food

How to Get an NUS Extra Card Even if You're Not a Student

How to Get an NUS Extra Card Even If You’re Not a Student

I saw a great blog post by my fellow money blogger Andy Webb this week that I wanted to share with my own readers.

Andy runs a popular blog called Be Clever With Your Cash. In his latest blog post he reveals a way anyone can quite legitimately get their hands on an NUS Extra card, whether or not they are a student. As far as I know there are no age limits either.

Once you have your NUS Extra card – which if you use the method Andy describes will cost you £13.50 – you will qualify for student discounts on a huge range of products and services. Some of the best discounts mentioned by Andy include:

Apple student discount – If you’re going to buy an iMac, iPad or Macbook then having an NUS card means you can get the Education Discount. It’s worth up to 10% off, and if you buy in August and September Andy says you can usually get some free Beats headphones thrown in.

Spotify student discount – Spotify Premium normally costs £9.99. Students can get it for just £5 a month. Apple Music has a similar deal.

Cinema student discounts – Most cinemas will have a discount for students, but Andy says the best is Odeon, which offers an extra 25% off student prices Monday to Thursday.

Amazon Prime student discount – Students get six-months free with Amazon Prime, then pay just £39 a year for three years. That’s an amazing deal and makes paying £13.50 for an NUS card well worth doing on its own.

STA Travel student flights – Andy says he and his partner have used their ISICs (which now come as standard on one-year NUS cards) to get huge discounts on flights. “This year though I’ve noticed a few additional restrictions. Virgin and British Airways have added an age limit of around 30 or 32 years old. I don’t know about other airlines, but it’s ruled me out! However if you can get these, the savings can be massive.”

The full method is described in Andy’s blog post, which I urge you to click through and read. But briefly it involves signing up for a distance learning course with an NUS-approved institution such as Shaw Academy. The latter offers a wide range of inexpensive courses on subjects ranging from Photo Shop to financial trading. But if you don’t want to pay anything at all, you can cancel before their 30 days’ free-trial period is up. You will still be able to apply for an NUS Extra card, costing £12 a year plus £1.50 post and packing.

A further benefit is that as an NUS member you can get a Gourmet Society card for just £3.99 a year (a considerable discount on the normal price). If you enjoy dining out at restaurants, you could save a lot of money using this card (up to 50% on food and drinks), even if you do get the odd snarky comment about being a bit old to be a student (just tell them you believe in life-long learning!).

Thank you to Andy for a valuable and eye-opening post. If you have any comments or questions about this, as always, please do post them below.

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Some Unusual ways to Profit from Your Garden

Some Unusual Ways to Profit From Your Garden

Some older folk have a modest income but are lucky enough to have a decent-sized garden (and yes, that includes me).

If that applies to you too, there are a few ways you could profit from your garden, either directly or indirectly. One possibility would be to rent all or part of it as an allotment.

There is a big demand for allotments in many areas, a situation which has been exacerbated by councils selling off land to developers. Of course, that then creates demand from people who would otherwise have to wait years for a plot to come up.

You won’t make a fortune this way. On average, council allotments in Britain cost around £30 a year, so you won’t be able to charge much more than that. Nevertheless, if you can divide your garden into three or four plots, that would be £90 a year or more for no effort. What’s more, your garden will be tended on your behalf, and you’re quite likely to be offered produce your tenants can’t consume themselves.

If you’re not bothered about making money directly but would be willing to let someone grow crops on your land in exchange for a share of the produce (and maybe doing a few chores), the non-profit Lend and Tend organization may be able to help you. They put people with land in touch with others who might like to grow fruit and vegetables on it. They don’t allow landowners to charge fees, but plenty of other arrangements are possible. Here’s what they say on their site:

Got space to spare? Can’t garden? Find out who can!

Is your garden going to waste? 1000s of people are on waiting lists for an allotment and many people live in flats without a garden who are keen to garden. So, if your garden is looking unloved and you’ve no time or can’t garden,  let someone else love it instead.

Share your garden so a Tender can grow some produce, you may end up with an abundance of edibles where weeds are currently thriving. Share your skills with a keen garden Tender and teach them how to get your garden blooming again. Share the burden of garden work with a Tender so they can benefit from enjoying a garden too. Lend and Tend, make gardening friends.

