Friday, 29 August 2014

All change!

Hello Dear Reader,

I've been up to my knees in the general stuff of life, none of which I'm going to share on here. 

Had a lovely lunch with a family member whose birthday it was.

There are changes afoot!

Not sharing those either, they've just kept me too busy to blog today.

I will be back tomorrow with a review and giveaway so come back for something lovely!

Until tomorrow, 

Love Froogs xxxx

Thursday, 28 August 2014

One in three working parents 'miss out on food to pay rent'

Hello Dear Reader,

This is a crippling expensive time of year for families. The cost of buying new school uniform, PE kit, paying for lunches up front and bus passes for the children to get to school as huge. A school bus pass can cost £800 a year for each child and the bus company will only offer the concessionary price if the year's pass is paid for in one go. School uniforms need replacing and children grow and the variety of sports kit from football boots to gym shoes are massive. I remember it well. For ten years, whilst I had a job, I earned minimum wage and had two young children. Everything had to be saved for. Everything had to be scrimped. There were no days out, no cinema, no amusement parks, no ice creams, no leisure centres and no holidays. We had it tough but families now have it even tougher.

If one of those parents read this today and I could share the ways that we got by and one found the advice useful, then that's a good thing. As always, I am not telling anyone else how to live their lives but simply sharing what I did.

A budget is vital. Know to the penny everything that is coming into the house and everything you have to pay for. Rent or mortgage and council tax are not negotiable but every other cost can be cut to suit your budget. With budgets, it's also really important that every bill is paid on time so I paid everything by direct debit on pay day. That meant that 24 hours later, when all the money had gone to: gas, electric, council tax, mortgage, insurance, savings for things the children needed such as clothes, shoes, school trips, birthdays and Christmas. I knew what little was left was what we had, even though it was a small amount. This meant I had no surprises and never had to worry about the mortgage not be ing paid or not being able to afford heating.

Energy is a massive expense and families really struggle with heating their homes. This is a great expense especially for families with young children at home. Initially, check that you are on the best tariff and are paying the lowest price possible. Next, make sure that you are paying monthly so you can offset winter big bills with lower summer costs. Then, be really careful with energy: don't have lights on during the day, keep the fridge and freezer shut, only wash clothes when dirty, hang towels up to dry and use them over and over, have home clothes and school clothes and get school clothes hung up as soon as children get home. As the evenings get chillier warm socks, layers of cheap t-shirts, affordable tracksuit bottoms and sweat shirts or hoodies are vital indoors. Get your children used to wrapping up warm when they get home.

It's too easy to use a tumble drier too often. Even though I had one when the children were young and I have one since moving to a tiny cottage, I still wash with the weather. I hold off washing clothes until the weather gets blowy or a tiny bit better and always put my washing 'out for a blow'. Some people never do this, it is a hassle but it's something you will get used to. Also, cheap stores such as B&M sell drying racks and damp clothes can be hung in a window that gets any sun for an hour or two and then and only then, finish the clothes in the drier for five minutes and get them folded and put straight away.

A massive expense for parents are shoes and clothes for children. It's very easy to think that children need to be little fashion accessories and children can be vile to each other if they don't have 'the right clothes'. You will need to be the one who is strong here. There is nothing wrong with supermarket clothes for children, or stores such as Primark or Matalan! Even my local Aldi did some really good school uniform and children need warm, fitting clean clothes and they do not need to be cat walk models! Labels my ****! 

Food and especially healthy food is a really emotive subject for families. I know it's difficult if you've had one lifestyle and then had to face a different one if your finances change. At one stage, you have have been able to afford to eat out, takeaways and convenience foods. I've always kept my food bills as low as possible by cooking everything from scratch. It is always cheaper. People argue, that no one taught them to cook. Well, if you can read then you can do anything. Get recipe books from the library and learn. My mother never taught me to cook but just cooked and I knew that a cottage pie, a loaf of bread or a casserole could be made really quickly. Develop a basic repertoire that is simple, cheap and quick.

  • baked potatoes with baked beans and small sprinkle of grated cheese.
  • vegetable soup or any soup
  • cottage pie/bolognaise/chill/mince and gravy - learn to adapt the simplest ingredients - at the end of the day, it's just mince and onions!
  • stews and casseroles, look for slow cookers in the charity shops - you can get a big one for about £5
  • pasta and homemade tomato sauce
  • veggie pasta bake - once you've managed a cheese sauce, then you can disguise any veg and have it with pasta.
Also, food isn't always the cheapest in the supermarket. Look for the local fruit and veg shops that will sell you nets of carrots and sacks of potatoes. In rural areas, farmers will often sell seasonal veg and trays of eggs from laybys and farm gates. The most important thing to remember with food is to not be a food snob. I'll say it again 'foodie' my ****! Children and working parents need full bellies of healthy food and no one needs to worry about artisan bread and pulled pork!!

These are hard times, wages are low, the cost of living is high and families are really struggling. If you read this and anything has touched a nerve and I can help you with support or advice in any way then please find my email in the contact section above and get in touch. I'm always happy to help with budgets, food plans, menus or thrifty living ideas. 

Even though we are lucky enough to have two good salaries we still have to watch what we spend and I will be publishing menu plans, recipes and budgets over the next few months. Sometimes, it's helpful to see how someone else does that. I will repeat what I said earlier, I'm not telling anyone how to live their life and anyone can ignore anything I say.

Over to you Dear Reader, what advice would you give to the families who are having to live differently or budget differently as prices continue to go up whilst wages stagnate?

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx