UA-99606640-1Quick Tips – Welcome to The Frugal Family
    • Trying to entertain four kids while two of them decide to swap rooms makes for an exhausting day... glad they choos… https://t.co/LacLjGzaDy

      Aug 18, 2018

Category: Quick Tips

Our Summer Plans
Our Summer Plans

Long School Holidays – Love It or Hate It?

So, this month, week and DAY hasn’t really gone to plan! We’ve had visits to A&E, unexpected changes to childcare dates, and a pre-booked event that has actually come at just the worst time it turns out… so lots of learning has taken place, some ideas have been shelved for next Summer and we are doing our very best with late nights and copious amounts of tea.

That’s just how life goes sometimes and constantly re-evaluating the goals is a normal part of family life I’ve discovered. Here is our plan for the Summer, both personal and business and hope you will join us.

On the Business front…

Whether you love them or hate them, or a bit of both – you do have to deal with them. Here’s what we have to help you:

  • On the WEBSITE home page will be a daily free for frugal idea, suggestion, link.
  • Our INSTAGRAM will have a daily pic of what we got up to and what we spent. We use the #spendlessuselessdomore and would love for you to get on board and share with us what you get up to as well.
  • Our other social media will be dipping in and out and sharing the most popular items above. You may want to join our FB Group for Free & Frugal Fun for Kids with lots of freebies and ideas. There are also tons of freebies in our Spend Less FB Group, although not all children focused x
  • For local people to us, we also have a Nottinghamshire UK Events printout you can download in the SHOP this will be added on Mon 23rd July.
  • For those looking for a more sustainable start to the Summer, or indeed any season you can also buy our e-books with practical, easy ideas for low waste, low cost, ethical living.

 

On the family front…

We have two weeks away in Cumbria this year, we haven’t had two weeks all together in over 11 years – since before the kids! It’s very needed, and although the place we have booked is tiny, I’m so excited by going to a new area and seeing new things, we have researched lots and joined English Heritage using our Tesco vouchers, we already have National Trust membership and have found lots of amazing things to do nearby –  but we also need some downtime and it was cheapest to go right at the start of the holidays when we usually don’t do very much.

On our return we have some play days booked, some TV watching to do and weather dependant some park visits. We are very lucky to have great local amenities. Later on we have some family visiting and I may take the opportunity of extra adults to do a few trips to places we have never been as the adult:child ratio wasn’t too great!  We are then away in Kent with family right at the very end of the holidays, and also have to fit in buying uniform (this post may help), lunch boxes and all that jazz. I suspect it will drag and go by quickly all in the same day! Here are some of my thoughts from previously on this strange phenomenon

 

Here are my top tips for managing the long holidays…

PLAN – it’s not easy or always fun, but it will make your life better in the long run. Here is a calendar to print out and help you.

DISCOVER – use the internet, FB Events, local magazines, the library, friends and anything else you can find to get the lowdown on local events and activities. Most places have LOTS of free things going on so take an evening to do your research – don’t forget museums and galleries that often have extra things for families.

RELAX – you don’t have to be busy and have fun every second of the day, the kids need downtime from school and probably would like to just chill out. Remember to make time for pj days.

SHARE – you are not alone, every family from your nursery, school or toddler group is also missing them so see if you can get together at a park, house, local event and share the load a little.

ASK – people will assume you already have plans unless you give them the dates you don’t, ask for help or a play date or to borrow a DVD or whatever. You could even set up a Facebook group and chat that way with all the parents you know in the area?

STOCK UP – my kids eat a ridiculous amount in the holidays, we always have an Approved Foods order to just stock up on snacks and picnic food at a good price. If you use this link to make a purchase from them we get a small commission so thanks x

ENJOY – in the midst of all the preparing and cleaning up and arguments and unpredicatable weather try to take a few moments to enjoy the wonders of parenthood, the growing and changing of your children and yourself – the amazing experience this whole show is. You can’t do it all day long, but just once in a while take a breath!

 

Clean Air Day 2018
Clean Air Day 2018
This post has been sponsored by ENGIE, and written by Mrs Frugal x

So – who knew there was a Clean Air Day?!

