UA-99606640-1December 2017 – Welcome to The Frugal Family
    • @EKOearth_ I’ve had such a great time making small but long term changes - it’s been really great x

      Jul 21, 2018

Month: December 2017

5 Free Things to do NOW! to get ready for next Christmas…
5 Free Things to do NOW! to get ready for next Christmas…

Yes – I really do have some things I do as one Christmas ends, to get ready for the next one. This may sound a bit much, but you will thank me next December I promise, and there is nothing here that is onerous honest.

1. DVD or Book Advent

Over several years of presents and great finds we built up a collection of family Christmas films. We now keep these separately and use them as a sort of advent calendar, so from 1st December the kids take turns to unwrap a Christmas film most nights after school, and weekends. We used to wrap the books as well but that got harder with the age range of children and the number of books we read each night, so they are now just in a pretty box for the Season.

It’s much easier to wrap them NOW before you put them away in the loft, and using the wrapping paper you have saved from the recycling bin, job done.

You can do this unwrapping idea with anything really depending on what you have (or would like to get hold of…) ideas could be books, or chocolate, wine… whatever you want!

2. Food List


Write a basic shopping list NOW while you can still remember what you had and what you forgot!

Or use the shopping receipt to start you off… If you are being super organised you might keep a file with such lists in so year on year you build up a great database of resources. You will never forget the cranberry sauce again…

You could also include any new ideas you have seen or been treated to by others, you could keep recipes here and we also have a list of non-food items e.g. we like to find a colouring in table cloth.

The more organised you are the better to take advantage of any deals you see in the run up to the big day – you can save a lot of money by buying in advance in sales throughout the year, or spreading the cost by adding things to each weekly shop over the Winter months.


3. Cut up your Cards

If you received Christmas Cards you can reuse them for lots of things by getting them ready NOW, which also means less going into the recycling; ideas might include:

• Cut up for present labels
• Used to make new Christmas cards (this is what we do…)
• Cut up for kids crafts (sorted into animals or colours?)
• Cut out non-Christmas bits for Thank You cards
• Cut out for hexagon patchwork foundation piecing – New Year, New Hobby xx


4. Keep a Present List


To save trying to remember what you got for everyone this year, so you don’t duplicate next year jot a list down NOW (if you like the idea of this Christmas Planning File, add this in x) and then you don’t have to remember. Mr F is a bit of a spreadsheet fanatic, so we have all our lists on the computer and then can share the load of thinking, buying, making, organising etc . This is also really useful as my brain works in curious ways and I now have a place to save a good idea that comes to me in April for a Christmas present. Another advantage is that if I’m planning on making things or doing crafts with the children I can add anything I need to buy well in advance of December itself – and like the food list, I can make use of free recycling sites and sales.

If you are a present re-gifter, please keep a note of where each gift you will be ‘re-homing’ has come from. There is NOTHING worse than getting a gift you gave someone coming back to you… we have a family member who doesn’t keep a list – and we take bets on who will get what from last year!!

The year we had baby four on the 21st, I can’t remember much – but luckily I had completed all my lists in advance and could leave Mr F to it – unsure what day we would all be home and when baby might join us!

5. Clothes Clear Out


If you have festive clothes, before you put them all away for next year, just have a quick check of sizes and condition. With four children our Christmas clothes have had a good innings, but this year we have given our new baby items to a friend, and at the end of this year anything under age 2 can be given away. It is another quick job you can do NOW that you won’t have to do next December. This might be true of slippers, dressing up costumes, festive hats etc.

Our family really hopes your family has had an amazing break, and that we will continue to support and inspire you in 2018, we have such exciting plans – bring it on!


Winter School Holiday Survival
Winter School Holiday Survival

It can be hard to think what to do with the kids in the Winter school holidays, of course the new toys and things they get at Christmas (assuming they are on the nice list) mean there is a lot of distraction, and there are usually lots of activities around for Christmas. However, these trips and toys all add up and it can be an extremely expensive few weeks. So, here are 5 FREE ideas to entertain children in the cold school break.

