Thursday, 31 January 2013

Crisis Cleaning

You know the feeling, the children have made a massive mess, the house is a tip, you have so much to do and you just do not know where to start.  We have all been there, but I find that my mind works much better on things if my house is clean.

So today we are going to do a crisis clean of each room.

For this you need:

  1. A timer
  2. Music
  3. A black sack
  4. A box


You are going to do this in 15 minute chunks to music, which make it much more tolerable and you can also get the children involved too.

Start at the door and work your way round the room in a clockwise direction   Put anything for the bin in the black sac, anything for another room in to the box and then put the rest away in its place on the room.

Once the timer goes or you have finished the room (whichever is first) go and put the things away from the box.  This is critical otherwise you are just cluttering up.

Give yourself a 15 minute break before moving on to another room.  Do not worry about the previous room, you can always go back to it at the end.

Go and do it NOW!

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Screen Printing: Fun and Easy

Making quirky and fun clothes at home doesn’t cost very much and it is a fun activity that can be enjoyed by anyone of any age. Screen Printing is one way to personalise hoodies, t-shirts, baby clothes or almost any other garment you could name. We will use the t-shirt example here.

What You Will Need

• Fabric Ink
• Screen
• Squeegee/spatula
• Paper
• Craft Knife
• Masking Tape
• Plain T-shirt

If you don’t already have any of the above items then visit your local craft shop where you can purchase them fairly cheaply; everything above should cost no more than £25 and most of it can be used again and again.
If you do not want to buy a screen then you can make your own. All you need is a picture frame large enough to cover your designs and some mesh. The mesh will need to be stretched on one side of the frame and stapled to the other so it is secure and firm. If you are unsure of which mesh to buy ask the staff in your local art supplies or craft shop.
The Process

  1. The first thing you will need to do is choose a design. Novices should stick to simple shapes, letters or logos. Draw the design onto the paper and cut it out using the craft knife: This will require adult supervision if children are getting involved.
  2. Use the masking tape to cover any areas of mesh that lay outwith the border of the paper your design is on. This will prevent the ink from leaking around the design and onto your shirt. (Note: the design itself should not be taped to the mesh.)
  3. Before you start printing, it may be an idea to put a piece of paper inside the t-shirt so that the ink does not seep through the fabric. This doesn’t happen often but if the fabric you are printing onto is quite thin it is better to be safe than sorry.
  4. Place your t-shirt on a flat surface.  Once you have done that, position the paper with the design onto the t-shirt in the position you would like the design to be.
  5. Place the screen on top of both the design and the t-shirt. Measure out about a tablespoon of ink at the top edge of your screen and hold the screen down firmly with one hand. Using your other hand pull the ink over the whole of the design with the squeegee/spatula.
  6. Slowly and carefully lift the frame and peel away the paper and you should see that your personalised design will be right there in front of you. Leave the t-shirt to one side and let the ink dry.
  7. Finally, using cold water, wash your screen with a non-abrasive sponge, cloth or brush. Once the screen is dry it will be ready for more printing.

As your screen printing skills grow you can try more complex designs or even layering designs that have different colours and shades. Have fun!
These screen printing suggestions are provided by Banana Moon Clothing: providers of personalised t-shirts, hoodies and other apparel.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Pom Pom Love

As yet I still can not knit or crochet and ages ago a friend gave me a load of wool scraps which have been at in a storage jar starring at me.  So I decided to do something with them.

I bought a three set Classic Knit Pom Pom maker (it was only £2.99) from Dunelm Mill and me and the boys sat and made all the wool in to pom poms.  I really would love a clover pom pom maker as they are much easier to use and also enable you to make fluffier and fuller balls, but was really impressed with the inexpensive ones we have.

Then those pom poms sat in a jar where we kept touching and stroking them and occasionally trying to juggle them until I cam e across Heather's post at Growing Spaces on a pom pom garland,

So we threaded nearly 50 pom poms on to some thread and rather than leave a gap we decided to cram them all on, the more the merrier and in order to brighten up these winter days we hung them in the craft room.

