My Simple Trick to Make Tidy Up Time Easier

tidy up time

As hard as I try to tidy up as the day goes on, on days where I have been indoors all day with the kids (aged 1 and almost 3), the floor always looks like there has been some kind of explosion in a toy shop. Building blocks, toy animals, balls EVERYWHERE. It is exhausting even thinking about putting everything back in its home, let alone actually doing it. I used to wait until the kids were in bed before wearily tidying up as I always assumed that tidying up with kids around, trying to help would be more stress than it was worth. However, I had a sudden brainwave a few weeks ago which has made my life a lot easier… not to mention it is helping my daughter learn the importance of tidying up and has given her some responsibility.

The answer was sitting right in front of me – Lauren’s toy supermarket trolley (or ‘cart’ for those of you over the pond): 

tidy up time shopping trolley

Here’s what we do before bed every night: I set a timer and tell Lauren to dash around downstairs with her trolley, picking up every toy that’s on the floor and placing it inside. I encourage her to make sure she looks under tables and behind curtains to get everything. Each night we try to beat our record time. During the day I remind her that if she puts something away now after she’s done playing with it, there’ll be less picking up to do at night which means she will be quicker and might break her record.

Once every toy has been collected, we then wheel the trolley back to our toy storage area and then together we put everything back in its place. This is also educational as it encourages sorting by type, not to mention reinforcing where everything’s home is… maybe some day she will tidy up of her own accord? I can but dream…

tidying up with kids

This technique has really made a huge difference to the tidiness of our home not to mention my stress levels – let me know if you try this method of tidying up with kids and if it works for you too. If you don’t have a trolley already, I have had a look on Amazon and these two options are affordable and have great reviews:

Molly Dolly Deluxe Metal Shopping Trolley

 

Vinsani Shopping Trolley & Pretend Food

 

tidy up time

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Things You Should Be Doing NOW to Save Money this Christmas (Free Printable)

christmas gift list planner

Have you started a Christmas gift list yet? Yes, you probably think I am crazy. After all, there are are still over 5 months until Christmas. However, I am great believer that taking small steps towards getting ready for the festive season earlier in the year takes a huge amount of pressure off in December, plus you will also save tons of money by not having to panic buy at high prices. The biggest expenditure at Christmas is always presents.

Here are the things I am already doing now in terms of gifts to make life easier at Christmas time:

  1. Figure out (and list) who you need to buy for (perhaps this is good time to have a chat with family about setting a price limit for the growns ups… sometimes things can get out of hand if you have a large family)
  2. Start thinking about what you want to buy them – on shopping trips and when browsing online, keep your eyes open for gifts. Start ‘fishing’ for clues in conversations. Probably a good idea to hold off on this when it comes to very small children though… a Peppa Pig fanatic in July could well be a Paw Patrol devotee come December!
  3. For each gift idea, sign up for price alerts on Hotukdeals (see this post for more information how and why you should be doing this). I have saved so much money over the years by 
  4. If you get an alert for a gift you have in mind and it’s at a price you are happy with, why not spread the financial burden a bit by buying it now and putting it away? You could even wrap it if you are especially keen!

I have created a free printable which will help you keep track of your Christmas gift list: Download your free printable here

free christmas gift list tracker printable

Please let me know if this post was helpful… have you already got some presents stashed away? Claire at Wotawoman Diary has a post here about saving up to cover the cost of Christmas if you looking for more tips.

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My 5 Favourite Cheap Things to do with Kids in Edinburgh

Now that the school Summer holidays are upon us, many of us locals will be looking for cheap things to do with kids in Edinburgh. I thought I would share some of my top spots in and around Scotland’s capital to visit if you are looking to keep the kids amused withing breaking the budget.

Craigies Farm & Farm Shop

I feel like everyone who has been to Craigies raves about it – myself included! Entrance is free and there are a selection of animals to see (including Shetland ponies, pigs, goats and chickens). There is a lovely farm shop if you fancy something special for dinner or are looking for a gift for someone. I can recommend their vegetable boxes if you are planning a Sunday roast, and their gin and craft beer selections are definitely worth a peruse. Seasonally, you can also participate in pick-your-own fruit/pumpkins. One of the best parts for me is that there is a large enclosed play area for the kids to run around, overlooked by plenty of picnic tables so us parents can relax with a coffee and a scone from the cafe whilst the kids have fun.

cragies farm tractor
Toddlers can’t resist a chance to sit on a tractor

National Museum of Scotland

Entrance to this enormous museum is free. You could spend the whole day here if you have older children, but even with younger kids, we can definitely spend a fun couple of hours exploring the amazing Animal World room (complete with T-Rex skeleton) and the Adventure Planet area. I look forward to seeing more of the museum as they get older. In my opinion, I think this is probably the best of all the cheap things to do with kids in Edinburgh.

national museum of scotland adventure room
Lauren dressed up as a hunter, chasing her little brother

Cramond Island

If you’re in the mood for an adventure, I can’t think of a better one than walking across the causeway to Cramond Island (not buggy friendly unfortunately). Just make sure you check the tide times to make sure you don’t get stranded!

Gorgie City Farm

Entry is free but please donate generously to this amazing enterprise. The farm isn’t huge, but there is a selection of animals (mainly chickens), a decent playpark and a cafe – it’s a lovely urban oasis in which to while away one or two hours.

gorgie city farm tractor
What did I say about toddlers and tractors?

Royal Botanic Garden

This is an amazing place for toddlers to burn off all that energy, not to mention incredibly educational. A wonderful place to have a picnic whilst watching the squirrels scampering about. Entry is of course free.

Hope this blog post has been helpful! Do you have any other ideas for cheap things to do with kids in Edinburgh?

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My Goals for July 2018: Money, Health and Life

My Monthly Goals

Here are my monthly goals for July 2018 (how are we already halfway through the year already?):

Money

Stick to my grocery budget (£240)

I have a terrible habit of visiting the local (expensive) convenience store on a practically daily basis to stock up – this is such an expensive way to shop. £240 for the month i.e. £60 a week should be totally achievable, there are families out there who get by on a lot less. A good starting point to meet this goal will be to stick to my method of meal planning.

End the month in a net saving position

We have been terrible in recently months at living beyond our means, dipping into our savings each month. It would be nice to finally break even this month. It will be a bit challenging because we are away on holiday to Dubai for 4 days at the start of the month, so we will have to be thrifty when away – at least the flights and accommodation have already been paid for.

Buy no clothes or make up

I am the worst at treating myself whenever I feel a bit down or I’m stressed, which less face it is most days when you have young kids!. But I really, really do not need any new clothes or make up. My wardrobe and make up drawer are bursting at the seams.

Health

Lose 7lbs

This one will be tough because of the aforementioned holiday, but at least the holiday is at the beginning of the month, giving me the rest of the month to make amends. I will do this by following the Exante program.

Life

Read two books

I am so bad at just watching trashy TV at night – I’d be much better spending my time reading.

Travel somewhere new

I admit, this one is totally cheating.. we are already booked to go somewhere new: Dubai!

… tune in at the end of the month to find out how I got on with my monthly goals.

 

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Haven Craig Tara review – what did we think?

Please find below my Haven Craig Tara review – hopefully it will help you make your mind up if you are considering going on holiday there.

Our last few holidays have all been overseas and have included a week in a private villa in Andalucia and a week in an all inclusive resort in Gran Canaria. Once kids come along, holiday prices skyrocket for numerous reasons – not only do you need much larger accommodation than you did when it was just the two of you, but once they turn two, they have their own seat on the plane as well (which bumps the flight costs up significantly). Plus, once the kids are crawling or even worse, walking, those relaxing foreign holidays in the sunshine of days gone past are anything but relaxing!

So when planning our main family holiday for 2018, now that we have two kids (who were 2.5 and almost 1 at the time of the holiday in April) we decided to do something totally different. We wanted to go somewhere not only in the UK, but within a short drive from our home in Edinburgh. My husband had booked his week off work ages ago, not realising that it was in the school Easter holidays – oops. As such, a lot of accommodation was already sold out and what was left was very expensive. Which lead us to thinking outside the box in terms of the type of holiday we were looking for… and we eventually decided to try a week in a caravan at the Haven Craig Tara resort. We haven’t done this type of holiday before, but it seemed to tick a lot of boxes in terms of cost, location and things to do to keep our toddler happy.

We paid £391 for 4 nights (Monday – Friday) in a Deluxe 3 Bedroom caravan during the school Easter holidays. Note: this trip was entirely paid for by ourselves.

I am ashamed to admit this, but on our two hour drive to Craig Tara, I turned to my husband and whispered “if it’s awful, we can always just go home early”. I just didn’t know what to expect – caravan resorts at the British seaside sometimes have a bit of a run down, down-market reputation, and I’m embarrassed to admit that I was a little nervous that this reputation would be well-deserved.

