Tag Archives: bargain

Saturday mornings in an ‘old school’ Afropolitan household

Saturday mornings as a child were not what I considered ‘fun’ although looking back it wasn’t mean to be! Yes we had cereal and watched cartoons but I mainly remember the obligatory Saturday morning routine of cleaning, polishing and going food shopping with my parents.

Captain Planet: 'By the Powers combined...'

Captain Planet: ‘By the Powers combined…’

I remember one Saturday morning – that I didn’t want to participate in the normal routine- I wanted to ‘sleep in’. Now to be clear, in our household on Saturday morning everyone knows the deal. My dad was a soldier in the Nigerian Army and ran our household on a fairly tight schedule; you get up, eat breakfast and relax for a short while then you better go and strip the bedding and get assigned your duties for the day. Washing up, polishing, hovering take your pick but everyone has to fall into line. However, on this occasion I continued to ‘sleep’ even though I could hear full well the loud conversations and various activities happening around me and boy did I get a rude awakening!

After our chores, followed by getting washed and dressed, we (my siblings and I) would then have to go food shopping with my mum. The journey was a twenty minute walk to the local shopping area, complete with the shopping trolley and market (aka Ghana must go) bags in tow.

Going shopping with my mum was an experience- entertaining, frustrating and very educational. My mum is a BARGAIN shopper- thrifty Afropolitan defined. She will literally go from shop to shop, stall to stall checking for the best price for items. An item may vary by 10p between two shops within a ten minute walking distance but know that my mum will walk back to the shop where the item is cheapest because – in her own words- ‘It’s the principle’. Similarly don’t ever try to short change my mum- if an item is £1.99- you’d better give her back that penny do not ‘assume’ you don’t have to because she will ask you ‘out of principle’. It’s only a penny- adds up over time!

Ghana Must Go: The original shopping bag

Ghana Must Go: The original shopping bag

First stop was the market- to the fruit and veg stall, to the man selling fresh eggs and then to the African Caribbean shops to buy what my Caribbean friends would call ‘hard food’; the yams, sack of rice, Gari (ground Cassava) and plantain (who remember the days of when you could buy five or even six for a £1?).

For the occasional treat we might pop into the local clothes shop. But woe to any store that gets into my mum’s bad books! I recall on one occasion, she bought an item of clothing which ended up being faulty when she got home. But because of the returns policy they wouldn’t acknowledge this nor exchange the item despite her loyal custom. So my mum the campaigner (her mantra-‘know your rights’), stands outside the shop- on a busy Saturday- telling people to boycott the shop (so embarrassing!). Shortly afterwards, they call her inside and settle the matter. The next week everything returns to normal as if nothing has happened- best friends again!

My mum's favourite mantra: Ingrained from an early age

My mum’s favourite mantra: Ingrained from an early age

Next stop was the Butchers, which I am not a fan of for obvious reasons (body parts and the stench of blood not for me), but found it fascinating because of the banter, the haggling along with the percussive sounds of meat being manually and mechanically chopped.

The Look: No it's not one of love it's the 'have you lost your mind' look

The Look: No it’s not one of love it’s the ‘I am going to count to ten, you better take that out of the basket before I do something’ look

The trip always ended at the big supermarket. And if you were lucky enough to be selected to accompany mum to push the trolley – thumbs up. But to be clear- you are literally just pushing the trolley. Don’t ever for one second think this entitles you to select items from the shelf to put to into the trolley because you will be greeted with the speechless stare communicating the  ‘have you lost your mind’ message;  the lecture- ‘So you have money?’ ‘You go to work?’ ‘Whose paying for this?’ (Word to the wise, it’s a rhetorical question DO NOT ANSWER!) ’. Or worse still- the lecture PLUS the walk of shame where you are made to take the item back to the exact place where you took it from. My mum has a shopping list and best believe we are not veering off course. She has accounted for every single penny and nothing over what she has put on that piece of paper is going into the trolley unless she authorises it.

If you weren’t lucky enough to be selected for the supermarket sweep it felt like an eternity of waiting at the set of chairs by the tills lumbered with the market shopping. Why? Because you know approaching early afternoon- it’s prime time for playing out with friends and you are ‘missing out’ (whatever that means). What seems like hours later but probably no more than one, mum would finally emerge at one of the checkouts.

But before you start getting excited, you are not home and dry yet because now comes the ‘packing’ issue. If your mum is anything like mine it’s never just straightforward packing- there is a strategy. My default position is to always help with packing because if you don’t you get in trouble, but as soon as you help for every bag you have arranged my mum is there rearranging- so why bother!?

Waiting for mum: How I felt when lumbered with the shopping

Waiting for mum: How I felt when lumbered with the shopping.

More often not, we would get a cab home or dad would come and collect us. But if my mum is feeling particularly thrifty and she doesn’t ‘think’ there is much to carry be prepared to walk it!
How many of you can relate? What is your favourite childhood memories of Saturday morning shopping with the family?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

‘Whose looking at you kid?’

“I’m surprised you knew how to find your way here”- the optician said as she issued me with a new pair of glasses. Apparently my prescription is so strong and eyesight so dire that it was a miracle I could see where I was going. I had been putting off getting my eyes retested for a few years now- 4  to be exact, despite being told that I needed to be seen every 2. But anyone who wears glasses and has the misfortune of needing Deirdre Barlow (God rest her soul) bottle top lenses knows how incredibly expensive going to the opticians can be; it can easily set you back a few hundred pounds and that’s without being extravagant.

