New Loyalty Scheme – Ice

When I shop I like to feel like I’m getting a little more for my money, which is why I’m a big fan of loyalty schemes. Gathering points as I do my shopping which can then be used to buy myself a little treat!

When I was contacted about a new loyalty scheme called Ice, I was keen to give it a go.

Ice is a unique loyalty scheme which rewards shoppers for buying from companies carefully selected for their environmental credentials. The www.myice.com website offers a broad range everyday food and travel essentials to luxury gifts and treats from partners including , Eurostar, SSE and Stagecoach plus over 400 local food heroes. Customers are rewarded with free ‘Ice points’ which can we redeemed against future purchases. As well as being environmentally-friendly, Ice is also one of the UK’s most generous loyalty schemes (giving customers up to 11p of Ice points for every £1 they spend).

I’ve had a look around the site and it looks really interesting. There are a mix of big retailers including John Lewis and Marks and Spencer, and smaller local shops including a couple of farm shops close to my home. I’ve tested it out with John Lewis where it works as you might expect. Points are exchanged for voucher codes which can be spent on the John Lewis website. I treated myself to some gorgeous Cath Kidston fabric buttons :) The only thing I discovered while doing this was that you can only exchange point for certain values (£5 or £10) and you can’t exchange for more than one voucher at a time so I couldn’t put 2 together to get £20 off.

I’ll be sure to check Ice whenever I shop online to see if I can earn or spend Ice points!

Disclosure: I was provided with £20 of Ice Points to review the website. All opinions are my own.

Poundland Weekly Essentials Challenge

Like most people, I am always on the lookout for ways to save a few pounds on my food shopping. I am realising that to get the best deals you need to shop around, and not do your whole weeks shop in the closest supermarket!

Poundland recently got in touch with me to offer the chance to take a look at their Cupboard Essentials, and see whether we could save some money. We were sent a £15 voucher to spend.

Look how much I got!!

Three carrier bags full! I was very surprised by the range of products available. I wouldn’t have thought of Poundland for bread, eggs or sausages, but all were available. I was also surprised that there were offers, like 3 for £1 or 3 for £2 which gave even better value.

So lets have a closer look…

  • Mini Cheddars
  • Jacobs Cracker Selection
  • 3 pack of Heinz Baked Beans
  • 2 packs of Cadbury Chocolate Chip Cookies (2 for £1)
  • Pack of 3 Ambrosia Chocolate Rice Pudding
  • 1.5kg Plain Flour
  • 3 tins Harry Ramsden Mushy Peas
  • 4 pack Ambrosia Custard pots
  • HP Guiness Sauce
  • 4 pack Apple and Pear Fruit Shoot
  • 10 pack Cadburys Mini Rolls
  • Chocolate Chip Harvest Chewy bars
  • 500g Napolina dried pasta
  • 2 250g Tilda Basmati Rice pouch
  • 375g (+50% extra free) Honey Waffles cereal

I’ve just put this shopping basket into www.mysupermarket.co.uk and it gave me a range of prices between £24 and £27 (approximate as not all items were listed like for like). This gives a fantastic saving of at least £9. I’ll certainly be stocking up from Poundland again!

Disclosure: I was sent £15 voucher to spend at Poundland for this post. No other payment was received and all opinions are my own.

 

Our first Library visit!

Last Friday Pumpkin and I had a bonus day together as she had only just recovered from a sickness bug and hadn’t quite been clear for 48 hours so couldn’t go to nursery. We thought we would make the most of it and do something we had been meaning to for a while – we went to the local Library.

Pumpkin loves books and so do most toddlers I know! We have a huge pile of books at home (some bought new, others from car boot sales, charity shops and gifts). But we still seem to get bored of our books. We read them so many times and then want to move onto the next! Borrowing from the library sounded like a great idea.

I checked out our local library website and saw that Friday afternoon was Under 5’s Story Time so off we went!

