Monday, 21 September 2015

SHWI meets the Coupon Kid

Our guest speaker at our August meeting was 'The Coupon Kid' Jordon Cox.

Jordon tries out his new selfie stick!

Jordon features regularly in national newspapers and on TV for his amazing low cost or free shops by using coupons and in store offers.

Everyone listened intently to the presentation showing all the tricks for combining coupons and offers to get great savings, we even had a few shocked gasps from the group at some of the amazing shops Jordon had done for a couple of pounds.

One of Jordon's biggest savings was for a shop for charity. He was able to shop for enough food to supply several families in need with a hamper for little cost due to using coupons and with the support of a friendly supermarket manager who helped by reserving a till for the numerous transactions required to get the best deals.

Coupons can be found in a number of places:
1. Supermarket free magazine
2. On packaging, look out for stickers, hang tags and coupons inside packaging.
3. Internet sites, for the companies and some manufacturers.
4. Market research companies (such as Orchard at Tesco and BzzAgent).
5. Where they are doing promotions in supermarket car parks etc.
6. Newspapers and Magazines (if you use public transport pick up the Metro - it is free and sometimes has coupons in it).

Coupons are out there, you can find them by just devoting a few minutes to it each day and save a lot of money.

The other ways to save are cashback apps, the main ones are Shopitize, Checkout Smart and Top Cashback. You buy the items, take a photo of your receipt and upload it. Once you have collected so much you can withdraw it by PayPal or BACS to your bank. If an item appears on more than one app at the same time you can still claim on each of them and also claim if you have already used a coupon in store which means sometimes things may be free or you might even be paid to take them out of the shop.

Overage is where a coupon is for more than the current price of the item in the shop the extra will be used against the rest of your shop.

Jordon stressed things are only a bargain if you need them, so don't use a coupon just for the sake of it and be patient until a good offer is there. He did confess to buying a lot of women's hair removal product which is just sat in his stockpile, but in his defence he was getting 20p overage per pack so was effectively getting paid to take it away so it was OK in those circumstances.

Couponing can save you pounds but if you can get a non-perishable for free or a very small amount but it isn't something you use, consider if a charity or food bank can use it and donate it.

Jordon has put all the website details on our Facebook page. If you like to try new products, sign up for The Orchard at Tesco and Bzzagent, You fill in a few questionnaires and if you are selected, you get products through the post to try and coupons for friends and family to try them, Orchard usually send vouchers to spend in Tesco and you get some choice about what you have out of the range they are promoting. For both all you have to do in return is post on Facebook and write short reviews and a questionnaire after the campaign.

I know we all learned a lot from the talk and some members were very surprised about how much you can save from couponing.

Liz Needes
Committee member

Friday, 18 September 2015

SHWI Love Food, Hate Waste

SHWI member and blogger, Ros Arksey has written about the recent Love Food Hate Waste course organised for our members for her food blog, Nibbly Pig. She's kindly allowed us to post it below.... 

 Love Food, Hate Waste

I love food and always try to plan my meals and make the most of leftovers, whether that is putting them in the freezer or turning them into lunches for work. As you can imagine, I was very enthusiastic about attending this Love Food, Hate Waste workshop hosted for our Seven Hills WI group.

Peter Hellawell from WRAP delivered the session at the Showroom and explained how we can all learn to waste less food, save money and pick up useful tips along the way.

Here’s a bit of background for you…

‘Love Food, Hate Waste was launched in 2007 and raises awareness of the need to reduce food waste and helps us all take action to tackle it. It shows that by doing some easy practical everyday things in the home we can all waste less food, which will ultimately benefit our purses and the environment too.’ Love Food, Hate Waste website

Sheffield is part of their 10 cities campaign which means there are lots of awareness-raising activities going on, like this workshop, to get the message out there to help reduce waste. Sheffield was chosen due to its high population and the fact that we have higher than average waste levels.

We started the session in an interactive style with Peter asking us to raise our hands if we love food. Lots of hands went up. Then he asked, ‘who hates waste?’ Again all hands were raised. So we quickly established that we were a crowd with an appetite to learn.

Peter set the scene with some hard-hitting facts about food waste.
·          UK Households waste around £12.5 billion worth of food and drink each year
·          On average 4.2 million tonnes of the food that is wasted is avoidable
·          Food waste costs the average household £470 per year
·          The most commonly wasted products are fresh vegetables, salad, fruit and bakery items.

The conversation and activities were then focused on recognising what we do now, could we do anything better and what tips could be helpful for the future.  