It is a riot of colour and we love it.  Now to find some more wool as the boys want one each for their rooms.

Monday, 28 January 2013

January Declutter update

So I am trying to instill a new habit a month and I wanted to spend January decluttering.  So how did I do?  I am firstly going to say what I achieved  and then move on to what needs to be done still.


  • Boys clothes sorted
  • My clothes sorted
  • Bathroom organised
  • En-suite organised
  • Food cupboards sorted
  • Kitchen crockery cupboard organised

To do:

Craft cupboard
The dreaded understairs cupboard
The garage
The craft room

So I am going to keep on with the decluttering through February and see if I can get on top of all our hot spots 

Friday, 25 January 2013

Healthy Eating on a Budget

Public Health Minister Anna Soubry claims that you can spot poor children by looking at the size of their waistlines.  It may have been a sweeping generalisation, but one fact I do know is that 1 in 7 UK children do not eat breakfast in the mornings.  I also know that with planning and time you can eat healthily on a budget. 

So I wanted to share my top tips for getting great value fruit and vegetables

Aldi do a Super 6 every fortnight.  Six vegetables or fruit that are vastly reduced, this last fortnights were:

Just looking at that list you could make a fab soup with the butternut, parsnips and onions.  Today I had an avocado  feta and chili quesadilla for lunch.  You could make a risotto with the mushrooms and onions and who doesn't love new potatoes.  My boys adore roasted parsnips and you can also make parsnip crisps too.  Butternut, onions, parsnips and the new potatoes could all be roasted to make a great side dish.

Lidl is also a great source of fresh produce.  Cherry Tomatoes are only 59p there this week.  In most of the major supermarkets you can pick up a casserole pack for a pound, which contains onion, carrots, parsnip and turnip.  All you need to is add meat and some stock and you have a delicious meal.  The same goes for soup packs. You do not have to be a great cook as they include all you need plus a method on the pack.

With prices like this there really is no excuse not to eat them.  

Eat Seasonally.  By eating what is in season, you tend to get the best price.  Eat the seasons tells you what foods are currently in season

Eat LocallySeasonal 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.  A market works out even cheaper, but we do not have one that is convenient.

Yes I will agree that eating healthily on a budget often takes time, planning and means that I have to be prepared, but I want to encourage my children to eat vegetables and I like all sitting down at the table and eating the same meal.

What are your tips for eating healthily on a budget?

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Ten Affordable Home Improvements that Require Minimum Fuss

Redecorating your home on a budget can seem difficult, especially if you are planning to renovate major rooms such as the living room and bedroom. If you want to make a huge difference to your home but without breaking the bank, these ten ideas could be all you need:

1. Clear the clutter

A tidy home instantly looks more attractive and anyone who has experienced the liberation of cleaning out their wardrobe or organising their kitchen cupboard will know just what a huge difference de-cluttering can make. Set aside a day to clear the clutter and your home will look and feel brand new.

2. Lick of paint

One of the quickest ways to give your home a facelift on a budget is repainting the walls. You can find lots of reasonably priced paints that will make your home feel lighter, brighter and fresher. If speed is of the essence, then choose one wall in your living or bedroom to redecorate and create an eye-catching feature.

3. Accessorise

If you like to change the look of your home regularly, then decorate with neutral colours and pick bold accessories to keep the appearance fresh. Whenever you fancy a change, simply swap your accessories. You’ll find tonnes of great affordable ideas at

4. Soft furnishings

Changing your soft furnishings is another way to give any room a new atmosphere. This idea woks particularly well if you want to change your room with the seasons. Keep your soft furnishings light and summery during warmer months and choose more opulent, thicker fabrics to create a cosy feel during winter.

5. Handle it

If you want to update your kitchen but don’t have the time and money to start ripping units off the wall then change the handles on your cupboards instead. Basic units can look luxurious when teamed with the right handles and this update is quick and easy to achieve.

