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Money-saving tips

9 Jul

The lovely folks at Moneysupermarket.com, one of my favourite money-saving sites, have asked me if they can guest post some of their hottest money-saving tips here. Those of you that know me well, know that I *love* getting a good deal. I like to equate almost every saving going, into the next little treat. A pedi, a bottle of bubbly, a night out with the girls. The savings all add up. My favourite pages on their site, are the shopping page, and the vouchers page which are well worth a look if you get the chance.

Saving moneyinahurry

So, over to Rachael at Moneysupermarket.com.

Being a parent can be very expensive! This is why it’s important for mums and dads to save money where they can. The recession has had a negative impact on many families’ finances, and many of us are finding that we have less and less money to spend on ourselves at the end of the month. We at moneysupermarket.com are experts at saving money and love sharing a few of our ideas to help you make your money go that little bit further…

Food shopping

For many people, the weekly grocery bill is a major expense, especially if you have a large family. Food prices have increased dramatically over the past few years, and with many incomes being squeezed, it’s more important than ever to make savings where you can (a mummyinahurry speciality!). There are the obvious tips like never shop when you’re hungry and always stick to your shopping list, but sometimes that’s just not enough. To make real savings on your weekly shop it’s worth considering shopping in local independent shops, such as the butchers and fruit and veg shops. Meat from the butcher tends to be cheaper (and tastier) than from the supermarket and it is likely to be from a local source. Local suppliers means less food miles too, so great for the environment too. Your butcher is unlikely to use fancy packaging, which means they can pass those cost savings on to you. Greengrocers work on the same principles, so you’re more likely to get more for your money when you shop locally. And if you walk  to the local shops, rather than driving to the local supermarket, you will save on fuel, and get some free exercise (who needs to pay for fancy gym memberships?).

Another option, which is a Mummyinahurry favourite, and the stalwart of many time-pressed parents is to shop for groceries online. Not only is it easier to stay away from those calorie-laden treats and refrain from the smell of freshly baked bread, but there are always an abundance of vouchers and voucher codes available on the internet for most major supermarket chains. An internet shop can also help you stick to budget, as if you overspend, you can simply edit your basket. Much easier than trying to edit a trolley full of groceries at the supermarket!

Utilities
It is shocking how expensive necessities such as gas, electricity and water can be. Rising energy costs have eaten into family budgets everywhere. One quick and easy way to make savings is to  compare energy providers online. Often, switching can save substantial sums, or you can use the threat of a move to get your current provider to give you a better rate. Another way to save money on utilities bills (and gain ‘eco-points’) is to be more aware of the energy you’re using. You can buy an energy monitor which tells you exactly how much energy you’re using in real time, allowing you to see which are the most expensive appliances to run. Even small changes such as turning off all electronic appliances when they’re not being used, can lead to noticeable savings.

Vouchers
Thrift is chic. Money-off vouchers have lost their stigma and have become increasingly popular during the course of the recession. Everyone loves a bargain, and vouchers give you the chance to buy things you may have been looking at anyway at a discounted price. Whether you’re out and about or shopping online, you’ll more than likely be able to find a printable voucher or voucher codes to use on that product. Before purchasing anything, do a quick search on moneysupermarket’s vouchers channel to see if you can get money off, or if not, consider looking for an alternative product or brand who offer discounts on their merchandise. We recommend spending a few moments printing off the vouchers for your regular stores and restaurants and keeping them in your bag or purse in case you need them while you’re out and about, so you never miss out on an opportunity to save some cash, (or treat yourself to a glass of wine or dessert with the savings).

Sell things you don’t need
Ever received a Christmas or Birthday present that you don’t use or like? Dig out all of the items that don’t use/wear anymore and sell them. There are countless online trading stores you can sell items on, such as the online auction house Ebay which allows you to sell or buy items, usually at a much lower price than in the shops. Sell that unused footspa that your aunt bought you for Christmas, along with that dress you’ve never worn and earn yourself some extra cash, for a rainy day treat.

Organise your direct debits
Keeping track of your bank account can be tricky, especially if you’re always on the go and buying things for the house or the kids. Its may be worth considering altering your organising all of your direct debits so they come out of your account around the date that you get paid, then after they’ve been taken out you will know that the money left is yours to spend. It may not be possible to get all direct debits to come out on the same day, but aim to get them taken out of your account within one week. Alternatively, set up a second account. Have your salary paid in to the account that your bills get paid from, then transfer a set amount into your spending account, operated on a debit card. Then when you check your balance, you will always know where you stand.
For many ‘mummysinahurry’, 24 hour online banking is the answer to that ‘can’t get to the bank in time’ dilemma. You can post/email/phone and fit your banking around your busy life. As mummyinahurry would say, whats not to love?!

