The sun is (often) out, the tinnies are on ice and it is time to get grilling! Barbecues are the best way to get all your mates together for some al fresco entertaining, but they’re not cheap once you’ve been to the butcher, made all the sides, lugged home the bottles and cans and remembered the charcoal.

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We asked the king of grilling, blogger Mike Lang of Another Pint Please and Chef Michael Symon for some tips for creating the perfect budget barbecue.

Mike advises: “With grilling, much like anything in life, sometimes less is more. So often everyone is looking for the next big thing. How do we make something ‘better?’ How do we ‘take it up a notch?’ How do we ‘elevate our game?’ Here’s a crazy idea, how about we concentrate on the basics? How about we savour simplicity?” Wise words, Mike.

Look after your kit

Too often we buy a barbecue, forget to clean it then leave it out in the rain to go rusty over the winter. Then we have to buy another one and it adds to the expense. Even the cheapest DIY store barbecue will last for years if you clean it, get rid of the ashes and oil the grill before and after you use it. And stick it in the shed in October.

Learn to use your grill properly

Nothing screams ‘Grilling noob!’ like a charred sausage or hockey puck burger. Before you host your barbecue, make sure you’re competent in barbecue cooking so you avoid cremating food. Don’t use too much charcoal, and wait for the coals to glow red, with a light grey dust coating. You can also learn to use your barbecue as an oven for long, slow cooking, especially if it has a thermometer. The only equipment you’ll need is a decent pair of tongs.

Daniel Truta / EyeEm via Getty Images

Avoid cheap meats

You really don’t have to stoop to the cheapest sausages and burgers to barbecue on a budget. More unusual, less expensive cuts of meat, such as flat iron or Denver steaks, marinated chicken thighs, lamb ribs, calves’ liver and oily fish – mackerel, salmon and tuna – all taste great grilled quickly outdoors. With a selection of imaginative sides, a little goes a long way.

Make your barbecue a potluck

Nobody minds bringing a bottle and something to stick on the grill, be it a packet of sausages or Auntie Doreen’s famous jerk pork, so ask. In fact, you’ll probably end up with too much food, which means lots of yummy leftovers. Order a keg of beer, throw together some imaginative salads with garlic and cheese breads and wait to see what turns up.

Concentrate on the main event

You could go for a single, slow-cooked joint of meat, rather than lots of smaller pieces, and ask guests just to bring sides. Chef Michael advises: “Making the main item and then giving your friends a list of things to bring is gonna save you a ton of money and get everybody involved; just make sure that you tell them what to bring so you don’t end up with 25 potato salads.”

If you do your budget barbecue this way, you could slow grill a cheaper cut of meat, such as pork shoulder or beef brisket, and produce an ample, show-stopping succulent feast to go with your guests’ delicious accompaniments.

Ramiro Olaciregui via Getty Images

BBQ Pizza? Yes you can!

Pizzas are always a great budget standby, and you can make them on the barbecue. Mike says: “I love to set up a grilled pizza bar. Guests can work the toppings and you can manage the grill.” Make up a set quantity of pizza dough, roll out into rounds and slap on the grill until they puff up. Top with the usual toppings and put them back on the grill with the lid down until they are bubbling. Great for vegetarians, who tend to get a little sidelined at traditional barbecues.

Don’t forget the veg

Vegetables take on new, sophisticated textures and flavours that belie their budget origins when they’re grilled – the Italians are maestros of this. Finely slice seasonal courgettes, peppers, onions, chicory, radicchio and asparagus, brush with oil and grill until softened and slightly charred. Sprinkle with balsamic vinegar. You can also grill sweetcorn and carrots – just boil them for 5-6 minutes before lightly charring them on the grill.

And finally… switch on the dishwasher

Nothing cheapens a budget barbecue like a soggy paper plate and plastic cutlery. For the sake of a couple of dishwasher loads (cheaper to run than disposables cost), use real plates, knives and forks. Or invest in some funky melamine tableware (pack it away with your clean barbecue in October) for years of sophisticated outdoor entertaining.

And, as Mike concludes: “As much as we love to entertain, it takes the help of friends to really pull off a party.” And you can’t put a price on that.

RJ Mitte, best known for playing Walt Jr. in the hit show Breaking Bad, has just taken on a new role…

Modelling Vivienne Westwood’s spring/summer 16 collection at Milan Fashion Week, where he opened and closed the menswear fashion show last night.

Surprised? Don’t be. Mitte is signed with top agency Elite Models and made his modelling debut in a Gap ad last year.

