Thursday, 31 December 2009


As it's New Year's Day tomorrow I thought I'd do my weekly Tesco shop today instead of tomorrow and, as it's that time of year between Christmas and New Year that my husband always has off work, he came with me. I don't know if it was boredom or what, but he noticed the HUGE 3kg bags of pasta twists languishing on the shelf right next to him and checked the price.
Now, you may ask yourself a very obvious question - why would anyone want to buy such a huge bag of pasta?
That's right! Because it's cheaper!
Oh no it's not!
It is actually cheaper, gram for gram, to buy a smaller 500g bag of the identical pasta.
I could say that this is a cynical ploy on the part of pricing policy makers in Tesco or I could say this was probably a mistake, but I doubt it. This is not the first time I have worked out the "per 100g" shelf price and found smaller quantities working out much cheaper on Tesco's shelves.
This is a rip-off, it's not "green" (more packaging) and it is an insult to customers who believe that Tesco must be the cheapest supermarket - just because they're always telling us what a favour they're doing us!
Check those prices- work it out or take a calculator - but check what you're paying!
Happy Frugal New Year!

Tuesday, 29 December 2009


1. Firstly and most importantly, look at your bills and bank statements and work out if you are spending more than you actually earn - many people don't actually know what they are spending on a weekly/monthly basis.
Pay down your debts. It doesn't matter whether they are overdraft, credit card, loan or mortgages. Be frugal with your spending and make sure that any spare cash you have pays off your most expensive debt, interest-wise. Make sure you know what the interest rates are on all your different debts. If your credit card has the most expensive interest and it will take months to pay it off - try switching to a 0% card or take a second job or sell your rubbish on Ebay. Just get rid of your debt. Save up for whatever it is you need to buy. Other people's money is too expensive to use.
3. Shop at Aldi or Lidl as much as you can. They are great for store cupboard essentials like tinned tomatoes, sweetcorn, butter beans etc. For basics, they still seem to beat the big boys, for example, Lidl has avocados at 29p, 750g pack of red onions for 29p, 2kg pack of Rooster potatoes 79p, Savoy cabbage at 29p and Goodfella's pepperoni pizza at £1 - try finding those sort of prices at Mr T's!
4. Take a close look at all your regular bills - those things that slip quietly out of your bank account on direct debits every month. Cancel what you don't need and scrutinise the amounts on the others. Can you switch utility providers, get cheaper car, contents or house insurance? Are you with BT for your landline? Can you find a better deal - even if it's still with them? Should you be receiving Council Tax benefit? Help the Aged says around a quarter of over 60s are not claiming the Council Tax benefit they are entitled to. Which brings me neatly to my next point.
5. Find out if you can claim any benefits - whether you are retired, a student, a carer, employed or unemployed, you may be due some benefits, and the sad fact is that no-one is going to call you up or knock on your door and tell you that! Check out a site where you can (anonymously) enter your income and personal details to check whether there are benefits you are missing out on. You don't have to give your name or address or NI number, or anything else that would identify you, you mostly only have to click on "Yes" or "No" and it will take you through the process. Give it a go - it only takes a few minutes - you have nothing to lose and may be something to gain!

Happy Frugal New Year!


I know I've blogged about the sales before this, but actually, I've just remembered how expensive everything I was looking at seemed to be, before Christmas. I mean really, really unusually expensive.
Yes, really - I couldn't believe just how ludicrous some of the prices were. We are being cynically manipulated by the retailers into believing that these items really
are worth those inflated prices - then, hey presto! in the sales we are being told that prices are "50% off" - or, actually "up to 50%". So when you actually come to buy an item you often realise it's only got 5% or 10% off it anyway! (That would be 5% or 10% off the 300% they put on the price when the item went out on the shelves).
Sorry for being a post Christmas grouch, but I'm really fed up with the manipulation of the large retailers. We as the buyers, would like a bit of respect. I for one, would rather have a genuine 10% discount, than an inflated 50% off an item whose price had been doubled a month before!
Remember this: an item is only worth what people are prepared to pay for it. Think about it.