This post contains one affiliate link right at the bottom, so if you choose to use it we get a bit of money off our food shop – at no cost to you x 

1. Winter Walks

In conjunction with our good friends at WikiPlacesforKids here are 5 free Winter Walks. Use the link to find all the details you need to know provided by real families that have actually been there xx

  • Beckenham Palace Park, South London
  • RSPB Rye Meads, Hertfordshire
  • The Quarry, Shrewsbury
  • Alyn Waters, Wrexham
  • Arrow Valley Country Park, Worcestershire
  • There are LOTS more ideas over at Wiki, covering the whole of the UK x


2. Hide The Horse



So, this is on the Elf on the Shelf theme, which may be a blessing or a curse depending how you feel about it, if it’s something you want to continue then we found Hide the Horse (it really could be ANYTHING) ours is a Happyland horse as it’s the first thing I stepped on that day… I hide it when I go to bed and it takes the kids a while to find each morning as it’s quite small; I even get to make a cup of tea most mornings.

There is no need to make the toy do amusing things, unless you feel the urge.


3. Earn It Ernie

I actually think electronic devices come into their own in Winter! Come up with a system that will work for your family that means the kids can earn extra TV/Console/Ipad time. Maybe create a chart that equals 30 minute blocks? Whatever works for you – it could be there is a film at 3pm every day if everyone ‘earns’ it.

Kids could colour in a block of the chart for…

Making their bed
Clearing their bedroom floor
Putting away their laundry
Helping a sibling
Reading a school book
Completing a worksheet – zillions on line or lost in their school bags
Helping to put the dishes away
Playing sock snap for 10mins
Entertaining a sibling
Taking all their toys back upstairs/putting away
Singing their times tables
Drawing a picture
Writing 2 thank you notes
Not whining for 5 minutes – you get the picture!


4. Virtual Party

If you can’t face having extra children in the house and it’s too cold to force them outside – see if any of their friends have access to Skype or Facetime – both are free and they could plan a little 10 minute ‘show’ and then call their friend to share it, and the next day maybe they could return the favour?

It might work better with family or friends overseas – let’s embrace modern technology for all its good bits. Ideas for the kids might be:
• Sing nursery rhymes
• Write their thank you for any gifts onto cards and hold them up in the right order (quite hard to coordinate for young children so good skill development!)
• Teach a pet a trick
• Dress up and do ‘famous film scenes’
• Make up their own play
• Tell jokes
• Review a book/film
• Play charades
• Play ‘name that tune’ – sometimes a real challenge with kids!


5. Snack Up


If the kids are largely indoors, and off school/nursery they will be eating A LOT. We always stock up on snacks and quick foods from Approved Foods before each school holiday, but in the Winter it always seems as if we all want to snack, especially as the cold hits. You could use the opportunity to let older children run a snack shop and use play or real money. They would need to make signs, price labels, special offers, opening times etc so make sure you have some scrap paper and sticky stuff to hand. You also need shopping bags and maybe a till/box, receipt book – see what you have around.

We have also run a café, newsagent, toy shop and cinema… if you do use the Approved Foods it will be delivered in large boxes and they are prefect to make cars; you could even have an indoor drive through – you see how my mind wanders!

You can see us opening up our latest delivery – which arrived just in time for the holidays, I’ve loaded it up to our YouTube Channel



Wishing you and your family a really wonderful, fun, peaceful Christmas… pop back next week to find out 5 FREE Ways You Can Get Ready for Christmas 2018 NOW!!



FREE Gifts for Kids – yes, really!
FREE Gifts for Kids – yes, really!


