WOW! How can it possibly be time for another school holiday already?
Some schools are already out, but we have to wait until next week. If you have kids home from school and need a few ideas you can have a browse through our Staying Sane in the Summer series as many of those ideas are still valid, or I have few choice ones for an autumnal week here as well…
Go and check out WikiPlaces for Kids – we love this site as it is parent driven, and only supports positive reviews so you know if a place is on there it’s already good – you just have to check your particular needs. If you have a good day out yourselves during half term do add it to the site to help others (and you get included in a prize draw!). Listed on the site are some of the well known ‘big days out’, but there is also a section of walks and other free and frugal ideas.
Autumn is really the best time for a walk in the woods, the leaves are so great to run around in so grab your wellies and a waterproof coat and find your nearest woodland or park and have a few free hours of fresh air. The trickier bit of park loving in the colder weather is that picnics aren’t as appealing – you could try taking a thermos of tomato soup and some bread to dip or a batch of just cooked pasta will stay warm for a while in a good insulated cool bag. Timing may be more important than the Summer to go when you will only need a snack is best, and a thermos of hot chocolate. If you have any memberships remember to make the most of them during the school holidays, National Trust places often close over the Winter do this may be the last chance to get the benefit of your membership for a few months. We like to collect some leaves and then draw faces on them when we get home, and of course we must always have our pockets full of conkers… If you want to stay closer to home in case of changeable weather (and children) then there is lots of fun to be had in the garden still, you could make a bug hotel or become a nature detective.
Crafts galore! Rainy and cold days often call for indoor activities and crafts are pretty fun to do if a little messy to clear up… If you don’t feel confident at preparing your own activities then try Ready To Go Art, who have created a downloadable set of craft ideas that you can just print off with low ink options and simple instructions – super easy and educational too. We love to use up toilet roll tubes at every opportunity, they are just the right size for small hands and can be turned into so many things – check out our Frugal Autumn board for lots of autumnal craft projects, if you like to do the Hallowe’en thing then we also have a board for that! In all the school holidays we also have a Box Day – we collect up boxes from our shopping and the neighbours over a few days and then the kids can do as they want with them one day in the holidays, it’s fun to create all sorts of things from rockets, cars, houses for toys, submarines – their ideas are endless so you best make sure the sticky tape is too! Remember to recycle all the boxes afterwards for a quick clear up from lovely free fun.
Have a theme day – this requires a little bit of planning as you want to use things you already have at home; one evening put everything into a box or suitcase so the kids can open it up and discover all the exciting things inside – we have tried Dinosaur Day, Pirate Day, Fairyland Day, Pumpkin Day, Farm Day, Robot Day, any of their favourite tv shows or characters will have lots of things online to print off as well as more likely to have things already at home. If you have a mixed age range this needs a bit more management, we put some more advanced things like word searches or crosswords into an envelope with the child’s name on, and colouring sheets for the younger children. If you’re feeling really adventurous you can make a scavenger hunt or treasure hunt around the house with clues etc. This doesn’t have to be too daunting, the scavenger hunt could just be for different coloured items…
Things to put in the box/suitcase might include:
- masks to make,
- films to watch,
- colouring in sheets,
- books to read,
- dressing up items,
- cake/cookie making,
- List of things to find/Treasure Hunt
- Lego instructions to make themed items – or try the Lego family page for ideas
- pin the X on the X if you have the energy to make something
- balloons are always popular
Playdates – lots of parents are fearful of adding more children to the chaos, but I actually find it much easier if they all go off and play with friends – this does require a certain acceptance of the mess that will be made, and that you don’t have to clean every nook and cranny for a 6 year old to visit. Invite another family over, have a few ideas of things they can do (or use the theme day above) and let them just play. If you want to invite just the kids or the parents for a cuppa as well is totally up to you, but if you’re going to be stuck inside on a miserable day you may as well just embrace it! You will need to have some strategies for the inevitable disagreements, especially when different age siblings want to play with older ones etc. I try to have zones that have different activities in and circulate people e.g. crafts/colouring on the table, film in the living room, building bricks in one bedroom and a specific play item in another bedroom (we let our kids put ‘special’ things away if they don’t want to share them).
You also need to think about your food offering. If the kids can help make their meals that’s great – we like to make a trail mix, smoothies, or put pizza toppings on for example.
A week will go past pretty quickly, meet up with friends and make sure you have some quick meals already prepared as you will be tired in the evenings. Get a few treats in for the adults too! I really believe I will miss all this time when the kids have all left home, so I’m trying to embrace the stress and mess of really enjoying their childhood fully – the holidays for us have become really precious times and I now love them more than school days – really!
