1. The Virgin Gardener by Laetitia Maklouf - Book Review

    Wednesday, April 29, 2009
    These days we are awed by the sheer number of books available to us, and it's difficult to choose something relevant to our needs. As parents, we are limited in the time we can spend reading, and as frugal families we cannot afford to spend on books we may later find irrelevant. So each Wednesday, I aim to review a book on a range of subjects from parenting guides to home-making, fashion/beauty and cookbooks which are most relevant for fabulous, frugal mums!

    At this time of year, many of us are considering revamping their weed-infested gardens or taking a shot at becoming more self sufficient by growing their own fruit and vegetables. What better time than this to review one of the books which has literally changed my life?

    The Virgin Gardener by Laetitia Maklouf is a fabulous guide for anyone who - like me - has little or no experience in horticulture. When I say "fabulous", this is indeed what I mean about this book: it is in no way a boring representation of frumpy gardeners! A glance at the back cover says it all: glamourous pink heels sitting next to a pair of green wellingtons: yes ladies, you can have a beautiful garden and still maintain those immacuately manicured nails!


    A "cookbook" for gardeners


    As Laetitia explains in the introductory section, you don't need a lot of space or even much spare time to develop the garden of your dreams. Essentially, The Virgin Gardener is a cookbook of easy to follow "recipes" for gardening success, where one can literally dip in at any page to discover an easy-to-follow and complete project guide.

    For instance, as I just opened this book at a random page, I was presented with the "recipe": Pickled Onions for Proper Cocktails. Does this sound like your average gardening guide? Indeed not! Beginning with Laetitia's reflections of her parent's cocktail parties, the page proceeds to explain the "when what and how" of growing your own miniature onions, concluding with an explanation of how to pickle for use in delicious grown-up cocktails.


    Easy to follow, green-fingers not required!


    All of the "recipes" for plant growth and/or harvesting in The Virgin Gardener are offered in the following format:
    • The Lowdown - A brief explanation of what this particular project is about
    • The Timing - The best time of year to undertake this project
    • You Will Need - The appropriate equipment required for the recipe
    • The Method - In plain English (no complicated jargon for newbie gardeners to wade through!)
    Last of all, you will find a section offering ideas for what to do with your completed project - in the above example, this explains how to pickle your miniature onions for use in cocktails though others explain how to prepare your plants for consumption, decoration or even as an aphrodisiac...


    Irresistibly inspiring


    Laetitia's prose is elegant, passionate and utterly inspiring. I defy you to read this book and not immediately visit the garden centre for supplies!

    The presentation of this guide is beautiful: on every other page (or so) there is stunning photography which depicts gardening as something quite sensual. Even text-based pages are adorned with watermarks of leaves or flowers, while the overall appearance is more a coffee-table book than a boring reference guide.

    I have learned things from The Virgin Gardener which I hadn't thought possible: growing banana plants from seed and pineapple trees from the top of a supermarket fruit; cherry tomatoes on my windowsill and carniverous plants for the boys.

    I doubt that Laetitia has much experience gardening with children (though her reference to wigwam runner-beans is pure genius) so while many "recipes" are guided towards sensuality very few are described in a way the family can enjoy. Saying that, as parents we can always adapt our projects for toddlers through to teenagers - no child I know doesn't love to see seeds sprout and grow into full bloom or eat the vegetables they had a hand in growing!


    Not especially frugal, but not far off!

    The Virgin Gardener is not a book for frugal experienced gardeners. It will not teach you much about saving money when building the garden of your dreams. Instead, this book is intended to inspire a passion for growth, for creating green spaces no matter how little space you have available, and to learn that growing plants can lead to more creative options for use than simple outdoor beauty.

    I can't agree much with the cover price. At £20 this seems an expensive purchase for any gardening guide (even in hardback version). You can purchase from Amazon at the current price of £12 though - far better for those watching the pennies, and a reasonable price for such a beautiful and inspiring gift (or even as a hard-earned treat for yourself).

    There are sections where saving money is discussed in slight detail: the expense of buying ready-grown babana plants for example, compared to the utter thrift (not to mention self-satisfaction) of growing from seed. Yoghurt pots and old tin cans, it explains, can be used to grow plants just as well as terracotta versions from HomeBase, while wedding and baby-shower gifts are wonderful when home-grown.

    In summary, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone seeking a start in the world of gardening, and also those who already have a hand in the growth of plants but who seek inspiration for new things. Personally, I am very happy to own this book. From feeling concerned that all the house plants I've ever owned died tragically, to growing a family vegetable patch and seeing flowers everywhere (that I planted) in full bloom. This book has inspired me to try, and taught me that "plants want to grow". It's not a case of whether we are green-fingered or not. Instead, all we need to do try.


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  2. 5 of The Best... Parenting Resources for British Mums

    Tuesday, April 28, 2009
    Back when my eldest child was born, I didn't own a computer. In fact, the "internet" was something which we read about in newspapers - a phenomenon which only computer geeks understood and which only the richest even had access to (or so it seemed). But by the time my daughter was born, all this had changed. Not everyone was online then, but many of us were. I had my own laptop, hooked up to broadband, and a plethora of information, support and other mums were just a few clicks away.

    These days, most of the mums and mums-to-be I know have sought information and advice online. Our own parents, siblings and close friends cannot (always) be with us 24/7 for advice, but online parenting communities are always there, offering advice and a sense of connection with others who are experiencing the same issues.

    Over time, I've seen many different sites, communities and parenting resources for British parents, yet there are only a handful to which I turn often when seeking advice or company. These sites (in my opinion, and in no particular order) are 5 of the best parenting resources for British mums:


    NetMums

    This was among the first sites I joined, and is an excellent place for meeting and interacting with other mums in your area.

    NetMums is a members only site (registration is free, quick and very easy). This is because Netmums relies on a sense of community and members sharing as well as taking information" which ensures the site is a friendly and helpful community for all involved.

    When joining NetMums, you will be able to read boards specifically for your town or area, meet other parents locally and also read through the general (nationwide) boards for advice on parenting, recipes, family finances and any other subject relevant to mums.

    Visit NetMums to learn more


    MumsNet


    The Times newspaper describes MumsNet as "The country's most popular meeting place for parents". Indeed, this is the main reason why I visit the site so much (the "Talk" section is unrivalled!), though MumsNet offers many more features useful for parents too.

    There are dedicated sections for each stage of our children's lives, offering advice and information on every subject imaginable. Reviews of baby products, books and even entertainment help us decide if these items are right for us based on impartial reviews from other parents, while the recipes section offers tried and tested foods for the whole family to enjoy (most of which are also incredibly frugal).

    Members of MumsNet can also start their own free blog to document their life as a parent (the best blogs are highlighted regularly on the front page).

    Probably the most popular section is "Am I being unreasonable?" - a section of the talk boards where parents post their questions and are offered honest replies to their concerns from other members.


    Visit MumsNet to learn more


    YourFamily

    I wrote about YourFamily.org.uk a few weeks ago when I first discovered this wonderful site. Organized by the NSPCC, YourFamily offers advice on parenting for families with small children.

    My favourite section of the site is the "Digital Nanny", where you can type in the name and age of your child to get advice specifically tailored to your needs (scroll down on the home page to find this section).

