All posts by Hannah Brice

How cashback sites work – an easy and fast way to make money

Update: Sign up with Quidco here and receive a further £5 cash bonus when you earn your first £5 cash back!

We all want to be careful with our money so that we can spend it on the things we enjoy but we have to eat and pay the bills, right?  Well, I’m about to tell you how to make money on these essential purchases so that you have more to spend on the finer points of life! Get ready for cash back!

A few years ago, I was Head of PR for one of the UK’s leading cashback sites. The concept of cashback was pretty new to me but I soon discovered it was a great service to promote because we were effectively giving our customers money for free!

How cashback sites work?

Any retailer or consumer-facing service provider that operates online wants web traffic, and most are willing to pay for it via advertising campaigns and customer incentives.  Cashback is one such method.  Cashback sites drive traffic to retailers’ sites and if a consumer then purchases something as part of that journey, the retailer pays the cashback site commission.  Cashback sites then pass the money in full to the consumer hence allowing them to make money on their purchase.  Typically, the cashback you can get is a percentage of your purchase (3-15%) but financial service providers and utility companies offer a lump sum of cashback, often as much as £100.

How do I make sure I get cashback on my purchases?

Whenever you want to buy something or open a bank account or switch utilities providers, start the journey by visiting a cashback site first. Then find the retailer/company you want and click through the offer on that page to get to the retailer’s site. Then when you make that purchase on that page, you should be entitled to cashback! It won’t be immediate, and it won’t be referenced on the retailer’s page but when you revisit the cashback site, you should be notified that your cashback has ‘tracked’.

It is not unheard of to earn as much as £1,000 in a year and there are many opportunities to earn cashback on free trials so you don’t even spend a single penny.

And it’s not just online cashback that these companies offer.  I assume you’re familiar with printable vouchers and voucher codes? Well cashback sites offer these too but the voucher code offers allow you to earn cashback on top(!) so you’ll often get a better deal here than you would from a  voucher code specialist.

Who are the main players?

I would say there are two main companies.

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Quidco is the UK’s biggest.  It offers all of the services above as well as in-store cashback whereby you register your debit and credit cards on the website (don’t worry – it’s completely safe and follows legal standards) and then when you use that card to pay for your purchases in participating stores you earn cashback!  Quidco also has an app which notifies you of offers in your vicinity.

Also, at the moment if you sign up for Quidco with the link above, you’ll earn a £5 cash bonus  once you’ve earned your first £5 cashback. It’s easy!

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TopCashback is closely behind Quidco in terms of member figures and often beats its rival on cashback rates.  Its app is also very similar. For more details on the apps, read this.

Which should I sign up to?

Personally, I’d sign up for both.  While Quidco gives you more opportunities to earn, Topcashback often offers slightly better rates. Each company negotiates their own deals with retailers and financial services providers so depending on when you’re looking to switch your insurance or buy your dad’s birthday present, it’s best to look at both for the best deal.  Both are free to join but Quidco retains the first £5 you earn.

To join Quidco, click here.  For TopCashback, click here.

What’s the catch?

Honestly, there really isn’t one. This is simply one of the benefits of living in such a highly competitive e-commerce world.  I guess the only challenge is remembering to go to a cash back site every time you buy online but once the money starts rolling in, it’ll become a top priority, I’m sure!

Clothing, cosmetics, music, groceries, travel, utilities, insurance, entertainment, tech…. it’s all there to make money on. Go give it a try.

Hen Do ideas – Lisbon

Planning a hen do can be tricky so I’m going to be publishing a few posts on my hen do experiences – hopefully they’ll give you some inspiration!

One of my most memorable hen dos was in Lisbon, where I and 5 others went for a long, lovely weekend of food, wine and port.

LisbonIf you’re tired of Paris and Barcelona and wary of the rising prices in Amsterdam and Prague, come to Lisbon.  It is beautiful.

Lisbon 2 Lisbon 3 LISBON 4 DSC01595The people are so friendly, the architecture is fascinating and of course the food and drink is brilliant.  What I liked about it most was that it’s not trying to be like its more popular neighbours – it’s got its own identity and it just works.  Yes, they work to their own timetable, but just relax and roll with it. It’s generally a place to relax and wander – perfect for spending the days of a hen do.

Lisbon has some great food so work up an appetite by looking round the castle first. Make sure you walk from the main square of the city up to Castelo (the castle area) and not only will you pass beautiful cobbled streets, and interesting shops, but the hill climbs really are something!

One day we walked along the pier several hundred yards and got a scheduled boat crossing which took us over to Belem. Belem is quite a cool area with art and bars and restaurants. Once you get there you’ll also find an amazing ice cream parlour from which we sampled lots! Next to that is one of the city’s largest parks. Occasionally it holds markets but we enjoyed lounging on the grass and soaking up the heat and atmosphere. If you do like your boat trips, there are also quite a few private operators offering day trips which look really good.

We were there for two nights and were lucky enough to visit two fantastic restaurants for our evening meals. When you go to Lisbon, book these places.  The food is fab but it’s the decor that made the experiences so memorable.   They are Kais and Chapito.

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These photos are just of Kais’ restaurant and the nightclub attached.

On the final day, we went to Wine Bar do Castelo – an incredible wine cafe in the city’s old town. The owner’s knowledge and stock of wine and port were incredible and my mouth waters every time I look at the photos of the food we ate!

Lisbon 5 DSC01597 DSC01598Also, it’s super hot there at the moment so book a trip to Lisbon, I cannot recommend it enough. (It’s quite affordable for a short break too!)

What other tips can I give you? Try the custard tarts. Don’t bother queuing for a tram. Walk everywhere. Take your camera with you everywhere you go – the city has a great character that you’ll want to capture. Go to relax and indulge.

