Friday, 22 November 2013

Family Finances on One Wage!

When we found out that we were going to have twins the fact that we would have three preschool children spelt the end of my working life, at least for a time, as childcare x 3 was not going to be covered by my salary. This delighted me, to be honest, as I have always wanted to be a stay at home mum. We've had to adapt a to manage on just my husband's wages and still afford the additional costs that having a family entails. This list is by no means exhaustive, they're just some of the things that we do.

* Check out supermarket own brands: I have discovered since having the twins that we were spending unnecessary money on our shopping, not the top brands, but perhaps the middle of the road priced items. It turns out, by careful experiment that there are many own brand items that are perfectly acceptable. We shop at Tesco and so far have switched to their Everyday Value cereals, bread, butter, shaving foam, pasta, tinned tomatoes and other vegetables and beans, flour, rice, basic spices and yoghurt. There are probably others. We drew the line at cheese, tea bags and cola, they were less impressive but I would recommend that you try something in your list every week to see if you can find an acceptable substitute to your usual brand and save money.

* Shop around: I frequent Aldi, Lidl and our pound shops and then get an online shop from Tesco each week. There are some key items that I always buy in each. When the girls were smaller we switched to Lidl nappies and saved a fortune, we had very few leaks. Baby wipes, wine, crisps, cleaning products and meat are other things I find I can save on by buying in Aldi or Lidl. BUT you have to know your prices and not get carried away because frequently Tesco Everyday prices are still better.

* Shop online: I suppose it depends what you're like but I know I would spend more if I went to the shop to do my main shopping. Doing it online gives me all week to get it right, to take things off if I realise we don't need them and it's less likely I will be side tracked and make an impulse purchase. Also, as we're on a delivery saver plan we are only paying about £2 a delivery, so I feel it's worth excusing me from an in person shop with two or three children in tow!

* Make packed lunches: My husband used to spend £5 a day on lunch. Now I batch make rolls and freeze them. For about an hours work I can make up to 6 weeks worth. I just pop them in the fridge the night before they are needed to defrost. I buy large multipacks of crisps and chocolate bars from Aldi or Lidl.

* Make soup: My lunches, at home, from September to April, are mostly soup because I love it and it's cheap. And I find if I make one batch a week and freeze it in portions,within a few weeks I have enough varieties not to need to eat the same one every day! In summer I eat pita breads, salads or couscous with whatever is leftover in the fridge!

* Try not to buy 'Children's Food': Our children eat Tesco Everyday Value fromage frais, they come in little pots like children's yoghurts but cost a fraction of the price. They have crackers, plain biscuits, oat cakes and breadsticks instead of Organix or other snacks targeted at children. You just have to take time reading the labels to make sure you're happy with the salt and sugar content. They eat crisps that come with the little bag of salt to add, I just throw that away so they are unsalted.

* Join local Facebook selling or freecycle groups: Pick up mostly second hand bargains or even freebies that will save you pounds on toys, household items and clothes.

* Scour your local charity shop, car boot sales and nearly new sales for similar items.

* Then sell your unwanted items once you have finished with them to fund your family's new needs. Equipment such as sterilisers, baby walkers, high chairs and buggies fetch the best prices. Clothes, books and toys less so. You can Ebay them or use the above!

* Buy second hand clothes: particularly for your children to play in outside or to attend messy toddler groups. Save their better clothes for best!

* Look out for 25% off clothes at Sainsburys: they do this several times a year, often around bank holidays. I love Sainsburys clothes and often wait for them to have the promotion on before I start the children's new season/size wardrobes.

* Make wine and beer: if you drink them. Look for tutorials online. You can buy beer making kit from Wilkinson.

* Grow vegetables: an obvious one. We don't grow a lot but we do grow lettuces and since I love to eat salad in summer it does help and it's so great to eat it fresh. I also grow herbs because they're very expensive to buy in the small quantities that the supermarkets sell them.

* Grow things you can make presents from: My husband grows chilies and every year I make a batch of chili jam which will be part of our Christmas presents. Lavender is easy to grow and has numerous present making possibilities.