Upon arrival, we parked at reception, my husband took the kids for a wander whilst I queued at the check in desk. The queue was enormous, but actually it was probably less than half an hour before I made it to the front and got my keys. What awaited us at the caravan was quite unexpected:

Deluxe 3 bedroom caravan at Haven Craig Tara resort

Wow! It was immaculately clean and beautifully furnished. The living area and kitchen were remarkably spacious. I couldn’t believe that not only was there a shower room with a toilet in it, but also a separate WC too. I’ve lived in flats less well equipped than our caravan! The 3 bedrooms were small but perfectly adequate, each with plenty of space to hang clothes. The kitchen was well equipped, with a large fridge, freezer, microwave, oven with hob, kettle, toaster and all the utensils you need. You need to bring your own towels, tea towels, washing up liquid and toiletries. We forgot to bring kitchen roll, washing up liquid and a dish sponge but all these were available at the Nisa shop onsite, which I was surprised to find was reasonably priced given that they have a captive audience.

There are so many activities for kids, but most of them started from age 4+, so we didn’t get involved – we look forward to signing up in the future. Instead, we spent our days at the beautiful beach and at the indoor swimming pool.

The beach at Haven Craig Tara resort

The beach at Haven Craig Tara resort

One of the highlights for us was the Seaside Squad’s kids show each evening. Our daughter, Lauren, took a special shining to Rory the tiger – over two months later, he still crops up in conversation almost every day. She can’t wait to go back to see him again. Until then, she has a stuffed Rory toy to cuddle in bed each night. The below picture is of her meeting her idol and it brings tears to my eyes thinking about how happy she was – such a magical moment. We could have spent £5,000 going to the Maldives and she wouldn’t have had as much fun as she did at Craig Tara.

Seaside Squad at Haven Craig Tara resort

Given that it was the Easter holidays and the resort was fully booked, I was expecting the site to be really busy, with queues everywhere. The only time I was really aware of it being busy was at the start of the kids show at night, where there was a mad dash by everybody to get the best tables up near the stage. With having small kids, we didn’t have a chance to check out the entertainment later on in the evening… maybe next time we will have to go back with the grandparents who might be so kind as to babysit one night.

I must mention one of the other things we did – twice, because it was so good. We travelled down the coast to Culzean Castle, which is a National Trust for Scotland property. It has an absolutely amazing outdoor kids play area which Lauren loved.  As we are members, we got free entry. Also, next door to Craig Tara is Heads of Ayr farm which we ran out of time to do, but we will definitely visit next time. 

I hope you enjoyed my Haven Craig Tara review. Have you been there before? Are there any other Haven resorts you recommend? I’d love to check out Haggerston Castle in the future.

haven

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Is it worth signing up to Amazon Prime just to save money on nappies?

amazon prime nappies

I will start by stating that I have been an Amazon Prime member for years. I couldn’t be without it. Being able to take advantage of next day delivery (and sometimes same day delivery) on countless items is invaluable to me, and I take advantage of it often (although much less often than I used to… I was a little bit too trigger-happy on the ‘1-click order’ button) . We also stream things on Prime Video most days too – I reckon I could navigate to the five seasons of Peppa Pig with my eyes closed. One of the things I buy the most is nappies – I get them delivered monthly. Prime members get 20% off the listed price. In my constant quest to make sure I am getting the best deal on everything I buy, I put myself in the shoes of a new parent and found myself asking this: would it be worth signing up to Amazon Prime just to save money on nappies? Check out my Amazon Prime nappies cost analysis below:

I selected one particular type of nappy just to keep the analysis simple – Pampers Baby Dry size 4. Pampers are the UK’s best selling nappy brand and size 4 is pretty average in terms of what you would buy across a year – babies don’t stay in sizes 1 – 3 for too long. I looked at the current prices as of today for the largest pack sizes available on Amazon (including the 20% discount) and at Tesco and Asda – it just so happens that they are both running the same promotion.

amazon prime nappies

        

I took the above prices and make an assumption that a baby would get through 6 nappies a day over 365 days i.e. 2,190 nappies a year (eek!), here are the annual costs:

amazon prime nappies

 

 

 

 

So if we are purely looking at cost, signing up to Amazon Prime just for nappies is not worth it as it costs £9.16 more over the course of a year than just buying them in Asda or Tesco. However, given that you get free delivery (whereas you would either have to travel to the supermarket or pay for delivery) and you don’t have to cart a heavy huge box of nappies around as they get delivered to your door, to me, this seems like a small price to pay. And that’s not even factoring all the other benefits of Amazon Prime membership. Total no brainer, in my opinion.