By the looks of things, he’s taking his career in a whole new direction. Hopefully the modelling will last longer than his short stint as a Breaking Bad themed DJ…

Freakshakes, aka the mutant over-flowing milkshakes you may have seen taking over Instagram, are nothing new. But, until recently, they’ve only been enjoyed by those who eat, well, milk.

Now, a London-based cafe is catering to the dairy-free crowd, with the announcement of the first vegan freakshakes.

Behold.

JO CUMMINS

Raspberry and coconut freakshake with raw beetroot cakes

The mouth-watering concoctions come in one of two varieties: raspberry, coconut and raw beetroot cakes, or avocado, chocolate and raw matcha cake.

They are completely dairy-free and gluten-free, and many of the ingredients are also sugar-free and raw. What’s not to love?

JO CUMMINS

Avocado and chocolate freakshake with raw matcha cake

The freakshakes will be served at London’s first ‘happy cafe’, The Canvas Cafe, from Tuesday 31 May.

According to the press release, the talented chefs have also made vegan meringue, using ‘aquafaba’, or the juice from a can of chickpeas. “Don’t worry, it’s delicious when whipped with vanilla, maple syrup and paired with chocolate milkshake and a gluten-free, vegan brownie!” they assure.

For anyone wondering how on earth you make milkshakes without milk,o wner of The Canvas Cafe, Ruth Rogers told The Huffington Post UK: ” Our cook Maria makes homemade ice cream with coconut milk and either avocados, raspberries or vegan cocoa, which she then blends with soya milk to create a thick, creamy milkshake that forms the base of our freakshakes.”

The vegan freakshakes launch this Sunday, as part of an exclusive launch event with Yelp, the online urban guide and app, in Shoreditch. The rest of you will have to wait until Tuesday.

One in five meat-eaters think vegetarianism is “just a phase”, a new survey has revealed.

The study set out to reveal what meat-eating Britons think about their vegetarian counterparts and vice-versa.

It found that 21% of meat-eaters think vegetarianism is a phase in a person’s life.

Surprisingly, it also revealed that 39% of vegetarians admitted they are unlikely to stick to a vegetarian diet for the rest of their life.

The survey of 2,316 adults (half of which ate meat and half of which identified as vegetarian) found that meat-eaters shared some pretty strong opinions on vegetarianism.

Almost one third of meat-eaters (29%) said that vegetarians are “starving themselves of vital nutrients”, while more than one quarter (26%) said that “going without meat is unnatural for the human body”.

The survey, which was conducted by Voucher Cloud, found that almost one fifth of meat-eaters had tried to become vegetarian once in their lives.

Most had reverted back to eating meat because they either “didn’t like vegetarian substitutes as much as real meat”, “craved meat all the time” or they felt the “physical effects of not eating meat” such as lack of energy and tiredness.

Of those who stated they were vegetarian, 78% said they had previously been meat-eaters.

When asked why they had become vegetarian, the most common response was that they didn’t “believe in killing animals for meat” with a few others mentioning that they didn’t like the taste of meat.

Just over one quarter of respondents (26%) said they thought that meat-eating was “barbaric”, while the vast majority agreed that it is “unsustainable” (71%).

Four out of five vegetarian respondents (79%) also stated that “eating meat is unhealthy”. A further 11% felt that eating meat is “bad karma”.

When all vegetarian respondents were asked if they were likely to stick to a vegetarian diet for the rest of their lives, 61% agreed that they would. Meanwhile 39% said they were unlikely to be vegetarians forever.

The survey echoes a US-based study which found that 84% of vegetarians and vegans eventually go back to eating meat.

More than half of veggies went back to meat-eating in one year’s time, while 30% reverted to old eating habits within three months.

The study’s authors, from animal advocacy group Humane Research Council and Harris International, labelled the findings as “disappointing” and blamed lack of social support and lack of vegetarian-themed group activities as the main reasons for vegetarians lapsing.

When we’re constantly working, it’s easy to forget the important things in life.

Physical and emotional wellbeing are all too often an afterthought – even Michelle Obama has said all she wants for Christmas is a little more sleep.

Earlier this year, The Huffington Post’s founder Arianna Huffington released her book ‘Thrive’, which explores how we can re-define success so that wellbeing, wisdom and wonder become the top priority.

Mindfulness and meditation have become more and popular in recent years, suggesting many others agree it’s time for change.

In 2012 the Bank of England began offering meditation and wellbeing sessions. In 2013 celebrities like Emma Watson and Davina McCall showed their support for mindfulness.