* Make presents! I am crafty but even if you're not there are simple ideas which you will enjoy making and will be a much more personal gift than a shop bough one. Pintrest is great for finding ideas.

* Make greetings cards: If you're not very artistic then what about helping the children to make one? Again, much more personal than a shop bought card. You can buy proper greetings card envelopes on Ebay if you want your card to have a little more finesse!

* Look for free things to do when going out with the children: We love going to the park, playing outside and feeding the ducks and we also frequent the local pet shop quite often, the children love to look at the animals. Don't over complicate things. Children often love the most simple activities and learn a lot from everyday activities. I also love the toddler groups that we go to for £1 per family! Someone else's toys to play with, what could be better?!

I'm going to add to this list as other ideas come to me. Perhaps you could add your ideas below?

New Dollies

I've been a bit lapse in my blogging so now I have two Dollies to show you.

The first is a first for me. I received a vest with a tutu on it and I couldn't not use it. So this beautiful Maxi Dolly doesn't have a long paneled skirt but a gorgeous fluffy tutu!

And this lovely Mini Dolly was bought by a lady for her friend's baby! Awww! I love the floral vest I used for the dress.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Best Baby Stocking Fillers

I remember being so excited about my girls' first Christmases. But when it comes down to it putting together a stocking for someone who neither wants or needs very much is pretty difficult! So here are some ideas that I used. Hopefully you'll find them pretty thrifty too. Of course the suitability of the following does depend on your baby's age but I guess you could put one or two things aside for later in the year?!

With your usual shopping
Ok there are a few things your baby needs, such as new socks or a toothbrush! Can you pop them into their stocking to make up some space?!
* Snacks: with three little ones we stopped buying expensive toddler snacks on a regular basis but we do still buy them as a treat.
* Flannel/Sponge/toothbrush 
* Socks 
* For girls - hair things 

Charity shops/Car boot sales
I know some people still turn their noses up at second hand for their baby but with a quick wipe down of a disinfectant wipe many plastic toys are as good as new!
* Rattles 
* Small toys such as happyland figures or cars
* Mini books 

Pound shop
* Teethers
* Bubbles
* Crafty bits: crayons, stickers etc

Things you can make

* Glitter bottles: easy peasy. Buy some small, clear, plastic bottles (mine are fruit juice bottles from Tesco) and then get some glitter and some electrical tape from the poundshop. Mix as much glitter as you like with a bottle full of water, it will probaby change the colour of the water, as mine have. I have a glue gun so I used it to glue the lid on, but you could use superglue instead. Then I covered the entire lid with electrical tape and glue the ends down for good measure.

Initial blankets: some people call them taggies. I appliqued my girls' initials on them. Each one is fleecy on one side and has colourful polycotton squares on the other side. Then I've added the ribbon tags. The are lovely little comforters.Won't surprise you to hear that these were all from my scraps bag!

* Christmas cuddly toys 
* Bib 

And of course the perfect finishing touch to your baby stocking is a Memories Gro gift voucher to have a treasured keepsake made from their precious first garments. Find out more at

You'll find links to some of these handmade ideas and more on my Pintrest boards where I also have ideas for my girls' toddler stockings for this year...

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Silent Sunday

Ballerina Baby Toy

One of my NCT friends has just had her second baby, a little girl. So I made her a toy which was a variation on my Dolly pattern, adding in one of those teething, linking rings that babies seem to love so much. Another scrap-busting project (I have a LOT of scraps!) The tulle is off-cuts from my veil, which I made myself, see below.

It was cathedral length, and even though I wore it all day I am sure it took longer to make than it was worn for as I sewed bugle beads all round the edges. Oh well, maybe one of my girls will wear it one day?!

It wasn't difficult to make, nerve wracking cutting the tulle, but simple enough. Sadly I just looked for the tutorial I used and it's no longer there. Such are the pitfalls of the net.

Friday, 11 October 2013


When I take my eye off the ball tea-times (the girls' lighter meal) get very samey; cream cheese sandwiches, crackers and cream cheese, eggy bread, scrambled egg etc. All fine but I have learnt to my cost, with my Big Girl, that variety is good for children and introducing them to new foods is important. So I do try to do new things.