Why not sign up for a 30 day free trial? I hope you enjoyed my Amazon Prime nappies cost analysis and that it was helpful for you.

amazon prime nappies

This is not a sponsored post but affiliate links are included

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My goals for week commencing 18th June 2018: how did I do?

You may have seen that I set goals for myself at the beginning of the week. I am not planning on doing this every week, rather monthly instead, but I wanted to start off with some tough goals for my first week of blogging to get me kicked off. Well, it’s now Sunday so let’s see how I got on with my goals…

Money

Spend no more than £10 (excluding absolute essentials i.e. mortgage, utilities, petrol)
Complete, total fail on this one! I spent about £19. We went on an impromptu trip to soft play on Friday, which cost us £7 (sometimes it’s hard to say no when a friend invites you… maybe next time I will suggest a free play date at home instead?), plus the kids have been eating loads of fruit this week (not that I’m complaining, beats Pombears…) which has meant two trips to the local corner shop for fruit top-ups. I’m not too disappointed, it was a tough target and I have still spent way less than usual.

Health

Drink no wine
Oops, fail again! My husband got a bottle of wine at a raffle at work so we drank it on Friday (Friday seems to be my danger day for all my bad habits!). Oh dear, this isn’t going well…

Lose 4lbs
Hurrah – I did it – just!

Life

Take the kids on a (free) day out
Tick! We went to Malleny Gardens, which is a National Trust for Scotland property, on Saturday. As we are members, we got in for free. I brought along a picnic too, and we had a great time running around for 90 minutes or so. We were the only ones there the whole time. I love our NTS membership, we will definite renew it when the time comes.

Us at Malleny Gardens
Proof… here’s 3 of the 4 of us enjoying our free day out at Malleny Gardens

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18th June 2018: Weekly Money, Health & Life Goals

Here are my goals for the coming week, I will check in again on Sunday to let you know how I got on.

Money

Spend no more than £10 (excluding absolute essentials i.e. mortgage, utilities, petrol)
This may seem like an impossible goal, but I just did a huge grocery shop and the freezer is bursting at the seams so the plan is to run it down this week. Will be an interesting challenge, can’t wait to see how much change I have from my tenner at the end of the week.

Health

Drink no wine
I’ve definitely been overindulging recently, which leads me nicely to the next goal…

Lose 4lbs

It’s a lot to lose in a week but trust me, I am so bloated right now thanks to too much prosecco, so as long as I stick to my plan, I should manage this.

Life

Take the kids on a (free) day out
The weather has been so nice recently we’ve been guilty of staying at home most of the time, playing in the garden. It would be nice to have a change of scene.











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Meal planning – the foolproof, flexible way I meal plan

 Why I do meal planning

My main reasons for doing meal planning are as follows: 

  • I save money by no longer buying things on impulse and it also makes me consider stretching things over several meals, e.g. if I buy a large chicken I can make a roast dinner one day, a chicken stir fry the next, then make stock for a soup the third day
  • It is good for the environment – there is little to no food getting thrown away as I have a plan in place for everything I buy

Why other methods of meal planning don’t work for me

The internet is full of blog posts about meal planning, usually involving a fancy planner on which you write your meals, or maybe a chalkboard or a whiteboard that you have hanging in your kitchen. The problem with these methods for me are two-fold: 1) my husband often has to work away from home at a moment’s notice… let’s say I am planning on making that chicken roast dinner tonight, can I really be bothered to cook it just for me? and 2) oh no, I had planned to have steak on Friday night, but I have just looked at the expiry date and I need to eat it by Wednesday!

In short, unless you want to spend a lot of time and energy crossing or rubbing things out, there is very little flexibility in this method.

The meal planning method that works for me

Recently I have developed a meal planning method that works amazingly for me. It involves a small outlay on a couple of items, but trust me, you will save enough money in the first week or two to easily cover this.
 
Here are the materials I bought and how I use them:

2. These transparent fridge magnets:

Transparent fridge magnets

The magnetic meal planner sits on my fridge, ready for the meals to  be added. There is a handy box on the right for my shopping list, which I can white on at a moment’s notice e.g. if I realise I need a random item such as milk (the meal planner comes with magnetic pens) and I can take a photo of on my phone of the whiteboard to take to the supermarket (or to have handy when I do my online grocery shop).