Of course, there is a ‘Day’ for everything it seems but this one caught my eye as we have been looking at our car use during June, as part of our Family Life theme. This theme has been an opportunity for us to look at quite a few different things we could change or help us re-focus on things that we’ve been meaning to do but still haven’t got around to…

We knew that we had special plans for #plasticfreejuly – you may have seen we are having a daily idea to help ourselves and others to reduce their single use plastic consumption? You can still sign up to join in and get your daily email worksheet here x

After plastic, our next biggest area to tackle here at Frugal HQ is that we have two large diesel cars – in fact to be totally up front one of them is a van. When we first went with diesel it was after being told that it was the best option for long journeys – which is mostly what we do. Mr F cycles to work, or if he’s out of the office he takes the train as much as possible. He also has to fly on occasion, but we can’t really do much about that…

When baby 4 arrived, we had a problem – our other children were ALL still in car seats which are just really big. Obviously, it’s only safe to make sure they are all using the correct seats, but it meant that we could only fit in our Zafira if we used both the seats in the boot – which in turn meant we then wouldn’t have a boot – so no double pushchair, no dog, no large amounts of shopping etc. We had a roof box, but I couldn’t reach into it and there had been a height/scraping experience already.


Essentially, until our oldest child was tall enough to go without the booster and could be wedged in between two siblings we couldn’t all make a visit to family and as we had a very poorly relative 200 miles away we needed another car. After searching online for an 8-seater car and looking at the costs we got pretty down-hearted – we finally found the perfect vehicle for us in our very own small town! After sorting a bank loan we brought Frosty home, a 9 seater van with a handbrake on the wrong side… it’s taken me a while to get used to driving such a huge vehicle, but it has been so useful for all the times we fill it up to go out and about (which is a lot).

What isn’t so great is how much we all rely on our cars and vehicles to get around, and how much air pollution that causes. I’ve teamed up with ENGIE to take a look at how each of us can reduce the impact we have on the environment in support of Clean Air Day.

You might have seen us over on Twitter talking about this, we had a poll to see how often we all used a car… you can check our account and ENGIE too x The results are quite interesting so far with over 50% of us using the car daily, you can take part yourself or check the most up to date voting here.

 

So… what to do about it?

Here, at The Frugal Family we are working hard to come up with ideas that save money and save the world so this is an area we can have a big impact in. Here are 5 simple ways ENGIE & Global Action Plan suggest you can reduce your emissions and support Clean Air Day.

1.  Switch off the car engine when stationary, especially if stuck in a traffic jam.
2. Regularly service your car; and learn how to check the oil and water yourself.
3. Keep tyres well inflated, your car manual will give you the correct pressures and you can top up at most petrol stations for a small fee.
4. Car-share; especially if you commute into a large town or city, or are going on a long journey with spare seats. We share our planned days out for the school holidays to friends so usually have our spare four seats filled! You can register on LiftShare in the UK, remember to follow their safety guidelines x
5. Test drive + consider buying an electric car, especially if you have a regular known journey and can predict your time/distance. ENGIE offer a green fixed price plan specifically for electric vehicle drivers that offers 100% renewable energy! Learn more here.

 

And here are some more ideas from us!

• Walk more and research public transport options, particularly special services for local hospitals, airports etc. There is likely to be a scheme to save money by paying ‘up front’ – it will have a weird name, like the Oyster card in London and Mango in Nottingham.
• Find out how much it costs to run your vehicle by the mile/km and use that to make a judgement about each journey. Include tax, insurance, service etc – ours is 55p a mile.
• Combine journey’s as much as possible – to reduce your trips.
• Dust off, borrow or request a bike – buy a helmet and give it a go!
• Check out our Transport ideas for more suggestions x

You can get even more really innovate ideas from the Clean Air Day website here – I was so pleased to get some new ways to reduce air pollution and to breath better air that I had never really considered.

This is one part of our Family Life I really feel I can make a difference to – it will mean a few changes to some of the groups we attend further away and moving to a local one we can walk to, but the Summer really helps with using the car less and so Clean Air Day has come at a good time to remind us all the impact we can have.

What could you change to reduce air pollution?