Now we bring you the high profile people who embraced everything Thrive stands for in 2014, from Richard Branson’s insane (but fabulous) staff holiday policy to actress Naomie Harris’ sleep habits.

We hope The First Lady gets her Christmas wish and makes it onto our list for 2015.

Aldi has become the latest supermarket to pay above the government’s National Living Wage, raising staff wages to £8.40 an hour.

The discount chain supermarket will increase wages for all UK employees from next February, with workers in London receiving £9.45 an hour in London.

It was announced on Monday that Aldi will be the latest retailer to raise staff’s wages above the living wage – topping offers from competitors Lidl and Morrisons, who guaranteed last month to raise staff wages to £8.20.

Aldi becomes the latest supermarket to pay staff more than the Living Wage

The company said it already pays all its store assistants at least £8.15 an hour and more than £9 per hour on average.

Matthew Barnes, Aldi UK and Ireland CEO, said: “Just as Aldi won’t be beaten on the low prices of our products, we are also committed to offering the best pay and benefits in the industry.

“The success of Aldi in the UK and Ireland has been driven by the commitment, hard work and ambition of our employees and we will continue to maintain our leading position on pay.”

The “bold” move has been welcomed by Living Wage Foundation.

Sarah Vero, director, Living Wage Foundation said: “We welcome the fantastic news that Aldi is set to raise its hourly wages to rates far above the national minimum and the premium for over 25s.

“Their bold move demonstrates that paying the Living Wage in retail is achievable; despite other major supermarket chains telling campaigners that higher wages for the lowest paid are simply not possible. The economic climate has shifted. It’s time for business to recognise we need a recovery for all.

“We are working with Aldi to encourage them to accredit as a Living Wage employer, which would ensure all directly employed staff as well as sub-contracted staff working on their premises, are paid at least the Living Wage, and in the capital, the higher London Living Wage.

“70% of people report that they would choose to shop in a Living Wage accredited retail chain, and over 85% of people think businesses that can, should pay the rate.

“We hope that this trend of increasing pay rates on the high street will continue and consumers can make meaningful Living Wage choices at the check-outs.”

Aldi opened its 600th store in the UK earlier this month, in Cardiff.

About 5,000 staff will get a pay rise as a result of the announcement, out of 28,000 in the supermarket’s UK workforce.

In this year’s summer budget, George Osborne announced the new minimum wage, which is set to be £7.20 an hour from April 2016 for people aged over 25.

The wage is set to increase to £9 by 2020.

Aldi joins supermarket chains, Lidl and Morrisons, who announced last month that they will also pay their staff in excess of the National Living Wage.

Lidl will pay a minimum of £8.20 an hour in England, Wales and Scotland, rising to £9.35 an hour in London from October.

Lidl’s increase will be an average wage increase of £1,200 per year.

From March, Morrisons will pay 90,000 shop floor staff £8.20 an hour, a significant rise from the previous wage of £6.83 for shop workers.

In London that could go up to an hourly rate of £8.95.

Reactions from retailers to the new wage has been varied. While businesses such as Morrisons, Lidl and Ikea have embraced Osborne’s announcement, others have focussed on the effect it could have on customers.

In September, Greggs bakery warned that they might have to increase the prices of its pasties and sausage rolls due to the new living wage.

The popular chain, which has 1,668 outlets across the UK, said that the new wage could have an impact on how much the business charges customers in the future, although further details have not yet been released.

An estate agent has taken to Facebook to offer 20 empty homes to homeless ex-service personnel in a bid to get them off the streets and help them turn their lives around.

Paul Banning, owner of Tyneside-based Belle Vue Estates, shared his random act of kindness on his personal page on Wednesday, where it’s since been shared almost 60,000 times.

“Somebody put a post on Facebook of an ex-serviceman with a blanket over them and I just thought; ‘This isn’t right’,” Banning told Chronicle Live.

“We have got plenty of empty properties on our books that aren’t being taken on. I just can’t see the point of us having empty properties when these guys are on the streets.”

Banning intends to give the homeless ex-veterans the keys and rent free of charge and to help them apply for housing benefits. He hopes that in doing this, they will continue to rent once they’re back on their feet.

He said: “I just thought I need to do something about this. We want to help them start again. If they are on the streets they won’t have an address and won’t be able to apply for jobs.”

Belle Vue said that they have been “inundated with requests” since Banning’s post went viral.

It is unsure whether Banning owns the empty properties that he is offering, or if he has permission from the owners.