This time however I couldn’t avoid the inevitable- I in my natural clumsiness managed to break into two one of the lenses on my last remaining pair of glasses by rolling over it with my chair whilst at work (don’t ask how that happened.). The need to get new glasses was more urgent than ever. Thankfully I had a voucher from my former employer which entitled me to £100 off a new pair of glasses, which needed to be redeemed before the end of 2014! And armed with a mission to be as frugal as possible I decided to see what else I could do to reduce costs. So I had a look online and noticed Specsavers had its usual 2 for 1 offer but were also offering £10 eye test for a limited period only.

All in all the total cost for my glasses were £200- which is phenomenal value including condensing the lenses which can be very expensive and two pairs of sturdy designer frames. And because of the £100 off voucher,  I only needed to pay £100 of my own money-result!

Blooming cheek: this came through my door... Packed full of discount but a few weeks too late!

Blooming cheek: this came through my door- packed full of discount but a few weeks too late!

There are other ways which you can reduce costs when getting a new pair of glasses:

  • Get your eyes tested in store but order your glasses online-this can save quite a bit of money.
  • Use your own frames- if you  happen to have your own stylish pair of frames lying around at home, all you have to do is pay for the cost of the lenses and getting them inserted-making potentially huge savings.
  • As mentioned,  check the benefits package at your place of employment. Even the most stingy of workplaces will have a benefits scheme which should include a discount towards eyewear especially if your work entails sitting in front of a computer screen for long periods of time.
  • Look online for vouchers, offers and discounts– Specsavers have them all the time but there are other opticians who do too -just keep your eyes open.

It was a relief to see clearly again and appreciate the finer details of things that would normally pass me by. But my new glasses also got me thinking of people in the developing world who can’t access eyecare so easily-either because of financial or geographical restrictions. Many end up blind without needing to. It can be so easy to take this for granted, so, keen to make use of my old glasses I searched for any organisations that recycled old glasses and came across Vision Aid Overseas (www.visionaidoverseas.org ). I will be sending my old glasses on in the hope that they will be reworked to give sight to someone else. Similarly I have also decided to donate some cash to them; there are a number of other charities such as Sightsavers (www.sightsavers.org)– who also do incredible work to save people’s eye sight in poor communities across the world. The point of me telling you this is not to guilt trip you into doing either but to be mindful. Next time you happen to get your eyes tested, why not consider blessing someone with the same gift of clear vision?


Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

‘I’m coming out’: confessions of a charity shop lover

I decided to write this blog because I am on a journey to live simply and resourcefully. The mantra I aim to live by is to ‘live simply so others can simply live’. My love of charity shops and reduced foods is a constant source of shame, embarrassment and laughter to my nearest and dearest which is just fine by me! In particular I wanted to talk about these things from the perspective of being a British born woman of Black (specifically West African) descent.

A few weeks ago I was talking with my mum and Grandma about my most recent purchase from a local charity shop. Both agreed that they loved the dress I bought and how fortunate I was to have come across such good quality for little cost. However in almost the same breath both immediately said ‘Don’t tell everyone where you go it from even if they ask you. You will be judged by it believe me. People will look at you through that lens and will look down on you for it.’

Now I have no intention of going round with a megaphone advertising where my dress came from, however their views challenged me and dare I say, are not uncommon within some parts of the ‘Black’ community (Disclaimer: this is not to say my relatives constitute the ‘Black’ community or whether there is such a thing as the ‘Black community’ is another discussion altogether).

I have had numerous conversations with close family and friends who have expressed similar opinions mainly of African and Caribbean heritage; shopping at charity shops equates to poverty, hardship and deprivation. Further still I am inclined to think this might be a generational issue with those from an older generation less likely to favour second-hand goods, out of choice, because of the stigma associated with itWhereas for relatively younger generations (not talking teens) the stigma is not so great; depending on what social circles you find yourself in- ‘vintage’ is quite the thing!

I remember as a child hearing one of my ‘aunties’ (aka one of my mum’s friend of Caribbean descent) that you must be careful about purchasing second-hand clothes because they might belong to dead people and their spirits might somehow be ‘attached’ to them. This put me off going to charity shops for YEARS because I was afraid of some sort of spiritual transference.

The truth is you don’t know where the clothes come from. You just have to hope for the best and trust that it comes from the ‘right source’ whatever that is. Things from charity shops might have once belonged to people who have passed on, but equally it might be from ordinary living folk like you and I who no longer need these items. How often have you bought something brand new and decided a few months later you don’t like or need it (and its too late to take back)? Or how often have you gone through phases and decided certain clothes no longer suit the look your going for? On occasion you may even find that items in charity shops are actually brand new surplus stock from major retailers; basically you just never know!

5 reasons why I love charity shops…

I love the idea of:

  • Making ‘ethical’ purchases i.e. knowing a good proportion of the money will go directly to a worthy cause
  • Being environmentally friendly– buying quality items second-hand means that I am less likely to buy easily disposable cheap clothing
  • Buying quality items for a fraction of the original price
  • Exploring and delving through these treasures to find a ‘hidden’ gem
  • Buying ‘unique’ items- charity shops is a great antidote to the latest high street trends

Stigma and superstition finally overcome, I am happy to ‘come out of the closet’ and confess I really like charity shops and am not ashamed of it!

Do you love charity shops if so why? If not why not? What has been your best buy from a charity shop? Why do think there is a stigma with charity shopping with some particular groups? Would love to hear from you!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,