Sleep Deprivation… and how to cope
Sleep Deprivation… and how to cope

There are so many ways that being a parent is tough, it’s an emotional roller coaster for a start! If you add in some fussy eating or a troubled sleeper your own health and emotional wellbeing can very quickly become fragile. When we find it hard to manage our behaviour and yell or slam doors we can add guilt to the list of things that are not going the way we expected. Our vision of parenthood can take a real knock – and on a bad day, or while awake in the early hours we wonder what on earth we were thinking starting along this road.

The really important thing to remember is that you are not alone, every parent has been at the end of their tether, and most will cross over it many times. It doesn’t make you a bad parent – it makes you a human being. Just the fact you are reading this, trying new things, willing to ask for and accept support makes you a brilliant parent.

Sleep deprivation in particular is a real and daily problem for many parents – your body will often adapt quite quickly, and you may be able to do a 2am feed without really waking up. However if you are woken by a child in distress, who may need to be changed or the bed changed, who may be having a night terror- that wakes you up in a very particular and abrupt way. When this goes on over a long period of time your body and your brain cannot adapt as easily and needs extra care to keep you functioning.

So, what do I know about it? Why should you read this? I have four children, the oldest is just 9. I yell – even with years of professional experience and teaching assertiveness my seven year old daughter can push my buttons with one sentence… I have been frustrated, and I will be again (quite possibly tonight). I also have early risers, one with night terrors and two who have regular nightmares. I also have these qualifications and experiences that allow me to come up with a strategy or new ideas to try very quickly, so my ‘moments’ are shorter and less often.

Children with night terrors are usually still asleep, and despite shouting and all sorts of other behaviour you may not be able to hold them, but will probably want to stay in the room with them until it passes – be kind to yourself and be comfortable. It is a very stressful experience, and they will go back to sleep before you do; anything that helps you to bring your emotions back into balance to allow for sleep is a good thing. You could have a trial with a journal, hand cream, foot rub, hair brush, quick tooth brush, meditation, reading, wordsearch – your bedside cabinet may look like a jumble sale for a while, but finding something that soothes you is like magic fairy dust. You may also think of ways to move your bedroom, or your child’s bedroom around to make this period as easy as possible on everyone.

I’d love to help other parents with ideas that might work for you too… here are just 5.

1. SING – this sounds so frivolous and stupid, but it really can help restore the chemical balance of your system. It doesn’t matter what you sing, with music or not, in the shower, with the kids just release some tension. You can belt out some great ballads, even have a cry – it’s all good for your emotional wellbeing. If you can join a singing group of any sort you may also get an evening out and some social contact which also help to balance periods of intensity at home.

2. EXERCISE – another essential for balancing our bodies. Most important is to aim for fresh air/outdoor activity as much as possible – this is good for you and the kids. The weather in the UK hasn’t really helped with this very much, but as much as possible try to go outside, even if it’s just a short walk or play in the garden. You could borrow an exercise DVD from the library to do with the kids watching or joining in, practice yoga, or just put the washing away and change the beds which is like a marathon in our house…

3. LISTEN TO YOUR HEART – to solve sleep problems in adults or children, you are probably going to try lots of different things, embrace all ideas and suggestions but remember to listen to your inner voice as well. What works for someone else may not feel comfortable for you, and that’s ok. When you are up at night and may feel frustrated try to use your breathing to help steady yourself, deep breaths with a count of five in between. You may also want to totally change things just to see what happens… children change every single day, so nothing you do is likely to be the same forever. Try having white noise in their room, weighted blankets, play music – whatever you try you will learn more and at least feel you are not stuck in your own private Ground Hog Day. You should also prepare for your own needs while up with children, perhaps take up a drink or snack or an electronic reader…

4. EAT WELL – one of the hardest things about our emotions being all over the place, and being tired is that our eating habits usually suffer to. Either we can’t be bothered and don’t eat at all, or are too tired for healthy home cooked options and go for crisps and cake. What your body really needs when it is having a tough time is really nourishing foods to keep it working. On a better day, or on a weekend try to do some batch cooking, so you have some food in the freezer for the week or if you have slow cooker, get in the habit of using that. Then fill up the fridge with snack foods that are good for all of you – fruit, cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks etc. For easy meals chuck some potatoes in the oven for jackets, have pasta with a nice sauce – we often worry so much about what the kids eat and let our own bodies suffer.

