RSS Feed

Getting the most out of your optimum 400 juicer

Although I am writing this article with the optimum 400 juicer in mind the tips can be used for any vertical upright juicer.

I recently purchased an optimum 400 juicer and overall I am really pleased with it.

image

However as with any new appliance I have had a few teething problems along the way. I have had a play around and found some good tips to get the most out of the juicer without any headache.

Disclaimer: None of these tips are endorsed by Optimum or Froothie and while there is no reason any of them would void the warranty if carried out as instructed, I cannot say this for sure and cannot take responsibility for any problems or damage caused by these tips.

Tip 1. Lubricate the gears.

Not sure if they are actually called gears but what I mean are the two interlocking metal parts, the convex one on the base unit of the juicer, the other being the concave or ‘innie’ bit on the auger itself. From day one I had problems getting the bowl and other parts off the base once I had finished juicing. The problem being that the auger was stuck firm. Pressing the reverse button for ages intermittently, and/or wedging a plastic knife or brush under the auger worked sometimes but on other occasions, no. One day I was almost in tears as nothing would budge…For two hours. I then realised the problem was most likely to be that with the heat of continued operation the two metal parts would expand slightly and stick together.

I decided to try a tiny smidgen of coconut oil, about a fingertip sized blob, on both metal parts before even starting juicing and see what happens. When I finished juicing the whole bowl lifted off immediately and with no trouble at all. Thinking it was a fluke I tried it again and, same result. The oil does melt in use so do take care to wipe any residues off the base unit when finished with juicing. I looked into it afterwards and found that some of the high end horizontal Masticating juicer brands do already advise lubricating the metal parts with coconut oil so maybe the vertical juicer manufacturers will twig and recommend this in the future?

Tip 2-Preparation Is Key

As with all slow juicers the fruit and veg needs to be chopped into small pieces and this is one thing that puts many people off slow juicing in the longer term. While nothing can make a slow juicer able to take whole fruit and veg there are ways of taking the pain out of the process.

Firstly wash all the fruit and veg with water and if not organic or if its a little extra dirty, or if the product has a wax coating then wash in a bowl or sinkful of lukewarm water with a drop of castille soap or Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds, rinse off and pat dry.

Secondly, have the right tools for the job. A decent chopping board, some sharp knives and a nice clear space go a long way. By ‘decent’ I don’t mean ‘expensive’. The cheapest ikea chopping boards and knives are more than adequate for many fruit and veg and the knives are particularly good for citrus fruit as they have a slightly serrated edge. I also like the metaltex knives which are sold in many supermarkets, and they are around a fiver, as these are better for hard root veg. Grab a nice big bowl, a standard sized mixing bowl or a medium sized pyrex dish are perfect if you want to make the full litre that the juice collection jug holds, to put your chopped fruit and veg in.

Thirdly, chop everything up really small, no bigger than 5cm long pieces. This seems tedious and long at first but the fruit and veg will feed through quicker, you’ll maximise the yield from the juice and there is less likelihood of everything jamming up. When you get more adept at chopping this step should take no more than 5 minutes which is not long at all really.

Tip 3 Mix up the order

I have read various things that have differing theories as to the best method to putting everything through a slow juicer. Some things say juice the green leafy or stringy stuff i.e. celery first it prevents excess pulp or foam and some say do it at the end as this will lessen the risk of the juicer getting jammed. I’ve played around a lot and what I have found is that it’s best to alternate between different types of produce throughout the juicing session. Also a piece of green leafy veg, or celery or orange is best followed by a piece of something hard, substantial and with no stringy or fibrous bits such as a bit of carrot, apple or beetroot. This helps to push the stringy, scant pulp you get with these fruits and veg through and stop everything clogging. It also results in minimal bits stuck to the auger and the bowl at the end which makes cleaning easier. If I have a particularly small lightweight piece of green veg I put it in the chute at the same time as a piece of carrot or similar. I’ve found the order in which things are juiced makes no noticeable difference to the amount of pulp produced, lettuce or sweet potato for example, will both produce quite a lot of pulp regardless. If the pulp isn’t your cup of tea then it’s easy to sieve it or just feed the finished juice back through the machine.