    Other useful sections include "20 Ways To..." (featuring 20 useful tips on a variety of different subjects); creative video makes to create with your toddlers, and  the baby calendar for expectant mummies which helps you see just how much your little one is developing.

    Visit YourFamily to learn more.


    MyChild


    MyChild is a fantastic resource for parents of school-aged children which offers free reports, sample papers and support to help our children with their education.

    There are also sections about child health issues, recipes and positive parenting; for those whose children have special educational needs, there are some highly useful articles and guides which both explain these special needs without patronising and offer helpful activities for positive experiences.

    Visit MyChild to learn more


    RasingKids

    Inevtably as I visited RaisingKids to find those all important links for this section, I became distracted in reading some of those useful articles posted on the home page... "Getting rid of persistant head lice"; "the best bedtime for a 12 year old"; "Stingy parents, or spoilt kids?". These are just a few of the questions posed to the website's experts whose solutions always make for great reading.

    There are sections for all stages of children's lives, and even advice about motoring and child safety. RaisingKids also has a good community where parents ask questions and discuss parenting issues with each other.

    Visit RaisingKids and learn more


    Just one last mention...

    I know this is supposrd to be a "5 of the best" post but I simply couldn't write this without including one of my favourite blogs too: Parent Hacks. This site features real advice from actual parents: tried and tested tricks for parenting such as using empty egg and candy boxes as paint pallettes and taking a picture of your child(ren) before entering a theme park in case they get lost. Do pay a visit to see why I love this site so much. Although based in the US, most of the tips are just as suitable for us Brits!


    Which are your favourite parenting sites?

    Have I missed out your own favourite site? Let us know your own preferences, or what you think of my favourite 5 my leaving your comments below.

    Image credit (top right): lepiaf.geo, via Flickr Creative Commons.
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  3. Blogging in Pink - Free ebook Guide to Blogging from Scribbit

    Monday, April 27, 2009
    If you're a blogging mummy (or are considering starting a blog sometime soon) be sure to check out Blogging in Pink: a women's guide to blogging by Michelle Mitchell, author of the popular blog, Scribbit.

    This 24-chapter guide gives you tips for organizing yourself, getting started, focusing your efforts and taking things to the next level. Plus you get some pret-ty darn spiffy illustrations to boot.
    I've been reading Blogging in Pink all afternoon and am very impressed with Michelle's advice. This really does offer some great advice for bloggers, including loads of information I wish I'd had to hand when I first began blogging, such as dealing with comment spam, which blog host to use and "The Ten Commandments of Blogging".

    Did I mention this ebook is completely free to download?

    Pay a visit to Scribbit to learn more and download this outstanding guide to blogging, and while you're there, check out some of Michelle's other posts too - she really writes an interesting blog about her adventures in Alaska...
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  4. How will the 2009 Budget affect your family?

    Friday, April 24, 2009
    I don't usually pay much attention to politics and money. Most of the issues go over my head: I'm certainly no financial expert and much of the jargon serves to confuse rather than educate me!

    But at this time, Britain is in recession. My husband and I both run our own businesses and have four children to support. So I listened intently to the budget on Wednesday with particular interest for how finances will change for those with families to support.

    For those of you who want to know how the 2009 budget will affect your family, here is a jargon-free brief guide with a slant towards families with children:

    Taxes and allowances

    There will be no tax increases this year. However, those who earn more than £150,000 per year (the lucky few!) will suffer an extra 5% tax increase (bringing this up to 50%) from next April.

    Personal allowances will be fully withdrawn for those earning over £100,000 a year from next April too. This must be quite a shock (and a dramatic rise in how much to pay) for those lucky or skilled enough to be earning such big bucks.

    Thankfully for those of us at the other end of the scale, there is some relief: personal tax allowance (for those earning less than 100k) will increase from £6035 to £6475 (an increase of £440). Also we can earn £2600 more before being taxed at the 40% rate (up from £34,800 to £37,400).

    Families with children will benefit from additional Child Tax Credits and Child Benefit allowances, plus reductions in their tax/National Insurance bills. Take a look at these tables on This is Money to work out exactly how you stand in regard to finances from these budget changes.

    Child trust funds will increase by £100 per year for disabled children and £200 per year for severely disabled children, offering savings in excess of £5000 when these children grow to adulthood. Also, grandparents who look after their grandchildren so that the parents cango out to work will be able to claim credits towards the basic statepension.


    Cigarettes and Alcohol


    Both tobacco and alcohol duties increased by 2% from Wednesday evening. This causes approximate increases of:
    • 7p for a packet of 20 cigarettes
    • 1p for a pint of beer (experts believe this will be rounded up to as much as 6p to the end-consumer due to brewers, pub companies and landlords round up the costs to protect profits)
    • 4p for an average bottle of wine
    • 5p to sparkling wine
    • 13p to a bottle of spirits (eg: whiskey)
    Mr. darling believes this will raise 6 billion pounds in taxes by 2012, but that's still a drop in the ocean when compared to the HUGE debts Britain will owe by then!


    Motoring

    I couldn't help thinking that our recent (slight) decrease in the cost of fuel was too good to be true. From September, fuel will increase by 2p a litre, with further increases of 1p a litre for the next four Aprils thereafter.

    This won't just affect families with cars, but the costs of public transport and taxis too.

    For those considering buying a new car, the government has introduced a new scheme offering £2000 towards the cost of a more fuel efficient vehicle when scrapping vehicles more than 10 years old (registered before December 1999 - V-reg and older). There are some conditions though: we must have owned the car for more than 12 months (preventing anyone from buying an old banger for the sake of the trade-in value), and this offer expires next March. Read more about the car-scrapping allowance here.


    Mortgages and Homes

    The Stamp Duty holiday on properties up the value of £175,000 has been extended until the end of the year; this means that around 60% of homebuyers will not be liable for tax on the value of their new homes.

    Mr. Darling also announced a further £80m for the Homebuy Direct first-time buyer scheme. This means that if you're a first-time buyer but can't afford to buy a suitable homewithout help, you may be entitled to an ‘equity loan' for up to 30 percent of the cost of a home.

    The Homebuy Direct scheme applies to new-built homes, and applicants should be earning under £60,000 per year and will need to cover a minimum of 70 per cent of the cost of a home youare buying through a mortgage from a qualified lender who is regulatedby the Financial Services Authority. More details of this scheme can be found here.

    These schemes will offer relief for some families in purchasing new homes, and it's also hoped this will boost the housing market. Even in this recession, it is worth considering all options available for your family to see if you are able to purchase the home you've been considering.


    So will families really be better off this year?


    I would like to think that Alasdair Darling's Budget this year will mean families (especially those on lower budgets) will be slightly better off. Families whose income is below the £50,000 mark still qualify for help through tax credits, and the housing schemes enable some of us better means for buying our own homes.

    However, as stated in The Telegraph: "All forms of tax now absorb about 10pc more of the average family's income than they did when Labour came to power", and many families are still confused about the tax credits system, and whether they are eligable for assistance.

    If you're in any doubt about your income, family allowances or any other aspect of how the 2009 budget may affect your family, the best place for assistance is the Direct.gov.uk website. Here you can find helpful information on almost everything, with links and contact details for all public services.