Thursday, 24 December 2009


Before I give myself a day or two off for Christmas - I thought I'd just tell you about some emails I've already had today, telling me about the sales.
It's sale time - don't go out, don't do any more wrapping, or present buying (just kidding) instead, take a look at the online sales at Matalan, Debenhams and probably many others. You don't have to pay to park, you don't have to cope with the crowds or queue for a coffee - sit down with your cuppa in your own comfy chair and de-stress for a couple of hours!
Of course, it's much more frugal not to buy anything at all - however, if you have January and February birthdays to buy for like I do (or even next year's Christmas presents?), then there are a few 50% off bargains to be had.
All that said - look carefully at your presents tomorrow - dare I say it? You could consider some careful "regifting" - now that is very frugal!
Have a good Christmas!

Thursday, 3 December 2009


I'm sure I'm not alone in being surprised to find out from a BBC consumer programme recently that many people are paying their water companies for Surface Water Drainage that they don't use!

Apparently, if you live within close proximity of the coast, a lake or river, it could be that your run-off goes into that and therefore if your water company is charging you incorrectly for the service, you can get the charge removed and any past payments refunded!

Check your bill and 'phone your water company - they WILL NOT contact you! They do not want to give back money. The gentleman featured was refunded in excess of £200! In his case, he pointed out to the water company that many people in flats on the marina development had not been refunded - and were still paying for this service incorrectly! The water company knew - but said they weren't going to refund and remove the charge unless each resident rang individually!

Someone else I know personally has asked for his refund to be given to him as an actual payment (not just a credit on his bill) and was refused - I'm not sure this is legal - but I'll see what I can find out and let you know!

Update - it would appear that claims for refunds can only be backdated to the beginning of the current financial year. See more at the OFWAT site.

Saturday, 21 November 2009


This pdf template for making your own 8.50" x 4.50" envelope is a really useful tool. Once you have the hang of making one you can make them smaller or larger by just adjusting the lengths on the dotted lines. Enlarge and print once and use as a template or just print page 1 when you need it (for a slightly smaller envelope). All you need is paper and glue stick or double sided tape.

Handy if you mess up a Christmas card envelope or if you just need more! Of course you can make them out of printer paper, but you can also use any other paper of a suitable weight.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009


Yes, there's £200 million up for grabs - and some of it could be yours! If you have savings and are not a tax payer (i.e. you earn less than £6,475 a year) or you are retired, you could be wrongly paying tax on your savings interest. In fact some pensioners can have a personal tax allowance of up to £9,640, depending on age and circumstances, and still be owed a tax refund.

This is why. If you open a savings account with a bank or a building society, the staff often forget to mention to you that you need to fill in a form (R85) if you are a non-tax payer, in order that the interest on your savings is not taxed, otherwise it is automatically taxed at source (before you get it). Perhaps when you originally opened your savings account you were a tax-payer, but due to unemployment or retirement, you are no longer, and you have forgotten to fill in the R85.

So if you, or someone you know, is in this situation, claim back now! The good news is that you can claim back 6 years' worth of wrongly paid tax by filling in form R40. So, January 2010 is the deadline for claiming back as far as the financial year 2003-2004.

It may not be much, and you may not get it in time for Christmas - but every little helps!

Sunday, 8 November 2009


Yesterday BBC Breakfast featured an article about buying from Next online. It seems customers on the Next website are buying an article, expecting to pay for it by credit or debit card but instead, they are automatically being signed up to a store card type of loan that they did not want.

Apparently, it seems that as you proceed with your purchase there is a box somewhere which needs to be UNTICKED to avoid being given a loan you didn't want! Next have told the BBC that they plan to put this right, but not until February 2010. Surely, it can't take that long to change a small thing like that?

And what comes between now and February 2010? Yes, Christmas!
You may think that's a cynical ploy - I couldn't possibly comment!

Monday, 26 October 2009


If you need things to do with the kids in half-term - just take a look at these sites:

Family Fun creative and interesting site from Disney.

Creative Kids - lots of things to do and make including things for Easter.

Holiday Boredom Busters - a huge list of more than 40 ideas for things to do at home.

Get them busy!

Thursday, 22 October 2009


Kids can get in free at the Bugworld Experience , the UK's newest attraction, in Liverpool at the Albert Dock with this voucher. Get a chance to see the world through a bug's eyes! No end date is given on the voucher.
More ideas for the school holidays!


