Frugal times call for frugal measures so I was really pleased when My Family Club approached me and asked me to help spread the word about their website. Their website is full of articles based around saving money as a family and includes voucher deals, offers, discounts and "best price" tips for household goods each week.
As mum (and nana) to an ever-growing family it's important that we squeeze as much as we can out of every single pound that comes into the house but to also findi ways in which we can still enjoy ourselves without it feeling like we are counting the pennies all the time. I call upon my fellow parent bloggers all the time for their amazing Top Tips (as does Lisa from The Mummy Whisperer) and here are a few of the ones that I've been using recently.
Money, money money...
Amanda from Flying Start Magazine tells me that her best budgeting tool is to calculate how much money you are going to use for a given period of time and draw cash out of the hole in the wall. It always hurts more to spend money than it does to swipe a debit card. Kate from Kate Takes 5 draws her full weekly budget out of the bank and doesn't go back for any more!
Meal Planning, Slow Cooking, Home Baking and Food Shopping
I'm a great fan of my (very old, only has the on/off setting) slow-cooker. I love throwing a mishmash of ingredients in to make a hotpot and my husband makes great pea & ham soup. For both, serve in huge bowls, butter some bread and dig in! I also do my 12-hour beef in there too: large lump of beef, half an inch of water, lid on, switch on and forget about it - LUSH!. And because I have no idea how electrickery works, regular slow-cooker users, Kate from The Five F's and Chrissie from Mediocre Mum assure me that a slow-cooker uses about the same amount of power as a lightbulb.
Tasha from WAHM-Bam loves making big veggie stews which create two or three days of food for under £10. Even better... freeze it in those plastic tubs from the local take-away and you've got a one-portion meal for when you're in a rush.
Adele from Circus Queen advises us all to bake cake! I'm not going to disagree with that even though my own attempts at cooking and baking are a bit hit and miss. Emily from Babyrambles and Helen from Actually Mummy both believe that you should be creative with the food you already have in, ignore sell by and use by dates and live on the edge (sort of...). Emily also swears by The Thrifty Cookbook and says that she uses it loads.
Weekly meal planners include Jenny from The Gingerbread House, Molly from Mother's Always Right and Cass from Frugal Family. They encourage you to write shopping lists based only around the meals you are planning for that week then use any leftovers for more meals. Roast chicken leftovers can be made into a risotto and the leftover risotto can be made into risotto cakes. A small portion of chilli can make a great chilli-cheese wrap for lunch the next day which leads me onto Caroline's Lunch Box World website. Take a packed lunch to work or get creative with themed lunch boxes for the kids at school.
Browse the aisles at the supermarkets. Sometimes special offers are cheaper than own store brands. Also, if you shop at certain times of the day or the week, the short dated and/or fresh items are reduced by a massive amount. Jo from Mum Friendly tells me that she prefers doing her food shopping online so that she can stick to her budget instead of impulse buying (but she applies this to everything - I know the feeling!).
Use Money Saving Websites, Voucher Codes or Cash Back Websites
Ellen from A Bun Dance and Simone from Sims Life recommend using websites like Quidco when you buy anything online, including tickets for days out at family attractions. The small amounts add up really quickly and you can set how often you want your cashback paid out to you. I usually use Quidco for larger purchases such as house/car insurance (I received £70 cashback last time) but I'm going to make more of an effort to use it for the smaller purchases too.
Kerry from Multiple Mummy likes sites that give you freebies and coupons (she cites Magic Freebies and Treat Street as her favourite two) and Annwen fom Real Suburban Mummy likes that clubcard vouchers can be worth up to four times their face value when exchanged for days out or restaurant vouchers.
The best of the rest...
Francisca, who blogs over at Teens and Twincesses uses baking powder to clean burnt pans (I could have done with that tip last Sunday *ahem*) and a spray using soda crystals (about £1 for a bag) to clean the kitchen and bathroom. Ruth from Lemonade Life doesn't use fancy face products - she uses an oil cleansing method (oil on, let it soak in, wash off with hot water and a facecloth which opens up the pores and exfoliates) and makes her own soaps too. On the same theme I'd really recommend the blog written by A Thrifty Mrs. She's got some great money saving beauty regimes, household cleaning tips, charity shop bargain ideas and craft tutorials.
Becky from The Mummy Adventure reminds us all that using cloth nappies and reusable wipes will save you hundreds of pounds compared to buying wet wipes and disposable nappies plus it's better for the environment too.
Merry from A Patch of Puddles swears by buying good quality clothes for two reasons; they stay looking great even as hand-me-downs but also make fabulous craft supplies too when they can't be passed on any more (especially the socks)!
And finally, Mel from Raising Playful Tots advises us to look for open days (like with the National Trust) and write them on your calender so you can plan ahead and you don't forget about them. I think that's a fab way to build up to a free or cheap day out.
What is your Top Tip for money saving? Let me know in the comments - I'm willing to give anything a go. Post links to cheap and cheerful recipes and websites that you have tried and tested. Do you know of any voucher loopholes that give you double discounts? Share your secrets with me... I won't tell anyone!
This crowdsourced blog post was put together as part of my involvement with My Family Club who I am working with and promoting for the month of April.
Please see my disclosure page for more details.