    I hope this post has helped you understand the basics of the 2009 budget in relation to families with children. Please feel free to leave your comments and experiences below.

    Image credit: austinevan
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  5. 10 Thrifty Style Tips for Mummies on a Budget

    Thursday, April 23, 2009
    Being a mummy need never mean you are frumpy! Just because babies and children force us to budget (in terms of both money and time) does not mean we should forget about our stylish selves.

    Here are my top 10 thrifty tips to help ensure you always look - and feel - fabulous, even when you're broke and have only five minutes to get dressed in the morning.

    1. Ensure you have a fabulous, fuss-free haircut

    The last thing a stressed, time-stricken mum needs to worry about is whether she has the time to wash, blow-dry and style her hair each and every morning. Trust me on this ladies, it's far easier (not to mention cheaper) to have a wonderful, fuss-free style which requires little more than a brush through and perhaps a hairband or simple clip to make us feel utterly elegant.



    I've worn my hair in almost every style imaginable: short, mid-length, long, curly, straight and dyed. But for the past six years or so, I've decided to keep my present style: one length in the back with a side-swept fringe which suits the shape of my face and only requires styling "properly" if I'm getting ready for a night out.

    The best haircut for any mum is one which requires little fuss to lool absolutely great. Even if you have tightly curled locks, fine flyaway hair or ultra thick unmanageable tresses, there will be a perfect style for you.

    The trick is to find a good hairdresser. As friends have often told me, the best hairdresser will perfectly understand your needs and find a style to suit you perfectly. Ask around: friends or family, and even local forums are all great places to find a reliable and experienced hairdresser whose skills with the scissors can tame your tangled masses into a elegant and easily managed mane.

    Try also to keep your natural colour, spending the money you would save on regular colourings and root touch-ups on regular haircuts instead. This could save you more money and anxiety than you imagine: you need never be concerned that your roots are showing; your hair will appear healthier from the lack of chemical treatments, and you needn't be concerned about buying expensive products to suit your coloured hair.

    However, if "natural" is not for you, try colouring at home instead and ask a friend to help you out. The end-result is undoubtedly better than attempting to reach all areas on your own, and saves pounds each time you'd have visited the hairdressers instead!

    2. Organize a capsule wardrobe

    A "capsule" wardrobe comprises of several key clothing items which can be mixed and matched to create a multitude of outfits. By having these key items in your wardrobe, you will always ensure you have the perfect outfit to hand, no matter how busy you are or how little time to get ready in the morning.



    To create your capsule wardrobe, you needn't feel as though you need to spend loads of money. Instead, take a good hard look at the items you already own. Chances are you will already have several key pieces and may not even need to buy anything new.

    What you will need to do is look at your clothes and combinations in a different light.

    The best explanation of how a capsule wardrobe will solve all yoru clothing dilemmas is presented by Gok Wan in the new series of Fashion Fix (Channel 4, on Friday evenings). He suggests 24 key pieces to create literally dozens of new looks, and explains this by example when creating a new wardribe for each of his guests.

    The 24 key items Gok suggests are:
    • 1 pair good fitting trousers
    • 1 pair jeans (dark dyed bootcut works well for almost every figure)
    • 1 skirt (cut just below the knee is a style which suits everyone)
    • 6 tops (including one white shirt and a camisole)
    • 2 dresses
    • 2 jackets
    • 1 coat
    • 2 scarves (to match wardrobe colour scheme of choice)
    • 4 pairs of shoes (2 flat, two heeled)
    • 2 handbags
    • 1 pair of gloves
    • 1 wide belt
    In the episode I watched on Friday, Gok created a complete new look using red and green as key accent colours with the items in this capsule wardrobe (one pair of shoes, a handbag and the gloves were all pillar-box red, along with the coat and a jacket). I was inspired by his method, especially seeing just how much of a difference this capsule collection made to the lady's sense of style.After the show, I went upstairs and began rooting through my own wardrobe to collect items I could use to create my own capsule collection (and luckily only need one more dress to ensure this is complete).

    Think of all the different combinations you can create with these basic items:
    • Dress and a jacket, worn with heels for a formal look
    • Dress worn alone with flat pumps for a casual outing
    • Trousers with camisole and white shirt plus a scarf around your neck
    • Skirt with a casual top and flat shoes
    • Skirt with a dressy top and jacket, worn with heels
    • Jeans and a white shirt, worn with pumps and a long scarf
    • Jeans with a dressy top and heels for a night out
    The list goes on!

    If you find there are items missing from your capsule wardrobe then these are the items you should look for on your next clothes shopping trip, not that bargain sequined dress which you know you'll never have occasion to wear!

    3. Get rid of any clothes you don't wear

    While it may seem daft to get rid of clothes when there is little money available to buy replacements, worry not: having a wardrobe clear-out will help you in many ways!

    Firstly, you will be making room for the items you do wear so you can easily see what's available. Secondly, you will be able to see easily which areas of your wardrobe are lacking, and can concentrate on building these up when clothing funds are available to you.



    When you declutter, you should look at each item and consider the following:
    • Have you worn this item in the past year?
    • Could this complement your capsule wardrobe?
    • Does it fit you now?
    If you answer "no" to any of these questions, it's time to say goodbye to this piece (or at least put it away for storage if this is a sentimental item).

    For clothes which are still good, consider selling on eBay to contribute towards your wardrobe fund. Or try swapping/"swishing" your unwanted clothes to update your wardrobe for free...

    4. Swap unwanted clothes for something new

    Another idea is to swap your clothes for something you would wear instead. There are many clothes-swapping sites sprouting up now including:
    • BigWardrobe.com (my personal favourite) where you can trade/buy anything from Primark to Chloe and Stella McCartney!
    • WhatsMineIsYours.com - you can even swap furniture here! More "high-end", including designer and vintage items.
    • CovertCandy.co.uk - a relatively new site which aims to help make trading easier by using a points system.
    "Swishing" offers a more personal approach to clothes swapping, where friends organize clothes-swapping (Swishing) parties to trade their unwanted clothes for something else. It makes perfect sense, and saves the necessity of buying new clothes when we could just as easily swap. Take a look at Swishing.org for more information plus tips on organizing your own swishing party.

    5. Try to have loads of plain white T-shirts and shirts

    Mums, I hear you screaming "why on earth do we need white tops when our little darlings will stain them so easily?".

    This, ladies, is exactly the point. It is far easier to remove stains, spills and baby sick from plain white cotton clothes than any other fabric at all. If you wear plain white often, you can bung all your dirtied tops in the same high temperature wash (along with a little bleach or one of those ingenious whitening sachets) and have these completely clean ready for the next round.



    In contrast, patterned, coloured and even plain black tops are more difficult to clean as effectively; they will undoubtedly lose their colour after a few washes and will certainly not last as long as their white cotton counterparts.

    White is also a universal colour to suit all skin tones, hair colours and complexions. It is far more flattering than black (which when worn against the face makes almost everyone's skin look dull), and can be jazzed up so easily with scarves, beads and other accessories.

    Basic T-shirts and shirts are among the cheapest tops you can buy(such as those £2 Tees and £3 shirts from Primark, Asda and Tesco). Trust me on this and stock up on a few more plain white tops. You'll understand my point in less than a week!