So, I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t buy your children presents whenever you fancy – and ours will be getting things to unwrap and (I hope) things they will love. However, we do try to aim for a balance of the plastic tat they want and some more thoughtful things that help them grow to appreciate how lucky we are – and that presents are fun but not the whole picture. We do have a budget for Christmas, for presents – we give gifts to roughly 26 people, as well as for extra yummy food that week and the school holidays. We save each month to save up for this, so that we have the money up front. It also means we know how much is there and can divide it up before we plan how to use it!
These are some ideas for gifts that won’t cost you anything except time. They may mean you can stretch your budget a bit further, can add to the bought items, can delay the expense to another month (vouchers) or just do something last minute for that unexpected guest…

Free Idea 1 – Swap Instead of New

I’ve talked about this before, and it maybe my 80’s childhood, but I think Swapping is hugely underrated. You both get the advantage of a ‘new to you’ gift for the kids, and they get something they haven’t seen before – and they don’t care if it’s pre-loved, in fact they probably won’t even know. Ideas of things to swap include…
• DVD’s
• books
• kids clothes
• toys
• sweets – I have loads that mine don’t like from party bags…
• dressing up costumes
• bedding
• jigsaws/puzzles
• board games

Free Idea 2 – Print or Create a Token/Voucher

These are really easy to do, and you can have some blank ones printed for emergency use! They work well in stockings or just hanging on the tree for visitors.

We have some blank and filled options over in the shop as a FREE download if you would prefer. You can use a token to delay the cost of something until it happens e.g. a trip to the cinema or soft play OR you can keep the free theme and make a token for a free treat. This post is aimed at children but these work just as well for adults!

Free Ideas…

• Stay up late one night/extra hour
• Have a sleepover with a sibling or friend
• Hold the TV remote for an hour/day/weekend
• No chores today card
• Choose dinner and pudding one day
• Extra bedtime story
• Trip to the park
• Extra electronic time – you know best what would work in your family.


Free Idea 3 – Create a Photo Book or Box

This may sound very strange, but when our first child was born we realised how many of our friends and family lived a long way away and that they wouldn’t see much of them, or get to know them. We made a scrapbook of photos and printed out their names so that he could imagine who we were talking about or who birthday cards were from. I am always amazed by how much all the children love looking at this book, which we’ve had to update many times. You can print out photos you already have and put them into a decorated shoe box, or a proper album. It’s a really tangible thing and kids love to look at pictures of themselves as babies as well.

Other free ideas…

‘My First Five Years’

‘My Pet Friends’

‘My Family’


‘School Days’

‘My House’  our kids are fascinated by photos of our house from before they were born, and the extension we built to accommodate our growing family!

You could also consider creating a family tree back to grandparents or greatgrandparents, just with photos you have on a piece of wallpaper or large A3 paper.

If you want to spend a little you could use a photobook service like Potato Print, they offer a range of easy to use templates you can add your digital photos and they print and send a quality book. They currently have 20% off if you use the code FESTIVE20 when you check out x

Free Idea 4 – Repurpose Favourite Clothes

Your kids may have a favourite piece of clothing that is now too small or full of holes… think of a creative way to make something new out of that old thing, so they can keep it. We have lots of cushions on the beds from old tshirts. There are lots of no-sew options, or if you have a needle and thread you can really get creative! We have also used up duvet covers to make bags and a friend even made a beanbag with one…

Some ideas for using old clothes (try this Frugal Fun – Sewing board on Pinterest for more)

Tshirt bag
Jeans bag
Jeans pocket mobile phone holder
Clothes into a teddy bear/soft toy

 Make some teddy/toy clothes
Tshirt scarf
Jumper arms to leg warmers
Baby clothes into a patchwork
Old baby blanket into a soft toy
Old baby blanket into toy sleeping bags
Clothes into an ipad cover/bag
Frame a favourite tshirt

If you would like a pattern to create a memory toy using childrens clothing the SewingBelle site is very good, and has lots of crafting patterns for toys, as well as costumes, bags and storage items to use up clothing or duvet covers that may be ready for a new lease of life! This pattern above is £6.95 and there are cheaper and more expensive options, so that’s a ball park figure. Remember you can use the same pattern many times, or swap it with another sewing lover so it has lots of uses per purchase.


Free Idea 5 – Create an Event for Quality Family Time (but don’t call it that!!)