Tip 4-Wash Up Immediately! (And tips for washing)

As soon as you have finished juicing disassemble everything and wash up right away, decant the juice into glasses or flasks and empty the pulp into the bin or a container if planning to cook with it later. Washing up straight away makes things so much easier. For washing the juicer use warm, NOT hot, water and you can use a regular washing up liquid but please do not use antibacterial washing up liquid, because these can cause unseen damage to the structure of the hard type of plastic the bowl is made from and believe me one day it will just crack into two halves. It sounds crazy but I have lost several food processor bowls this way. Not all antibacterial washing up liquids are clearly labelled as such, so be careful!

I recommend using Dr Bronner’s Sal Suds to clean all parts of the juicer with, it is very gentle and doesn’t damage the plastics and metals at all but gets rid of all food residues and pigments and prevents limescale build up and water marks. It also removes fine hazing and scratches. It seems expensive but you only need a few drops each time and the results are well worth it.

You can use the grey brush provided to clean the juicer but I find this brush has two flaws, the pointy end is actually quite scratchy and even with care, can result in scratches to the plastic, secondly it has a real weak point where there is a hole near the end of the brush handle and mine broke into two pieces due to this. Froothie have offered to replace the brush for free as soon as they get some new stock in their UK warehouse but I thought until then I would look for an alternative. I decided to try the avent baby bottle brush and it’s great, although the head is much bigger it does get into the small crevices and the bristles are gentle enough so as not to scratch anything, but tough enough to remove all the pulp bits with ease. It also has what I can only describe as a knobbly bit on the end of the handle which is the perfect size for cleaning out crevices, especially the pulp chute, without scratching it.

When you’ve finished washing dry gently with soft kitchen roll or a soft tea towel and leave somewhere to dry off properly.

N.B. When cleaning the wiper blade attachment make sure to remove the silicone wiper blades every so often for cleaning thoroughly though it isn’t needed to do this every time. Bear in mind there’s a right way and a wrong way up for the wiper blades, when I first received my juicer one of the wiper blades had been put in upside down in the factory resulting in a loose fit. I just couldn’t figure out why one blade seemed kind of ‘flappy’. Eventually I worked it out. Also when putting the wiper blades back in pull them as taut as they will go, by pulling the top edges up to the tip edge of the attachment and the bottom edges down likewise, otherwise they will be ineffective and prone to damage too.

I hope my tips have helped and I hope to blog again about juicing, soon!

Advertisements

Bear Yo-Yos. Get 4 bags Free!

Bear Yo-Yos, which are a fruit roll snack with one roll providing one of your five-a-day have a coupon on their website for a free single pack.

 

Bear yo yos

 

Its a ‘safe’ coupon which are usually limited to 2 per computer. However for a change these are limited to FOUR per computer; so you get 4 packs for free. Don’t you just love a freebie, especially when you can get 4?

Disclosure: I am not being paid for this in any way I like bear yo-yos, found this on money saving expert and thought I would share.

Keeping those Coupons neat and ordered

Here in the UK; since there isn’t the long established culture of ‘extreme couponing’ as there is in the US we don’t really have products purpose designed for keeping your coupons in order. You can in some cases order coupon binders from the US and have them shipped here, but this can incur customs taxes not to mention the huge volume of items from the US that get lost in the post while winging their way over here. As I learned to my cost when I tried to order one from a company that seemed to be UK based but they were based in Florida. Getting my money refunded when it almost inevitably got lost in the post was a nightmare. There is also the question as to whether the big coupon binders with loads and loads of pockets are really appropriate to a British market because our coupons do tend to have very short expiry dates; typically anything between 1-4 weeks, so by the time you’ve made the effort of filing all your coupons in a binder they are probably expired already. Not cool.

So you can improvise! I like the improvised options so much now I don’t think I’d go for the big American coupon binder even if someone sent me one for free, erm no actually wouldn’t go that far any Americans who have one of those lying around are of course welcome to send it to me for free. But I certainly wouldn’t look to buy one again.

I have found a few solutions that work, depending on how many coupons you tend to print, your storage space, whether you need to keep your coupons out of the reach of dastardly children and so on. Try my ideas and whatever works for you is great. You can even combine different solutions, i.e. I tend to keep my coupons in ziploc bags at the moment but when I go out I take the ones I need that day in a coupon notebook (more on that later). All of these options cost no more than £5 in total, if you shop around.

