Last year I took the brave ( is it brave? not sure about that one, just sensible I guess) steps to nudge my family into clean eating. I’ve been leaning towards a healthier way of life for the past 10 years but as my 40th birthday loomed, I decided to embrace the whole ‘body is a temple’ thing and if this body was going to perform at maximum capacity, then I needed to show it some respect.

Not wanting to scare everyone off completely I went in subtle. Out went prepared, processed meals, the lady who once swore by frozen mash potato and 101 things to do with mince, was now bringing fresh, organic vegetarian meals to the table.

Now I should probably stop there and explain to anyone new to Mum in a Nutshell, I’m the proud mum to 2 teenagers and a preschooler. There was no way they were going to take this lying down. So we bargained, 2 vegetarian meals and chips on a Friday, it faltered for a few months but picked up the momentum again recently.

But I needed to give my argument some oomph. It was time to explain the method behind my madness.

I’m lucky that my boys are quite health conscious anyway, but the organic thing puzzled them. My mission was to reduce the amount of chemicals we consumed and organic, along with natural body care , was the way to go. Like I said, subtle was the way forward, starting with milk. We get through a crazy amount, I’m talking 3 pints a day, so by introducing organic milk, from organic cows, we were already making huge improvements to our family health. And knowing that my pure, perfect little toddler wasn’t starting out life laden with chemicals was a huge relief. I’d breast-fed him for 2 years so it only seemed right that he continued to have the healthiest milk I could find.


I explained to them how organic cows eat a natural, grass-based organic diet, while also being free range, spending the majority of their days outside. As there’s no routine use of antibiotics and artificial, chemical fertilisers or herbicides are used on their grazing pastures, it was reassuring knowing that the whole animal welfare thing was a huge consideration. I’m a pescatarian so it makes sense that animal welfare is high on my list.

The boys could see that too, we all take multi vitamins everyday and my research found that organic milk had higher levels of omega 3 fatty acids, more antioxidants and more vitamins than conventional milk. They got that and as this switch was no skin off their backs, they simply revelled in knowing they weren’t missing out on anything, only the good it was doing to their bodies. They’re also big on weight lifting so explain that organic milk is higher is CLA (short for  Conjugated Linoleic Acid ) which helps to increases the body’s metabolic rate (they don’t need that but it’s useful to know) immunity and the star pint for them; muscle growth. While also helping reduces abdominal fat (hello 6 pack?) and the best way to increase CLA intake is through milk.

And anyone with a teenager will know that body image is a huge thing, along with bragging rights that they know their stuff.

So the moral of this tale is this mama did good. We made the switch and the kids are still happy. Just wondering what else I can swop now!

If you’d like to share your experience or learn more about  organic then join in with the Twitter party this Wednesday at 8pm using the hash tag #ArlaOrganicFreeRange and by following @ArlaDairy on Twitter

why switching tp organic milk was the best health swap for my teenagers

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Ever since we returned from our recent holiday to Sardinia the boys have been asking when we can go on holiday again. It’s sparked a love of travel and rekindled some much-needed quality family time which money simply can’t buy; unfortunately money is the underpinning precursor to any future travel plans. So planning is what I’ve been doing.

When it comes to money I’ve had my head in the sand a little recently. I’m balancing incomings and outgoings on a single wage but the nature of my job means invoices are paid sporadically and I often survive on a famine and feast cycle of work so I have to be very careful and disciplined.

Only I’m neither!

Historically, May and June have always been very expensive months for me as my children have their birthdays as well as my sister and then there’s treating my awesome Dad and Step Dad on father’s day, throw half term in the middle and that’s me pretty much spent out. To keep out of the red, I needed to cut back on other things so I’ve been keeping a diary of my spending over 10 days to see exactly where I can be a little more stringent and ways I can put some money aside for saving.

For anyone who’s never done this before, I can wholly recommend it! While informative, be prepared for a little shock. I’ve always considered myself to be quite a careful shopper, but in hindsight there’s certainly some cut backs to be made, and a little more discipline needed over impulse spending. Bottom line is I’m a working single mum bringing up 3 children but trying not to let them suffer for the whole family make up they’re still adapting to.

Dining out

Over last week though, I spent £97 on eating out! That’s including impromptu coffees, impulsive / can’t be bothered to cook takeaways and date nights. Just cutting that by half would save me £2,522 a year. That alone would equal a decent family holiday. This is certainly one area I can be more careful. 