6. Let there be light These days many of us use one or two rooms for lots of different purposes, so if your dining room also acts as your office then use different light features to change the mood to suit different occasions.

7. Deep clean

No matter how careful or house proud you are, carpets often become dull and dirty after a few years. Use a professional steam cleaner to lift the dirt and make your rooms lighter and brighter.

8. Funky flooring

A new floor is perfect for making rooms feel lighter, airier and more spacious. Check under your carpets to see if you could have any hidden gems such as real wooden flooring or old-fashioned tiles and restore them instead of investing in new coverings.

9. Change the layout

Sometimes you don’t have to spend a penny to redecorate your home – simply changing the arrangement of your furniture will do the trick. Make a scaled plan of your rooms and consider the different ways you could arrange furniture to give yourself a change.

10. Get arty

If your walls look a little tired and outdated, update them with some new artwork. Whether you have a family photo framed and hung on display or opt for a piece of modern artwork, wall dressings instantly lift the appearance of any room.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Do you stockpile?

One thing I noticed when sorting through the bathroom and en suite is that I  am guilty of stockpiling products.

Now this isn't necessarily bad thing, but I do need to take stock of what I have and stop buying until I need things unless they are super inexpensive.

This image has nothing to do with this post, but I just found it on my phone! 

When it comes to my favorite cleaners (Liz Earle) I get it for my birthday and Christmas (both in December), so it is good that I have enough to last me half the year.

However, there is no way that MadDad is going to get though all the shampoo I have stockpiled!

So I have wrote a list of what I have in and am not going to replace unless they are all gone or it is a unbeatable offer.

The other thing I realised I am guilty of is keeping for best.  I have toiletries that I have been keeping for best.  I actually deserve a relaxing bath with nice products ever week, so I am going to use them now!

Monday, 21 January 2013

Decluttering Make up and toiletries and how to clean make up brushes

I use to wear make up every day when I worked in an office, now it is high days and holidays.  So I am very guilty of keeping it open longer than I should.  So I decided to tackle my make up drawer and toiletries as part of my January Declutter.

  • I threw away anything that was open and older than 12 months, apart from the lipstick I wore to my wedding nearly 18 years ago!
  • I washed my make up brushes - it looks like a have a lot but the truth is I only use three, the others are given to the boys to pretend to add make up when I do mine! 
  • I did an inventory of toiletries (more on that in a later post).
How to clean make up brushes

Apparently you should clean your make up brushes once a week - eek, who has time for that!  Mine are used only on high days and holidays  so they are lucky if they get an annual clean, but this year I am going to endeavor to clean them once a month, so I feel less of a dirty slattern.

I clean mine with a paraben and SLS (sodium laureth sulphate) free shampoo.  This is because it is all I use as I have a reaction to SLS and SLA's and Maxi also suffer's with eczema.

I did them by adding a small amount of shampoo to the bristles  but trying to avoid that shaft.  I then cleaned them and rinsed until the water ran clean.

I then place them on a dry clean cloth to dry for a day.  By not putting them in a cup upright as below it stops the water going in to the ferrule (the technical term for the glue/grip/metal bit and prevents this becoming lose.

Then I air them upright in a cup for a further day.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

What to carry in your car when it snows

We live in the sticks, well not really, but it sure feels like it when it snows.  My brother lives 12 miles down the road and can have no snow when we can be snowed in and have 10 cm's!

MadDad works in a part of the country which has hills and dales and is not always in the office and has clients to visit and has to drive, so over the last 3 years we have got down to a fine art what to put in his car over the winter.

MadDad always also travels with his coat, hat, scarf and gloves in winter.  If he doesn't have them on, he will ensure they are in the car.

