Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Giveaway: Flutter Butter™ bird feeder and food

The weather is getting colder and soon the snow will (maybe) here and even though we look forward to being huddled in front of the fire with slippers on and a hot choc in hand, our little feathered friends won’t have it so easy.

Winter is a tough time for garden birds but putting out some food for them not only brings a beautiful spectacle right up to your window, it also helps then survive the bleak winter. 

Living with Birds sells a huuuuge range of food and accessories for garden birds including over 200 feeders, 50 foods and 100 nest boxes- everything you need to attract beautiful birds such as finches, blackbirds, woodpeckers and sparrows to your garden or yard. 

The wonderful people over at Living with Birds are offering one of my lucky readers an awesome Flutter Butter feeder along with a jar of each Flutter Butter flavour. Just enter using the Rafflecopter widget below for a chance to win. 

Flutter Butter comes in a jar that simply screws into the Flutter Butter feeder and provides a rich nutritious protein boost for birds that is naturally low in salt. It comes in three delicious-sounding flavours- lucky birds! The feeder can be suspended from the attached chain or hung  to a wall or fence using the  hinged bracket that turns the feeder upwards for easy refilling.

The prize would make a lovely Christmas present, or you could just keep it for yourself (I know what I would do).

The giveaway is open to UK residents only. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Visit or request their free catalogue on 0800 072 0130

PS. Good luck!

Friday, 21 November 2014

7 animals that Attenborough made up

I love animals and I really love Sir David Attenborough’s wildlife documentaries. Who doesn’t?

But I need to tell everyone the truth and stop this nonsense going on for any longer. Last night while watching the latest episode of Life Story, I had a moment of realisation: Some of these animals he’s showing us aren’t real. He’s just made them up. They don’t exist.

Before getting all “how dare you slag off the eighth wonder of the world which is Sir David Attenborough” on me- just hear me out.

Sir David manages to “film animals that have never been filmed before” then broadcasts them on television and we believe they exist, because he told us they do. After producing over 77 series of wildlife films (that I have counted) he has to have some way of keeping the number of viewers up to convince the BBC to send him to all corners of the planet on holiday. He must have run out of animals to film years ago, so now just dreams them up. We will never find out because all these animals just so happen to be in the depths of the impenetrable Amazon, unreachable at the top of the highest mountains in the Himalayas and in the uninhabitable centre of the Sahara Desert. Coincidence? No, it’s a conspiracy.

I know this sounds radical, but take a close look at these ‘animals’ that Sir David has, until now, managed to convince millions of people around the world that they are real things.


These stupid looking birds apparently stand up to 1.5 metre high and live in marshes and swamps in Africa. This bird couldn’t possibly survive with that ridiculous beak. It would be so top heavy it would fall over. I think Sir David is trying to pull a fast one here

Image credit


My sister told me that these are made-up (true story). I mean, can you imagine having a tooth that long sticking out of your gob. Why the hell would an animal even need such a stupid implement? Conveniently, they live in the Artic so Attenborough thinks we can’t get there to not find one and prove they do not exist.

Dumbo Octopus

Clearly Attenborough was watching Pokémon when he dreamed up this one

Image credits

Eastern Long-Necked Turtle

A turtle and a snake photoshopped together. You don’t full us David

Image credit

Superb Bird of Paradise

Hidden in the forest depths of New Guinea these males birds dazzle potential mates with a hypnotic dance. Does that look like a bird to you? I think David was hallucinating while chillin’ out with the New Guinea tribesman while on location when he ‘filmed’ this one.

Leaf-Tailed Gecko

No Sir, That’s a leaf. Do you really think we are that stupid?

Image credit

Giant Isopod

You can recreate this trick at home. Just get a woodlouse and put it in the hand of a Barbie doll.

Image credit 

I’m sorry to be the bearer of disappointing news.  I am truly saddened by my findings. I had the same feeling deep in my stomach when I was 10 years old and compared the writing on my Christmas presents’ gift tags from my parents, to the ones delivered by Father Christmas.

I hope, like me, you can find it in yourselves to forgive our beloved David for this deception that has been going on for several years, and understand he is only doing it to entertain his loyal viewers and to keep up the viewer ratings for the BBC.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Thrifty wedding: The perfect wedding dress for £30

Earlier this year my sister, Sheryl, had the most wonderful thrifty wedding and I have been writing posts to show that a wedding doesn’t need loads of dosh thrown at it to make it beautiful.

Previously I have posted about how she bought her own wedding flowers and arranged them herself and the vintage style name place cards I handmade to cut the cost of the wedding. This time I’m talking about the most important part of a wedding (apart from the groom, of course!); the wedding dress. It has to be perfect. It has to be special. It has to make the bride feel elegant. But when you are on a budget, it has to be the right price too.

Second hand dresses are a great way to get the dress of your dreams at a fraction of the retail price. Even more, you can alter a dress to your liking to make it truly unique. This is exactly what my sister did.

She fell in love with a dress from Phase Eight, which, at the time, was a bit over her budget at £750 and it was no longer available to buy as it was end of line. So, she started looking for a second hand dress. After all, wedding dresses are worn for only a day meaning a second hand dress is more than likely to be in excellent condition.

