Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Time For Me To Switch Energy Providers And Save Money

I am currently on maternity leave and as most people will agree maternity pay sucks, it is less then half of my normal wages. With an extra little person to provide for we have had to start cutting back on are spending , goodbye takeaways and regular meals out and new clothes for mammy and daddy. With my maternity pay soon coming to an end and entering the non paid for part of my maternity leave i have started to worry a bit about money and have been looking at ways that we can cut down on are spending.

I have tried cutting down are grocery bill and failed and i have been looking at cutting down are sky subscription and cancelling all those unneeded direct debits, goodbye magazine subscriptions. But one thing that i had not even thought of changing was my energy provider, until i heard that families could save a whooping £200 per year just by switching provider.


I am one of the many customers who never compare energy tariffs and just pay whatever my energy provider charges me without even thinking about it. Which is crazy when i think about it as we spend a lot on are gas and electricity bills spending £200 per month on energy. It is are third biggest household expense after rent and grocery's.

We do not even have a big house we have a two bedroom terraced, which is very cramped with three children. Having a young baby means that we do have the heating on most of the day during winter and are washing machine and tumble dryer are on non stop throughout the day. We also use a lot of electricity using the steriliser and bottle warmer throughout the day too. And there are some steps i could do to reduce my bill such as hanging my washing on the line to dry instead of using my tumble dryer , turning off radiators in unused rooms , switching off lights and appliances at the socket that are not in use and only filling the kettle with as much water as i need. But £200 a month is a lot of money for such a small house, especially when i hear of other families spending half of what we spend who live in much bigger houses.

I would not say i am loyal to my current energy provider i have just stayed with the same one since i moved into my home almost ten years ago as i always thought that switching providers would be a lot of work. But i have found out that is not the case at all, thanks to The Department Of Energy And Climate Change and there recently launched  #PowerToSwitch campaign which is encouraging people to switch there energy supplies and save money simply by highlight the benefits of switching.

As well as the potential £200 or more per year savings some families can make by switching providers there is other benefits too such as some companies having fixed energy deals that are up to £100 less then they were just a year ago. There is now also 27 energy companies on the market here in the UK making it more likely that you will find a company and a tariff that is right for you and your family. There is no need to trawl through every companies website trying to find the best deal either as you can simply visit www.BeAnEnergyShopper.com a really easy to use site where you can find out the best deals for your household and also find out how easy it can be to switch.

All you need to do to see if you can save and switch is to get your hands on a recent copy of your gas and electric bill then visit www.BeAnEnergyShopper.com to find out about comparing tariffs then contact the company you would like to switch to . It really is as easy as that. And what is more it will no longer take you weeks to switch as switching times have been cut from the previous five weeks to only 17 days.

Since finding out this information i have decided that it is about time i switched over providers as it sounds so easy to do and potentially saving £200 or more this year by switching means that i can treat myself to some new clothes, although i will probably end up spending the extra money on treating my children like most mums do.

Baby's Are Expensive Little Things

 * I'm working with BritMums and DECC alongside the #PowertoSwitch campaign. I have been compensated for my time. All editorial and opinions are my own. Visit www.BeAnEnergyShopper.com for more information about switching energy suppliers.



Monday, 2 March 2015

February Degustabox

Regular readers to my blog will know that for the last few months i have been lucky enough to have been sent a monthly food subscription box from Degustabox. Which is basically a box filled with lots of surprise food and drink items delivered straight to my door each month. And on Wednesday i received my February box. I love that the day before my delivery i will get an e-mail notifying me my box will be delivered that gives me a chance to change the day or request for my box to be left in a safe place if i will not be home, and then on the day of the delivery i get a text with an estimated delivery time.

I get rather excited when i know my box is on it's way, as i love subscription boxes as you never know what you are going to get until you actually receive and open your box. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of Degustabox subscription boxes it is basically a monthly food and drink service that you sign up to at www.degustabox.co.uk , you enter your details and you pay the monthly fee which is £12.99 including postage and packaging which i think is amazing value. Then once a month a box filled with between 9-14 surprise food and drink items will be delivered to your door. Each month the food and drink items will be totally different products and it is a great way to try out and discover new products that you may never of heard of or tried before. And there is no long sign up commitment either as you can cancel your subscription at any time as long as it is before the 10th of the month.