Idea Number One-Ziploc Bags

A clear pencil case is a similar option to this one. You need the smaller size ziploc/sandwich bags. Mark each ziploc bag with the names of the supermarkets you most commonly visit and perhaps one for miscellanious items such as gift vouchers and gift cards that can be used in many different shops. You could also keep two bags for each shop, one with coupons you’re going to use immediately and another with those that can only be used in that shop but that you aren’t taking with you right now. Just place the coupons/vouchers/gift cards in the ziploc bag and close the zip, nice crisp clean storage for them. Store the bags folded flat in a nice box or you can be completely slovenly like me and just store them upright down the side of your t-shirts on a shelf in your wardrobe.

Pros of this method of storage:-

  • Cheap as chips.
  • Relatively easy to see coupons including their expiry dates.
  • Easily accessible.
  • Easy to put in your bag to take shopping.

Cons

  • It can be quite easy to miss the odd coupon here and there with this and by the time you find it, its expired.
  • Even in a ziploc bag, put something on top of the coupons in youre handbag and they will be looking the worse for wear.
  • Doesn’t feel that well organised for some people.

Idea Number Two-A5 ring binder

There were a lot of A5 ring binders about when I was young but they seemed to have gone AWOL from the shops in recent years; however a quick perusal of our ‘friends’ aka google and ebay tells me they are back and you can get plastic wallets for them and though not as easy to find, the paper dividers. An A5 pocket won’t be as ‘fitted’ as the special pockets they sell in the US but it will be much better than an A4 folder. You can arrange the coupons as you wish, by shop, category or any other filing system you think will suit.

Pros of this method of storage:-

  • Clear pockets make it very easy to see your coupons, you could even put only two coupons in each pocket (back to back) if you wanted.
  • Cheap, especially since most A5 binders and their assorted accessories are discount shop fodder. There are regularly job lots of them on ebay too for only a few quid.
  • An A5 binder isn’t exactly going to take up much storage room in your home, and its easy to take to the shops
  • If you’re creative you can jazz it and the dividers up.

Cons

  • Unlike the American ‘real deal’ your coupons are not secure in the pockets so theoretically could fall out and get lost. And uh that’s all I can think of.

Idea Number Three-Journal with pocket

In January a relative bought myself and my husband a blank lined hardbacked journal each as a gift; at first I have to admit I did kinda think ‘groan what am I going to use this for? I don’t even keep a journal’ but then I had a lightbulb moment and realised the potential for using this as a shopping list book with a coupon pocket, or a ‘coupon notebook’. The one I have has an expanding paper pocket inside the back cover and an elastic strap that fastens around the front cover to keep it secure. Other versions have a magnetic flap. Just don’t go for versions where the inside back pocket is horizontal and made like a small, stylised envelope, it won’t last 5 minutes and it won’t be large enough for most coupons.Prosper Art are one of the main manufacturers of these, but theirs tend to be expensive. There are however lesser well known brand alternatives and I’ve even seen them in £1 shops. You’re looking for something around A5 size if you want to be able to store most sizes and types of coupons without having to fold them.

Pros of this method of storage:-

  • Multipurpose, you can keep your coupons in the back and write what you’re going to get with them in the pages in the front.
  • Easy to put in your bag and completely protects your coupons from getting crumpled, damaged or lost
  • Looks attractive

Cons

  • Not a good sole method of storage if you have loads of coupons; one the pocket will not hold that many and two being an opaque pocket in the back of a book means there is more scope for coupons expiring without you realising.
  • Very large coupons will have to be folded
  • Having all the coupons in one pocket makes organising more tricky

Whichever method of storing your coupons you decide to use; if you’re taking them out with you make sure that your name and address is on or inside the bag/binder/book you’re storing them in, just in case you happen to lose them. From what I’ve heard most of the time, unlike with money, when people find coupons that have been dropped or lost they will return them. I will be posting up pics of my lovely green coupon book in the next few days InshaAllaah.

 

20120914-171647.jpg

20120914-171722.jpg

20120914-171807.jpg

20120914-172038.jpg

 

 

Tesco Goodness for kids range.

I recently joined the WOM* website bzzagent. I came across it while browsing profiles on facebook and one of my couponing aquaintances had links to bzzagent on her page, so I checked it out. It looked like exactly my cup of tea; fill out surveys, get to test products, review them and tell family and friends about them. Anyone who knows me will know that is right up my street. I am part of some other WOM sites but have never got a trial from them despite filling out everything really carefully and signing up for trials/campaigns the minute I got the email. Three or four days after joining bzzagent I got accepted for a campaign for Tesco Goodness for Kids, which is really exciting as I have four kids and getting them to eat healthy can be such a challenge! I have already tried a number of the goodness products such as the fromage frais and the small fruits and fruit bags but am really looking forward to us trying more, as it seems the range has expanded quite dramatically in the past few months.

