We LOVE this day, it’s all about LOVE which is the stuff of life… and you can moan about the commercialisation or you can just ignore that and do your own thing – which is how we roll at Frugal HQ. So here’s how we have a Frugal Fun Family Valentines.
We plan ahead –
Family have been drafted in to babysit, and Mr Frugal and I are off to the cinema tonight with free tickets using our Tesco Clubcard vouchers. It’s so nice, and a rare treat for us to go out just the two of us and it’s so essential to have time for being a couple as well as a larger family unit. These outings are truly valued by us, and big thanks to anyone willing to look after our four exuberant children for the night, it’s means the world x
We show love –
It’s not about what you buy, but what you DO that really matters. So, we do cards but not gifts – the cards are mostly homemade or very funny and relevant. The kids make cards and various other things at groups and nursery and we collate these to make a lovely collage on our mantelpiece.
We play games –
Last year we had a scavenger hunt to win sweets, the year before we put photos of family members and friends around the house and the kids had to find everyone on their tick sheet to win the prize.
We also have some homemade Love Bugs that are used for all sorts of strange games over the years, you can drop things through them, use them for bowling or try to blow them over while laying on the floor…
We make stuff –
This year we have the new play tray so I had to put that to good use. With a range of ages to engage we have gone with:
cards and envelopes to make
games using sweets – naughts and crosses
games using sweets – stacking them until they fall
love hearts – to write something you love and stick it on our collage mirror
a pot of pink and red pens
We eat weird things –
We try to eat pink and red foods, it’s usually easy with some heart shaped pasta that they do at Lidl, but I was too late this year, so we will have heart shaped pudding and red sauce on ‘normal’ pasta, I think I’ll get away with it as there are lots of sweets in the house, all heart shaped of course.
This is really just to prove that you can include children and the whole family in discussing and celebrating love, you can show them how much you care with treats, but also with time and shared experiences. You don’t have to spend anything, or a few heart shaped sweets to make it extra special. It’s not about what you spend, it’s about taking a ‘fake’ day and making it your own, to express something you do feel is valuable. If you are looking for some ideas for a more intimate, adult Valentines Day then you might find our post on Adult Love useful x
There is going to be a flood of posts and articles surrounding Valentine’s (or Galentine’s if you’re trendy) Day, and it’s hard to think of something a little different to talk about! I actually LOVE celebrating Valentine’s Day, I think any excuse to talk and show affection and love to those we care for should be grabbed. We have games we play with the kids and eat heart shaped and/or red and pink foods for dinner, after 24 years Mr. Frugal and I still send cards to each other and have a take away as a treat with something bubbly in the evening.
Love is special, and if you have someone you really feel good around then take every opportunity to tell them. Of course for a relationship to show commitment and longevity you will need to show you care on more than just one day!
I’ve decided to use all this talk of love and relationships to write a post of two halves. 1. Frugal Romance and 2. Sustainable Sex (eco not stamina!).
If you are still looking for love there are a number of dating sites specifically aimed at people with strong eco and ethical values:
So, the shops will have lots of options for you to spend money to demonstrate how much you love someone. I’m here as the voice of reason to say what you SPEND does not demonstrate how much you love someone! Really, it just doesn’t. However your ACTIONS may well be a huge clanging bell of how much you have thought about/planned for/taken care over the person you wish to show affection. There is a very fine line between saving money and being careful about people’s feelings. A homemade item only works if it’s genuinely made with care and affection, FREE things you could consider creating might include:
- a card
- a photo collage
- upcycling a favourite piece of clothing
- a keepsake box
- a mix tape (or modern equivalent!!)
- inviting over a treasured friend
- offering to babysit for an important occasion
- cook/buy a favourite meal
- put on clean bedsheets, maybe with some perfume or petals on there?