So here is a look at what was inside my February Degustabox.
  • One jar of Whole Earth three nut butter RRP £3.00 . I have never heard of this product before, it is cashew nuts, hazelnuts and peanuts butter. It is made with natural ingredients and has no added sugar making it healthy and suitable for vegetarians and vegans. I am not a peanut butter fan but the other half likes it and says this is really nice. 
  • Two bars of Beet It RRP £1.85 x 2 . Again a product i had never even heard of these are beetroot flapjacks. These are a sports energy bar and as i am not into health or anything there not really something i would eat, but if you were into fitness i am sure these would be useful.
  • One box of Melba Thins RRP £1.39 . I actually buy Melba toasts as i love them with pate on and the children love them with cheese spread on, although i had never heard of this brand before but they are really nice and i will keep an eye out for these when i go shopping.
  • Two packs of Schwartz Flavour Shots RRP £1.40 each. I have seen these advertised but i have never actually brought them myself, they are flavour shots to create a meal i received a paella and a masala one. These will be great for creating quick and easy meals so i am looking forward to trying these out. 
  • One pack of Lily O'Brien's cookie crunch RRP £2.60 . These are a pack of little crunchy chocolate biscuits pieces smoothed in chocolate and they are delicious. These were my favourite item in the box and i could have happily ate them all except everyone else in the house loved them too and they quickly disappeared. I will be buying these again for sure and i will be hiding them from my children.
  • One box of American Muffin Company muffins RRP £2.50. A box of six individually wrapped chocolate chip wheat and gluten free muffins. Again these were Delicious and quickly went in are house as the children loved them. I will be buying these again.
  • One tub of Peanut Hottie RRP £3.00. I have seen this before but never tried it, it is a peanut butter flavoured hot drink. My twelve year old daughter loves this and has been drinking it nonstop and has asked me to buy more of this, i have not tried it myself yet but it smells lovely.
  • One bottle of Laimon Fresh drink RRP £1.99. Again a drink i had never heard of , this was a lemon, lime and mint flavour drink. My daughter loved this and drank the lot before i could even try it. 
  • One bar of Jack Link's beef snack RRP £1.39. I had never heard of this and it is not something that i would normally eat so i have let my other half have this. 

So what did i think ?
 As usual there was some brands and products that i was familiar with but there was lots of brands and/or products that i had not tried before which i love as Degustaboxs are a great way of discovering new products. I think the balance of meal ideas, snacks and drinks in this months box was just right. I was really impressed with this months box and i think that we will be taken out a subscription to keep getting these boxes in future.

My favourite items in this months box were defiantly the Lily O'Brien's cookie crunch and i will be buying those again along with the American Muffins, Melba thins and Peanut hottie. The contents of this months box came to just over £22 so as always the contents are worth a lot more then the £12.99 that you actually pay for the box, making them great value as the price you pay also includes postage and packaging. 

If you like the look of Degustabox then you can order your own box which is so quick and easy to do just visit www.degustabox.co.uk fill in your details and pay £12.99 per month via direct debit which includes postage and packaging fees too so no hidden extra costs. If you order before the 20th of the month your box will be delivered by the end of the month and if you order on or after the 21st of the month your box will be delivered on or after the 8th of the following month. You can also cancel your subscription at any time , as long as it is before the 10th of the month you wont be charged.

You can follow Degustabox on Twitter or Facebook and see what other people think of these boxes as i am not the only one who thinks they are rather brilliant. If you fancy ordering your own Degustabox then i have a discount code for £3 off your first box meaning that you would only pay £9.99 for your first box , which is amazing value for such great products and service. The code is 1U0T6 and you just enter it at the checkout to get your £3 discount.


* Disclosure : I was sent a Degustabox free of charge for the purpose of this review , however all opinions are my honest view of the product i received. 

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Weaning At Four Months Old

My baby boy Jacob is now six months old but when he was four and a half months old we started weaning him onto solid foods. I know that it is recommended that babies are not weaned until they are six months old and i am in no way recommending that parents start weaning there children at four months old. But for us weaning at four months was for the best for are son and we did seek advice from a health visitor before we started weaning on to solid foods.

The current guideline for weaning baby's onto solid foods is to start when your baby is around six months old as research shows that up until six months all a baby needs is either breast or formula milk. There is also a big shift in recent years for parents to try baby led weaning at six months, which is where you give baby finger foods and let them feed themselves rather then spoon feeding them purees like you do with traditional weaning. I know my health visitor is a big fan of baby led weaning at six months and all the information i was given for weaning Jacob was for baby led weaning at six months.

