Category Archives: Top Tips

How To Save Money on Your Grocery Shopping

 

I can’t remember a time that I haven’t been on a food budget; I like good food but hate paying through the nose for it. I believe you can buy good food but not go overboard on the spending, so here are my tops tips.

  • Always do a stock check before you do your grocery shopping, this will stop you buying duplicates og items you’ve already got
  • Do a meal plan for the week, fortnight or month depending on how often you do your grocery shopping. Then make a list of all you need to buy, do forget check what you already have in. That way you only buy what you need and don’t end up with an excess of food.
  • Shop online, I find spend less if I do my shopping online. If you have a list of what you want it can be easy to do and you can do it in comfort of your own home without screaming kids and queues.
  • Shop around, look for the best deals. I’m fortunate to have a Aldi, Lidl, Sainsbury, Co-op and M&S all in walking distance from me. I have a quick look over their offers to see where I can save money on my shopping.  I do the bulk on my shopping online and then pick up bits from the other shops
  • Special offers like Buy One Get One Free can be great but be careful not to fall into the offers trap. Only buy an item on offer if you need it or you can freeze or store it, no point buying something just for the sake of it, all those offer items soon add up.
  • Buy supermarket own brands instead of branded products you’ll be surprised how much you can save. Supermarket own branded food is just as good as branded and a can be a lot cheaper, for example Branston Bake Beans 410g 61p, Heinz Bake Beans 415g 64p, Sainsbury’s Baked Beans 420g 49p, not only do you get more in the own brand but it’s much cheaper.  If you swapped your Heinz beans for Sainsbury’s own brand you would save 15p per tin, if you buy 2 a week, 52 weeks of the year that is a saving of £15.60 per year, if you swapped a few items think how much you would save in a year
  • Don’t be ashamed to use coupons, cut them out from magazines and newspapers.

I hope this is useful to you, if you have any other money saving tips please share.

 

Winter checklist!

Don’t be caught out this Winter. Take a few minutes to run through this checklist to hopefully avoid extra expense or inconvenience this Christmas.

  •  Boiler / heating check – It’s a pain I know but now is the time to get your boiler checked / serviced. Otherwise sod’s law dictates that it will stop working during the coldest week of the year at the same time everyone else’s does and when the engineers are fully booked.
  • Draught excluders – So simple but often overlooked. Make sure you have the tools to keep out those bothersome breezes! I use draft excluder’s, and made sure the keyholes are covered. It’s amazing what a difference this makes.
  • Dampness – Mould & mildew love this time of year, cold outside and warm inside. Make sure you leave enough room on exterior walls for air to circulate and deal with any problems straight away. A humidifier can help remove excess moisture from a room, particularly during this cold weather when you really don’t want to have your windows thrown open.
  • Keep some bottled water in – last year thousands of homes found themselves without water after the prolonged cold snap played havoc with pipe work. Make sure you have some bottled water in (2litre value bottles are fine) and fill your kettle on a night-time. Nothing starts your day off badly like no water and no hot coffee!
  • Power cuts – Sadly these can be all too common, especially in rural areas, during the winter. Make sure you have torches (with new batteries!) where they can be easily accessed and candles and matches. Do bear in mind the safety aspects of having lots of burning candles about so ensure you have candle holders etc if you intend to use them.
  •  Appropriate clothing – This is an obvious one really but last year I was caught out. I had hats, and gloves (my eldest has lost 2 pairs already this year!) but dragged my feet getting new wellies and when the snow arrived everywhere had sold out .I had to pay way over the odds to have some sent with next day delivery. Get the thermal vests out and name everything!
  • School closures – snow, power cuts, burst water pipes… all a real pain, especially as they can result in school closures. Make sure you are familiar with your school’s policy for closures. School websites post up to date information and local radios make announcements as they hear from head teachers.
  • Consider alternative picking-up arrangements for days when schools are closed early or if you have trouble getting back to kids because of snow / ice.
  • Travel prepared – Our roads took a battering last year with temperatures of -20 and the news was full of reports of people being stranded in their cards, even on short journeys due to being stuck in jams or breaking down. Make sure you have blankets, snacks, drinks and first aid kit, a mobile and a torch in the car during the winter.

Not an exhaustive list but important points to consider when preparing yourselves and your homes for Christmas.

Nicki Cawood, Freelance writer and blogger at Curly&Candid

Image: Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

10 Tips for Getting The Most Out of Walking with Children

Walking is a great way to explore, exercise and have fun in the fresh air. These tips will help you get the most out of walks with children.

  1. Let the children help plan the route. This way they will feel more a part of the walk and will get to see landmarks and places that are of interest to them, rather than to just the adults!
  2. Let the children take a friend if possible, sharing new sights, sounds  and experiences with a peer makes them more enjoyable and increases the chances of learning something as children do tend to discuss and question more when there are others around.
  3. Draw a map of the walk and encourage the children to follow it. Giving them an independent task like this is another way of making walking something special. For younger children maps could have drawings on them, for older children, distances or even clues!
  4. For longer walks take a drink and a snack and stop off somewhere suitable for a break. This adds another layer of fun to the walk and gives anyone who is tired a chance to rest before setting off again.
  5. Stop off somewhere for an activity if you can, a park for play, or a grassy area to play football or fly a kite. These things all add to the fun!
  6. Collect leaves, twigs and another seasonal goodies to use for art-work later. For older children the task of identifying different leaves (etc) can be just as fun.
  7. I-Spy books are great for walking out and about, for finding different animals, plants, trees, insects or even buildings and things seen more commonly in build up areas. Ticking these off can be great fun. If you don’t have an I-Spy book, make up a list instead.
  8. Let your child be responsible for their own things and carry a backpack. This adds to the sense of adventure and saves the adults carrying excess baggage!
  9. Sing!! If your children are at an age where they can still be seen with you without cringing, the chances are they won’t yet get embarrassed by having a good sing-song as you walk along. Silly songs are always favourites!
  10. Document your walks. If possible take a camera. Let the children take pictures of the things they find most interesting. Printed off or developed these make great keepsakes.