- do all the cleaning, and open a bottle of wine…
If there is a chance that you have very different views on the whole Valentine’s Day thing I would encourage a conversation about this in advance to avoid common pitfalls and crushed expectations. Examples of AGREED spending changes could be:
- Celebrating on an alternative day when everything will be cheaper, flowers, meals, chocolates EVERYTHING.
- Setting a budget for gifts.
- Showing love to a common passion instead, so rather than flowers donate that money to a project you both love or buying an item you both agree is needed/wanted.
- Not spending at all, and have a free date night (see below)
- Buying one thing that’s really wanted rather than spending on lots of smaller items available in the shops that are red and heart shaped, but will ultimately end up in a charity shop.
For a no spend Valentine’s Day you will have to be a bit more creative, and if you are planning a surprise remember to focus on the LOVE and not the PRICE
– people don’t want to hear that it was cheaper to do X than Y, it’s just not romantic.
Here are five ideas for a FREE Date Night, and you can do these on any night of the year obviously – maybe you could have a monthly night of romance instead of just birthdays and anniversaries?
- Watch the sunset or sunrise together… this can be a truly peaceful and wonderous experience. NB if you are parents of young children I’m aware this won’t work for you x However, you are probably up for one of these anyway so having a partner to share it with might be nice??
- Look over an old photo album together and remember some fun times, you can laugh about your teenage haircuts, see your first dates or a wedding album. Have a laugh and remind yourselves why and how you fell in love… The longer you are together the more hilarious this gets.
- Snuggle up and watch a movie. Turn the lights out and grab some snacks or a hot chocolate and just be. Choosing a movie can be tricky – I would go for whatever is most likely to induce laughter, romance or sleep depending on your situation.
- Make a Plan – think about the future you plan together, discuss some shared goals or dreams and see how you can support each other to make them happen.
- Have an ‘early night’ – wink wink, see below
Somewhere in between the Romance and Sex halves of this post I want to quickly mention underwear – there are some really beautiful, ethically sourced and made underwear producers that may cost a bit more than Ann Summers, but will last you a long time are comfortable as well as sexy and offer an elegance and sensuality that may be more to your taste take a look at…www.lbpclub.co.uk, www.luvahuva.co.uk & www.moralfibres.co.uk.
So now we move to the more awkward part of the post – at least if you’re British it will be awkward! – to think about how we allow for frugal and ethical values in a healthy sex life. A quick word of warning from my own recent research if you use an online search engine to find ‘eco sex’ you are likely to come across a lot of articles, books and information about a group who took the term as their own and have a very specialist view of what it means; basically they practice and encourage people to love the Earth in the most explicit sense. If that’s your thing, you have found your people; if you are looking for a more environmentally friendly way to express human to human love then the ideas here will be more for you…
Below are some ways you may want to consider making changes or at least pondering the issues of sustainable sex.
One of the great things about sex is that it’s free! But if you want to change things up a bit here are a few more FREE ways to explore:
- turn the lights off and save some electricity (frugal and ethical!)
- consider the Great Outdoors as a possible location…
- save water by sharing a bath together
- enjoy a sensual massage using up some moisturiser or oil you already have
- change your ‘usual’ location if things have got a bit ‘same same’
- borrow a book from the library and try one new position a week/month/year
- make some cards with sexy suggestions and take turns to pick one at random
- one partner gets to choose the whole evening’s activities
If you have or use ‘equipment’ you might consider how ethically they are made, and the materials they are made from. The more natural the material the better from an environmental point of view, however it’s likely most sex toys are made of plastic. You will be pleased to learn therefore that the company LoveHoney can at least recycle your WEEE categorised sex toys. You just give them a clean and send them off, all the details are on the link.
If buying something new, you have the chance to be completely eco-friendly with options that are recyclable (glass, wood) or rechargeable, for example the Gaia Eco Vibrator is biodegradable and can be recycled. There is also a wind up vibrator which only needs you as a power source. You can check out www.lovehoney.co.uk, www.ethicalsextoys.co.uk and www.EarthAngel.co.uk who offer a selection of items for more ethical consumers, including recycled leather whips. There is also a social enterprise offering ethical sex toys alongside educational resources at www.vavven.org.