If you live a fairly frugal life already, then your kids expectations may already have been brought back to ‘normal’ levels – and things like spending time together is a really great thing. In the UK the Christmas break is usually the best in terms of consecutive days off work, and so working parents will hopefully have some time to wind down and then enjoy some quality time. Our kids aren’t back at school this year until the 8th January! So we have a long time to plan in some of these ‘events’.

Depending on the age of the kids, and how many you have these suggestions might work:

• Day out with just one kid:parent, or older kids get to do something younger ones can’t and vice versa… we sometimes divide up and older ones get a bike ride with dad and littles go to soft play with mum :/
• Bike Ride or similar
• Trip to somewhere further afield (free or not)
• Magical Mystery Walk… You can look for things on a list, or plant things to be found (if you think they won’t be taken!)
• Treasure Hunt for… Go as wild as you like, in the house, garden or all around town! You can make up clues that lead to a café, friends house, favourite shop or back home!
• Themed Day… based on their favourites, and maybe linked to a gift you are already giving e.g a new toy or film.
• Make It Kit… you may well have enough stuff around the house to make something, so just put it all in a box with instructions you write or print off. E.g a sock animal, paint and paper, pens and colouring sheets – see what you’ve got!
• Big Make… this is just box day but with more adults involved! It works well if you have visitors – just keep all the boxes from Christmas Day and before if you have space, and go wild. Make a robot, house, pirate ship, space rocket, horse whatever… if the visitors are keen you may even get a five minute break.

• Chart for a Big Trip – you can make a sticker chart to go on a bigger day out, like a theme park or water park, something that may not happen until the next school holiday, the kids can collect stickers to get the trip. This is likely to be a paid for trip, unless you have some vouchers, or a membership e.g. National Trust. Remember to look out for deals and discounts, or places like The National Space Centre where tickets are good for a free return visit.


If you enjoy our world of Frugal Family living, please do join our community using the email sign up form – we don’t send hundreds of messages but you will get some exclusive content and deals no more than weekly.


Week Four
Week Four

This week we have been working on our daily #frugalactsofkindness, which we believe are having an impact on our local community and also on our family and the balance we are trying to strike between getting stuff for ourselves over Christmas and sharing with others. Some of our impact this week:


  • Taking some books to the library for their stocks
  • Making bird feeders just in time for the snow
  • Taking some food to our local food bank – and making a great connection with a local Youth Homelessness project we didn’t know existed in the next street!
  • Supporting over 30 small businesses in our Gifts for £5 and Under post
Gorgeous Gifts for £5 and Under
Gorgeous Gifts for £5 and Under

There are NO AFFILIATE links here, I’m not getting any personal benefit from sharing these ideas with you (more fool me!) but I wanted to inspire people to stop spending money they don’t have, or only buying from large corporations when you can get wonderful, handmade, beautiful, ethical gifts from small suppliers, local producers and great people. You are likely to come across a charge for postage and packing, but it may be that you live close enough to collect, or will add more to an order for postage to be cost effective. Please remember these are small suppliers making great products to feed their families. 

If you have a friend or relative that runs their own business, please do buy from them before a large corporation – they are your friends! Maybe you could ask if they have gift vouchers, if they’ve written a book then buy it…
Let’s make 2018 a real year of LOVE and KINDNESS.

These are not ‘stocking fillers’ or ‘secret santa’ ideas just based on the price, they are simply lovely gifts. Where you choose to put them, and how many you may buy is entirely up to you but please people of Earth take a moment to just think about what you are spending and where – this should be a time of Peace, Love and Family. I see so much stress and anxiety and it makes me sad.

Next week I will be sharing some FREE gifts for children, just as a few ideas to give some perspective. But for today – dive in!

These in no particular order, and all are beautiful in their own way (I have tried to group them for ease….) Many of the makers I know personally or have been in touch with via the wonders of the internet recently so this information was correct when I pressed Publish!


