Charity Shop Haul – August 2018

charity shop haul

Now that I have the kids, I rarely have time to myself, and when I do, I am conscious that the things I enjoy doing – going shopping or getting pampered – cost a lot of money. I have posted before on how I often buy things second hand online. Recently however, I have discovered something that satisfies both my desire to shop and my desire to spend as little money as possible – charity shop shopping. What’s more, shopping at charity shops stops clothes from ending up in landfill (which is happening so much now that everyone buys cheap, ‘fast fashion’… things that they wear a handful of times and then throw away) plus of course, the charity benefits. Win-win for everybody. There are two charity shops in a shopping complex near me – Barnardos and British Heart Foundation, and I often combine a trip there with a trip to Lidl to do my weekly food shop. Below I have posted what I picked up there in my latest charity shop haul, maybe it will encourage you to check out your local charity shops too?

charity shop haul - boys tops

Barnardos sell kids clothes for £1.99 for 4 items which is an absolute bargain. I hit the jackpot here – the checked shirt is from Next and we love the Gruffalo in our family, so I am obsessed with this rubgy top. The t-shirt and Hawaiian shirt are ideal for our upcoming holiday.

charity shop haul - laura ashley dress

This Laura Ashley wrap dress from Barnardos was an amazing £3… just had a look and Laura Ashley are selling a similar dress new for £75! I love this, it is such nice quality and is so flattering.

charity shop haul - barbie car

Finally, also from Barnardos (it was a good day there, not so much at BHF), this Barbie Beetle car was only £3. My daughter loves it.

Do you shop at charity shops? What has been your best charity shop haul to date?

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August 2018 Goals

august 2018 goals

August is now upon us… a very exciting month for those of us here in Edinburgh as it’s the month of the Fringe. A lot of locals complain about how busy our beautiful city gets, but personally I absolutely love the buzz and feel so privileged to live here. In case you missed it, here’s how I got on with my July goals. I can’t believe it’s already time to set my monthly goals again – here are my August 2018 goals:

Money

Track all expenditure
My husband and I use an amazing app called Goodbudget to track our expenditure – blog post about this coming soon. I tend to find I am good at entering everything I spend for about three weeks, then the last week goes to pot a bit. As such, I am vowing to tracking everything for the whole of August.

Health

Get back in the gym
I have no excuses… my gym is in my garage! I just can’t find the motivation lately. Time to just do it… once I get back into the rhythm, I know I will love it, it’s just finding that initial ‘push’.

Life

Have two date nights with my husband
Going to to be totally selfish here… last month, my husband and I had a long-awaited date night and it was the most fun ever. As such, my goal is to have two date nights in August. It is the Fringe, after all. Hope I can achieve this one!

Have you set any August 2018 goals? I would love to hear them.

I’m taking part in the Monthly Goals (and updates!) Linky hosted by Charlotte over at CharlotteMusha.co.uk

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July Goals – How Did I Do?

august 2018 goals

At the beginning of the month I posted the goals that I set for myself for the month of July. Here’s how I got on with my July goals… bit of a mixed bag, I think

Money

Stick to my grocery budget (£240)

I managed to sick to this, but only just, helped by being away on holiday for a few days. I actually think this is probably too tight a budget for us to stick to every month, now that my kids are both good eaters. I am considering upping it for August considerably to maybe £100 a week i.e. £400 a month.

End the month in a net saving position

Done! This was top of my list of July goals that I wanted to achieve. I am so proud.

Buy no clothes or make up

Slight fail… I bought a pair of trousers when I was shopping in Asda – must stay away from the clothes section next time! They are so lovely though. A huge improvement on my previous spending habits though. 

Health

Drink 2 litres of water a day

I did this, thanks to buying a huge water bottle from Primark, plus the hot weather makes it easier to drink more.

Life

Read two books

Fail. I only read one book, How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen – I would highly recommend it, so much useful parenting advice. Must get better at opening a book at night instead of flopping down in front of the TV. This should get easier now that Love Island has ended…

Travel somewhere new

Done – I spent a few days in Dubai at the beginning of the month. It was nice to have a break – first time away from the kids. It’s funny how 8am is now a huge lie in!

