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.

 

Monday Munchies 26/03/12

I’m just back from my first weigh in at Weight Watchers. Last week was a week of two halves to use the football cliche! Monday to Friday I did really well, sticking to my meal plan and eating sensibly and within my Pro Points. Saturday and Sunday I didn’t!

I blame the weather, long days out and lack of planning! On Saturday we were lucky enough to be invited to the press launch of Magma, the new ride at Paulton’s Park.

Paulton’s Park is also home to Peppa Pig World and we had a fab but long day in the park (much more on this to come later in the week!). We left home at 8.30 in the morning and stopped for breakfast at Morrisons half way into our 2.5 hour journey. Lunch at the park was chips, and tea was at a Little Chef on the way home (more chips – oops!!). Plus there was icecream and cake through the day!

On Sunday we had a quieter family day but still found time for a cooked breakfast out, icecream and cake. Hmm I see a pattern forming! :)

At weigh in this morning I was really pleased to still see a loss despite all this – 1.5lbs off! Ok its not great for a first week but after realising what I’d eaten at the weekend it seemed like a lucky escape. Lesson learned for this week – planning is key :)

This week I want to focus on planning my weekends better, and upping my water intake, especially with the warmer weather.

My meal plan for this week is another simple one, I hope!

Monday – Chicken Caesar Salad

Tuesday – Fishcakes, potato wedges and veg

Wednesday – Breakfast for tea (sausages, bacon, scrambled egg, beans, tomato and mushrooms!)

Thursday – Meatballs, pasta, tomato sauce

Friday – Chicken curry

Saturday – Maybe homemade pizza?

Sunday – Possibly a roast depending on the weather.

Fingers crossed for a good week! I always find it easier to eat well when the sun is shining so hopefully the lovely weather will last!

Want to join in Meal Planning Monday?  Pop over to At Home with Mrs M.

Monday Munchies – The One Where I Join Weight Watchers

Last week I joined in with Mrs M’s Meal Planning Monday and it worked really well for me! We ate what we planned on each night and I loved not having to think about what to cook each day as I’d already decided it! So I’m going to carry on meal planning and posting here each week! Monday is my food shopping day too so it all seems to fit together nicely.

Today I decided to go along and join a local Weight Watchers class. Its something I’ve been thinking about for a while and I’m feeling really positive about it. I’ve lost weight with Weight Watchers before so I know I can make it work. I’ve reached that point where its not just a bit of excess weight, but its getting in the way of my life and I feel unhealthy. I plan to give a quick update on my progress each week in this post too. Hopefully knowing people will see this will keep me accountable!

Here is my plan for this week…

Monday – Chicken Fajitas

Tuesday – Cod, home made chips and peas

Wednesday – Chicken Casserole

Thursday – Pork steaks, dry roast potatoes and veg

Friday – Pasta bake

Saturday – Out for the day including tea!

Sunday – If we are at home, roast chicken

This plan has a bigger emphasis on cooking rather than relying on store bought conveniences (oops!) so home made chips rather than from the freezer. I also want to get our veg intake up a bit too as its slipped lately.

Want to join in Meal Planning Monday?  Pop over to At Home with Mrs M.

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!).

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? 

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!

Mums Mall Guest Post: New Parents Guide to Finance with a New Baby

Today I am delighted to bring you a guest post from mum’s mall on finance with a new baby. Enjoy!!

Having a baby is a joyous occasion that is not without its own stresses and strains. Finances can present a particularly large concern for new parents, especially as the cost of raising a child continues to climb. This guide is designed to take the fear out of financial planning with a new baby.

Overview:
1. Examine Your Current Financial Situation
• Budgets, Maternity Pay, and Debts

2. Costs To Consider
• Where Your Money Goes For The Next 18 Plus Years

3. Seek Out Sources Of Financial Benefits
• Tax Credits and Grants

4. Save For Your Child’s Future
• Savings Accounts and Investment Schemes

5. Save For Your Future
• Pensions and Savings Accounts

6. Plan For The Unexpected
• Emergencies and Insurance

7. Shop Smart
• Second Hand Goods

8. Train Your Child
• Raise A Smart Saver and Spender

9. Reevaluate Your Financial Situation
• Returning To Work

Examining Your Current Financial Situation:
Start by formulating a budget based on the income that you would have once your baby arrives. Be sure to include all of your monthly bills and expenses as well as pocket money for entertainment and pleasure.

Talk to your employer now to find out what benefits you will receive, as far as Statutory Maternity Pay or Paternity Pay, and how long they will be paid. Many employers will pay over the legal minimum. If you are not entitled to SMP, inquire about other benefits that you may be eligible to receive.

Look for sources of waste and excess spending that you can cut out now to save money in the long run. Try to eliminate any existing debt that you have before your baby arrives.