    6. When it comes to clothes, less is more!

    The average woman wears 20% of her wardrobe 80% of the time ans spends over £13,000 in a lifetime on clothes she will never wear!

    Rather than spend little and often on the latest fashions, it is far better to onvest in good quality, timeless pieces for your capsule wardrobe which can be worn almost 100% of the time.



    Saving up to invest in one good quality piece which you will wear often will save you time and money. For example, instead of buying ten cheap synthetic Primark tops to get you through the summer months save your money towards one or two longer lasting, good quality cotton shirts. These will wash and wear far better than those cheap tops and will certainly last longer than one season.

    Do your research, shop around; buy only the best quality items you can afford and only those which are absolutely perfect - not those which are simply "okay". "Trade-up" if you can: rather than shop for your basics at Primark, save up a little longer and visit Marks and Spencer, River Island or Monsoon; although these are more expensive, the quality if far better making the clothes last much longer (and helping your feel fabulous in the process).

    I've been doing this for around six months now and despite shopping for myself so infrequently I honestly feel much happier about what I buy: there are no more "bad decisions", impulse purchases, or clothes which don't suit me (even though they looked great on the store-front mannequin!). Instead, I am simply replacing worn items from my capsule wardrobe and occasionally adding to it with clothes I am sure suit me, and which make me feel happy when I get dressed each day. To sum things up, I am spending less (in the long run) on things which I wear far more.


    7. Ditch the Salon for DIY Beauty Treatments

    Hair removal, brow shaping, facials... The things we ladies do to make us look pretty can cost a small fortune at the beauty salon! Aside from my regular bikini wax (my only indulgence, because I simply cannot do this myself!), I've always performed by own beauty treatments at home. This works out as a saving of over £70 a month compared to the equivalent treatments at my local salon:







    Basic manicure£10
    Basic pedicure£15
    Simple facial£10Cost at home:
    £0
    Full leg wax£17
    Chin and upper lip wax£12
    Eyebrow threading£8.50


    It would take ages to explain the methods for my own DIY beauty treatments, so instead I'll give a quick overview and link you up with some excellent demonstrative videos to help you achieve great results at home.


    Manicure

    As mummies, our hands suffer the most of all our body parts, but with a few tips it's easy enough to keep out hands in great condition.

    For beautifully soft hands, slather loads of cheap hand lotion or vaseline over your hands before putting on the rubber gloves to clean/wash up. The heat from the hot water helps the lotion or vaseline penetrate deeper into your hands, and is a great treat to compensate for all the cleaning we have to do!

    I personally tend not to paint my fingernails as the varnish chips within a day or two (even when I'm wearing clear varnish). Instead, I keep my nails fairly short and buff once a fortnight with a buffing block bought for less than £2 from the chemist and finish off by rubbing olive oil into my cuticles and skin (usually while watching Desperate Housewives, so it really doesn't take up much time). Buffing makes my nails look really shiny and lasts for ages. This video from VideoJug will show you how easy it is.

    Pedicure

    Our feet need looking after. Having a pedicure at the salon is immensely gratifying, but it's still possible to recreate the experience by pampering ourselves at home on a monthly basis.

    This video explains how to pamper your feet at home. The products you'll need will last you for months; try visiting PoundLand (or the beauty stall at your local market) to get everything you need for under a fiver.



    Facials

    There are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of home-made face mask recipes available on the web. Take a look here for a huge selection or simply Google to see what I mean.

    One of the best I've ever tried is the "Asprin mask". I first learned about this after reading India Knight's Thrift Book and was at first dubious until I saw the results for myself. Basically, asprin contains salycilic acid: a key ingredient in many high-end exfoliating face treatments (and is great for blemishes). This article from Faking Good Breeding offers a complete explanation, along with instructions for use.

    For a complete "home facial" tutorial, take a look at this article from About.com.

    Hair removal

    Waxing is wonderful; the results last for weeks and is ideal for depilation on legs and the awkward bikini area. If you're able to wax yourself (or have a willing friend to help) then good for you! Personally I find home-waxing particularly taxing. My attempts have been rather painful, with less than desirable results.

    Instead, I've learned two alternative and very effective techniques which cost virtually nothing. Neither are particularly easy and require some practise to perfect, but both are very frugal and will leave you feeling baby-smooth wherever you use them.

    Sugaring is a little like waxing but it's far easier to wash off the residue and does not require you to use rags/strips to pull out those hairs. You can use sugar hair removal anywhere on your body, and since it uses all natural ingredients it's unlikely you'll have any unpleasant reactions.

    Here's a video explaining how to create your sugar solution with a quick overview of how this works:


    Threading is wonderful for eyebrows and facial hair (you can also use this for your legs, but it takes ages and it's awkward to reach the back of your calves). Ideally, you'll need to partner up with a friend and thread each other's unwanted hair as it's very difficult to apply this technique to yourself. All you'll need for threading is a length of cotton and a little patience. Here's how to create your "threading tool" and here's a tutorial for threading eyebrows.

    8. Learn to Accessorise with Style

    Accessories are a cheap and cheerful way of updating your look. If you have a classic, capsule wardrobe, you will be able to update your look with the latest trends simply by adding accessories, rather than forking out the cash for new clothes each season.


    Now I will admit that I'm not really the best person to ask for advice on accessories. Until recently, I barely wore any jewellery at all, and belts were simply to hold my trousers in place! Luckily, my sister works for Claires and is quite the expert on this subject. She's helped me learn some thrifty style tips to help me feel more fabulous using clever (usually cheap) accessories which can be adapted to make any mummy feel great:
    • Have one great, oversized handbag for everyday use: Rather than have loads of different handbags for each day of the week, it's more useful (and economical) to have only one good quality bag which is large enough for everything we need as mums.

      A good handbag need not be expensive: my favourite bag ever (which I've had for over 3 years now) is a classic leather bag which cost £20 from TK Maxx. With a huge main section and loads of pockets, I can segregate any "messy" kids stuff from my purse and documents. And as my sister tells me, big bags help you look smaller in comparison.

      If you have young babies, you can even ditch the nappy bag in favour of an oversized handbag, which will last you far longer and is honestly a great investment for your wardrobe.
    • Wide belts help narrow your waistline: Like many mums, I still have a rather flabby area around my midriff. I prefer longer length tops to hide my little bulge, but have found that wearing a wide belt around my waistline helps pull me in so I look slimmer no matter what I'm wearing. 
    • Wear a pretty necklace to dress up a plain top: Necklaces really do help complete an outfit (particularly when teamed with a matching bracelet or earrings). Unless you're wearing a high-necked, fussy printed top, try adding a simple set of beads or pendant to make your outfit stand out more. Chunky beads really suit those with smaller chests (like me) while long thinner strands lengthen and slim the torso as they draw focus down the body rather than across it.
    • Coloured scarves can draw an outfit together: An alternative to necklaces is the classic scarf (square or long) in a colour which draws upon an element of your outfit. For example, if you wear a dress which has red in the print, team this with a red silk scarf tied around your neck. Primark do a wonderful selection of scarves from only a couple of pounds each and you can also find these as giveaways on the covers of style magazines. Charity shops too usually have a basked dedicated to scarves and other accessories which you could pick up for as little as 50p!
    • Heels will make you appear slimmer: I am a true advocate of high heels and would probably try to convert anyone who would listen! Heels make you appear taller, lengthen the leg and look as great teamed with jeans or with pretty dresses and evening outfits. Recently the trend for "platform" heels has re-emerged, and the latest styles offer a seamless appearance between the shoe and sole; these help you wear slightly higher heels than normal as your foot is not as arched as it appears to be. Try this style (even with a small heel) if the thought of stilettos makes you cringe: they are far more comfortable, and could convert even the most dedicated "ballerina pump" mum!
    • Hairbands, clips and bobbles are essential: Mums tend to have less time to style their hair, so try keeping a selection of hair accessories for quick fixes instead. My four-year-old and I regularly raid each other's collection! Even if you have short hair, you can jazz it up with pretty slides and decorated hairpins.

