Tuesday, 17 December 2013

It's beginning to cost a lot, this Christmas...

Mr C and Samuel.

This is my first year with a child who is old enough to understand that Christmas equals presents. Samuel is almost 3 and, while he isn't asking for anything in particular, I am so looking forward to seeing his little face light up when he is presented with a roomful of Monsters University merchandise.

However, this constant present buying takes it's toll on the purse, and there are still other things that I need to buy. We currently have no festive food, the tree has only just been decked (where were all the clear fairy lights this year?!) and the Secret Santa is yet to be purchased (more on that later).

So, when passing Poundland, I thought, hey, I wonder what I can get from my ever expanding list in here? And I have to say - a lot! Here is a list of the items I purchased, all for £20.



1. A melamine serving plate. This will come in handy for the Christmas day snack buffet - and just this weekend I also saw that our local cafe are using them for children's cooked breakfasts, which is a great idea if you have a child who is phobic about bean juice touching toast...

2. Christmas doggy treats. A gift for my colleague's dog!

3. Happy Birthday loot bags. Samuel turns 3 in January so the expense is all going to begin again as soon as Christmas is over!

4. Fruit gummies. Perfect sweet treats for Samuel on days when I'd rather he didn't have chocolate.

5 and 6. Pergale chocolates - for mum and dad on Christmas day.

7. Russian doll trinket box - perfect to put aside in case of last minute gift emergencies!

8. Mickey Mouse push light. Samuel has recently started getting up for a wander at night, this will help him see his books.

9. Cheese! For our buffet at work tomorrow (yum).

10. 6 children's toothbrushes. He's going to need them after his Christmas chocs....

Subtotal: £10.00





11 and 12. 3 selection boxes for £2. We are not doing a Secret Santa at work this year but instead using the money to buy food to donate to the foodbank. We've also decided to add a small chocolate gift here. What a lovely treat for such a small outlay.

13.  The Very Hungry Caterpillar sticker book. Lovely little stocking filler.

14-17. Melamine bowls, plates and salad serving bowl. Will be used to great effect on Christmas day.

18. Cookie Crisp cereal. Another potential sugar saver - I plan to dole out small bowls of this whenever Samuel asks for chocolate or biscuits over Christmas.

19. 6 pack of Butterkist toffee popcorn - perfect for my girls' trip to the cinema (Hunger Games, since you asked).

20. Another melamine serving plate - because a friend was coveting the one in the cafe!

Grand total: £20.00


It feels great to have those few things ticked off my list - and at such a cheap price!

Have a wonderful festive season xx

Disclaimer - Poundland sent me £20 as part of their Christmas challenge. The choice of what to spend it on was mine.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Frugal Food

For those of you who have not yet heard of A Girl Called Jack, I recommend you get straight over to her blog as soon as you finish reading this. After finding herself in financial dire straits, she started the blog as a way of sharing recipes that she was able to make for a few pence in order to feed herself and her young son on the small amount of money she had available.

She has recently started the campaign #22mealsforacoffee to highlight the difference the cost of your daily coffee could make to a family struggling to make ends meet, encouraging us to spend that money donating to the very worthwhile charity The Trussell Trust, who provide foodbanks around the country, rather than popping into Starbucks every morning.

Easy Peasy Soda bread - 32p

I decided to take on the challenge of cooking the recipes from her blog, and seeing how easily I could get my food bill down. Over the past weekend I have knocked up her Mexican Bean, Chilli and Chocolate soup, her Easy Peasy soda bread and her Kidney Bean, Carrot and Cumin falafels. I didn't want to have to buy anything new so I substituted some items for those we already had in the cupboards, and everything turned out wonderfully. According to her prices, these two meals (we had the bread with the soup) cost me 85p. Healthy, nutritious and frugal - that's the kind of meal I like!

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

To buy or not to buy....

...that is today's question.




My dilemma. I have to renew my train pass in December, at a cost of £870 for the year. This will go up in January 2014 (price TBC) so I definitely want to take advantage of the 2013 price while I can, but it depresses me to: A) spend that much money at once and; B) to think I will still be commuting in a year's time!