Potential savings – £48.50

Petrol

I topped up my car with £30 of petrol last week, which is pretty average. This was for essential shopping trips, a couple of longer trips for dentist and work appointments and some totally avoidable trips to drop off or pick up my son from pre-school (it was raining in my defence.) I think if I stop being lazy on the pre-school run (it’s a 10 minute walk so is totes lazy of me) and be a little more clever with my shopping, i.e; make sure I get everything in 1 shop instead of a few mini shops then I could bring my petrol spending down to £20 a week. That’s still £80 a month on top of repairs, tax and insurance which is something to consider when buying my next car and weighing it up against a newer one with cheaper running costs, tax, insurance and reliability.

Potential savings – £10

Food

Last week’s food bill, in total, was £90.86. I try to keep it at around £60 which isn’t bad for a family of 4. The older boys have school dinners which cost me around £80 a month and I send my youngest to pre-school with a packed lunch twice a week and snacks on the other days. Given that the youngest 2 are at their dad’s 2 or 3 times a week that’s only 5 big meals I have to cook as my eldest & I do a WFOTF job (what falls out the freezer) By writing menus, then shopping lists and only replacing toiletries which have run out I can be A LOT more disciplined. My weaknesses are special offers, they get me every time. I need to stick to my list and ignore the potential savings. I currently have 3 hand washes sat under my sink, I have boys for heaven’s sake, we will never get through that amount of hand wash in a year let alone a month.

Potential savings – £30

Clothes / shoes

We recently had a family wedding  which has meant having to buy some new clothes. I think I’ve been super careful though. I’ve bought a second-hand Ted Baker dress from eBay, second-hand waistcoats for 2 of the boys and posh trainers which I shopped around for and paid £97 for 3 pairs, they all needed new trainers so this was an essential spend. If I hadn’t been so shop savvy I would’ve spent £338, instead it’s cost me £191, with last week’s spending £141. I don’t usually spend that amount on clothes a week so can’t count that as a regular spend.

Potential saving – £0

 

Presents

As mentioned earlier, June is one of my expensive months for gifts so last week I spent £36 on gifts. I’m a giver though, not a bad quality to have, unless you’re trying to cut back! I guess that’s pretty normal though as I try to buy Christmas presents throughout the year so it’s not too painful come December.

Potential saving –£0

Conclusion

£88.50 a month which amounts to £4,602 a year is the amount I could be saving if I was a little more careful with my spending. When looking at it that way, that’s more than enough for the family holiday the boys and I are hankering after and maybe some to spare for a long weekend away. This has been a fantastic exercise to do and given me an opportunity to have a complete look at all my outgoings as well as ways I can make sure I’m living within my means and not using overdrafts and credit cards.

improving your credit sore

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This is a collaborative post with Scottish Friendly

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I’m very British in that I’m not very comfortable talking about money sometimes. It’s not that I have anything to hide, I just like to keep some things private (yeah, that’s right, a blogger who keeps some private, you can’t put those eye brows down.) This is one thing I’ve had to overcome though recently as one of the huge downfalls of divorce, part from the blindingly obvious, is that you have to disclose every single penny you earn and spend to your solicitor and future ex spouse.

So while I’m on this big money sharing adventure <cough> I thought I’d write a post on one of the things I’ve had to do recently to help keep a roof over my kids heads and start a new independent life and that’s remortgage my house. No mean feat I should add at this point given the fact I’m self-employed and mortgages are pretty hard to come by at the moment.

Throw in the fact I’m a single mum of 3, working like crazy to try to raise said mortgage, so time is not in abundance to scour the internet. Which is why I am putting the task into the hands of the professionals and using digital mortgage broker habito.com to see if they can work miracles for me.


After an initial 5 minutes quick round of questions which helped give me a general idea to find out my maximum borrowing amount, along with an illustration on how much my payments would be, it was onto the next round. There are no credit checks at this point which is a relief!

It was then onto more detailed set of questions, still in the friendly, easy to follow format and again didn’t take much time. Finally I answered a few future plans questions, like do I intend to have more children, move ect which gave little snippets of advice on which style mortgages would be better for me.

My experience of using a digital mortgage broker

 

Once that was all completed it was then all down to the option of having a chat with an adviser either though live chat or telephone. I’m a huge fan of live chat as I often have an equally chatty 3-year-old who battles for my attention the minute I get on the phone.

And that’s where I’m going to leave it there as my British-ness has kicked in again and what goes on between me and Habito.com stays between Ali & Habito.com. But I can say that it’s was quick, stress free and that I’m still sticking by my claim that some things are worth leaving to the professionals.

My experience of using a digital mortgage broker

Disclaimer

I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity. I have received a voucher in return for writing this post.

