6 min read
03 Jun
03Jun

Before we start today's blog, I would like to introduce the audio feature which we have installed for our readers. Please press play on the video tab at the top of this page to hear the blog being read to you by Yours Truly. Do let me know in the comments if you liked this feature … and not too many jokes about my accent please!

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Are you looking for free, useful websites to further expand your interests and your curiosities? Then today’s blog is for you. 

For some readers, the process of navigating the internet’s vast resources is simply too overwhelming, too time consuming … or both. 

Other readers are comfortable surfing the internet and hunt for websites that offer free quality services. “Free” and “quality” are the key words though. The concept that we can all benefit from watching our money pot, no matter its size, is an important one. But the trick is finding sites that are both helpful and actually free. 

Please worry no further because The Next Half is here to help! We have put together a list of recommended, useful, and free websites for you. We’ve even categorised the suggestions into 11 popular areas of interest. Let’s learn more about the hobbies that fascinate us … without incurring any cost. Let’s definitely use our time to further enrich ourselves. Why not?

Please know each site recommended is one that I use personally and that I am not receiving payment to promote. I promise. Whilst this list is targeted to the U.K. market, some sites are North American based which is an indication of their global content more than a nod to the country of my birth. Some descriptions are my personal summaries, others are verified from the sites’ synopses. All are recommended by The Next Half. 

So, let’s get started! Let’s enjoy exploring and learning … for free!

LIST OF MOST USEFUL, FREE WEBSITES:

1. Reading:  For the avid reader, there are many great online free resources for finding free eBooks. Here are my favourites:

  • Project Gutenberg (https://www.gutenberg.org/) is the site we all need to know about. Almost all classic and most read books are here. It has 60,000 full length books available…all free! The organisation is run entirely by volunteers who digitise and then also proofread works. This site is used as the resource for most other free reading sites.
  • Good Reads (https://www.goodreads.com/genres/ebooks). You can find contemporary online books for free at Goodreads’ free ebook shelves.
  • Google Books (https://www.Google books.com) hosts a huge collection of books that Google has scanned and turned into viewable files. The homepage is a search box so simply type in something to search -  like the name of your favourite classic author or a title of a book -  and enjoy!
  • Smashwords (https://www.smashwords.com/) is a leading online platform with ebooks from independent authors and publishers. There are currently over 500,000 books from over 100,000 self-published authors. They have an option to set up the length of a free preview. Many writers decide to let readers preview the entire book online.
  • Open Library (https://openlibrary.org/) offers over 1.7 million free eBooks online to users. It’s part of the Internet Archive, which also allows users to contribute (and correct!) books. 

2. Cooking: There are tons of free recipe ideas and food blogs on offer for any Foodie. Some of my favourites include:

  • Jane Lovett’s website (https://janelovett.com/) includes amazing complimentary recipes. I highly recommend delightful Jane, her cookbooks and her demos.
  • Recipes From a Pantry (https://recipesfromapantry.com/) has recently been rated Number One Food Blog in UK.
  • My old favourite is All Recipes.co.uk (https://allrecipes.co.uk). A fantastic resource with tons of recipes. Easily searchable by dish, ingredients, even diet & lifestyle. New recipes added daily. A must use.
  • Another popular is Food52 (https://www.food52.com/recipes). The recipes and community are vast and amazing. American based, so the shopping section may prove tricky for shipments abroad. Love their mantra: Food52 is a gathering place for everyone who believes the kitchen is at the heart of the home.

3. General How-To Guides:  Anyone interested in DIY or in teaching themselves the “How-To” of almost anything must learn about eHow (https://www.ehow.co.uk/home/). This fantastic website provides expert advice and How-To videos and articles, including instructions on how to make, cook, grow, design, repair, plant……. On almost anything!

4. Puzzles: There are so many options on the web for keeping your brain fit. I suggest adding these free websites to your daily mental work out: 

5. Medical/ Health Advice:  No website is as good as in person medical care. Full stop. However, if we need to augment our knowledge on some health-related issue the Mayo Clinic website is worth knowing about.(https://www.mayoclinic.org/patient-care-and-health-information).

6. Pets: Care for our beloved pets is often the top of our list of concerns.  The following sites are recommended for free general advice from vets and experts for our pet’s health or care. New content is posted daily. (Caveat from above is inserted here as well: remember that no website's advice can replace personal medical attention.)

7. Cycling: This free, popular website has been recommended as a must for the cycling enthusiast interested in learning about trails for cycling around the UK. www.cyclinguk.org

8. Ancestry Research: Genealogy is a popular hobby for many. My heritage (www.myheritage.com) and Ancestry (www.ancestory.co.uk ) are two recommended sites which both provide initial free consultations and more detailed search services available at additional monthly charges. If you are interested in this hobby, you may wish to investigate these sites’ reviews and services.

9. Gardening: There are many websites and blogs dedicated to gardeners. The ones I use and highly recommend are: 

  • The Royal Horticultural Society’s useful website for free advice. https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice. This is still the go-to for many and deservedly so.
  • Gardenista (www.gardenista.com ) has two sections I find particularly useful: Gardening 101 and Plants & Seeds.
  • Gardening data (https://www.gardeningdata.co.uk/) provides helpful practical advice and hints.
  • A Way to Garden (https://awaytogarden.com/) is one of the most recommended gardening resources on the internet.  Margaret Roach, the former editorial director of the Martha Stewart empire, set up a blog, wrote a book and has delightful podcasts to share her gardening secrets. The Garden Planting Calculator is a particular favourite on the web. It tells you when to lay seeds for different vegetables, herbs, and flowers.

10. Yoga: Yoga classes can be expensive, but not if we're learning from home with our internet.  Yome (https://www.youtube.com/user/YomePortal) and Do Yoga With Me (https://www.doyogawithme.com/yoga-beginnersare helpful and completely free sites. Both offer 100s of video sessions in a variety of styles for yoga fans of all levels. 

11. Playing an Instrument: We all know that starting an instrument is daunting, but playing well can be so rewarding. The key is how we can get there. Many Youtube video courses exist for every instrument imaginable. My family uses them regularly … at varying degrees of success!   

    For good, free piano lessons, I can recommend two sites:

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That concludes our list of Most Useful Free Websites. 

Please share them in comments for other The Next Half readers! 

Do you know other free websites that you highly recommend? 

Now let's get exploring...

Happy Learning!


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