Sunday, 29 September 2013

The Creative Home and Garden Hop #11

Even as the nights draw in, the Creative Home and Garden hop stays fresh and fun. It's the perfect fit for all of your wonderful posts on creative home-making and gardening, whether you live in the suburbs, the city, or out on the range. 

I have written some FAQs for the hop so you know what to link up and how; you can read them here. Please do have a look at these guidelines, especially if you are new to blog-hopping in general or this hop in particular. If you have any other questions, feel free to ask them in the comments section below. 

Remember to enter the Pumpkin Seed Soaps Giveaway if you haven't already done so! It closes on 3rd October.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Pumpkin Seed Soaps Giveaway (ended)

The scents of the season in OUR homestead tend to be Vix vapour rub, woodsmoke, and the King's industrial-strength homemade blackberry whisky, as Winter approaches, but this collection from Pumpkin Seed Soaps looks a whole lot more appealing. And you can win it! 

The Scents of the Season Collection giveaway will include Orange Spice, Fir Needle, and Triple O Coffee with a handmade Cedar Soap Tray. These soaps smell wonderful and would be appreciated by even the most difficult-to-please person on your gift list. Enter for a chance to win this collection or stop by Pumpkin Seed Soaps on Etsy to order today!

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Frugal Bugle #5: Supermarket Savings Secrets

 My weekly shop cost £43 on Monday - which, although it doesn't include the toaster in the corner - is not bad for a family of four. And get this: I don't use coupons. Here are my supermarket savings secrets.

1. Buy online. I can't stress this enough. And use a price comparison website like mysupermarket, which tackles all the complexities of keeping a price book for you. There is no better way to save money than not actually setting foot in the store. In fact, use this code when you buy your groceries/ health and beauty products via Mysupermarket for the first time, and you will get £10 off your bill:  GV-BUFUXPCIIR 

Asda is currently offering a month's worth of delivery charges for £5- £8, so if you buy from them regularly, it will save you money to pay for delivery in advance.

2. Buy supermarket own-brand but don't be afraid to try other brands when they are on special offer, if they cost less per unit (gram, ml etc). When supermarket shopping, loyalty doesn't always save money, so keep an open mind

3. Accept substitutes. Usually Asda will deliver a similar item if the one you ordered is out of stock. This often means one of better quality than the Smart Price product I would normally pick, but Asda still only charges the price of the out-of-stock item.

However, I am very pernickety about substitutes and go through them with a fine toothed comb. For example, yesterday, Asda had run out of the decaff coffee I wanted, which comes in a tin, so offered me a pouch of the same coffee instead. I would have paid £2.00 for the tin of coffee so they charged me £2.00 for the pouch of coffee. BUT, the pouch held a quarter less coffee than the tin. In my book that's not a good deal.

On the Asda website, asking for refunds is very easy, and I always do this if the substitution is unfair, as in the example above. I also ask for my money back if any of my delivered items are due to go out of date the next day, or if they are damaged en route, such as when a bottle of washing-up liquid leaked all over one bag of produce.

4. Price match. Several supermarkets offer vouchers if their products are not cheaper than their competitors'. Asda has a price-matching policy if you spend at least £40, so I always spend just over that amount. I usually get around £5 back per month in the form of Asda vouchers.

5. Check whether items like fruit and veg are cheaper if you buy them in a pack (such as the plums and Smart Price apples I bought) or cost less if you buy them loose. You need to compare the price per gram or kilogram

If you buy large amounts of fresh produce, because they are on special offer, make sure you have a plan for them so they are not wasted. Can you freeze them? Or make a crumble out of them?

6. Plan your meals round what's on offer rather than deciding your menu and then buying all the ingredients, regardless of price. 

For lots of great recipes and tips about scratch cooking and frugal living, take a look at the Dining On A Dime Cookbook here. You'll find almost 500 pages of very helpful information to help you learn to work all kinds of magic in the kitchen.

7. Sometimes, buying one large variety pack is better value than several smaller packs, but only if they'll keep and you have enough space. These Jacob's biscuits for cheese were on special offer, highlighted as a Savvy Buy on the MySupermarket website. Again, the price per unit is what you need to concentrate on.

Whenever possible, only buy more expensive items, such as meat, when they are reduced, and keep them frozen. This way, you probably won't have to buy meat every week.

 8. Even if it means going slightly over budget, if your favourite brand of coffee (or whatever) is on special offer, take the opportunity to stock up. On the day this photo was taken I spent £10 on Kenco Milcano, at a cost of £2 per 100g, because they were marked half price. Offers like this don't come round very frequently on products I really rate, so when they do: stockpile!