Proper good roast beef

sliced roast beef

When I was about fourteen, I went vegetarian. My poor mum had to stock the freezers with Linda McCartney burgers and most of the quorn range, and she also bought tofu and invested in a vegetarian cook book.  Two weeks in, I quit.  The pull of bacon was just far too strong.

Since then, I can’t think of a day when I haven’t eaten meat. I love it. Proscuitto is something I can demolish a whole pack of in one sitting, and I base my weekly meals around sausages and minced beef.  Don’t even get me started on pork crackling!

Anyway, last weekend I cooked roast beef.

roast beef

I’ve done roast pork and roast chicken before really well (recipes to follow soon) but I’d never attempted roast beef.  Ooh I also know a really good roast leg of lamb recipe where you put the meat directly onto the shelf of the oven to cook and the fat drips down on to a tray of thinly sliced potatoes making them lovely and crispy.  It’s heaven on earth. (I’ll pull out the recipe and post it up here very soon, I promise!)

To have a proper roast, you NEED to have roast potatoes, roast veg, good gravy and yorkshires.  For the yorkshires and the gravy, you can get lovely ready made versions from the supermarket.  For the potatoes, I’ve discovered that if you peel and par boil the potatoes (as usual) and fill a roasting tin with oil (as usual), before you bung the drained potatoes in the oven to roast, you cover them in 2 tablespoons of flour.  This will help them to soak up the oil and crisp better.  TRY IT.

The recipe is based on Jamie Oliver’s roast beef. The only reason it’s not EXACTLY the same is that Jamie doesn’t give you any guidance on cooking time vs weight.  So here’s my guide for cooking a 1.2kg joint of beef to medium.

You will need:

A good quality joint of beef.  I had a 1.2kg topside.

2 carrots

2 onions

2 sticks of celery

A bulb of garlic

A few sprigs of thyme or rosemary

Start by preheating your oven to 210 degrees fan.  Take a big roasting tin and drizzle with 1 glug (don’t you just LOVE that word?!) of oil.

In the base of the tin, place the two carrots, peeled and each cut into four pieces.  Add the onions, peeled and quartered, and the celery, washed and cut in threes.  Gather the vegetables together so that they form a pile in the centre of the tin and sprinkle the garlic cloves over the pile.  Pour over another glug of oil.

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Unwrap the beef and pat dry with kitchen towel.  Next rub it with oil and a generous amount of salt and pepper.  Then place it on top of the veg and sprinkle with the rosemary/thyme.

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Place in the oven and let it cook at 210 degrees for 20 mins. Here’s my cooking rule:

Whatever the weight, it must cook at 210 for 20 minutes, then 180 for 15 minutes for every 450g for medium or 20 minutes for every 450g for well done.

So for 1.2kg that is 2.67 x 450g so also 2.67 x 15 mins = 40 mins.

So for my beef, after the initial 20 min cooking session, I cooked it for a further 40 mins at 180 degrees.  This left it beautifully crispy on the outside, but very pink on the inside.

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Once cooked, remove it from the oven, cover it tightly in foil and leave it to rest for at least 30 mins.

sliced roast beef

Then you can carve and serve with all of the trimmings I mentioned earlier.

Enjoy.

Easy double chocolate cookie recipe

Who doesn’t love CHOCOLATE? I do. I adore it. Chocolate cake, chocolate biscuits, chocolate muffins, chocolate cookie, hot chocolate, melted chocolate and even just plain old bars of chocolate – I just can’t get enough of the stuff.triple chocolate chip cookies

But, because of this “addiction”, it’s best if I don’t have too much of the stuff in the house. It’s not good for my thighs, I’m afraid.

As a treat, though, I really like to bake with chocolate, and then the calories don’t really count. And you convince yourself you’re only going to have one or two of what you’ve made per day so, really….you’re being good.

There are a number of ways to get a quick hit of baked chocolatey goodness but my favourite is in the form of a chocolate cookie.

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This easy double chocolate cookie recipe gives you a real hit of chocolate and crunchy smart goodness and it’s easy. Also, once baked, the cookies will last in the freezer for about 2 weeks so it’s a good way of getting a daily burst of chocolate without having to brave the shops again and again for the bad stuff.

The recipe for Easy Double Chocolate Cookies

Ingredients (Makes 16)

130g butter

75g golden caster sugar

75g dark soft brown sugar

1 egg

½ tsp of vanilla extract

200g plain flour

½ tsp salt

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

40g dark chocolate

1 tsp cocoa powder

80g mini smarties, with some extra for decoration eating as you go

Method

Combine the butter and sugars in a bowl and cream together with a whisk. Add the egg and vanilla extract, and sift in the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda. Melt the dark chocolate slowly either in the microwave or in a bowl over a pot of hot water. Add to the mixture along with the cocoa powder and mix well. It should all be a uniform chocolatey colour. Next, add the mini smarties and again mix well. They need to be evenly spread throughout the cookie dough. Roll into a ball (if too wet to roll in your hands, add an extra 10g flour), wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C and grease 2 baking sheets. Take the cookie dough out of the fridge, break into 16 even pieces. (A good way of ensuring you do this evenly is to weigh all of the dough, use a calculator to divide that amount by 16 and then break off chunks and add or subtract to reach 1/16th in weight. And yes, I did say to use a calculator.)

Roll each piece into a ball, place on the baking sheet and flatten until 1 cm thick with your hands. Place in the oven for 10 minutes.

Once cooked, take the baking sheets out of the oven and leave them for 10 minutes, then turn the chocolate cookies out onto a wire rack to cool. Then, you’re done!