For Children:

Actually I want these as well, but they are very useful for school lunches – reuseable sandwich bags (£3.75). I love the designs and variety and just the great ecological wonderfulness of them. There is lots of love at WoollaWoolla Handmade including polar fleece neck warmers and cool hair accessories, all in budget.

These beautifully hand crafted wooden spinning tops from Love Heart Wood are just timeless (£4.50). Each one is unique and no need for batteries!

Another great local find for us was KBling Designs, we got our girls a number of hair accessories and a necklace all under £3! There is loads to choose from, and no fuel or postage cost for us.

More handmade hair accessories from Three Little Pickles Craft (£2.00) – can you tell we have three girls?? It was great to meet another working mum, doing her best for her family and such a creative gift xx

We love Stapleford Stones, they are such fun to hide and share – or to buy and keep. Prices start from £2.00 and go up…

As you will already know we love books, and kids books can be under budget – for those reading on their own check out Maddies Magic Christmas (£1.99 on Kindle), Rob Keeley’s Short Stories (£3.99 on Kindle), We also use local charity shops for books and DVD’s.



For the Home:

There is a whole section of gifts listed under £5 at Homebee. There are lovely inspirational plaques (£4,50), and a great Badger riding a bike tin (£3.50) that made it’s way to our basket – along with a cute fridge magnet (£2.50) Mr F will appreciate x

If you sort by price at Moose in the Mint you will see a whole host of items under £5, all upcycled and eco-friendly. We particularly liked the individual wine glass markers at £2.50.

Another whopping great list of items in budget from Hetty and Betty – Mr F has his eye on the beer bottle opener (£4.99) and I would rather like the heart shaped chalk board (£3.99).

For an original and striking piece of artwork you can buy a print from Vision Within Artwork (£4.50) – we love the Manchester Bees and also know some Londoners that would appreciate the St Pauls Cathedral.

We were excited to come across Alexander Fox Design recently – her use of recycled materials to create Christmas decorations was just beautiful, and many under £5. We also love foxes, so her larger work has gone on the Wish List x

If you love recycling, and beautiful bottles then The Tipsy Candle is a really fun company re-purposing beautiful glass bottles into candles. They have an  Absolut Vodka for £5, but the larger champagne bottles with up to 70 hours burn time are obviously more.  We particularly liked the Nottingham Gin which has gone on the Wish List x

For a less alcoholic approach you could try Tension Takeaway Candles, these are vegan and made in East Sussex with the smaller 100g size all at £5.00.

If you fancy some lovely treats you can’t go wrong with an artisan hot chocolate coin (£1.25)  from Pip’s Real Hot Chocolate – from beautiful Wales, there are vegan options and shed loads of flavours, we like the mint ones…

Still on the foodie theme you could try the vegan fudge from Fab Fudge with a whole host of exciting flavours from £2.99. We liked the raspberry and the fruit and nut x

The wonderful Low Tox Box have a great shop, with lots of items in budget – for a festive treat they have an eco-cracker you can reuse again and again (£2.95).



For Adults:

We love everything at Fiona Rob Graphics, but the pocket mirrors (£4) are particularly lovely, and the Penguin felt decorations (£4.50) are super cute as well. There are also keyrings and other cards, decorations and woodland animals in abundance.

For the foodie in the family (or for yourself) you can try some award winning spice blends and new flavours with Spice Sanctuary mixes (£4.99) from Planet Organic.

You can have a pack of 15 teabags delivered to someone via Tea Huggers (£4.85)- perhaps a ‘Good Night’ , ‘TLC’ or ‘DETOX’? They have a mouth watering range on offer and no P&P costs in the UK. If anyone wants to send me some chocolate tea, I’d love to give it a try, but the Sleep one sounds the best…

For something very unusual check out these brilliant ‘slang’ pencils from Hedge and Hog Prints (£5.00) – we love the Ay Up version, but have some Yorkshire friends who will be getting the Bobby Dazzlers!!

