I’ve recently noticed how important a certain amount of routine is to our daughter. I’m not talking about a regimented day to day routine that we have, but about activities that she’s been missing.
There have been two recent incidents, which has made part of me feel that we have neglected her needs. However I know this is very irrational as what she’s been missing has been replaced by other interests and activities.
The local music group Our daughter had been going to a local music group pretty much every Monday for well over a year. However in the recent run up to christmas we started attending a different toddler group as her friends go there a lot. She also really enjoys this group. However last week we took her back to the music group and she wasn’t her normal bouncy self. Don’t get me wrong she still really enjoyed it, but she wouldn’t go to the front and join in as she used to do. She was just a bit wary and shy.
We went back this week and she was a little bit better and did go to the front, but only when holding mummy’s hand. In a way it seems that we have to slowly rebuild the confidence that she had built up by attending regularly. I’m sure if we keep going she’ll be back to her normal bubbly self in no time. The dilemma we now have is can we keep her confidence up in both the music group and the toddler group by rotating them regularly as it would be a shame to completely drop one for the other as both are good for different reasons.
The second incident is when we took her swimming recently. Before her sister was born we used to go swimming nearly every week and she loved it. She used to enjoy sitting on the side and jumping/diving into the water. The birth of her sister, subsequent tiredness, illnesses and the christmas break have meant that we hadn’t been swimming for nearly six months. We were keen to get her and her sister back in the pool. For her sister it was a first and she seemed to really enjoy it. Whilst our eldest did seem to enjoy herself and in the end didn’t want to get out it seemed all she wanted to do was walk around in the toddler pool. She wasn’t interested in going in the big pool or along the lazy river. Things that she really enjoyed when she last went.
We are now very keen to get her in as regular routine of going swimming as we want to give her lessons soon. First we have to rebuild her confidence for going in the water. As it would be a shame if when we paid for lessons she didn’t want to get in.
What these two experiences have made me realise is that children’s memories don’t seem to be as long. Although she did remember both the music group and the swimming she didn’t remember what she used to like about them. She didn’t have the confidence to do things she was confident in before.
What I’ve learnt from these two incidents is that we need to do the activities my daughters enjoy regularly so they can continue to have enjoyment out of it. After all these activities aren’t cheap so it’s important that when we spend that money our daughters enjoy it to their utmost.
Being a parent usually means the income you are accustomed to suddenly changes drastically. Either one of the parents stays at home to look after the children or both parents work having to pay large nursery or child minding fees. Unless you are lucky enough to have an extended family member or friend look after the children at no cost.
It is therefore often necessary to look after the pennies once a baby arrives. Below I have listed a few ways in which you can try and cut your grocery bills.
- Lidl half price weekend offers: A lot of news reports have highlighted the rise of the discount chains Lidl and Aldi. They are definitely a place where you can save on your weekly shopping. However did you know that Lidl also do half price weekly offers where they have three or four products half price. They are often really good deals. This weekend for example they have a 200g bar of premium chocolate for 49p, Kiwis for 12p and 100g of Grano Pandano cheese for 59p. Now these deals might not be your cup of tea, but it is always worth checking out what the weekend offers are going to be just in case they’re something you buy on a regular basis. You can find the deals on the Lidl Website or you can download their app.
- Aldi super six: Again just like Lidl, Aldi is a discounter where you can save on your weekly shopping compared to the bigger supermarkets. However you have to remember that it is pretty much all own brand food. Whilst a lot of it is just as or nearly as good as branded food, other things in my opinion aren’t so it would be trial and error to see which staples you can replace. They do however have a weekly fruit and veg offer called super 6. This is where they offer 6 fruits and/or vegetables at great prices. This week for example the best deal they have is blueberries at 69p for 125g(£5.52 per kg), the current cheapest per kg price for fresh blueberries at Tesco is £12 per kg. You can find the Super six deals on the Aldi website or with their app.
- Freezer fruits and vegetables: That lead me nicely on to my next point. The cost and convenience of freezer fruits and vegetables. Not only are they often much cheaper, there is less chance of wastage. In the Aldi section above, I mentioned that the cheapest fresh blueberries at Tesco worked out at £12 per kg. Well the cheapest frozen blueberries at Tesco are £5.72per kg, which is less than half price. Other examples are Broccoli(fresh £1.40 per kg/frozen £0.99 per kg), Green Beans(fresh £4.42 per kg/frozen £1.12 per kg) and sprouts(fresh £2 per kg and frozen £1 per kg). Of course there are seasonal variations in the cost of fresh vegetables so the difference will change as well. Additionally they will often save peeling and preparation time.