What to do With the Kids has a great search tool on its site to help you find days out for half-term in your area (or any other area if you are going away). You can search by post code and distance away and the search will also show whether the site can offer you a discount voucher for your chosen destination. They are mostly "one free child with each paying adult" type discounts, but could still save you quite a bit of money.

More ideas for the school holidays!

Sunday, 18 October 2009


The Woodland Trust website gives you the opportunity to search for a wood near you (or wherever you'll be going) this holiday. The site gives details of accessibility, type of woodland and what you can expect to see there. All their woodlands are free to visit.

The site also has a free pdf booklet to print off, with more woodland activities to do, both on and after your walk. It has all sorts of ideas such as making natural dyes, leaf crowns, a scavenger hunt and much more.
More ideas for the school holidays!

Thursday, 17 September 2009


I don't know about you - but no-one in my family will eat bananas when the skin has gone brown (or even a bit brown and spotty) and the fruit tastes very strong. I hate waste, so it's usually me who has to eat them! I'm not that keen either as I prefer mine to have very clear, deep yellow skins - mmmm just right!
Never store your bananas in the fridge - this makes them go brown and they aren't very tasty cold anyway. I store my bananas in a pull out tray in a cool cupboard and have recently discovered that if you separate them all from the bunch they last very much longer. Greenish ones will continue to ripen slightly, but yellow ones do not go brown and overipe so quickly, and, as I only buy my bananas once a week, that's a bonus for me!

Monday, 14 September 2009


If you qualify for the Winter Fuel Payment, you should apply before 25th September to get your payment before Christmas. Actually, if you qualify for it you shouldn't actually need to apply - but if, for example, you've never had it before you may need to check that you are going to get it. If it hasn't arrived by Christmas 2009 then contact the Winter Fuel Payment Helpline on 08459 15 15 15 (0845 601 5613 for textphone users). Lines are open from 8.30am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday. Charges are the same as for local calls. You can also send an email from the Pension Service web page - more info HERE.
Men over 60 years old but under 65 years old often miss out as they are still working, not drawing the state pension and so don't automatically get it. The payment (depending on age and circumstances) is between £125 and £400, and not taxable, so it's well worth finding out about. Don't leave it because if you don't apply before March 30th, 2010, you will miss out altogether - not very frugal!

Tuesday, 8 September 2009


If you're thinking about trying to improve your job prospects - or just wanting to study to keep your brain active, The Open Study College has loads of courses to choose from , including GCSE's and "A" levels. There are also many vocational courses which may help you progress in the career you already have and they are offering 15% off the cost of courses at the moment.
It's September, so there will also be loads of evening classes starting soon (check your local further ed college, secondary school or library for details). These can be costly, but if you are on certain benefits, they are sometimes a little cheaper. But they often don't cost more than around £6-7 per week - this, apart from being enjoyable, could be an investment in your future (or your future well-being) and the cost really only equates to a couple of beers or a takeaway - something we could all probably do without for a while!
Plus, the OU's list of free courses is fabulous (do them on-line and join in with others for support) or if you need to do one of their full courses you may be able to get help with the fees - take a look at their site - and don't forget you can use your Tesco deals tokens to pay for them!
Happy Frugal Studying!

Friday, 4 September 2009


If you pop into Waitrose you can pick up (free) from the checkout (you don't have to buy anything) their Waitrose NEW booklet for September - now, I know these books are really just soft sell adverts, but they do have some useful frugal info - the pages have seasonal fruit and veg ideas called "Try This". For example for red onions: "Drizzle red onions, halved waxy potatoes, unpeeled garlic cloves and rosemary, with olive oil, then roast until tender. Serve as an accompaniment to roast meats".
There are also a couple of full recipes and lots of other ideas which make these little booklets worth collecting (at least for a year!) like a page each full of suggestions for using herbs, mushrooms and English apples.
So when you see any of seasonal veg reduced or on offer anywhere, you can snap them up, knowing you can actually use them for something - try that!

