even in dark times, I love a good pun). Giving her a name meant I could hate her, not me. It gave me fuel, it gave me fire. In the hospital, we all named our eating disorders so that when we ate a bag of crisps we could say it was a middle finger to Evanna. I remember the first pack of crisps I had (Salt and Vinegar Walkers) that I actually enjoyed. I laughed, I was hysterical and I loved every second of it. Sometimes, there is a creeping guilt about an hour after, as Evanna tries to squeeze back in, but the further through recovery I got, the easier it was to block her out. Because you see, however much an eating disorder may seem 'self-inflicted', it's not really us that's inflicting the pain. It's some other part of our brains that thinks we're not good enough, not thin enough and not strong enough. But that other part of my brain is dwindling now, and I am coming back.

I am...Lorna

I am Lorna, I had anorexia, and I am recovering.

I survived an eating disorder. I don't yet think I have beaten it. Challenging times have been around me recently, and it can be harder to fight back when I am stressed, but I am better than I was. No, I am a hell of  lot better than I was. Last year, I had my birthday in hospital, this year I baked and ate my own cake. I rarely give myself credit for the work I put in and the hell I've been through but today, in this post I admit it. I am proud of myself. I did it. And I sure as hell hope other people do too. I learnt that weight isn't everything. I learnt that mental illnesses can come in all shapes and sizes. I learnt that I am stronger than I believe and that I am worth more than someone else's opinion of me.

I am Lorna, I have an eating disorder and I am proud of what I've achieved.


Since writing this post, I have been campaigning for there to be a specialist eating disorders unit in Glasgow. Read about this here.


Saturday, 5 December 2015

Tis The Season To Be Lucky....And Save Money?



Christmas is coming and it's fair to say I'm pretty excited. However, this time of year tends to cost a lot of money. From decorations to food, from parties to alcohol. And of course, presents. So I have set myself a challenge to do Christmas on a budget... without losing any of the fun.

In this post I will be focusing on a biggie, presents.

I have come up with three ways that I am going to do my presents on the cheap this year and am planning on spending £0 and 0p. Impossible I hear you cry, but maybe not:

1) Survey Sites: I have been using survey sites for a few months now and have quickly fallen in love, particularly with SwagBucks (sign up with this link www.swagbucks.com/refer/LoLoBT). For just a few minutes a day, I can be earning around £50 a month in amazon vouchers, which just so happens to be a perfect place to source Christmas Presents! If you're quick and invest enough time, you should be able to at least save some money on your online shopping. I have been saving up, and now have almost £100 to spend, which means I can still get my family some great, big item, gifts.

For the best survey sites, check out my more in depth post here :)

2) Comping: Comping has been an interest of mine since I discovered it a few years ago. However, in the last few months, its become a real hobby and something I really love to do! The main portal I use, is Twitter. It's something I can do on the go and, to be perfectly honest, I'd probably be on social media anyway, so may as well be winning some prizes! There's something about that alert going on your phone and seeing the word #congratulations that really makes me happy! I have learnt lots of tips and tricks to help you in your mission competition, which will be coming soon in its very own post!

One thing I have learnt through comping, is only to enter if you want to win. For starters, I don't have space in my small student flat to squeeze in lots of unwanted goods and secondly, I don't want to take that joy away from someone else who might really, really want that prize. Since beginning my 'Christmas on a budget' challenge though, I have not only been looking out for what I want, but things I think my friends and family would want too! By typing into the search bar  'makeup win' or 'makeup giveaway' it means I can see all the girly makeup goodies up for grabs and go through and enter them all! By doing this, I recently won a benefit make up set that I know my bestie will just love, making her happy, without costing me the expensive price tag!

3) Homemade gifts: remember the days when all your parents wanted for Christmas was a handmade scribble of the family on a wiggle of green grass to display on the fridge? Although, at the age of 20, I might not be able to get away with this (although my drawing skills haven't improved much) there are still plenty of gifts that can be homemade. But, to cost nothing, it had to be from things already in my house. A while ago, I went through a jewelry making phase, and so I have a few basics - earring backs, superglue and cord. But I needed beads. By going through my old jewelry box, I managed to find some broken/unwanted/old bracelets which still had potential. I cannibalised them and used the beads to make new, pretty bracelets. Also, with the superglue and earring backs, I got some old buttons (everyone has a random tub full of buttons, right?) and made some really cute button earrings. To add a bit of personal touch, I have decorated and personalised some old boxes to display these gifts in.

If this still seems too 'primary school' for you, what about some baking? If you are a dab hand in the kitchen, some homemade toffees, jam, or mini muffins can make the perfect extra to finish off a gift. Using some ribbon and a cute tub, these can look so classy and people will really appreciate the extra effort you put in!

And finally, the essential thing to go with every present? The card! I am a bit of a hoarder, and still have hundreds of old birthday, Christmas and thank you cards in bags in my room. So this year, I decided to finally put them to good use. I went through each one and, whenever I found something glitzy or funny that reminded me of someone in particular, I would cut out the picture to later be used as an embellishment on another card. A great personal touch is to use photos on these cards, without paying the hefty price of the online photo card websites! Everyone I have made cards for before (it's a great money saver at birthdays too) has loved the personal touch and extra effort made. To find some good ideas for your cards, check out Pintrest or Google images. for inspiration!

So that's part one done for my Christmas on a budget! Stay tuned for more tips and ideas and, as always, feel free to leave comments below or tweet me @LaurieBeat to send through ideas or just say hello!

Happy December, and good luck!