Add green value to your business the easy way…
One concern about the environment is our carbon footprint – you may have heard this term and thought there was nothing you could do about your impact at work… but there are a number of ways every business can look at becoming carbon neutral, or to offset their carbon footprint.
You can calculate your carbon footprint online, there are lots of organisations that do it. A rough guide is that every person in the UK produces about 12.5 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year.
Here are 5 ideas to consider how you could reduce your carbon footprint:
1. Thinking about how you travel. Avoiding flying, and use the train or bus over driving. Perhaps offering a car share if you are attending an event for example…
Can you walk or cycle to work?
2. Replacing lights with LED fittings, and turn lights off in unused rooms.
Perhaps you could fit sensors to operate the lights automatically?
3. Buy recycled paper and try to reuse before recycling again. Only print essential documents.
Remove yourself from junk mail lists using the help from www.ecocycle.org
4. When you replace electrical items, go for the best Energy Star rating you can.
Maybe you could audit all the equipment in the business and see what you actually use/need?
5. Try to reduce the air miles of your food by buying and supporting local producers. Also consider going veggie or cutting down on meat… #Meat Free Monday?
Taking a packed lunch to work also saves you money!
Offset your carbon footprint – ideas…
*Plant trees annually with the Woodland Trust, Trees for Cities or any other great charity
*Search for a project to support that floats your boat on www.co2zoo.com
*Help others to reduce their footprint by offering lifts or joining a sharing community like Helpful Peeps
*Share information – shout out about the changes you’re making and inspire others! You could join a Twitter #, write a blog post, collaborate with a supplier the list is endless…
Plan Your Writing for a Year.
So, you are full of great ideas for articles, blog posts and have a bunch of photos on your phone… and the first few sentences flow from you like Shakespeare – until after about a month of writing you suddenly have nothing to say, or someone has just posted the same idea as you, or you just lose your writing mojo.
One great way to manage your website writing is to plan it out in advance. For some of you that may sound impossible but I promise these steps will mean you can have a year of weekly writing to share on all social media all ready to go – so you can get on with the fun bit of actually writing it!
This works for all subjects so I will try to give a variety of examples – I like a challenge so if you don’t feel you can do this let me know and I will walk you through the process. I was a lecturer and coach for 15 years writing and delivering courses on time management, journaling, life planning and perfectionism – remember that procrastination may be the real problem.
- You need a calendar, planner, diary, app. Something with the day/week/month. I work best on paper and then move onto electronic things. I’m also a big advocate of sticky notes and pencils with erasers on. I would also advise some colour coding for an easy way to see ‘what’s what’.
- Divide the year into seasons – this works for fashion, food, gardening, kids activities, weather, travel pretty much everything. By this I mean physically write or colour in the calendar with seasons. This gives you three month chunks (in most countries…).
- Then add any dates relevant to your PERSONAL LIFE – for example I add the school holidays as I don’t work the same times during holidays. Also consider any relevant life events happening that may make a relevant article.
- Then add any dates relevant to your SUBJECT MATTER – festivals, events, award seasons.
- Next take a look at www.awarenessdays.com or something similar for your country. This will show you National and International celebration or awareness raising events. Make a note of any that resonate with your theme, your readers or you feel are interesting. It’s best to make a separate note of them first, and then add some of those to your plan – you will be surprised how many there are! This gives you themes and topics to write alongside, and gives great exposure (for example by using relevant hashtags on Twitter or Instagram) and may lead to collaboration with new organisations.
- Add in the ideas you already have scribbled on bits of paper and stuck around the house. See where they ‘sit’ best and link with any of the Awareness Days or items from no. 4 (SUBJECT).
- Do an internet search for your niche or a subject you plan to write about and see what else is linked to that, find out what questions people have around those issues and that should give you another couple of writing prompts.
- Join a Twitter Hour and Facebook Group around a subject that you would like to write about, engage and get a feel for topics that are relevant and current – there should also be opportunities for collaborative posts either by responding to others or creating one yourself.
- On average, you will be looking to put something on your website every week which means 52 ideas (you may have more by the end of this). Rather than worry about numbers, as you think of something add it in pencil to the calendar, you can also use those cool page sticky things for colour coding if you want. You may choose to keep to the same day of the week for your regular activity for example we have a Thursday Thought as the blog on our website, and then post in addition to that as and when appropriate.
- If you go off writing completely then remember the power of video – everyone’s doing it, so instead of writing you could just speak to camera and post, or do a Facebook Live or Instagram story and direct everyone to it. You may also consider starting a You Tube channel, we have one just as a place to store video that we want to use on the website, but with effort it could become a really engaging platform, and with the information world becoming faster and faster video is the present and future….