The goodness for kids range is aimed at 5-10 year olds; its not meant to provide everything in the diet but to provide healthy choices and snacks. All of the products are low in salt, sugar, in child sized portions and some have added vitamins as well. It consists of fresh whole fruit, drinks, yoghurts and fromage frais, snacks (such as tortilla chips, bite sized cheese sticks and fruit bags), ice lollies and ready meals. Tesco have also started doing fish from the range on their fresh fish counter; these portions of fish are child sized and free from bones. In addition aside from a small handful of product,s the majority of them are suitable for vegetarians, which is fantastic for vegetarians and those who have halal diets, so many healthy ranges for kids consist of mainly meat products and thus there is hardly any choice for anyone who does not eat meat for whatever reason.

I was given money off coupons to buy some of the products; by bzzagent. I also purchased some products myself as my nearest Tesco extra strangely had quite a poor stock selection in this range so I had to choose alternatives.

I’m just going to summarise here, the items from the range that I thought were good and those that were not so good. (Hopefully I will post pics of some of the products in a few days).

The Good

  • The slurpers, kind of a cross between a smoothie and a baby fruit puree, in a pouch, were absolutely gorgeous. A bit expensive at £1.25 for 4 so not sure I’d buy them full price but overall a really nice product and a way to get fruit into fussy kids. The tropical flavour was the nicest. They are usually near the tinned fruit in most Tescos.
  • The yoghurts, they do several types and both types we have tried were lovely. Not too sweet (and even as an adult I cannot stand overly sweet yoghurts), and reasonably good value for money too.
  • The Cheesy Tortillas, these were really lovely and not bland as I was expecting. However one drawback is they absolutely, positively stink. Not one to take on a car journey!
  • The Fruit bags. Much cheaper than fruit bags from fast food joints and the fruit in them tastes a lot fresher. They aren’t something I’d buy all the time but as an occasional healthy treat they are a good choice.

The Bad

  • The goodness fish. This had to be bought from the fish counter and cost an absolute fortune, £7.50 for two not very generous pieces of haddock is just ridiculous. You can get frozen alaskan pollock for as little as £2.50 for a bag of 5 pieces of similar size to these and I have never found any bones in them. Will definitely not be buying again.
  • The Mini Mild Cheddar Sticks. A rip off at £1.50 for 6. These are so tiny and the quality and flavour of the cheese is not great. It would be easier to just buy some regular cheddar, cut into the same sized pieces and then wrap in a safe clingfilm. Would probably cost 50-60p for this quantity.
  • The 6-pack of 330ml water. Currently non-existent in ALL Tesco stores around here, there isn’t even a label on the shelf to suggest they are out of stock, so none of my friends could use their money off coupons I gave them.

 

Disclosure: I was been given money off coupons to buy some products from the range at a substantial discount and I am a bzzagent. However I did buy products I didn’t have a discount on because the kids have expressed an interest and they looked nice and I do my utmost to give my impartial opinion on any products I buy.

*WOM=word of mouth marketing, yes I know it should really be WOMM but I didn’t invent the acronym.

Differences between couponing in the US and UK?

A lot of people wonder what the main differences between using coupons in the US and UK are and why we in the UK cannot achieve the 90% discounts seen on US  TV shows such as Extreme Couponing. There are a number of reasons for this and a number of differences which I will explain here.

Firstly the show ‘Extreme Couponing’ like most reality shows; the people are real but what is played out may not necessarily be so. In the US the legislation against faked scenes in ‘real’ TV programmes is far less strict than here and programme  producers do take advantage of this. So many of the checkouts on extreme couponing are set up with stores allowing use of coupons that have expired or would no ordinarily be able to be used as they are being used against the terms and conditions. Some store chains in the US have realised that any publicity is not always good publicity and have refused to take part in the most recent series of the programme. Also, recently it has come to light that Extreme Couponing have gone one step further and many of those appearing on the show have used known counterfeits something which the production company does not seem to care about. See here and here (the second blog has several examples of the fakes used with screencaps). Please do not take Extreme Couponing as an example of what we’re missing out on.

Now as for differences between US and UK coupons and couponing.