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Supermarket Swaps

Supermarket Savings: Simple switches to save money on your shopping

Every time I go to the shops I find myself buying the same old things and then being surprised at the same old same xpensive bill at the end. Sound familiar? Well, there are some simple ways to save the pennies and pounds each week, and one of them is to shop smarter. I always shop around for the best bargains, and places like Home Bargains, B&M and Poundland/PoundWorld are brilliant places to do top up shops. However, as they aren't always close by, and don't always stock everything you need, I have decided to make some supermarket swaps (focusing on Asda to keep things simple) to see if buying cheap really does mean sacrificing on flavour...

1) Tomato Ketchup
Okay, I thought I'd start with the big one. 'It has to be Hein....' yes yes, I know. I thought so too. But just bare with me here. When I first picked up the 42p bottle (compared to £1.48 for Branston or £1.50 for Heinz equivalent size) I was dubious. I thought it would be watery and tasteless and just...not ketchup. Now, I am one of these people who can eat ketchup with just about anything so this was an important one.

That night as I cooked up my chips (a classic with ketchup, right?), I was still doubtful. However, when I squeezed the tomato-ey goodness out of the bottle, I was pleasantly surprised at how thick it was! On top of that, the flavour is really pretty similar to Heinz. There are no great differences, and certainly none worth paying over a pound more every time!

Saving: £1.08

2) Diluting Juice

Time for another BIG BRAND, and another one that I consume a lot. Like, every day, a few times a day. So a saving on this one would be brilliant! I felt safe with my favourite flavour (apple and blackcurrant) and pleased to see that for a similar amount of double concentrate squash the Asda Smart Price came in at just 42p (they seem to like that price) or 5.6p/100ml compared to my usual Robinsons at £1.49, or 14.9p/100ml. I was hopeful, I really was. But deep down I knew, as soon as I diluted that juice and it came out more of a pink than a purple, this wouldn't be the same. And I was right.

I am sorry Asda. But Robinsons wins. The Asda Smart Price just didn't quite get that rich flavour correct, opting more for sweetness to flavour it than, well, flavour! However much I wanted to save on this, Robinsons is worth the money.

Saving: £0.00


3) Marmite/Yeast Extract

Now, I know this one will divide readers, not because I used an Asda Own Brand, but because of the Marmite controversy. Any readers who wish to skip this section purely because they dislike Marmite so much they can't cope with me describing its rich, luscious flavour, you may. I won't hold it against you. Too much.
Anyyyyyway, back to the savings. I have only recently tried Marmite (I know, have I been living under a rock?) but have quickly fallen in love within our 4 month relationship. So was I going to cheat on Marmite so soon into the relationship? Well, just for you dear readers, yes. Yes I was. 
With Marmite coming in at a hefty £2.35 for 250g, no wonder it's got the nation split down the middle. I instead decided to try the Asda Chosen By You 'Yeast Extract' (apparently Smart Price Marmite isn't a thing) at £1.88. The difference I noticed was the consistency, but this was a good difference. The Asda Yeast Extract was far, far easier to spread, and was much less sticky than Marmite, something which I much preferred. Other than that though, no real differences, and I have decided I actually prefer this to Marmite. So all you Marmite haters out there, there's hope for you yet...try Yeast Extract, it's toooootalllly not the same thing (mwa ha ha).

Saving: £0.47 

4) Beans - Reduced Salt and Sugar

If you are a regular blog reader of mine (hello, you lovely lot, comment below so I can express my thanks) you will know about my slight love of baked beans. No it's not weird, it's just a life choice, okay? I have, however, been trying to cut down on the amount of salt and sugar in my diet and so have been trying the Heinz 50% less sugar variety of beans. Now, these do taste different from normal beans, but not horrendously so, and I quickly got used to the difference. If you are wanting to know the best normal bean to try, check out my blog on baked bean recipes

For some reason, and I find this a lot with diet or 'reduced' foods, these are more expensive than normal foods, but fear not, there are still savings to be had. I compared the classic brand Heinz at 
75p a can to the Asda Chosen by You at 32p a can, which is, refreshingly, the same as their normal Chosen By You beans. Thanks Asda for supporting us in our attempts to be healthy!

But the thanks to Asda in this scenario stops there. These beans were overloaded with sweeteners, perhaps to make up for the lack of sugar and salt, resulting in my favourite savoury treat becoming....sweet. I struggle with sweet foods in the morning, and so when I went to have my favourite hangover breakfast of beans on toast, I felt a little worse afterwards due to how sweet it was. So not a win for the supermarket own. HOWEVER, that's not to say that there is a cheaper brand that does it well. Branston comes in at 62p a can, not a huge saving, but a saving all the same, and it comes much closer to the Heinz flavour.

And for all of you who just love normal beans, salt and all, the Asda Chosen By You is a winner, beating the Asda Smart Price beans and even the Heinz in a hidden taste test with my parents (hee hee hee).

Saving: Reduced Sugar: 13p
Saving: Normal Beans: 43p

5) Bran Flakes

As a creature of habit, I eat bran flakes every day (with a sprinkling of muesli on top, in case you wondered), so a saving on this would be a big bonus. For this experiment I tried two types of bran flakes (all 750g): Asda Smart Price (88p), Asda Chosen By You (£1.38), both compared to the classic Kellogs (£2.79):

Asda Smart Price
At just 88p, this was an instant contender, as long as the taste matched up. Now that I am used to the plain and simple packaging, I realise how little of an issue it is. It keeps the food just as fresh, just with less pictures to keep me entertained at breakfast time. I found these a little thicker and crunchier than normal bran flakes, which is an instant bonus. No changes to the flavour at all, I really struggled to find any critique of this one at all. Thumbs up all round!