5. TALK – one of the biggest issues with sleep problems is that in the moment you are on your own, everyone else is asleep. It can feel very lonely. Make sure you take opportunities to talk about your situation, or just to talk in general with other parents. Online groups are amazing and can offer great sources of information and like-minded people – but you also need real contact at toddler groups, other parents from school, support groups, friends, neighbours – whoever you can talk to just to feel human again. If you are up all night it can be even harder to drag yourself out and about, but that is usually when it is most vital – even having a friend over for a cuppa at your place will give you that adult human contact to put the world back into perspective. If you have someone that lives overseas, it may be that they are wide awake eating dinner when it’s 2am here, if so they can be a great resource for you x

Not everything works, or is possible, for everyone but you do need to prioritise your own health so that you can do all the things required of you to be a parent. Use your support network to help you, if you don’t have a support network then get working on creating one! It might be much more valuable for you to have a sit down and rest and don’t change the beds this week, or make the packed lunches the night before so you can have a shower in the morning?

If you are in a relationship you also need to consider the impact that disturbed sleep patterns and exhaustion might be having on you both. That’s a whole new article, for now just remember you are a team and need to feel that way about each other… We have a whole section on Relationships on our Frugal You page if you feel that would be useful – remember these days don’t last forever x

Spring is Here!
Spring is Here!

It’s with great excitement that we are launching our latest e-book Spring Into Action. Just like Winning At Winter it is jam packed full of brilliant ideas and inspiration to have the healthiest and cleanest year ever. There are 48 pages of useful and practical tips including:

  • Sleep support
  • Seasonal Recipes
  • Gentle cleaning – including a cleaning game!
  • Self Care tips
  • Spring Reads
  • Tutorial to make a bag from old jeans
  • Gratitude Journal

I’m really proud to be working with Less-Stuff, Vicky Meyers Creations and Candida Mum on this series of seasonal books, and at just £6 they are an absolute bargain. Grab yours in our shop x

Mother’s Day Musing
Mother’s Day Musing

So, this is a tricky celebration – firstly it’s held at different times of year in different countries (more on that later) but also it can be a very volatile subject for those that are not mothers but who would like to be, those who have lost children and of course those who have lost their mother… it can be hard to celebrate something, knowing how hard it is for others you know and love. However, I do like the opportunity that many ‘event’ days give us to share kindness, affection and celebrate goodness so here are some thoughts on Mothers Day…

HISTORY

In the UK it is historically known as Mothering Sunday – and this wasn’t to do with your actual mum, but your mother church. On the 4th Sunday of Lent you would visit the largest or ‘mother’ church in the area (this goes way back to the 16th Century), it then slowly joined with being a day that young people who were working in service could go and visit their mother and perhaps take a small posy of flowers, or a piece of cake. Mothering Sunday then became a day to celebrate your mum.

Over in the USA a totally separate non-religious celebration invented in 1908 by Anna Jarvis to celebrate the role of mothers. It was signed into the calender in 1914, although Jarvis later started a revolt against the commercialisation of the day, feeling it had lost all the genuine affection and moved to something you could just buy and not really think about in depth. Jarvis saw no need to buy anything for Mothers Day and led the boycott of cards and chocolates for the day she had created!

So the two versions of Mothers Day have morphed a bit, despite having vastly different histories. I would agree with Anna Jarvis, that a day to honour any woman that has given time, inspiration, care, love and probably blood, sweat and tears into the lives of others is a good day. I also agree with her that there is no need to spend money buying things when you can tell her you love her in many other ways.

HOW TO CELEBRATE ON A BUDGET

* One tradition from the Mothering Sunday in the UK was to bake a Simnel Cake – this was a real treat during the restrictions of Lent, it’s a fruit cake with marzipan – yum. Download a recipe and either make a cake if you have time or just chat with your mum about her memories of Easter celebrations.