When I bought the pass last year I had been paying monthly, the saving worked out as £23 a month when I converted to annual. A massive saving, I think you'll agree. I started a regular savings account and put £25 a month away (I figured I wouldn't miss it as I had been paying it out anyway) so by December I will have £325 squirreled away towards the new cost, leaving just £545 to find. I had hoped to find an interest free purchases card to put this on but have only managed to get accepted for a 6.9% on purchases for life card.

So. I guess I just buy the pass and put it on the card? I can probably throw £75 a month at the card whilst still saving this £25 a month towards next year's ticket (please God don't let me need one next year!), and I think it will only cost about £10 in interest payments.

Don't really know what the alternative is but I'd love to hear suggestions!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Meal plans: 30th September - 6th October

So, both to keep me on track and to hopefully inspire some of you to try some new recipes, I will try to post up my meal plan on a weekly basis. I tend to take advantage of the yellow stickers (reduced items) in Tesco, the best bargains can be found around 3pm on a Sunday afternoon and after 8pm on a weekday. We currently only have a tiny fridge while we wait for our kitchen to be replaced so we're currently reliant on foods (root veg, tins etc) that can be stored at room temperature, barring milk, cheese, yoghurts and meats which we make space for!

Here follows my meal plan for this week. It's a day late so apologies for that, but I can tell you that the curry was yummy. I also don't tend to plan lunches as there's usually something leftover by the weekend, and I just take to work anything I haven't managed to use up the previous week. However, I'll often take salad, soup or pasta with me.

Monday: HFW's lentil dahl with brown rice and a tomato and red onion salad.

Tuesday: Quiche (from the reduced section) with lazy lady's skillet potatoes and broccoli

Wednesday: A Girl Called Jack's Carrot, Kidney Bean and Cumin falafel, with some potato wedges and spicy tomato sauce.

Thursday: Oven baked spinach risotto (spinach was purchased reduced to clear so I cooked it down in butter and garlic on Sunday before it slimed. Took up much less space in the fridge too!)

Friday: Oyster and Pearl's Tarka Dal with brown rice and a tomato and red onion salad

Saturday: Home made pizza (topped with whatever we have!)

Sunday: Leftover curry from Friday.


What are you having this week?

I'm back

I apologise for the long hiatus on this blog - I'd started to run out of new things to write about so have decided to slightly change the skew of the blog and make it more about moneysaving for familes. My moneysaving journey began when I decided I had had enough of constantly having no money left at the end of the month. While I consider myself to be a fairly frugal person, I also knew there was more I could do, as I always saw friends who seemed to be much better off than me - a coffee and a cake on a Saturday morning seeming to use up half of my weekly food shopping budget.


So, welcome to my world. I'll share budget recipes that could pass for Nigella, great discounts that I find for those special must-have-don't-need items and cheap ways to spend a day out with kids. If you have any suggestions, please do leave me a comment, I'd love to hear your tips.

Love, Siobhan

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Toddler ready meals

Samuel enjoying his Little Dish Mild Chicken Korma
As much as we'd all like to cook fresh food from scratch for our babies and toddlers, sometimes time does not allow us to. Perhaps you've gone out for the morning, fully intending to come home for lunch, but then you bump into a friend and decide to go for a coffee together - and the cafe doesn't sell anything suitable for your little one to have for lunch! This is where ready prepared baby food comes in handy. We're all used to seeing the little jars lined up on supermarket shelves, but what about when your child is eating proper, chunky meals at home - a jar just isn't going to cut it. I decided to roadtest the different offerings available for a child of Samuel's age (22 months), and I have to say, I wasn't disappointed in any. 


First up, we tried Plum's Taste Adventurers range. These meals are designed to be stored at ambient temperatures, making them perfect to pop into the changing bag for use in an emergency. They can be warmed or eaten cold, and come in their own disposable bowl - very convenient. They are aimed at babies aged 10 months or over so are a little smoother than Samuel is now used to, but served alongside a chunk of bread with some cheese squares and fruit, they make a great, convenient meal for a hungry toddler. The range includes Mediterranean Paella and Salmon, Root Vegetable and Beef Casserole, Aubergine and Lamb Moussaka, Sweet Cape Curry with Beef and Chickpea and Chicken Tagine. One criticism of them is that they don't have a lid (which would make the bowl format even better). They also have that "baby food" aftertaste that I can't quite pin down, but Samuel enjoyed them all, especially the Chickpea and Chicken Tagine. 



