Friday, 30 March 2012

Gardening with Children and a giveaway

Do you garden with your children?  We do, even though we have a pretty small garden.  MadDad built three raised beds when we first moved in and it has been one of the best things he ever did.

My boys get very excited when they get to eat something we have grown and it is just wonderful watching them and seeing the anticipation on their face.  One of the things that really bothers me about gardening with them in a small space is that we never use up all our seeds.

What is great is at the moment until the end of April, every box of Innocent kids’ smoothies or fruit tubes will come with its very own pack of easy to grow seeds. There are six different varieties to collect including carrots, tomatoes, cress, basil, violets and sunflowers.

The ingenious thing is you just pop out the card and the seeds are integrated in to the card. 

This week has been the perfect sunny week for planting and me and the boys have had so much fun getting things started.  If you are looking for more tips and ideas for gardening with children, then visit Chris at Climbing Rainbows


The fab folks at Fruit Towers (the home of Innocent) have a little gardening set to give to one reader.  All you need do is leave me a comment, guessing where the wellies in the above picture are in my house or garden.

I will pick one name randomly in a weeks time.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Home Made Easter Cards

There is nothing nicer than receiving a home made card any time of the year and I think that it is perfect when the card can be made by your child. 

So I am going to show you three very simple Easter cards that are suitable for children from toddler up over.

The first is super easy for tiny tots.  The chicks body is made by potato printing with yellow paint.  Just cut the potato in half.  Then a small triangle of card for the beak and a feather for the tail.  A simple dot for the eye.

The next is perfect for a child that has moved on to scissors.  A bird shape is cut out of yellow paper and stuck to the card,  Apply googly eyes, an orange beak, feathers and draw on some legs and you have a lovely card.

Most children adore gluing and sticking, so this is a really easy card.  Simply cut out a curve on the card or get your child to and take some feathers, googly eyes and foam triangles and you have the perfect chic.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

March Thrifty Carnival

Spring has well and truly sprung this week.  With sun around most parts of the UK.


Firstly I bring you Climbing Rainbows, which is a beautiful blog about having fun with children and has fantastic ideas which are not expensive or like this Mimi beast hunt, which costs nothing.  A great inspirational blog.

Another great blog packed full of ideas for fun with children is Nurturestore and Cathy has a great post on homemade play dough, which is filled with tips and ideas.

If you are stuck for Spring Inspiration as a family, then head over to A Mothers Ramblings and follow her 10 things to do in Spring as a family.

Victoria from It's a Small World After All tells us about how she managed a nine month trip with her family.  She also has a new Blog called words and pictures.


I love pallets, you can do so much with them, but this fantastic pallet planter from A Randomnest had me wanting to go out and steel them off the industrial estate!


Frugal Mum of Three has a super post about how batch cooking makes a huge difference to her budget, not to mention the fact that there is always a dinner ready to grab on the run.

Waste not want no, Eco Thrifty has a recipe for the best banana tea bread ever to use up those black bananas.

Each week Utterly Scrummy Food for Families does a menu plan with prices.  If you do not follow this blog then you really should.

I am currently reviewing Kitchen Canny and I would really recommend you looking in to it if you have food waste as you could make massive savings.

I know this is an old post, but I made Chris from Thinly Spreads baked bean curry last week and it is a real use up all your old vegetable meal.  Plus Maxi ate three bowls of it, so I had to include it here!

Also from Chris, but at Fab Food, I made her soda bread and it is great frugal easy receipe.


It takes a woman tells us about her top five tips for a thrify household.  5 super tips that do not take much implementing but make a huge difference. 

Becky from Baby Budgeting tells us how to stop unnecessary spending in four easy steps.  

I posted about my Spring Financial Manifesto on A Thrifty Mum.

Jax from Making it up blogs about making savings and reducing waste at the same time.

Over on Frugalicious Food, I tell you how to clean your oven with just Bicarb and water.

Cass at a Frugal Family shares her thrifty tips with us this month too.