- Approved food: Approved food is an online retailer of goods that are often near their best before date or which have just passed it. The majority of the time there is absolutely no difference in taste if an item is slightly over it’s best before date. The savings that you can make can be big, although you do have to buy a reasonable amount due to the delivery fee. The delivery charge is based on weight, up to 25kg is £5.99 so it is wise to mainly go for lighter purchases. Stock availability changes regularly and they also do special daily deals so every time you go on it they can be different. For example, as I’m writing this, they have; Old El Paso Creamy Poblano Pepper Casserole Recipe Mix 40g at 5 for £1 (best before 20th Feb). the rrp is £1.30 each so that is a saving of over 80%. They also have 5 x Hellmans extra hot 450g tomato ketchup best before 20th of Dec 2014 for £1, compared to an rrp of £1.29 each. Again this is a saving of over 80%.
- Go vegetarian: I myself am an avid meat eater, but it is a lot more expensive. As we’re on a budget we are trying to have two to three vegetarian meals a week. For example this could be a vegetarian stir fry, pasta dish or curry. This does make a big difference in the amount we spend and the dishes we make are still really tasty.
- Use cheaper cuts of meat: On the days that we do eat meat we try and go for the cheaper cuts. These are often cuts that need to be cooked longer at a low heat. This is perfect for stews and casseroles in the winter. A slow cooker is great for this as you put the food on in the morning and it’s ready for dinner time. Using a slow cooker for eight hours is also cheaper to run than an electric oven for one hour.
- Discount Stores: I’m thinking of the likes of B&M, HomeBargains, Poundstretcher, etc. These places often have really good deals and a bit like Approved Food it sort of depends what they’ve been able to buy in bulk, for whatever reason. It could be cheap chocolate after Valentine’s Day, sweets after Halloween or sometimes it’s just nearing the best before date. I have had some great bargains from these kinds of shops before, however I would not make a special trip, but if you’re passing one it’s worth just popping in and checking out what they’ve got on the day.
- Buy cheaper products: What I mean by this is you should try out a lower priced alternative to what you normally buy. If you buy branded products try a supermarket own brand. If you buy a standard supermarket brand, try the value range. Sometimes you’ll find that the cheaper alternative tastes just as good, other times you’ll never want to buy the cheaper alternative again. However if you can substitute just a part of your annual spend to a cheaper alternative it could mean big savings in the long run.
- Compare supermarket prices: Mysupermarket is a website whereby you can input a basket of goods and it will tell you what the cheapest supermarket is for that basket. When you are in need of just one specific item do you just go to your normal supermarket or do you walk into every supermarket to see if it’s on offer? With Supermarket Special Offers you just type in what you are looking for and they will let you know which supermarkets have got it on sale. So if you’re like us and there are 3 or 4 different supermarket brands with a similar journey time you can go to the one that has the offer on that specific item.
- Look for reduced items: Most supermarkets have a reduced section. This usually consists of food that has a sell by or use by date of the day you buy it. It can be a good way of getting a discount. With luck it will be something you were going to buy and use that day anyway. Otherwise you could change your meal plan for that day. In the case of most fruits and vegetables they are often fine even after the sell by date. However with meat and fish I would take great care and use it on the same day or freeze it. In addition some supermarkets have a reduced section for long shelf life goods. Perhaps some cans that have been damaged, or they are products that they are not going to stock anymore. In these cases you can pick up items you need at a cheaper price.
- Coupons: Coupons can also be a good way of reducing your bills especially if they are on things you would buy anyway. Good places to find coupons are inside free supermarket magazines or on a product for when you buy the product again. I recall when Nando’s had a £1 off the next purchase and Tesco had them at half price so they cost £1. In effect you kept getting a bottle free every time you bought one. You can also get coupons by joining online clubs such as the Cow and Gate Club, Pampers and Heinz. There is also a phenomenon called extreme couponing where you can find lots of coupons to use. Should you have the time and patience then you might want to check out these blogs extreme couponing and http://www.ukcouponing.co.uk/.
- Online initial deals: Most supermarkets give you a good discount code when you place the first online order with them. So you could save a bit of money by doing this with a few of them. I have written an earlier blog post about that here.