Asda Chosen By You
As I have said previously, I cannot stomach sweet foods in the morning, and perhaps this has given me an ultra sensitivity to it, as I found these much sweeter than either the Smart Price or the Kellogs. The texture was just the same as Kellogs, but I really wasn't a fan of the flavour at all, and ended up giving the remainder of the box away to my dad, before promptly popping off to buy a box of 88p Smart Price cereal - the clear winner.

Saving: £1.91

The verdict

It just goes to show, a couple of swaps a week can really add up, these 5 examples saved me almost £5 in one small shop, and I will certainly be trying more next time after this success! Just remember, just because it tastes different, doesn't mean that it tastes bad! I found that after a while I git used to the other diluting juice and have added it to my weekly shop! If you have any particular supermarkets you want me to try out, or any opinions on the products I tested, just comment below or tweet me @LaurieBeat

Happy Saving!

(Note: All opinions are my own and all products were bought and chosen by me)


Wednesday, 11 November 2015

I've Bean Eating...Baked Beans. Baked Bean Meal Ideas.



Okay, in advance I warn you about the bean puns I will be making. In Heinz-site it wasn't a good idea. (come on, that was funny)

I love baked beans. Like I'm beginning to think it could be an issue. I feel they go well with any meal. People say 'once you pop you can't stop' with Pringles, but I feel this should apply to baked beans. And anyway, they are healthier. With your average 1/2 can of Heinz containing one of your 5-a-day and plenty of low salt and sugar varieties available, these don't have to be a one off treat. But for me, the skint student and avid money saver, I've bean (heehee) trying out the cheaper own brand varieties in an attempt to find one that can match the expense of Heinz or Branston (depending which team you are on...because everyone is loyal to a baked bean).

Now, there are two levels of supermarket bean...the value range and the supermarket own range, with only about 4p difference per can (28p and 32p respectively). This 4p does make a difference, and I would recommend splashing out, and treating yourself to those 32p beans. Crazy, I know. The reason for this is that the cheaper ones, in most of the places I tried (Tesco and Morrisons particularly) the beans were much harder. This can be reduced by cooking them longer but I just felt overall the supermarket range (especially Tesco) were nicer. In a blind taste test, I got interesting results (shout out to my parents who were guinea pigs for this blog, they've bean good to me). My mother is a die hard brandist, and her bean team is Branston. My dads is Heinz. You can imagine the family rift. I cooked up many a batch of baked beans and left them unlabeled for them to test. The winner? Asda own brand 32p beans, which my dad thought was Heinz. Result. It just goes to show that saving 43p per can tastes doubly good. 

So now that I identified the best bean, it was time to get creative. The classic of beans on toast (with a little cheese and marmite personally) is a timeless food staple that reminds me of my childhood and now of student life. However I feel like this, along with the comforting baked tatty (potato for those non-Scots among us) are just the beginning. And so I introduce to you, my top 3 bean dishes:

1) Beans and Rice


This is such an awesome comfort food. I would like to point out that the lovely structure of my meal above didn't last. I quickly mixed it all up into a delicious mixture of rice beans and veg all happily living together (sorry for those of you who hate when different foods touch, this probably isn't the blog post for you). As you can see, another way I save money (and calories) is to bulk up your rice with peas and grated carrot, adding flavour and filling you up in the process. Anyway, back to the beans. This combination is one I love and is so super cheap. I use half a can of beans at a time, and put the other half in a sealed container in the fridge (just make sure you eat it up within a couple of days) tehrefore costing 16p per portion. This meal can be changed up even more by adding spices to the beans as they are cooking or, if like me you are team Marmite, some of that deliciousness. A definite love,

2) Beans and Pasta


Okay, I admit, this one took me a while to make as the idea of it just felt weird. Even now thinking about it, part of me isn't sure about it. But as I look at the notes I took when I ate it, apparently I liked it. The sauce just coats the pasta nicely and the beans add a nice stodge, perfect for the winter months, when comfort food is life. This also works really well if you get the beans that have sausages in them, although maybe not if you're on a health kick, which can also be found in the savers range. Alternatively, strips of ham accompany the beans really well.

3) Beans on Pizza


Growing up, we had shop bought pizza with beans once a week (the creatures of habit we are, every Monday night). This is a great way to save money rather than having the take away variety, and tend to be far healthier as you then go back and cook it in the oven rather than how they cook it in a pizza place. When I was walking round my local Tesco, I saw these mini pizzas (perfect for one person) for a mere £1.60. Not for one, for four. However, they came plain, so I decided to see if I could save money by buying cheap plain pizzas and jazzing them up with things I already had. By combining these two challenges, my bean pizza has ended up on this post. I found a pepper needing eaten up, some soft cheese and, of course, some beans. For this, I would recommend putting the beans in the center of the pizza so that they don't pour over the edges, and trying to get mainly beans without the sauce for the topping (that sauce will be lovely with the remainder of the beans as a side, trust me). Then put in the oven and cook for a couple more minutes than it says on the packet, just to make sure its all cooked through. The result reminds me of the cheesy beanos you used to get in school (anyone else remember these? Comment below if you do :)) and a combination I wish I had tried years before.

So there you have it, my 3 new favourite ways to eat baked beans, for only 16p a portion! If you have any thoughts or any unusual ways that you like baked beans, let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading, and feel free to follow me on Twitter @LaurieBeat :)





Sunday, 18 October 2015

Challenge: Week Shopping Ban - Daily Update



Sunday

It's Sunday afternoon and I'm about to set off to do my main weekly shop. As all good scrimpers know, a great way to save money when going shopping is to make a list. Smug with my saving ways, I head to the cupboard, ready to take notes on what to buy. As I open the door, my reflexes are tested as a supermarket own brand tin of mushy peas comes hurtling at my head. Unable to resist a bargain, my shelves are literally jam packed with reduced price this and BOGOF that. Curious to see how far this has gone I do a bit of a stock check. I realise that twice, I was unable to pass up the offer of a 35p loaf of bread, freezing it 'for later'. It seems that later hasn't arrived yet. I also have one and a half cucumbers, 4 packs of rice, 4 eggs ready to go off (left over from baking) and enough tinned goods to survive a war.

