Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Dark Side of Slimming World & Healthier Snack Alternatives

Not Sponsored or Paid | Not Endorsed by Slimming World, I am a Paying Member

Hi!

This is a wordy one, so sorry about that.

So, I've mentioned before that there's a side to Slimming World that I really dislike. Firstly, if you're not familiar with the plan, here's the basics on the Extra Easy plan:

*Meals must be 1/3 "speed" food - most vegetables or fruit. You can include as much "free" food as you want. "Free" foods don't have to be measured - these are your meats, carbs, and starchy veg/fruit. There are no recommended portion sizes.
*You are encouraged to use any spices, seasonings, or condiments you wish. Some branded spice blends contain extra sugar so these have a Syn value, but basically everything you'd find on a spice rack is fine. You can also use vinegar, worcestershire sauce, tabasco, soy, oyster sauce, stock cubes.
*You have one Healthy Extra A (dairy) and one Healthy Extra B (fibre) choice per day. You pick from a set list, they have to be weighed or measured.
*You also have up to 15 "Syns" to use daily on whatever you want that isn't included in the plan. So this is your snacks, your high calorie foods, alcohol, etc. 1 Syn = approx 20kcal.

At the core, I love all of the above. I love how it relies on cooking from scratch, I love how it promotes eating extra fruit and veg, and I enjoy making recipes from fresh ingredients. I know it works, I've seen it working, I know people who continue to have fantastic success with it. There are three people I really recommend you follow if you're on plan, because they all plan, cook from scratch, and really promote health over weight loss:

Tracey at Love of Living lost 52lbs in 52 weeks following the plan.
Nicola from The Naked Blondie has lost over 8.5 stone following the plan.
Lynne became a SW Consultant and hit target following the plan.

Actually one of my favourite no-bullshit bloggers Lorraine recently published a post on her experience with Slimming World and it makes for a great read if you've ever wondered what actually goes on at a group. My experience has been different because I don't go to group - I am an online member and we get absolutely zero support. None. Nada.


Binge, Baby, Binge
Slimming World isn't working for me. I've been paying (quite substantial amounts upfront, to be fair) for over a year now and I'm down nearly nothing. Why? I've learned nothing about control or moderation and I haven't been sticking to plan. I know it's not something that I would be able to continue long term - I know if I hit target I would gain it all back within months. I feel shame and I feel embarrassment whenever I have an "off day" and that's terrible. I'm not eating for health, I'm eating for fat loss. I'm having great meals and then using Syns on absolute shite because I can. My issue is and always has been binge eating, and the plan does absolutely nothing to discourage that. In fact, it's the opposite - "eat all the free foods you want!" "No weighing or counting, eat all you want" - technically, you're supposed to eat until you're full, but for those of us who have been treating food as a comfort thing since we were kids? I have no idea when I'm full. None. I could eat a dinner and then have another one two hours later. No concept of fullness. If I'm eating 2000kcal a day, that's still too much food regardless of whether it's salad (it's not salad) or potatoes or ham. I absolutely don't need freedom when it comes to food, I need moderation.

Technically, this is an on plan day:

Breakfast: Egg fried in Frylight, Extra Lean Bacon Medallions, Mushrooms, Tomato. Coffee using milk (HexA). Melon balls.

Mid-Morning: Coffee using rest of HexA allowance.

Lunch: Mugshot Pasta Cup, Chicken Salad with Low Fat Dressing (1 Syn).

Afternoon: Muller Light Yogurt, chopped apple/grapes/melon. Can of Diet Coke.

Dinner: SW Chips, mushrooms and onions, extra lean steak fried in Frylight.

Evening:  Packet of Bacon Fries (6 Syns), Can of Diet Coke, 2 x Alpen Light Cereal Bars (HexB), Freddo Bar (5 Syns).

Most people would look at that and grimace at the thought of eating that much food in a day - but I have an enormous appetite and could easily do that 7 days a week - and that's why I don't think Slimming World is the right plan for me anymore.

Do you get me? It's all 100% on plan, but I'm still eating shite. Plus, I used 12 Syns there so I'd probably be delighted with life that I hadn't used 15 that day. People say "I never use all my daily Syns" - but it's part of the plan and we are told that 5-15 Syns daily is fine so if I shouldn't be using them why are they there?  When I eat crap, I want more crap, and so the cycle continues. I'm learning nothing. I do not feel healthier. I've been overweight since I was a child - I was 13 stone at 13 - and this is not doing anything to teach me moderation or limits.