- Receipt photography: This one might seem a bit strange at first but cashback sites Topcashback and Quidco both offer a service whereby you get cash back on your shopping if you buy certain products. You just need to send them a photo of the receipt as proof. At Topcashback it is called Snap and Save and current offers include 20p cashback when you buy Hovis soft white bread, 40p of Nutella and 50p of Special K. At Quidco the offering is called Click Snap and currently it includes 25p off any Aldi or Lidl shop, 15p cashback when you buy Cadbury’s fingers and 20p off Onken yoghurt. If you’re signed up to either of these services, it’s always worth signing up to at least one of them for cash back on most of your online shopping. It’s then worth checking even after you’ve been to the shops. You never know you might have bought something for which you can get some cash back just by submitting a photo of the receipt.
- Packed lunches: Making packed lunches is another good way of saving money. Whenever we go out with the children, we always make sure to take a lunch with us as this is so much cheaper than eating out or even buying a sandwich. Someone who spends just £3 a day on a packed lunch will, if they buy it five days a week for 48 weeks, spend £720 just on their lunch. Home made lunches will come in at just a fraction of this.
- Use freezer when stuff is cheap: When there are good deals on freezable food then it is always worth buying some extra and freezing it. For example, near Easter time Asda were doing leg of lamb for under £5 a kg. This was very good value so we bought a few to freeze for special occasions. You just need to have some discipline and remember what you have frozen and use it in a first in first out system so you don’t end up with food that has been sitting in your freezer for years.
- Cook in bulk: Another good thing to do is to cook in bulk and then have the same meal a few times in the week or again freeze some of it. Not only can this save money it can also save a lot of time. It’s a lot quicker to cook a double batch of one meal than to cook two separate meals.
- Go to the local market: This is one that I haven’t really tried myself yet, but a lot of people say that the food at local markets is a lot cheaper than in the big supermarkets. It is definitely something that I will try and check out for myself.
Since we’ve had our daughters it has been imperative that we try and keep our outgoings down as much as possible. We have used each of the above ways to trim our grocery spending. I understand that following each of these ideas might be a bit extreme, but hopefully you’ve discovered one or two new ideas that will help you reduce your outgoings somewhat. I would also love to hear any other money saving ideas that you might have.
Last summer my wife and I were having a discussion about the proper footwear for our daughter. My opinion was that it was fine for her to be barefoot in the park, but my wife believed she needed to wear shoes. My wife was worried about her getting splinters, cuts or dog dirt, which is understandable as there could be anything hidden in the grass.
Getting on my high horse thinking I was right I did a google search for barefoot or shoes for babies. I came upon an article in the Guardian that suggested being barefoot was best, but that you can now get barefoot shoes, which aim to give you the best of both worlds. Having done some more research we found that one particular brand, Bobux had some stockists fairly locally so we could try them out.
Just before we decided on a barefoot shoes we were looking at Clarks shoes and went to a Clarks store to get our daughters feet measured. The first store said she was a size 4F, but didn’t have the size we needed. Within a week we went to another Clarks store and they said she was a 3.5F. Seeking a third opinion we went to a Brantano store and they said she was a 4.5G. We were a bit cynical of the last place as we were looking at size 4 shoes that were in the sale and were advised they would be too small, even though they felt fine to us. However the fact remains that within a week we got told our daughter was three different shoe sizes. I would therefore recommend that you take care when accepting the sizing that you are given. Even in a leading shoe store like Clarks. The size they give you can be an indication, but I would always go with what your own feeling is when your child tries them on.
When we tried out the Bobux shoes we were really impressed with the look and feel. However we decided that we would decide for ourselves what the right size was based on how far from the end of the shoe her toe was. Unfortunately they didn’t have the style we wanted in the size that we needed. Luckily you can buy Bobux shoes from various places online. Bobux themselves have a website and they are also available on Amazon. We therefore bought our shoes online as the store where we tried them on didn’t get back to us about getting the right size in stock.
My Daughter was really excited when her shoes arrived and wanted to put them on straight away. She loves her Bobux shoes, she’s always really keen to put them on and she walks really well in them. I can’t tell if they are indeed better for her feet than say Clarks would be. However the research does suggest that they are. All I know is my daughter finds them comfortable to walk in, they are great quality and I feel I’m giving my daughter the best of both worlds. A barefoot feeling, but with no chance of cuts and splinters.
When you decide to become a stay at home parent the distance you drive and the use of your car can change quite drastically. So this year when I received my renewal quote from the RAC. I called them up to let them know of my change in circumstances. Only three changes were made.
- The mileage went down from around 25,000 a year to about 7,000 a year
- The car is no longer used for commuting
- My “job” title changed from clerical to stay at home parent.