9. Ignore adverts of all kinds and don't watch telly! :)

Monday, 23 September 2013

Holy Grail Cooking #11 For Meatless Monday

Be under no illusion that the Evacuees will eat vegetable pasties. They won't. That's the kind of un-hungry children they are.

However, they were very popular with the King and I, and are just the kind of simple, filling dish you might like to try next Meatless Monday. This is what to do: 

Sunday, 22 September 2013

The Creative Home and Garden Hop #10

Even as the nights draw in, the Creative Home and Garden hop stays fresh and fun. It's the perfect fit for all of your wonderful posts on creative home-making and gardening, whether you live in the suburbs, the city, or out on the range. While you're here, meet The Creative Home and Garden Hop hosts: Kathy from Creative Home Expressions, Mary from Back to the Basics and Mary’s Kitchen, Alison (that's me) from Mumtopia,  and Lisa Lynn from Little Homestead on Hill. We'd love it if you would like to follow us!

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Lessons learned from Small Disasters

Disaster 1. I'll admit it, I haven't done a sterling job at feeding my family nutritious, well-balanced meals this week. Our freezer is on the blink - it looks like the North Pole in there, there's so much ice - and my period arrived five days sooner than expected, bringing with it general fatigue and doldrums. That's made it a little harder than expected to follow the Live More Waste Less menu plan.

Lesson learned: we can survive fine on a couple of days of bacon and egg sandwiches, and leftovers rescued from the freezer before we defrost it - and I did manage to make chicken kievs from scratch on Tuesday.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Small Good Things We All Can Do #2

Changing the world may start at home but sometimes I'm a bit reluctant to take that first step on the Paying It Forward Path. Maybe because I spent a lot of years putting myself last. 

Because I am so "all or nothing", I convince myself that, really, if I'm not rearing my own livestock, I may as well buy the cheapest chicken known to man at Asda, but that's just apathy. 
It's so easy to tell myself we haven't got enough money to shop ethically, or I haven't got time, but it's just a matter of priorities. Once again it's time to put my money where my mouth is and do some good deeds for Mother Earth and my Fellow "Man". 

Tea Tree SoapDitch the shower gel.  I don't know when it happened but liquid soap and shower gel have totally taken over in British bathrooms. Rare is the basin that sports a bar of soap. Instead our shelves and shower caddies are heaving with plastic bottles, because, the commonly-held belief is, that soap makes an "unsightly mess". I don't know about you but there have been more unsightly messes in my homestead than plain old soap residue. Soap is such a simple product and requires a lot less packaging, especially if you buy it direct from the seller, unwrapped.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Vaseline + Old Sock = Restoration ROCK

My leather jacket, which I bought during my 2010 Goth phase, is the most expensive item of clothing I have ever owned, including my wedding dress. I love it like an old friend but I don't exactly lavish it with care. The more beat-up the better, right?

Not where plasterdust is concerned.

Or rain.

Or being scraped by a staircase as it was carried through the hall where said jacket was still hanging.

Sinfully neglected, my precious jacket was looking less "biker" and more "dragged through a hedge backwards". At this rate, I'd have to replace it within the decade and I had no intention of doing so.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Holy Grail cooking #10: Guilt-free Chicken Nuggets

Chicken nuggets are the go-to dish whenever you have kids round after school. Just about every child has heard of them and likes them, even Secundus. On the downside, in Great Britain, chicken nuggets are commonly held to be made from toenails and cats. There's nothing chicken about them. The solution therefore is to make your own, as Sarah Flowers does in Eat Well Spend Less ; The Complete Guide to Everyday Family Cooking

Any recipe that includes the phrase "You will need three bowls" may appear to be a bit of a faff, but I assure you, making your own chicken nuggets is absolutely worth it. The technique is to dip your chicken pieces into a bowl of flour, seasoning and paprika, then into a bowl of beaten egg, ensuring all sides are coated each time, and lastly into the third bowl of homemade breadcrumbs.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Autumn giveaway (ended)

autumn giveaway 500px

We're joined by the hosts from The HomeAcre Hop this week to bring you this awesome

Autumn Giveaway!

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Prepare and Survive #2: Waste Less, Live More Week

16 – 22 September, Mumtopia is taking part in Waste less, Live more Week 2013. The week is planned out with a different theme for each day. Meat-free Monday may not be new to many readers, but how about Share Something Saturday or Seasonal Sunday? 

The weekly plan (shown below) is a great alternative to standard meal planning, or a brilliant way to make a start at getting organised in the kitchen in time for tea! Not only will it benefit your household to waste less and eat more healthily, it will, of course have a positive effect on the wider environment. The aim of the week is to demonstrate how we can all live better whilst consuming less and to show how the environment and society are tightly linked. What's good for one is good for the other.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Desperation Crafts #1 :Owl memo holders

Desperation crafts are when you find yourself being required by your children to CREATE something and you have only 62% of the materials needed. Or they have only 34% of the skills required. Plus you have little time, space, patience, or all three. In addition, the craft item must be made NOW.