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Emergency Exfoliation

26 Jun

Quick Body Scrub Ingredients

There are times when I look back with longing at my pre-motherhood days, when I had the time and the inclination to follow the strictures of the magazine beauty gurus and managed to wax, primp and preen on a regular basis, like a hopeful for a bit part on Sex in the City.

Oh how times have changed. Now I have made friends with the hairs on my legs (they keep me warm!). And as for the almost mandatory bikini wax. Are you kidding me? I have had 2 children and I eat cake on a regular basis. You would only rarely glimpse me in a bikini in my 5 times a week gym days, but now, not a chance, so bikini waxes are for high days and holidays only!

This weekend I am off, for 2 nights, child free, to see my uber-glamorous and gorgeous friend Sara tie the knot in Yorkshire.  While I am understandably excited about the wedding, I am also ever so slightly giddy at the thought of staying in a luxury hotel for 2 nights sans children. No requests for milk in the night, and no loud whines  demanding milk and cbeebies at 530am. I really cannot wait. The trouble is, I am not at all prepared. I managed to squeeze in a pedi on Thursday, when a girlfriend came for a playdate then kindly shooed me out of the house to the salon in what seemed like a guilty mid-week indulgence.  I had grand plans of getting plucked and fake-baked before the weekend, but instead, spent yesterday scrubbing our soon to be home and came home with dirt blackened fingernails!  I failed quite spectacularly at organising anything, so I am going to have to do an emergency fake tan application tonight, and keep my fingers crossed.  I decided that in order that I am halfway prepared, I would at least bathe and exfoliate last night, then realised at the last-minute, I had no products to hand. Suddenly, like a lightbulb going off in my head, I remembered my standby from my struggling student days. The answer lies in the kitchen. Olive oil and salt. Total cost of ingredients, well under a pound. Result, gloriously smooth and moisturised skin.

INGREDIENTS

  • Table Salt – the free running, fine, uber cheap kind
  • Olive Oil

Mix roughly equal quantities of salt and oil in bowl. Stand in bath or shower, and use in the usual way.  I have also mixed salt with body wash to great effect, but you will then have to moisturise afterwards.

I was feeling very proud of myself for my quick. thrifty last-minute solution, when I then read my Donna Hay Magazine 50th Anniversary Edition, which contains a lovely recipe for a hand scrub along the same lines, but sounds a bit more fragrant and glamorous. Unfortunately I cannot find a copy of it on the web. It was very similar to that above, but also contained sugar and lemon.  I may well have to make some. In the meantime, here is an example of another more fragrant example that I found on Wikipedia

Bank Holiday Ideas

31 May

I have been taking a break to spend time with the family this weekend, but if you are stuck for ideas on this miserable bank holiday, then here is a copy of my post today on the British Mummy Bloggers website.

Just when you thought that British Summertime had arrived, the good weather fairy packed her bags and went away for the weekend, leaving us with grey overcast skies and drizzle that seem to be mandatory for every Bank Holiday.

Add a couple of children into the mix, and you may by now be wringing your hands with despair at what to do. Do not despair. If you live close to London, then you are spoilt for choice, and most of the ideas below are free, or can be managed even on a tight budget.

I would recommend avoiding the usual suspects like the Science Museum and The Natural History Museum. Instead, spread the net a little wider and you can find a whole host of places to go, that wont break the bank.

One of my favourites, The Horniman Museum is in South-East London. It is to my mind, a scaled down version of The Natural History Museum. It has huge grounds for the children to run around in, and they even have a covered glass conservatory with chairs and tables that you can eat your packed lunch at. And its FREE.

The RAF Museum at Hendon is another great day out. Loads of room for the children to run about, and lots to see and do.

If you prefer a central location, then you could do worse than a visit to the Tate Modern. Although it gets busy, the sheer size and scale of the place means that there is room for the children to run about. And afterwards you can stroll along the riverside, or go for a boat ride if you are feeling up to it.

Another favourite haunt of mine (not the children) is The Wallace Collection. Although the kids may not enjoy it so much, it’s a stones throw from Carluccios in St Christophers Place, and Selfridges, so you can bribe the little ones with pasta or a trip to the toy department after your visit.

Many of the London Attractions offer a 241 deal if you travel by train. Look for the offers on DaysOutGuide.

Another of our favourite days out is a trip to Box Hill. We take a packed lunch (usually eaten in the car) then wander through the woodland looking for ‘The Gruffalo’ . The OH makes Gruffalo noises (!) and the children spend ages checking behind trees and bushes. We never find him, but the children don’t seem to mind!!

If you cannot be bothered with a packed lunch, there are a plethora of meal deals on offer at the moment. Have a look at the vouchercodes website for this weeks best deals.

If you fancy a splurge and want to dine out in style (with toddlers in tow) then look no further than BabyDinesOut. This stylish restaurant reviewer, has done all the work for you, with toddler in tow, so have a browse and take your pick.