Planning and being organised seemed to be at the heart of reducing waste. For example, plan your meals, think about portions, utilise leftovers and keep a check on use by dates.

For example, if you are tempted for a buy one, get one free, then consider if you will use the products or would you be better sharing it with a friend or family. Think about what you already have in your cupboards, do you need to buy more food? Try out practical tips to make food last longer, like adding a damp piece of kitchen roll to an open bag of salad, this will give it a couple more days freshness. If you have broccoli that has wilted, put it into a glass of water or bowl and this will help it crisp up.

Know your dates. Use-by dates are about food safety and generally when you must use the item. Best-before, is when it is the most suitable time to eat it and is all about quality.
Sell-by or display until are shop led and is an internal guide for shop staff, as consumers we don’t need to take notice of these dates.

Consider storage to get the most from food. Eggs like a constant temperature, they don’t have to be in the fridge but this is the best place for most fruit to make it last longer. Don’t put your bread in there though, this will make it go stale quicker – keep it in a bread bin if you have one. Alternatively, just get slices out of the freezer the night before you need them, which is what I do.

**5 degrees is the optimum fridge temperature.

Love your freezer. We learnt that you can freeze eggs if they are separated, remember to make a note of how many whites you have added together, as when it comes to defrosting you might struggle to work this out. You can freeze soft cheeses like brie and yoghurts; if you stick ice lolly sticks into the yoghurt tubs this will give you frozen yoghurts for the kids or you. Remember to label what you are freezing, we are all probably guilty of having some mystery frozen ‘surprise’ that we get out to defrost. A sharpie pen was suggested as something to invest in to label up items. You can even get technical and make a spreadsheet to track what you have in and how long it has been there.

**Freezers operate best ¾ full.

These are a selection of the facts and key tips that we went through on the night. There are lots of useful resources on the Love Food, Hate Food website, go check it out.

It certainly got me thinking about what else I could do and when I got home, two peppers, half an onion, a lime and some ginger were all chopped or sliced and put in the freezer, as I knew I would not use them while they were at their best. I now have a piece of paper on my fridge with the meals I am cooking for the week and a reminder of what needs using up from the freezer.

Thanks to Peter for an informative session. I’d encourage you all to see how you can do your bit to make a difference to the planet and your pocket.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

President's blog: Being a guest judge on the Great British Menu

It was the day after our former President Lindsay stepped down that I got the call from a researcher about possibly appearing on the Great British Menu. Talk about starting with a bang!

In case you haven't seen the show before, chefs from different regions around the country compete to have one of their dishes at a special banquet. The theme for this year's banquet was the WI's Centenary and the producers of the show were looking for different members to appear as guest judges. Seven Hills WI would represent the so-called 'New Wave' WI - more recently established groups, mostly in cities that tend to have younger members and participate in with less traditional activities. They were looking for a President from a particularly foodie group and we fitted the bill.

To say I was nervous about taking part would be an understatement. To be honest, I had no desire to be on television. But I knew that I couldn't turn down the chance to take part. The role of President requires you to represent the group at a national level and our group deserves to be recognised for the hard work we put into Sheffield Food Festival and our love of all things culinary. Plus Anna P, fan of the show and committee member would actually kill me if I didn't part (a vegetarian herself, she told me that if I got to take anyone to the banquet, she would forego her dislike of meat and try everything).

My role would be to judge the two finalists of the North East region heats. Three chefs from the region had been cooking all week and the top two went through to Friday. On Friday, the judges eat all the dishes and the winner is the one who scores the best. The winner then goes through to finals week.

So after a conversation over the phone with a researcher asking me some questions, a couple of days later said researcher was meeting me in person at my workplace and interviewing me on a camera. Later the next week, I got an email to say they'd love me on the show if I could make the filming dates. I tried to put it all out of my mind until after Christmas. I was told to keep it a secret too - which wasn't too hard as I was so scared about it!

The filming took place on January 30th. I got the train to St Pancras the night before where I was met by a very smart eastern european driver in a suit with an earpiece, leather gloves and a black Mercedes. It was like being in a spy film. He took me to a very nice hotel in Marylebone where I spent the night in a MASSIVE king size bed. Oh the hardship! I had to be really careful not to fill up to much on the breakfast buffet - but it was really not to tuck into all the pastries, fruit, breads, cereals etc. There was even an egg station! At 8am, I had another driver whisk me to the studios in Kentish Town.

I was greeted by the production team who were totally lovely and looked after me all day. They tried to put me at ease and explain the day's filming. The chefs who we were judging were Michelin starred Tim Allen and Leeds-based Michael O'Hare. There was real anticipation in the air about the food and the team told us we were in for a real treat.