Pumpkin already had a library card of her own which we were given when we went to register her birth when she was 2 weeks old! It hadn’t been used though so when we arrived I asked the librarian about what Pumpkin could borrow. It turns out we can borrow up to 10 books on her card – that’s more than I could carry! Better still, there are no late fines on a children’s ticket so if we are a few days late with the books we won’t have to pay. And the lovely librarian assured me that they are well practiced at repairing books so not to worry if something got damaged in our care! How fab is that?

Pumpkin could not believe her eyes when she saw all the books on the shelves. I think she was a bit overwhelmed and was wondering how quickly she could pull them all off the shelves! I let her play while I selected some books for us to take home. I was really impressed by the selection.

Then it was Story Time. The librarian sat on the floor surrounded by cushions and beanbags and we sat down to listen as she read some library books to us. There was a range of stories and Pumpkin really enjoyed it, especially the audience participation bit! We lasted about 20 minutes of the 30 minute session which didn’t seem to bad for a 16 month old!

Our library has become super modern since I last visited and we were able to use the self service book check out system. Easy peasy and very quick!

The four books we borrowed have been read several times each day since Friday and Pumpkin loves to put them back into the canvas bag I have designated as our library bag! We will go back in a week or two and change them for another 4 books so she always has a changing supply of books. Of course there is no reason that we can’t borrow the same book again in a couple of months if she finds any favourites (I Won’t Bite by Rod Campbell springs to mind!).

I plan to build trips to the library into our schedule more often and hope that it will help to cement Pumpkins love of books and carry it on through her childhood.

Check out your local library for free events, information and a range of services (while I was there I managed to borrow an Energy Monitor for free as I saw a poster!).

Boot Sale Bargains – 27/2

Yesterday we headed over to a new local car boot sale which was walking distance from home. This was our first sale of the year and the gorgeous weather made it a really fun morning. My bargains were all for Pumpkin, here they are…

First off were these fab puzzles, all from one stall. I paid £4 for them and Pumpkin already loves the dinosaurs and the jungle animals. I’ll put the ELC box in the loft for a few months as its a bit advanced at the moment.

Next up was this set of 5 Wibbly Pig board books. Pumpkin likes to play with her books so much that she needs a constant new supply. She seems to like the illustrations in these – Mick Inkpen books are always a hit! £1.50 for 5.

We love these little board books which are just the right size for little hands. A set of Peppa Pig and a set of Thomas the Tank Engine for £2. Pumpkin read most of these in her pushchair as we walked around and they are always handy to keep in the change bag and in the car.

I noticed this set of play dough cutters as we were heading out. Not sure why I missed them the first time around! I paid £1 for a selection of cutters in this tub. Can’t wait to get the play dough going later in the year and play with these .

So that was my bargains for the day! I’m scoping out some local car boot sales with the aim to sell at one soon :)

Highlights from The Baby Show

Yesterday I was lucky enough to visit the first day of The Baby Show at the ExCel in London. I was invited to be a VIP Blogger for the day which was fab. I met lots of other lovely bloggers and had a day filled with great experiences. I want to share with you some of the highlights of the day and hopefully persuade anyone who has the chance to go tomorrow (Sunday 26th) that its worth visiting!

I have loads to share from the day and some fab products for review. But for now I’ll just check in with my highlights and a few tips for visiting! (I have just realised that despite carrying a heavy camera and my phone around all day I failed to get any pictures of the stands I visited – Bad Blogger, sorry :( ).

I would suggest taking a free Show Guide when you enter the show and then grabbing a cuppa at the Central Cafe while you have a good read. Mark all your must see stands as its amazing how easy it is to miss something fantastic as you walk through!

First of all I would head over to the Superdrug stand where you can treat yourself to a manicure at the nail bar or get your eyebrows threaded. Several of my fellow bloggers tried this out (while I had a massage) and they thoroughly recommended it! The stand is also a Superdrug store with 25% off all Superdrug own branded products. Once you are fully pampered, its time to shop!

