Friday, 26 October 2012

Shabby Chic jars... eating a frog and the curious case of tortilla addiction.

OK so it's a weird post title, but I have a lot to talk about today and the varied subjects mean my post title has to be, well, varied.

In my last post I mentioned blackboard stickers - well, they are my latest love. Yes I said that, sad but true, they just make our cupboards look so much better. Rather than packs of things lopsided full of overspilling things, we can use jars that may not look the same, but having the stickers on there and the text the same can combine it all and make it look as if you did it all on purpose (rather than just reusing mix and match jars to ssave some cash).
I happened to see some great jars in the £0.99p store, so spent £6, plus bought chalkboard sticker sheet on ebay (A4 size, you can cut your own that way). I also got some cute chalk PENS, who knew you could get those? SO much better than normal chalk and very pretty colours. Anyway, for £10 I now have lots of labels, pretty storage and could even use the chalk stickers for menu planning, gifts at Christmas, in the nursery for toy boxes and much more, so well worth the purchase. As to the storage jars, what do you think of the finished project below?

As to eating a frog? Well I have been reading the very popular blog e-book called One Bite At a Time, highly recommend it as it's really helped me work through productivity areas - buy it here.
Anyway, one example is that it mentions that on your daily to do list you would have the Frog (your most hated to do item) on the list first. Eat that first and your day can only improve. It has made me look at my to do list differently - just get the thing out of the way first thing and the weight is off your shoulders, great idea. Plus the other 51 ideas in the book are great too, some stuff you will do already but other stuff it will just inspire you no end.

Ok so my last mention has to be my newfound use for tortilla wraps. I mean, they are sooo versatile. I heated a saucepan, put a wrap in, spread cream cheese on half, graded apple and sprinkled cinnamon on with some banana slices, folded it over, toasted the other side and hey presto, a great deliciously melted sweet snack that has no added sugar! My son loved it and I did too. We then did a savoury version filled with some left over omelette and grated courgette and spices - not the best pic but you get the idea!

Experimenting gives great results - grated cheese, ham and sliced cooked egg could be a 'breakfast wrap', plus grated pear, cream cheese and cinnamon worked well too. They last well in the fridge and if you use cheese inside it tends to act as 'glue' to keep the contents inside. My son loves slices of the tortilla that he can hold and eat himself - victory all round!
They're great in freezer bags in the fridge, sliced in half to grab and go.

Have a great weekend and please do comment and share ideas!

Friday, 19 October 2012

Evernote for mums - how I use it!

As you all know I recently started using this free software, it links your phone, pc etc all in the cloud and means your data is always available, plus you get to be more paperless. Now, I'm a stationery lover - love my moleskine and throught Evernote wouldn't be for me.
It so is and I had it on my phone for ages and ignored it.

Anyway as a mum here are some of the main ways I use it:

To keep hold of all the bills in one place. If I want to overpay the mortgage when my son is having his 16 minute or less may-wake-up-anytime nap (!), all I do is type 'mortgage' into Evernote, up comes the account number, number and balance - I then just need to make the call.

To keen an Important Stuff file. Yes the one that family would need if anything happened to us. Birth certificates, wills, passports, drivers licences are all in there. We then just share the folder with key members of the family and relax, knowing they have what is needed if the worst were to happen. By the way this idea was from the 52 bites ebook I mentioned recently, already that $5 has paid for itself.

To write blog ideas and save links to sites etc - all in one spot, no more cluttered bookmark list because I can have a 'blog' notebook and simply search for things and they come up in seconds.

My FAVE use for this is definitely the Shopping List. How many times either of us has forgotten what we needed even with a list, or tried to call the other person from the shop but had no signal. Now we have the list on there and both log into it to add anything we need. Sorted!

I also love it for a reading list, as well as music or movies I want to add to my LoveFilm rental list. I have an Entertainment note for all these 3 items to keep them in one place.