After a while searching websites such as eBay, Gumtree and Sell My Wedding for second hand wedding dresses she actually found the Phase Eight dress for just £350. That’s £400 less than a new dress and it will have only been worn for one day- bargain!

When she tried on the dress for the first time she was a little disappointed because it wasn’t ‘perfect’. The lace design covered the whole piece and she felt it looked a bit heavy on her. So, she paid a dress maker to alter it. It was an additional cost but it would still be cheaper than buying a brand new dress and it would be truly unique and exactly what she wanted as a result.

The dress maker removed some of the lace pattern from the chest and from an area of the back to reveal the netted fabric underneath. The size of the train was reduced and a ribbon handle was attached the train so she could lift it up while walking. The result was a daintier dress that flattered her small figure beautifully. The dress maker cost just £75 bringing the final cost to £425.

And here’s the best bit; she sold it on for £395. That means the dress only cost her £30! Now, that's an amazing bargain, don't you think?

PS. Have you or would you be happy with a 
second hand dress on your wedding day?

Monday, 10 November 2014

Get a great deal on a (not so) Top Secret Hotel

Last week I received the amazing news that I was a finalist for Savoo’s Smartest Shopper 2014 and I was (and still am) over the moon. The finals were held in London last weekend so I needed to book a hotel to stay in on the Friday night. Even though the price of one night was kindly covered by Savoo, I was still determined to get a good deal. Dave and I haven’t had a break together this year so we decided to take the opportunity to do a bit of sightseeing and spend the whole weekend there.

Visiting London is a daunting prospect for scrimpers and savers like us because everything down there is so expensive compared to ‘ere up North. So, like any thrifty thinker, I set about looking for a good deal on the internet. I knew it was the weekend of Remembrance Sunday and the ceramic poppies at the Tower of London were attracting many visitors to London, so the prices were going to be higher than other weekends.

I headed straight to thinking that there should be some good offers on since I needed a place to stay in just 3 days’ time. The map functionality allows you to look in the area you want to stay and find hotels within your budget which is very handy.

I saw a notice saying ‘Our Top Secret hotels are so confidential that, unfortunately, they can't be displayed on the map’. I was intrigued. What were these Top Secret Hotels?

Well, Top Secret Hotels are hotels that have up to 35% off the normal price – fantastic news! However, the name of the hotel isn’t provided and neither is the exact location. Instead, a description and a ‘zone’ on a map in which the hotel is situated within, are provided. No biggie though- read on…

I sorted the list by price- cheapest first of course. It was then a case of clicking on each one to see where the hotel was located. I wanted somewhere near to Westminster so I didn’t have far to travel the next morning.  I found one which was in the right area, near the Tower of London and at a great price too (compared to the others). It was £252.00 for two nights, two people compared to the original price of £297.60. It was described as a 5* (!) hotel and had a spa which guests could use.  I got that rush of adrenaline that ‘thrifties’ describe when they find a ‘too-good-to-be-true-but-it’s-actually-true deal.

My big secret about Top Secret Hotels is sussing out which hotel it is. It’s also the most exciting part. Just enter some of the keywords used in the description into Google and scan the results to see if there is a close match. I did this for a few hotels and it worked each time! For my favourite choice I found the answer on the MSE forum (see screenshot) then went direct to The Grange Hotel website to check it out. After checking the out the location and facilities I knew I had found ‘the one’.  I got butterflies in my stomach and I knew I had to have him… I mean, it.

Now, I am a bit of a sceptic so I needed to do some background checking before I fully committed. Was the ‘deal’ just a way of drawing me in and was the room actually any cheaper because of the Top Secret Hotels offer? I did some snooping. I looked for the hotel in the normal section of the website and found it was, in fact, the higher price of £297.60 just like the offer had said. Perfect; it was genuine and honest.

When we arrived at the hotel I was even happier- it was next door to Tower Hill station and the Tower of London which was perfect for seeing the ceramic poppies. But it didn’t stop there- we got upgraded to an executive suite on arrival. How amazing is that!

PS. Do you have any secrets for finding a good deal on hotels? 

Thursday, 6 November 2014

I've been shortlisted for Savoo's Smartest Shopper 2014!

Right now I'm bouncing off the walls because I have been shortlisted for Savoo’s Smartest Shopper 2014 title! I can’t believe I have been picked!

The annual competition is run by Savoo and there is a generous cash prize for thou who shalt be named ‘Smartest Shopper 2014’ as well as a yearlong partnership for a money-saving blog.  Entrees were asked to answer a series of questions regarding their saving tips and explain how becoming a savvy shopper changed their life. Last year Ricky Willis, aka Skint Dad, was crowned with the impressive title and he inspired me to enter the competition this year. Ricky started Skint Dad around the same time as I started The Thrifty Magpies Nest and I have been following his journey since his 4th blog post and now he’s on the judging panel!