After hair and make-up by the brilliant Heather, I was taken to the judging chamber. The chefs were already busy in the kitchen and they would take it in terms to plate up their food in order of starter, fish course, main course and dessert. I was introduced to the judges - Oliver Peyton, Prue Leith and Matthew Fort. All three were really nice and asked me lots about questions about my WI. They had a great sense of humour and a real interest in the food and the chefs.

I ate some fabulous food - highlights included Tim's delicious starter (I can still taste that ham and egg), Michael's fish (like nothing else I'd ever seen) and beautiful main course, and Tim's gorgeous pudding.

Tim's pudding

It's not all glam and gorgeous food though. It was a really long day. You have to wait for each course to be served and there's a lot of shots to set up and repeat. These shots don't take up a lot of screen time but they are essential to show the food presented correctly. It's also important not to scoff the food down quickly. I had to take my time as we'd be talking about the food for a long time and because only certain snippets would be aired, we needed to keep food on the plate as long as possible.

Michael's fish course

After lunch, I was taken into the kitchen to meet the chefs and talk to them on camera. I had to tell them a little bit about myself and how the judging was going - without giving much away! I could tell they were both quite nervous about the result so it was hard to tease them. But they were both such nice guys who clearly enjoyed being in each other's company and the friendly competition between them.

Michael's main course

When it came to announcing the decision, it was quite nerve-racking. We were asked to score them after every dish and then the points were added up. I was given a few lines to say on camera after the result had been announced based on my thoughts and criticism during the judging. The chefs were brought into the room facing the judges desk and we had to stare at each other for what felt like years as the camera set up the shots. Finally, Matthew was able to announce that Michael had won. He had only one chance to get this right or the surprised reactions would be lost. Luckily, this went ok and I then said my line.

Michael's dessert

After filming, I said goodbye to the judges and was whisked away in a car to the station and back to Sheffield. But just before this happened, the Producer asked me "Would you like to come back for finals week?". To be continued!

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Tea and Tents 2015

Avid readers of the SHWI blog will know that I usually write the posts after the SHWI Getaways at Currer Laithe and I felt it was only fitting for me to do the same for another getaway comprising of WI fun. However, typically, I write the post within about 24 hours of returning because I am pining so much and trying forlornly to relive the memories, sobbing quietly onto my sofa. Well, this time, I am looking back on the event a whole fortnight after returning. You slacker, Pilson, I can hear you all tutting. However, I have good reason. The delay is due to the fact that I have spent approximately 23 hours and 45 mins of each day following my return (sleep’s for the weak, dude) on the Tea and Tents Facebook page conversing, commiserating and chortling with my many new WI sisters across the country…

So let’s get back to the weekend of wonder itself. With school being out for summer, I excitedly headed towards the wilds of Walesby to participate in Tea and Tents 2. This belter of a camping trip was first organised last year and attended by several SHWI members, whose amazing feedback made this year’s event THE hot ticket for many SHWI-ers (apart from Keighley of course). So 19 of us descended en masse to a campsite usually reserved for scouts! After setting up our tents (thank you
Sarah and Bex for saving an ace area for us), we headed to the main tent for the fuddle. Can you imagine the cornucopia provided in that tent by the cooking of 500 WI members? AMAZING! However, it was quite difficult to get to the food given the organisation of the tables in the tent, so sadly I was unable to participate – this may be my only SLIGHT area for improvement of the whole weekend – next time perhaps have food on all of the tables and everyone eat al fresco. Luckily, we had a guerrilla fuddle at SHWI camp HQ and I was ‘forced’ to abandon my #veganlifestyle by Liz’s
divine mackerel pate. It was a real hardship I can tell you…

Once we were Christmas Day-style stuffed, we welcomed around 30-40 women from other WI’s to Laura’s beer swap. It proved so popular that we had to break into 4 groups. We organised the beer by ABV from weakest to strongest and supped to our heart’s content, sharing opinions on the booze and generally chatting about our WIs. Although I met lots of lovely ladies in my group, I must give a special mention to our nearby neighbours, Youlgrave WI, whom we will definitely visit soon. Despite
us making a valiant attempt, there was so much beer left that many ladies took a bottle home with them and Laura was left with a beer pyramid for her own personal consumption. I imagine it lasted
approximately 2 hours…