Sunday, 9 August 2009


Yes, Christmas! Well, what were you expecting?I know it's only August, but I'd really like to get in ahead of the supermarkets!! So, while they're all crowing about their "Back to School offers" (when the kids only broke up 3 weeks ago) I'm going to talk frugally about Christmas.
At the moment the telly, the Internet, magazines, forums and newspapers are all full of advice on how to shop for food; we are being advised to plan our week's meal menus, check our store cupboards, make a list and then buy only those items needed when we visit the supermarket. I'm going to let you in on a secret - this advice can also be used and applied to your Christmas shopping.
Firstly - make a list - who MUST you buy for? I have a personal rule - I don't buy for more people than I did last year, (unless of course they have been born or married into my family since last year!). This keeps the upward spiral of gift giving in check a little.
Secondly - check your cupboards! If you bought anything last year that you shoved in the back of the wardrobe and found at Easter, or you were given any presents last year that you, your kids or your partner can't use, then think hard- who can you re-gift them to? (Making sure, of course, that it is not the person who gave it to you in the first place- or any of their close relatives!). Assign each re-gift to someone on your list.
Thirdly - make a shopping list of people left to buy for. Keep this list with you (I use one of the note pages in the back of my diary) and keep it up to date as you buy your gifts. Before you buy your first gift - decide on a budget. How many people do you have to buy for? How much can you afford (in total) for gifts - bearing in mind there are potentially several other costly Christmas items to buy (food, decorations, new outfits etc.). Divide this total gift figure by the number of people you have to buy for - and there you have your budget, per person. Of course I know you may want to spend more on your husband than you do on his nephew, for example, but now is when you make those adjustments to your budget.
Fourthly - start looking in the charity shops now- there are already plenty of "new" gifts to be had - this week I've seen a soft toy kit (£1.25 and unopened), a lovely Rowan knitting booklet (25p and looked new) and several gorgeous chunky bangles in wood and metal (all 75p each and looking like new). Just keep visiting your local charity shops once a week and you're bound to pick up some bargains.
In this way some of the last minute stress is taken out of gift shopping and, when we get stressed and in a flat panic that at the last minute we won't get anything at all, we spend much, much more.
Be warned- to fail to plan is to plan to fail - to give yourself a frugal Christmas!

Thursday, 6 August 2009


Let's Draw Cartoons is a free downloadable book by Tina Mation. Get the kids drawing and keep them occupied for a while this holiday!
Details HERE.More things to do in the school holidays!


Many of English Heritage's sites are open, unlocked and, yes, free!Just check out their Free Sites Unlocked web page and click the map to find the area you want to visit. You are then presented with a list of free sites and quite a few of them have free audio tours to download to your (or the kids') ipods - making your visit that much more interesting and informed.More things to do in the school holidays!


The National Mills Weekend website has a list of windmills (and watermills) that are open to visitors. Just look up your county and find one near you. Most mills are either free or very cheap to visit, many can be seen working and have special events planned for the summer.

More school holiday ideas HERE.


The National Trust have got together a list of more than a hundred different events and activities all over the country that you can try out in the school holidays - and they're all free! Choose from mountain climbing, surfing, standing in the steps of movie stars or watching an historical re-enactment, and more. There's loads of different activities for everyone.
Just have a look at NT's Things to do for Free page!

Take a look here for more school holiday ideas!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009


As the school holidays begin, you may want to start getting together all those crafty bits and pieces in order to be ready when the kids start wailing "what can we do?". The more you plan the less money you have to spend. Do a quick look around your home (or in the recycling!) for paper, cereal boxes, kitchen roll holders, scraps of ribbon, old magazines, catalogues, bits of fabric etc., Make a list of things that you absolutely have to buy (and make it as short as possible) like sticky tape, glue or paints, see what your local supermarket has on offer - and stick to your list!
Take a look at these four sites for some inspiration and to get an idea of what you may need: (Canon's Creative Park) (a fabulous list of printable(pdf) origami to make!

Happy Frugal Crafting!

Take a look here for more school holiday ideas!

Saturday, 18 July 2009


The Canon website has a great printables section with loads of ideas to keep the children busy in the school holidays. Although it's not exactly free to make these things (you need a printer and paper) it's a really cheap standby for rainy day activities!
Take a look here for more school holiday ideas!