One for the creatives – an organic and ethically produced iron on fabric patch from Shenaniganz (£4.99) – Art certainly is my distraction…

I was amazed to find these lovely hand made earrings at Two for Tea –  for just £1 a pair!! P&P is £1.00 for up to five pairs and I want the Snoopy ones…

Our love of books is shared on both sides of the family – so you can always get someone a book in our experience, it’s great to support a local or indie author whenever possible – or to use second hand books or share one you already have and give a book review and tea bag with it x  There are lots of Kindle books available for under £5.00, ideas to try… Aunt Bea’s Legacy by Jeanette Taylor Ford (£2.99) or The Night Raid by Clare Harvey (£3.99)

One particular book we recommend for the After Christmas clear up is from Less-Stuff and at £4.99 it’s well worth a read and maybe a few for gifts too!

We recently met Helen Domleo – an amazing designer and silversmith on a dog walk! Her work is quite beautiful inspired by nature and often using recycled metals, and some of her pieces are under £5.00… just amazing. I may have treated myself to something – shhh!

One of our favourite artists is Paper Panda – with lots of gifts, templates and accessories for under £5.00 you could inspire someone to a new hobby, and if you cut used paper it’s recycling too, I’m a genius.

If you would like to pamper someone you can’t go far wrong with a range of gifts under £5.00 from Honey and Rose – all handmade and good for you, we really like the filled Christmas Crackers (£5.00) and bath fizz (£3.00).



From the House of Kind you can have a beautiful notebook (£5.00) ready to list your dreams for 2018 – printed on recycled paper using vegetable inks you can feel good while you dream big!

If you’re looking for something with a bit of bite you will like Mean Mail! As the name suggests their cards (£3.50) are all quite mean, but also funny… we like ‘Did you Keep the Receipt?‘ which also seems quite fitting with my earlier rant…

The handmade greeting cards from Ethicological (£3.50) not only look great and are jolly useful, but are made as part of a project to support children who have experienced the hardest of times to become independent – they are also made of recycled papers and embody the whole package of green and great.

We really love the idea that you can make paper out of elephant poo – share the hilarity with a Card Making Kit (£3.95) from The Exotic Paper Company.


Some people have raised concerns that we have nothing here for the pets in our lives – if you follow us you know we have a dog who is loved by some of the family more than others… We have some great ideas for making pet beds, treats and toys over on our Pinterest Board Frugal Family Pets x x


If you still need some more inspiration take a look at our Gifts That Keep on Giving, and next week’s 5 Free Gifts for Kids x 

If you are a small, ethical or just lovely producer of something £5.oo or under get in touch and we can update this list xx



Week Three
Week Three

This week was a bit easier, especially as I now think more about our impact in our daily living… so this week we:

Had a clear out of too small shoes and donated them to shoe aid.

Re-loaned our repayments from KIVA – this is a micro loan site that allows you to support small operations around the world to start their new business. I was given a KIVA token for a birthday, and we enjoyed deciding which project to support, and have enjoyed redistributing the money as it’s repaid. KIVA feature as a gift idea on the first part of our Gifts That Keep On Giving post at Less-Stuff and I would agree it’s a brilliant gift!

Today we  also went to a local a school Christmas Fair and Christmas Tree Festival in our town – we bought several presents which supported four small businesses in our area, as well as donating to the school and church via raffles and tombolas. It’s also meant the kids got a run around and some sweets – which is also their perfect Saturday morning!.


Our theme for December is #frugalactsofkindness, you can join in by using our free Random Acts of Kindness calendar with an idea for every day in December to be kind. You can switch them around depending on your situation, but they give you some starting points… We will be sharing our kind behaviour on our Instagram page, on Twitter and on Facebook – feel free to join us on one of those platforms and share with us using the #. I can’t wait to get in the Christmas spirit by sharing some nice around.

Of course, we are a real family and so there will still be arguments and potential throwing of toys… BUT it does give us all a bit of  a focus to think outside of our own needs, to consider others and what’s important on a bigger scale than who moved the superhero figures…

You can find the RAK Calendar in our shop to download FREE – enjoy x

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