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Budget recipe binder: Claire’s classic Toad in the Hole

calendar08 January 2017

Claire Wong's avatar Claire Wong

Budget recipe binder: Claire’s classic Toad in the Hole

I first ate this many years ago in a student kitchen on a cold wintry evening. It’s such good comfort food to fill and warm you up!

Preparation time: 10-15 minutes
Cooking time: 45-50 minutes
Serves: 4
Total cost: £1.59 (all ingredients bought from scratch - £4.58)

120g plain flour (Few pence / 1.5kg – 45p)
4 eggs (59p / Half a dozen – 89p)
300ml milk (Few pence / 2.3 litres - £1.00)
6 sausages (94p / Pack of 8 - £1.25)
Salt and pepper
5 tbsp vegetable oil (Few pence / 1 litre – 99p)
Optional: if you’ve got any herbs in the back of the cupboard, a bit of rosemary or thyme is great with this!

Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas Mark 6.
Mix the flour with a pinch of salt and some pepper in a bowl.
Beat the four eggs into the flour and slowly add in the milk. Keep beating until there are no lumps in the batter. (Top tip: If you’re really struggling to get rid of the lumps, then once the batter is fairly smooth and thick, you can strain it through a sieve.)
If you’re using any herbs, add them to the batter now.
Cook the sausages with a tablespoon of the oil in a frying pan until they are golden brown all over.
Pour the rest of the oil in an ovenproof dish and heat in the oven until it’s properly hot and sizzling.
Take the dish out of the oven. Add the sausages (make sure they’re fairly evenly spaced out in the dish) and then pour the batter over them. Put the dish back in the oven pronto!
After 35-40 minutes the batter should have risen and be a beautiful golden brown. Take it out and enjoy with veg and gravy or whatever you fancy!

Ten ways to save money in 2017

calendar05 January 2017

Gemma Pask's avatar Gemma Pask

Ten ways to save money in 2017

It’s a new year and the perfect time for your finances to have a fresh start. New Year’s resolution? Save money!

1. Make a budget. Here at CAP we bang on about budgets A LOT. But that’s only because it’s so important! Getting your head around your income and expenditure can help to prevent you from running into real financial trouble in the future. Start today and see if you can keep it up every month for the rest of the year! For a free course with expert, practical money management advice, get signed up to your nearest CAP Money Course here.

2. A recent report by the Money Advice Service revealed that more than 16 million Brits have less than £100 in savings. Savings can be a safety net in case of unexpected disasters – what if the house floods or the car breaks down? Even with insurance, you’ll need to pay an excess, so having a bank of savings to fall back on is essential. Skint Dad’s 1p per day savings challenge could be the ideal place to start.

3. If the last two tips have filled you with dread thinking ’I’m already on a low income and struggling to cope as it is!’ then check out CAP Life Skills, a free, friendly course with practical sessions on shopping, cooking and living better within your means.

4. If you’re a car owner, it’s likely you’ll see a significant drain on your finances caused by car insurance at some point in the year. Money Saving Expert suggests car insurance prices have risen by 16% since last year, so it’s worth looking at ways to bring down the ever-rising cost. For some excellent tips, click here.

5. Did you know 79% of people who took part in Dry January last year say they saved money? The month-long no-alcohol campaign aims to show the health and savings benefits of kicking the booze. Find out how many pennies and calories you could save in a month without drinking here - after all, it doesn't matter if you've missed Dry January, why not task yourself with a Dry February, Dry Summer, or go for a completely Dry 2017? It's in your hands. If you feel your drinking, smoking, gambling or other habit is controlling your life, CAP Release Groups could help.

6. In the UK, we throw away seven million tonnes of food every year – half of which is perfectly edible! Even more shockingly, for an average family with children this equates to a loss of £60 per month, or £700 per year! This year, make the most of your food leftovers and your bank balance will surely thank you - click here for some tasty leftover recipe ideas.

