5 inexpensive buys to take your shared kitchen from drab to fab

1. Windowsill Herb Box

How many times in the last month have you found yourself mid-marinade, wishing you’d remembered to pick up some basil from Tesco earlier? Cry no more, my friend. A windowsill herb planter will soothe all herbal culinary woes, with no need for a garden, trowel or previous plant-growing expertise – and it’ll make every grimy kitchen look (and smell) better straight away. Snap one up for as little as £9.99 on Amazon (complete with compost, basil, chive and parsley seed packets) and get growing. Flatmates shall be bowled over, bolognese shall taste better, and visitors shall mistake you for a proper adult.

2. Cloud-shaped Chalkboard

There’s SO many things to love about the good old fashioned chalkboard. Not only does it conjure endless classroom nostalgia, it also serves as a great canvas for scribbling important notes to your flatmates. You know, things like the all-important cleaning rota, whose turn it is to buy milk, or passive aggressive (read: threatening) messages to the suspected biscuit thief. This one is cloud-shaped and comes in at under £20, leaving you plenty of pennies to stock up on an array of coloured chalks.

3. Pineapple Bottle Stop

Bid a smug farewell to the days of leaving random spoons in the top of your prosecco to keep it fizzy in the fridge (thanks for the tip though, Mum). This chic £12 pineapple bottle stop is here to keep those rare unfinished beverages fresh, flavoursome and at their strongest ABV. It’s simultaneously also pretty cute and stylish enough to incite envious conversation amongst dinner guests. Which is a great distraction from a less than brilliant choice of wine.

4. Panini maker

Everybody knows there’s nothing quite like the heartwarming smell of gently toasting bread, and nothing quite like the taste of gooey melted mozzarella. Enter the (£20) panini maker. Flatmates will be wooed by your freshly toasted sandwiches (they make great bribes/peace offerings) and just think of all the cash you’ll save without the need for those lunchtime Pret visits and dodgy meal deals. Better still, you can garnish your creations using those freshly grown windowsill box herbs. Winner, winner.

5. A kitchen garden

Because let’s face it, reasonably priced rented accommodation with a garden = SERIOUSLY rare, particularly if you’re living in the city. But not to worry, because there’s always Patch – purveyors of the uber-cheap urban plant. There’s kitchen plants galore for both well-lit and dimly-lit spaces, plus a selection of minimalist cool pots to keep them in. We’re hankering after Franky the aloe vera plant and his air-purifying, skin-soothing powers. Is there anything Franky can’t do?

Buying these is great and all, but how about if you didn’t pay rent for a month? Then you could buy all of these and more…SO much more. Well, it could happen sooner than you think – enter our Live Rent Free competition, where we pay someone’s rent EVERY month.

We’ve found this year’s LiveRentFree top dog…

A 25-piece samba band, four SpareRoomers in dog fancy dress and a giant cheque for £6,708. It’s the stuff dreams are made of, right?

Or at least it was for 29-year-old Nicola Bodfish, a Brighton-based canine-grooming enthusiast and the latest winner of our annual LiveRentFree competition.

But let’s paws (sorry) and go back to the start. In May, we invited renters to share their dreams of how they’d spend a year’s free rent. Over 80,000 entries (and a LOT of hilarious responses) later, we found our winner Nicola, whose dream was quitting her job to start a dog grooming business.

Such an insane prize deserved an equally insane reveal, so we decided to surprise Nicola on Saturday 1st July, while she was (aptly) studying at The Dog Hut Canine Studies college in Polegate. Our squad included a samba band, four SpareRoomers dressed as giant dogs, a banner with Nicola’s name plastered across it, and a HUGE cheque for £6,708 (a year of her rent) hand-delivered by Rupert, our CEO and Founder.

Her reaction? Worryingly cool, calm and collected on camera, but overall as chuffed as you’d expect: “Saturday was absolutely crazy. I really can’t thank you guys enough for such an awesome surprise – you don’t know how much this will help me progress the business plans. I don’t think it’s even sunk in yet!”

Keep your eyes peeled for Sussex-based canine updates, and in the meantime why not have a think about what you’d do with a month’s free rent? Our monthly LiveRentFree competition could make it happen sooner than you think…