Easy 5 minute sticky toffee pudding recipe

One of the easiest ways of cutting your food bills down is by learning to make meals from what you have in your cupboards.  I’ve already posted two blog posts with recipes for doing this –  shortbread and cheese scones – and guess what? Here’s one more! And it’s for PUDDING!!

Easy 5 minute sticky toffee pudding recipe

If you’re too busy or hungover to pop to the shops or you’re skint, this is great because it tastes good, it looks deeply tempting and it’s so quick and easy.

Ingredients

For two portions, you will need:

2oz caster sugar

2oz butter

2oz self raising flour

2oz raisins

1 egg

2 tbspn milk

For the toffee sauce:

2oz butter

2oz dark muscovado sugar

60ml double cream

(If you don’t have cream in the fridge, why not replace the sauce section listed above with jam or golden syrup?)

Method

Start with the sauce. Put all the ingredients in a small saucepan over a low heat. Mix well and then stir again occasionally. It should take about 5 minutes to thicken and go a gorgeous dark golden colour.

sticky toffee sauce

toffeesauce

With one eye on the sauce, you can start the sponge. Cream together the butter and the sugar and then add the beaten egg and milk. It may look a little lumpy at this stage but don’t worry as the flour will fix it. Sift in the flour and fold in and you’ll be left with a smooth mixture. Next, mix in the raisins.

Pour into a large microwaveable bowl, cover with a plate and cook on high for 3 – 3.5 minutes.

sponge pudding

OR if you want to be fancy, spoon into two separate dishes, and cook for 2.5 minutes.

littlespongepuddingsThen spoon the puddings into dessert bowls and pour some of the sauce on top.

Voila! Is that an easy sticky toffee pudding recipe of what?

 

My can’t-live-without health and fitness tools

If you read my post Why Life Begins at 30, you’ll will have read that, following the birth of my first child, I got fit and lost weight. In fact, I got into the best shape of my life. This was mostly down to running. A lot.

I need goals and incentives to keep me on track so I signed up for a half marathon and trained, and trained, and trained. So, after the half marathon was over, I no longer had an incentive to train and my good habits slipped a bit. I’m not going to say I completely fell off the wagon – I didn’t decide to move my bed next to the fridge and just sit there binging on cheese, cake and chocolate all day……but I did get back into Nutella. In a big way.

As a result, funnily enough, I slowly started gaining weight again.

So I decided to get back on the fitness train.

After all, I believe that it doesn’t matter if you slip. You can get back on track provided you know HOW you have slipped and can identify which bad habits have crept in. Then you plan small, manageable steps towards a new, realistic goal. (I’m all about the goals as you will have seen in my post about money saving success.)

So I’m now well on my way to getting back to where I was and that’s without signing up for another half marathon (thank god.)

How have I done it? I have 5 of the most amazing health and fitness tools at my disposal and I would recommend that you investigate them because they are great.

If you’re struggling with your weight (and general fitness), these will change your life.

The Fitbit

I got a Fitbit Charge 2 three weeks ago and I’m already OBSESSED with it.

I chose a pretty looking one (as displayed in the picture above) so that I can wear it all the time even if I’m dressed up, but they come in a variety of colours so go have a look.

Fitbit (and associated app) features:

  • tracks your resting heart rate to monitor general health
  • tracks your heart rate 24/7 to identify when you are in fat burn or high intensity periods during exercise
  • counts the number of steps you take
  • tracks the calories you’re burning so you know how much you can consume and still lose weight. In other words, yes you can have that cupcake.
  • tracks how much good quality sleep you’ve had

So without you even needing to input any data, you’re able to monitor your health and exercise and set personal goals such walking 8,000 steps or burning 2,000+ calories every day.  The watch gives me lots of encouragement and the ability to link in with friends so that I can compare my movement with theirs try to out do them!

The motivation has been incredible because within days, I had changed my habits and was getting the stairs at work rather than the lift, walking to the shop to get lunch rather than driving, and I started to drink from a glass rather than a big bottle so that I would take more trips to the kitchen.

