D’you remember the days when you used to go out to go shopping? When you’d wander up and down the high street hunting for That Thing, spotting something almost-right in five different shops and nearly always reversing back to the very first one you saw to buy it? And that was it – whatever your high street had to offer was what you bought. Of course, there was the exciting advent of the Out Of Town shopping centres which sprung up on the late 80s… (hello teenage years spent wandering the halls of Bluewater… do you know Bluewater? https://bluewater.co.uk/ EVERY Essex girl of the 80s spent every Saturday there, if they could rope a parent into driving them… ). But I soon became aware that too much choice was a debilitating thing to my teenage brain. When faced with an endless array of shops I nearly always came home with nothing (except a lack of hunger; somehow, too much choice in the food hall was never problematic for me…)
And then online shopping happened – and ye gods it’s tough now. You can’t click ‘buy’ on anything without checking 12 other websites, a generic Google search, an impartial advice site, a coupon code search and then enjoy a dither with it in your basket for a couple of days in case a new offer/better product pings into your inbox.
And I know I’m not alone – according to a recent report featured in Digital Doughnut (I know, I read the weirdest stuff for my job)
“…42% of customers abandoned online shopping transactions because they felt there was too much choice.”Humanizing Digital 2020, a consumer report compiled by Digital Advice technology provider SMARTASSISTANT
We’re simply overwhelmed by the amount of choice at our fingertips – and instead of spending more we’re frozen into inactivity, and end up not spending at all.
What we’re all craving is a little guidance. A little reassurance that yes, this is a good purchase. This thing will definitely do the job, look pretty, work well.
We’ve all started checking sites like Which? for impartial buying advice. Sites like HomewareInsider (https://homewareinsider.co.uk/) for brutally honest reviews for popular products. And TrustPilot to check the veracity of the random shops we’re buying from on t’interwebs.
But we also all just like a personal recommendation. A real person we know and trust who’ll say ‘yep – this one’s a good’un’. So here’s my personal top best buys from Amazon over last 12mths – a bunch of (admittedly totally very random) stuff which I can definitely say, hand on heart, from personal experience ‘YES! this is properly ACE!”
(I’ve not included the books and movies – this is just the other random stuff.)
This post contains affiliate links – you don’t pay any more, but I may earn a teensy smidge of commission (which frankly just helps my coffee habit). But I never recommend something to you I wouldn’t recommend to my sister. And yes, I do love my sister.
1 – The very best piping bags
Last year I bought Mr LittleStuff a professional French patisserie cookery course for his birthday (SUCH a great idea, it was amazing and he loved it; if you’re interested it was at the WhitePepper Cookery School in Dorset). While there he was recommended these Piping Bags from Lakeland – he told me, I bought some, and I’ve been blown away with them ever since. They’re just designed perfectly by someone who clearly uses a piping bag regularly. They’re big enough to cover your hand while you fill, they don’t slip, they don’t split and they’re sturdy enough to rinse and use again. You buy a roll of 50, but I think I’ve only actually used about 5 so far.
And if you’re wondering why I bought them on Amazon not Lakeland, it’s because if you have Prime they work out £1 cheaper than buying direct and paying for postage!
50 x Lakeland ‘Get a Grip’ Disposable Piping Bags on a Roll – £12
2 – The Stemless Wine Glasses
We actually got a pair of these free with a wine offer – and loved them so much that I went ahead and bought a whole set. I’m a total convert to the stemless wine glass – I haven’t clattered a single glass over since I started taking the safer stemless option – and they sit sturdily in grass when you’re drinking otuside in the summer too!
Being Dartington crystal they are a delight to drink from, with a perfect curve on the rim and a heavily-bottomed dimple base. When we have friends over they exclaim over these glasses more than they ever have over our (far more expensive) standard wine glasses – these are under £15 for FOUR! – and always ask where they can get some.
So here they are – oh, and they’re just as good for gin!
Dartington Crystal Stemless Tumbler £15
3. The Workout Leggings
I have become a leeetle bit boring on the subject of these IUGA yoga pants.
But I can’t help it. They’re just. Bloody. Brillliant.
The fabric is thick enough to not become see-through no matter how much you squat, stretch, or strain them over a curvier arse. The high waist never rolls down, and provides enough tummy support for those of us with runner’s wobble. The pockets are big enough to actually hold your phone.
They’re long enough even for my long legs – and they come in a cropped 3/4 length version too.
(Don’t just take my word for it, there’s over 11,000 5* reviews on Amazon.) They don’t have a wild array of funky fabrics – but to be honest when they just work, you don’t mind that they’re a simple solid colour. They’re just my failsafe go-to active wear, and I never wear anything else.
Oh and did I mention? Depending on your colour they can be nabbed for UNDER £20.
Holy moly you need some.
IUGA Yoga Pants with Pockets from £20.
4. The Washbag
16yr old needed a washbag for Army selection weekend (no, he didn’t get on the train. It’s a long story…). He needed it to be practical, large enough without being too large, and also respectably adult. The need for the washbag coincided with a loo-o-ong list of sudden needs, and I’ll be honest; I was hunting for a bargain.