The irony of this hits me. In an attempt to save money and buy bargains, I have bought so much food I am not eating, instead sticking to the same things each week, meaning that tin of exotically flavoured tuna (at only 50p) will never get used. Something drastic has to be done: I will not go to the shops all this week and will survive until this time next Sunday with only what I have. I will state here that I have not gone to the shops in the past 4 days for food, and will not for the next 7. Bring it on.

With a bit of careful planning this can be done. I see my milk is due to go off tomorrow, so I will make sure I have cereal for the next two breakfasts (as long as the milk smells okay on day two) and use up some of that bread for toast or  have porridge on the other mornings. Toasties and omelettes make a filling lunch with some of that cheese lurking at the back of the fridge. And dinner? Well that will be a nightly experiment of creating things from the vast array of tins in the cupboard and bits and bobs left in the freezer. I am excited to try some different foods and mix up my diet a bit - along with being able to put my weekly food budget towards my birthday party this weekend.

Each day I will post up any challenges or new creations I have come up with as an update on this post. Hope too see you each day as I go on my journeys!

Monday

I wake up excited to face my challenge of...no, that's a lie. I had an early morning maths tutorial. I woke up tired and not all that excited. But nevertheless, my challenge did slightly cheer me up! I was faced with an early issue - my friend had asked me to have lunch with her after class in the library. To me, going out and just buying lunch in a cafe completely defeats the purpose of my challenge, so I prepared a packed lunch. Although many of us (myself included) complain about a lack of time in the morning, making a packed lunch was surprisingly quick to do. 10 minutes of not so hard graft and I saved myself a fiver. Not bad for 8.30 on a Monday morning.

The rest of the day posed no problems, with plenty of snacks in the cupboards to get me through my studying. It's just now, as I'm sitting down to my dinner, that I have something to note. With no fresh chicken or meat in my fridge, I was going to have to raid the cupboards for my meat fix (I like meat before I go to my sports on a Monday). I come across a tin of Savers Irish Stew - 53p from Morrisons. I remember buying this a few weeks ago thinking it would be good as a quick meal and, at that price, it was difficult to pass up. The first thing I noticed when I opened the can, was the lack of meat. The meat that was there was quite fatty and not of the best quality and certainly not big chunks. However, there was some decent cubes of potato and carrot to bulk it up along with some discoloured peas. Sounds great, right? To make it more interesting (and filling) I added some frozen brocolli and peas, which at least makes it look a bit nicer. As I watch my, erm, interesting dinner spin in the microwave I consider the fact that I could have made something pretty similar in bulk, and then frozen the rest, for a pretty similar price and a fraction of the salt. A note to future self, some things are worth paying a little more for, or putting the effort in to make yourself....

Tuesday

This morning, I faced the problem of out of date milk. Now, I'm not usually one to be overly fussy with use-by-dates, thinking that the supermarkets must allow themselves a little margin for error to protect themselves. Instead, I tend to go by the tell of the smell (I just like the rhyme really). I have drank milk before out of date as, when I smelt it, it smelled like, well, milk! This time however, it smelled a little stronger of milk but, having already poured my usual breakfast of cereal, I chanced it. Now, I wouldn't recommend this. My stomach has been...funny all day. Tomorrow, I will have to get more inventive, and break away from the morning tradition of cereal that I never seem to waver from.

Lunch posed no problems, as I found a whole pack of (mercifully in date) ham in my fridge, so sandwiches were easy to make. However, tonight, I was having a friend round for dinner, so an experimental meal like last night wasn't really on the cards. I searched my freezer and found two fishcakes - perfect. Only issue being that they were different flavours. No worries, we could have half each, and this meant that we got to experience two rather than one flavour! Double bonus. With my friend bringing cucumber from her flat and splitting a tin of 16p Morrisons Savers mushy peas (very very good, without considering the price) we had a yummy and healthy meal, all from things taking up space in my cupboard or freezer. A bit hotch-potch maybe, but a great night catching up over food and Toy Story 3. And trying and failing not to cry at the end (spoiler alert).
Wednesday

I can't deny it, I am a creature of habit. So when faced with having to have something different for breakfast, I was a little put out. But the whole idea of this experiment was to try new foods and use up some of the random things in my storage. I thought I would go for the classic, peanut butter and jam on toast. Only issue being, I have no jam. After rummaging through the freezer yet again (seriously, never underestimate those things) I found some frozen berries, put them in a mug, and chucked it in the microwave until they became a lovely hot and jammy mess. Then, I poured this on top of my freshly spread peanut butter for one of the best breakfasts I've had in a long time:


Dinner was a store cupboard staple for me, baked beans and rice...seriously, don't knock it til you try it. It's one of my favourites and a real comfort food, without being too unhealthy (especially if you used reduced salt and sugar beans, but these are more expensive than the 27p smart price ones). I also like to bulk up the rice with a grated carrot and some peas/broccoli (again from the freezer) which adds some crunch, colour, flavour and nutrition! This is a great cheap meal that can be whipped up in a flash and minimal effort. I always tend to have these ingredients in the cupboard too, which makes it a perfect meal for this week!
Any comments much appreciated! :)

Thursday

To be honest, I'm starting to miss fresh fruit and veg. I have a cucumber and some tomatoes I've been rationing all week but that's about it. In fairness, I do appreciate the fresh food I do have a lot more, and have discovered that the frozen equivalents taste just as good (even if your berries will definitely not look the same after defrosting). So in attempt to quench my fresh fruit cravings I raided the cupboard. The only success I got was a tin of apricots. Now, apricots are my favourite fruit (when fresh) so this was a good test. Having already discovered that dried apricots are nothing like their fresh counterpart, I was hoping for better results this time. I opened the can, drained the apricot halves and put them in a Tupperware to store in the fridge (and have discovered that they last a good week there). I was surprised at how many you got in a tin for 58p, far more than you would in a punnet, despite the fact that the tinned variety are marginally smaller. Although the flavour is the same, the texture and eating experience is not, as they were far wetter and mushier than the fresh ones. Nevertheless, they spiced up my plain porridge (made with water, of course) and once mixed into the lovely, gloopy breakfast, it made no difference if fresh or tinned. 