Also, side note – it’s really interesting if you’re a mum. I work four days a week and spend every Monday at home with my toddler who of course I chase about all day, as well as doing washing and other chores. And even though I don’t do any actual exercise on those days, I walk LOADS and burn so many calories which just proves that being a mum is phy-si-cal!!

The other thing is sleep monitoring. Why does that really matter in the grand scheme of things? Well it has some kind of psychological effect on me because if I wake up and think “Oh my god I’m exhausted” and the Fitbit says “Well actually you’ve had 7.5 hours sleep”,  something inside me goes “DONG! I feel better, I’ve had enough sleep and I’m ready to tackle whatever the day will throw at me!”

Possibly the best feature for me is how accurately it measures the calories I’m burning when I’m exercising. Most machines ask for your weight, gender and age and then give you a rough figure for calories burned but because the Fitbit measures your heart rate too, it’s factoring in how fit you are at that precise point in time and giving you the accurate data for  number of calories burned.

Myfitnesspal

The second thing that has helped me get back into shape is actually something that helped me last time, and that is an app that helps you monitor calorie consumption – myfitnesspal.  Not only does it have records of the calories, carbohydrates, fibre, vitamins and salt content of every food and branded item I think that probably exists (so logging a food diary is easy), but it also syncs with the Fitbit app so when I log what I’ve eaten in this app, my Fitbit records adjust accordingly!

It really works for me in terms of keeping to calorie limits (even with treats) and by recording my weight as often as I like, I can keep on track with my goal.

The spiralizer

While I do enjoy my vegetables, I don’t tend to eat a LOT of them. So a really good way of getting them into my diet and simultaneously replacing carbs (which is important when losing weight) is to use the spiralizer to cut them into pasta or noodle form!

There are so many incredible recipes using spiralized food at Inspiralized so I recommend you have a look.

Favourite spiralised dishes of mine are courgette pasta, carrot noodle salad, and sweet potato pizza bake.  YUM!

The spiralizer comes with a number of different blades so that you can cut your food in different ways and it really is very simple to use. Simply chop off both ends of whatever vegetable you wish to use, then position it inside the ‘contraption’ and rotate the handle until you’ve gone through the whole vegetable. It’s really quite satisfying….

Breakfast smoothie

There is a famous saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I can’t say I agree with that but it’s certainly the most important meal to me when I wake up.

To make sure I start the day in the best possible way, I’ve invested in a Nutribullet so my first meal of the day is in smoothie form.

In it I put:

  • frozen chopped spinach (for iron)
  • a few frozen berries (for antioxidants)
  • a banana (for potassium and energy)
  • some flaxseeds and goji berries mix  (for vitamin E and calcium)
  • baobab powder (for its vitamin C properties)
  • and Belgian chocolate flavour Diet Whey powder (for a protein boost)

This not only fills me up until lunchtime, but also gives me a big head start on my 5 a day. PLUS I can make it as I’m heading out the door in the morning and drink it on my way into work! Efficient or what?!

YouTube

The final piece of my health and fitness must have toolkit is access to Youtube. I don’t think I need to explain what this is but perhaps the extent of free fitness programmes and guides available on its archive will surprise you. You can get tutorials of every kind of fitness known to man on there!

While running will always be my preferred form of exercise, I recognise the value in doing a variety of others during the week to ensure I’m getting the most benefit from every move I make.

Here are two gems that I recommend you look into:

  • Yoga – Yoga with Adriene. She’s bubbly, GORGEOUS and a great yoga teacher. Highly worth trying.
  • HIIT – Jillian Michaels. You may know the name from TV’s Biggest Loser but she’s a very successful personal trainer in the US. Her dvd is actually available on YouTube and at 20 minutes a session, there’s no excuse not to fit her programmes into your weekly routine.