Loves his food
However Jacob is my third baby and when i had my oldest daughter twelve years ago weaning purees at four months of age was what was recommended and this worked great for her and she never had any problems. When i had my second child a year and a half ago guidelines had changed and it was recommended to wait until six months and to try baby led weaning. And we did do this rather unintentionally as we tried traditional weaning but Sophia would not eat of a spoon at all she would clamp her mouth shut or make her self be sick if we managed to get any food in her mouth. So we went down the baby led weaning route when she was six and a half months old and she would happily eat finger foods although on many an occasion she would choke on food due to having a sensitive gag reflex , thank god i am first aid trained! Now she is one and a half and she refuses to let us feed her at all as she likes to feed herself which is good but it is also a nightmare when it comes to trying to give her medicine.

Jacob is a totally different baby to his sisters though he is a lot bigger then they were he was 8lb 6 born and he had already doubled his birth weight by the time he was three months old. By the time he got to four months milk just was not filling him at all, he was waking for a bottle of formula every two hours during the night and was going through twelve 6oz bottles every day! This was way more then he should of been having. I was exhausted from feeding him non stop and he was really unsettled, so after a talk with a health visitor at the clinic we decided to try him on baby rice.

Jacob loved the baby rice and gobbled it all up no problem, we started giving him it once a day then after a few days we give him a few spoons twice a day and then built up to three times a day. After a week of baby rice we got him some baby porridge which he loves and he would have that three times a day and then after a week of that we introduced purees. Now i know i will probably get stick for this but i don't make my own purees he is fed on the 4 month plus jars , simply because they are easy and convenient and he likes them and they probably taste a lot nicer then any purees i could make.

Within a month of starting weaning he was having three meals a day he has banana porridge for breakfast then he will have a jar of dinner for lunch his favourites are cow & gate orchard chicken and the hipp chicken rice and vegetables. Then at tea time he will have a jar of dessert he loves the cow & gate mango surprise and the hipp mango & banana and the Heinz rice pudding. I have tried him on every jar of food available so that he gets to try different foods and does not get use to eating the same thing over and over.

He still has baby milk but not twelve bottles a day , he has about six bottles a day. He does still wake at night for a feed , weaning him has not stopped that but he only wakes twice and has a feed and goes straight back to sleep. He seems a lot happier now , he loves his food and he gets excited when he sees his bowl of food although some times he is not interested and will turn his head away or spit it out.

Weaning Jacob at four and a half months the traditional puree fed way was defiantly what was best for us. I don't think we could of waited until he was six months to start baby led weaning and for me personally after trying both baby led with my daughter and the non baby led way with my son i prefer the non baby led way. But every baby is different and i think that when it comes to weaning us parents should just do what is right for are children. Although if you are thinking of weaning before six months then i would ask some advice from a health visitor like we did.

Now Jacob is six months old and is eating his three meals a day we will soon be starting to introduce some finger foods and will be moving on to the next stage of weaning which will be given him some more lumpier textures rather then purees. So fingers crossed that goes as well as the start of his weaning journey did.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Keeping My Children Safe Online

My oldest daughter Chloe is twelve and these days she no longer plays with toy's, instead preferring to spend all of her free time in her room talking to her friends online or watching the latest Zoella video. Her room is full of the latest technology she owns a laptop, tablet, iphone and ipod and sometimes even uses all four of them at once so she can do multiple things online. Sometimes i find her watching a you tube video on her laptop while talking to her friends on her phone while searching for things on her tablet and listening to music on her ipod.

All Of Chloe's Gadget's
Times have certainly changed as when i was her age there was no such thing as tablets and iphones, we had a family pc which was in the dining room so my parents could see what myself and my brother were up to, although there was no social media sites back in those days. I do worry about what Chloe is up to online and we have parental blocks on are broadband to stop her accessing adult content and we also regularly check all of her devices and social media accounts. However the Internet is now such a huge part of everyday life and children and teenagers are spending more time then ever online. Some of the Social media channels Chloe uses i had never even heard of such as ooVoo and Kik. 

So it comes as no surprise to me when i recently read an article on Tech Lounge which had picked up on some research carried out by My Voucher Codes about what us parents were most concerned about with are children being online, and which i actually took part in myself .The results show that parents are most worried about online bullying and children sharing inappropriate images online and accessing adult content. The results showed that 
  • 58% of parents are extremely worried about online bullying
  • 49% of parents were extremely worried about children accessing adult content
  • 49% of parents were extremely worried about children sharing inappropriate image
  • 48% are concerned about online grooming
  • 44% are concerned about there child accessing extremism
  • 57%  were concerned about addiction to social media
  • 66% are concerned about effects on education
  • 55% have concerns about privacy
  • 49% have concerns on there child's long term health
  • 65% were not worried about children running up huge bills
As a parent i worry about everything on this list, the media is always full of heartbreaking stories of teenagers committing suicide due to online bullying these days and also of young girls meeting strangers off the Internet whom they have been groomed by. As a parent i feel the Internet can be both a wonderful place but also a terrifying one at the same time. 