Finally, if you just want to snuggle up at home, then roll up your sleeves, and get baking with the kids. Have a look at my site for some fast food ideas, or check out MyDaddyCooks if you want a video demo too!!

Have a great Bank Holiday!!

The spendthrift’s challenge

17 May

In the current climate of cutbacks and budgets, it feels right to try to ‘do my bit’ to see if I can save a few pounds on the weekly shopping bill, ready for the inevitable cost of living rises that the gloom-mongerers are almost cheerfully predicting.

Unlike the politicians that often claim to have no personal agenda, I have to confess my motivation may also stem from our (hopefully) imminent house move, where I am going to have to shrink the contents of my large kitchen (23 cupboards and 7 drawers of storage), into a kitchen with 1 dresser, a handful of shelves, and floorspace of 9ft by 6ft !!

No matter how ‘frugal’ I am feeling, I cannot seem to get the weekly shop (along with top ups) at less than about £150 (that does include all other things aside from food, like dishwasher tabs, nappies, toiletries etc), and quite often it goes well beyond that.  I really don’t mind spending a bit more on food these days, as nights out are currently few and far between, but I do wonder if I might be able to employ a little more thrift from time to time.  For the past few months, for one week a month, I have made an effort to avoid the big weekly shop, and have  made do with small local shopping trips. On those weeks I have managed to bring the total spend in at around £80 but that’s about as good as it gets.

This month I seem to have been spending left right and centre. So, on a whim (which I may refer to as ill-conceived later in the week), I have decided now is the time for drastic action.

The Challenge. To feed a family of four, for one week, using only the food already in the house and with an additional daily budget of £5 (total for the week £35) allowed for top ups of essentials a nd fresh foods, such as milk, eggs, fruit and veg.

The Prize. If I stick to the budget, I can pop out for a salon pedicure while Mr Mummyinhurry stays at home with the little ones and counts the change from the weeks housekeeping.  I am kidding about the last part. There will be no mention of change or the handing over of any savings made.

The rules

We will not be eating beans on toast every day. Come on, anyone can do that.

I will (try to) produce a variety of quick, tasty, home cooked foods, for the entire week, using only the food we have in the house. Top up shops are allowed but without spending more than £35 in total for the week.

I do have what may be considered as a slightly unfair advantage, in that I seem to have a reasonably well stocked freezer that I am slowly working on emptying. A quick check reveals the following

  • Sausages and chipolatas
  • Chicken thighs
  • Chicken legs
  • Ready to bake rolls
  • Ice Cream
  • Breadcrumbs
  • A selection of herbs. Garlic, ginger,lemongrass chilli etc
  • 3 types of home made soup
  • Salmon fillets
  • Prawns
  • Cranberries
  • Raspberries

I also seem to have a slightly eclectic mix of dried food and tins that I obviously dont like very much because it seems to have been there forever.Aside from the usual staples this includes

  • Jar of curry sauce
  • Dried rolled dates
  • Stir fry sauces
  • Fruits in syrup (like apples – what was I thinking?)
  • Tinned potatoes (why why why??!!)
  • Grilled artichokes (an improvement at last)

The fridge is generously stocked with the usual half used jars of mustard, jam, capers, mayo etc, a packet of near its sell by date parma ham, and some cheese.

As I went shopping today for fresh fruit and veg and milk and eggs, I am deducting the cost of that £16.08 from my budget.

I will be posting my daily menus (just so that you can see that I have not been cheating), and pictures of the good, the bad and the inedible.

Any suggestions, additional rules or offers to join me in a cookalong, are welcome. Or have a look at the poll and vote on the outcome!

Bon appetit!

Slush Fund

26 Apr

Now the weather has finally warmed up a bit (long may it continue), many of you may find the usual requests for chocolate and sweets as you pass the newsagents being replaced with demands for ice lollies and crushed ice drinks (children of the 70’s and 80’s will recall the allure of the blue raspberry slush puppy). My nephews are mad for these crushed ice and cordial confections, and do their best to pester their mum for one every day on the way home from school. That’s all well and good for an occasional treat, but if this turns into a daily occurence, you are looking at £2 a day so a sudden rise in your monthly spend of over £50. Thats 3 or 4 bottles of Jacquart Champagne (see yesterdays supermarket sweep post) or a good night out.

I have the solution for you and its almost free. Reach to the back of the cupboard and dust off the fancy liquidizer that you placed on your wedding list, and used for a couple of weeks making all sorts of smoothies, before you tidied it away and forgot all about it.

Place ice into liquidizer with cordial/juice to taste and blitz on crushed ice function. Decant into fancy glasses with straws and enjoy the silence of contented children. Now while the children are quiet, crush some more ice. Add rum, fresh mint, sugar and soda – and you have a fabulous mojito. Cheers!

(in case you are interested – here is a recipe for the mojito)

http://www.tasteofcuba.com/mojito.html

Home-made slushy ice