And that’s it. My must-haves and they’ve helped me a great deal. What helps you to lose weight and keep fit? Is there a new sport or kitchen gadget you’d recommend? Please comment below!

How to spend less on fashion but get more – In Store

Welcome to part 2 in the series of how to find all the best fashion deals! If you haven’t read part 1 yet – how to save money on fashion online, then go there now….and then come back here to read on about fashion offers in store. Thank you muchly 🙂

Anyhoo, I mentioned at the start of the series that it’s hard to put a figure on your monthly clothing spend. And that’s not just because we really don’t want to (eek!). It’s also because we don’t tend to go out on a regular basis for clothes. Instead, we buy when we need to replace items, or to restock our wardrobe during sales periods or at the start of a new season. Well, regardless of how often you purchase clothes and how much you spend, I’m sure you’d love to spend less.

So let’s crack on with tips on how to grab fashion offers in store!

Buying fashion in store

As easy as online shopping is, the downside is that you can’t see the item on the hanger. Nor can you touch the material or try it on to see how it fits you. Often those three factors can be huge in determining whether you buy something or not. So if you buy online, you run a huge risk that you’ll be dissatisfied with the item and have to return it. Annoying.  In fact, according to research by the BBC, 2/3rds of clothes bought online are returned.

And yet, we still buy clothes online because we know it’s so easy to find a bargain. But don’t think for one moment that deals can’t be found when shopping on the high street. There are loads of tricks to find fashion offers in store!

Have a plan

Browsing is dangerous. Yup. That’s a strange statement right there. But it is dangerous. If you enter a clothes shop with a open mind and money to burn, you’ll end up spending quite a lot.

So, the best way to keep a limit on your spending is to decide before you walk through the door what you intend to buy and stick to it.

And every time you’re tempted by something else, make a mental note to think about it again later and run through these questions:

  1. Do I need it? i.e. will I wear it lots and will it go with a lot of clothes I currently don’t wear but should?
  2. Will it suit me? Think in terms of colour, cut, style and age-wise
  3. How can I buy it more cheaply? Unless you can find a way of paying 50% of the full price for it, wait for the sale!

Vouchers

If you’re venturing out to the shops, you’ll know which retailers will be there, so before you leave, check online to see if there are any in store voucher codes available for those places. Just as you would search online for vouchers and codes to get a discount on your favourite retailers’ website, you can often apply most of these at the till in a store too. Always check terms and conditions before you do though.

In store cashback

My favourite cashback site, Quidco, has a great tool whereby you register your debit or credit cards securely on their site and then when you buy anything in store at places like Debenhams or Jojo Maman Bebe, you’ll automatically be credited with a percentage of your spend as cashback in your Quidco account! Just visit Quidco now and click on the Ways to Earn and High Street tabs.

For more info on how cashback sites work you can read my guide here.

Wait for sales

If you’re like me and patience is not one of your virtues then this will be a tough one. The thing to remember, however, is that sales take place a lot more frequently than they used to and you could save yourself as much as 60% of the full price.

If waiting seems too hard, sign up to the retailer’s mailing list (if it has one) as you may get advanced notice of when the sales are to start which at least means you have a date to focus on!

Buy quality over quantity

Technically this requires you spending more upfront rather than less, but you’ll realise the savings over the long term. Cheaper clothes are typically made with cheaper materials which don’t last very long and will need replacing fairly often. And more trips to the shops mean more temptation to buy other things! So if you’re buying items like white shirts (that you don’t want to go see-through very quickly) or a staple jumper (that shouldn’t stretch beyond your knees the first time you wear it), seek out a good quality version and see it as a long term investment.

Charity shops (particularly in wealthier areas!)

There is probably nowhere you’ll pick up a better bargain on a good brand name than a charity shop. Having volunteered in one as a teenager, I can assure you that the sorting process is incredibly thorough and it’s rare that anything other than a high quality brand, in nearly new condition or better, will get on to their shelves. So you can be sure that you’ll pick up something great and it will only cost you a few quid.