      By far the cheapest sources are Primark, supermarkets and your local market. Claires Accessories regularly have sales where you can buy 10 items for £3 so stock up when these events happen.

    9. Look after your skin

    By looking after your skin, you will undoubtedly feel younger, more vibrant and prettier from the inside out. It's really not necessary to spend a packet on expensive "youth nurturing" creams and skin peeling serums: a common sense approach works miracles, while cleansers and moisturisers can even be bought at the pound store.

    Drink lots of water to flush out toxins and hydrate skin from the inside out. I promise this will help you look and feel loads better! Tap water is equally as good as those expensive bottled drinks (we pay way over the odds for fancy packaging), so there really is no excuse! Plenty of fruit and vegetables helps too.

    Baby lotion is wonderful for the body; the "budget" versions from the supermarket cost pennies, and smell far better than their equivalents in the women's beauty section. Since having an allergic reaction to an expensive (apparently "miracle-working") brand of moisturiser, I now buy from the simple, no-frills range at Superdrug which works wonderfully for me.


    10. Make time for you

    In most areas of our lives, we pay more for things which save us time and are more convenient: microwaveable meals to save time in the kitchen; cleaning products which promise shine without scrubbing; hair dye which you can rinse away in only 10 minutes...



    When we are trying to be frugal, we can save money by spending time instead. Whenever possible, try to reserve an hour for yourself each week. Ask your partner to mind the kids while you have a long soak, de-fuzz and give yourself a manicure, or rearrange housework to give yourself an afternoon off. Don't try to rush: spend time applying products or styling yourself properly and it needn't matter that the things you use cost less money to buy.

    As I wrote right at the beginning of this article, many mums have only five minutes to get dressed in the morning before the school run/nursery dash/drive to work. We have barely enough time to brush our teeth and hair, let alone choose accessories to complement our outfits; perfect our make-up and set our hair in rollers.

    So save time by rearranging your schedule, and manage your time more efficiently!

    Decide what to wear and lay out your clothes the night before, giving you time to iron wrinkled clothes and decide on accessories in advance. You could even spend an afternoon arranging your wardrobe and clothes, grouping outfits together so they can be grabbed in a single sweep. Give yourself a manicure/pedicure while watching your favourite show on TV. Small efforts like these can add minutes to your day, preventing you from feeling stressed and anxious.

    By managing your time effectively, you will feel more relaxed and find that there is time for a manicure, time to apply a touch of make-up, and enjoy a coffee with your other half after breakfast. Relaxed mums smile more often and appear more confident: two utterly fabulous qualities which are out of no woman's reach!

    So despite your busy days, the endless housework and the rising costs of living, remember that you are important too. Spend a little time and less money on yourself and your confidence will reap the benefits!

    Image credits (in order of appearance): Hairdressing by Helmet13; What to wear by Sugar Cookie; Cluttered closet by Darwin Bell; Washing by Daylight.; Clothes shop by *Muhammad*; Pedicure by (nutmeg); Shoes by stevendepolo; Time by Epesara. All via Flickr Creative Commons.
    Continue reading »
  6. The Thrift Book by India Knight - Book Review

    Wednesday, April 22, 2009
    Thesedays we are awed by the sheer number of books available to us, and it'sdifficult to choose something relevant to our needs. As parents, we arelimited in the time we can spend reading, and as frugal families wecannot afford to spend on books we may later find irrelevant. So eachWednesday, I aim to review a book on a range of subjects from parentingguides to home-making, fashion/beauty and cookbooks which are most relevant for fabulous, frugal mums!
     

    The Thrift Book promises to help us "Live well and spend less" and does this job rather well, despite that India Knight is a self-confessed "dedicated consumer and more-is-more child of the 1980's".


    Well presented


    It's beautifully presented, in hardback form with quirky illustrations in virtually every page and is one of those magical references where you can literally dip in at any page to find tips of worth in cutting down our budget.

    My favourite section is that on "Beauty", where you can find sections explaing the best value products (and why they are so good); home-made beauty treatments (the Asprin mask? Inspired!), and "How to look expensive" which offers common sense yet wholly truthful tips on how to look great on the most meagre budget.

    The section on "Community" was also quite inspiring and offers ideas for how to entertain oneself by choosing inexpensive interactions close-by. With chapters on Food (and how to grow your own) and a very down-to-earth explanation of the economy, it is overall an enlightening and entertaining read.


    Too good to be true?


    However, I must admit some reservations about India's "thrifty" advice. As a Northener (Yorkshire born and bred), I find many of the tips and locations mentioned are perhaps more appropriate for the London crowd. Also, this really is a book aimed at those who do have a nice little nest egg to cushion them through this current recession. At heart, I am a truly frugal mummy, and India's advice to "shop daily" or save up for (very) expensive designer clothes which are too pricey for 90% of the population are quite lost on me. I can't help thinking that certain sections were added to fill in gaps, rather than methods India has tried and tested herself, or at least sourced accurate advice about.

    The cover price is rather expensive for the hardback version. At £14.99, this is hardly a thrifty price. You can buy The Thrift Book from Amazon at £7.49 for the Hardback version (£5.99 for the paperback) or try to source this from ReadItSwapIt (this is how I got my copy!) for the ultimate in frugality.

    While aimed more at those who do have room for financial manouver (with many references particularly suitable for Londeners), I'm sure you'll find The Thrift Book an enjoyable book to read, which will undoubtedlyprovide you with some great tips for saving money in all areas of yourlife.
    Continue reading »
  7. 5 Of The Best... British Daddy Blogs

    Tuesday, April 21, 2009
    Way back when I first started writing Glamumous, it was difficult to find and network with other British parent bloggers. Luckily, blogging has become a much more popular pastime, with many mums starting blogs and writing of their experiences as parents and even the occasional book deal has sprouted from the new-found British love of blogging.

    But what about the "Daddy Bloggers" among us? Surely they also deserve a place in the limelight?

    So here are my favourite 5 British "Daddy Blogs": written by fathers who blog about their children and family life. I hope you will enjoy reading these blogs as much as I did while researching them!


    Lemon Drizzle


    This hilarious blog is written by Paul Collins: a lone man in a house full of girls. I love reading a daddy's perspective on the naiive and wholly entertaining interactions with his daughters.

    Lemon Drizzle is such a curious name for this blog. At first I wondered if the inspiration had come from a recip (and checked); in fact the name derives from a friendly discussion about blogging, in the same way which many of the greatest ideas do.