Thursday, 18 June 2009


If you need some extra income - and let's admit it, who doesn't, then the Spareground website could be for you. This site matches up those people who have a garage, driveway, industrial unit, business premises, studio, bedroom, garden, parking space - whatever, with those desperate people who are looking for just those things! There was even someone in Cambridge who was offering camping space in their garden at £10 per person per night! If you live near a large employer- say a hospital or university, or even better, a railway station, you can rent out your driveway to commuters - a parking space in Whitstable, for example, is priced at £90 per month! There are offers of attic storage (I could use some of that - you should see the junk in mine!) and factory space - just about every conceivable kind of "space" is listed. People are also listing large gardens to rent out to others with more time and energy to grow vegetables, so if you have a huge plot that you can't (or don't want to) manage this could be the answer.
Even better, and more unusually, it's absolutely free to list on the site. There are 13 pages of offers at the moment (you can also put in a "wanted" ad if you need something) and although I found nothing for rent in my south-east corner of the country, I'm sure it will soon grow once people get to know about it.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009


Get some free music! It may not all be to your taste, (but perhaps your dad may like it for Father's Day!) but have a look and see-
Clash Music
More Father's day ideas HERE.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009


This knitting pattern is just like Mr Bean's funny old bear - and would perhaps even make a quirky Father's Day present if your dad likes Mr Bean (and if you can knit fast enough!).
Get your free pattern HERE.


The Cannon website have several ideas for printable Father's day cards, gift boxes and printable photo gifts. Don't be discouraged by the category pics, I know they look a bit tame - but click on each one, scroll down through them to view and they really do have some nifty ideas! Just costs a bit of paper, card and printer ink!
More Father's day ideas HERE.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009


Don't buy all those little (very expensive) bottles of squirty floor cleaning, nasty, chemical stuff from the supermarket! Make your own cheaper, nicer, floor cleaning stuff!
All you need is your mop and bucket and, in said bucket, mix 3 ingredients with warm water. I'm not going to take credit for this as I found the recipe HERE at a fellow frugal blogger's blog! (so she deserves all the credit). Go on over and take a look!
Happy Frugal Hunting!

Monday, 8 June 2009


I've been doing on line surveys for a while now and I don't know whether you've tried this, but some of them are really hard to earn any money from; they either don't send you any survey notifications or when they do, you start the survey, spend some time on it and then they tell you you are not the right demographic, or that the survey's finished or full. How annoying is that!
No-one is saying that survey filling is well paid, but if you are time rich and cash poor, then it is at least a way to earn a little something! I've been doing
YouGov surveys for a while now and, although you have to have earned £50 (5000 points) before they pay out, they do play fair and pay you by cheque when you've done surveys for them. This year I have been offered at least 2 surveys per month (sometimes more) and each pays at least 50-75 points. Do remember though, that they offer a monthly prize draw as well and this will cost 50 of your points if you choose to do it.
YouGov are a reputable source of public opinion and are often quoted in the media, and it's a way to get your opinion out there! So if you can spare a few minutes either at home or in your lunch break at work, sign up now with
You never know, that £50 cheque may well come in handy just when you need it!

Friday, 5 June 2009


This delicious piquant sauce tastes great and is easy to make. Most importantly, it is nothing like the gloopy sticky orange stuff you get in a polystyrene cup from the takeaway! It is made from store cupboard ingredients and can be used to pour over pasta or you can add cooked leftover chicken, canned pineapple and a can of chinese vegetables and serve with rice for a filling and frugal meal for 4.
2 tbsps oil
1 onion chopped finely
Small (230g) can of tomatoes (chopped before adding)
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsps marmalade
2 tbsps ordinary brown vinegar
Gently fry the onion in the oil until soft and pale golden coloured. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, soy sauce, marmalade and tomato puree. Simmer gently for 5 minutes, add a couple of twists of black pepper - and it's done!
More frugal recipes from Happy Frugal Year

Wednesday, 27 May 2009


Loads of free offers from the Open University to download and send off for; posters, History Detective booklets, recipe cards, a whole set of activity cards to use with your children and much, much more. Plus, check out their interactive pages for interesting things for older kids and grown ups - find out your learning style, explore Mars, find out just how much science is in your kitchen and loads more!
More Ideas HERE for Things to do on School Holidays!