* Make a card, it seems too easy but mum’s really appreciate if you have taken the time and care to create something just for them – if you are not confident with your artistry then print off some really special photos for the front.

* Make a photo collage, you can choose lots of special times, or just the two of you or a theme or whatever – they make great talking points.

* Go for a walk together, to an old haunt or where you used to live or just to a nice park. Time is precious.

* Take her breakfast in bed, this has become a bit of cheesy one and most mums are probably up first! However, this is the day you can embrace the cheese, maybe think of a real favourite breakfast or come up with something new…

* Give a gift of time, commit to visiting (if you’ve left the nest) once a day/week/month depending on your situation, if you can’t visit then consider the help technology can offer – can you call, Skype, FaceTime, Message etc.

* Flowers are lovely but don’t last very long, if you do want to buy a gift think about a living thing that will last forever, maybe name a tree in their honour if you can’t plant one in the garden, or buy a miniature rose that can stay indoors for a long while.

* If you have a skill you could upcycle something they need, refurbish something they love, or make an item yourself that will mean the world.

* Ask questions about her life. Everyone has experienced their own unique version of events, so even if you think you know everything about your mums life I bet there are a few funny stories or childhood memories still to be uncovered. This shared history is a great way to really connect with people. Even very young children enjoy hearing about the ‘old days’. My kids cannot believe that when I was small there were only 3 channels on the TV and the telephone was attached to the wall, and I’m only 42

We have some FREE gift vouchers to download in the shop if they might be useful… I’ve left them deliberately very blank so you can really use them for anything, they are A4 size and should fit into a DL envelope x

Share the love with a mum that may not have her children around, maybe visit a friend that you know struggles at this time, or take a box of biscuits to the local residential home.

In the year that we celebrate the 100th anniversary of women getting the vote, it seems a particularly important year to celebrate all that women bring to the world, and this is just one day to remind us to do that. Hope you can enjoy it x

Plastic Be Gone!
Plastic Be Gone!

As promised here is the second instalment of ideas for making small changes to the plastic coming into your home and life… just four easy to do things that will have a big impact over time and if we all did these things the change would be much faster. If you missed yesterday’s four ideas you can find them here x

I’ve been reading today that the British Government is calling for a ban on plastic straws – I’m happy that they are beginning to consider all these issues, but hope that this (very easy and free for them) quick fix is the start of something rather than the end… we shall see.

If you need some ideas for places to buy some of these items – we love the multi-coloured stainless steel straws at EKO they also have reusable cups (they have a discount on our membership directory if you haven’t joined yet). We also like to shop at www.ethicalsuperstore.com – and are looking at their affiliate program!

Plastic Fantastic?
Plastic Fantastic?

There is so much information floating around (a bit like all the plastic…) about the massive and complex problem of single plastic use and disposal… to be honest I got a bit overwhelmed and distressed. Watching Blue Planet I found myself so upset that it was immobilising, but then you feel as if nothing you do will help and consequently end up doing nothing.

Of course the reality is that we can ALL do SOMTHING that helps, but they will be small changes to our everyday living, and most of us with families and sleep deprivation and pasta to cook will have to slowly and carefully make our changes bit by bit. What I hope this site tries to show is that this is a totally ok way to go about things – making life long realistic steps in the right direction is great. You are also having an impact you may not even realise by role modelling to your children, neighbours, friends and family. When you make change, and are positive and happy that message gets sent out into the world, and the impact is like a ripple on the pond.

We have created this infographic this morning – to give just 4 quick fixes you can do TODAY to reduce your plastic consumption and use. There are lots more you can try, but let’s just start simple and move on up! I will add another 4 to try tomorrow, and then we all have the weekend to try things out.

You Asked, We Answered!
You Asked, We Answered!

New Course!

I have been wanting to start our workshops and courses, but with my butterfly brain I found it hard to decide what to do first. We already have our free e-book and free Ta-Dah! course available, but I wanted to do more… I decided to ask what the real issues are for families trying to budget and be more ethical in our Facebook Group – and from that poll the clear winner was Meal Planning.