It sounds a great idea and you can register as a would-be garden lender (or tender) via the website. There is no charge for using the service, but as they have some operating costs, the organization does say that donations are appreciated. If money is tight, however, they are happy to accept help publicizing the service as well!




Another possibility if you live in an area attractive to tourists – or near festival sites, racecourses, and so on – is offering your garden as a campsite.

Campinmygarden.com claims to be the world’s first website advertising private gardens as “micro-campsites”. They operate world-wide. You can advertise your garden for free on the site, including pictures and a description. You can also set a fee of your choice. Around £10 a night is typical, though if you can offer additional services (e.g. bed and breakfast) you could charge more.

The website has various interactive features, including a link allowing would-be campers to ask landowners any questions they may have. There is also an eBay-style reviews and ratings system.

Here’s an example listing for ‘Vic’s Place’ in Camborne, Cornwall:

We live between Camborne and Helston in a peaceful rural location. Our camping area is rustic and basic, in a lovely secluded setting which has a magnetic, soothing quality! A standard camper van can access our place but the gates are not wide so best check the width if you plan to come in a van.

Well behaved dogs and children are welcome. There are several water sources on the property so families with younger children must take extreme care. We only accept parties of four or fewer, in the interests of peace.

Just up the road there is a natural spring from which you can get water (or we will supply tap water) and there is a shared composting toilet available. A delightful stream runs by the camping ground. There is a fire pit and you are welcome to collect kindling and small amounts of wood from around and about.

The nearest pub is a mile and a half away by road or a twenty-five minute walk across fields. There is a small shop selling basic supplies in the same location.

Hope to see you soon!

For more information visit Campinmygarden.com

More Ideas

A few other possibilities include…

  • Sell produce from your garden (you may need a permit from your local council for this).
  • Offer your garden as a venue for weddings and photo shoots (see also my earlier post about making money offering your home as a TV /movie location).
  • Host an open garden event (the National Garden Scheme can help with this) or even open your garden to the public.
  • Offer your garden as a venue for parties (to avoid hassle, stick to alcohol-free children’s parties).
  • Hire out your garden to local art groups.

There are still more ideas in this article on the Money Magpie website.

If you know any other good ways to profit from your garden, please do share them below.

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PrimeStox - An Unusual Way to Make Money Investing in Food

PrimeStox – An Unusual Way to Make Money Investing in Food

If you’re looking for a more remunerative (and interesting) home for some of your savings than a low-paying bank account, you might like to check out what PrimeStox has to offer.

PrimeStox is basically a crowdfunding platform for high-quality food producers and sellers. These businesses are seeking short-term funding (typically for four months) to make products and get them to market. Once the products are sold, investors get their money back with interest. This is generally around 8% for four months, which works out as an annual rate of around 24%. If you immediately reinvest your money in another project, the annual interest rate will be more than this, due to the effects of compounding.

The opportunity may be best explained by an example, so here’s one product I invested in recently. Scarlett and Mustard is a range of premium salsas, dressings, and so on produced by a husband and wife team in East Soham. They say all the ingredients they use are 100% natural and sourced locally.

Last month they were looking for a total investment of £6,000 to fund 6,000 jars of their tomato salsa range (pictured below). I decided to invest a modest £50, which made me the beneficial owner of 50 jars. All being well, I shall receive £54 (my original investment plus 8% interest) by the end of September 2017.

Tomato salsa jars

You might ask what will happen if they don’t sell the salsa. The answer is that all investments are secured by the products concerned, so in the worst case scenario I will receive 50 jars of tomato salsa, which would keep me going for a very long time! Or I could sell them or give them away to friends, of course.

In practice, though, that is an unlikely scenario. So far all investments on PrimeStox have been repaid with interest on or before the date specified. If there is a problem, all investors vote on how best to resolve it, e.g. by selling the goods to a third party for a smaller margin. It is therefore highly unlikely that you would ever lose all your money.