    Visit Lemon Drizzle


    Single Parent Dad


    Single Parent Dad is written by Ian: a 30 year old widower, "and parent to the most brilliant young boy in the world".

    Ian's posts make for wonderful reading, and it's easy to tell his writing comes from the heart. Going back through the archives to read of his emotional journies as a widowed dad is highly recommended!

    Visit Single Parent Dad


    Man About the House

    Alasdair, writer of "Man ABout the House" is a stay-at-home-dad: "an over-educated father of two who spent the first 25 years of his lifeattempting to achieve everything that educated people are ‘meant’ toachieve".

    His posts have a definite political overtone, but as written from the perspective of a dad, these offer interesting insights for parents into the political state of Britain.A really entertaining post from Man About the House is The Peasant Princess … and why Pastor Mark Driscoll is an idiot, where Alasdair offers his fiery feedback on a video interview with the pastor (and his wife) condemning fathers who choose to stay at home.


    Visit Man About the House



    Bringing up Charlie


    Bringing Up Charlie offers us a glimpse into the life of a stay at home dad who cares for his young son, complete with CBeebies, Pram Rage and parents evenings at school.


    Tim also writes about his wife and school age daughter in his posts which are often funny, sometimes emotional and always entertaining. I discovered this blog through browsing the sites listed on the British Mummy Bloggers network, which now makes me wonder why there are no such sites listed for British dads...



    Visit Bringing up Charlie


    WorryBomb

    Worrybomb is the "blog of a baby, kept by her father", which was started even before Amelia was born!

    While Worrybomb was created as a means for friends and family to keep track of Amelia's progress through life, it is positively endearing and there's no wonder this blog was listed as "Dad blog of the week" on the MyChild site!

    Visit Worrybomb.

    I hope you enjoy reading these British Daddy blogs too! Please let me know if there are other Daddy blogs you recommend by leaving your comments below.
    Continue reading »
  8. How to fold T-Shirts in 2 seconds flat!

    Monday, April 20, 2009
    This "folding T-shirt" video seems to have been doing the rounds for months, and is a truly nifty trick for wash days. Be sure to watch carefully: if you blink, you'll miss it!













    Fast Folding: How To Fold A T-Shirt In 2 Seconds



    Luckily I found this excellent video on YouTube which provides a full explanation of how this trick works. It takes just a little practise, and soon you'll be able to fold your family's T-shirts like a pro:













    Fast Folding: How To Fold A T-Shirt In 2 Seconds - Explained



    I demonstrated to the kids this weekend, which proved a good tactic. They spent the rest of the day neatly folding all of the rogue clothing in their drawers. If only there were tricks to fold shirts neatly in such super-fast time...
    Continue reading »
  9. The Yummy Mummy's Ultimate Family Survival Guide - Book Review

    Wednesday, April 15, 2009
    Thesedays we are awed by the sheer number of books available to us, and it'sdifficult to choose something relevant to our needs. As parents, we arelimited in the time we can spend reading, and as frugal families wecannot afford to spend on books we may later find irrelevant. So eachWednesday, I aim to review a book on a range of subjects from parentingguides to home-making, fashion/beauty and cookbooks which are most relevant for fabulous, frugal mums!
     
    Yummy Mummy's Ultimate Family Survival Guide is a practical and wholly truthful guide to parenting, dosed with a wry sense of humour and a realistic viewpoint only a true mother could achieve!


    The truth about motherhood


    Unlike many other "yummy mums" who've jumped on the hugely successful bandwagon of writing in this field, Liz Frazer offers us the truth about motherhood and freely admits this is based on her own perspective. So rather than be faced with prescriptive methods of parenting, we are offered advice on a "this is what works for me" basis. Which for me was a pleasant surprise!


    Strangely organized


    The organization of the book is rather surreal: chapters are labelled as rooms of the house, such as the kitchen and master bedroom chapters. Then each chapter offers advice about the family associations of the room (relationship advice for the master bedroom, culinary tips for the kitchen, and so on).

    It's quite fun to read the book in this way, and just in case you need to flick to a particular section for on-the-spot-advice, you can locate this easily enough in the contents section.

    There are some true gems of humour in here, which are enough to brighten any gloomy mums day! Even such tricky subjects as infidelity and in-laws are handled with a jovial touch. One thing which I really appreciate about Liz's writing is that she understands the concept of "budgeting": unlike other celebrity mums and their name-dropping advice guides, Liz's advice is real and practical. She explains how to "make do and mend", prepare tasty meals even when the budget is running low, and even how to prepare for a children's party without breaking the bank.


    To summarize...


    This isn't the best presented advice guide I've ever read, and at over 400 pages it will probably take you a while to wade through it all. Though after reading through this a few times now, I can honestly say that most (if not all) aspects of motherhood and family life are covered here. This will certainly remain on the bookshelf above my desk, which houses the books I refer to often, and I would indeed recommend this to any mother first-time, third time or grandparent!
    Continue reading »
  10. Free eBook - Fabulous Frugal Food Bills

    As I'm sure we're all aware, the cost of our family food bills has skyrocketed these past few months! According to the price comparison site, MySupermarket, the average weekly spend for a family of four has increased by as much as 25%.
    Shocking, isn't it?

    While we have little control over the rising cost of fuel, housing and other household bills, we can control just how much of our hard-earned cash we part with to feed the family. Switching over to supermarket own brands is not the only solution: there are many more ways we can choose to save money yet feed our families healthy and satisfying meals.

    I've always considered myself a frugal mum. Compared to my friends and family, our food shopping bills are positively miniscule, and yet we always have food on the table, in the cupboards, stored in the freezer... In short, we are never hungry and I often feel smug in my knowledge of thrifty ways which are helping us survive this credit crunch.

    So in response to encouragement from my friends (and all the articles in magazines which seem to teach us nothing new about saving on food bills), I decided to write my own ebook: Fabulous Frugal Food Bills.

    This ebook offers useful tips, tricks and a scattering of family-friendly recipes to help you save money on your family food bills. From learning how to organize your food stores for maximum efficiency to saving money at the supermarket and even growing your own, I hope you will find something useful to lessen the burden of your weekly shopping trips.

    In the spirit of sharing and of embracing thrifty ways, I offer this ebook for free. No cost, and certainly no advertisements! You can download this ebook in PDF format to read on your computer or ebook reader, or simply flick through the pages in the embedded ebook further down this page.

    Licensing

    Frugal Food Bills is licensed under the Creative Commons, Attribution, Non-Commercial lisense (which is to protect my rights as the author, and to prevent profit-makers from selling this free guide when it's intended to be free!). Feel free to download, share, re-use and redistribute this ebook however you like. All I ask is that you adhere to these simple conditions:
    • Attribution: please credit me as the original author of this ebook.
    • No commercial use: do not sell this ebook!
    Please feel free to get in touch if you would like to discuss this license or any other aspect of Fabulous Frugal Food Bills, and I'll be happy to help.


    Download this ebook

    This ebook is presented in PDF format. In order to read this offline, you will need to use Adobe Acrobat (or other PDF reader) which you can download free from Adobe.