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Two Under Two Essentials

My kids were born 20 months apart, meaning I had to deal with the dreaded ‘two under two’ for the first few months of my second child’s life. Boy, it was tough, but now with my toddler about to turn 3 and my baby at 14 months old, we are hitting our stride and things are so. Much. Easier. If you are expecting baby #2 not too long after baby #1’s arrival, the great thing is you can benefit from hand me downs for a lot of items (without too much dusting down of things that have been stored in the attic), so you don’t need to shell out too much money. However, in my opinion, there are a few pieces of kit that are totally necessary to buy when the second baby comes along. Here are my two under two essentials: 

Big kid bed

Has your toddler already transitioned to their ‘big kid’ bed? If so, skip this part. But if they are still in a cot, it’s time to think about moving them up. I moved my daughter to her big girl’s bed around the age of two, i.e. when my son was 4 months old. He was still sleeping in a bedside crib next to my bed at this point, but we ended up moving him to the cot in his own room at 6 months old. We felt it was important that my daughter didn’t feel like she was being kicked out of her cot so her brother could have it straight away – we were grateful to have a couple of months buffer where she lost any attachment to her cot. You can get special toddler beds, but personally I don’t see the point in these – just buy a regular single bed, which will last your child for many years. An important thing to buy too is a bed rail to stop them from falling out.

We went for the Kura bed from Ikea and my daughter loves it:

two under two essentials

Backpack changing bag

Trust me when I say that you will need your hands free when you have two little kids. I personally purchased a new changing bag once baby #2 arrived. With just one child, I had the typical changing bag, i.e. one with a single strap that could sit across the handle of the buggy. However, with a toddler and a newborn, I found this was getting in the way especially with a new buggy with a built in buggy board (see below).  This is the one that I went for and it has been brilliant, especially the side pocket for wipes.

Baby carrier

If you didn’t use some form of sling/wrap/carrier for your first, then it may be time to invest in one. Trust me, there will be times when you both need to hold your newborn AND change your toddler’s nappy… in the absence of having two sets of arms, a baby carrier is a must-have.  We started off with this stretchy wrap and then used (and in fact still use) the Ergo Baby 360 once our son had good head control.

Buggy

The age gap between my two was 20 months. I didn’t want to buy a traditional side-by-side double buggy as from about 18 months old, my toddler wasn’t keen at all on sitting in a pushchair. The Joovy Caboose has a built-in buggy board as well as a little seat for when your toddler is extra tired. With the car seat bar that comes with it, it can be used from newborn age. I don’t know how we could have done without it. If I could only pick one of my two under two essentials, this would be it. Here is ours in action:

two under two essentials

Tablet

This is possibly controversial but I definitely would count a tablet as one of my two under two essentials. If you are very anti-screen time, look away now! One way or another, you are going to have much less time to play with your toddler, especially if you are breastfeeding your newborn for several hours a day. We bought my daughter a Kindle Fire 7 which comes with a year of Fire Kids Unlimited (i.e. we can download educational games and videos onto it for a year for free). She loved it and it definitely kept her distracted for a while whilst I had to tend to her little brother.

White noise machine

The fact of the matter is that unless you are lucky enough to live in a mansion and are able to separate your kids into various wings of the house, they WILL wake each another up during the night.. if one cries, there’s a very good chance the other will join in the chorus. Then you have the fun task of trying to settle two children. One way to avoid this is to use a white noise machine with your new born – this will help drown out any noises from their older sibling, and the older sibling will benefit too as the newborn’s noises will be hushed too. Here is an affordable option.

I hope this has been helpful if you are about to join the two under two club. If you are in this exclusive club or have graduated from it, are there any two under two essentials that I have missed? Now might be a good time to look into getting an Amazon Prime subscription for all those nappies…

two under two essentials

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Keto Chinese Chicken Curry (cheap, easy & very low carb and calorie)

keto chinese chicken curry

I am currently following a keto diet (i.e. I keep things as low carb as possible – always under 20g a day). I am looking forward to sharing with you some of my favourite cheap keto meals – let’s face it, it isn’t the cheapest lifestyle to follow. A couple of weeks ago, I had an overwhelming craving for Chinese food. I almost caved and ordered a takeaway, but decided to see if I could satisfy my craving whilst sticking to my keto lifestyle. So I set about making a keto Chinese chicken curry, based on what I already had at home.