7. If you’re a slave to credit and find you’re often tempted to buy more than you can realistically afford, why not make it your mission this year to opt for cash instead? Draw out your allowance in cash at the start of the month and once it’s gone, it’s gone! Although it takes discipline to stick to it, this is an invaluable way to spend less and take control of your finances.

8. Of course the easiest way to increase your savings is to increase your income, but this can prove difficult when you’re struggling to find work. CAP Job Clubs are designed to give you the skills and self-belief to go out there and get yourself a job. The programme helps more than 350 people find work every year – could you be one of them? Click here to get started.

9. This blog is regularly updated with everyday money saving advice, including budget recipe ideas, top tips and more. Keep an eye out for new posts!

10. Finally, one thing that can make your finances easier to deal with is being honest and open with the people around you. Don’t ever be afraid to talk to your friends, family, partner or children if you’re struggling. Even if they’re not able to help per se, the fact that they know and understand will take pressure off you and give you breathing space to get yourself sorted. Happy 2017!

For free debt advice and to find out more about any of CAP’s services, call 0800 328 0006. Help is available to all, regardless of age, gender, faith and background.

Drive towards better savings

calendar05 January 2017

Gemma Pask's avatar Gemma Pask

Drive towards better savings

According to the RAC, in December fuel prices rose to their highest average since July 2015, hiking up by 3p per litre. Yep, unfortunately driving is an increasingly costly business, especially for those of us who are trying to tighten our purse straps. With a few habitual changes and a healthy dose of shopping around, however, the pennies saved will begin to add up.

1. Very few drivers wouldn’t groan when the subject of car insurance comes up in conversation. It’s not cheap and it’s fraught with companies trying to squeeze a little bit extra out of your pocket. Comparisons websites are useful, but take the quotes you receive with a pinch of salt. Use them as a basis to call up the company and negotiate the price. More often than not, and especially when it comes to renewals, companies would rather match a lower price than lose your business altogether. Not always, but worth a try nonetheless.

2. While we’re on the subject of insurance, why not consider opting for a black box policy? Lots of companies use these devices nowadays – they’re used to track your behaviour and habits on the roads, such as how harshly you’re accelerating and breaking, and what times of day you tend to travel. Drive smoothly and safely and your premium will come down – in theory, at least.

3. There are easy changes you can make to your driving style in order to reduce the amount of gas your vehicle is guzzling. For one, try switching down through the gears to slow down the engine rather than slamming on your brakes – the more harshly you break, the more fuel (and cash) fritters away. In addition, when travelling on high-speed roads, dropping your speed to 55-60mph can be much more economical than zipping about at 70. It’s common sense, just not commonly put into practice.

4. Did you know that you can pay your road tax monthly? Although the cost in the long run may be higher, paying in smaller, more affordable chunks can be less strenuous on your bank balance.

5. Another word of advice is to stop shelling out on getting somebody else to wash your car – grab a sponge and get lathering! Think about the amount of cash you’ll save over a period of a year – that’s your motivation! When the weather picks up, you could even wash some of your neighbours’ cars (if they’ll let you) and start making money rather than spending it.

6. Of course, you’ll save a pretty penny by finding alternative methods of travel. Dig out your old bike or get walking if it’s a manageable journey. These options burn fat and save money, whereas sitting in a car tends to save fat and burn money. It’s a no-brainer really.

7. Finally, consider installing a dashboard camera. This will capture footage as you drive, invaluable should you ever be involved in an accident. These devices don't come particularly cheap, but the money you could save in the case of a dispute with another driver could easily make it worthwhile. Not so much an everyday cost, but something to bear in mind in case disaster hits.

8. For more tips, the Money Advice Service has lots to offer on cutting the cost of cars and travel here.

Blue Monday: facts v. fiction

calendar04 January 2017

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

Blue Monday: facts v. fiction

You’ve probably seen articles about 'Blue Monday' in the newspapers or online. Blue Monday is the third Monday of January, which is 'statistically' the most depressing day of the year. Who says this? Well… science does, right?