Saturday was a day full of activities for all – some more sedate than others. Carolyne and Liz got the  ball rolling (quite literally) by participating in a game of Quidditch! It’s not just all tea and cakes in  the WI you know, well at least not until the afternoon! Other activities across the weekend included Pilates, crochet, flower crown making, paper cutting, self-defence, a market, best in show competition, quiz, afternoon teas, yarn bombing, sports day (special mention to the UK WI Egg and
Spoon champion Liz Mitchell here!) There was a myriad of talks, including one by the fabulous Joanne Croxford of the Daisy Change WI. I mention this talk in particular because we are lucky enough to have Joanne coming to talk to us at our Centenary Mixer on Saturday September 26th about how the WI changed her life and about setting up the country’s first WI at a psychiatric unit – members, you should come! Tickets only £1! Also, there was a particularly competitive game of Rounders. Did you know that our president, Kirsty Bowen, whom we trust to lead us with dignity and valour, is actually a ruthless Rounders cheat? A victory is not a victory when gained through pernicious means…(Editors Note: Kirsty in no way cheated and is in fact a Lincolnshire district rounders runner-up champion 2002 - KB).

Some of us also chose to take part in Walesby’s standard scouting activity programme, with lake- based frolics or an action-packed activity course. Liz, Bex and I braved the mosquitoes of Walesby by trekking through the forest down to the lake to participate in body-boarding and kayaking. The body boarding basically consisted or jumping headfirst down a ‘slip ‘n’ slide’ on a hill into the lake. It was great fun, unless you let go of the body board and end up sliding down the rocky ground on your belly. As Liz discovered, you may not get to the bottom with everything intact. Don’t worry, she wasn’t hurt, but let’s just say that she gave the young gentleman overseer a treat that he wouldn’t get from the Scouts! On Sunday morning many ladies blew off the cobwebs with a brisk session of axe throwing, zip wiring and climbing. SHWI ‘sensible is my middle name’ Secretary Laura Bainbridge had been very well-behaved up to this point over the weekend, so OF COURSE she had to leave the  latter activity with a suspected broken wrist! It certainly made the Sunday night a bit different for  myself and Becky, who accompanied her to Bassetlaw A and E for an X-Ray (thank you to Theresa and Rachel who patched her up in the meantime, and fear not - it turned out to be a sprain). Who’d  have thought that ACTUAL HEALTH AND SAFETY PROFESSIONAL Laura would sustain a  NON-ALCOHOL-RELATED INJURY? Mindblowing.

Members from other WI's enjoyed dining dining with us for a curry feast!

Luckily, she soldiered on long enough for us all to enjoy Sarah’s curry feast – who else could cater  for 30+ people on a camping stove and make it quality better than most Indian restaurants? We  welcomed ladies from several other WIs and I must admit I got a bit teary-eyed sitting round and eating that curry (and not because of the spices). It was just such a wonderful example of the do it yourself, everyone muck in, everybody welcome spirit of the WI. Jeez Willoughby, wasn’t making half the crowd cry by beginning a rendition of Jerusalem when we were taking an aerial photo of the group emosh enough for you?!

Finally, I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there and tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel Air. But, alas, that’s another story. Instead, I’d like to take a minute to thank some of the people who, in particular, made the weekend so special for all of us. Thank you to all of the volunteers who helped run the site and activities programme so smoothly (including Becky, Cat,
Holly and Vicky of the SHWI-ers). Secondly, thank you to all those who gave their time to run workshops, deliver speeches or organise activities – it’s a cliché, but there really was something for

Thirdly, thank you to my own personal hero and SHWI camp mother, Sarah Willoughby. This women organised our shopping, hired various pieces of equipment (including a van), had a hand in various erections (oo-er) and catered for 20 plus people all weekend (I haven’t even mentioned Saturday’s AMAZING paella) – without your amazing efforts the weekend wouldn’t have been what
it was. Next year, try to do a bit more work though, yeah, Willoughby? I’m sure you sat down for at
least 3 minutes over the weekend… Fourthly (is that even a word?), thank you to the generosity of all participants who through simply having fun, have raised £3000 for the charity Refuge, as well as providing donations of food, bras and crocheted daisies for various other worthy charities. Last but
most certainly not lease, the biggest of THANKS must go to the organisers: Sue, India, Claire, Meryl
and Rebecca, who have basically done a full-time job organising T&T on top of their own work and family commitments. It was certainly no mean feat and I know that there are around 530 women who owe you a massive debt of gratitude.

So to sum up - Tea and Tents? More like booze and banter, cakes and crochet, FRIENDSHIP AND
FUN! Until the next time, campers…

Anna Pilson
Committee member