  • Water - Please do not leave it in your car overnight if it is cold as it will freeze!
  • Cereal bars - They are great to snack on if stuck and keep well
  • Phone charger - It always runs out of battery when you need it most
  • Basic first aid kit
  • Wind up torch or torch and spare batteries
  • Change - for a pay phone if necessary
  • Reflective triangle - we have this from when we traveled to France a lot as it is compulsory there 
  • A map - for when Sat nav fails you or you need to find an alternative route
  • Wind up radio - to keep you company when you get stuck
  • Blankets - MadDad has three fleece blankets as they fold up small.  They are great for layering and keeping warm, but you can also pop them under the wheels to try and help you get a grip in snow
  • Shovel - This year we purchased a new plastic snow shovel with a collapsible handle from ASDA for £6.99
  • Copy of all documents -  including insurance, drivers licence, contact details, emergency numbers including breakdown cover.

Also it is worth making sure your car is winter prepared too:

  • Screen wash - add concentrate, you do not want to find it has frozen when you need to clean your screen
  • Coolant - again you need to make sure it has antifreeze in it.
My biggest tip would be do not drive in the snow and ice if you can get away with it.  It is not always down to how careful and competent you are.  As an example Maxi went to a part on Friday and his friends Dad drove him and other children home, unfortunately before dropping the last child home a car coming the opposite way lost control and crashed in to them.  All involved where physically OK, but the car is a write off and it left a seven year old boy very shook up.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

No spend years - are they just a gimmick?

I have seen a number of blogs this year start around the whole idea of no spending.  They really got me thinking.  I know that Dotty Angel did a year of buying only handcrafted or thrifted in 2009. Yes Tif is obviously a trial blazer and early adopter.

But to actually not buy or spend anything over a whole year. Is this actually doable?  One such blog is Free our Kids.  I actually think that this is more achievable when you are talking about a toddler (2 years old) and if you have a good network of friends and family who will hand clothes and toys down to you.

When my boys were small, we went to a couple of playgroups a week, which cost 50p and £2 and were a really good investment, not only did the boys get to play with other children, but I also got a hot cup of tea and some conversation!

However, this would not work with my boys who are six and seven.  Firstly they actually wear clothes out at this age rather than growing out of them.

They want to do activities that cost money, such as Beavers, Cubs and football.  Yes they are not excessive in their cost, but they do add up.  Beavers and Cubs are £30 per term and junior foot ball is £15 per month. Maxi is just moving up to Cubs and his uniform will cost me £30 and a five day camp will be £70.

School activities and events also add up.  £5 for a bus to a museum or £70 for a school residential (which is only for one night and Maxi isn't doing as he is going to Cub Camp instead - his choice, as I said one or the other).

We are very much a mend and make do family.  When things break we look in to repairing them rather than replacing them and I do try to shop second hand when possible.  I menu plan, budget and try to instill the value of money in to my children.

To highlight my dilemma.  Our spade snapped last year and we have been on the look out for a new to us one with no luck, so had to buy a new one for MadDad's car (pictured about with Mini).  I wouldn't want him to be out in the snow without it.  If we were in a no spend year then this wouldn't have been acceptable.

I know for a fact we could not go though a no spend year and I actually don't think I would want to.  So what do you think,  Is this just a gimmick and do you see them writing a book about their attempts? Or it is just that I am a cynic and far too soft?

I am not going to set myself unrealistic goals, or try to exploit my children.  We are going to try and cut as many costs as we can and have  fun whilst doing it.

I would love to know your thoughts...........

Friday, 18 January 2013

A landing strip

It is what the American's call an area to put things in as you come in through the door.  Now we do not have a hall, but we have naturally developed our own landing strip.  I think that it is important for the entrance of your home to look welcoming and I was really missing my Christmas Wreath, so I made a spring bunting and felt flower wreath to replace it.

In our home as you come in the front door there is the stairs and an entrance to the sitting room, but no hall area to speak off.

So we try to make the most of a compact area.  I want the boys to make sure that they hang up their coats and put their gloves and hats away, so it was important to have low hooks to make it easy for them and the basket means they can just pop them in.  If their gloves and hats are wet then they leave them on the radiator.

They also come in and put their school shoes in the cabinet. or again if they are wet, they pop them under the radiator.