As a blogger i am also very careful about what i share online i make sure i do not share my children's surnames, the town where we live, where my oldest goes to school, and i also do not share that many photographs of them online either.

For me my biggest fear's are online grooming , sharing inappropriate images and online bullying closely followed by privacy concerns. I regularly talk to Chloe about online dangers and ensure that she only adds people she knows to social media and that all of her accounts are set to private. I also regularly check all of her devices and accounts when she is not expecting me to so that she can not delete anything beforehand. And i hope that if anything happened online such as bullying she would feel that she could talk to me about it.Which is what most parents said that they also do to protect there children in the My Voucher Codes survey.

The results also surprised me a little as some of the things on the list such as accessing extremism had never even crossed my mind, although this is a very common thing happening in this day and age. I also never thought about her online use affecting her long term health in anyway although if she was bullied or became addicted to social media then i am sure it would have a huge impact upon her future long term health. I am currently not worried about her running up a huge bill as she only has a pay as you go mobile and she can not access her itune account as we have set it up so she need to ask us to put the password in for her when she wants to download something. Although i do sometimes worry as she gets older she may run up a big bill as i ran up a huge phone bill when i was a teenager, sorry dad. 

As a parent results like this show us that we all have concerns about are children's safety whilst online and it also gives us some things to think about that we may never have thought about before and which we can now be more aware of. If you have children i would love to know what you do to protect your child online and what concerns you have about them going online, as i find it a great worry and want to ensure i am doing everything i can to keep my children safe online. 

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Taking Baby Steps In Becoming Gaming Savvy


Online gaming is one of those things that suddenly seems to be a pastime for everyone. You’ve seen the bingo ads on TV and you’ve heard people talking about games of online roulette and blackjack. You may even have discovered that your gran is now a regular online bingo player. But somehow you’ve missed the boat. How did everyone else get so gaming savvy while you weren’t paying attention?


Worry not! You may be behind the trend on playing online games, but it’s easy to catch up. Of course, not all the online games are those such as bingo and casino games which you can play for real money. There are plenty of different games to play that have no object except to reach the next level, such as Candy Crush. But when you’re playing the real money games, they’re doubly exciting as you might win a big cash prize.
Let’s look at playing bingo as an example. A quick search for bingo online will bring you the names of many different sites for playing. These include the likes of bgo, mirrorbingo, comfybingo and bingoiceland to name just a few. And as there are so many gaming operators, there is plenty of competition to win over new players. Each site offers a welcome incentive for new account holders – usually in the form of free gaming credit. So, if you signed up at bgo.com/bingo and put in £5, the site would add another £25 to your account (a 500 per cent bonus). On top of this, there are 180 free spins on Starburst and one of the most popular slot games on the site.

The big advantage of starting with a game like bingo is that it’s so easy to play. There are no rules or strategies to learn. You simply choose which game to play, how many cards you want and that’s all you need to do. When the game starts, the software even marks the numbers on your card for you, so you don’t even have to concentrate on that. And if you have a win, it gets logged automatically. There’s no stress about being the first to ‘shout’ bingo. While you’re watching your cards, you can enter the chat room linked to that bingo game and talk with other players while the game goes on. So, there’s a big social aspect to playing online bingo.  Bingo is a game that is cheap to play, sociable and accessible any time. It’s a great introduction to gaming online.
Most of the gaming sites offer a wide range of games. For example, on a bingo site, you’ll have access to a choice of casino games and slots as well as multiple games of bingo. It is also vice versa on a casino site. Once you’ve set up an account, you can explore the different games on offer and you’ll soon discover which you like playing best. Many of the sites have free games of bingo that members can join. You can often play the casino games in demo mode when you just want the fun of playing without putting any real money bets down.
The key thing to remember when playing real money games is that you are just as likely to lose as you are to win. Therefore, you should only ever play with money that you don’t mind living without. And the real motivation for playing should be for the fun of the games rather than counting on a big win.