Nicki Cawood, Mum, Freelance writer and blogger at Curly&Candid

Top Tips for Halloween on a Budget

Halloween seems to get more and more popular in the UK every year and when something becomes popular it can start to get expensive.

Here are my tips on how to have Halloween on a budget:-

  • Don’t buy expensive costumes have some fun with face paints instead.  You can have any scary design that you want then. Facepaintdesigns.co.uk  and Snazzaroo has some step by step guides and videos on how to create your spooky design.
  • Make your own Halloween mask. You make one using a paper plate or cut out the shape from a cereal box, decorate anyway you like and secure with some string or elastic. Alternatively print off some readymade masks and colour them in, I found some great ones on Womansday.com.
  • Making Halloween crafts are a great way to while away the afternoon.  Make some spooky paper chains to decorate the house or collect some conkers and make conker monsters.
  • Make a Jack O Lantern, its lots of fun and you can make pumpkin soup out of the middle.

Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Top Five Tips for Tantrum Throwing Toddlers.

When Louie, my eldest, was two I was in a cafe and he threw his first almighty tantrum! I stood completely thrown as he thrashed about on the floor screaming. I came home and read everything I could about how to deal with this behaviour. I tried various suggestions, some worked, others didn’t.

Drawn from these experiments these are my top five suggestions for what to do when tantrums strike.
1.Distract:”Look there’s a bird, flower, cloud, dinosaur”(ok there’s probably not going to be a dinosaur). Whatever interests your toddler that you can draw their attention to in that moment to get them to forget the urge to throw a strop.
2.Ignore: If distract isn’t working then the best thing to do is ignore the behaviour. If you’re at home and your child is safe, walk away. If I’m in public and my child is safe I usually just turn away. I honestly don’t care what other people think, after all they were once (probably) toddlers screaming and kicking on the floor themselves.
3.Stand your ground : Do not give in to the demands of the tantrum. For example if the tantrum was over sweets in a shop and the sweets get bought, guess what your little darling is going to do next time they want sweets.
4. Comfort: I find that when a tantrum reaches a certain point, and you will know when, because you know your child way better than I, I go in with a cuddle. My son at that point would gladly cuddle me and calm himself down.
5. Praise: When the child has calmed down praise them for calming down. When the child meets the same situation next time and doesn’t throw a tantrum, praise them for being so good.
Now I have to add that while being extremely effective these tips only work if you stay calm. On the occasions when I have used my other parenting technique of losing my cool and muttering expletives the response from both the children and onlookers, has not been as good.

By Ella 

Image: Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Five top tips for using cloth nappies

I have been using cloth nappies for nearly five years now. I have had two kids in cloth nappies. Twice. Adding up to 1.5 years of coping with two in cloth.
I use cloth nappies for a number of reasons. First off they are cheaper, I have saved literally hundreds of pounds using cloth. This is money I have been able to spend on cake, gin, and prawn cocktail flavour crisps, so totally worth the hassle just there.
Secondly they do not end up in landfill. Yes yes I know the arguments re whether they are actually better for the environment due to the carbon footprint of washing them yada yada. Obviously I wash them in my pedal power washing machine with soap nuts and air dry them, so there!
Thirdly I much prefer cotton or bamboo next to my baby’s peachy bum than the chemicals in disposables.
Fourthly (hmmm) and finally, I love the waddle of a big cloth baby bottom, it’s extremely cute.

So here are the tips I wish I had found when I started out.

1. So basically there are loads of styles and makes of nappy available now. Do not buy a huge amount of the same nappy until you have an actual baby to put them on and have tested them. Different babies have different shapes legs, bottoms etc. Therefore what works on one will not necessarily be leak free on another. Buy a few kinds (or even better borrow) and try them out to see what suits your family.
2. Have a plastic bin (preferably outside) with a cloth nappy net inside. Bung the nappies in and when you are ready to wash put the whole bag in the wash. That way no pooh handling is involved (apart from, when your actually changing the stinky bottomed one obviously)
3. Wash at 60 (I’ve tried a few temperatures and this in my experience is the lowest temp that gives you stink free nappies) without fabric softener (yes I made that mistake)and an additional rinse (don’t know why, but this helps with aforementioned stink).
4. When you can, get the stained nappies outside to dry. The sun gets rid of the stains in a surprisingly short amount of time.
5. Avoid change bags with lots of small pockets. Cloth nappies take up a lot of space in a change bag. I have tried many kinds of change bag and have found one with less pockets and more space works best. Also a large wet bag is an essential for in the change bag.
So these are my tips hope they prove helpful.
For what it’s worth I use Mother Ease one size nappies and Mother Ease wraps (waterproof outers).

By Ella