I know I'm shiting on here (I actually deleted 4 paragraphs of preaching) but I put all that food into My Fitness Pal to see what the story was. That is 100% an on plan day and very typical of the type of days I have - so here you go, here's the day in pictures and you can draw your own conclusions.


And finally, my stats (or macros, if you want) for the day. The limits were set by My Fitness Pal based on my current weight and activity levels.


So that's why I'm falling out of love with it - yes, it's a colossal amount of food. But it's all on plan. I'm eating less fat, but my sugar is MORE THAN DOUBLE what it should be (and even 55g is an extremely high limit). The sodium is grand - but I'd have added salt to my dinner.

EATING FOR HEALTH
I've finally realised that health, to me, is more important than weight. Hell, if it took me the whole of 2016 to learn that then I'm happy to have taken that year - when I think of goals, it's tied in to weight and size. "I want to be 11 stone". "I want to be a size 14". I said it yesterday - "I want to lose 5 stone". At the minute, I just really want to feel comfortable in my body, and I don't right now. I feel heavy and sluggish. I want to have normal blood pressure, I want to lower my risks of weight related diseases, and I want to be around for my boys. If I'm doing that at 11 stone or at 14 stone or whatever - I don't actually care. I just want to be healthy and to not worry about who would mind my kids if I died. I don't want to sit here feeling guilty because I went for a meal with my family and gained half a pound. It makes me feel like a bold child and it makes me feel ashamed. And, it makes me eat.


CHOOSING HEALTHIER SNACKS

Ahh, the part you actually came to read. Right, over the past while, I've been seeking out healthier snack alternatives. Personally I try to fill up on massive meals so I don't snack, but in the event that I want something in the evening, this is what I like (I'm still a massive crisp addict, by the way, I just really try not to have them in the house because they're shite). For those who follow Slimming World, I've added the Syns.

*Syn Values obtained from Slimming World website where available, otherwise using the general 20kcal = 1 Syn rule*


Fruit

No shit, Sherlock. BUT - how many times do we grab a boring pear or apple? There's a reason that Melon and Pineapple are sometimes sold together - they're yum. And cheap - a melon is €1.69-€1.99 in Tesco and a Pineapple is €1.29. Chop them up into fingers and keep them in the fridge in an airtight container, they'll keep for up to 5 days. 

Also delicious are clementines - they're yum, and they're a bargain at under €2 for a 1kg bag in Tesco or Super Valu.


Propercorn

They do really lovely flavours, with no crap ingredients. These are my favourites - The Sour Cream and Black Pepper (4 Syns per 20g) and Sweet and Salty (3 Syns per 14g bag). They also do a Peanut Butter and Almond one that's lovely.



Nutribombz

Nutribombz are a company in the UK who provide a snack subscription service. They offer several flavours of "bombz" - ranging from Choccy Brownie to Salted Caramel, Maple Pecan to Peanut Butter. They've got a trial offer on the site - four of their most popular flavours for £4.99. They offer free post to the UK so I use Address Pal to have them delivered here. You can get the one-off trial box, or you can sign up for a subscription (weekly, bi-weekly or monthly) and select a group of favourite flavours for them to choose from. The first time I ordered, I got the trial box - this time, I picked my own flavours. These range from 3 Syns - 4.5 Syns, all calorie info and ingredients are on the site but for the most part they're date based with all natural ingredients. These aren't something you can binge on - I had two one evening and felt a bit sick. So they're great for a chocolate or sweet hit.


Rice Cakes and Peanut Butter

A simple, delicious, filling snack. Yes, peanut butter is high in calories and therefore Syns, but it's a good, natural food and one that's lovely to include in any diet. Top these with a chopped banana and you've a quick, yummy snack. These Kallo rice cakes are the wholegrain low fat ones, they're 1.5 Syns each. The Meridian crunchy peanut butter is 4.5 Syns per level tablespoon (high, but enough for two rice cakes and super healthy).


Ryvita and Avocado
You can use Ryvita as your Healthy Extra B option, you can have four of these Dark Rye ones. Otherwise, they are 1.5 Syns each. Avocado is one of my favourite ways to use up Syns - it's a massive 9.5 Syns per 100g of Avocado flesh, but well worth it and not something I obsess over assigning a Syn value to. Sprinkle some chilli flakes on top and you have a really filling snack that could do for lunch if you added some fruit or a hard boiled egg. 


