Sunday, 26 October 2014

I Love My Loyalty Cards

Like many shoppers, I was quite incensed to hear that Sainsburys’ are halving the amount of Nectar points that they award to customers as of April next year. They will only be awarding one point per pound spent, as opposed to the current two (two points are only worth 1p ).

It’s true to say that Nectar points always have been slightly inferior to those awarded by Tesco Clubcard, with the exchange rate of the latter being four times their face value when converted to Days Out vouchers, and each point being equal to 1p .

There are some shoppers (misguided in my opinion) that question the value of loyalty cards, but I believe that any reward you are given for shopping is better than no reward at all.

Less effective than a loyalty card
The argument goes, that if stores are operating reward schemes, they subsequently have to set their prices a little higher to offset these incentives. However, I would refute this, as many good value items I buy are purchased in shops that offer reward points.

Many of the products that I purchase in places such as Tesco and Superdrug, are not only cheaper or at least comparable to those offered at other shops, but earn me points. Over the years I have acquired so many points under the Clubcard scheme, that we have been able to pay for several family days out each year, including trips to expensive theme parks, which we would not otherwise have afforded. Even if I have occasionally paid a few pence more for the odd product or two, I have received this amount back umpteen times over. It’s true to say, that if I could have bought some items slightly cheaper elsewhere and put the pennies I’d saved into a savings account, I would not have accumulated anywhere near enough to pay for the equivalent number of fun outings.

I regard all loyalty cards (and I can boast a considerable collection) as mini saving schemes that allow me to enjoy life’s little extras. Unless prices are considerably higher in a shop that offers a good value scheme, I am unlikely to shop for identical products somewhere that does not offer me these extra benefits.

So my message to Sainsburys’, and any other stores planning to reduce or withdraw their points schemes, is that this may result in a customer-cutting exercise as opposed to your intended cost-cutting one!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Return To Lidl

Following my discovery of gorgeous cherry brandy and yummy chocolate at Lidl (loving Lidl post), I decided to return to the store, scouring the aisles for more products that might be worth a try.

It’s true to say that I did find some surprises! I was quite impressed with the fresh meat, Red Tractor assured British no less, and bought 500g steak mince for £2.59, diced chicken fillets for £2.69 and four fresh quarter pounder burgers for £2.99 – all lean products at reasonable prices. It’s definitely worth stocking up with some of these packs of meat and popping them in the freezer.

The whole family also enjoyed the frozen Harvest Basket potato wedges and oven chips at just 59p a bag, which make handy standbys to accompany many a meal.

Also highly recommended is Valley Spire Mature Cheddar. It’s a great price at just £1.75 for a pack and has a good flavour, great with crackers.

What will I find next?

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

The Quest For Ginger Preserve

It’s really annoying when you start using a product and really enjoy it, then suddenly it disappears from the supermarket shelves.

That’s exactly what’s happened to is Duerr’s Chunky Ginger Preserve, which I’ve previously blogged (see here ). I just loved its spicy tang, which helped to wake me up when spread on my morning toast. But since its disappearance I’m mourning its loss.

I had been buying it at Tesco, but as I could no longer find it in the store, or in any other local supermarket, I decided to email Duerr, who replied within hours, so a big thank you to their customer service department.

I was pleased to learn that they have not discontinued the product, although Tesco have withdrawn the brand from their shelves. Duerr urged me to write to Tesco to complain about this move, which I am in the process of doing, and would encourage other Ginger Preserve fans to do the same. Send your letters to:
Tesco Customer Service Centre
Baird Avenue

In the meantime, Duerr tell me that I may still be able to pick up the preserve at larger branches of Asda (which sadly does not seem to apply to my local branch) and they apparently make Sainsburys’ Ginger Preserve for them, although I have not managed to find this as yet either.

However, in recent weeks I have managed to buy some Asda, Chosen By You, Ginger Preserve, which whilst not quite on the par with Duerr’s, will suffice until I manage to get more of my preferred variety. The Asda version is too jelly-like in consistency and therefore not so easily spreadable.

Have any of your favourite products disappeared from the shelves in recent times?

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Great Value Crafting

I’ve long enjoyed working on various craft projects and am always looking for good value stockists of craft materials.

A small, fairly local, craft shop is a reasonable source for certain materials that I buy, but choice can be limited and prices sometimes rather high. At the other end of the scale, I’m not a fan of Hobbycraft with its impersonal warehouse set-up, which still doesn’t result in low prices.

So despite my erstwhile reluctance to buy products online, I recently found myself trawling the Internet in the hope of finding some reasonably priced blank coasters for cross stitch, in addition to other useful materials. My research was greatly rewarded.

I’ve discovered a great company called Willow Fabrics that supplies a range of fabrics, threads, wool and needlecraft accessories at very reasonable prices. For example, a pack of five round coasters costs just £7 (I paid over £2 each in the craft shop), and I bought a large piece (50cm X 60cm) of tapestry canvas for just £3.70. What’s more my order arrived in just under 48 hours and I was really pleased with the products.

I’ve also recently taken up a great deal in Cross Stitch magazines, with Cross Stitch Crazy and World of Cross Stitching running subscription offers whereby you receive five editions of either magazine for just £1 per issue (normal price £4.99). These are great magazines containing lots of lovely charts and they usually come with free mini kits too!

What recommendations do you have for great value crafting?

Friday, 3 October 2014

Mini Oven Review

(It’s the oven that’s mini, not the review by the way)

Due to our current, somewhat strange living arrangements ( read more here ) we decided to invest in a mini oven, which would allow us to cook some of the foods that we’d been missing, and were unable to conjure up on our basic camping stove and grill arrangement.

After doing a bit of research and reading various customer reviews, we plumped for the Andrew James Mini Combi Oven from Amazon. With a two-plate hob and multi-function oven, it seemed a good buy.

I’m pleased to report that we’re really getting on quite well with it and have appreciated all that it has to offer. On the downside, it does take longer than the average oven to heat up (the hob too) but once it gets going it cooks really well. In fact, pastry for example, cooks much better than it did in our previous oven, becoming a lovely even, golden brown colour, of which any Bake Off contestant would be immensely proud.

The oven capacity is a decent size, enabling me to cook a full roast dinner, and the internal dimensions allow enough space for a large pizza tray.

With a choice of five oven settings, however, it seems a shame that the instruction booklet doesn’t explain which setting would best suit which type of dish. The settings consist of: upper heating and low heating with fan; upper heating and fan; upper heating and lower heating; lower heating; upper heating. The instructions merely advise that four out of the five settings are suitable for baking, with the other function acting as a grill. So we’ve resorted to good old trial and error to work out which arrangement is best for which dish, and slowly but surely we’re getting there.

So if you’ve got limited kitchen space, are looking for a temporary cooker whilst living in a shambles, sorry doing a renovation project, or just fancy an economical change, then I can recommend the Andrew James Mini Oven, despite its sketchy instructions