Condoms are still one of the safest and easiest ways to make sure you avoid unwanted pregnancy and STD’s. However, they are not biodegradable and often end up in landfill or our waterways. The only currently available option that is biodegradeable is made from lamb intestines which aren’t especially sexy. BUT there are ways you can make more ethical choices… some companies offer 100% recycled packaging, and Fair Square off ultra thin condoms from fairly traded latex. At www.babipur.co.uk you can buy vegan, fair trade condoms – it is mainly a children’s site so don’t be too alarmed when you first get there!
Here is also a good point to think about being comfortable – there is a great lube available from lots of places including Boots called YES! Lube, this is organic and free of parabens.
If you have the urge to go all 9 1/2 Weeks, just remember to think about where your food is sourced, and it’s impact… traditional aphrodisiac foods like seafood are often full of unpleasant plastic particles or mercury and that’s not at all romantic. It might be better to go for a safer homemade option like this easy vegan Chocolate Sauce recipe…
14oz coconut milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Whisk coconut milk, sugar and cocoa powder together and then simmer in a pan for 10mins, add the vanilla and oil off the heat stir to blend and allow to cool (or not!)
If you like to dress up, consider getting costumes pre-loved instead of new, and consider the quality and flammability of the materials used! Again, you may want to try a homemade version, you might create your own school days with white shirts and ties, wrap up with toilet roll like a mummy and then rip it all off, recreate a favourite gig with the live CD and wear the gig t-shirts you bought back then…
Whatever floats your boat between consenting adults should be fun and healthy. It can be very difficult in family life to find the time and energy for romance or even the most cursory of sex lives, but intimacy is what makes a relationship different from a friendship so it’s worth nurturing for the long run.
I will be adding some more relationship based articles to the FRUGAL YOU page, after writing and delivering a number of courses on relationships, as well as working on my own for over 20 years I feel in a good place to share the love x
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
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)
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 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…
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…
After a very busy Half Term, this morning everyone was back in their respective learning locations – and I am back in the shed, enjoying planning out the next few weeks for The Frugal Family x
As it’s World Environment Day I thought I’d share this great infographic about how we can all begin to make changes that will have a positive impact on the world around us,
and most importantly for the world we’re leaving our children and grandchildren.
Things are hotting up over here at Frugal HQ – we have decided our family project will grow into a something far longer, and get bigger than just our little unit.
WATCH THIS SPACE! We are working on a new website and lots of exciting things for 2017.
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.
Buying 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 😉
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…
Why I chose to use recycled paper? – C&E Designs – Emma Cottam
At C&E Designs we create bespoke paper craft items, ranging from flowers to buttonholes to framed gifts to cards and tags. As a staple we use recycled paper – that is paper that we collect second hand. We hunt through second hand stores, we receive lovely donations and through that we have developed a massive stock of books, maps and sheet music.
Up-cycling this paper and creating something new allows us to bring life back into something that has been used and quite often discarded. We chose to use paper as creating something from almost nothing is a passion and allows our creativity to flow and re-using and up-cycling is important to us as a brand.
In this modern age we quite often throw something away when we are finished with it or when it doesn’t fit a purpose anymore. Recycling and re-using paper can save trees and help to preserve our environment. Whilst I’m not qualified to talk about environmental issues, for us as a business and for me as a person I feel it is important to recycle and re-use.
Using something that once belonged to someone else I often wonder about the journey that that piece of paper, book or map has been on and whom it belonged to. Often the messages at the front of the book, the markings on the sheet music or the circles on the maps show the journey and we like to incorporate this into some of our designs.
One of our favourite types of paper to use is old maps, the older the better! Especially when they have been taped together, are rugged around the edges and have become discoloured with age. These maps show a life well lived and to be able to creatively re-create this into something for someone else makes this an amazing job!