After informing my insurance company of these changes the price fell from £588 to £280 a year. I don’t know which of these changes had the most effect on the huge drop, but I do know it was well worth it.
What I could have done differently
I could have used a comparison website such as Confused.com, however as I have had a recent claim it would have been more difficult to go through that process. I could also have looked at changing earlier in the year and getting a cheaper deal then, even if it meant paying a penalty for early cancellation of the existing policy, it could still have saved me money.
It is definitely worth checking changes to your car insurance premium when your driving habits change. Not only could it save you money, but if you don’t there is a chance that your car insurance will be invalidated when you try and make a claim.
Taking your child out most days can get very expensive. it is therefore always good when you can get something for free. Especially somewhere where your child feels comfortable and enjoys. Most of these free drinks entail joining a loyalty reward scheme, but all bar one are free to join.
- Waitrose:With the My Waitrose loyalty card you can get a free cup of tea or coffee every day. This is especially good in Waitrose stores that have a cafe as you can give your child their lunch/snack whilst you have a drink (and maybe a cake or sandwich if you want to spend some money). The card also gives you additional benefits such as a free newspaper, to read with your drink, when you spend £5 in store on weekdays or £10 at weekends. You can check for your nearest store and join the programme online here.
- Toddler groups: I have 3 local toddler groups that I attend regularly. Not only are they great for the kids it’s also a great way of getting to know local parents. One group charges £1.50, another £2 and the third, which is church run, is free but asks for donations. the two paid ones run for about an hour and a half and they give free snacks to the children. The church one runs for an hour and don’t offer child specific snacks, but have biscuits which both adults and children can have. All of them offer free tea and coffee and usually biscuits as well. This is great value compared to going to say a soft play which is much more expensive and don’t offer the routine of familiar faces.
- IKEA: With the Ikea family card, which is free to join, you get unlimited free tea and coffees during weekdays (I wouldn’t want to take a child to Ikea at the weekend anyway) as well as discounts of food. A 6 piece breakfast comes in at £1.50 with the card which is amazing value considering the drink is free as well. They are also very child friendly with a play area withing the restaurant. The last time my daughter went she also loved going to the children’s showroom, where she was exploring ther beds and play tents that they had on display. For over 3 year olds they also have a creche where you can leave your child for an hour. To join Ikea family and/or to find your local store click here.
- Dobbies Garden Centres: Although not technically free as it’s a paid membership it is very good value and my daughter loves walking around looking at the plants and indoor displays and especially the aquarium. To join the Garden Club costs £10, but you receive 2 vouchers to use each month, so 24 in total. As drinks are about £2.50 you effectively get £50 worth of drinks for £10. The restaurants are also very spacious and have a little play area. Also you get rewarded on money spent at the garden centre as well as 10% of plants so if you buy £100 worth of plants you will actually get a discount of £10, which is your membership fee as well as a £2 voucher in your annual statement. To find your local store and/or to join click here.
- John Lewis: When we joined the My John Lewis reward programme we got several vouchers for a free drink and cake. This was always gratefully received. I have heard that John Lewis are changing their reward scheme so you might not get these vouchers. However it is free to join so is probably worth doing if you have a local store. To find out more and/or to join click here.
- O2 priority: A bonus one for O2 customers. If you have an 02 phone you can get a free cup of coffee every Tuesday at Cafe Nero. If you like your coffee, and are not with O2, it might even be worth getting a free 02 pay as you go sim for an old phone to get this reward. To find out more click here.
What do you think of my suggestions? Can you think of any more, then let me know.
Would you know what to do if your child is choking? Having a seizure? Or got a nasty burn? When your child has a nosebleed should you tilt the head forward or backwards? I for one wouldn’t have known the answers to these questions before my first child was born. However I attended a free first aid course run by my local Sure Start Centre and now I feel a lot more confident.
Before the course I could have guessed at the the solution for a child choking, but I wouldn’t have known that how you deal with it depends on the age of a child. A choking baby under one needs different treatment to a child over one.
Unless you have had previous first aid training I would heartily recommend attending a course. I am glad we attended one, although I’m even more glad that we haven’t had to put anything we’ve learnt into practise yet. It’s worth checking your local sure Start Centre to see if they offer free first aid courses.
If not, you could always attend a paid session. There are numerous companies out there that run this. The Red Cross, which costs about £45 per 4 hour course, seems competitively priced and your money goes back into the charity. With the Red Cross you also have the option of making a group booking. This costs £360 for up to 15 people. This works out at better value, although you would need to find a venue. Another advantage of the group booking is that you would be in a group with friends and family.