Primestox Pros and Cons

Obviously, investing in PrimeStox is not as safe as putting your money in the bank. In addition, the money will be tied up during the investment period with no easy way of accessing it (although this.is generally no more than a few months). You shouldn’t therefore invest money you may need urgently in the near future.

On the other hand, there are a lot of things I like about it…

  • Rates of return are highly competitive, even compared with other crowdfunding and P2P investment opportunities.
  • The minimum investment is very low – typically £20. You can therefore test the water without risking any significant funds.
  • If you are prepared to spend a bit more – say £100 or over – in many cases you will receive a higher interest rate.
  • Unlike some other crowdfunding platforms where demand from investors greatly exceeds supply, with PrimeStox there are generally a few days to decide whether you want to invest and how much (though I have noticed that opportunities are filling up faster and faster).
  • You are supporting small businesses in the UK and abroad who are dedicated to producing high-quality foodstuffs.
  • And, as mentioned earlier, as an investor you hold title in the product until it is sold. PrimeStox will even send your share to you free of charge if you want.

As for why producers are offering these sort of returns, it is basically to aid their cashflow by covering the cost of raw materials, production, storage, transportation, and so on. But also, they hope that investors will act as ‘brand ambassadors’ for them, helping to promote the product, and maybe even buying some themselves.

In that spirit, here are links to the three products I have invested in on the platform so far, with the amounts I purchased included.

Scarlett & Mustard – Tomato Salsa – £50

Strong Roots Sweet Potato – £100

Bread Tree – Rainbow Pasta (pictured below) – £56

rainbow pasta

 

There is absolutely no obligation to promote any of the products you invest in, but obviously as an investor you have a financial interest in ensuring they are successful. Investors are also sometimes offered rewards, discounts and other incentives by the producers in question.

Clearly nobody should invest more than a small portion of their savings in PrimeStox, but the potential returns on offer are compelling, and investing this way is certainly more fun than stocks and shares!

If you have any comments or questions about PrimeStox, as always, please feel free to post them below.

Disclaimer: I am an investor with PrimeStox but have no other relationship with the company and am not an affiliate for them. Neither am I advising anyone to invest in PrimeStox. Investment decisions are personal to every individual and if in any doubt you should seek advice from a qualified financial adviser. This post is provided for information purposes only and should not be construed as financial advice..




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Adventures With My New Soup Maker

Adventures With My New Soup Maker

For various reasons in the last few months (including being diagnosed prediabetic) I decided I needed to start eating more healthily.

Not that I had been on an especially unhealthy diet, but when you live on your own (as I do now) it’s easy to get into the habit of buying ready-made meals (probably full of salt, sugar and other unhealthy additives) and sticking them in the microwave.

I read about the benefits of making your own soup, but decided it sounded too much like hard work. Then, while browsing the internet, I learned about dedicated soup-making machines and how they claim to make soup-making a doddle. I decided this was clearly what I needed in my life.

Long story short, I bought myself a Morphy Richards 501014 saute and soup-maker (see below) from Amazon.

Morphy Richards Soup Maker

For the last few weeks I’ve been merrily trying this out. I thought you might be interested to hear about my first five soups, so here we go…

Soup 1 – Mushroom

This was the first soup I made, using a recipe that came in the booklet with the soup-maker. I can honestly say that it was disgusting. It came out a pale beige colour, and looked, smelled and tasted like waste water from the washing machine. It was also unappetizingly thin. I had one spoonful and all the rest went down the drain. At this point I was seriously thinking I might have made a mistake buying a soup-maker.

I haven’t tried making mushroom soup again, but if I do I will definitely add some other ingredients to improve its flavour and thicken it – cream or creme fraiche, possibly. And I will try using mushrooms with a bit more flavour than Waitrose Essentials. 1/10

Soup 2 – Tomato

I got the recipe for this off the internet. Thankfully it was a lot more successful. It involved chopping up some tomatoes and adding them to the soup maker along with a few other ingredients. The flavour of this one was good. The only problem with it was that there were little bits of tomato skin rolled up like tiny cigars in it. Next time I will skin the tomatoes before making the soup or maybe use tinned toms with their skins removed. 7/10

Soup 3 – French Onion

By this point I decided I needed a recipe book, and so I bought Soup Maker Recipe Book by Liana Green on the basis of the good reviews it had received on Amazon. It contains over 100 soup maker recipes, mainly vegetable but some including meat. As an added bonus the author uses the same soup-making machine as the one I bought.