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I was a little hesitant to age-ify this post but if, like me, you’re the wrong side of 39 then there are occasions when the current beauty trends are best left to the young and the 1980’s when you were first experimenting with blue mascara and Bodyshop Kiwi Lip balm in the safety of the local roller disco.
Don’t take my word as gospel though, if you want to bush up your over plucked eyebrows and draw tangerine blusher up to your temples then go for it. Just remember that by 40 most of use will have some tell-take fine lines, <note to self, get Botox price list> so all I’m saying is sometimes it’s better to not to draw attention to things which could otherwise be ignored. And highlight your best bits.
Here’s a few things which you can do at any age:

Gloss those lips

Great for hiding lines and plumping out thin lips, I for one never truly embraced last years trend for matt lips so I’m glad to see that lip gloss is making a come back. I tend to stick with a neutral colour which I can apply on the go and then a slightly pinkier one for evenings. And the best thing for me is it doesn’t stain my ceramic braces!

Smudged eyeliner

I tried and tried to go on tend with the perfect cat-eye flick,  and failed. Whether it’s my wonky eyes or just lack of hours spent watching YouTube tutorials I assigned myself to a life of looking on enviously at the young and beautiful, then convinced myself I was too old anyway. So hurrah for the return or smudged eyeliner which is set to be a popular look this season. I managed to create the smudged look effortlessly by 11am most morning.

Dewy skin

Just like glossy lips, the dewy skin trend this year helps give a healthy, youthful glow which is always a good thing. Getting advice or a mini makeover from beauty therapists who have access to products and salon supplies is a  start if you’re unsure. I’ve been adding a highlighter cream to my normal foundation or using it on its own on the days I don’t want full coverage.

Contouring 

I’ve added this after reading a great article on 5 minute make up tricks and realised that there is a place for contouring for us with a longer back history in makeup. As you age, you tend to get more definition on your face, Mother Nature is not completely cruel (I’ve got a feeling she added that one in as she got a little older herself) but adding highlighter under your eyes and either side of your nose will work wonders. I’ve found a great piece on The Daily Mail which should give you an idea.

So nothing too scary there, more a relief I’d say!

beauty trends that women over 40's will love

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This is a collaborative post

 

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I’m going to open a whole can of worms here, but that’s what blogging’s about, being honest and sharing your thoughts, so here goes…..

Here in the UK, we’re lucky enough to receive free health care from the NHS. When I say free, obviously I don’t mean ‘free’- free. We pay our taxes in return for this care. But does that mean you should expect only the basic of care? Does the very fact we don’t have much say in where our taxes end up mean we should shut up and be grateful that we get any NHS treatment?

I don’t think it should.

The professionals who care for you when you require of any type of medical attention have trained long and hard, so it would make perfect sense that they are appreciated for what they do to make you better, and I am grateful for that. I’m grateful that they have entered into a profession and studied to ensure they deliver the best possible care. There is a flip side to being grateful however, and that is when things go wrong. I’m not grateful when you have trust in a service, which you have paid for, and receive only the minimum of care in return.

Because that care can go wrong, for a number of reasons.

Take the birth of my 1st child for instance; A long gruelling labour that was scary and very nearly had a bad ending because of bad judgements. My poor little baby had an awful journey into the world and I have no doubt spent most of his first few weeks in pain. Then there was the aftercare from that labour;  a night spent on a ward with minimum staff unable to answer by calls for help or being able to care for a new mum meant my care was none existent.

Is it any wonder I suffered anxiety and put off having another baby for a while?

I fully appreciate that the people who are paid to treat and care for us are only human and there’s always the argument for human error. No one’s perfect. But when that treatment is poor and patchy it verges into neglect. Blame overworked staff, managers expecting too much out of people, the list can go on, but there’s no denying that when you’re suffering and patient safety is compromised, it’s the long-term damage to the patient that the focus should shift on. It’s the compromise to the healing process, PTSD, anxiety, loss of earnings and overall safety which should be taken into consideration.

It was nearly 24 hours until I was offered something to eat after the birth of my 1st baby, I was unable to walk to the restaurant thanks to stitches, catheters and an epidural, when I was finally able to make it out of bed, I had no idea where the restaurant (or bathroom!) was. It was that basic care of food and water which was missing. So should I have claimed compensation? I have no doubt that websites such as Your Legal Friend would’ve helped answer a few of those questions. I’m pretty sure they would for a family member who will be giving up work very soon thanks to a monumental medical cock up!

Who’s to say that my career path in life would’ve been different if I’d not been so traumatised by the birth of my first child? If I’d relaxed a little more and enjoyed parenthood and made sure I’d made time for me and my husband?

Anyway, like I said, a whole can of worms there to gather up and throw back in. And dollop of ‘what ifs.’

 

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