Costs to Consider:
Raising a child is an expensive undertaking. Expenses will vary from family to family, so you will need to consider where you can cut back and save. Items that you need to plan for include childcare, schooling and educational expenses, food, clothing, personal care, toys, hobbies, bedroom furniture and accessories, recreation and entertainment, holidays, pocket money, driving lessons, and medical bills.

Seeking Benefits:
Check out any tax credits that may be available to you as parents. Government grants are available to assist you with heating and insulation improvements to your home as long as you meet certain qualifying factors. In the unfortunate event that your child dies due to stillbirth or neonatal death, financial assistance is available for you during this difficult time.

Saving for Your Child’s Future:
It is never too early to start saving for university and career training. Create a nest egg that can grow with your child. Other options include junior ISAs, children’s savings accounts, Stakeholder pensions, and stock market investment schemes. Ask grandparents and other family members to make birthday and holiday contributions rather than buying expensive presents for your child.

Saving for Your Own Future:
If there are gaps in your State Pension qualifying years, consider making National Insurance contributions to boost your State Pension. Look into the Pensions Advisory Service’s National Insurance contributions planner for assistance. If you have other pension schemes, be sure to check whether or not you can continue making contributions whilst at home with your baby.

If you do not already have your own savings account or investment scheme, now would be an ideal time to start paying into one. Small contributions add up.

Plan for the Unexpected:
Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. Start an emergency fund that you can dip into if needed. Consider various types of insurance to invest in, should you lose your job, become ill, or die. If you have not already drawn up a will, do so immediately to ensure that your child is provided for in the future. Look into life assurance and income protection plans.

Shop Smart:
Try to borrow baby items whenever possible and shop second hand stores. Many hand-me-down items are still in great condition and will save you a fortune on things that you will only use for a certain period of time. Do not cave in to the pressure to have all of the latest designer items for your child.

Train Your Child:
It is never too early to begin teaching your child to spend money wisely. Be a role model of good spending habits. As soon as your child is old enough, teach him or her how to put money in a savings account. Help him or her to understand the wisdom in sacrificing now to save for the future.

Reevaluating Finances:
If you decide to return to work, look into childcare benefits, tax credits, and other financial assistance that is available to working parents.

Do not worry, panic, or stress over your financial situation. Set reasonable goals, and speak with a financial adviser if you need additional guidance.

This post was written as a guest blog post by mum’s mall – a specialist price comparison site for maternity products, toys, kids & baby clothes featuring over 50 online stores. Find mum’s mall on Facebook and Follow mum’s mall on Twitter.

Quidco Cashback – Free Money

Do you shop online?

If the answer is yes, using Quidco is a no brainer! Quidco is an online cash back site. The idea is that before you buy from an online retailer, you sign into Quidco, follow their link to the retailer, and in return you get cashback (usually a percentage of the sale price).

Yep that’s right, you get money back when you spend! Since I joined 3 years ago, I have earned over £425 in cashback for purchases we were going to make anyway!

For example, a recent £47 purchase from Boden has netted me £2.59 cashback. And switching to BT for our tv and broadband (which we were planning to do anyway) got us £65 which paid for the installation costs!

Quidco takes the first £5 you earn each year to fund the site but this is offset by the higher cashback rates than their rivals. Each month your cashback is paid into your bank account or Paypal account.

Quidco have also started doing printable vouchers including restaurants and days out. You can also register your payment cards for in-store cashback in shops including Debenhams and Halfords. There are loads of ways to save!

You can sign up here (note this is a referral link and I will benefit if you register. If you would prefer not to use the referral you can use this link.

Spend Less on… food

One of the clearest areas that we can save money in the Spend Less household is on food. Confession time… while I love to cook and actually think I’m not too bad at it, I rely too much on convenience foods which can really push the cost of shopping up. I also waste far too much food. I buy large packs of things as they are better value, and then don’t use them before they go off! Not very money saving…

So my next big project is to cut back on my grocery spending. I currently spend around £3o0 per month on supermarket shopping for food (eek!) and this is something that has to change. We are on holiday for half term week, so I am planning that June will be ‘Frugal Food Month’ in the Spend Less house.

I hope to cut my spending down to £200 which should be possible with some planning. This is for Spend Less Mummy, Daddy and Pumpkin’s weaning diet (her nappies, wipes etc come from a separate budget). I am sure that this amount could go lower, but a saving of £100 in a month is a good start!

In preparation for June, I have a couple of tasks to complete this week. Firstly, fridge / freezer /  and cupboard inventories so I know what I have to work with and eat up. And secondly, the start of a list of meals for the month, using these ingredients.

I will have lots of tips and updates to share with you through the month. Wish me luck!

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