When MadDad gets home from work he always empties the pockets from his suit, so having a basket makes sense for him.  He uses it for his phone, keys, wallet etc.

It doesn't always look tidy, this is what it looked like last night after getting home from school

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Declutter update and New Year New You

I have been decluttering for a week and I wanted to update on how I am doing.
  • The boys wardrobes have been sorted and a sack of clothes gifted to a neighbour.
  • My clothes have been sorted and I have three sacks to go to the charity shop.
  • Mini has donated his old keyboard to the charity shop (leaving more room for books)
  • We have sorted though the children's books and there are 5 bags ready to donate to the school.
I feel as though I am on a roll and have been aching this is small chuncks of 15 minutes whilst doing all the rest of the jobs.

This week I plan to tackle the following tasks:
  • Sort the bathroom supplies.
  • Sort though the medicine cabinets
  • Sort the store cupboards in the kitchen 
If you are looking to get in to the New year with some changes, then why not take a look Hillarys curtains and blinds ‘New Year, New You’ competition on Facebook.

The competition gives you the chance to win a different prize a week.  This week there is a chance to win a £100 spa voucher.  Which I think I might deserve after getting the house in order!

If you are decluttering this January how are you getting on?  

Will Touring Holidays Suit Me And My Family?

When you’re planning a family holiday, you want to be sure that it’s something that you get exactly right. You want it to suit the entire family down to the ground and be something that everyone will remember for years to come.

So, if you and your family fancy something other than baking in the sun on a beach for two weeks, why not try a rail touring holiday for something a little more action packed?

What Are The Advantages?

1.   Educational

On a touring holiday, you will visit many different sites and will have a Tour Manager that will tell you about them. This means that your holiday is not only fun but is educational and your kids will be learning without even realising it. The Tour Manager is bound to have some fun knowledge on each new site that will entertain and shock your children and you may even find you learn something yourself.

2.   Change Of Scenery

If you and your family don’t really like just lying around in one place, this is the perfect holiday for you. The scenery changes all the time meaning that no one gets bored and grumpy while you’re away and everyone is kept busy.

3.   Active

Touring holidays are fairly active holidays meaning that if your kids are quite boisterous and energetic they'll have a chance to use up that energy and won’t be bored. Touring holidays are a great option for anyone trying to make sure they’re kept busy while away on holiday - lying on a beach isn’t for everyone after all!

4.   Good Experience

A rail touring holiday is a great experience for the entire family but particularly for children. It shows them that holidays can be fun and interesting and you don’t just have to be lying around trying to get a tan when away from home. Taking the holiday by rail is also interesting for them and shows them that cars aren’t always necessary – an important lesson for them to learn as the world continues to focus on green energy.

5.   Something Different

Touring holidays really are something different that kids can share with their friends back at school. It’s a holiday full of information and fun and something they are bound to remember for a very long time.

If you and your family like activity and adventure, touring holidays would really be a perfect holiday choice for you to try out.

Are kitchen appliances going to go wireless?

Home technology seems to be getting more advanced all the time, which can at times make it hard to keep up with the latest developments. However, the majority of new advances made in creating futuristic energy efficient appliances like a Fridge Freezers from could actually help to make doing household tasks like cooking and cleaning easier than ever. 

Network-ready appliances are one of the newest innovations in home technology, and, with the help of smartphone apps, they’re set to become the next big thing.

Apps used to help control kitchen appliances have become commonplace in recent months. Miele, a German electronics firm who make appliances, launched an iPhone app to help users control all their appliances by just pressing a button, while also being able to check each appliance’s status from another room in their home with the help of a wireless LAN network. Although this technology is relatively new, it could be useful to millions of people who find themselves short on time because of a busy lifestyle.

“Smart” self-serviceable appliances like a Washing Machine found at appliances direct are already pretty advanced, but if they can be controlled and monitored via a smartphone app, then that represents a big step in the right direction in terms of kitchen technology. Other apps such as the HomeWorks light control have been developed simply to help users switch lights on and off, but the new app from Miele opens the door for other manufacturers to do even more with networked kitchen technology.

