UA-99606640-1Christmas – Welcome to The Frugal Family
    • @vegsocapproved @PlamilFoods Oh yes! I’m tagging @EKOearth_

      Mar 23, 2018

Tag: Christmas

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!!



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



Gifts That Keep On Giving…
Gifts That Keep On Giving…

Gifts that Keep on Giving… Part Two

During a conversation with our lovely friend Lisa at Less-Stuff we realised how frustrating it can be to buy things for people who already have everything they need, so we have collaborated to bring you 10 brilliant ideas for Gifts that Keep On Giving… they help you look amazing, give your friend or relative a brilliant and long lasting gift and most of them also help in others ways as well – charities, education, less waste etc etc.

I’m sure you have enjoyed the 5 great ideas from Less-Stuff, but there are plenty more ways you can give a gift at Christmas that isn’t just a wonderful gift for your loved one, but also has the power to keep on giving… so here are our suggestions:

1. Memberships to somewhere they will love… This is especially great for families and will usually be for a whole year so it’s an amazing gift to give. If you can find a place that is a registered charity, or does some great work you can feel even better about giving to them as well as your recipient. You could also consider an organisation or institution that they might like to visit or be part of, it just needs some thought… Good examples might be:
• The National Trust
• Local zoo/wildlife park
• Local/National Museum or Gallery
• Political or Professional organisation
• Private library or Association


2. On a similar theme you might feel like adopting an animal as a gift – they get all the fun of finding out about their adoptee with none of the poo related work! Several charities run adoption programmes so you just need to find one that suits your budget and their animal preferences, check out:
If you/they are not an animal person you can adopt trees or plants – get creative! 


3. We LOVE books, they are just such a wonderful thing to touch, read, share and love. They are a great gift as they will last for many years, and can be read over and over again… they are also perfect for any age and not too expensive. If you want to really up the ethical giving monitor then buy a book with a message you want to share. Our current favourites are:

Duffy’s Lucky Escape by Ellie Jackson

Dreams of Freedom by Amnesty International

Maddie’s Magic Christmas by Sam Maxfield (local author x)

This guide for all children is a useful source of ideas. 

For adults you could think about recipe books, journals, guidebooks, signed copies or ‘mystery bags’ get a few good looking books on a theme from the charity shop and wrap them up x A friend of ours gives their partner (and avid reader) a list of 10 genres to try…


4. We have talked about the organisation Good Gifts before, and we love the variety they offer in terms of how much to spend and the amazing projects you can support. There is something for every budget, and Father Christmas gives one in each stocking in our house. Examples are socks for homeless people in the UK, School breakfasts, Chickens for people overseas to become more self sustaining, Book libraries and so much more… These are also useful for last minute gifts and for people overseas as you can email them the information!


5. For those on a stricter budget or with no budget at all we like to give our time. That may sound a bit sappy, but actually, it’s rather lovely to give someone the gift of your full attention. We create our own gift vouchers for something that person will really value. You can make your own or use ours x This is great as it can be tailored to any age or activity (limited only by your willingness!). Make sure you only offer something you are prepared to give, and don’t spoil the gift by doing it begrudgingly – it’s a gift remember!

Ideas could be:
• A voucher for a walk in the woods
• Help with cleaning for a day
• Mowing the lawn in the Summer
• Taking a drive out to visit something/someone
• A trip to…
• A foot massage
• Cooking a meal for everyone

We have another post coming in December that may fit in with this idea as well – watch out for 5 Free Gifts for Children!
If you like what we do here you can support us via our Patreon page xx 

If you haven’t visited our sister post with another 5 excellent and inventive Gifts that Keep on Giving over on Less- Stuff do go there now! You can also check out the wonderful and gentle work that Lisa does by joining her newsletter and following her on…



Thursday Thought 46

Following on the recycled theme, and seamlessly matching it to the Christmas theme, I came across these beautiful recycled coffee sack Christmas stockings from Fern Cottage Crafts.

edmenaBuying gifts that have a recycled element can be done in all sorts of ways. There are lots of homemade ideas for gifts from children, or you may have a piece of jewellery from a relative that would make a great heirloom piece for another family member. Christmas shouldn’t be about the money we spend, but the thought we put in.

We’ve tried a few ways to extend Christmas spirit for more than just one day of present frenzied chaos and eating ourselves into a stupor. We like to wrap all our Christmas books and DVD’s and have them as treats all through December (re-using last years wrapping paper of course, if you wrap them before they go back in the loft with all the odds and bits you have left, or saved from the big day it’s a doddle!). We also like to make Christmas Eve a special day… take a look at Jam Jar Craft Studio for some great recycled paper ideas. Just a thought 😉

Thursday Thought 45

We do the elf thing at Frugal HQ – somewhat of a rod for our own backs to be honest, but it’s fun too and the kids love it. We got our Elf several years ago so it’s now free fun! Sometimes silly is good for adults as well, especially at this often stressful time of year…

Thursday Thought 43

It’s been a much calmer week all round, and so ‘we’ have started to consider what we are buying for Christmas and lists have been created – presents, food, cards etc. One strategy we use is to stick to one supermarket and use their points scheme, this means we have  a nice sum to use for our Christmas Treat Foods.

A new strategy is to use TopCashBack for items we buy online (we also order things via this for family and friends). I am totally amazed by how much we have saved over the year by using TopCashBack and when I was checking how to actually get the money out I realised that you can get an extra 6% more money FOR FREE by having your money on a shop card instead of straight to your bank. This could be used as a gift card for someone, or in a shop we are likely to be getting presents from anyway – with four kids every penny counts.