Despite my cravings for fresh fruit, this weeks task has so far been much more enjoyable than expected, and I've been trying different meals and clearing some much needed space in the cupboards!

Friday

My cravings for fresh fruit is getting a bit extreme now, so I thought I would go back to an old hobby of mine. When I was younger, me and my dad would spend hours together 'brambling'. For those of you who are not Scottish, this is simply going out foraging for berries, particularly brambles (or blackberries to most people). So I called up my dad, who I hadn't seen in a while due to moving out, and he was happy to take up our old past time together.

We set off, pockets full of empty bags to his 'secret brambling spots' - namely the local golf course. He had it all planned out, and had even spoken to the green keeper who, rather than telling him off, had pointed out some great locations (but did warn him to only go on the course after hours). His top tips for brambling are:

- Don't pick anything too low down, as dogs may have 'fertilised' it
- Only pick the ones that come straight off the bush, as they are the ripest, sweetest and tastiest
- Look in places other people may not look
- Only pick what you know is edible
- Save some for other people.

I loved the last one, as it showed me how many people take joy from finding things for free. He often sees the same people day after day on the same spots (as in September - October the berries just seem to double every day!) and chats away to them about the best places, and the tastiest finds.

When we got back, we put a third of our berries into a container in the fridge, and then decidedto open-freeze the rest.This technique stops the berries from sticking together when you freeze them, meaning you can take out an exact amount later. To do this, simply line a tray with baking paper, and spread your berries out making sure they don't touch too much, and lay them flat in your freezer. Once frozen, put them in a freezer bag for easy access.

Today I learnt more than just how to forage for berries, I learnt that having fun and spending time with people can be free. Not just finally getting round to catching up with my dad, but seeing him meet new people through a shared hobby. Do you have childhood memories of foraging, or have you started it as a new hobby, or just want to start now? Comment below or tweet me @LaurieBeat.

Happy hunting!

Saturday

So today is the final day of my challenge. I've found it difficult in many ways but also an enjoyable shake up to my everyday routine. It made me really use my brain a bit more and come up with alternatives to things I otherwise would have just popped to the shops to get. I think my favourite experimental food has been the hot jam on peanut butter laden toast (something I tried this morning with my delicious freshly foraged brambles) and is one that will be making regular appearances. But not too often. That is something I have certainly learnt this week, I am such a creature of habit when it comes to food, and could have a far more exciting menu if I just put my brain to it.

Another thing I have learnt is that it's only a bargain if you are going to use it. Even after this week, I could easily cobble together some meals from the things left in my cupboard and freezer. This is why, as I make a shopping list for tomorrow, it is mainly fresh fruit and salad, along with milk (because I do miss cereal and milk in my tea). Twice a week, I will endeavor to go through my cupboards and freezer and find meals that will use up some more of these 'staples' I felt my shelves needed.

Do you think you have a weeks worth of food in storage? Give the challenge a shot and let me know how you get on by commenting or tweeting me @LaurieBeat

Good luck!

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

How I Lived on a Pound a Day by Kath Kelly: an Inspirational Book

How I Lived a Year on Just a Pound a Day by Kath Kelly: Book Review

Today, on the bus home, I finished an amazing book. In typical scrimper fashion, I managed to snag it for 10p, and it was worth every penny. Now, I love reading, and getting lost in a great fiction novel is a perfect idea of relaxation to me. However this book was different to any other, I feel it has changed my life and my way of thinking. I feel like I have experienced something that will not be easily forgotten, and that I will read this book again and again. Okay, before you think I'm getting carried away in a romance novel, let me explain. Kath Kelly wrote a wonderful book all about her year living on just a pound a day. However, the way she wrote it was what made me love it so much. It wasn't a list of tips or a series of diary excerpts, it was written like one of my favourite novels. I felt like I was sucked into the book and was taking her adventure with her, it was more like a story than a factual book giving me advice on how to live my life for less (which was the original reason I purchased it). It did just that, but so much more too. 

When I started out writing this blog, I was looking for ways to make a bit of money and save a bit of money, just to make university life a little easier. I hadn't really considered the overall picture, the consumer world that we live in, which is so strongly governed by what other people want us to spend our hard earned cash on. One woman set out to really take herself out of this equation, by embarking on one of the most crazy, inspirational and amazing challenges: living a whole year on just a single pound a day.

Yes. One pound.