Next up was Little Dish's range of kids ready meals. These are my favourite by far as they are more like conventional ready meals, in that they are stored in the fridge and taste much more fresh than other ready prepared baby foods. In fact, my husband is always hoping Samuel isn't having a hungry day when there's a Little Dish meal on the plate, so that he can finish it off! However, the fact that they are fridge stored does mean they are not as convenient, as you can't really carry them round in case you need them. They are however wonderful for those evenings when you've had a long day of play and you just need a quick meal at home, especially as they show on the sleeve how many portions of veg they contain.Samuel adores the Mild Chicken Korma, although all the range went down well. The range is aimed at children aged 12 months plus and includes Beef Lasagne, Fish Pie, Spaghetti and Meatballs, Chicken Risotto, Chicken and Butternut Squash Pie, Pasta with Cheese, Peas and Broccoli Trees and Pasta Bolognaise. Little Dish also sell a cookbook, full of wonderful recipes to cook at home.



Then we tried the Organix range of Mighty Meals. These, like the Plum meals, are stored at ambient temperatures, but they are more similar to the Little Dish meals in that they are more chunky, aimed at 12 months plus. They do still have that baby food aftertaste which Little Dish have avoided, but look more like a meal than the Plum meals that are aimed at slightly younger children. Samuel particularly enjoyed the Vegetable and Chicken Korma; the range also includes Hearty Lamb Hotpot, Tomatoey Beef Bolognese, Creamy Chicken Pasta, Pork Meatballs, Herby Salmon and Potato Bites, Beef Stew and Dumplings and Spinach Falafels.We are going away on holiday next week and plan to take a bag of these with us!

The one criticism I would have of all of these ranges is that there are very few vegetarian options - Little Dish just have their Pasta with Cheese, Peas and Broccoli Trees and Organix the Spinach Falafels, while Plum don't have any in the Taste Adventures range. I would like to see more vegetarian meals for families who choose not to eat meat, either ever or just as a break, but still want to eat a healthy, balanced meal.

Just to try something different, we have Ella's Kitchen's new range of cereals a try. Samuel really enjoyed the Wakey Wakey Round Ones (aimed again at children aged 12 months plus), which I was a little surprised at as he is used to Cheerios and Weetabix in the mornings. I did think these may not be sweet enough for what he is used to as they have no added sugar but he wolfed them down. It's great to have a cereal like this that is aimed at toddlers as it's hard to find no added sugar cereals that they will enjoy.

So, next time you're planning a day out and you're worrying about what to feed that energetic bundle of noise and love, don't worry - reach for one of these options and you can be sure you are getting a good, healthy meal into them.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

The First Cut

A few weeks back, Samuel and I indulged our artistic sides when we took in the Family Art Club at Manchester Art Gallery. The Family Art Club generally runs one Saturday a month and is for ages 6-11, however during holiday periods it is often opened up to ages 0-11 and so we decided to make our first visit. From previous visits to the Mini Art Club (aimed at 0-5 year olds) I knew that Samuel can be a little wary of messy play, so I was pleased to find that this session was paper-themed, to fit in with their exhibition The First Cut. The exhibition itself is amazing, showing works by artists who cut, sculpt and manipulate paper, such as Rob Ryan and Claire Brewster. The first part of the session involved a visit to the exhibition and identifying as many geometrical shapes as you could. I was a little worried about allowing Samuel into a space with such delicate artworks but he was fairly well behaved, shouting "Circle!" and "Square!" whenever he saw one. He has recently developed a love for shapes so this session was perfectly timed! 

Andreas Kocks, In the Beginning (2007)

After looking at the artworks, we then moved back to the education space where there were tables laid out with glue, safety scissors and different shapes of paper and stickers, to allow you create your own artwork. There were also tubes attached to the wall and children were encouraged to lie their paper flat underneath then throw the shapes down the tubes and glue them where they lay.



Samuel thoroughly enjoyed this session and it was a relief to not have to clean paint off his tiny hands at the end! His art work ended up looking a little like a MirĂ³ and I might even get it framed...