Saturday, 26 February 2011

Comparison shopping

Food prices are rising. Is it worth shopping at cheaper supermarkets? They don't deliver, they don't always have a complete range and they usually don't take credit cards.

Recently, I have done most of my shopping, on line, at Tesco. Any top ups/things I have forgotten usually come from Sainsburys. Last week, my son made his own menu and own order. He wanted to buy as much as possible for his money so he put the order onto My supermarket. I had stopped using this, as previously, Tescos was always cheapest but to my surprise, Sainsburys was definitely better value.

The combination of half term and my son's menu, meant that I hadn't brought enough for a fortnight which is my current aim. Today, I thought that I would go back to Lidl. I have shopped in Lidl, in the past, but the fact that it doesn't do on line shopping and generally being busy, meant that I hadn't been there for ages.

Is Lidl cheaper? Is it good value and what about the quality?
The answer to the last two questions is very individual but I put my receipt today though My Supermarket to get comparision prices with the major supermarkets. I attempted to correlate volumes/weights and quality. It wasn't always possible to find an exact equivalent, for example, I brought Lidl's jars of Morello cherries but had to use tinned cherries as a comparision. There were the same number of products in each basket.

The results
Ocado £96.64
Tesco £89.95
Asda £83.70
Sainsburys £78.94
Lidl £62.33

Best buys in Lidls
Dried fruit
Bread mix
Jars of cherries
Instant coffee
Frozen vegetables
Free range chicken

Worse value from Lidls
Shampoo and conditioner

I haven't eaten everything yet! When we've used Lidl before, we've found that the coffee and chocolate is better than the equivalent in Tescos. The quality of the fruit and veg varies from store to store.

Downsides of Lidls
-They don't stock everything. I couldn't get soft brown sugar, only demerara and there was no golden syrup.
-My local store doesn't have baby seats in its trolleys. They have the conventional toddler seats but nothing suitable for a tiny baby. This isn't a problem for me now but has been in the past.
-Charges for bags. I take my own.
-Need to take cash or a debit card.
-There isn't much space for packing at the checkout.

Overall, I'm pleased with my shop and how much it cost. In addition, to my grocery shop, I brought an art set for £12.99 which was one of this week's offers. We had seen something, very similar, for over double this price, last week, in an art shop. I'm planning to go back although not for every shop due to the issues with range.

Thursday, 24 February 2011


In this house, we have people who are trying to gain weight, people trying to lose weight, those who want a more healthy diet and those who think that the only good food comes out of a packet and definitely isn't made by Mum. Some people each many more than five portions of fruit and veg a day whereas other members of the household struggle to make three, I'm ashamed to say.

Photo from

We have a toddler, a pre-schooler, a middle years child, two teenagers, two adults and an elderly person.

Me-well, I'm confused about what is "healthy" and where to find proper resources about this. Is butter healthy or is it too full of saturated fat? Should we aim for a high carbohydrate or high fat diet? Is the Mediterranean diet really the best and what is the evidence for various components of this? I'm sure that I should know most of this but I don't.

Plus, two more things

-I only want to cook one main meal that will do for everyone
-It all has to be in budget. That was £85 per week including food and cleaning stuffs but has crept up to £100 per week usually plus £10 extra with food inflation and growing children.

Not sure this is possible. Perhaps, I will be brave and post my monthly meal plan-I'm sure it isn't right but then, perhaps, it can't be right.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Recharging batteries

This week is half term here. We follow school terms, having the two older children in school. This time, I feel as though my batteries are almost flat. Finishing work, a busy term, realising how much needs to be done around the house, a little one who has been sleeping badly and educational planning sometimes gets a bit tiring. But there is encouragement.

There was a comment here, the other day, about occupying toddlers while home educating. I hadn't had a good day. Here is part of my reply
This morning, my toddler managed to pour milk over the fridge and his cup while I was explaining maths. Later, the whole cup of milk ended up on the floor. 
In order to save sanity, I got out the playdough forgetting that it had come out rather runny being made with lemon not cream of tartar. My little one and I then managed to get covered in flour and playdough. 
There was also a bit of an incident with granola. Can't remember how many times I've cleaned the floor!

Sarah suggested looking up tots trays. This is what I found. Really useful for us especially since I recently invested in some small plastic units with pull-out tray drawers. We've started to use some of the ideas. My drawers are a bit too shallow for some of the ideas but at least, they might keep the water contained! My toddler's favourite occupation is standing at the sink and pouring. I would like to believe that this is educational but I live in fear that Grandma will slip on the water on the floor before I have time to mop it up.