Roasted Chickpeas

These are low calorie and not full of junk. They're hard, and a bag lasts ages - they're the perfect snack for a film. One bag contains 88kcal or 4.5 Syns. These would make a great alternative to crisps. I get them in Holland and Barrett, or they'd be fairly easy to make, just season and roast some chickpeas.



Coconut Curls

These are bloody delicious - they also come in a black pepper flavour. They're just dried coconut, really crunchy, with added seasoning. Again, I found them in Holland & Barrett. They're 5 Syns per 20g bag (either flavour).

I hope this didn't come across as too preachy. Because I've been moving away from Slimming World for a while, I've changed the name of my food instagram to sharonleavyeats. I'll still post meals (and most are still very SW friendly) I just won't be discussing Syns.






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Monday, January 2, 2017

Liz Nugent - Lying in Wait (Blog Tour)

Not Paid or Sponsored

Hi!

I'm delighted to be able to help with this blog tour - Liz Nugent's second novel, Lying in Wait, is released in paperback on January 12th. It has previously been available in trade paperback (the large one) and ebook format. Funnily enough, I've ended up with all three:


I received my e-copy as an advance copy from Netgalley back in May - It took me a while to get to it, but I read it in one sitting (one rainy June evening while eating Boursin and Ritz crackers, useless information fans). I adored it - I gave it five stars on Goodreads at the time - it contains one of my favourite lines of the year:

"We were not ordinarily a house that would take the Sunday World

In August, members of the Rick O'Shea Book Club convened at Dubray Books in Galway City. Coincidentally, I happened to be on holiday just outside the City at the time so there was no way I was going to miss it - I bought my large paperback copy on the night and had it signed by Liz, who was lovely.

Thanks to Kate for taking the photo of myself with Liz! 
Before Christmas, I was asked by Penguin if I would like to take part in the blog tour, and if I needed a copy of the book for review - initially I said I'd love to take part but I already owned a copy - then I discovered this:


I've never been quoted in a book before, so this was really exciting! I gratefully accepted the paperback copy and re-read it over Christmas.

Lying in Wait is a thriller/crime novel set in Dublin, in the 1980s. Lydia Fitzsimons has everything - a sprawling mansion, a wealthy husband with a good job, and a son, Laurence. Lydia also has a whole pile of trouble - trouble in the shape of Annie Doyle, a woman who changes the course of the Fitzsimons' lives forever.

It's a real page turner, told from a couple of different points of view. My personal favourite character is the son, Laurence. He is much more intelligent than his parents think, and at times he can be darkly, brilliantly witty. As I mentioned in my initial Goodreads review, I was genuinely torn between racing through this to see what happened, or slowing down so that it wouldn't end. I devoured it - and I enjoyed it just as much the second time around, noticing little details I hadn't noticed before.

Lydia is a truly complex character - she's an expert in self preservation, and I was left wondering if the woman was genuinely mad or just brilliantly clever (I'm leaning slightly more towards the former). She's one of the best female leads I've come across in ages.


This was one of my top ten books of 2016 - if you haven't read it I'd highly recommend it. With regard to the Gone Girl reference on the cover - it's much, much sharper than Gone Girl and a far better book all round.

Please do stop over at some of the other sites taking part in the tour - when I love a book I always like to see what other people think of it, or if they noticed anything I didn't notice. Here are all the details:


Lying in Wait has been chosen as one of the eight Spring 2017 choices in the much-loved Richard and Judy Book Club. I was delighted to see this news, because I've discovered really great books through that club and I hope that it will introduce more readers to Liz's writing.

Lying in Wait is available in trade paperback and eBook formats now from Amazon and all good book retailers. The smaller paperback version will be available from all good book retailers from January 12.



Saturday, December 31, 2016

Look Fantastic Advent Calendar 2016 - Worth €95?

Not Sponsored or Paid | No PR Samples | No Affiliate Links

Hi!

I really wanted to buy another Beauty Advent Calendar this year after I enjoyed the one from The Body Shop last year (I reviewed that at the time here and was 100% sure I'd buy it again) - however after seeing that the contents of the mid-range one were quite similar to last year and realising that I hadn't used half of the stuff from the 2015 one, I wanted to try a different brand.