Wicked Wednesday 25/02/15

If i try and take a photo of my 20 month old daughter she will either hide 


Or run away 


So we have no recent photos of her . People with toddlers please share your secrets of how you manage to get lovely photographs of your toddlers.


brummymummyof2

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Organising A Christening

 Two week's ago my baby boy Jacob was christened and we had a wonderful day with all of are family celebrating his special day with around 100 guests. A lot of people think that to get your child christened you need to attend church or that it will cost a lot of money and take a lot of organising , but it really does not at all. So i thought that i would do a quick guide on how we organised Jacobs day . This was the second time we had organised a christening in just over a year as we had Sophia christened in September 2013.


1.) The first thing to organise is the church. You do not have to attend church to get your child christened, all three of my children were christened in different churches and i have never attended church before. We just rang up a local church and asked about booking a christening , they then asked some details over the phone and booked in a date for us. We were asked if we wanted the minister to come out or if we wanted to do everything over the phone, the minister came to visit us at home and just asked about godparents and it was just an informal chat and she was absolutely lovely. You do not need to pay for a christening service either they are free of charge , however they do have donation boxes in the church for you and your guests to leave some change in if you wish which we did.

2.) Book a venue for afterwards. Every christening i have been to there has been some kind of celebration afterwards with my oldest i just had it in my mums house but as both myself and Lee have big extended family's we booked a function room for Sophia and Jacobs christening. We just booked a function room in the local social club as it was close to the church and it allowed children in. We just had to pay a £25 deposit for the room and we had are own room with a bar and two bar staff.

3.) Food. If you are having a party then you are going to need food , we were going to book a caterer for the day but Lee works for a well known bakery and gets a discount so we got a lot of the food like cupcakes etc from his work. My dad also made some pies and Lee's grandma made quiches and we just brought ready made party foods. So it was quick and easy and it worked out cheaper then having a caterer.

4.) Christening cake. We wanted a cake and i can not bake at all so we ordered a one from a local cake maker where we also got Sophia's birthday cake from. We opted for a two tier blue and white cake with a train on as the christening invites we had also had a train on. It was a vanilla sponge and and it was delicious, much better then shop brought cake.


5.) Godparents. Jacob has four godparents , Chloe has three and Sophia has six. You can have as many godparents as you want . With Jacob we had Lee's brother, my dads partners daughter , Lee's cousin and Chloe's old childminder who is also a good family friend. We wanted godparents who we knew well and who we knew would like being a godparent so that is why we had family and close friends.

6.) Baby's outfit. All eyes will be on the baby , i know it is traditional to put baby's in christening gowns but Jacob is a little boy and i did not really want him in a frock. So his grandma brought him a little suit its a little pair of trousers with a white shirt and cream tie and waistcoat and little cream socks. He looked adorable in his little outfit and he was comfortable in it too. He also had a christening shawl which was his sisters and his great grandma brought him a special christening bib to match his outfit. The minister told us you can put them in any outfit you want and she sees baby's in traditional long gowns and smart outfits to baby grows.

7.) Guest list. We had around 100 guests as we both have big family's my mum was one of eight and my dad was one of five and Lee also has a big family too. We invited both of are family's and we also invited some close friends and we let Chloe invite some of her school friends too. The church was full with no spare seats and so was the room afterwards. I think christenings are lovely for spending time with all your family and friends celebrating your child's special day. We ordered personalised invites with little trains on and sent them to everyone a few weeks before the big day.

8.) Entertainment/  Decoration. I have been to christenings where there have been discos and where there have been children entertainers. But we did not book any entrainment as there was a juke box in the room we booked for music and most of the children at the christening were too young for entertainment and were happy just toddling around. We did have a sweet table though with lots of jars filled with sweets and little blue paper bags to put the sweets in. We also brought some decorations but we did not go overboard we just had a few blue christening banners and some blue christening balloons.

9.) Mum and dads outfits. We brought the girls new dresses and shoes for the christening weeks in advance but me and Lee typically left are outfits to the last minute with Lee buying his shirt and tie from Next the day before the christening. I ordered my dress online from New Look and hated it as it was shorter then i thought it would be so i would recommend getting mum and dads outfits in really early so you have a outfit you are happy with.

10.) Take photos and enjoy the day! I took my camera with me for photos but i totally forgot i had it and only took a few photos on it, i did have my iphone though and took quiet a few photos on there but my iphone has died, something to do with the graphic chip ( i have no idea what that is) and now i have lost all my photos and all Jacobs baby photos and i could cry that i have lost them all. So i would recommend taken loads of photos and getting them printed off ASAP. Also enjoy the day as it is so nice to spend the day with family and friends.

So  that is how we organised Jacobs christening it was really easy to organise , was not to expensive and we had a great day celebrating are little boys big day with all are family and friends. Look out for a blog post about his big day soon.




The List