You have no idea how it will turn out, but you must use all your creative skills, diplomacy and penny-pinching mindset to suggest an alternative which resembles the original project (often found in a craft magazine or activity book) but is do-able and affordable. You want to encourage them to read instructions and try new things: you don't want to have to do it all for them. You want them to feel satisfied with the result: you don't want to have to go and buy a shed-load of craft supplies And you don't want them to go and watch telly instead. This happened with the Owl Memo Clip.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Simple pleasures #12 Something Out of Nothing Pudding

My husband loves to forage. There, I've said it. 

Autumn is his favourite time of year, and hunting round blackberry bushes, listening to Radio 4 podcasts on his mp3 player is his idea of a good time. The big bonus for our family is that he comes home laden with free food.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Dig for Victory #4

Super successful this year, my courgettes are still coming thick and fast, but luckily I didn't plant them all out at once in the Spring, so they aren't all needing to be eaten on the same day. Not so with the lettuces which all seemed to bolt overnight. The fruit trees are laden with apples - it looks like it will be a bumper harvest - and there are many plump blackberries in the hedgerows. So blackberry and apple crumble it is!

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Could a Cereal Packet help Your Morning Routine?

Every September, it's the same. THIS term, I tell myself, there will be no shouting "shoes!" or "teeth!" at regular intervals from 8.00 a.m. 'til we leave the house at 8.35 (often having to turn round and come back for a forgotten lunchbag). I won't need my best diplomatic skills just to convince Secundus there is a right way round to wear a school sweater. 

THIS term, the Evacuees will come home without permanent marker on their shirts and will eat up a nutritionally-balanced packed lunch every day, with glee and appreciation. They will shun television, SURELY, and instead engage in sparkling conversation whilst helping with the dishes.


Not in my house either.

One thing that HAS helped this week, however, is these morning routine lists. There are plenty of similar printables available out there on the internet, but I figured that, by the time I'd got Old Man PC fired up and the printer too, I might as well make them myself.

You can adapt these lists to whatever you need your kids to do prior to leaving the house for school, and, if you leave plenty of space and laminate them, you can add extra tasks as necessary. If we have time in the morning, for example, I will write "Clear the breakfast things", or "Bring down dirty washing". The ones I have written down are the basic, everyday tasks that don't change. 

All you really need to do is write your child's morning routine on the back of a cereal packet and cover it with sticky-backed plastic. However, to make them a bit more eye-catching, write on coloured paper, then stick to your cereal packet. Use a different colour for each child, and write their name on too. Add a border with decorative tape, make sure you've written down all the tasks you'll need on a daily basis, and add tick-boxes, then cover with sticky-backed plastic.

Use a dry-wipe marker to add further tasks and to tick the boxes. In our house, once all the boxes are ticked, each Evacuee gets a sticker for their House Fairy reward chart, and morning times are a whole lot more peaceful. So far. 

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The Clipboard: Many Uses for This Overlooked Tool

Guest post by Jennifer Tankersley 

A couple of years ago, I “rediscovered” the clipboard. I found it in my old box of college junk. I don’t think I ever really used it in college, but I thought I would give it a second chance. I put it in my computer desk, and it just sat there unnoticed for another year. All of a sudden I found myself working a part-time job (in addition to my day-job of raising three young children), starting a MOMS Club, and creating a business from scratch. One day, I just picked it up when I needed to carry something around to make notes. That was the day my clipboard became my most indispensable tool.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Holy Grail Cooking #9: Chocolate Chunk Hearty Biscuits

These hearty biscuits are good to add to a packed lunch or for your children to nibble on the walk home from school. As the Evacuees seem to emerge from lessons "totally starving", I have taken to bringing them a small snack to see them through til we get home. Monday, Wednesday, Friday it is fruit or raw veg. On the other two days, they get a biscuit. Woo hoo.


Frugal Bugle #4: QMee

Qmee is a new way to search for things on the internet and earn cash rewards at the same time. Instead of getting nothing for your searches, you fill your piggybank with every click. Search for stuff you actually want, using your favourite search page just as you always have. It works in Amazon, Ebay, Google, Bing and Yahoo. You'll see all the usual listings, with Qmee as an extra set of results on the left. If you find what you want in the normal listings, that’s fine. But if a Qmee listing is relevant and you click on it, a few coins will drop into your virtual piggybank. You can see how much you're going to earn, before you click on the Qmee listing link.

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