This to me was mind-blowing. Consider going out for your lunch...£5 gone. It's okay to bring your own lunch now and again but, as a student trying to make friends at a new university, I would be so worried that I would miss out on social occasions. However, after reading Kath Kelly's book, I can see socialising in a completely different light! By the end of the year, I am 100% convinced that she had a better social life than me (despite the stereotypical idea of 'students these days'), and she spent far far less on it. I think the idea of having to make the effort of living on a pound a day, means that you try harder to make sure that you can go to events. Also, once you have discovered free events (many of which seemed to have free wine and food at them) why would you not attend? Why spend £20 on a night out you can hardly remember, going to the same places, hearing the same blasting music, spending the same ridiculous entry fee, when you can have an excellent night without all of that. Since I started reading this book I have tried out some free events. I attended a free pub quiz with a mate, (I met wonderful new people, had such a laugh and felt my useless knowledge wasn't quite so, well, useless!) and didn't spend a penny (I'm a fan of tap water and lemon to be fair). I also have been to a couple of fairs where I not only met fantastic people who were passionate about their company, but picked up many opportunities and freebies along the way (I don't think I will have to buy a pen for the rest of my university career).

As well as going out though, we spend money on all sorts of things that we really don't need to - and so many are pressured by what the big bosses want us to buy. I am talking about presents and cards for what feels like a growing number of occasions on my calendar. Birthdays, Christmas, Easter, Hallowe'en, Mothers and Fathers Day, Valentine's Day, I even heard people talking about Grandparents Day and Best Friend day! Although I love the idea of having a day dedicated to celebrating these things and showing your appreciation to those who deserve it, do we really need to spend lots of money telling someone we care? I adore having a day dedicated to spending with the one you love, and showing them how much they mean to you throughout the year - but do we have to exhibit this with a £15 bunch of flowers? If we sat back and thought about it, a handmade card, or a homemade batch of their favourite bake (scones if anyone is paying attention) could be so much more personal and appreciated. What about taking the time to go for a (free) walk in the park with your mum and catching up on everything she's been up to. I feel this would be much more appreciated than an expensive card in the post accompanied by a bunch of flowers that won't last the week.

The opportunities to save money are all around us. I walked past noticeboards in the university for weeks that were telling me about all the great events and talks I could have been going to. I now make an effort to look out for and attend these, and have met some new friends in the process - something I was worried that I would miss out on by living frugally. It shows that living for less doesn't mean you do less living. 

This passion I am expressing for trying to escape this consumer world, was sparked by the wonderful book: How I Lived a Year on Just a Pound a Day by Kath Kelly. I would love to meet this woman and sit down over a cup of hot water in a bookshop comfy chair some time and ask her all about her year. She has inspired me to look differently at the way I live my life, and appreciate the finer things in life, without the luxury price tag. I would recommend this book to anyone, and if anyone has any thoughts on this book or others like it, leave me a comment below, share this blog post or tweet me @LaurieBeat.

Thanks for your time dear reader, and happy living for less.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Mobile Money: Apps that can make you quids in!



In the modern world, it seems people are glued to their mobile phones - I know that my dad is forever asking if mine is welded to my hand. Sometimes I will find myself unlocking my phone, before realising I had no purpose for doing it, it's just habit. So I began to wonder if I could use this slight mobile addiction to make money...and was incredible 'appy' (pun intended) to find that, yes you most certainly can.

I began by doing some research into brands I already used for surveys etc. (check out my blog post ) and would therefore be able to use these more on the go, making more money. Swagbucks has an app for watching videos to earn SwagBucks in the UK but not a full app. This can be handy if you are in a WiFi spot, but would use far too much 3G when out and about, so perhaps not the best.

But I was looking for something new, something beyond more surveys.

Now, I love shopping, and weirdly enough I love food shopping too. I love going round trying to find the best deals and working out what the best bargain is. So when I found an app that made this process even better, I was sold.

Introducing: Checkout Smart.

Checkout Smart is a cashback app that gives you money back when you buy certain items. This is brilliant if you are buying this item anyway as cashback can range from 20p to £1.50 or more on certain items! They also often run competitions, encouraging you to upload a receipt. So why not upload a receipt and see if you can get some money off your shopping? In around 2 months I have made almost £20 and have already successfully received my money into my PayPal account with no issues.

But take note: you need £5 minimum to make a transaction and anything below £20 incurs a 5% fee. It's not much, and they have to make some money somewhere, but its worth considering saving up your cashback until you hit that £20 to save you even more money!

Another favourite...Click&Walk

Now when I first got this app, I wasn't a fan, as it can take a while to get going. The idea is that you take pictures of things and answer some quick questions - much faster than most surveys. You can get 0.40 for simple tasks such as'what you had for dinner', and £5 for going into a shop and taking pictures of displays and prices (I totally loved this last one, as I felt like a spy. And I got paid for it. So technically I'm a pro spy, right?) At first, the offers were few and far between, and you will get asked for lots of unpaid jobs to begin with. But perseverance is key. The more you take part, the more ClicPoints you get, and so you move up levels. Now that I am using it often I am receiving good payed offers fairly regularly.

Since discovering vouchercloud,  I have vowed never to go out for a meal without checking for vouchers. I was recently going out for dinner with a friend and we decided on the restaurant we were going solely because it offered the best discount (40% off main meals, yes please!). Committed money savers indeed.

Simply download the app, enter your location, and check where the nearest deals are. Big chains such as Pizza Express are involved and you can get huge savings from 20 - 40%+ off food and often good 2 course deals or 2 for 1 deals. Be sure to double check with the staff before you start your meal that they are accepting the deal on that day, and always check restrictions such as times, number of people per table and if drink is included.

Tengi is not a guaranteed earner, but I have had some success. If you are constantly messaging your friends and chatting on your phone, you will have good chance of making some money while you do so. Tengi is a chat app like many others, BUT you have the chance to win some money. Nearly every Friday they do a draw for cash prizes and, depending on how many tickets you have collected during the week, you get numerous entries.

To get more entries simple use the app each day, keep the app installed, and encourage people in your contacts to download the app. In my first week of using it, I won £5, which I chose to be converted into Amazon vouchers. Simple quick, and no extra effort on my part. For more info, read this blog post.