So – our first email course will be to share how we meal plan and source our food to balance the budget and try to reduce food waste. As with all things in life there are lots of ways to do this, and in fact if you search on line you would find mountains of information – what is special about our course is that’s it a more personal and practical suggestion. It’s about what we actually do in real life! If you have been following us for a while you will know that part of our plan it to be open and honest about what we do and why – and that we’re not perfect or pretending to be. We don’t filter too much here, as parents it’s so demoralising when you see other people who seem to have it all together when you are falling apart.

 

When you buy the course from our shop, you will receive five emails over five days –

  1. Welcome email with description of the course and contents info – with an invitation to a separate thread in our Facebook Group for Q&A
  2. Meal Planning video with Claire – explaining and demonstrating what we do and why
  3. Meal Planning resources and printables
  4. Sourcing Your Food video with Claire – discussing many ideas for how to source good value, low waste food (and a few non-food ideas too!)
  5. Sourcing Your Food resources and printables – by now you will be a meal planning ninja x

We try to make sure that what we do has some value or impact, so you will also receive a feedback email to check  your thoughts about the course and anything you would like to let us know.

 

Remember Members of Plan It, Love It, Do It! are able to receive this course for FREE as part of their membership.

How to Start Self Care
How to Start Self Care

Wow Parenting is tough, I mean really – crying in the night tough… but then it’s also breathtaking and awesome, often all in the same day!

We have four young children, and for someone who never saw themselves as a mother it is often a surprise – the responsibility is endless as well as the decision making, negotiating, demonstrating, shouting, asking, showing, helping, planning, shopping, explaining, refusing, pushing (swings), educating, supporting, feeding, cleaning, dressing, finding, playing, feeding (yes, again) not the mention the clean up after all of these… And I LOVE it – mostly…

This mix of exhaustion and wonder can take a real toll on your mind and body, and having spent 15 years teaching people how to recover and retain positive mental health; I feel really strongly that parents need support to keep themselves balanced. I hope that those years of experience mean that I can offer a unique viewpoint and some practical ideas on how to help yourself to a few moments of selfcare. Rest assured that doesn’t  mean I’m a know-it-all parent who never looses her patience or grabs a bottle of wine at 10am and puts it in the fridge for later. I’ve cried in front of the kids while they argue about putting on their shoes for school even though it happens EVERY DAY!! What makes good parents is not the perfect pinterest picture of children eating quinoa… it’s that you care what sort of job you’re doing, and strive to do better. That you still get up in the morning and start the groundhog day of shoe discussions…

 

Below are six easy ideas to try and build into your regular life, so they become a normal activity – more self care ideas are on the way as we grow our new page Frugal You

 

 

• Make up a bottle of water/juice/squash when you go to bed and put it in the fridge, get it out with the milk in the morning and make sure you drink it through the day – and go to the loo too!
• If you find you miss meals as you sort the kids and forget yourself then get a box of healthy (ish) snacks and make sure you eat something at least every 3-4 hours. Get used to packing a snack for yourself as well as the kids, or have the same as them!
• Get some sleep! I’m writing this having been up at 3am every morning for the last week – I get the irony but it’s still one of my goals. Take an early night when possible, or just read a book in bed but you have to rest.
• Stop writing lists of things to do – there are hundreds and always will be. Have one sheet/diary for everything or create a ‘command centre’ on a cupboard door/fridge so it’s all in one place. Look online for some ideas, and make use of the FREE  Ta Dah! Idea here, this allows you to list what you HAVE achieved today that you are probably not appreciating.
• Have something that is just yours – get a shoebox and fill it with a creative project, manicure set, face pack, new recipe, book, magazine or a new CD just one thing that is for you, that you enjoy. Make time once a week (more if you can) to have at least 30mins with your box. Just you and the activity you’ve picked, you can then change it each week or keep it the same – whatever, it’s your thing.
• Ask for help when you need it – we are not in this alone, if there is no one to offer practical help then get a virtual gang together. There are no prizes for struggling or being a martyr – if we all supported each other in our times of need how lovely would parenting be? In my experience, people like to help you out – it makes it easier for them to ask a favour later!