    Share and enjoy

    If you like Fabulous Frugal Food Bills, please feel free to share this with others. You can offer this ebook for download from your site, or embed this in your own blog or website using the following codes:

    Regular embed code:



    Wordpress embed code:

    Alternatively, visit the Fabulous Frugal Food Bills page on Scribd for even more sharing options.


    Read Online

    Here is an embedded version of Fabulous Frugal Food Bills to browse this ebook online:

                                                                                                                                                            
        Publish at Scribd or explore others:            How-to-Guides & Manu                  shopping              recipes         
     

    Feedback

    Please let me know your thoughts and opinions about this ebook by sending me an email or leaving your comments below. Your feedback is much appreciated!
    Continue reading »
  11. 5 Of The Best... Internet Browsers for Kids

    Tuesday, April 14, 2009
    As anxious parents we are all too aware of the dangers posed to our children on-line. From concerns of sharing personal information to accidental splashes of unsavoury images while our children research material for their homework. How can we ensure our children are safe on-line?

    The answer dawned on me when I took my daughter to nursery last week. Staff had just installed a dedicated "Kids Browser" to their child-friendly computer and were testing the effectiveness (and fun-value) with the kids. I thought this was just amazing: the browser prevents unsavoury sites from being accessed at all, instead offering a colourful cheerful approach which encourages safe, responsible learning.

    Now this particular software is reserved for nurseries and educational establishments (therefore it's quite costly), but I was intrigued and after a little research discovered several wonderful free browsers for kids which I would recommend to other parents too.

    These browsers are probably better suited to young children (my 9 and 12 year olds think these are way too "babyish"!), but offer a safe environment for your little ones' first encounters with the internet.

    In no particular order, here are my top 5 (free) Internet browsers for kids:


    1. Kidoz

    This bright and colourful browser offers a completely safe environment for children and prevents access to any unapproved content.


    Younger children can simply "point and click" to access their favourite content, while the "Parental Control" section enables parents to monitor and control the content available to their children.

    Content is restricted only to approved sites (these are moderated by humans and updated daily) or by manually adding your seal of approval in the Parental Control area.

    Kido'z operates using Adobe Air and ensures browsing is both fast and reliable. You may need a fairly recent computer to use this browser effectively (Pentium 4 and above is recommended), though this is an otherwise beautifully designed browser which you and the children will enjoy equally.

    Visit the KIDOZ site for more information and to download


    2. Kidzui

    This browser offers more features and seems appropriate for a slightly older audience. Using a tabbed menu at the top of the screen, children can quickly navigate between the Web, Videos and Photos and have a vast range of visual prompts to be clicked which help them find the content they want to view.



    One huge advantage of this platform is the parental controls. You can change settings for Kidzui to prevent the browser being closed without entering the parental password which helps protect your desktop and other files being accessed or accidentally deleted.

    Kids can design their personal Zui avatar; make "parent approved" friends online and chat in a safe environment.

    There is also a premium version of Kidzui which offers such features as unlocking more clothes for avatars, a homework helper and favourites folder.

    Learn more and download Kidzui


    3. KidRocket

    KidRocket is a simple hybrid browser and activity centre for the kids. Featuring a desktop lock (to prevent access to your important files) and optional email service (where you control whom emails are sent from and to your kids), it's quite useful and makes browsing fun.


    Rather than being "installed" like a regular program, KidRocket is a standalone program which is launched through a desktop icon to prevent conflict with your regular (grown-up) web browser.

    Access to websites is limited only to those which have been approved by KidRocket, such as CBeebies, Crayola and Disney. Simple "art" and "maths" programs add offline interest for curious kids, while you can control how the program functions using the "admin" section.

    Learn more about KidRocket and download


    4. Pikluk

    This browser is completely controlled by the parent dashboard where you choose which sites your child is allowed to access, and with whom they can correspond by email.


    No URLs are displayed, and access is restricted to any sites which you have not deemed as "safe". Your desktop is also safe from prying eyes and accidental deletion as Pikluk cannot be closed without parental consent.

    Learn more and download Pikluk


    5. Buddy Browser

    Buddy Browser is a very interesting application. Functionally it's close to "Mum and Dad's" browser in terms of appearance and functionality, though rather more colourful and child-orientated.


    Navigation is made easy using descriptive buttons at the top of the browser, with individual sites linked in the sidebar. School-age children can easily access sites to help with homework, while a dedicated "Toddlers" section offers games and education suitable for pre-school ages.

    Kids can chat safely using a messaging service which parents control to ensure they are totally aware of who their kids talk to online, while "favorites" can be added in just a couple of clicks (a feature sadly missing in other free kids browsers I've seen).

    Learn more and download Buddy Browser


    What do you think?

    Have you encountered any other free kids browsers which you'd like to recommend? Which of these browsers do you prefer to install for your own children?

    Please share your thoughts and opinions by leaving a comment below.

    Image credit: Computers and kids by Tanya Ryno (top right).
    Continue reading »
  12. Read your favorite magazines for free!

    Sunday, April 12, 2009
    Being quite the magazine maven, I shudder at the cost on the covers (and dread to think how much money I could spend on magazines alone each month!). So I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that the Telegraph is offering many of our favorite magazines in digital format which we can download and read for free!

    The Telegraph's offer enables us to download three single copies of different magazines in digital format from the following list:
    • Esquire
    • House Beautiful
    • Men's Health
    • Runner's World
    • Zest
    • Coast
    • Cosmopolitan Bride
    • Country Living
    • You and Your Wedding
    • Company
    • Baby and Pregnancy
    • Good Housekeeping
    • Prima
    • She
    • Cosmopolitan
    • Bazaar
    The digital format of these magazines is essentially the same as what you'd buy at the newsagents, except that it's free and includes no junk leaflets. You won't be able to claim any of the freebies offered on the cover though!


    How to get your free digital magazines

    Simply go to MagazinesOnDemand and add up to three magazines to your basket by selecting "Single issue". Then checkout and complete the quick registration (no payment details will be required). At the checkout, enter the promo code 3FREEMAG to ensure your magazines are delivered for free.
    You'll need to download some special software to be able to read your magazines (named "Delivery"). You can find a link to the download on the checkout confirmation page once you've placed the order for your free magazines.

    Once you've downloaded the free mags (and software) you can read these whenever you like, or even forward these on to a friend. Printing is also an option, but you could spend more on paper and ink than the cover price of the magazine!

    I've just saved £9.90 by downloading She, Good Housekeeping and House Beautiful for free! If you're looking for a free treat for yourself (or even your partner), I would honestly recommend these free magazine downloads.

    This offer does end on May 31st 2009, so be sure to grab your magazines before then. Also, the promotional code can only be used once per account (but of course, you could band together with friends and swap your downloads around...).


    Four free copies of "The Lady" magazine are also up for grabs

    Another "free magazine" offer from The Telegraph is four paper copies of The Lady magazine, delivered to your door.

    Already an icon, The Lady is famous for its super-useful classified section and eclectic, fascinating features. After 124 monochrome years, the magazine now features a full colour re-design to compliment the new look. Celebrate her unveiling with an exclusive offer only available to Telegraph readers – claim your four free issues today. 

    I have never read "The Lady" but have applied for this free offer to see what all the fuss is about. To claim your four free issues, simply visit this page on the The Lady website and fill in the form (no payment details requested).

    The Lady is published weekly, so you'll receive four copies over the course of a month, saving £6 in total on the cover price.