They like tortilla wraps but I don't like the fact that I buy a packet and they will only need two or three. It ocured to me that I must be able to make them myself, and maybe I might be able to freeze the left over dough and only cook them when I need them. 

I found a great recipe. I would say if you want a tortilla that fills a normal size  frying pan then it makes more like 10 portions, not 12. I used two, wrapped the others individually in cling film and popped them into a bag and into the freezer. I have since used two from the freezer and they freeze and defrost just fine. But if you're going to make quesadillas, as below then I recommend cooking them with the filling, not before.

So, I took my two dough portions out of the freezer and rolled them out with a little flour on the work surface. Heated the frying pan and then popped in the first tortilla. Spread homemade tomato sauce* on the tortilla, and then topped with beans (kidney are best but cannellini, as in the photo, are fine) and cheese, and then the second tortilla. It takes around 10-15mins, flipping it a few times. I put a plate on top, then placing a hand on top, turn it over and slide it back into the pan.
When it's cooked you can slice it up with a pizza wheel and, once it's cool, pass it round your little ones. My three gobbled one of these down between them. 

* I add courgettes and carrots to my homemade tomato sauce in a sneaky Mummy attempt to get veggies into them. I make a huge vat of sauce and freeze it up in little pots. It also gets used as a pasta sauce and we make pizzas, Big Girl helps me, we cut rounds out of pieces of toast and top the tomato sauce with sweetcorn, some sort of cooked meat and cheese. They get gobbled too.
 I love cooking for them when they eat!

Monday, 7 October 2013

A Bit Girly

I've decided to get a wriggle on with the girls' stockings. The will still have beautiful presents on a budget, it just takes a bit more organisation and planning. The only thing I bought for these crowns and wands were the ribbons. The rest is all from my scraps bag.

The crowns are fastened at the back with a button and some sparkly elastic that was in my wrapping box from last Christmas! They were inspired by this lovely blog post, although I used fleece instead of felt, it's so lovely and soft.

I was going to make these wands but I think the little ones are still a bit young for them. I would worry about them having
beads and wire! My wands have gardening green sticks that I've wrapped with wadding inside them.

Really, really pleased with how they've turned out. It's a shame I have such a long wait now to give them to them!

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Oooh ooh ooh! Guest Blog!

Over at Twin Life Online, read about my transition from working woman to mum(trepreneur) of three!

Monday, 30 September 2013

Sew Good

I had a go at 'sewing' with Big Girl a few weeks ago. I punched some holes in a polystyrene tray and gave her some wool and a plastic needle that I found through Ebay. It didn't work. She pull through the holes with the wool really easily. So when I saw some lovely 'sewing' cards from Minieco on Pintrest, ready designed to print on card and then punch the holes I thought it looked worth a go. It was better, although she did use up the wool going back and forth between holes in no particular order and then get grumpy. (She has just started preschool and is so tired!) What really surprised me is how long the Little Ones stuck at it. They seemed to quite like it! Will definitely be trying again sometime.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

What's Cooking This Week?!

Ooh, I haven't done this for a long time!

Firstly, a friend bought me A LOT of plums, so many in fact that I was able to make plum jam and plum tarts!

I love cooking but I don't have time to faff these days so I was delighted to find a recipe for jam that proclaimed to be "no peel, no pectin". In fact it really was easy peasy, I highly recommend it, here's the link. However, I did make less than half the amount I was expecting. I don't know why. The recipe calls for 12lb plums! I only had 3lb for this. Then I made 2 Plum and Ginger Tarts from good old BBC Good Food . I love that site! I cut one tart into six and froze in pairs for Sunday evening treats. We ate the first ones in front of the new series of Downton Abbey with some creme fraiche. It is quite tart, I am not sure the girls would like it. The other one I popped in the freezer whole ready for some guests in a couple of weeks time. It got me thinking about making something similar with pears. Oh, and reminded me that I need to get started with making my annual batch(es?!) of Chilli Jam.