For this recipe I bought some large, French-looking white onions. It also involved the addition of a large dollop of French mustard and some Parmesan cheese at the end. This was also the first (and so far only) soup I made using the Chunky setting on the machine (all the rest used Smooth).

This soup was pungent from the French mustard. Despite having been chopped and sauteed, however, it was still a bit ‘al dente’ for my palate. I did eat some of it (on two occasions) but got rather bored chewing undercooked onion in mustard. This was another one that mostly went down the drain. If I were to try this recipe again, I would be tempted to use the tinned and partly pre-cooked ‘easy onion’ you can sometimes get in supermarkets (I believe it was recommended by Delia at some point). I think this would make a much nicer soup. In any event, I would saute the onion for longer before starting the soup-making process. I’d be tempted to use the Smooth setting as well, although that’s not really in the spirit of a proper French onion soup, I know. 3/10

Soup 4 – Broccoli and Other Greens

This soup was based around a rather sad looking bag of prepared broccoli, courgettes and curly kale (I think) that I had bought for some other purpose from Morrisons but never used. I adapted a recipe from Liana Green’s book that also included green pesto. It was unexpectedly delicious and I ate it all and froze some for later. It was an eye-opener to discover how a bag of unexciting mixed veg that I bought more from a feeling that it would be “good for me” rather than any real enthusiasm could be turned into something so tasty. 9/10

Soup 5 – Courgette and Spinach

soup maker soupAnother recipe from the book. I had a left-over courgette in the fridge and the only other ingredient I had to buy was the spinach (the other ingredients I had already included onion, a potato and a few other odds and ends from the store cupboard). This was very tasty as well, and I have put a photo on the right. That bowl had a couple of croutons in it, but the next time I put a swirl of creme fraiche instead, which was even nicer. 8/10

Lessons Learned So Far

As you may gather, I wasn’t an instant convert to soup-makers. But now I’ve used mine a few times I am definitely a fan and can see I will be using it a lot in future. It’s quick and easy to prepare the ingredients, especially if you have a food processor for chopping up the vegetables. The actual soup-making process takes half an hour or just under, and you can leave the machine alone to do its work during this time.

Here are a few other conclusions I have drawn so far…

  • I bought a soup-maker with a built-in saute function. Based on what I know now, I don’t know if I would bother with this again. Yes, it simplifies matters a bit to do all the cooking in the soup-maker and there is one less item at the end to wash up. On the other hand, you can’t control the level of heat used in the soup-maker, whereas if you do your saute-ing on the stove you can set any temperature you want. It’s also easier to see what’s going on and stir the ingredients in a pan than in a tall, slim soup-making machine.
  • Definitely don’t rely on the recipes provided by the manufacturer. You can search for soup-maker recipes online, or even better buy a recipe book such as the one by Liana Green that I bought. You soon get a good general idea of how the process works and can experiment as much as you like.
  • A soup-maker is great for using up left-over odds and ends that would otherwise probably end up in the bin or the compost. By this means it can also save you quite a bit of money.
  • And of course it’s healthy as well, and a great way of getting one or two of your ‘five a day’. Plus in home-made soup you don’t need to include all the salt, sugar and other additives that go into many shop-bought soups.
  • In my opinion anyway most soups need something to thicken them and make them more palatable. That could be something like cream or creme fraiche, a spoonful of plain flour, or even a potato chopped up small.
  • The minimum quantity you can make in a soup-maker like mine is enough for four quite generous portions. If you live on your own (like me) you can keep some in the fridge for a day or two, or it should freeze without any problem.
  • The Morphy Richards soup-maker I bought also has a setting for making your own smoothies. I haven’t tried this yet, but probably will in the warmer weather.

Good luck if you decide to invest in a soup-maker yourself. You can check out the Morphy Richards 501014 I bought on Amazon here if you like. If you have any comments or questions, please do post them below and I will do my best to answer them!



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