In the near future, it wouldn’t be a huge shock to see new apps for iPhones, Android and other smartphones that will allow users to turn appliances on and off or perhaps download programmes for cooking or cleaning clothes. There’s always a chance that future apps that work with network-ready appliances could become even better than the one currently on offer from Miele, so watch this space!

Mark Kelly a spokesperson from UK Retail Experts Appliances Direct is “excited by the continuing development of technology in household appliances and it shows that the industry is innovative and committed to making people’s lives easier”

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Snow Drinks

The boys both came running out of school yesterday and were keen to get home to play in the snow we have.  Maxi wanted to make a snow drink.

So he collected the snow from the garden and popped it in to a cup.  Then we poured over some strawberry syrup that we had in and voila flavored snow.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Decluttering and organising digital files

Whilst we are busy decluttering, it is important not to forget our virtual decluttering and January is the perfect time to save all your previous years photographs to disk.  The fab eighteen25 has some downloads you can use as DVD covers.  I always make sure that MadDad takes a copy of the disk to work do if anything happens we have them there.  I also back up monthly to an external hard drive.

Whilst you are at it, why not back up your files and also back up your blog.  If you are not sure how the Tots100 has a great tutorial.

Keeping Toddlers Safe Around Heaters

With cold weather here to stay until the spring, more and more households are getting out their electric heaters. Small heaters are a good way to provide extra heat to individual rooms without wasting energy on increasing the whole house's temperature. For households with small children, though, heaters can also pose a few risks. Toddlers and other young children may not fully understand the danger a heater can pose, resulting in minor but painful burns. If you have toddlers and heaters, here are a few tips to help eliminate the risk. 


The first and most important step in protecting your children is to make sure that they understand the danger. Clearly explain to them that heaters can get very hot and that they should not touch them. Additionally, make sure children understand that toys, clothing and other objects aren't to be placed on top of heaters; these objects will heat up quickly -- toys, in particular, can really hurt young hands if they get hot. Children don't always heed adult instructions, as any parent knows, but a firm warning can definitely reduce the risk of an accident.

Be Vigilant

As a rule, a child should never be alone in a room with an electric heater. In fact, electric heaters should be switched off when an adult leaves the room, whether a child is present or not. This applies more to portable heaters than to a building's permanent heating system; it's almost impossible to avoid a child having unsupervised access to a wall-mounted heater at some point. Additional safety measures are necessary for this type of heater.

Use Guards

Portable heaters should have integral guards that prevent children from touching the heating element. If you're shopping for a portable heater, make sure that you choose one with this feature. For wall-mounted heaters, wooden or plastic screens can stop small hands from coming into contact with hot surfaces or children's toys from being placed on top of the heater. Most such guards can easily be removed when children are old enough not to need them.

Choose a Safe Heater

Preventing overheating is another important part of heater safety. Many modern electric heaters come with an automatic shutoff switch that turns off current to the heating element if the heater overbalances. Only purchase a new heater with this safety feature; if older heaters don't have a shutoff switch, consider replacing them. An overbalanced heater can not only cause burns to children, but also increases the risk of fire.

Place Heaters Carefully

Placing portable heaters so that children can't get to them is an important part of heater safety. High shelves or counters out of reach of toddlers can be a safe place, but be sure to test them first -- children can often reach higher than you expect.

Children have an irrepressible curiosity, often expressed by touching and grabbing unfamiliar objects. When heaters are on in the house, this can lead to accidents. By taking proper safety precautions, however, parents and carers can eliminate the risk of accidents and help to keep kids warm and safe through the winter.

Bio: These tips on keeping children safe around heaters have been provided on behalf of Economy Radiators who specialise in stylish but affordable electric heaters.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Sorting the children's outgrown clothes

Maxi has grown about 2 inches in the last four weeks and so has moved up in clothes and the time has come to sort through his wardrobes as part of our January declutter.

