Friday, November 27, 2015

Five Free or Inexpensive Things to Do With Your Children in the Run-Up to Christmas

There's less than a month before Christmas! My children are excited already! The build-up to Christmas is probably more exciting than the real thing but it can be expensive, especially if you do lots of things. Here are five free or inexpensive things you can do with your children to get you all in the Christmas mood!

Bake Christmas Treats

Look for some quick and easy recipes for Christmas treats, such as:

  • Christmas cookies flavoured with spices and/or cranberries.
  • Christmas cupcakes topped with thick white icing that looks like snow!
  • Mince pies (if your children like them, mine don't!).
  • Peppermint creams.
Set aside some time at the weekend to make one or more of these treats. You could then either save them for Christmas or serve them when you have visitors in the run-up to Christmas.

Another idea is to give them as gifts for teachers. A batch of Christmas cookies wrapped in cellophane and finished off with a red ribbon tied into a bow would make a lovely Christmas gift for a teacher.

Watch a Christmas Movie

In the run-up to Christmas, many Christmas movies are shown on TV. Cinemas, theatres and other organizations such as churches also sometimes show Christmas movies at reduced prices. Look in your local newspaper to find out about these special screenings.

Alternatively, you could just snuggle up under a blanket on the sofa and watch a Christmas movie on DVD while munching popcorn.

Attend Free or Inexpensive Local Events

Many towns have a free event at which the Christmas lights are switched on. In my town, this takes place this Sunday. There will also be a funfair, Christmas market and performances from choirs, musicians and dancers throughout the day. I'll take along an amount in cash, so that we're not tempted to spend too much.

Many schools hold Christmas fairs at this time of year. These fairs are fun for the children and can also be good for the adults because you can often find unusual and inexpensive Christmas gifts. As before, I take along a certain amount in cash so that I don't overspend.

Make Christmas Decorations

It's nice to have some new Christmas decorations every year but they can be expensive to buy. Look online and in magazines for instructions on how to make some decorations with your children. Alternatively, just take out all your craft materials and see what your children come up with.

If your children are young or if you want something very easy to make, paper chains are a tried and tested favourite! You could also make snowmen from cotton wool or snowflakes from pipe cleaners.

Go for a Winter Walk

If your children are restless after being cooped up indoors, go for a winter walk whatever the weather. Wrap up warm and wear wellies, hats and gloves. If it's raining, your children will love splashing in puddles. If there's snow on the ground, they will be busy throwing snowballs, and making snow angels and snowmen. Even if it's just cold, the exercise will do them good. Serve warm hot chocolate when you return home.

The run-up to Christmas is a fun time for children. It's also a busy time for adults so don't forget to schedule some quality time with your children. You'll be creating special childhood memories that will last a lifetime.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Half-Term School Holiday Fun on a Budget!

Here's a round-up of what we did at half-term and how much we spent:


The weather was awful, so we stayed in and made mini blueberry cupcakes. I chose this recipe because I had already had all of the ingredients at home. I bought the blueberries the day before, so when looking through the recipe book, we chose this recipe because I had some fresh blueberries (and no fresh strawberries or lemons, etc, which were needed for other recipes!)

Amount spent: £0


A relaxing day spent at home, doing crafts, watching movies and enjoying roast Sunday lunch of gammon, roast potatoes, roasted carrots and gravy.

Amount spent: £0


My son (aged 7) wanted to go swimming, so we went to family fun session at the leisure centre.

My daughter (aged 12) went into town with her friends to buy things to make Halloween outfits. She had lunch in town.

Amount spent: £16.40 (£6.40 for one adult and one child to go swimming and £10 spending money for my daughter which included lunch).


I took my son to the local museum. It didn't cost us anything to get in as I bought an annual ticket last time we went. I treated us to a drink and cake in Morrison's supermarket cafe afterwards.

My daughter stayed at home, tidied her room, and started making her Halloween costume.

Amount spent: £5 for 2 drinks and cake.


My son enjoyed indoor soft play, including a bouncy castle, at the local leisure centre (which was a special activity for half-term).

I made an apple pie at home with my daughter. It tasted delicious served warm with custard and ice cream!