If none of these float your boat then I have EVEN MORE ideas:
- Remember good content is the key, so write when you feel the buzz and keep them for a rainy day…
- You can re-purpose old posts with an update.
- Be topical – respond to a news article or story and share on relevant social media.
- Use Quotes to inspire yourself or others, make them beautiful and always credit where/who they are from.
- Review something relevant to your work that you already own.
- Ask for ideas with a poll or questionnaire.
- Encourage Guest Posts to come and add an article to your site for you.
Just to see which medium people prefer I’ve also done this same article as a video!
You can read and watch or just do one or the other. As I’m easily distracted the video is likely to be longer than just reading this!
Take your pick – and I’d love your feedback on which works best for you…
Throughout the process of starting The Frugal Family, I have enjoyed lots of ‘moments’ to consider plans, the future, who I am, what I’m grateful for and all that sort of fluffy stuff. One thing I have always held very dear, is my love of nature and the environment and animals (I actually do hug trees when possible) – these values have been with me since I was a child, and they are part of how I view the World. Recently I’ve been focusing on why it is important to me, how I live that value and where I can do better.
It also started me thinking about how other people started their ‘green’ lifestyle, so I thought I’d ask them…
First up is a fellow #ethicalhour member Sabine Harnau:
“OK, let’s watch something on Netflix,” I sighed, trying to protect my hot salami pizza from Sandra’s kitten. Her sofa embraced me with its rough linen fabric, and I was looking forward to a chilled-out evening. Instead, I was flushed with hot anger as I watched cows suffering in sheer endless meat factories. And a pang of desire for small stripy aubergines, farmed the traditional way. That pizza didn’t taste all that good anymore.
Why we had decided to watch Food, Inc. will forever remain a mystery. But it changed my life. I spent the next days in shock at how little I had known about the stuff in my fridge. First, I made small changes to my diet and swapped products for their organic counterparts. I also vowed to invest as much as I could afford into buying higher quality, eco friendly goods. Since then, I’ve gone pescetarian, organic (as far as the market allows), switched to 100% renewable energy and embraced slow fashion.
My most recent step has been starting my own company. This means I can do the work I love to help other conscious companies thrive.
Sabine heads up From Scratch, a customer service consultancy with a mission: to make excellent communication accessible to all. The best insights from linguistics, psychology and user research are distilled into effective writing, training that truly empowers teams, and customer satisfaction programmes — tailored to each business. From Scratch is constantly looking to tread more lightly on the earth. It’s also a proud member of the #EthicalHour community of ethical businesses.
Mandi also made significant changes after watching TV (see it’s not all bad ;)):
I watched a few documentaries around the same time on off grid living, the dangers of sugar and processed foods and the impact of the food industry (esp. large scale agriculture). All of this in conjunction with living in a completely unaffordable city and having had our 3rd child we have decided to take whatever control we can into our own hands minimize our impact while in the city, feed ourselves ACTUAL food and we hope to start a small homestead when we can afford to buy. For now we are learning all we can about doing what we can at home but we hope to have our own small farm, raincatching system, beekeeping, solar power etc. 🌻
You can check in with Mandi on her blog BigTinySteps.
I have to admit to avoiding watching TV and Film that I know will upset me, some I feel have moved away from informative documentaries and have deliberately been made to shock, with even a sense of salaciousness in their production. I do see the great importance of letting people use all their senses to understand the processes used to create all of the things we use in our everyday lives in the rich nations. It’s sometimes hard to know when to tell kids the various things I want them to know, and how much detail to give. As I’m a veggie, but Mr F isn’t – I will let them choose for themselves. They have been veggie until they can express and opinion, we have always explained what the food is made from and then they can choose. Our son is a strict veggie, our daughter has tried a few things from Daddy’s plate, but is 99% veggie and getting more concerned about animal welfare as she gets older. It will be fascinating to watch them grow and learn and make their own choices – I see such care in them about the World and such curiosity it’s wonderful!
Hanna Pumfrey had a epiphany at work:
Sustainability became important to me after a few years living and working in the city. I would watch the rubbish bins in my office fill up every day with paper cups and lunch bag wrappers as we all rushed blindly from meeting to meeting, completely unconscious to the amount of waste we were contributing to landfill daily. I thought there must be a better way to do this!
After some research I realised that with just a few small changes we could all start to make a big difference to our environment. But as time poor city dwellers with demanding jobs and equally as busy personal lives, living sustainably with the current options and information we have can seem very difficult.