I've been a subscriber to Look Fantastic monthly beauty boxes before and have always enjoyed the contents, so I pre-ordered their calendar in mid-October. It sold out incredibly fast and I wasn't sure if I'd even made it in time, but rejoice, I got my calendar in November.


It cost almost €95 delivered to Ireland and was an absolute beast of a calendar - it comes in a sturdy white/rose gold box that can be used for storage after Christmas. All of the products included are brands that Look Fantastic sell on their website. I'll link every item under the pictures, prices are correct at time of publication.


Here's a closer look at the contents, in no particular order:


Ojon Damage Reverse Instant Restorative Hair Serum | 15ml | Full Size 50ml €14.95 | Value €4.50
Redken One United Multi-Benefit Hair Treatment | 30ml | Full Size 150ml €15.95 | Value €3.20
Moroccanoil Treatment | 25ml | Travel Size Value €16.45
Christophe Robin Regenerating Hair Mask | 50ml | Full Size 250ml €53 | Value €10.60
Wella OR Luminous Reveal Shampoo | 50ml | Full Size 1000ml €56.45 | Value €2.80

I haven't tried the majority of these products yet, but I'm most excited to try the Moroccanoil and the Ojon hair serum. Both are really decent sample sizes that will last ages. I've used Redken treatments before, and have always been happy with the brand. I really liked that there was a nice selection of hair products in the box.


Dermologica Daily Microfoliant Powder | 13g | Full Size 74g €50.95 | Value €8.95
Codage Paris Micro-peeling Mask | 15ml | Full Size 50ml €73.45 | Value €22
REN V-Cense Revitalising Night Cream | 15ml | Full Size 50ml €39.45 | Value €11.80
Pixi Glow Tonic | 15ml | Full Size 250ml €22.45 | Value €1.35
Balance Me Wonder Eye Cream | 7ml | Full Size 15ml €24.45 | Value €11.40


The Dermologica product is definitely one of the ones that received the most attention when I opened it on Snapchat - I got several messages saying it was a really good product. I didn't get to use the Pixi Glow Tonic because one of the kids spilled it, but I have had a sample before and I know it's a nice toner. I've been using the Balance Me eye cream - I don't know if it's making a difference to fine lines or dark circles, but it's a pleasant product to use (my only quibble is that it seems very perfumed - does eye cream need to smell like flowers?).


Molton Brown Pink Pepperpod Body Wash 100ml | Full Size 300ml €24.45 | Value €8.15
Rituals The Ritual of Sakura Magic Touch Body Cream 70ml | Full Size 220ml €21.45 | Value €6.80
Origins GinZing Energy-boosting Moisturizer 30ml | Full Size 50ml €26.45 | Value €15.90
Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse Or 10ml | Full Size 50ml €19.95 | Value €3.99
Ole Henriksen Clean Truth Cleansing Cloths x10 | Full Size x30 €14.95 | Value €4.99

I really like Ole Henriksen - their melting cleanser is one of my favourites, so I was happy to get the cleansing cloths (essentially - they're wipes). The body cream isn't my favourite scent in the world, but it leaves skin feeling smooth. I love most Molton Brown scents and was delighted with the 100ml size, I'd have expected a smaller bottle. The Nuxe oil is a Summer product for me, so I'll be trying that in a few months' time. I like the Origins, it's similar to The Body Shop Vitamin C moisturizer (another great product). 


Ardell Wispies Lashes (free Duo Adhesive) | Full Size Value €5.45
Look Good Feel Better Eye Shading Brush | Full Size Value €8.95
Monuskin Illuminating Primer SPF 15 25ml | Full Size 50ml €36.95 | Value €18.50
Foreo Luna Play Full Size Value €35.45
Foreo Day Cleanser 15ml | Full Size 100ml €30.95 | Value €4.65
This Works Sleep Plus Deep Pillow Spray 5ml | Full Size 75ml €30.95 | Value €2.05

Ardell Demi Wispies are my favourite lashes, so to receive them was fantastic. The duo glue is the best I've come across, so that will come in handy too. The Monuskin primer was a lovely product to get - it's similar in texture to the Hourglass primer but does a similar job to MAC Strobe Cream. I haven't used the Luna Play yet - it's a facial cleanser, and it's a great idea (and an expensive product). The Day Cleanser was included with the Play. I've used This Works sprays before - I can't say I find them of huge use, but I have family members who love the brand. The eyeshadow brush is good quality, plus it's by a company who support women with cancer. 