Amount spent: £2.50 for the soft play session (I also spent about £4 on extra ingredients for the apple pie but this came out of our weekly food budget).


I went to a Halloween craft class with my son. He painted a Halloween canvas, designed his own jigsaw and sewed a hand puppet. We both enjoyed being creative.

We treated ourselves to a milkshake (him), slice of chocolate cake (him but I had a few bites!) and cup of tea (me) afterwards.

My daughter went to an auction with her uncle and came back with a new headboard!

Amount spent: £13.50 (£7.50 for the 2-hour craft class and £6 for the drinks and cakes in a nice independent cafe).


We went grocery shopping and picked up a canvas wardrobe I had bought for my son's bedroom. I was pleased to see that the wardrobe was reduced in price. I also had a £10 voucher so I only paid £7.99 for the wardrobe.

When we got home, we re-arranged some things in his room to make way for the wardrobe. We also sorted out some books that he has grown out of and no longer reads and put them aside, ready to donate to the charity shop. We then assembled the wardrobe and hung up his clothes in it.

My daughter did her homework and finished her Halloween costume.

Amount spent: £7.99 on the wardrobe.


My daughter's friends came round in the afternoon and they all prepared for trick-or-treating. After a quick tea of pizza and garlic bread, they went out trick-or-treating. They came back with a huge haul!

I went out trick-or-treating with my son for about half-an-hour and we stayed in and handed out sweets for the rest of the evening until he went to bed.

Amount spent: 0 (although I did spend £2 on sweets which came out of my grocery budget)


We went out for a nice autumn walk after Sunday lunch. We crunched through leaves, my son jumped in puddles (good job he was wearing wellies!) and we enjoyed looking at the changing colours of nature. We picked up some small branches with lovely red leaves and I displayed them in jam jars of water when we got home.

Amount spent: 0

So, the total cost of half-term fun was £45.40 which I'm really pleased about as I wanted to keep our spending under £50 for the week.

What fun things did you do at half-term?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Baking With Children - Store Cupboard Ingredients That You'll Need

If you enjoy baking with your children, it's a good idea to have these store cupboard ingredients at home. Then, if your children want to bake something, you'll just need to run out for one or two extra ingredients at the most (or you might already have those ingredients at home).

Store Cupboard Ingredients

Self-raising flour
Plain flour
Baking powder
Bicarbonate of soda
Brown sugar (either demerara or soft brown - I usually use either one or the other and have found that it doesn't really make much difference which one you use).
Caster sugar
Icing sugar
Vanilla essence
Mixed spice
Cake cases or muffin cases
An assortment of cake decorations - sprinkles, chocolate chips, etc
Writing icing (not really necessary but my daughter likes to use it!)

Fridge Ingredients


I've found that, with these ingredients on hand, I can bake a wide range of cakes, cookies and other treats with my children.

Last weekend, for example, when we made mini blueberry cakes, I only needed to buy blueberries.

If I run out of one of the above ingredients, I just buy more, so that we're always ready to bake something new for tea!

Is there anything else you'd add to the list?

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Free Amazon Kindle eBook on Low-Cost and Free Activities for Children - One Day Only!

My Amazon Kindle eBook, Spend Less, Have More Fun With Your Children! is free for one day only on Sunday, 25th October! You can download it on or

I hope that it'll give you lots of ideas for low-cost and free activities that you and your children can enjoy, wherever you live. You can find more ideas on this blog.

I hope the book and this blog inspire you to have lots of fun with your children without spending a lot of money. 

I would very much appreciate it if you could let me know what you think of the book by writing a review on Amazon and/or leaving a comment on this blog. Thank you!

5 Free Things to During the October Half-Term Holiday

If you're on a tight budget, it's a good idea to look for free things to do with your children during the half-term holiday. Here is a selection.

Visit the Library

You can visit your local library just to browse and borrow books, DVDs, and CDs, etc. If your child would like to read a particular book, half-term is a good time to borrow it from the library. You can also find lots of books with ideas and instructions for activities for children, such as craft projects.