Even better, a fellow money blogger, ThriftyMum.com, recommended to me to visit charity shops located in wealthier areas as the stock is likely to be very high end!

Check out bargain retailers and supermarkets for basic items

Pants, t-shirts, basic jeans and kids clothes are always great items to buy from the supermarket. Stores like Asda and Sainsbury’s have some very good clothing brands under their belts and the prices are great. While they’re never going to be bang on trend, don’t underestimate these stores for the basic essentials.

Haggle

You may be surprised to hear that it’s not just at the market that you can haggle on the price of your purchase; major retailers will do it too. According to a survey conducted my Moneysavingexpert.com of its readers, it’s possible to successfully haggle for a cheaper price in TK MAXX, John Lewis, Debenhams, Clarks and M&S!

So go get your negotiation face on and see what you can achieve.

Shop with an honest friend

My final piece of advice on spending less on fashion in store is to take a friend with you who will be able to tell you straight if something suits you and is worth buying or not. Stores play a lot of tricks on customers in the changing rooms by using soft lighting and  flattering mirrors to make you think you look better than you do so get someone to give you honest feedback and it could end up saving you a fortune!

What was the last thing you bought in store? Would you try haggling?

 

Keeping food bills low in Spring and Summer

I don’t know about you but in warmer weather, I don’t really fancy heavy dishes like stews and cottage pies. They served me well in Autumn and Winter when I was cold and wanted something comforting. And because they’re so cheap to make in bulk and freeze multiple portions, I had them A LOT. If you’ve seen my post on meal planning, you’ll know why.

But now that the days are longer and it’s getting warmer, I’m craving fresher ingredients and lighter dishes for dinner. The question is how to do that without the food bills soaring?

Well, here’s my guide for meal planning and keeping food bills low in Spring and Summer.

Salads

It’s easy to plan meals in the summer months if you just have salad with everything but it’s not cheap. Particularly if you buy ready made boxes or ready washed salad leaves.

Instead, buy unwashed spinach or lettuce heads, and every other ingredient individually in its rawest form and do the work yourself.

Another way to save money on salads, is to go simple. It’s very easy to load up the salad bowl with every vegetable known to man but the best salads often have only 3-4 ingredients. My all time favourite is rocket, diced red apple and pine nuts. YUM.

Plan your meals

Aside from the price, the other downside of fresh ingredients is that they don’t last very long. So, plan your meals for the week so that you eat the same fresh ingredients on consecutive nights and you’ll avoid food wastage and spending extra money.

Find cheap alternatives to carbs

If mash is off the menu until September/October time, don’t use expensive bread to fill you up instead. A head of cauliflower seasoned and blitzed in the blender or couscous (which can be bought very cheaply in bulk from most supermarkets) are much more wallet-friendly options. Or just stick to your boiled potatoes or pasta but let them cool first. Isn’t it funny how some foods seem more summery when they’re served cold??

It’s possible to have a modest barbeque

If you’re fortunate to have a good barbeque, then you may want to use it to cook all your meals in the summer. That’s fine if you exercise some restraint and don’t roll out the obligatory bbq dishes of burgers, sausages, ribs and chicken legs EVERY TIME. Just go for one simple piece of meat per meal, with a simple salad. Yum.

Check your sauce cupboard

Before you go out and buy lots of salad dressings, barbeque sauces, vinaigrettes and marinades at great expense, check your cupboards. It’s likely you still have all of that stuff from last year and guess what, this stuff takes AGES to go off.

Cruise the bargain bin

Every supermarket has a yellow sticker ‘bit’ where the produce is just shy of the best by date so they need to flog it at a discount. Make sure you have a good rummage around there every time you visit the supermarket as you could find some fantastic fish or meat options and if you buy too many, they can always be chucked in the freezer for another day! Forget about keeping food bills low – this could cut them in half!