If you are quite active Bounts is the app for you. It rewards you for checking in at gyms, sports classes and certain locations and, if you sync it with an app that tracks your activity or steps, you have even more chance of earning points.

The idea is, you collect points for being active and, once you reach a certain number of points, you can exchange this for vouchers. It's such a good way to motivate you to keep active - if theirs one thing that will encourage me to stick to my fitness goals, it's getting paid for it!

These are just a selection of my favourite apps that I have downloaded, tried and used with success. If you have another app sitting on your phone you want to recommend or want tested, just let me know in the comments or via twitter @LaurieBeat. For ways to enter competitions on your mobile, see my post on Mobile Comping here.


Thanks for reading and happy saving!

Laurie :)

Monday, 21 September 2015

Take Surveys, Get Money! The Best Survey Sites Tested by Me!

As I sit here typing away on my brand new tablet I marvel at the fact that I didn't pay a single penny for it. I didn't steal it, and I didn't win it. I worked for it, without doing a 9-5. I surveyed for it.

After doing about 2 months of surveys on a variety of sites, I built up £145 worth of amazon vouchers and got myself a tablet with £5 to spare to put towards a pretty pink case. However, it was 2 months of trial and error (which wasted much time), but now I know what I'm doing, the points are adding up fast. So to save you lovely lot the effort of trial and error, I will share my secrets with you today. I would recommend being a member of at least 2 or 3 of survey sites so that you can combine all your vouchers to get something big you've been wanting for ages, or to help out during the festive period. And so we begin with my personal favourite:

1) SWAGBUCKS  - for those with lots of time


If you are willing to put the time and loyalty in, Swagbucks is a great bet. There are so many ways to earn points, just from doing things you might do anyway. For example, I changed my search engine to Swagbucks, (you can also download the Swagbucks toolbar for extra points) and every so often I will win points (from 8 to 17 ish) just for searching for something! You won't win on every search and it is totally random. I have found you win swagbucks every 3 - 4 hours and, if you have just won, you won't win again for a while. Try to use it to search for things you would be searching for anyway, rather than just random words, as it will notice if your searches are fake, repeated or unnatural.

You can also watch videos, play games and take part in deals but BE CAREFUL!! I never enter any of the deals that ask for money, because then you are spending money to earn money which defeats the point. The videos are in playlist form and watching a playlist usually gets you 1 or 2 swagbucks. There are so many to choose from so there will be something worth watching in there for you. I personally like to do the yoga along with the yoga playlists in the 'Fitness' section. What better way to encourage you to get fit than to get points for doing it?!

The main way in which I earn Swagbucks is through surveys. This took me a while to realise, but there are 3 survey sections in the one site, all under the general heading of 'Swagbucks Answer' - Gold Surveys (run by Swagbucks), Partner Surveys (from their trusted partners) and Peanut Labs Surveys. Don't give up hope when you are screened out of surveys, this happens to all of us. Just stick with it and answer as many as you can and you will see the points will come rolling in.

It is worth being loyal to Swagbucks and using it everyday. This is because they have a Daily Goal which, if you make it every day, you will get extra SB (SwagBucks). For example, if you earn your daily goal every day for a week, you will get a 20SB bonus if this is the longest winning streak you get that month. Roughly each 7 day period is a streak so you can get up to 300SB at the end of the month if you manage to make your goal every day for the whole month. This is a great motivator and not too hard to achieve.

When it came to requesting my voucher, Swagbucks was great. I ordered it on the 9th of September and I got my email with the Amazon Gift Voucher on the 11th of September. Very efficient and no problems putting the code through. A nice little £30 towards my tablet. If you fancy joining the SwagBucks family, use [this link] to get started.

Although Swagbucks is one of my favourites, it can take longer than some of the others to build up the points which leads me to...

2) GLOBAL TEST MARKET - for the big bucks


Global Test Market is where I earned the most - a cool £55 if you please. These surveys are emailed straight to your inbox and tend to take around 15-30 minutes, depending on the survey. I receive around 2 or 3 a day, which is good for me as it doesn't spam my inbox but gives me plenty to do.

Again, the process of getting the vouchers was so easy and I received the vouchers within 4 days of emailing. However, if you are looking for something that is a little less often go for:

3) I-SAY - for the casual surveyer


i-Say is great for people who don't want to commit their lives to surveys but still want the bonuses. The email invites are rarer, but are worth doing as you only need 1350 points to get £10 of Amazon vouchers, and each survey is around 50-100 points. Also, this company was by far the fastest to send out the rewards with a time Usain Bolt would be proud of - a whole 10 minutes from my request to the gift voucher being in my amazon account!

The more surveys you complete, the more loyalty points you receive, and so your points build up faster! Also, if you are screened out of a survey, you get a certain number of points depending on how far through the survey you got. This is really refreshing in the survey world, as often you only get entries to a prize draw, or sometimes nothing!

4) INBOXPOUNDS - Surveys and searches


Inboxpounds is like Swagbucks in some ways, in that it is not just surveys that let you gather up the points. They will send you 'paid emails' straight to your inbox. These will normally include an advertisement or a way to earn more inbox pounds, however all you have to do is click 'confirm paid email' to earn that 1p. Yes, I said one pence. But hey, every little helps!

A way to make more money from this is through the search engine. Each day you can earn 15p from the search engine and contribute towards a weekly bonus - where if you search 4 days a week you get a 5p bonus. I know it seems small, but I managed to earn £20 from inbox pounds in my 2 months, so it certainly adds up!

Another way to earn is by surveys. Sometimes these will be emailed to you (check under email preferences if you have signed up for this) and other times you will have to go on the main page to find them. Again they have a section run by Peanut Labs, so you may be used to the format if you use Swagbucks.