Now I know he will not stay in his room and try on everything, so I make him find a pair of trousers and a top that fits and put them on.

I then use those as a template for the other clothes.  Anything smaller gets moved to Mini's wardrobe.

I always make sure that I buy the boys clothes in the Sales and get great value, super quality clothes this way.

After setting aside everything that doesn't fit, I make an audit of what is left to ensure that he has everything he needs and pop a note of any requirements in a page on my dairy and also he current shoe size, in case I see any bargains.

I do the same with Mini's wardrobe and have a basket of clothes that no longer fit.  I then pass these on to a friend and any she doesn't want or need gets passed to the charity shop.

Another great way of getting rid of these clothes is by selling them at places such as Ebay. Donations, as well as any other kids items such as kids DVDs or games could be recycled at This way, you can get rid of any unwanted items and also receive money for it.

A basket of small clothes and unused toys to pass on 

How do you sort through your children's clothes?

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Cleaning made easy - Declutter

Life is too short to spend it cleaning all the time, but I find that a clean and tidy house means a clean and settled mind in my case.  Now I am not some OCD cleaner, who insists on a perfectly clean house all the time.  Nope Mess is good especially when in the middle of crafting or cooking, but I try to have a routine which makes it all easier.

When the boys were small I followed Fly Lady religiously and once you get past the freaky get dressed to your shoes and love yourself, it really is a great way of creating a routine that fits around your life nad means that you never had to have a messy house.

However, there is no point in cleaning a house that is filled with clutter, so in January I am taking a step back and my challenge is to clear the clutter in a month.  I would love for you to join me.

So my plan is over the next three weeks take each room and start sorting.  I am going to start at the door and work my way round the room in a clockwise direction using the following steps.
  1. 15 minutes.  Set the timer and work in 15 minute chunks.
  2. Have 3 boxes, one for donate, one for recycle and one for sell.  I also have a box for pout away when I am working downstairs and things need to move upstairs ( give away, throw away, put away or sell).  
  3. Be realistic of you are planning to sell it get it listed that day, otherwise, giveaway! 
  4. Have a place for everything.  By having a place for things you can put them where they are supposed to be straight away.
  5. If in doubt remember you only really need one of something.
I also work on the philosophy that if we haven't used something in a year, then it is clutter.

So the plan is to start with the upstairs including the bedrooms (mine and the boys), bathroom (remembering to throw away any opened toiletries that are a year old), the airing cupboard and then move downstairs,

Downstairs we have the entrance way, sitting room, dining room, kitchen, conservatory (playroom), kitchen and garage (which I will leave till both MadDad and I can do together,

So who is with me?

I will come back each week and share with you my progress.  For me the bedroom will be the hardest as I have so many clothes from before the mastectomy that I have kept in the hop of suiting me if and when I get a reconstruction and five years down the line I am just not read to go back in to hospital, so the time has come to let go and pass them on to the charity shop and admit, that this is my shape.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Why Menu Plan?

Cass from A Frugal Family and myself have a food blog called Frugaliscious and each week one of us posts out weekly menu plan on it.  This week it is my turn.

I have tried to ensure that we eat a rainbow this week so that we can kick this flu.  Mine has turned in to a chest and ear infection.

Menu or meal planning is one of the most effective ways that I save money.   By menu planning I make sure I only buy the food we need and we rarely have any waste.

Also one of the most soul destroying parts of parenting for me is the constant cooking and what used to be the stress over meal times.

I have got round this as the boys have grown (they are six and seven) by involving them in planning the food for the week.

Why Meal Plan?

Well apart from the obvious wondering what to cook at the last minute, it is a brilliant way to budget and save money.   On Average a family of four throws away £680 of food a year.  

This is a shocking statistic, which equates to about £50 a month.

How to Meal Plan

I start by looking at the bare bones of the food I want to cook.  I try to make one ingredient cover more than one meal.  For example if we have a roast chicken, then I use the leftovers for curry, risotto, pies, soup and stock.  Similarly mince will make shepherd's pie, mince and dumplings, bolognese  lasagna, burgers and much much more.  I use the mySupermarket Top Offers shelf to help me find out which meat is a best buy, as this is often the main expense when it comes to our meals.  