Huffington Post UK have reached out to Belle Vue Estates for comment.

Christopher Nolan is famous for creating films with technology at their core, so it might come as a surprise to learn that he doesn’t actually rely on the latest new gadgets in real-life.

While his movies, including ‘Interstellar’, explore topics such as black holes, space exploration and technological developments, Christopher’s day-to-day life couldn’t be more different.

Christopher Nolan

During a chat with the Hollywood Reporter, Christopher admits that he owns neither an email address or mobile phone, explaining: “Well, I’ve never used email because I don’t find it would help me with anything I’m doing.

I just couldn’t be bothered about it.”

“As far as the cellphone goes, it’s like that whole thing about ‘in New York City, you’re never more than two feet from a rat’ — I’m never two feet from a cellphone,” he continues. “I mean, we’ll be on a scout with 10 people and all of them have phones, so it’s very easy to get in touch with me when people need to.

“When I started in this business, not many people had cellphones, I didn’t have one, I never bothered to get one and I’ve been very fortunate to be working continuously, so there’s always someone around me who can tap me on the shoulder and hand me a phone if they need to.

“I actually really like not having one because it gives me time to think. You know, when you have a smartphone and you have 10 minutes to spare, you go on it and you start looking at stuff.”

Christopher’s latest movie ‘Interstellar’ was a huge hit with film fans and critics alike.

The film has also scored a number of award nominations, including a nod for Hans Zimmer, for the Golden Globe for Best Original Score.

Many are aware of the positive benefits mindfulness can have on our everyday lives, but have you ever thought of applying this concept when you are trying for a baby?

Headspace founder, Andy Puddicombe, has released a book titled The Headspace Guide To A Mindful Pregnancy, which discusses how mindfulness can be practised from when you are trying for a baby, right through to giving birth.

As Puddicombe says, a mindful pregnancy begins the moment you start trying.

In the chapter: Trying for a baby, Puddicombe discusses the stresses some women experience when they are unable to conceive.

This can, he argues, leave many feeling sad, angry or anxious as they fear they may never be able to get pregnant.

In the following extract from his new book, Puddicombe discusses how mindfulness can be beneficial when you are trying for a baby:

When it comes to getting pregnant, it can feel as though our future happiness is dependent on having a child. We tend to panic.

The contrast when we set an intention is stark: We keep up a steady pace, responsive to new circumstances and changing conditions, not unlike an elephant in nature: strong, steady, purposeful, just putting one foot in front of the next, not reacting to every little thing.

The doctors I’ve spoken to in researching this book say that if nothing happens in the first year, that’s normal – it can frequently take couples twelve months to conceive naturally.

If we keep that in mind, we will continue to live life knowing that there is no rush to get pregnant, and relaxed in the knowledge that we are free from expectation.

However, if we choose to ignore it, we may well find ourselves getting increasingly tense.

Mindfulness brings a perspective that allows us to dial things back a bit, meaning we’re not swept up in the ‘We need to get pregnant’.

Anxious thoughts will always be there but we can get comfortable with them, releasing the tension in the very best interests of creating an environment conducive to getting pregnant.

However, we cannot force a state of relaxation, so the harder we try to relax, the more tense we become.

If we apply this to trying to get pregnant, we quickly see that excessive focus and effort can easily tip over into something more harmful, creating stress which actually further reduces our chances of conception.

So, if we are going to do this, we need to know how best to go about it.

The short answer is that it is less about ‘doing’ and more about ‘being’. The intention is to create the conditions for a calm and happy mind, and a relaxed and more receptive body.

Fertility experts will so often prescribe stress-reduction techniques – and none is more effective than mindfulness. Stress reduction improves blood flow to the reproductive organs and aids with regulating the menstrual cycle, helping to achieve optimal ovulation.

Women tend to find their sensitivity to hormone production then increases, which leads to a more receptive environment for conception.

With cortisol and adrenaline levels, combined with a spike in the secretion of endorphins, the entire body becomes a healthier, more inviting place for human life to take form.

The irony, of course, is that this state of relaxation so often occurs when couples have tried very hard for a period of time and have then given up.

This demonstrates very well the power of letting go of the attachment that creates so much worry, fear and suffering. In letting go in this way, you help to create the conditions in which to conceive.

Mindfulness reminds us that the space between ‘how we think life should be’ and ‘life as it is’ is equal to our level of suffering; the farther away we are from accepting things as they are, the more anguish, worry and anxiety is caused.”

The Headspace Guide To A Mindful Pregnancy by Andy Puddicombe of headspace.com is available now (Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99).