Make sure you head to the Mamas and Papas stand where you can get a demo of the fab Mylo Pushchair. Its so easy to use and looks great (love the one handed fold – so handy when you are out with little one on your own). You should also enter their competition to win one of 3 Mylo pushchairs each day. While you are there pick up your free voucher booklet for over £400 off your favourite baby brands.

The Gro Company was the friendliest stand I visited. Say hi and take a look at their range of baby sleep products. As well as beautifully designed baby and toddler sleeping bags (the original and the best!) check out the fab travel sleeping bags (compatible with a 5 point harness) and the Gro Clock which helps littleuns understand when its time to sleep or to get up! I had a fab time talking to the lovely ladies at the Gro Company, and am looking forward to working with them more in the future!

I saw lots of gorgeous clothes at the show but the stand that stood out was Me & I. These Swedish designed clothes are well worth a look. The bright colours, clever designs and great quality really made them stand out from the crowd. Find out more about their party plan opportunities too. I couldn’t resist treating Pumpkin to a lovely dress from their range.

You can’t go wrong by buying one of the Prima Baby magazine goody bags, For just £2 you get two issues of the magazine, and a bag full of fab freebies. In my bag were several full size products and the magazines made good reading on my train ride home! Why not subscribe to the magazine while you are there for just £20 (a great saving on the cover price of the magazine) plus you get a choice of Tommee Tippee products for free!

Special mentions also for these companies who are all worth a visit!

  • Mia Tui Fabulously stylish and practical bags for mums which looked even better in the flesh than on the website!
  • Cheeky Wipes – a fab system of reusable baby wipes.
  • Cuddledry – The award winning apron towel. It was great to finally see the product in the flesh and the girls on the stand were lovely.

This is just a small selection of the fab products and companies I saw at the show. Stay tuned for more news from my time at the show.

Check out these posts from the other VIP Bloggers :)

Do you research your Christmas buys?

How long do you spend researching your Christmas shopping before you buy? According to a survey carried out by Poundland, 40% of consumers will spend at least 10 hours in December looking for Christmas bargains, before they commit and buy a product. This time will be spent purely on research to make sure they are getting the best possible price. What a savvy lot of shoppers we are!

The research goes onto look at household and grocery shopping and found that five out of 10 shoppers visit at least three different stores each week for their essentials. The same number said that before the recession hit they were more likely to be loyal to a brand or shop. Now, getting the best deal overtook loyalty.

Jim McCarthy, CEO at Poundland comments: “It’s clear that when shoppers feel squeezed, brand loyalty becomes less important than getting the best price. Supermarkets change their offers all the time; it leaves consumers confused and pushes them to shop around before making a purchase. By contrast, with one single price point, shoppers can be savvy and budget as they fill their basket, making it easier to work out whether they’re getting a bargain. There’ll also be no shock with the final price of their basket at the till point.”

Take a look at these price comparisons to see some of the bargains on offer at Poundland.

A couple of weeks back I tweeted about some bargains I’d found in a new 99p shop in town. Before that I hadn’t really considered buying groceries from these discount retailers, but it was a real eye opener! I spent £5.94 on groceries that I normally buy in the supermarket which would usually cost me over £11. Having seen the bargains on offer in Poundland, I will be paying a visit next time I’m in town to see what I can save.

The beauty of these shops is that the fixed pricing means you can easily keep track of what you are spending as you fill your basket. Of course, you always need to do your research and make sure that you are getting a bargain. There are really good deals to be had but there are also things which might be cheaper in the supermarkets. I’ve just started keeping a price book which allows me to see the best price I can get a certain item for. This means that I can look up Pumpkin’s favourite Ambrosia Rice Pudding 4 pack of snack pots and see that they are £1.49 in Tesco so the ones in Poundland are worth stocking up on!

Back to Work Plan

As I mentioned in Pumpkin’s Birthday letter I will soon be returning to my day job. After almost 14 fun filled months with my baby girl I will be back in the office 3 days per week. I’m not 100% sure what role I am going back to. Its a newly created post so there is a lot of uncertainty about exactly what the role will entail. I will have a new manager too which I am very excited about as it feels like a great opportunity to start fresh.