  • Most US coupons come from newspaper inserts (adverts basically) and the majority of UK coupons are internet printables, either PDFs or so-called smart coupons that are individual to a particular person. There are a growing number of internet printables in the US though and likewise in the UK there are a growing number of coupons in newspapers, supermarket newsletters/magazines and sent through the post. There’s a lot of geographic variation in both countries, for example in some areas of the US there are very few coupons in the newspapers so people have to rely on printables and ‘catalinas’ (the coupons ‘spat out’ by the supermarket till after paying). In some areas of the UK you regularly get coupons for money off brands such as Andrex through your door; but in London I have never got anything of this nature.
  • US coupons are not only for money off, many are for offers such as buy one get one free; get x products for y amount of money, and so on. While more than one coupon can be used on a product in the US its usually the case that this means a money off coupon in combination with say for example a buy one get one free coupon. In the UK such special offers are already on the shelf and so we don’t tend to require the non-money off type of coupon.
  • Many US coupons are for ‘x amount off when you buy 3 or 4’ of a product, this is very rarely the case in the UK, where coupons tend to be for money off a single item or pack.
  • In some states of the US, and in some stores, the store will double or even triple coupons though the value of these doubled/tripled coupons will rarely exceed $1. This isn’t everywhere over there and some states have no stores that double at all. On the other hand in the UK our coupons tend to be higher value, with the majority of coupons actually being for £1 or more off anyway so we don’t really need the doubling policy.
  • In some areas of the US the store will give a ‘raincheck’ if a product you have a coupon for is out of stock or is not on offer before the coupon will expire. A raincheck is basically a coupon for the same value that can be used another time. We do not have rainchecks here in the UK.
  • Its a myth that in the US you can use a coupon for the wrong size or type of product, this is actually illegal. It is illegal in the UK also, so don’t do it!
  • In the US there are very few PDF coupons, PDF coupons are printable coupons in PDF format that are (usually) unlimited print and have a non-personal barcode that is identical on every one, in addition they tend to be long dated though the expiry date has gone from an average of 18 months a year or so ago to 1-2 months now.  In the US when there are such coupons available they are very rarely for groceries; but are more commonly for restaurants and theatres, there are also very strict conditions as to their use in the US and from what I’ve read in many cases it is illegal to print out more than one even though it would be hard for the company issuing the coupon to trace this. Another difference is when an online newspaper or newsletter contains a coupon, in the UK it is almost always ok to print this out and use it like a coupon cut out of the real life version of the newspaper or newsletter as the manufacturers expect this; in the US this is not allowed as the manufacturers do not give their permission for this to happen.
  • There are actually stricter limits on the number of any particular coupon allowed to be used per customer or per transaction in the US than here and the rules over there are getting stricter due to widespread coupon misuse. Over here some ASDA stores cannot process more than 8 or 10 coupons due to the till system, and some Sainsbury’s and tescos cannot process more than one of a particular couponstar coupon in one transaction even if the personalised barcodes are unique, its just a software restriction. Aside from that despite what people think if you have 100 of a coupon which you have obtained legitimately, you are allowed to use them if you have bought 100 of the item.
  • Despite what it looks like on Extreme Couponing; there are very few free item coupons distributed to the general public in the US. It is almost unheard of for free item coupons to be released on facebook or on the websites of companies like they are in the UK. The free item coupons shown on Extreme Couponing are almost invariably being misused and are often counterfeits too.
  • Counterfeit coupons are so rife in the US that special websites have been set up to let the public be aware of them, such as this one. In the UK they are extremely rare and to date only a tiny handful of counterfeits of this nature have surfaced and none have ever made their way into mainstream distribution. However in the UK there is a big problem of people scanning and reprinting manufacturer coupons that are sent through the post, such as those issued in response to a compliment or complaint letter. These coupons are not intended for this. People then sell the copies of these on ebay and ebay do not really take action about this when reported. I will be writing another post about these coupons and why you should not buy them, in the near future.

So there you have it, just a few of the differences between coupons and couponing in the two countries!

UPDATE OCTOBER 2012: According to CPG Matters, a retail industry magazine in the US; it seems that doubled coupons in the US are on their way out for good, as stores lean more towards loyalty card and internet based offers.

Welcome to my blog!

I have been thinking of starting a blog for a while now. I am a Muslim ‘mom’ of four kids, and love to save money on what I do buy, and avoid buying what we don’t need at the same time. No point getting 50 coupons for something you don’t actually need. The average family in the UK waste around £500 on food they throw away, each year I am glad to say, we don’t even waste £10 worth of food. However it has taken many years for us to get to this point. I want to help others get to the same place.