Bosses can transform their businesses and the happiness of their employees using meditation, author David Gelles has argued – and it’s definitely no longer a religious practice.

Gelles, a New York Times reporter and author of the book Mindful Work, stressed that mindfulness meditation had moved away from its Buddhist origins and didn’t have to involve “sitting for hours on end with our eyes closed”.

He told an audience at The World Post Future of Work conference that there was a quiet revolution going on in businesses around the world – including in Britain.

After holding two meditation demos with the audience, Gelles said “there’s a lot of closet meditators out there. I’ve just outed you.”

He said mindfulness was “an innate human quality” but that he couldn’t “hide the ball” that it was originally a practice deep-rooted in Buddhism.

“But over the last 30 years, and I cannot emphasise this enough,” he continued, “it has become a truly secular pursuit. Mindfulness has really been taken out of its religious trappings and presented in a purely secular form.

“There’s absolutely nothing religious about what the people of Goldman Sachs, and Facebook, and General Mills are doing… That is why big companies are embracing this and finding true value in it.”

He added that meditating didn’t mean conforming to the stereotypes we might imagine: “There are many ways to practice mindfulness meditation, it doesn’t require that we fold our legs, it doesn’t require that we sit for hours on end with our eyes closed… [it is] just taking a moment to be present in a very intentional way and notice what we are feeling, that’s really he bedrock of this practice.”

Gelles took up mediation as a student, when he went to a Zen centre in northern California. He then visited India and spent time on meditation retreats, before becoming a business journalist and writing an article called ‘The Mind Business’ that went viral.

Gelles spoke at the WorldPost Future of Work conference

He visited General Mills, the company that makes Green Giant sweetcorn, Haagan-Dazs and Old El Paso, and found it had “a meditation room in every single building.”

He then went on “a journey into the contemplative heart of heart of corporate America – the corporate world really, as so many people in the UK are doing this too.”

“What I found was it’s not just a business here and there, it’s not just big businesses, it’s small businesses. It’s happening on the factory floors. Intel, Adobe, Google: the list of companies bringing the to bear in one way or another is growing every single day.”

Gelles defines mindfulness as “paying attention, in the present moment, non-judgmentally” and “ejecting a bit of space in our very frantic lives.”

“It’s really about being right here, right now, not letting ourselves get swept away with thoughts of the future, not ruminating on the past, but actually taking a moment to bring a measure of self awareness to the present moment.. and when that happens, all sorts of incredible things transpire.”

“What are [the businesses doing this] finding? Well, mindfulness makes their employees less stressed, it helps them be more focused, productivity is actually increasing and it’s improving their health.”

“In the course of your work day, whatever you do, there are innumerable instances where just taking that moment to consider the appropriate response could lead to gentler, more effective, more compassionate communications with your colleagues, with your bosses, with your clients.”

Mindfulness is “happening in some unlikely corners of the working world too,” he added. “Militaries round the globe are using it for their snipers.”

It’s “no panacea,” he cautioned. “I don’t want to oversell it here. It’s not going to make a bad boss behave better, it’s not going to get you that raise right away.”

Mindfulness also extends far beyond meditation, Gelles said. He saw one company that encourages its workers to practice ‘mindful eating’ at work.

“So often, just as we rush though our days, when we take a meal, we rush through that. I can’t tell you how often I’ve found myself being mindless. I’m eating soup and looking at my phone, while my screen is on too, and I don’t think I’m looking at what’s there, or tasting my soup.”

“I don’t think I’m looking at what’s there, or tasting my soup”

The employees lost weight, enjoyed food more and chose healthier food, he added.

Another boss decided to raise the wages of his lowest-paid staff by 33%, after he adopted yoga and meditation, and said it made him “more aware of his effects in the world.. of how his decisions as CEO can affect the lives of thousands, tens of thousands of people”.

Gelles said he also believes that mindfulness “can actually make us perhaps more socially responsible, perhaps more ethical.”

He cited another business leader, Eileen Fisher, who transformed her clothing company by first changing “the way they ran their meetings and reducing their corporate hierarchy”. She then thought: “Wait, if I can change the way I’m relating to my employees, what about those thousands of people making my clothes in China?” Gelles explained.

Fisher started sourcing her clothes more responsibly, started an entrepreneurship programme for her factory workers in China, gave them pay rises and reduced the use of harmful dyes in her brand’s clothes.

Gelles said Fisher told him: “There’s no way I would have made these decisions if I hadn’t found moment after moment to become more self aware.”