I get my inspiration for lots of places, including other blogs.  Mrs M has a weekly meal planning Monday link up, which is great for getting ideas. 

I also look cookery programs, we all do and they are something that we watch as a family and love cook books too.

My most used ones are:

I would love to know what your most used cook books are.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Winter Manifesto

I am a firm believer in life being what you make of it and that the universe will provide, but I am also aware that the economy is not getting any better and there is nothing wrong it doing what I can.

So this year I am going to make a concerted effort to earn more and spend less.  As a family we have our first ever big holiday coming on November as we have booked to go to Florida with my brother and his family, which gives me a goal to look forward to. 

So I am going to start the year with the following seasonal financial goals:
  • Declutter - As I get older I am learning that I actually need less physical things to make me happy.  So the aim of the next three months is to start paring down what we have.
  • Use what I have.  I have lots of fabric etc, so I am going to make the most of it and use it before replenishing it or buying any more.
  • Use the library more.  Less buying of books, more borrowing them.
  • Plan.  I am going to get a new year book purely for financial planning (My old one is falling to bits).  I write down when everything is due.
  • Menu plan.  I will endeavor to use up all our left overs.
What are your financial goals for the next three months?

5 frugal ways to stay warm this winter

With winter setting in and fuel costs rising, here are some cheap and simple ways to keep your home and family warm.

1. Insulation station

Insulating your home is cheaper than you think and makes heating vastly more effective. Loft insulation prevents heat escaping through the roof, one of the biggest causes of household heat loss. Insulating material can be bought at DIY stores and fitted yourself. Cavity wall insulation fills the gap in cavity walls, those with a double layer of bricks and a space between, and should be installed by a professional. Both loft and cavity wall insulation will repay the initial outlay over and over again. You may even be eligible for a grant to cover all or part of the cost.

Putting rugs or carpets on the floor will help keep heat in, as will curtains across windows and doors, the heavier the better.
Without insulation                  With Insulation 
2. Shut that door

A lot of heat can be lost when you open a door to the chilly outside world, so keep opening and shutting the front door to a minimum and make sure you close it behind you, even if you're only popping out for a minute. Keeping internal doors closed minimises draughts and helps rooms to warm up faster. You'd be surprised how much help an old-fashioned draught excluder laid along the bottom of the door can be, too. Use tape to seal any windows that won't be opened until the weather is warmer.

3. Heating when and where you need it

If you're only using one room, why heat the whole house? Leave the heating off and use a portable heater or electric fire to warm the room you're in.

Make sure the heating is only on when you need it by using a timer. Have the heating turn on before you arrive home in the evening and before you get up in the morning. If you're going away for the weekend, turn the heating off, or set it to go on for a brief period every day if there is a risk of pipes freezing.

4. Gather winter fuel

If you have an open fire or a wood-burning stove, there are ways to decrease the cost of fuel. Buying larger logs and splitting them yourself is cheaper than buying ready split wood. You may also be able to gather fallen branches in woodland, although you should make sure you have permission to do this. Keep an eye open for used wooden pallets outside businesses, since many owners will be happy for you to take these away as firewood.

5. Make your own heat

A brilliant way to make your house feel warm is to leave it for a while and go for a brisk walk outdoors, rather than shivering inside. Exercise in the fresh air brings a glow to your cheeks and gets your circulation going. Wrap up in plenty of layers and put on a good pair of boots or wellies, enjoy the winter landscape or the muddy puddles, and see how cosy you feel on your return. Hot drinks and meals also help warm you up. Try a hearty soup, chili con carne, or a curry.

BIO: These heating tips have been provided on behalf of tool hire experts HSS Hire. Amongst other things, HSS offer a variety of heaters such as electric heaters, indirect fuel heaters and direct fuel heaters. 

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