Inika Loose Mineral Blush - Shade 'Blooming Nude' 3g | Full Size Value €25.95
Bellapierre Gel Eye Liner - Shade 'Ebony' | Full Size Value €18.45
Purminerals Impact + Mascara - Black | Full Size €23.45 | Value €11.70
NudeStix Lip & Cheek Pencil - Shade 'Mystic' | Full Size Value €29.45

Inika are a cruelty free, vegan brand. I think the shade of blush will be too dark for me, but it may work as a really nice contour colour. The gel eye liner pencil is smooth and easy to use, the mascara was just fine - nothing amazing, just a nice daytime mascara. I really like the NudeStix - I don't think I'd use this shade on my cheeks but as a lip pencil it didn't feel dry, plus it also came with a sharpener on the end. 

So - so far we're up to a value of about €293.50, even without the inclusion of the quite frankly, massive, Day 25 gift (there was a £10 voucher for the site behind this too):


Illamasqua Eye Shadow Palette | Full Size Value €41.95


This palette was exclusively designed for the Advent Calendar, it can't be purchased. The shades included (clockwise from top left) are: Servant, Tango, Terra, and Vernau. I've never owned any Illamasqua products before, so I was really excited to receive this (it's a present in itself, never mind any of the other stuff in the calendar). The shades are really pigmented and buttery smooth. 


Overall, the products in the calendar are worth almost €350, so the €95 price tag seems like a good deal. But is it? For me, definitely. I would absolutely buy this again next year - be warned, if you're interested, sign up to emails because it WILL fly off the virtual shelves again. I've gotten a chance to try a host of luxury brands, lots of skincare, hair, makeup - stuff I'd never have been able to try before. The price of the Moroccanoil, Foreo Play and Illamasqua quad cover the price of the calendar. 

It's absolutely the best beauty calendar I've come across to date. 




Wednesday, December 28, 2016

stylPro - Yay or Nay?

Not Sponsored or Paid | Not a Collaboration | Product Received as Gift

Hi!

I placed an order with Meaghers recently - they very kindly included a stylPro with my order to make up for a bit of confusion that led to a delay. This has been billed as the hottest Christmas present for makeup lovers this year - so although I had no intention of buying one myself, I have to admit I was delighted to get the chance to have a go and see what all the fuss was about.


The stylPro was designed by former Apprentice winner Tom Pellereau. It promises to be a solution to the one makeup related problem most of us detest - cleaning our brushes. It claims to clean and dry makeup brushes in seconds.


Inside the box, there's a sleeve containing detailed instructions, a spindle, 8 collars to fit different sized brushes, the main battery operated spinner, and a heavy glass bowl with a collar that sits in. Batteries are included. Notably, there's no cleaning solution included.

Meaghers were including a 250ml bottle of cleaner with every stylPro purchased before Christmas - otherwise, the solution can be purchased at around €14.95 from various chemists.


To clean a brush, you first choose the correct sized collar, slot the brush in, attach it to the spindle, then to the main handle like so:


You then need to add the cleaning solution to the bowl - there are conflicting instructions on the bottle and in the box, but regardless of whether you add water or not, you need to then immerse the brush in the solution and dunk it up and down a few times, before spinning it in the solution to clean, and then lifting it above the liquid to dry the brush. You need to keep the brush straight while spinning.


When the brush is spinning, the bristles become very splayed:


When I used it, the brushes did look clean and they did feel dry. Unfortunately, I have a number of reservations about the stylPro that led to me passing it on to someone else.

Pros:
Instead of waiting for makeup brushes to dry, they are bone dry within seconds.
Easy to use once you get the hang of it.
Attractive packaging and easy to clean.
There's a collar to fit every sized brush including awkwardly shaped Real Techniques ones (be warned though - these tend to take a bit more effort to dry)


Cons:
If you have a lot of brushes, it takes considerably longer due to having to continuously swap collars.
The bowl is made of glass and I was terrified it'd fall and shatter.
There's no solution included.
Too expensive for what it is.
Does not work with other brush cleaners.
Collars can be tight to remove, I was afraid I'd break certain brushes pulling them out.
Are brushes actually clean?