I decided to create Flor + Cesta to make it simple for people. To give people the tools needed to become a more conscious consumer, without a radical lifestyle change.
I started the Frugal Office page after realising the massive impact that office culture can have on the environment, and the relatively simple steps that any sized office can take to reduce the negative impact. The ‘Greening Up Your Office’ series has been so interesting to research, and I’m working on number four on ‘Stores’ so about to get some Frugal Family goodies to hand out… possibly pencils made from recycled jeans – how cool is that?!?
Two and a half years ago, just after my son was born, I entered some sort of contest (I don’t even remember what the prize was). All it required of me was to make a promise to my child. My promise was “to do all in my power to make this world a better place for him”.
I really took it to heart & immediately went out & got cloth diapers & started my blog. Ever since I’ve been making one continuous change after another to live a more sustainable, clean & eco friendly life as well as grow myself so that i may raise him the way he & the world deserves & educate others to the best of my abilities.
My motto is “improving ourselves to improve the world”.
Brianne Pruitt also made changes alongside becoming a parent:
I went green because I realized what a huge negative impact not being green was having on my health. While I was pregnant I became lightheaded and overwhelmed by fumes from a chemical filled cleaning product . I started by switching out all my cleaning products. And then that led to learning more about how skin care and food affect me, and changing all of that too.
I have a FB group where I post info from a lot of resources as well as what I do personally to live green.
Becoming a parent is the most life changing experience, and I do feel that the concern we have for our children does affect how we feel about the World – I for one don’t want my grandchildren to have to go and live underground or on Mars… There are lots of links on here to really inspiring women doing great things for great reasons, please check them out and share the power we all have when we focus on what the change. Obama made it cool again, but Ghandi said it first ‘be the change you want to see in the World’… I’m pretty sure Michael Jackson said something similar too…
Add green value to your business the easy way…
With the US walking away from the Paris Accord, the environment is back in the headlines – and it’s a fast growing area of the market, with people looking at what companies offer in terms of their ‘green’ credentials.
From the largest down to the smallest business – everyone can make a positive impact by looking at a range of easy changes, they benefit the World as well as your business by engaging new customers without losing any current clients.
Here are 5 quick starters…
- Recycle your paper and card – reuse first if you can e.g. printing on both sides for rough drafts or items you will bin.
- Recycle other office products e.g. toner cartridges, Tassimo pods, old equipment, stamps… pretty much anything will be useful to someone else, and may make you or a charity some money.
- Lower your energy bills by switching off unused equipment, changing to LED lighting, turning off lights in unused rooms.
- Think about company transport use – can you carpool, take the train, have a Skype meeting?
- Use recycled products and let people know you use them e.g business cards, paper and pens and buy recycled equipment when looking for new chairs, tables or printers.
Evidence suggests that these small changes are likely to improve staff health and attendance, reduce bills and by being more socially responsible you will be able to engage a wider audience to your business.
There is so much more you can do if you get the green bug… and if you want to make changes at home too – you can follow www.thefrugalfamily.co.uk.
To prove the US do care about the environment, here’s a great article from the mighty Harvard. http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2009/10/workplace-green-place/
We couldn’t let today go without a shout out to World Vegetarian Day – five out of the six members of The Frugal Family are veggie and so it’s a big part of our world. If you’d like to learn more, or complete the Challenge set by the organisers of the Day you can check out this article on their site.
Being vegetarian isn’t especially challenging in today’s society, but the main impact on our family is that it does cost more to have a specialist diet. The kids can’t have cows milk protein and so we can’t do our main shopping in the very low cost shops, or we can but then end up in the larger supermarkets for yogurt, dairy free spread and a wider variety of protein options. It may well be that the kids grow up to make different choices and we’ll leave it to them to decide – but for now we are a happy band of green, veggie lovers. I am hoping to add some recipes that we particularly enjoy here. One of our daughters and I used to write a monthly, healthy vegan snack for kids to make in a magazine – I have such great memories of our creations together. That magazine has since ended, but I still have great joy in cooking with all the kids and sharing an interest in what we eat, where it comes from and attempting to encourage them to try new things…
Surprisingly Mr Frugal is a powerful voice in our veggie life, as although it’s not his choice he fiercely defends ours. There have been occasions when this voice has been loud, particularly at buffets and public eating spots where some people are less aware of the utensils or dishes they are using. I really admire people that can see beyond their own choices and support others despite their differences.
If you are not veggie or vegan, you might consider reducing your meat intake along the lines of #meatfreemonday or something similar to help our environment?