Sunday, 8 January 2012

My 3 girls made themselves new cuddly toys

As an antidote to boredom over the festive season, my 3 daughters made themselves new cuddly toys.  Meet the Bobbles!

They were made using 2 woolly hats joined together and then stuffed.  Eyes were made with flowers I had crocheted and buttons, they have button noses as well.  Mouths were made from felt and ribbon or lace around the middle, and a bow with a button on their heads, were final girlie touches.

What do you think? They loved making them and they are just the right size for make-shift pillows whilst lounging on the sofa.

Monday, 2 January 2012

How to save money - how my family and I manage it.

Saving Money on Grocery Spending

I hate wasting food. We use our leftovers for the next nights dinner, next day lunches, or freeze them for later use - carefully labelled to avoid unidentified frozen meal issues. I boil up bones from roasts for stock, forage for free food locally from hedgerows (not too near roads and above the dog wee line), and readily swap gluts of our homegrown produce with others so that nothing is wasted because we have too much of a certain food. Bottling and preserving food is fab too, jams and chutneys are so versatile and tasty.

I also bake my own bread, bagels, cakes, muffins and other sweet and savoury baked treats. We don't buy takeaways, we make our own instead. It's fairly easy to make your own pizza, curry, sticky ribs or oven baked fish and chips.

I've blogged loads of tips about how we make the most of our grocery budget here.  There are also several Meal Plans and more Grocery Shopping Tips on my foodie blog.

Grow Your Own Vegetables
I blogged about gardening with my 3 girls here.  The awesome Chris Mosler who blogs at Thinly Spread has a great post about gardening with kids.  There are also great tips on Ready for Ten along with loads of great play tips and interesting articles to help parents get their kids into gardening.  We have a really small garden so grow lots of things in pots and reusable grow bags.  We would love an allotment but there are none available locally at the moment.  We are going to share one with one of the other school Mums this year as a gentle introduction to year round allotment management.  It will also give my girls and I a chance to grow our vegetables and flowers on a larger scale. 

Save Money on Clothing

My children love trawling charity shops for clothes, they have no issues with second hand clothing. Sometimes I liven up charity shop buys by sewing ribbon or lace around the bottom of a garment or adding my own iron on applique which is easy using Bondaweb type products.

I do buy them new clothes too, but make sure to shop in the sales, if possible. Having 3 girls makes hand-me-downs easier, although my eldest is reed thin and the younger 2 are not. A group of school Mums and I swap kids clothes between us, we all have kids of different ages and genders, so there's always something available in the size we need.

The only thing I don't scrimp on is shoes for my daughters.  I always by Clarks or Startrite shoes as I don't want their feet mangled by cheap shoes that don't fit that well.  I never buy second hand shoes. 

Save Money on Christmas and Birthday Gifts

I make my daughters 1 Christmas present and also 1 birthday present each and  buy the rest on sale throughout the year.  For their friends birthdays we try and either make something or find a suitable gift from charity shops, recycle books that my girls no longer read, or use cheap online book retailers like Redhouse or The Book People.  I made this bag and filled it with books for my 8yo's friend as a birthday present.  Loads of the Mums at the party wanted to know where they could buy a bag like the one I made. I also get my daughters to make greeting cards for their friends which saves loads of money and keeps them amused at the same time.  We even make our own ribbon bows to save money and add a personal touch to gifts.  I bake, make, grow, thrift or buy on sale almost every gift that we give to others.  I bought my 3 daughters their own sewing machine for Christmas so they can make gifts for their friends all by themselves, with a little adult supervision.

Kids Crafts and Play Ideas on the cheap

I've blogged loads of cheap and fun recipes for everything from Play Dough to Gloop here.  One of the best free toys in the world is a cardboard box.  You can pick them up from supermarkets, appliance retailers and other shops for free.  The fabulous Maggie from Red Ted Art has blogged 40 play ideas for cardboard boxes along with loads of other crafts.  The lovely Cathy from Nurturestore has a wealth of play ideas too.

Saving Money on Outings and Family Trips

We love going out as a family and are lucky to live in Cambridge where there are loads of free Museums, parks and riverside walks to explore.  We also like going to London and use a Family and Friends Railcard which saves money on train fares and also entry into various attractions.  There are loads of fab free activities and Museums in London to explore as well.  I'm sure with a bit of Googling you can find loads to do in your local area that is either free or low cost.

Save Money on Household Decorating and Furniture

I have been known as "Steptoe with a Stroller" but I no longer have a child in a pushchair so I now have to use my bike trailer.  I pick up blankets, fabric and other household decorating items on freecycle or from charity shops and recondition them or make them into something new.  Ask your friends if you can have their old curtains if they are being thrown away, or ask at local businesses that are being remodelled if there are any decorating materials that they are getting rid of.  My local Scrapstore had loads of home furnishing fabric and you could fill a large bag for £1.  I got 10 metres of fabric 1000cm x 150cm for £1 in 4 different designs.  Perfect for a set of curtains and some cushion covers.  I also love quilting, which you can do in front of the telly at night.  There are loads of tutorials online to show you how to make your own cheap home furnishings.  I crochet which also helps as I can make blankets, cushion covers, etc.  The inspiring and fab Attic 21 blog has loads of great crochet projects and tutorials.

There are some fabulous blogs with great tips on how to be thrify and frugal.  Here are a few of my favourites:

Home Baked

A Thrifty Mum

Diary of a Frugal Family

Baby Budgeting

A Thrifty Mrs

What are your top money saving tips? Do you have a fab frugal living blog? Leave me a comment and let me know.