On the evening menu for me and PJ?

Burgers, Chips and Onion Rings
Since getting pregnant with the twins it has become tradition to eat 'junk' on a Saturday night in the non-BBQ season. And PJ cooks it, which is lovely. I sit and sip my G&T. Soon this will be in front of Strictly Come Dancing! This is not to say that PJ can't cook proper food. He's a great cook, see below!

Beef Carbonade 
My Dad made this a lot when I lived at home. It's a beef casserole cooked in beer, then in the last 10-15 mins you place pieces of bread with french mustard spread on them on top. It's scrumptious. 

Spaghetti Carbonara
My version uses creme fraiche so I don't feel so guilty!

Fish Bake
A new one for us which an online friend told me about. It involves frozen white fish pieces with creme fraiche spread on top. You can add veg, breadcrumbs, parmesan, depending on what you have in. It's cheap and should leave enough to give the girls a portion at their lunch the following day.

Rosemary chicken with tomato sauce
A new to me BBC Good Food recipe. Hope to report back next week.

Fish & Chips
Oven baked versions from Tesco, cheap and cheerful to end the week!

One evening missing, right? That's because PJ cooked for me tonight, beef and noodle stir fry. Yum!

Monday, 23 September 2013


I made this handbag charm, or keyring for a lovely customer who also bought two Dollies and two canvases from me.

Find out more at

Monday, 16 September 2013

Simple, but effective!

Today I stuck a length of wallpaper lining paper to the dinning room table with masking tape and then let the girls loose with pencils and stickers.

Big girl wouldn't stay sat down though! She was enjoying drawing things for her sisters and doling out stickers to them. I may have even joined in myself a bit!

Kept them all amused for 45 minutes, something of a record in this house. Definitely one to repeat!

Maxi Dollies

I am now making Maxi Dollies! They are 12" tall. My original Mini Dollies are 8". They began this size because you need a large piece of material to make the skirt for the girl Dollies, even at only 8" tall. But I think that the paneled skirts on the new Maxi Dollies works very well and they're also good for using larger garments, if that's what a customer has decided they would like to use.

find out more about my Dollies at 

Monday, 9 September 2013

Super Heros!

A friend of mine has a son who turned 6 and a daughter who turned 8, both in August, 9 days apart! So I made these personalised super hero capes and masks. I designed their logos on the PC. I really enjoyed making them, a few more children might get them as presents yet!

There are a couple of super hero pins on my Pintrest 'Presents' board. I took a little bit of inspiration from most of them

Saturday, 7 September 2013


...of this

"Please excuse the mess, the children are making memories!"

 I prefer this

Grumpy, moi?!

Ready to G&T

I'm a huge fan of the humble G&T. My girls are generally very good but I still really look forward to a cheeky glass or too on a Friday or Saturday evening but I don't like wasting lemons or limes and I don't want ice watering it down so for a while now I've chopped up a batch of fruit and frozen it in a freezer bag. So when the time comes I just pop a couple in my glass and put the rest back in the freezer. Divine!

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Getting everyone involved in baking!

As I said recently I am always looking for things that all three of my girls will enjoy. Big Girl and I used to bake a lot when the Little Ones were too small to understand they were being left out but more recently they have been hanging around the kitchen stair gate getting cross with us - oops!

So I've taken to trying to do baking and cooking activities at the dinning room table. I have given them their own bowl, spoon and some of the ingredients, flour, water, maybe some raisins. But last week we were making rice crispy cakes and I just couldn't face the carnage involved with letting them loose with chocolate. So I gave them some silicone cake molds, bowls, spoons and cotton wool balls. They were perfectly happy moving the cotton wool from one to the other. I'm guessing it's good for their fine motor skills too? Bonus!

The only problem was that Big Girl quickly lost interest in the cooking and asked for her own cotton wool. Leaving me to fill the molds. Oh well.... you win some, you loose some!

Pretty in Pink!

Here's a lovely Dolly. I was so happy to make use of the lovely bow and frill on the romper Susan sent me. Do love the girly ones!

Find out more about my Dollies at