Living on a budget doesn't have to mean that you look like you do.  Karen from the White Approach is extremely stylish and her home is warm, welcoming and filled with thrifted finds (I should know as she welcomed The Mad Family in to it last year).  Here she makes over a thrifted hanger and it only cost her a pound.

Kelly from A Place of My own, shows that a thrifted find can be much more homely than just going straight to Ikea with her new desk.

A new blog to me and one which I have already added to my reader is Lulastic and the Hippy Shake, take a look, whats not to love.  Here Lu shows us how to make a shelf out of a book and she also has a great post about the politics of thrift.

Beauty and well being 

Everyone needs a bit of me time and I adore this post from Eco Thrifty on how to make home made massage oil

Family budgeting gives us 10 easy, inexpensive ways to look gorgeous.  

Mummy Limited shows us that we do not need to spend pounds to make us happy when we are having a bad day with her Ye Olde Bad Day Remedies.


I show you how to transform a basic play pot with some scrap fabric to make a patchwork fabric plant pot at The Mad House.  Kat from Housewife Confidential also made some, which are much neater than mine!

Heather at Growing Spaces has a fab video tutorial on how to make your own magnetic blackboard wall.

Lizzie from Me and my shadow show us how to make a necklace from bubble wrap (yes bubble wrap),

Kat got the cream has a great blog post about making home made button hair slides.  Buttons and slides two of my favorite things! 

Monday, 26 March 2012

Value rather than price

One of the things as a mum on a budget that I really struggle with is buying the best for my boys.  I have to thing in terms of value rather than just cost.  I have learnt over the years that sometimes buying cheep means that I have to replace things more often and end up spending a lot more than I would have if I just got the more expensive item in the first place.

It has often been a hard lesson, do you go with cost and how do you work out is something is value for money.  One of the ways I try and do this is to work out a cost per use or a cost per hour of use.  Sometimes though my heart just over rules my head.  i would prefer to drink less tea than drink cheap tea.  I also would often rather wait to save up and but the thing I really want.  There is something about the anticipation of getting exactly what you want and being happy to wait for it.

Bedding is one of those things.

I have learnt over the years not to scrimp on bedding.  I make sure I buy the best I can afford and both the boys have memory foam pillows, but in the traditional pillow shape.  The Bedding Company in partnership with Silentnight have a good selection.  of them at great value too.  I chose memory foam as Maxi suffers with a chest condition and this was what was recommended by his Consultant.  Silentnight – The Bedding Company have a superb range of choice, so there is a pillow to suit every need.

The benefits of memory foam over feather pillows:

  • Memory foam has small cells filled with air that means that the foam cells collapse when pressure is increased creating a depression where the head is, also is is temperature sensitive, which means if wicks away the heat of the user.
  • It is thought that memory foam allows the  neck and throat to assume a more natural position increasing the airflow and help reduce snoring, although this isn't proven.
  • Memory foam has a high resistance to bed bugs and is thought to be better for asthma sufferers. 

For me a good nights sleep is one of the most important parts of bring up a child.  If my boys are well rested then they are happier and more contented and that is something that I can not put a price on.

What is the one thing that you refuse to buy cheaply?

Friday, 23 March 2012

My Spring Financial Manifesto

On my other site  The Mad House I do a seasonal manifesto and I also did a financial winter manifesto this year, so wanted to let you know how I have been getting on.

I have actually done pretty well.  Meal planning is still going strong, as is the cooking.  On the reducing kitchen waste, well I have been reviewing a product called Kitchen Canny and I am really impressed.  Decluttering started at a fast pace, but has petered off, so I  need to get back on with that.  The garden is going great guns and we bought a small greenhouse to help with the seeds.