Christmas is a great one, already I have a present list and several recipes in my Christmas notebook, then transferred some of the recipe items to my shopping list note. Nigella kept harping on about Pedro Ximenez sherry for dessert making, so I finally got some last week and OMG seriously she's right - it's nothing like sherry I have ever had, it won't last til Christmas! Were it not for my Evernote shopping list I wouldn't have gotten round to buying it I am sure.

The most used daily thing I use it for is my To Do List and my Baby events list - I simply tag events by day of the week (baby swimming would be tagged Monday, weds and Friday for example, Toddler Group Friday etc), so if I have some time on a Monday and don't know what's on that day, all I need to to is click the Monday tag and I will see several local events that recurr on Mondays and I can choose what we'll do that way. Combined with Google calendar to remind me of things this works a treat.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

The Shabby Chic Kitchen progresses... slowly!

OK, many of you may remember we got a pretty nasty kitchen when we moved in - I mean, it had blood red walls, dark dark units, and horrible CARPETED floor. Some older people had lived here and Eugh, carpeted floor, it still gets me. It had to change. So we did some basic work - I painted the units cream, replaced the handles, we changed the floor to a lighter colour and we painted it a sage green colour.

Apparently green enhances the appetite so I thought it would be ideal to have th the kitchen. Plus as a north facing room, it needs all the light it can get (blood red people, seriously??! Retirement has a lot to answer for).

Anyway with the baby we've had little chance to move forward on it any further, so I thought hey, let me do it one tiny thing at a time. So, my next few blogs I hope will inspire you to do small things, even if you haven't got a lot of time.

I focused on one drawer in the kitchen, in terms of how messy it looks inside, and making it more glam...

This is the before image:

And here is the after - not the best image but you get the idea (ie: it's clean, tidy and prettier!):
I do have more than one teaspoon by the way... You may not notice but the pattern on the oilcloth is of some cutlery, which I thought would be really cute for a kitchen drawer. The background colour is sage green which is perfect. I got this oilcloth from a shop called Dunhelm Mill, they have a lovely selection of them and this one was perfect, half a metre will do all my drawers plus I plan to use the excess to make some envelopes to use with the Dave Ramsey Cash Envelope System, but more on that later.
Anyway as you can see from the before and after, I decluttered, got rid of the ugly cutlery tray holder thingy and found this one at a local charity shop for £0.50p. So all in all I think for around £1.50 I did this one drawer make-over. A small start you may think, but it made me feel great, and inspires me to do more.
My next project is some stick on blackboard stickers, which I am using for storage jars with fab results and will show you how easy it is to organise the kitchen with those in my next blog. Definitely adds to the shabby chic look and the bonus is I can wipe off the text any time I like!
Hope you are all having lovely weekends, enjoy the sunshine out there - we went for a lovely early morning walk and the fresh air was amazing.


Saturday, 1 September 2012

The Pricebook returns - can it help me pay down the mortgage?

Well as you know Evernote is now firmily in my life (see last post) and I can honestly say I love it and it's really got me organised!

This morning was the time to get back into my pricebook mode. This first year with baby has meant I lost my mojo on this sort of thing - tidyness, the blog, batch cooking, pricebook all went out the window pretty much. But no more!

How do I do it?

I have a notebook inside Evernote called 'Pricebook', and it's easily editable both on my pc and my phone. So when I am in the supermarket, I can edit prices, and it's all synched up with my pc.

Here is an example of the work I have done so far - some data is missing but I will fill that in next time I find that product:

Butter - Olive oil type £0.89p ALDI
Cheddar cheese 400g £2.39 / 5.98 per kg ALDI
Coffee (instant) - £       £0.72 per 100g / £7.20 per kg ALDI
Ginger (ground) 50g £0.50p / £10 per kg
Marmite £      £2 per kg ASDA
Mayo Squeezy 475g £0.89 / 1.80 per kg - ALDI
Nappies Size 4 (56) £0.10p each ALDI
Oregano fresh Mexican £3.50 per 100g / £35 per kg - Ebay
Peanut Butter (Special) £1.29 / £3.58 per kg - ALDI  
Rice basmati 5kg - £6 / £1.20 per kg  Amazon
Teabags x 440 £1.49 / £0.01or less each - Approved Foods
Tinned tomatoes 400g £0.31 / £0.78 per kg ALDI
Toilet paper x 9 rolls Saxon - 1.99 / £0.22p per roll - ALDI
Tomato concentrate puree 200g 0.35p / £1.75 per litre ALDI 
Toothpaste 75g - £0.20p / £2.67 per kg - Approved Foods
Washing conditioner 1500ml £0.99p / £0.66 per litre - Approved Foods
Washing liquid bio Time £0.75p / £1.02 per litre / £0.03 per wash - Approved Foods
Washing Powder Radon non bio 800g £0.99 / £1.24 per kg / £0.08 per wash - Approved Foods
Washing Up Liquid - Magnum - £1.00 per litre ALDI

So I'm really happy with how it's working for me so far. Much better than a piece of paper, or a notebook - this is virtual and I will not lose it because it's 'in the cloud'.

What products are on your list? What are your secret weapons to save money on shopping?

I can't wait to add more to my list, sad but true!  Would much rather be saving that cash for baby or putting it against our mortgage. In fact, that may well be a challenge to myself now we are at the start of the month!

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Evernote... everynote... ever simple!

Ok, so I have found *the* tool I needed. No more searching, no more scraps of paper, no more losing stuff. That's right, I am excited!

You have to see it:

It synchs with your phone, so whatever you do on the computer or on your phone, the other knows about. Sraps of shopping lists? No more. Too many bookmarks to even find what you wanted? Not an issue.

My dream of having an up to date pricebook is so much closer now. I also use it to clip recipes from the web.

Everything is searchable, so it's even better than Pinterest in that respect, plus everyone doesn't have to see what you are doing this way, especially if you are planning a birthday or event you want to keep under wraps.

A bonus? You. Can. E-mail. Directly. To. It.
So that important e-mail you got relating to the party you are arranging? You want it to quickly go into the Party folder, you just e-mail your unique address at Evernote and put '@ Party' in the subject line. Because @ pops it into whatever folder you name.
And it tags beautifully. You can tag to your hearts content, each note then gets tagged. Then just click the 'car' tag to see everything you have ever saved relating to your car. For me, it's will be the last MOT certificate, the last price I paid AA, when car tax is due...

And for me, I love the fact that... it has checkboxes... and bullet points... and you can change font size and colour. I am very visual so it helps hugely. Already I have build up several recipes, logged key household information, shared it with hubby... and now I can relax because between dropbox and Evernote, things are going to speed up alot in our household. Especially the recycling... as hubby is shared on that folder now! Do you use it? What tools do you use to stay organised? Would love to bounce ideas around as to how you do things.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Bulk Buying Bonanza - Saving on shopping

Ok so here is a short but hopefuly useful post on what I have achieved so far!

I bought 10kg of (broken) dishwasher tablets on ebay, 2p per wash this way. I will also carefully monitor the salt levels and use soda crystals so that the machine runs well and is happy overall.

I am keeping an eye on Amazon Grocery as they can have good deals too, never bought food from there before but when the have deals and also offer discounts for regular orders, some golden deals may be had there.

I'm going to use more to compare prices and see deals, then if need be do my weekly shop in the best supermarket to bulk buy. It may involve slightly more petrol, but if we can bulk buy and make a family day out of it, it may work out!

Will keep an eye on local boot fairs and markets as they often sell boxes of veg very cheap, so I can make more pasta sauces, casseroles etc and get that slow cooker working for me again...

I will keep my Pricebook up to date, so far I know that 2p per dishwash, 10p per nappy (when I buy some, only buy 1 pack at the moment per month), 6p per clothes wash are best prices to aim for. Next ones will be things like toothpaste, loo roll (can I beat 22p per roll at Aldi!) and olive oil etc. None of them run out, so no danger of wastage - if you have any ideas please do share!

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Fast tip for an easy breakfast, yummy!