Actually, the concept was first publicised as part of a 2005 press release from a holiday company. Ringing alarm bells, yet?

They claimed they had made a formula, that, by putting in numbers for various different factors like 'weather' (no units of measurement given) and 'the feeling of a need to take action' (which, I assume you can only accurately measure, with a 'feeling-of-a-need-to-take-action-o-meter') you’d end up with the most depressing day of the year.

The reality is, of course, people are complicated. Depression and sadness happen all year round because there are all sorts of factors that can cause them. So we all ought to be ready to be a listening ear all through the year, not just on a random day in January.

The formula lists 'debt after Christmas' as a factor, as if it’s your own fault for getting into debt and suffering with depression. Yet, here at CAP we get people seeking help with their debts all year round, for a wide range of reasons. The majority aren’t splashing the cash at Christmas, they’re victims of circumstance, trying hard to keep things together.

Here’s another thing: Mondays don’t make us blue. On average, CAP gets the most calls for help on a Monday in any given week. Mondays are the days when people decide to make a big change to their life and that’s reason to celebrate.

Here’s another fact: our busiest months are November and February, peaking around the second Monday in February. We think this is simply because people don’t want to organise a visit to their homes in the run up to Christmas, or when their children are off school. So, all the calls we’d normally have over December come along instead during January and February. Credit card bills don’t arrive until six weeks after Christmas and at that stage people know just how bad things are looking, so it may be as simple a reason as that.

At CAP, a busy day is a good day because the more people who call us, the more people we can help. If you feel you’re in trouble with unpaid bills and calls from creditors and it’s getting you down, give us a call - no matter what day it is, we’ll do all we can to help. Call us for free on 0800 328 0006.

Improve your health and bank balance this Dry January

calendar15 December 2016

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

Improve your health and bank balance this Dry January

In January, tens of thousands across the UK will be taking part in the annual initiative Dry January. Charity Alcohol Concern and others are campaigning for alcohol drinkers who want to cut down or quit for good to go without for 31 days in January. With one in six people taking part in 2016’s Dry January, organisers hope for even more to get involved in 2017.

A month off from alcohol can make a real difference, from improving your body and your sleep, to your self-confidence and your bank balance. The average person spends £50,000 on alcohol in their lifetime – money that could be spent elsewhere. If that’s got you thinking about how much you spend, check out Alcohol Concern’s impact calculator to find out how much you could save from packing in the booze for a month, in terms of both calories and cash.

Plus, just think how much you could save if you were to give up for good! Quitting for a short time through initiatives like Dry January has been shown to give people a better chance of cutting down and stopping overall. Six months on from 2014’s campaign, the University of Sussex researched the progress of 900 participants, finding 72% had reduced harmful drinking episodes and 4% had stayed completely alcohol free!

Not sure you can manage going cold turkey by yourself? Why not get your friends, family or co-workers involved too? Quitting as part of a supportive group can improve your chances even further as you know they’ll be there to offer support and advice in those tough spells.

Alcohol Concern offers a wide range of free resources to keep you motivated throughout Dry January, from information on the benefits of going alcohol-free, to a blog with stories and advice from people who are trying to quit too. There are lots of free posters to print out and put up, and you’ll also find images you can share with your friends on social media. There’s even resources to help you raise money for Alcohol Concern and a choice of 11,000 charities while you quit, either through sponsorship or by donating the money you would have spent otherwise.

Christians Against Poverty is also keen to back you in your quest to quit. 74 CAP Release Groups are currently running in churches around the UK and are here to help people break free from a wide range of life-controlling habits, including alcohol dependency. The course spans eight sessions and offers free emotional and practical support in an environment of security and trust. To find out more about CAP Release Groups, whether you’re interested in signing up or running one through your local church, click here.

If you or anyone you know wants to join in with this year’s Dry January – or if you want help to give up drinking right away – visit the Alcohol Concern website for lots of useful information. Good luck!

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