The other 9 finalists and I are heading down to London this Saturday for the last stage of the competition which involves an interview with the judging panel. It’s made up of Ricky Willis of Skint Dad, Marc ‘The Negotiator’ Lockley who writes for The Guardian, blogger Miss Thrifty and the General Manager of, Simon Bird. I am so super excited for Saturday and still can’t believe I've made the finals.

Last year I didn’t enter the competition because I didn’t think I had a chance of winning. However, after a year of blogging and amazing support from readers of The Thrifty Magpies Nest I thought I would have a whirl at the questions. I’m so glad I did!

Thank you, so much, to all The Thrifty Magpies Nest readers who take the time to read my posts, leave lovely comments and as a result, gave me the confidence to enter.

Now to dig out that thrifty hat of mine to pack for Saturday!

Sunday, 2 November 2014

A super bargain second hand oven

The bottom oven hasn’t been working for an age and we have just been using the top oven to cook. The cost of repairing the oven has put us off getting it fixed but with Christmas just a few weeks away it has been on our minds that there is no way we can roast a bird and all the lovely trimmings in the small top oven.  We are very excited to be hosting Christmas day this year and have my sister, brother-in-law and youngest nephew joining us, so something needed to be done.

I phoned a few local appliance engineers to get an idea of price and none of them could offer a set cost as we don’t know what the fault is. It definitely isn’t a common problem such as a burnt out element or thermostat.  One engineer did say it would probably be the clock mechanism and after a quick look on the internet this part cost £150.  Dave would be happy to fit it as he is confident with electrics but if the part didn’t solve the problem it could end up costing a lot of money.

The decision of whether to fix an existing asset over replacing it is a difficult. This is why the oven has remained like this for so long. The oven is an expensive make, so one train of thought is that it would be worth fixing.

Dave browsed eBay for a second hand double oven and we found an auction for an AEG oven which was in Sheffield; an hour away from home but near friends that we could tie a visit in with. We did a quick Google search to see if the make had good reviews and this particular model came up with good feedback.

After considering the risks and distance to collect the oven we placed a bid for £50 and managed to get it for £20! Yes, £20! We didn’t want to get too excited though in case it was a disappointment. Coincidentally Ian, my step dad went to the Peak District over the weekend so bypassed Sheffield to pick the oven up.

Old oven

New (second hand) oven
The new oven looks almost identical to the old one and cleaned up brilliantly. Look at the photos to see how similar they are. Dave fitted it into the unit and we switched it on in excitement. Hurrah! It works! Sunday dinner was much more of a pleasure to prepare as a result. All the veg and the chicken pies fit in at the same time and cook evenly.

I’m really pleased with our decision to buy a second hand replacement because we’ve saved so much money. Many people wouldn't consider second hand appliances but if the price is so low it’s really worth the risk in my opinion.

Bring on Christmas dinner!

PS. As you will see from the photos, ovens don't make the
most visually interesting subjects to photograph!  

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

We have our first egg! But is it worth the cost?

It’s been over 6 weeks since the young ladies moved to the wood and finally we have an egg! Even though I have had chickens most of my life I was super excited to discover our new flock had produced after a long wait.

But does keeping hens really save money? After 6 weeks of waiting, over 1 bag of food devoured and with just the one hen laying it has made me contemplate whether keeping hens is cost effective.
I did a few calculations to work it out. These are the fixed figures

Initial cost of hens £10 each
1 bag of food lasts about a month £10 which works out at £1.67 per month per hen
Average of 300 eggs laid per hen per year
One free range egg from Tesco is 17p (based on one egg from a box of 6)

From these figures I have worked out that each hen needs to lay 62 eggs to balance out the initial cost to purchase them. They then need to lay 10 eggs per month to cover the cost of their food. So, in the first year, each hen needs to lay 182 eggs to cover their purchase and keep.

The remaining 118 ‘free’ eggs that each hen will lay over the next 12 months would have cost £20.26 if I were to have purchased them from Tesco. That’s a total of £120.36 saving for all the ‘free’ eggs from the 6 hens.

The next factor to be taken in to consideration is the potential money that could be made from selling surplus eggs. If we were to eat only 20 eggs between us each month we would potentially have 130 eggs to sell! If we were to sell half a dozen for £1, like Tesco, we could make £21 per month.

So it is worth, for me, when the costs are broken down like this. Obviously, there are variables that I haven’t taken into consideration such as:

Actual numbers of eggs the hens will lay
Actual number of eggs I would be successfully sell
Vet fees and medicine costs
Water costs (we are on a meter)
Loss/replacement of a chickens from the flock

There are other costs that people could incur, that I fortunately don’t, such as bedding costs (wood shavings are a by-product for the firewood processing) and land rental. The number of hens kept would also change the figures –obviously the more hens, the more eggs to sell for example.

Having worked out the figures I now feel confident about the viability of keeping hens. But there are also the environmental and emotional benefits too- they make me happy and it’s another step closer towards a more sustainable life. I know my hens are happy and will have good lives but I don’t truly know how Tesco free range hens live. I could go on…

PS. Do you keep hens? If so, how does your costs and income balance out?
PPS. I hope my calculations are correct. Maths isn't my strong point!