When I saw this little item pop up on my Amazon search I thought it was worth a punt at under £6.50 (yes really)… After all, if it was entirely rubbish, it would still last him the 3 day weekend.
Honestly? It’s brilliant.
He uses it all the time, and his two older brothers have also bought one for themselves. And you’d never guess it was so cheap, it’s so nicely pout together!
WILLWELL SPORT Toiletry Travel Wash Bag £6.45
5. The No-Spill Dog’s Water Bowl
Okay, I’m cheating a bit on this one. We lost our beloved girl a couple of years ago – but not only did we personally swear by this travel bowl for the car ourselves, this is by far and away the top selling item I’ve linked to for years.
It’s just so good for when you’re on the move.
Firstly it’s a proper rigid bowl, not one of those collapsible ones which is a pain to use for more than a minute or so while you’re holding it. Secondly it really, genuinely, won’t spill – we used ours when we did long road trips across France and Italy and it never spilt a drop. It has a velcro base which will neatly grip the carpet in your car boot, and a clever system of interior levels which mean your dog can always drink, but you’ll never have water splashed. It’s an essential for any dog owner, frankly.
Road Refresher Prestige Non Spill Pet Water Bowl, £11
6. The Daysack
If you like a long walk, then you’ll know a perfect daysack is hard to come by. They need to big enough to carry all your day’s essentials (especially at this time of year when you need all the waterproofs and the essential flask of coffee), but not so big that you’re hefting a massive weight around just for a day’s hike.
I had this 40L Ventura rucksack on review from Mountain Warehouse last Autumn. I have walked 200 miles with it over the last few months, and can honestly say I was impressed with it at the £85 price point. It’s now reduced to £35 – which is utterly nonsensical, and needs snapping up NOW.
This rucksack is so well designed – it’s literally a full size rucksack made smaller. The solidity and padding is equivalent to that of an expedition rucksack twice the size, there’s the hydration pouch for your bladder, numerous pockets, a waiststrap pocket big enough for your phone, a waterproof raincover… I can see a few Amazon reviews complaining about poor build quality but I can only say that mine is great, and doesn’t show a sign of wear despite months of use.
Mountain Warehouse Ventura 40L Rucksack £35
7. The Jumper Dress
I love this dress. Tunic. Jumper? Whatever. It’s ace over skinny jeans & leggings. It comes in loads of colours, is super-comfortable, is long but not too thick… I mean, what’s not to love, really?
I’m aiming for a striped one next – and the scoop-bottomed ones too, except they don’t look like they have pockets which is a bit of a deal breaker. You noticed it has pockets, right?
Also, it’s only £17 to begin with – and I’m being offered a 20% discount applied at the basket, so if that’s universal (I have no idea how the Amazon code things work) then it makes it under £14!
Kenoce Women’s Jumper Tunic £17
8. The Solar Foldable Camping Light
There’re a lot of this type of light around, and I took the plunge last summer when we decided to go camping (for the first time in about ten years…). This light is amazing! It’s waterproof, drop-proof (well, you might drop it, but it won’t break if you do!), it closes up to a really small size perfect for a backpack, but the lantern is super-bright and definitely good enough to read by. It’s solar charging, so you’ll never run out of battery in the middle of a trip, and it can be used as a solar-powered charging bank for your phone too.
The Solar Camping Foldable Ultra Bright LED Lantern, £13
9. The Hair Wax
If you have a teen boy you’ll be more intimately acquainted with hair wax than you ever thought possible. With three of them in the house, I’ve become something of an in-house expert.
And this one – this tops every boy’s list.
Firstly, it is a most excellent product – the cream styling wax simply does its job really well, and you only need a very small amount. You can create a really strong hold (though not rigid, you can restyle thorugh the day if required), and it’s easy to warm and spread.
Secondly, it’s sulfate, paraben and phthalates free, and it’s not tested on animals.
Lastly, the packaging is eco-friendly and the smell is gorgeous. Seriously, this stuff is incredible.
It’s not cheap – but you need so little that I buy a lot less often, and overall I’m pretty sure I save money when they’re using Da Wax.
10. The Travel Tech Organiser
It’s a modern problem – but whenever we travel, we all take more and more kit. And with every bit of kit there’s the chargers, the cables (ye gods, the cables), the memory cards, the power bank, the USB sticks… We actually bought this for our super-traveller 21yr old. He’s a gear snob, but travels a lot for work, and always needs something to help him be organised. He’s a pro-packer – he fell in love with packing cubes a few years back and never travels without them – but he’s always looking for a solution to his bundle-of-wires problem.
I saw this, and thought it was worth a try as a small Christmas gift.
He loves it, and actually uses it all the time, not just when he’s travelling.
All the pockets, sections, elastic loops and protective pouches he needs to keep everything organised, separated and on hand.
Travel Tech Cable Organiser Case, £15.
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