That last point is the one that turned me off, unfortunately. While I did find the product enjoyable to use (who doesn't love a good gimmick) - it took me over an hour to clean and dry 52 brushes and I used almost a half bottle of solution. I understand that not everyone is going to have that many brushes, but to me this is sold as a "pro" product (it's in the name) so would suggest that it is a product to make life easier for someone with a large collection of brushes.

On the bottle, here are the instructions:


This clearly states that one capful of solution should be used instead of water. It also says to avoid prolonged contact with skin. Which is worrying considering this product is never rinsed off, and it will be going on something you repeatedly use on your face.

Here are the instructions from the sheet inside the box:


This states that for water-soluble makeup like blusher, bronzer and loose powder, you need to add 4ml of anti-bacterial liquid soap into the bowl before adding water. For non water-soluble makeup, you should use 10-20ml of stylPro brush cleaner (not the 8ml it says on the bottle) without water. So, ideally, I should have gone through all my used brushes and determined which were used with water soluble product and which were non water-soluble - really time consuming.

This next paragraph is from the stylPro website:


So, there were tests done to ensure that the stylPro was effective in removing bacteria. Here are the ingredients in the cleaner:


Apart from Argan Kernel Oil, Wheat Germ Oil and Grape Seed Oil, the only other ingredient is Isododecane, a solvent.

While the stylPro may have been proven to be effective at removing bacteria - where does the bacteria go? There's only one place it can go - into the water. So, the first brush I clean will be clean - but nothing after that will be clean unless I change the water/solution for every brush. Also, if I use the same water/solution for 2 or 3 small brushes, aren't I just drying bacteria on to my brushes? There is no rinsing step.

The instructions in the box specifically state that you need to use an additional anti-bacterial soap with any brushes used for powder makeup but I haven't seen anyone do this. Would I bother to do that for every powder brush? Probably not. Would I change the water/solution after every single brush? Not if I had to do more than 10 at a time, no.

It's a great idea - and it's a wonderful feeling to spin a brush around and have it come out dry - but I really hate that there's no step to rinse the solution off. I wouldn't even use baby shampoo or olive oil on a brush without rinsing it off, so I definitely don't feel like it's safe to use a solvent and just dry it on to the brush. When I used it on smaller eye brushes, they still felt greasy after they dried and some had an oily residue on them. I also don't feel like this is a deep clean - this is a spot clean, and I personally wouldn't pay €65+ for a glass bowl that is only suitable for spot cleaning.

I thought that this may work as a brush dryer - but sadly it didn't get brushes dry at all when I washed them in my normal way and tried to dry them with this.

I know other people really love the stylPro - and I'm sure it's a lifesaver for those stuck for time or for people who only have a handful of brushes - but for me it's not the "pro" product it claims to be, and it definitely has not convinced me that it would make cleaning brushes any easier. I'm very grateful to Meaghers for giving me a chance to try it out, but I'm passing it on and I'll stick to my old faithful and the radiator for now.

If you are interested in the stylPro, it costs €65 from Meaghers.ie. The cleaning solution costs €14.95.




Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Traditional Christmas Dinner for 5 People for Less Than €30

Not Sponsored or Paid | Not a Collaboration with any Shop | No Samples Featured |

Hi!

This is for anyone who may be worried about a food budget over the next few days - you can still do traditional Christmas dinner with all the trimmings on a very low budget. This won't suit everyone nor will it appeal to everyone, personally I've just had enough of buying ridiculous amounts of food during Christmas week and fecking it out to the cat come Stephen's Day.

One night last week as I lay in bed thinking about the few bits I needed to get before Christmas, I wondered if it would be possible to do a full dinner on a budget.

When I say dinner, I'm talking starter, traditional main course with all the trimmings, crackers and dessert for our little family - two adults, an almost teenager, and two toddlers. I set the limit at €30, and took myself off to the shops the next day.

I headed to Tesco, Lidl and the Butchers - now in my experience most shops appear to be price matching at the minute (maybe with the exception of one or two more expensive ones) - so combine that with weekly vegetable/fruit offers and this is a fairly accessible list of ingredients. I always check prices on the Tesco website because they have current offers so I use them as an indication when I go to other shops, e.g. if I know Bird's trifle is on offer in Tesco for €2 and I find a similar product in Lidl for €1.89 - result. If I see it in another shop for €3, then I'll get it in Tesco, and so on. There are currently 39c and 49c offers at most supermarkets.