In preparation for this Pumpkin has now started nursery. She’ll be there 2 days per week while Grandma looks after her on the third day. So far she is loving nursery and they seem to fill her days with so much fun and food that she is exhausted when she gets home!

The part I can’t get my head around is the new routine we will need to fall into. Leaving the house at 8am 3 mornings per week sounds like a mammoth task! Remembering all the bits we need for nursery and work will be interesting (I’ve already had one incident where I dropped Pumpkin at nursery and drove across town only to find her beloved Bunny on the backseat – oops!).

So to give me a fighting chance of being able to cope with this new routine, the next 3 weeks are entitled ‘Operation Back to Work’! The objectives are;

  1. Get the house organised, clean, tidy and uncluttered so housework becomes easier and faster and the spare room doesn’t make me want to cry every time I open the door!
  2. Think food! I plan to come up with a workable meal plan for my first month back at work which is tasty, achievable and affordable (and doesn’t include having the local chinese on speed dial!). I also plan to batch cook some favourites to keep in for busy work days.
  3. Sell Sell Sell. Ties in with the de-cluttering above. I have loads of bits I’ve been meaning to sell for ages and now is the time to do it!
  4. Get organised for Christmas. Uh-oh I said it! I think December will fly by so to avoid a Christmas panic I want to shop as much as I can before I get back to work.
  5. Household Plan. I know from experience that I can get overwhelmed when the housework builds up so I intend to make a weekly household plan so that it is broken down into manageable chunks and scheduled through the week.
Do you have any tips managing the household after returning to work? 

Children’s Party Planning on a Budget

Last week Pumpkin turned 1 and we had a fab party with family and friends to celebrate. I wanted to share some tips with you for children’s parties on a budget. I should confess, some of these lessons were learnt the hard way but overall we are happy with how the budgeting went.

1. Consider Sharing the Costs

This may not be possible in all circumstances, but our NCT group had three babies born on consecutive days. We decided to hold a joint party, inviting our NCT friends and a few extra family and friends each. This was a great way to share the cost and planning of the party. Think about sharing with family or friends.

2. Frugal Party Food

In my experience, people never eat as much at a party as you would think. There are so many other distractions that the food isn’t a huge priority. Think about the timing of your party. Ours ran 2.00-4.30pm so all we needed to provide were snacks. We went along the lines of afternoon tea – home made scones, cupcakes, biscuits etc with tea or coffee, and a selection of soft drinks. For the babies we had some of Pumpkin’s favourite snacks – cucumber, grapes, rice cakes etc. Ask people to help out with the preparation. Plenty of people offered to make cakes for us saving both time and money.

3. Entertainment

For a baby’s party, the entertainment can be kept simple. We decided to hire in some soft play equipment for the little ones. We found a couple of local companies and realised the importance of shopping around. The first quote was for £100 but then I found another company through Facebook which had a larger selection of equipment for just £50 – half the price. We also took Pumpkin’s walker, a few of her toys and her play mat so we could set up a toy corner. Remember that things can get broken so its probably best to leave expensive toys or your child’s favourites at home.

4. Pick a Theme?

A theme can be a huge help with party planning as it keeps you on track and allows you to think creatively. As our party was the weekend before Halloween it seemed obvious to go with that as a theme. We mixed in Halloween napkins with plain white, picked up decorations from Poundland, Tesco and Sainsburys. For example Tesco had witches hats and masks for 20p each which we dotted around the room. It really helped to cement the theme for only a couple of quid.

We really wanted some helium balloons and instead of £8 for number ‘1’ shaped balloons we chose Orange and Black star shaped balloons for £1.25 each from the cheap card shop. We kept them individually weighted and allowed the older children to take them home at the end of the party.

5. Call in Favours

Do you know any friends with skill you could call on? A friend made personalised bunting which hung as decoration and doubled up as a gift. Another friend had a bouncy castle we were able to borrow for free. Ask around, people are always generous.