Tuesday, 26 May 2009


Play skittles - line up plastic bottles on a smooth flat floor and hit with a ball made from screwed up newspaper, a small foam ball or tennis ball.
Make salt dough models - mix 3 cups of plain flour, 1 cup of salt and approx 1 cup of water. Mix well until blended and smooth. Model like playdough, use biscuit cutters to get some good shapes, make beads to string for bracelets or get seasonal and start making decorations for Christmas!. Dry out your finished creations in a cool oven (100C, 200F,Gas Mark 1/4) or you can leave to dry naturally (takes up to 48 hours approx).You can then paint and varnish them when they are dry.
Memory game - lay out a collection of small items on a tray- around 10 things - kids can do this themselves if they want to then give them 2 minutes to look at what is there- cover the items with a cloth and ask them to list what was on the tray. Another alternative game is to secretly remove one item at a time, show them the items again and ask them each time what item is missing.
Make paper plate masks - use paper plates to draw and colour masks, cut out eye holes (help smaller children with this task). use shirring elastic if you have it, knotted through holes at each side of the mask, alternatively stick a lolly stick or straw at the base so the mask can be held in front of the face.
Home camping - this is really for small kids - use a clothes airer (triangular type) or a table, cover with old sheets or blankets, equip with torches, pillows, sleeping bags etc and food supplies for lunch!
Paper and pen - play naughts and crosses or hangman. Play dots and blocks- draw out a grid of 10 dots by 10 dots and take it in turns with a partner to connect 2 dots with a line. When you complete a box you write your initial in it. At the end, the person with the most initials is the winner.
Blow football - use straws and a ping pong ball and make a goal on the table with 2 pairs of unopened tins.
Decorated biscuits - decorate digestive biscuits with icing made from water and icing sugar (not too runny - add a little water at a time to get the right consistency - you want to be able to spread it over the biscuit, but you don't want it running off the sides!). Decorate with sprinkles, smarties or crumbled chocolate flake (makes good "hair" on faces).
Home picnic - spread a blanket on the floor and have a picnic in the house (or garden). Enlist the kids' help to make up bottles of juice and sandwiches.
Make pizzas for tea - buy plain pizza bases (or make your own from pizza mix) and spread with sauce and varied toppings. Small individual ones are ideal if you can get them, as each child can then make (and eat) their own.For younger kids, they could draw/design their own pizza first on paper or paper plates and then shop for the ingredients to make it. May be a bit messy - but at least you get a meal cooked!
Cook some cup cakes - buy or cook small plain cakes and decorate - as per the decorated biscuits.
Start a home cookery course - borrow a kids' cookery book from your local library or get some kids' recipes from the Treats to Cook with the Kids section of Delicious Magazine. Each day, get the kids to choose a recipe, make a shopping list, shop for the ingredients (and work out how much the recipe costs), cook and finally eat it - get them to rate the recipe - hard, easy, tasty or not! This gets them to practise their organisational, practical, budgeting and maths skills.
Visit a city farm or community garden- they are free or cheap to visit. Find your nearest HERE.
Check out what there is in walking distance of where you live - be creative - it may be only something that everyone walks or drives past every day e.g. a war memorial - what is it for ? Are there any surnames you recognise, perhaps from friends at school. Which war was it? What can you find out about it? Use your local library or tourism office to find out some facts about unusual buildings, parks, statues etc in your area.
Start to learn a new language in preparation for your holidays! Kids can use a dictionary to look up the names of household objects, clothing etc (or use the Internet) in your chosen language - write the foreign word on post-it notes (on the front - English translation on the back) and put on on your chosen items. Get kids to keep practising the names then take all the post-it notes off the next day and see how many they can remember, by putting the post-its back on the correct items. Build upon this each day adding new words.
Visit the Met Office Education website for loads of weather experiments, such as Make a Cloud in a Glass, measuring a puddle, make a Windmill, raingauge, etc plus, online games such as Snowflake and Cloud Attack and for younger kids, loads of weather related colouring pages to print out and colour.
More Ideas HERE for Things to do on School Holidays!

Saturday, 23 May 2009


Vist the (Bethnal Green) Museum of Childhood, London.And it's not just for kids. See over 6,000 exhibits covering 400 years of childhood - from Harry Potter's Nimbus 2000 broomstick back to around 1750s.

Cambridge Heath Road, Bethnal Green, +44 (0)20 8983 5200, Open daily 10am-5.45pm.

National Waterfront Museum, Swansea

This museum charts the Industrial Revolution from a Welsh seaport perspective, including archive images and oral history, to give an insight into community life. Poverty versus wealth, dangers to health and body, families under pressure, noise, grime and exploitation are all covered in this warts 'n' all investigation.