One thing that seems fundamental is that those lovely, attention requiring toddlers get plenty of attention at other times. Probably more important than a spotless house.

I'm a bit of a worrier and I seem to know of a fair few reading four year olds-not mine. Yes, she would like to read; yes, we are slowly doing phonics a little at the time and keeping it fun but no, she can't pick up a book and read it. This article was encouraging and worth a read.

Next, on the recharging is to do something different. I'm being brave/mad and hoping to try to make some sourdough bread. My friend, Ali tells me that this needs to be made with rye flour so that is sitting ready in the cupboard ready for the experiment.

Of course, there is the major risk that I will forget the most important part.

" Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of His understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increaseth strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40v 28-31

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Activities for middle childhood-work in progress

One of the biggest challenges of being a mother in today's society is finding useful occupations for children once they have passed the toddler/preschool phase.

The slide to screen based entertainment creeps insidiously. For us, we found there were a few computer games, initially educational, then iplayer plus an elderly relative moving in who had a TV licence. Suddenly, entertainment on a screen takes lots and lots of time.

Most of us don't live in a "Farmer boy" like situation where there is plenty of training for real life, on a farm. Our urban area is infested with so many foxes that even keeping chickens is unrealistic.

We've felt challenged about this issue of entertainment vs training and whether this is "bringing up a child in the way in which he should go." The issue is how to replace entertaining with training, at least to some extent.

Below are some ideas that we have used. Please don't think that we have "arrived". This is still, very much a work in progress where we take steps forward followed by steps back. It would be great if people could contribute their ideas.

-menu planning to a budget. We did this sometime ago with our older children and plan to do this again with the younger children. Internet shopping helps with this as it is easy to add to and remove from a virtual basket. The children then help cook the relevant meals. I give the children the same budget that I would use for a week.

-gardening. This is an ideal time of year for gardening and even little ones can join in. We have just planted strawberries.

There are often free seed offers around the internet. The Potato Council have a scheme for providing potatoes, lesson plans and worksheets for schools. Home educators can also register. We are currently awaiting our potatoes and information although we also have some other potatoes chitting.

-private blog. It is wise that a blog written by a child should be private but this is a great way to encourage writing and can be shared with selected friends and family. We have seen a private blog expand from being a tool used during formal learning hours to something that is used from choice in free time.

-making cards. This is a real win/win. We pay the children a small amount to make cards for us. This is cheaper than buying made cards and the children like to earn money. It works better when I buy glue that actually sticks!

-cooking. Most children can measure and mix independently by about the age of eight. I supervise cutting and taking things in/out of hot ovens. The aim is for them to become completely independent in the kitchen by their teens. Children, and especially teenagers, often like to cook things more complex than I would cook. They don't mind several stages and can produce great food. One of my children took over all the birthday cakes, from me, some time ago.

-Time travellers club. This is a club, for children, run by the Protestant Truth Society. There are two components: a bi-monthly newsletter with articles and a quiz to be returned for points to awards and project books on famous characters in Christian history: David Brainerd, George Whitfield and John Newton are examples. The project books are well presented with reading, timelines, codes to break, word searches, colouring, craft and suggestions for further investigation. These suggestions have taken us to look at the Eros statue, for Lord Shaftesbury, and to Olney, for John Newton.

More ideas will be gratefully received!

Friday, 11 February 2011

Immortal honours

Immortal honours rest on Jesus' head;
My God, my Portion, and my Living Bread;
In him I live, upon him cast my care;
He saves from death, destruction, and despair.

He is my Refuge in each deep distress;
The Lord my strength and glorious righteousness;
Through floods and flames he leads me safely on,
And daily makes his sovereign goodness known.

My every need he richly will supply;
Nor will his mercy ever let me die;
In him there dwells a treasure all divine,
And matchless grace has made that treasure mine.

O that my soul could love and praise him more,
His beauties trace, his majestry adore;
Live near his heart, upon his bosom lean;
Obey his voice, and all his will esteem.

William Gadsby

Large family logistics-update

Good news for UK readers!

I sent a link to yesterday's post to Jamie Norman at Conquest Books. I am delighted to report that he has ordered copies of Large Family Logistics which should be available, from Conquest Books, in a couple of weeks.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Large family logistics

During the first few years of my marriage, I worked 100+ hours a week. Housework was fitted in on Saturdays and during annual leave but, probably not surprisingly, not done well or to a plan. Survival was the name of the game.