    Via MoneySavingExpert.com


    Know of any more free magazine offers?

    If you know of any other free magazine offers which would interest Glamumous readers, feel free to leave a link in the comments below or shoot me an email and I'll update this post.
    Continue reading »
  13. 10 Fabulous Books Every Mummy Should Read

    Wednesday, April 8, 2009
    Thesedays we are awed by the sheer number of books available to us, and it'sdifficult to choose something relevant to our needs. As parents, we arelimited in the time we can spend reading, and as frugal families wecannot afford to spend on books we may later find irrelevant. So eachWednesday, I aim to review a book on a range of subjects from parentingguides to home-making, fashion/beauty and cookbooks which are most relevant for fabulous, frugal mums!

    I'm a vigorous reader: my shelves are filled with books I have read, enjoyed and refuse to ever part with. Within this library is a particular shelf I refer to often: my "mummy" books, fabulous reads on various subjects which I believe every yummy mum should read at least once - and probably refer to her friends!

    For those who prefer not to buy books outright, why not reserve in your local library or see if there are copies available to swap for free on ReadItSwapIt.co.uk?

    Without further ado, here are my top 10 fabulous books for mummies (organized by category, and in no particular order):

    Best for... Surviving Parenthood

    The Fabulous Mum's Handbook by Grace Saunders

    This is one of the more recent "parenting guides" I've read, and has certainly been highly enjoyable. It's really aimed at new mums (or those who are expecting a baby) and offers advice on everything from what your baby really needs to styling your ever adjusting figure.

    Several celebrities offer their expert advice on various subjects, from Tanya Byron (from The House of Tiny Tearaways) on getting sleep, to Amanda Smith (former director of style for Elle Decoration) on having a wonderful, stylish and child-friendly home.

    What I love most is that each section offers advice tailored to the needs of all mothers, along with "top tips" at the end of each chapter.

    Buy from Amazon | Find on ReadItSwapIt

    A Spoonful of Sugar by Liz Frazer 

    I've currently borrowed a copy of this from the library and have now ordered a copy of my own because I don't want to give this one back!

    Now as mothers, I'm sure many of us have turned to our own parents for advice. In this book, Liz Frazer takes it a step further to ask her grandmother for her pearls of wisdom and applies this to modern day mothers. With all our concerns over 21st century dangers, 24 hour TV and fast food, we may have forgotten that the happiest of family lives comes from making things simple. Much of what you will read here is common sense, but it's always good to be reminded of old-fashioned ways!

    Buy from Amazon | Find on ReadItSwapIt

    Baby-proofing your marriage by Stacie Cockrel et al

    A lighthearted look at the impact a baby can have on relationships, this was written by three feisty mothers who seem to have survived the worst of it all!

    Including lighthearted anecdotes (and passages which will make you laugh out loud!), Baby-proofing Your Marriage offers friendly advice based on experience: from sex (or the lack of) to in-laws, division of housework and everything between.

    Buy from Amazon | Find on ReadItSwapIt

    Best for... Feeding the Family

    How to feed your whole family a healthy balanced diet with very little money... by Gill Holcombe

    This book is a lifesaver in terms of cheap healthy recipes which the whole family can enjoy! Gill Holcombe offers us a guide to help us cook for our families from scratch with easy to follow recipes from her delicious "All in one Apple Cake" to "Salmon Pasta Bake" and the super quick "Instant Corned Beef Hash".

    If you need a book which can advice you how to cut down on your family food bills or even learn the basics of home cooking, this is certainly something of interest to you.

    Buy from Amazon | Find on ReadItSwapIt

    Saving Dinner by Leanne Ely

    The title of this book truly does justice to the content: Saving Dinner offers time and money saving recipes and menu plans to help bring your whole family back to the dinner table.

    I first came across this through the FlyLady site when Leanne offered her advice about menu-planning. Her recipes use frugal, seasonal ingredients and take very little time to create. Best of all, you can visit the website to print off your shopping list so you don't have to write them all down or take your book to the supermarket!

    Being an American title, some of the ingredients may be bewildering to us Brits; just look up anything you are unsure about (don't forget, "zuccinis" are "courgettes" to us!) and you'll find this a useful addition to your cookery shelf.

    Buy from Amazon | Find on ReadItSwapIt

    Best for... Keeping House

    Sink Reflections by Marla Cilley - AKA FlyLady

    I can describe this book as nothing more than a Godsend! For mummies whose homes seem to have transformed into bombsites die to the lack of time, energy and motivation, this title will help you get your home (and your life) back in order with seemingly no effort.

    Based on the wisdom of FlyLady.net, Sink Reflections offers us an insight into Marla's previously unkempt home and how she learned to transform her house into a haven using "babysteps" to achieve great things over time. From learning how to organize yourself to daily 15 minute plans of achievement, this book will be something you can refer to over and over.

    Buy from Amazon | Find on ReadItSwapIt

    House Rules by Clare Coulson

    Forget trying to be a "perfect housewife": for me, this book would be better termed "The Bible" of housekeeping! From the best way to iron a shirt to foolproof cooking techniques, this covers everything you could possibly want to know about keeoing a haven and not just a home.

    Admittedly, the directory section is not wholly appropriate for me (most addresses are based in London, or are very expensive outlets), but the "how to" sections offer clear and concise advice on everything you could possibly need to know about keeping house. This takes pride of place on my bookshelves, and is a title I pick up whenever I have a question about our home.

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    Best for... Entertaining the kids

    I'm Bored by Suzy Barratt, Polly Beard and Sam Holland

    This ingenious book offers imaginative ideas for keeping the kids entertained whether you're stuck at home on a rainy day or caught up in a traffic jam.

    These ideas do not ask you to buy any expensive equipment; most simply require a little imagination and what you already have at hand. It's beautifully illustrated too, which encourages younger children to look at the pictures and decide what they'd like to play.

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    Best for... Frugal Living

    The Thrift Book by India Knight

    Written by a self-confessed "child of the more-is-more 1980s", this book offers insights into how we can reduce our expenditure without expense to our lifestyles.

    I've always been a thrifty mummy at heart, but found many new ways of saving in this book (especially the website directories and "community" section). Some of India's insights are amusing, and it's hard to imagine she honestly has tried everything she recommends, but overall this is very enjoyable.

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    Thrifty Ways for Modern Days by Martin Lewis

    Based on the "Old-Style" forum of MoneySavingExpert.com, this guide offers tried and tested frugal tips to help you save money in almost every aspect of your home. Include tips for growing your own vegetables, eco-cleaning and cheap (yet wonderful) family foods, there's something in here to suit everyone and help save a pretty penny in the process.

    Martin Lewis is famed for his expertise on saving money, and has graciously contributed all proceeds of this book to charity since the wisdom is collected from avid members of his infamous site. If you're a fan of MoneySavingExpert.com or even just need a little nudge to save more money around the house, this really is a book you should read at least once!

    Buy from Amazom | Find on ReadItSwapIt


    What would you add to this list?

    These books are my personal favorites: the ones which I have read, and can honestly recommend as useful  reading for mummies!

    Do you have any favorites which are not on this list? Please let us know what your favorite books are and why you enjoy them so much by leaving your comments below.
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