Oystermouth Road, Maritime Quarter, Swansea, +44 (0)1792 638950, Open daily 10am–5pm

People's Palace and Winter Gardens, Glasgow

The People's Palace is the story of ordinary Glaswegians and, how they have made the most of the poor hand life that has often dealt to them over the last 250 years: a single tenement room contrasts with a tobacco lord's trappings while political banners and the famous banana boots worn by Billy Connolly on stage in the 1970s are different voices of Glasgow culture. The splendid Victorian glass-and-iron Winter Palace, housing tropical and subtropical plants is the perfect place for a warming coffee and a slice of Millionaires Shortbread.

Glasgow Green, +44 (0)141 276 0788, Open Monday to Thursday and Saturday 10am-5pm, Friday and Sunday 11am-5pm

Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum, Bournemouth

Housed in an Italianate/Scottish villa on the cliff side, the Russell-Cotes is a "must see" even on the sunniest day in Bournemouth. See this highly colourful collection of artworks, stained glass and Japanese souvenirs collected by the Russell Cotes family during their travels in the late Victorian period. Currently showing (until Aug 9) is A-Z, A Handbook, featuring mosaics by Cleo Mussi, one of the world's leading exponents of the art.

Blaise Castle House, near Bristol

Jane Austen described this handsome late 18th-century mansion as "the finest place in England". It is situated in the parkland of the Blaise Estate, just north of Bristol and serves as the city's social history collection. Has a collection spanning the last 300 years, showing domestic equipment and items used in bygone Bristol households, a large Costume Gallery and a toy collection. See the unusual items in the Cabinet of Curiosities; a Hiroshima fused glass bottle, a Scold's Bridle and an arm bone of a Bristol rioter (1831) carved with a human face!

Henbury Road, Henbury, +44 (0)117 903 9818, Open Saturday to Wednesday 10am-5pm.

Leeds City Art Gallery

Perhaps one of the best collections of 20th-century British art outside of London. Nationally important prints, watercolours, paintings, sculptures, photography, and contemporary art include works by Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Antony Gormley and Francis Bacon. There is a new multi-media exhibition gallery and the Victorian Tile Hall café.

The Headrow, Leeds. +44 (0)113 247 8256, Monday to Tuesday 10am-8pm (except Bank Holidays). Wednesday 12pm-8pm. Thursday to Saturday 10am-5pm. Sunday 1pm-5pm.

Linen Hall Library, Belfast

Between the 17th and 19th centuries linen was almost as important to Ireland as wool was to England. One of Belfast's "hidden" gems, known to locals only - where you can enjoy a coffee with splendid views on to the buzzing hub of the city, Donegall Square. Tucked away in a new annex is a small museum with features on The Troubles and, should you wish to trace Irish roots, a genealogy section.

Library: 17 Donegall Square North, +028 9032 1707, Open Monday to Friday, 9.30am-5.30pm, Saturday 9.30am-1pm.

Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham

Perhaps one of the finest small art galleries in Europe with works by Monet, Manet, Magritte; Renoir, Rubens, Rossetti and Rodin; Degas, Delacroix and van Dyck, not to mention Turner, Gainsborough and Picass, housed in an art deco building. The Barber is also renowned for one of Europe's best collections of coins.

University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, +44 (0)121 414 7333, Open Monday to Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday 12pm-5pm.

Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead

The North East's leading gallery of design and contemporary craft. Alongside the Shipley's excellent fine art collection, a new Designs for Life gallery showcases over 300 objects from all over the world. C

On 23 May the eagerly awaited Great North Museum: Hancock and the Hatton Gallery (admission also free) will be opening on the other side of the Tyne.

The Shipley: Prince Consort Road, Gateshead, +44 (0)191 232 6789,

Great North Museum Barras Bridge,

Newcastle upon Tyne, +44 (0)191 222 6765,

Both are open Monday to Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday 2pm-5pm.

More Ideas HERE for Things to do on School Holidays!

Friday, 22 May 2009


Try some wacky experiments at home with ideas from Whether it's a volcano, slippery slime or crazy custard, there are lots of activities to keep your budding scentists busy all week.