6. What Can Be Cut?

Assuming your budget is limited in some way, you may find that you just can’t do everything within your budget. We chose not to do party bags as the guests ranged from baby’s to 10 years old which made them difficult to plan. Instead, at the end we gave away the balloons and some of the Halloween decorations to the older children. We invited parents to take some left over cakes, biscuits and sweets which used up a lot of leftovers. Just keep a cheap roll of food bags (try Wilkinsons or Lidl) for people to fill.

I hope this has given you some ideas. Please feel free to let me know your top party planning tips in the comments!

Guest Post – Carrie from Baby Swap or Shop

Today I am delighted to share with you a Guest Post from Carrie Webster at www.babyswaporshop.co.uk. I hadn’t heard of this site until a few days ago but it looks fab and I’m sure it could be useful to many of you!

So over to Carrie…

Smart mums are recycling outgrown items to make room for the replacements as well as making a bit of extra cash to buy the next size up. This really is an eco-friendly way of meeting your families’ needs on a budget and knowing that you are helping other families too gives you a sense of satisfaction. As the recession continues, we are all feeling the pinch; particularly with growing children to cater for.

We are approaching that time of year when every penny counts as those ‘Dear Santa’ letters are drawn up and the children need warm coats and new shoes for the harsh winter to come. It can be a very daunting time when your children are pulling on your ‘heart-strings’ and guilt mixed with emotions makes us spend money we haven’t always got.

www.babyswaporshop.co.uk is a caring community of parents and mums to be who are selling, swapping and buying new and used maternity, baby and toddler items, FREE of charge throughout the UK.

Shop smart here. You can add an unlimited amount of ads with photos to enhance your sales and a great description all helps, we just ask that parents are honest in the interest of child-safety and to use common sense when performing a transaction with somebody unknown to you.

We have a ‘wanted’ section for anything you are particularly looking out for and we have easy category and local areas search facilities. You can opt to have your ad appear on our BSOS main FB wall too for maximum exposure and re-post unsold items in just one click. It’s also worth signing-up so that you are one of the first to hear about new competitions and offers; at BSOS we always have our ears to the ground and are shouting out about baby products and services all the time – we hope to see you soon!

Cartoonito Competition – Win Fireman Sam DVDs

THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. The 2 lucky winners are Sarah Anguish and Tracy K Nixon.

Pumpkin’s first birthday is just around the corner and as it approaches so does the date that I will return to work. She has already started her settling in sessions at nursery (she is coping a lot better than I am!) and in a couple of weeks she will start her 2 days per week there.

I’m very aware of the high costs of childcare, especially for young children. Its a big hit on my part time salary. Thats why I am so excited to let you know about a fab competition being run by Cartoonito!

Cartoonito is offering parents who join their Facebook community the chance to win an entire year’s worth of FREE childcare! All you need to do is ‘like’ the Facebook page and answer one question to stand the chance of winning. Hurry as the competition closes on 31st October.

Visit www.facebook.com/cartoonitoparents to share parenting tips and funny stories, pictures and ideas to help keep the little ones entertained, as well as enter the competition.

Cartoonito is broadcast on Sky 619 and Virgin 760 between 6am and 7pm everyday. Its mix of live action and animated content encourages little ones to learn about the world around them in a fun and interactive way. Fireman Sam, Care Bears and Bananas in Pyjamas are just a handful of the popular shows offering big fun for little ones at Cartoonito

To celebrate the launch of the Cartoonito Parents Facebook page, Cartoonito has given me two classic Fireman Sam DVDS – Helicopter Heroes and Ready for Action to giveaway.

To enter complete one or more of the following. Please leave a separate comment for each entry.

  1. Leave a comment on this page letting me know your childs favourite TV programme.
  2. Follow @spendlessmummy on Twitter
  3. Like the Spend Less Mummy Blog Facebook page
  4. Tweet the following message ‘I’ve entered to win Fireman Sam DVD on @spendlessmummy blog http://ow.ly/1zccIi’
  5. Like the Cartoonito Facebook page
The competition closes on 31st October at midnight.

 

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