Once we had children, I worked fewer hours but often, although theoretically part time, over 40 hours a week. We went down the paid help route-sometimes good and sometimes less so.

Over more recent years things have changed, we have had more children, a move to a larger house in order that we could have an elderly relative live with us and have come to the conviction that I should come home.
The legacy of our previous lifestyle has been that I haven't had a proper agenda for keeping house and I haven't trained the children as well as I might otherwise have done. It isn't all complete chaos; we eat regularly and have clean clothes (just in case you were wondering!) but things could be better.

Last autumn, my friend Jennie Chancey visited and recommended a new book called "Large family logistics" It sounded great but was American and wasn't sold in the UK. I'm not anti-American, at all, I have good friends from the US but some books from across the Pond are so, well, American. You may know what I mean; the cookery books that ask for one package of yellow cake mix and two of brown. Cakes are made from flour, fat, sugar and eggs-aren't they?

Eventually, my curiosity got the better of me and I ordered the book. It is great, really worth the hassle and expense of ordering from abroad.

Kim Brenneman has written the book in two sections: the first is about principles for being a Christian wife and mother and the second with very practical details. She suggests implementing in small steps. I've read the book once and implemented a home management book which so far contains a basic 28 day meal plan and a list of days of the week with their special tasks-just like my Mum used to do. There is so much more to do-we are working on regular tidy up times, making meals times more pleasant and an evening schedule. There are so many ideas-the book is A4 size and over 300 pages.

The book is mainly designed for large families but most of the principles apply to anyone. This book is a great help and is warmly recommended.

The complicated part: I spent a fair amount of time researching this! Large Family Logistics is available from Vision Forum and
When I brought the book, it was cheaper from Vision Forum but their postage was more expensive so overall it was cheaper to buy from It is worth checking both sites before buying for sales and shipping.
When I ordered, January 2011, it was not available in the UK.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Children and central London

I am getting a bit braver about taking children to London. When we started home education, I thought that we would visit museums one afternoon a week. It never occured to me that getting on and off buses and the tube with a baby, two year old and eight year old might be difficult and I forgot all about the rush hour.

I soon found out and paid with a migraine which put me off attempting educational visits to central London for a year or so. Recently, I've plucked up courage and attempted some trips which have, amazingly, worked well.

Just in case there is anyone else who finds taking little children to London difficult, here are my tips.

-if the trip seems too complex it probably is!

- plan in advance. These trips are best the day after a quiet day when everything can be packed the day before and the children aren't too tired.

-allow loads of time.

-avoid the rush hour!

-travel light. I use a back pack and carry everything in this. This is one of the few occasions that we put the little one in disposable nappies. Not good to share the lunch with dirty nappies!

-take food/drink. Food and drink is horribly expensive in central London.

-put a piece of paper with a contact mobile number in the pocket coat of little ones, tell them it is there and how to be safe if they get lost. Hmmm, have forgotten the paper a few times. Worth drilling them with address and name. Not sure that my two year old would manage this in a time of anxiety.

-Reins help with toddlers and a limited number of hands.

Trains which stop at a central terminus are easy in terms of getting off and on. There is usually, out of rush hour, space , on trains, for a pushchair.

Buses are relatively easy if they go exactly where you want them to go. Worth telling older children that this isn't the occasion to go upstairs-they need to wait until Daddy can be there too! I usually fold the stroller up before we get on as drivers only allow two unfolded pushchairs.

Tubes are where I still loose my nerve. There never seems enough time to get out but if anyone has any good tips, please let me know.

Finally, I still don't attempt central London often and am amazed by brave people who take children daily to the centre.
Apologies to anyone who finds travelling with little ones easy-I'm an example of a weaker sister.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Guest post-Ironbridge

I haven't written much this week as we have spent the last three days with some kind friends, over on the Welsh border. This is a guest post from my middle son. We use a private blog for a part of his English and this is copied, with kind permission, from there.

On Wednesday, we went to a place called Ironbridge.
First of all, we went to a museum called Enginuity.
At Enginuity, there are lots of fun things like pulling a steam train, building an earthquake proof building, and there is also a robot that can build the Eiffel tower and the Iron Bridge, it can also play music on a keyboard. You can also generate electricity on a machine and
then see which appliance uses most electricity.
Afterwards we went to the Iron Bridge which
was made in the Industrial Revolution.
At first we had wanted to buy a sausage roll at an excellent butcher in Much Wenlock but it was closed so we had to have lunch at a cafe in Ironbridge which was very nice.
After that we walked about a bit and then we went home before our trip to Wales the next day.