Go on a welly-wanging walk with friends and neighbours. Gather in a large, open space away from any buildings or roads and take it in turns to hurl your welly as far as you can, hopping in your remaining welly to where it lands. Award prizes for the wangers who produce the longest, highest and wonkiest throws, plus booby prizes for anyone who falls over while hopping!

Make your own kites from bamboo sticks, bin liners, strong tape and string - and get out in the wind. For more professional advice contact The British Kite Flying Association who have links to local kite-club websites.

Organise a scavenger hunt in a park or your back garden if it's big enough. Write a list of things to find, such as a feather, something red, a fir cone, something that holds water or a brown pebble/stone. If you can keep your kids within sight while they scavenge, then you can sit down and enjoy a flask of coffe or cold drinks while they run around and exhaust themselves!

More Ideas HERE for Things to do on School Holidays!


Many local authorities are offering free swimming for under 16 year olds (and over 60s). So grandparents and kids can go free! Take a look HERE to find your nearest participating pool.
More Ideas HERE for Things to do on School Holidays!

Thursday, 21 May 2009


Enjoy England has a list of free fun days out for the family, including art galleries, museums (and not all in London), woodland and beaches.
Details: Enjoy England

More Ideas HERE for Things to do on School Holidays!


Free walking guides to download, explore beaches, forests, moorland and villages looked after by the National Trust,
More than 400 English Heritage including abbeys, castles, ruins and stately homes sites are open this half term and plenty are free or reduced.
Enjoy A Roald Dahl Day
Vist the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in South Bucks (England’s Best Small Visitor Attraction 2008) for free storytelling and craft activities for families every day during school holidays, but you have to pay for admission. It is aimed at 6 to 12-year-olds and enables visitors to find out all about Roald Dahl’s life and stories.
More Ideas HERE for Things to do on School Holidays!

Saturday, 16 May 2009


Do you ever have a head of celery wilting in the fridge after Easter or Christmas? I often do – or even worse, this year I even had a jug with cut celery pieces stuck in it, still in the kitchen 5 days after the Easter Sunday buffet! But, yes! I made soup out of it and it was delicious!
Here’s the recipe:
  • Slowly fry a chopped onion in a tablespoon of oil (or butter) until it’s soft and turns a pale gold colour - keeping the lid on the saucepan.
  • Add the roughly chopped celery and fry for 3 or 4 minutes.
  • Add 500mls (1 pint) of vegetable stock (made with a stock cube)
  • Simmer with the lid on for 10-15 minutes (until celery is soft).
  • Allow to cool slightly and then liquidise. You may need to add a little water if it is too thick.
  • Reheat if necessary and serve with a twist of black pepper if liked.
Serves 2 generously – or 3 in more “genteel” servings!


Tesco is offering you a free eye test and 100 clubcard points at Tesco Opticians. You don't have to get your glasses from them. Find your nearest store with an optician HERE and don't forget to take your Clubcard!


If you or your kids are budding tennis aces, then take a look at this site. Tennis for Free allows you to search all over the country for places to play tennis for free and, in some cases, get free coaching as well.
Get playing!
More Ideas for the School Holidays!

Friday, 15 May 2009


Do you remember the great Digital Monkey on the tv ads? He seems to have made a great come-back on the PG tips ads with his old friend Johnny Vegas! Well, you can still get the pattern to knit him! Unfortunately, there's no photo on the pattern, but if you've forgotten what he looks like, (how could you!) take a look HERE and HERE!
If you want to get your needles out and create your own Digital Monkey, get the pdf instructions HERE!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009


Sherwood Forest Country Park, Nottingham - visit this 450-acre country park with nature trails and plenty of exploring opportunities.
Get free audience tickets to watch your favourite programmes being made - and
Visit the National Football Museum, Preston and find out all about the history of your favourite sport and enjoy interactive activities.
if you happen to be in Cornwall, visit Roskilly's Farm, Helston where you can see delicious organic ice-cream being made and meet the animals.
If you have some budding ballerinas in your family, the new Royal Ballet School Museum, which presents the evolution of ballet, is a must see.
Stroll on a beach, enjoy the cliff walks, paddle in the surf, skim pebbles - or even swim if it's warm enough! Take a look at Britain's top 20 beaches and get out there!
More Ideas for Things to do on School Holidays!