Now on to my plans for Spring
  1. Get those seeds planted and potato sets in my raised beds and greenhouse
  2. Go to the park after school and take snacks for the boys, so that we do not buy treats at the shop
  3. Walk more places rather than take the car (I am more inclined to so this when the weather is good)
  4. Make Easter cards and presents rather than buy any
  5. Instead of buying cut flowers, buy small pots of bulbs, so that I can replant them in the garden
  6. Freeze any leftovers for my lunches
I would love any tips you have on small changes that can help make a difference in saving money.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Call for posts for March Thrifty Blog Carnival

Each month across many blogs the subject of making money, saving money, living frugally and being thrifty are shared. It’s a sign of the times and a more careful and caring generation of individuals that we protect our resources, recycle, upcycle and make do.

Becky (from Baby Budgeting and Family Budgeting),Cass (from a frugal family) and I (I also blog at Frugaliscious Food and The Mad House) thought it would be a great idea to pull these brilliant posts together so we could all learn from and share with each other our thrifty ways. So each month we are going to hold a Thrifty Blog Carnival and we woudl love you to take part,

All you need to do is send in a post (on making or saving money, thriftiness, upcyling. recycling or living frugally) you have written in the past month (it can already have been published on your blog.) 

Please send the link for march to me by Tuesday 27 March December 6 pm for the carnival on 29 March at A Thrifty Mum

What do you do with your old DVD's and Games?

Do you have a house full of DVD's and Video Games that are no longer watched or played with?

My boys are outgrowing their collection of The Wiggles, Thomas and Fireman Sam and I have been looking for things to do with them and try and make some money for them without the hassle of taking them to a car boot sale or the hated eBay (which I find doesn't give me a good return).

When I came across selling DVDs with musicMagpie. allows you to turn your old CDs, DVDs and Games into cash instantly. Just enter the barcodes of your CDs, DVDs or Games and they tell you how much they are worth. You can even download an app, so you can just scan in the barcodes on your phone.

You do not even have to pay for postage as they have a Freepost service. When you complete your order you can download and print the Freepost labels or if you do not have a printer they will mail them direct to you. All you have to do then, is attach these to your box and drop it off at your local Post Office.

If you want to sell computer games for cash, in addition to the DVD's and have over 50 items to post, you can either use the Freepost service or save yourself a trip to the Post Office and use the FREE, fully insured Courier Service, so again it costs you nothing to send us your items.  Just choose a date that suits you, and we’ll come and collect your old CDs, DVDs and Games from you - for FREE, which means you can make extra CASH without leaving the comfort of your home.

If you would normally just donate your old games and DVDs to charity, you can still use musicMagpie and nominate one of a number, including Breast Cancer Care or The Children's Society.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Free tea with Twinings and win a tea cup candle

I am something of a tea monster, I adore tea.  I also like trying out new teas, but often find out the hard way that they smell nicer than they taste and then have a box of tea that sits in the cupboard until I put it in the compost bin.

Currently if you go to Twinings Facebook page, you can choose to receive 2 free tea samples.

You can also find lots of tea inspired facts and information on the website and even better lots of competitions too.  Twinings are currently encouraging people to take 10 minutes to relax, refresh and recharge with a nice cup of tea.  You can also buy tea online from Twinings, I especially keen to try Twinings Royal Wedding Blend Tea

There is no trouble so great or grave that cannot be much diminished by a nice cup of tea.  ~Bernard-Paul Heroux 

I also have an unhealthy love for tea cups and make my own tea cup candles and would like to give one away.  So if you fancy winning one of my teacup candles.  Just leave me a comment letting me know your favorite place to drink tea.

I have gone to town on the tea theme this weekend and blogged about my my top Mothers Day Tea gifts on The Mad House and at Frugaliscious about Earl Grey tea cupcakes.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Getting and keeping my laminate floors clean - Part Two

I mentioned in part one, how I use the Morphy Richards Supervac to keep my ground floor clear of dust and debris.  Now we need to move on to getting it and keeping it clean.  Over the years I must have purchased every type of mop or cleaner and finally I have found what works for me.  