This recipe takes 5 minutes to cook, only uses 4 ingredients, and costs less than £2 for a generous, filling serving. And best of all, it is absolutely delicious. It is also low calorie, if counting calories is your thing. I am pretty sure that this is already one of my favourite cheap keto meals.

The recipe serves one. Please note that I am a UK blogger so the ingredients below may not be easy to find if you are overseas.

Ingredients:

  • One pack of shirataki konjac noodles
    • (I use these ones, the 170g size is about right for one person. Carbs: 0g, calories: 0)
  • 5 tablespoons (but adjust to taste) of Mayflower Medium Chinese Curry Powder
    • (£1 a pack at B&M, Home Bargains, Farmfoods amongst other places, but can also be ordered from Amazon here. A pack makes 10 individual servings. Carbs: 2.1g, calories: 19)
  • 100g cooked diced/sliced chicken
    • (for convenience, I often use precooked, diced frozen chicken from Iceland. Carbs: 0g, calories: 165)
  • 150g boiled broccoli florets
    • (again, for convenience, I usually use frozen broccoli. Carbs: 1.5g, calories: 50)

Total carbs: 3.6g
Total calories: 234

Keto Chinese Chicken Curry

keto chinese chicken curry

Method:

  • Tip the noodles into a sieve and rinse under cold water for several minutes. Toss them around to make sure the water rinses off the ‘juice’. This step is very important.
  • Put the noodles into a saucepan on the hob on a medium heat. Heat through, then add the Mayflower curry powder. Add water in tiny increments until you have a nice curry sauce consistency.
  • Add in the chicken and the broccoli (both of which have already been cooked, so we are just warming them through now).
  • Once piping hot, serve.

Let me know in the comments if you try my keto chinese chicken curry! I’m going to make it again tonight, which will be two nights in a row.

See also my meal planning post, where I talk about how I stay organised and flexible enough so that if I get a sudden craving, I can adjust my meal plan to account for it!

keto chinese chicken curry

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Tuff Tray – a Cheaper (and Better) Alternative

tuff tray alternative - inflatable play tray

As a parent, I follow a few ‘kids play’ accounts on Instagram which help to give me ideas and inspiration about ways to play with the children. Through these accounts, I have become aware of the ‘tuff spot/tuff tray’… if you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s what they look like:

They have a bit of a cult following, and for good reason. Here’s a good description I found of what exactly they are used for:

The tuff tray has so many uses!

Will you set up a jungle with real plant cuttings and animals or will you create some super outdoor art using messy materials?

They store easily, you can carry them easily, attach canopies easily to the top holes, and they are extremely durable. Why not fill it up with sand and hunt for squidgy sparkle letters, fill it with water and sail a boat you made yourself, or use it as a giant inspection tray for minibeasts? The possibilities are endless! Eight sided to encourage group play.

As soon as I saw how much fun they could be, I wanted one. We love sensory/messy and imaginative play in our household, but I don’t like dealing with all the tidying up afterwards! I was just about to buy one, when it struck me that although the price of them isn’t too bad (around about the £15 mark), I would have to find somewhere to store it – it’s big and awkward. Which got me thinking… how can I get the tuff tray experience without the storage difficulties (with a lower price tag if possible)?

After a lot of research, looking for a tuff tray alternative, I hit the jackpot… here’s the answer – an inflatable play tray:

tuff tray alternative - inflatable play tray

I bought this one this one from Amazon for only £3.99 (free delivery). As it is inflatable, it folds down to a tiny size for easy storage. Plus, as you know from this post, tidying up is the bane of my life so I love how the mess is contained so well.

tuff tray alternative - inflatable play tray

It took only a minute or so to inflate with my mouth, and so far we have filled it with fake snow (as above), sand and water and it is still going strong. Please let me know if you end up buying one… perhaps I will also share some ideas about how we play with it, if anyone is interested.

tuff tray alternative - inflatable play tray

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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. It’s important not to go into debt to pay for Christmas – after all, it’s only one day. Emma over at My Debt Diary has a great post with tips on avoiding debt this Christmas.

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 doing this
  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

Drink 2 litres of water a day

I am pretty terrible at drinking water instead I hydrate via tea, coffee and Pepsi Max. Time to make a concerted effort to up my H2O consumption.

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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