Grow your own

Quite possibly the best way of keeping food bills low is to get food by free by growing it yourself. Fortunately, April and May is actually a really good time of the year to start gardening! Would you believe that by buying a few seeds now, you could very soon have the following growing in your garden or on your kitchen window sill:

What are your guilty pleasures food-wise in Spring and Summer? I’d love to hear and maybe I can suggest a cheap alternative!

How to spend less on fashion but get more – online

I recently hosted a Twitter chat organised by the UK Money Bloggers community on how to save money on fashion. With over 100 financial experts in the group, you can only imagine how much helpful advice was flying about in 140 character form.

If you missed the twitter chat, and my radio interview on Share the next morning (HOW DARE YOU?!), don’t despair for there are plenty of ways to catch up! A full round up of the chat can be found here, and for the radio interview, just press play below!

But if you want more than that, and NEED a detailed guide on how to spend less on your fashion needs then read on!

But first…

How much do you think you spend on clothing each month? According to a recent survey by Ariel, the average Brit spends over £1,000 on new clothes every year. That’s £83.33 a month.

Maybe you splash the cash every week or perhaps you have a splurge at the end of every season to exploit the sales, and to get your mitts on the new trends?

Well whether you love clothes shopping or you hate it, you probably wish you didn’t spend so much on it. Wouldn’t it be great if you could learn how to bag a bargain every time?

In this series of posts, I’ll cover every which way of saving money in the clothing department but the first area of focus is fashion offers online!

Buying fashion online

In this fast-paced world of e-commerce, consumers have a lot of power. There is so much competition that retailers are bending over backwards to take our money. It’s true.

What this means is that it’s now possible to NEVER pay full price for any clothes you buy online.

1. Cashback

Before you visit a retailer’s website, visit a cashback site.  By logging on to Quidco or Topcashback first, and clicking through to the retailer you need from that site, when you buy something, your purchase will track through the cashback site and you’ll earn some money back on your purchase! It sounds complicated so read my foolproof guide on how cashback sites work.

2. Voucher codes sites

Similarly, check for voucher codes. There are so many sites to choose from so I recommend googling the retailer name followed by the phrase ‘voucher code’ and checking through the sites that come up for the best deal. You may find that a deal has just expired so be patient as it will be back!

3. Think beyond the brand

If you can’t find voucher codes or cashback on the brand you want to buy, think about which department stores or online sites sell it as one of a number of brands.  For example, Net-a-porter sells a wide range of designer brands and it offers cashback!

4. Share your data

Once you’ve made it to the retailer’s site, look out for pop ups or headers that mention discounts when you sign up to their mailing list or spend over a certain amount. All the retailers want in return is your email address and thats a small price to pay for a money saving offer. What’s more, they’re likely to email you with future offers so you can keep on saving! 

5. Be patient

It used to be the case that retailers only held sales on big calendar days like the 27th December and we’d all go to bed early on Boxing Day to get ready for shopping the next day. Nowadays, however, there are sales far more frequently. if you see something you really want to buy, save the link and check back a few weeks later and you may find it’s heavily reduced.

6. Discounted gift cards

I’m willing to bet that you have been given a gift card at some point and you didn’t use it. You either forgot it was in your wallet or the brand just wasn’t your cup of tea. Well, there’s a way to make money from that!

Zeek is a website where you can sell gift cards at a discount to get the money to spend on the brands you like PLUS you can buy other people’s gift cards at a reduced price! So go have a look and you may find your favourite brands on there.

7. Go second hand

Try Preloved and Ebay for incredibly well kept second hand clothing. You could get your hands on some fantastic brands that have barely been worn and spend very little.  If you don’t fancy shelling out on postage, you could check out local preloved groups on Facebook and go and pick them up yourself.

How’s that for a round of how to find the best fashion offers online? What techniques do you use?

And remember, if you fancy joining one of the UK Money Bloggers’ twitter chats one week, you can find us at #MondayMoneyUK every Monday at 8.30pm.

I’ll be back soon with the next in the series, covering fashion offers in-store!