Probably like most people, I cook my meals based on a ‘bank’ of X number of recipes that I have in my head. What I have done, is that I have written the name of each of these meals on a coloured bit of card which I have inserted into my transparent fridge magnets (I add new meals from time to time). Underneath the meal names, in brackets, I write the less-obvious ingredients e.g. for ‘sausage ‘n’ mash and broccoli’ (cauliflower mash to be awkward!) in the picture below clearly I need to buy sausages and broccoli but less obviously I need to also buy frozen cauliflower, cream cheese and broccoli) – this helps me compile my shopping list for the week: 

Once I have picked out my meals for the week go through them and I jot down the ingredients and add them to my shopping list.

I can then arrange (and rearrange if circumstances change) the meals I have picked out for the week onto the meal planner on the fridge (note that I also have a couple of magnets which say ‘Repeat of yesterday’ – I quite often make a double batch of food to do us two days):

A post with some more good tips that I found helpful is this one by Claire at The Money Freak – I completely agree that comparing how much money that you spend on groceries vs other people is pointless (ultimately we could all survive on bread and water and save a fortune… but who would want to do that?). Just focusing on gradually spending less is a great plan. Another great idea, if you are a Tesco shopper, is to sign up for their grocery saver plans – you can save a fortune vs paying for each individual delivery. See Sue Foster’s blog post here for more information on this. 

I hope this helps you organise your meals – please let me know if so!

meal planning - the foolproof, flexible way I meal plan

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3 steps to paying the lowest price online for ANYTHING

I have a bit of a reputation among my friends as a bargain hunter, I refuse to pay full price for anything online. Let’s face it, everyone wants to save money shopping online – there is nothing more satisfying that getting a bargain. Now that I am a stay at home mum, I do as much of my shopping online as possible as opposed to going to actual shops… anyone who has a toddler on tow will understand why! Once I have identified the product I want to buy (clothes, electronics, toys… literally anything), here are the 3 steps I go through for every single transaction to make sure I am paying the lowest price: 

1. My #1 tip to save money shopping online: I ask myself if I can buy it second hand

This totally depends on what I am buying… a new toothbrush? Erm, no thanks. I’d like to be the first owner please. But a dress, a book or a toy? Definitely, especially given the savings that are to be made. Not only will you save a fortune, but it also saves things going into landfill so our planet will thank you. The obvious place to start is eBay, but if it’s a bigger item e.g. garden furniture or a large toy such as a Jumperoo then local listings on Gumtree are always worth checking out. Did you know that you can also collect Sainsburys Nectar points on your eBay purchases? I didn’t until Mel told me – read more here.

2. I find the best deal

If I’ve decided that I don’t want to buy the item second hand, my next port of call it to go to Hotukdeals and do a search to see if anyone has listed a special deal for the item in question. If you don’t see any deals that catch your eye, I would highly recommend setting up a keyword email alert which is really easy to do – once you have searched for something you will see a box on the page as follows – you then get an email any time someone lists a deal:

I would also do a search on Google Shopping to see if there are any low price deals that haven’t made it to Hotukdeals. 

3. Once I have identified the best deal, I look for cashback and discount codes

I have been using TopCashback since 2013 and at the time of writing I have earned nearly £1,300 just from buying things I would be buying anyway. You would be surprised by how many retailers give cashback, even eBay. It has been one of my greatest tools in my constant quest to save money shopping online.

 
It’s then worth checking to see if there are any discount codes available online, the easiest way to do this in my opinion is to just use Google i.e. just search for the retailer name plus the words ‘discount code’. It’s worth noting that it’s pretty rare to be awarded cashback if you’ve used a discount code so spend a moment doing the maths to figure out if you’re best just getting cashback and ignoring the discount code. 
 

Bonus step: if it’s something that I am buying for myself, like a new pair of jeans I have had my eye on, or a bottle of perfume, or a new tub of moisturiser, then I always ask myself if I have a special occasion coming up (birthday, Christmas, anniversary). Then I can offer it as a suggestion for people who may be looking to buy me a gift. Trust me, most people will be delighted to get you something that you actually want instead of just socks (again). It may sound obvious to some, but in the past I have become so used to just treating myself as soon as I want something and now it is so much nicer actually waiting to unwrap something. There is a lot to be said for delayed gratification!

Hope this article has helped you to save money shopping online, if so, I would love it if you would let me know in the comments.

Save Money Shopping Online - 3 easy steps to paying the lowest price for anything

I’m taking part in the Monday Money linky with Lynn from Mrs Mummy Penny, Faith from Much More With Less and Emma from EmmaDrew.Info
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