Here's what I bought:



Prices Correct at time of publication (Dec 21)


  1. Honeydew Melon - 39c (Tesco)
  2. 1kg Carrots - 39c (Tesco)
  3. 1kg Rooster Potatoes - 99c (Tesco)
  4. Brussels Sprouts - 39c (Tesco)
  5. Parsnips 500g - 39c (Tesco)
  6. Pancetta - 83c (Tesco)
  7. 32 Cocktail Sausages - 1.49 (Tesco)
  8. Streaky Rashers 150g - 1.59 (Tesco)
  9. Parma Ham - 2.37 (Lidl)
  10. Pale Ham Fillet 1kg - 4.69 (Tesco)
  11. Turkey Drumstick - 3.99 (Craft Butchers)
  12. Green Isle Roast Potatoes - 1.50 (Tesco - substitute for Tesco Finest brand for 1.19)
  13. Bisto Gravy Granules - 1.50 (Dealz)
  14. Colmans Cranberry Sauce - 1.50 (Tesco - substitute for Tesco brand for 0.69)
  15. Tesco Fresh Sage & Onion Stuffing - 1.80 (Tesco)
  16. Birds Trifle (serves 4-6) - 2.00 (Tesco)
  17. Pack of 6 Crackers - 1.50 (Dealz - these ones have festive selfie props inside)
Total: €27.31 (€26.19 with substitutions as above) / €5.46 per person 

Starter: Melon and Parma Ham


Use a melon baller or teaspoon on a Honeydew melon or cut into cubes. wrap in small slices of Parma Ham or put on cocktail sticks. Get two melons if you need them - they're only 39c at the moment. 
Cost of Starter: €2.76/ €0.86 per person.

Main Course: Turkey and Ham with All the Trimmings






Turkey: I bought a large turkey drumstick in my local Craft Butcher. I didn't have to order it. I cooked it in the slow cooker - just put it in on high, no water, for about 4 hours then turned it to low until we needed it. It came out really tender, falling off the bone, and yielded 5 decent portions with a slice or two for everyone. 

Ham: I boiled a 1kg ham twice (to remove all salt). I didn't bother roasting it but may do so at Christmas with some honey and cloves. Again, this was more than enough for dinner plus leftovers. 

Potatoes: I bought 1kg of roosters for mashing. I also bought a 700g of frozen ready-to-cook roast potatoes. 

Vegetables: Carrots, parsnips, plus brussels sprouts. I steamed the sprouts for about 12 mins and then sliced them and stir-fried them on a wok with the ready-to-use pancetta cubes. 

Stuffing: I tipped the stuffing into some tin foil, made a parcel, and threw it into the slow cooker about half an hour before I took the turkey out.

Cranberry Sauce: Loads in this jar, everyone got a tablespoon each. 

Pigs in Blankets: I wrapped the cocktail sausages in slices of streaky bacon and put them in a large roasting dish, then cooked in the oven, shaking every 10-15 mins until cooked. Then served on the side. 

Gravy: I mixed up a jug of Bisto according to instructions. 
Cost of Main Course: €21.05/€4.21 per Person 

Dessert: Trifle 



Trifle Mix: This is on offer in Tesco at the moment. All you need to add is milk, factor that in to the cost if needs be, also if you want to add tinned fruit to make it go further. You'll still come in under €30.

Christmas Crackers: These are €1.50 in Dealz and contain festive selfie props, a great idea instead of plastic rubbish.

Cost of Dessert/Crackers: €3.50/€0.70 per person

No, you won't have a heap of leftovers, but you'll have enough ham for sandwiches. I cooked most of the main course on Saturday when I had family over, just to see how it would stretch - I had a message on Snapchat saying there was no way that was enough food to feed 5 people. Unfortunately, that person was right, there wasn't enough for 5:


It fed 7 of us.

(The eagle-eyed among you will spot a tin of pasta shapes on the toddlers plates - they asked for them too so I cooked them) - I also hadn't even used the roosters, parsnips, streaky bacon or all the cocktail sausages).

Merry (Thrifty) Christmas folks, thanks for all the support this year, looking forward to the chats and bargains in 2017!