With a need for quick and easy food, I've loved this idea for a fast ready breakfast - Night before, put porridge oats in a bowl Dollop on some greek yoghurt (other kind would prob do, but Greek works really well) Add chopped banana and strawberry Top up with some milk (enough that it will all soak in) Stir and leave in the fridge to soak overnight That's it! Next morning you will have breakfast ready, and your baby can share it too if you have one. One bowl to wash up! You can vary the combo, I like to have honey and chopped walnuts (for me), or crushed blueberries and grated apple, jam and extra strawberries, chopped peaches and banana... in n fact, that's the one we had this morning. Plus it keeps you fuller for longer, and works out at pennies per portion. We buy the 2kg Mornflake porridge bag at Tescos, excellent value and I find it's always very smooth. My next musings will be on bulk buying - I am investigating reducing the cost of staple items, so stay tuned. Enjoy the sunshine out there today and have a great bank holiday weekend!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Stay on top of those pesky tasks...

Well this week had been a near disaster, so many things to keep on top of! My daily list of things to think about, plan, and action goes something like this: - Start researching nurseries for early next year and maybe visit some - Renew cat insurance - Get new wheel for car - Finish tiling lobby (hubby is mid-tiling, due to finish on the weekend, dead handy when I need to get the pram in and out now... not!) - Re-design office layout at work and plan purchases accordingly - Research family tree and join some sort of website so I can create a proper tree - Finish decorating bedroom - Think about garden design for front of house (because the back is a jungle, scary for even a professional - I kid you not!) So... someone at work recommended, and I have been using it fairly sucessfully. It won't automatically recurr on tasks but thats fine, I spent nearly an hour entering things and then it e-mails me reminders... it can even text you them. I'm sure I have divulged my Moleskine notebook addiction, and in there I do have a project list, a short and basic to do list, diary etc, but reminders etc is my nagging helper! So we now have a 1 year old little boy, costs are starting to get steeper, but we're trying to fight against it... I will write a separate blog about that though, lots of topics to cover! If you have any tips on how to stay on top of tasks, I'm all ears, as I manage all household finances, most of the meals, birthdays, planning a social life (ha ha!) and events for baby too...

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Summer is here!

Hi everyone, get the suntan lotion out, Summer is here - at least for a few days, knowing the luck we've had so far with weather! To celebrate the Summery feel, I have made Pimms & Lemonade (OK, Aldi's Austin's & Lemonade, so much cheaper and almost no difference)... and spicy potato wedges with turkey grills. More excitingly, I got a fab book called Gifts From The Kitchen from Amazon as a gift, and am making one delicious berry vodka present for a friend - she's moving next week and I figure she'll need it! It has fresh strawberries and raspberries in it, and looks yum, just one week to go before it's ready. I also plan to make a ginger and lemongrass cooler from the book too, sounds delicious, and I know if I don't enjoy it's Summery taste, the clouds will come right back before I know it. It's why we've had a BBQ, used suntan, finally used the new garden furniture, cleared half the garden, and popped bubs into a bucket of water for a splashabout - all in 3 days! I have alot on at the moment but luckily my work is flexible as to hours, so within 1 week or so it will all calm down... Hope you are all well!

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Summer and new posts time!

Hi everyone, I'm sorry the blog has been so delayed, our little one is nearly 1 - crazy how time flies! Anyway, we're more back to normal now, I'm back at work, and money saving is definately something we need to re-focus on. So I aim to at least write one blog a week, maybe more, as and when I have any ideas or deals that you guys might like. I do hope you will subscribe and continue to support the blog, and can only say that normally my money saving drive is un-swayable - but a small baby does have a way of over-running that - and money literally drains through your hands! My first money saving tactic for July has been to place one large order with Tesco online for delivery. i got some great deals for his birthday party, plus could see the total as it went along. Then I got £10 off using a voucher - great result. Even better? I didn't have to go out in the rain to get it, it all arrived with us - no petrol, no temptation in the aisles, no chicken grilling or deli samples- just what we *needed* went in the shopping trolley. Do you spend too much on food? What tips do you have? It's definately our 2nd highest cost each month and I can't wait to save some money in this area.