I used to use a mop that was discontinued and I cried a thousand tears, but thanks to the local people who look after the PR for Vileda, I have finally found the perfect system for me.  The Vileda 1.2 Spray Mop and Vileda Ultramax Bucket and Wringer.  The Vileda 1.2 Spray Mop has controlled water release making it ideal for wooden, laminate, marble and vinyl floor and the Vileda UltraMax bucket and wringer is designed specifically for flat mops.

  • Unique hollow handle can be filled with cleaning solution and then sprayed directly onto the floor
  • Microfibre pad removes greasy stains, dust and marks
  • Pivoted handle designed for cleaning under furniture
  • Push buttons for easier opening and closing
  • Adjust the length of the telescopic handle for your comfort
  • Use for wet or dry cleaning
  • Machine-washable mop head
  • Use with UltraMax bucket for an optimum clean
I use the system with the bucket when I need to clean the whole floor and with the spray system between to spot clean and to tackle any spills.  It is safe to say that when you find the right system for you, it makes cleaning the floor so much easier.

Product wise, I use Ecover Floor Soap.  I made a decision when the boys were small that I didn't want to use harsh chemicals in my house, especially with two toddlers and a cat.  I make this up in a bucket with very hot water and use it to clean the whole floor.

Secondly I use Method Squirt and Mop, this is brilliant for between main cleans and for spot cleaning.  I also use it in the Vileda 1.2 Spray System, as you do not have to rinse it off.

Finally after all these years I have found the right products for cleaning my laminate floors and it makes it so much less of a chore.  it doesn't mean the cleaning is fun, but it does mean I do not put it off all the time.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Top ten things to do before you are ten

I am a great believer in my children playing outside.  In them having a level of freedom that I had when I was growing up.  I have blogged about it on my other blog The Mad House previously.  We relocated back to the North East of England to allow them to have the freedom that only being outside can bring.

Bear Grylls and Persil small & mighty have teamed to release his  'Top Ten Things To Do Before You’re Ten' guide, the aim is to inspire families to shake off the constraints of modern life and get outdoors.

Bear Grylls’ Top Ten Things To Do Before You’re Ten

  1. Perfect the perfect hill roll
  2. Become a hide-and-seek champion
  3. Go sledging- on sand
  4. Build a den- indoors or out
  5. Build a rope swing
  6. Nurse that sting
  7. Try and count the stars
  8. Make a mud pie
  9. Make a compass
  10. Pick your own pudding

I have to say that thankfully my boys have actually done nine out of ten of the list, which really made me smile.   It also made me think that a lot of these things actually cost nothing and are perfect things to encourage your children to do.

I would also add the following:
  • Climb a tree
  • Paddle in the sea or a river
  • Make and fly a kite

I want my boys to have adventures and learn the joy that the outside can bring and this is one of the reasons Maxi is in the Beavers and Mini is joining after Easter.  I have also joined the committee and the boys are looking forward to their first camp (which will be their first night away from home) in July.

Bear Grylls will be hosting the first ever Persil ‘Today I Am… Adventure Day on 26th May 2012 and your child could be one of just 140 kids from across the UK to attend.   Just buy any pack of Persil to be in with the chance of winning! Visit for more details. Please do not *cough* enter the competition, as I am going to win and have to meet Bear as the boys have informed me he is Chief Scout!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Getting and keeping my laminate floors clean - Part One

When we moved in to our house we decided to put in the best quality laminate floors we could afford for the whole of the ground floor.  We chose this for the main reason that we had children and didn't want carpet. All I could think of was toilet training, spillages, food and mud. 

It has taken me a good couple of years to find the perfect routine for keeping my ground floor clean and dust free.

Firstly let me introduce you to the Morphy Richards Supervac, 2-in-1 Cordless Bagless Upright Vacuum Cleaner, or the Supervac as I call it.
I have been using this in my house for over six months and it is in use each day and every day and it is blooming fantastic.  Initially I thought it was a little expensive at £119.99, however, it is worth its weight in gold.
  • The supervac is a bag-less, cordless hand held vacuum.
  • You can use it as an upright cordless vacuum on all floor types or as a handheld.  It has a small charging station which holds the crevice tools.
  • You can charge with the handle in a folded position.
  • It is lightweight at only 3.9kg
  • The head rotates ensuring it gets in all those hard to reach places.
  • I(t has a 15 minute running time.