In addition, most libraries organize a variety of activities for children at half-term. The majority of these are free with some having a small cost. At our local library, for example, there are five different activities, ranging from a drawing workshop to a local history day.

Start a Project

Think of a theme for a project that your children could do at home (and/or outdoors) during half-term. For example, the theme would be 'autumn' (fall). Ask your children what they'd like to do within this theme. Taking the autumn theme as an example, they could:

  • Write a list of what they like and don't like about autumn.
  • Collect as many objects as they can find around the home with autumn colours.
  • Cut out autumn pictures from old magazines, advertising brochures, etc, and make a collage.
  • Write a poem about autumn.
  • Find autumn-themed books either at home or in the library and read them together.
  • Collect natural objects, such as autumn leaves, pine cones and acorns, and make an autumn-themed display at home.
When I've done this with my children in the past, I've let them take the lead as much as possible and I've found that they come up with better ideas than I do!

Go for an Autumn Walk

Put on warm clothes and wellies and go for an autumn walk. Rustle through piles of leaves. See how many colours of leaves you can spot. Collect leaves, branches, pine cones and other interesting natural objects that have fallen to the ground. Talk about how the natural environment changes during the autumn.

When you return home, warm up with a hot chocolate and, if you wish, make a wreath or collage with the leaves and other objects you've collected. Alternatively, put small branches with colourful leaves attached in vases of water. Make an autumn display of pine cones and acorns in a wooden or glass bowl.

Bake or Cook

Look for ingredients you already have in your cupboards and fridge and see what you can bake with your children. If you don't have all the ingredients you need, there's no need to rush to the shops. Be creative and substitute other ingredients and see what you come up with! For example, you can use milk instead of eggs when making biscuits.

My children love baking carrot cake, chocolate chip cookies and gingerbread men.

Your children could also help you to cook a simple meal such as pasta carbonara, sausage sandwiches or chicken fajitas.

Tidy and Re-Organize Bedrooms

Half-term is the ideal time for your children to give their bedrooms a good tidy and sort out things they no longer need or want, such as clothes they've grown out of or toys they're no longer interested in. Take these to a charity shop with your children, or if you wish, let your children help you to sell them on eBay or at a car boot sale.

Once the bedrooms have been de-cluttered, re-arrange the furniture to give your children's bedrooms a new look in time for the new school half-term.

Half-term doesn't have to be expensive. You can keep your children busy without spending any money at all!


5 Low Cost Things to Do During the October Half Term School Holiday

Half-term is upon us! For those of you who don't live in the UK, half-term is a one week school holiday/vacation at the end of October each year.

As with all school holidays, half-term can be expensive but it doesn't have to be. Here are five low-cost activities for your children this half-term:

Take Part in a One-Day Sports Camp

At one-day sports camps, children participate in a variety of different sports, including football, tennis, basketball, dodgeball and cricket. Other activities may also be on offer such as treasure hunts and crafts.

In our local area, the sports camps are organized by Activate Sport and cost just £5 per child per day (9.30am - 3.30pm), which is extremely good value. My son has taken part in them many times and has enjoyed each one. One of the things he particularly likes is making new friends from different local schools.

Go to the Local Leisure Centre

You can have lots of family fun at a leisure centre for a low cost. If your children can't yet swim, take them to a relaxed family fun session with inflatables and floats. You'll all have fun in the water.

Most leisure centres also organize activities for children at half-term. Our local leisure centre, for example, offers soft play for younger children for £2.50 for a one-and-a-half hour session and canoeing for older children who can swim, for £2.50 for an hour. Other activities are also available and are excellent value for money.

Visit a Musuem

Many museums have special drop-in activities for children during half-term. Even if they don't, there may be a special children's trail of things to find around the museum or historical clothes for children to dress up in.

Our local museum has a total of 7 different half-term activities, including crafts, trails, demonstrations and talks.

I purchased an annual membership of the museum so that I can go with my children as often as I wish during the year. It cost less than paying full price to go into the museum twice, so it was definitely good value. We plan to go to at half-term and take part in some of the activities.

Visit an Art Gallery

If your child is artistic and creative, they will love visiting an art gallery and looking at the paintings. Many art galleries also offer half-term activities to inspire children and awaken their interest in art.