You get your payment in the form of a cheque, and I received mine within a month and it all went through perfectly. Sign up now [here].

But where there is joy, there is always one to let the side down:

5) DOOYOO - for people with opinions


Dooyoo is a little different from the other sites mentioned here today, as you don't give your opinion through surveys, but through reviews. Simply go on and search for a product you use, click the review button and leave your opinion. Sounds simple, right? Not so much. Each review has to be over 250 words (but be sure to make it a but longer as they can become rather fussy about what is 'waffle' and so doesn't contribute when you go to claim) and has to have relevant information in it. You then earn either 100, 300, or 600 dooyoo 'miles' (which are used to exchange for vouchers later) depending on the topic. You also get points when people read your review and leave a 'helpful rating'. As good practice, it is good to read other peoples reviews and rate them as helpful, not just because it is polite, but because the site can check if you just read and don't rate reviews. Also, other members can see who rated their review and so may check yours out after as a thanks!

My only issue came when I went to get my reward. The claim button wasn't working. And so I went to the help pages and sent a few emails to try and get to the bottom of the problem. No response. this was a great disappointment, as they had been quick to reply earlier when I had queries when starting up as a new dooyooer. Now 2 weeks on from sending the email, I am beginning to lose hope, and will update the blog if I ever hear back from them.

I like the idea of dooyoo, but it is one of the biggest time commitments, hence my disappointment in missing out on my £20 voucher when finally getting over 20 000 points!

This is just a quick summary of the many many survey sites you can get, but these are my favourites (apart from dooyoo). I also like tickbox.net, which also has an app, but you cannot claim for vouchers, instead you claim a specific item they have featured on their site such as a CD.

Surveying may seem like a time investment, but you can put in as much or as little time as you like - the more time you put in, the more rewards you can get. However, even if you just do the odd survey, it can all contribute towards saving money for that big item you've always wanted or getting your family something a little special at Christmas.

For any comments, suggestions or questions, leave a comment below or message or tweet me @LaurieBeat.

Thanks for your time, happy surveying! :)


Friday, 11 September 2015

Carrot and Kale Crisps: Crunchy Goodness for Pennies


Following on from my success of the apple crisps (and by success I mean they lasted 30 seconds between two friends) I decided to see if there were any other healthy, but expensive, crisps I could replicate. Low and behold, there were, and so began the experiment of carrot crisps.

The fact that you are baking these (and I did it without oil) really brings out the flavour of the carrots and also means that you are getting all the crunchy satisfaction you want from a snack, with the barely there calories of a carrot (about 25 for an average medium carrot). Also, I managed to get a whole 1kg bag of these beauties for just 55p at my local Lidl, meaning I could experiment as much as needed for you lovely blog readers.

I started off in a similar way to the apple crisps (http://missioncompetition.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/challenge-apple-crisps.html) by slicing up the carrot as thinly as possible. However, this proves to be quite fiddly with a carrot and difficult to get an even slice. Nevertheless, I ploughed on and layed them onto a baking tray, lined with baking paper:

(Don't worry, I'll explain the random strips in a second)

So I put these in the oven for about 10 minutes and then turned them over and checked on them in another 10 minutes or so. Only issue was, they had shrunk. A lot. Although the crispy ones were very tasty, as it had been so difficult to slice them evenly, some were just soft and hot. Not the crisp like texture I was after.

I decided to change tactics.This is where the strips comes in. By using the carrot peeler to create long thin strips of carrot, I was getting a much more even thickness. Again, I put them in the oven at 180 degrees, but this time checked on them after just 5 minutes, and continued to do so until they were crisp and ready.
(Note that some of the originals still aren't cooked. The rest I may have eaten)

The result? Spirals of crispy carrot that look fun and different to your ususual crisps, but taste so much better. A nice addition at this stage is some seasoning: salt, grated parmesan, or pepper work particularly well.

The final, studenty touch, was to display them in a shot glass and think about the fact I had been making and experimenting with carrot crisps instead of studying for the past hour...
UPDATE:

Kale Crisps

I have been experimenting making crisps with other vegetables since making that original post, and so thought it was only polite to keep you lot updated!

I was in my local Tesco and saw a bag of 180g of kale reduced to 59p in the 'still fresh' section (one of the best places in a supermarket, I once found rolls for 2p 5 minutes to closing time). This is still cheaper than some individual bags of crisps so I thought I would treat myself and experiment.

Now something I have learnt is that you can't leave your kale crisps as you would carrot or apple crisps, as they tend to burn a lot quicker. Also, most people recommend using oil, but I am trying to limit it in my diet at the moment, and so needed something else to stop the crisps from drying out too quickly. 

One method, is to fill a bowl with water (with or without a couple of drops of lemon juice for flavour), and toss the kale in it before removing. Then leave the kale to almost dry before adding spices (the dampness allows the spices to stick more easily).

To recreate salt and vinegar crisps, try tossing the kale in balsamic vinegar (with or without oil) and a little salt. Or a favourite of mine is to use a little reduced salt soy sauce.

After you have tossed the kale in whatever flavours tickle your fancy, pop the kale on a baking tray lined with grease proof baking paper and bake in the oven at 150 degrees Celsius. Then check on them every 5 minutes or so, turning them around and shaking the tray to get an even bake, and that all important crispiness.
The Kale in the picture is about a quarter of the 59p bag I got, so I made a good few batches with different flavours to try. (yes, that is more carrot crisps in the background. It's becoming a joke in our flat how often I make these for study snacks)

All that's left is to serve up and enjoy the guilt free snacking! 

How do you like your Kale Crisps?

Any more suggestions, comments or challenges let me know, and be sure to follow me on Twitter @LaurieBeat Thanks :)