If we hadn't been given this to review, I would still be using the main vacuum and a sweeping brush.  But this is so easy to use that even the boys can get it out if they spill some cereal or make crumbs.  it is super easy to empty and as it is in the utility room takes no getting out or putting away.

I think that this is super value and the perfect vacuum for anyone with hard floors.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Local Shops for Local People

In my previous post I gave you some ways to reduce your food shopping week by week and I wanted to expand on buying locally and explain how it can be less expensive and better value.

Seasonal fruit and veg are much less expensive at my local Greengrocer, plus they get to know you and offer you better deals, for example they know that we make banana bread so give me cheap bananas that are turning.The local market works out even cheaper.

Eat the seasons tells you what foods are currently in season

I am very lucky to live by the sea and can often buy inexpensive fish direct from the fishermen on their boats, which they [park on the esplanade.  But I have also learned to really value my local fishmonger.  His fish tends to be less expensive than the supermarket, plus his knowledge is fantastic and he can often offer me a cheaper fillet that is comparable.  We are now eating fish twice a week on average thanks to be part of the Fish is the Dish campaign.

Buying local also saves on mileage and travel costs, especially if like me you live in a village.  

One of the biggest benefits of buying local for me was demonstrated last winter when we had the really heavy snow fall and our village was virtually snowed in.  The local shops in the village made sure all the elderly got food and staples during the difficult weather.  The co-op took deliveries out and was the only company to actually manage to get milk in to their store for 4 days.

I tend to buy a mixture of the good value and fresh produce locally and then use a budget supermarket such as Aldi for my staples on a weekly basis.  

Local Food Advisor lists the best local food shops in the UK. You just type in your post code to find those nearest to you.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Top tips for cheapest broadband deals

Calculating your usage for everything from fuel to electricity means that you can find ways and means to lowering monthly bills. And, when it comes to getting the cheapest deal for your internet people are desperate to shave money off.

With digital platforms becoming such a big part of our lives, there are always going to be reasons that we need the internet. Whether it’s internet shopping or expert articles about industry, it’s all right there at our fingertips. So, how exactly, do we go about getting the best broadband deals from an economical point of view?

Check your usage

If you use less data usage than you are allowed or have a quicker connection than you really need, you could well be quids in by going back to market. With the market being hugely competitive, there are so many deals you can choose from, but do you need 75 gigabytes of usage or a 40 megabit per second connection? Probably not.

Consider a broadband speed test to see if you are getting enough power, or how much you can feasibly have running through your home. From here you will know if you just need a few megabits for emails or many for downloads. Plus, ask to see what your usage has been and average it out over the last few months because many people tend to find that there are paying for more data than is actually required.

Look at price comparison websites

Many people wax lyrical about the brilliance of price comparison and how it is the number one way to find the top price – and, they’re right. Getting all the big names in industry and their prices flashing right before your eyes is quite easily the simplest way to go about finding the best deal.

One potential problem is that many people don’t get the loyalty rewards and bonuses from companies due to using these websites, but over a year, you can save an awful lot of money. We use these websites for anything from travel insurance to investments, and they should always be the first port of call when it comes to finding the cheapest broadband deals.

Consider a bundle

Finally, and often the best way to sort all of your home needs in one, is getting your broadband in a bundle with your telephone and television packages. Some studies have shown that as much as £300 can be saved every year through bundling everything into one provider.

This does, of course, mean though that instead of solely doing your homework on broadband, you have to do it one television and telephone deals as well. Do you want cheap foreign calls? Are sports channels a big factor in having cable television? Is your entire household online and competing for bandwidth? All of these things make a difference in what you need to do with regards to sorting the cheapest broadband deal for your family.
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