During the summer, my children and my friend's children went to an excellent activity day at an art gallery. The children made and decorated books and did watercolour paintings. Their favourite activity was definitely the watercolour paintings. They each painted three pictures and wanted to do more! It was also an activity appealed to all age groups with our children ranging in age from 5 to 12.

I can't remember how much the activity day was but it wasn't very expensive - just a few pounds per child but it was definitely worth it!

Learn a New Skill

Half-term is the ideal time for your children to get interested in something new. Sometimes dance schools have free or inexpensive taster sessions during half-term. These are ideal if your child's not sure if they'd enjoy a particular type of dance, such as street dance or tap dancing.

There are also a variety of other classes on offer during half-term. My son surprised me by saying he'd like to do a sewing class at a local craft shop where the owner was kind enough to let him try using a sewing machine last week when he expressed an interest. The half-term sewing and craft classes at this craft shop are excellent value at £7.50 per child for two hours.

With so many low-cost activities available, there's no need for your children to get bored at half-term. Find out which inexpensive activities are available in your area and take your children along.


Monday, October 19, 2015

Take Your Children Swimming at a Leisure Centre - An Inexpensive, Fun & Educational Activity

Yesterday, I took my son swimming at our local leisure centre. He's been having swimming lessons with his school so he was keen to show me what he'd learned!

We went to a family fun session on Sunday afternoon. Children and parents filled both the small pool and big pool (although it wasn't too crowded!) and there were inflatables, floats and small slides for the children to enjoy.

We had a fun time. It cost £6.40 ($9.89) for one adult and one child, so it was very affordable for an afternoon activity at the weekend.

While I was there, I also picked up a leaflet about the activities for children at the leisure centre during the half-term school holiday. As well as swimming, there are several other inexpensive activities that cost between £2.50 and £10 per child, although the £10 activity is from 9am to 3pm, so it's still very good value. These activities include canoeing, soft play and multi-sports, so they would appeal to a wide range of children in different age groups.

If you're looking for something fun and affordable for your children to do during the school holiday/vacation, why not check out what's on offer at your local leisure centre?

Monday, October 12, 2015

Yummy Carrot Cake Recipe - An Easy, Inexpensive and Healthy Cake to Bake With Your Children

My children love making - and eating - this carrot cake. You don't need many ingredients to make it.

It's healthier than other cakes because it contains carrots and isn't loaded with sugar. If your children don't like vegetables, eating carrot cake is a good way for them to increase their intake of vegetables without complaining! If you wanted to make the cake healthier, you could make it without the frosting.

We made this carrot cake yesterday and all I needed to buy was a tub of cream cheese. Here's the recipe:


5oz (150g) self-raising flour
5oz (150g) brown sugar
4oz (100g) grated carrots (tip: cut the tops and ends of carrots off and peel them before you weigh them, then grate them)
2 eggs
5 fl. oz (150ml) oil (I used olive oil but you could use vegetable oil or any other cooking oil you have)
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon orange juice
2oz (50g) icing sugar
3oz (75g) cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla essence


1. Sift the flour into a bowl.
2. Stir in the sugar and grated carrots. Mix well.
3. Beat the eggs in separate bowl.
4. Add the beaten eggs, oil, honey and orange juice to the flour, sugar and carrot mixture.
5. Beat well with a wooden spoon.
6. Grease and line a loaf tin.
7. Spoon the mixture into the loaf tin with greaseproof baking paper.
8. Bake for about one hour at 350 F, 180 C or gas mark 4. Check about 5 or 10 minutes before as it takes about 55 minutes to bake in my oven.
9. Put a cake tester, skewer or knife through the middle of the cake to test if it's baked. If comes out clean, it's ready. If there's mixture on the skewer, put it back in the oven for a few minutes.
10. Leave to cool in the tin for 5-10 minutes and then put on a cooling rack.
11. When the cake is cool, you can add the frosting.
12. Make the frosting by putting the cream cheese in a bowl and stirring in the icing sugar, a little at a time. Add the vanilla essence and mix well.
13. Spread the frosting over the top of the cake and store in the refrigerator.