 

Our #selfcareseptember series is intended to offer snapshots of tips and ideas you might be able to try, from other parents and experts who know a thing or two about selfcare and its importance. This page is aimed at families, but in reality most families have one main caregiver who does the bulk of the kiddywrangling and housekeeping. In the same way that people working a 9-5 job need a break at the weekend, and kids have a weekend away from school – so the main caregiver needs a break on occasion from the daily routine. Families need to work together to set up times when kids get special attention, but also when parents get a change of scenery and responsibility.

Take a look and see if there is anything that you could add or change to your already full plate. If you have a tip you’d like to share then that would be lovely too.

Parents are superheroes in many ways but you can’t pour from an empty cup.

School Uniform University
School Uniform University

I hate this week of the year, really I loathe it. The ‘Back to School’ aisle in the supermarket was full before school was even out for the Summer, and I don’t want to think about going back until we’ve all had our break.

The downside to my refusal to deal with going back to school at the start of the holidays is that by the time I feel ready to think about it the shops are a barren wasteland of all things school and the Halloween and Fireworks have taken over. This poses a number of problems, one of which is my stress levels! We are very lucky that in our school the kids only need themselves and an easily gettable uniform, with a lunch box if required – no pens, pads, calculators and all that.

However, I have a lovely checklist to see what we actually need to get – and some great places to get them.

So, this is how I do Back to School:

  • Print off my checklist
  • Have a mass dressing up session to see what still fits, and tick off accordingly
  • Get the uniform bag out the loft and see what it contains – with yet more dressing up and ticking. This is items of uniform given to us by lovely families from school with older kids – you need to foster such relationships as it will save you heaps of money. Our school is pretty easy going uniform wise, but people have also given us the branded jumpers and cardigans too which makes a massive difference to our budget. Other sources for free or reduced uniform include:
    • Asking family members with older kids.
    • Trawl of the charity shops for school uniform, they get out all their stocks in late July/early August and if you need a specific branded item you need to stay local, but for generic grey trousers or pinafore dresses ask your friends and family to also keep an eye out.
    • Going ‘halves’ with other families, for example some supermarkets do great deals for PE kit items but in packs of 2… well we only ever need one of everything PE related, so go halves with our neighbour!
  • Go and get the kids feet measured at a reputable shoe shop… I do feel that the kids feet are important and these shoes see a lot of action at school every day so I like to buy good quality ones that should last. I don’t necessarily get them in the shop however – there are outlet stores to check and the world of online choices. We did go the cheap shoe route one year, but the soles came off after just one month! People often gift hardly worn (but outgrown) shoes on free sites, or sell very cheaply on local sites or car boots at this time of year.
  • If you have a larger family like ours you could save the horrors of shopping by investing in your own feet measuring tools. You can also download free cut outs to measure feet from StartRite.
  • Check if your school has a second hand shop, and if not offer to start one. This could be online with a Facebook Group very easily and helpful to the whole school community.
  • Be sale savvy – some shops have amazing sales of school uniform, but often at times when it’s not on your radar. You need to become more conscious of when these occur and then can buy the next size up at every opportunity. With the random weather patterns in the UK we have needed all seasons all year round so I buy whatever I can find and add extra layers as necessary!
  • Don’t get lured into buying everything in one hit – kids grow at different rates and you may not need everything at once for September. Check what they actually need for that first few weeks. Depending on the weather you could leave getting a tracksuit until the October half term maybe? This helps spread some of the costs out.
  • Try to establish a laundry schedule that reduces uniform needs, so you don’t need 5 of everything… who am I kidding??
  • Remember you can add cycle shorts/tights under a dress that is bit shorter than you would like.
  • Get sewing and turn trousers that are too short into shorts. You may also be able to shorten long sleeve shirts that have had the cuffs and elbows ruined.

 

I am about the enter my week of Back to School here at Frugal HQ and so I may well discover new and interesting things as I weave my way through again, which I promise to add on here.  While I love school and learning and all of the wonderful adventures of life school starts, I’m not a great fan of having to be out of the house at a set time and in set clothes and I REALLY don’t  like homework! So, part of my own way of managing the new routine is about helping myself and the kids to deal with the schedule of school – but more about that next week.

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