Monday, 3 June 2019

cracking down on the monthly food bill

hey all, today's post is one of complete honesty and openness, and i'm even quite ashamed to admit what i'm going to tell you today. so here it is, let's cut to the chase, we spent on average this year £164 a week (a WEEK!!!) on food. that is a LOT. that's about 2-3 times as much as the average in this country. it actually makes me feel physically sick that i've been so wasteful.

firstly, i need to tell you why this has happened, and then secondly, i'll go into what i'm going to do about it.

why have we spent so much?

i think there's two main reasons for the excessive spend on food. firstly, i eat when i'm emotional and it's been an emotional year. secondly, i've been giving "special" foods to my son instead of making one large family meal (which has in turn lead to some fussy eating habits that i'm now going to need to spend some serious time and energy on undoing).

also, perhaps a side note, we've been shopping mostly at Sainsbury's which is not very cheap it would seem. but i like the fact that they deliver.

what are we going to do to lower the monthly food bill?

it's funny, it's most definitely not the first time i've got into a spending craze when it comes to groceries. back in 2013 i took part in the Big Budget Food Challenge, and then in 2018 i made a whole video about my family meal planning tips. i guess i need to take a page out of my own book and re-align myself with my values. i love to meal plan! why haven't i been doing it? i think because i just fell out of the habit for too long when we moved house, and it has taken a while for me to realise it would be good to get back into it!

and quite frankly, i think i need to simplify the meal planning system once more, taking a leaf from all the latest podcast episodes from Thriving in Motherhood. perhaps we need to say Tuesday is simply 'soup' night, etc, and then the whole procedure of planning is easier...

so maybe i'll try this to start and see where we go from there:

breakfasts - i know it's indulgent to have different breakfasts, but it's my favourite meal of the day! and without a happy start, i don't seem to keep going as happily:
  • monday - pancakes/waffles
  • tuesday - smoothie & toast
  • wednesday - porridge
  • thursday - bircher muesli
  • friday - fruit salad
  • saturday - breakfast cookies & smoothie
  • sunday - egg & soldiers

lunches - i now make packed lunches three times a week for my son, so this needs to be factored in to the budget:
  • monday - omelette
  • tuesday - lentil "sausage" roll (batch cooked and frozen)
  • wednesday - sandwiches
  • thursday - avocado toast
  • friday - tortellini/pasta
  • sunday - sunday roast or slow cooked meal

  • monday - soup night
  • tuesday - pasta 
  • wednesday - bean/lentil chilli
  • thursday - potatoes
  • friday - fish
  • sunday - leftovers

gosh, that feels SO good to have written that down! in addition to this, once i have successfully worked out that this format works well, i will also add in 2 or 3 homebaked/home-prepped treats, like muffins or bliss balls. but, i don't want to get too ahead of myself here.

i'm going to keep a record of all my food spending this month, and try to shop at Lidl instead when I can, as well as use up more of my tinned/packaged foods/frozen foods. i'm excited to see how much we can save, as well as how much healthier my son will chose to eat!

thanks for reading today! and pretty please let me know your favourite low budget family recipes in the comments below x

Friday, 3 May 2019

potty training : how we did it

hey all, today i want to share our potty training experience, because to be frank, there isn't enough of this talked about on the internet, or at least any stories where the training takes longer than a couple of days isn't talked about. so this is our very real story of how we accomplished toilet training!


the whole process started late october last year, so over 5 months ago. we bought our 32 month old boy all the "stuff", and we included him in the process of it, so he'd be excited about it. we bought multipacks of little boy pants with cars on, with dinosaurs on and with lions on. we bought far too many pairs probably, but i didn't want to have to wash all the time.

we also went to ikea to buy a toilet step and a toilet seat and a potty. all super cheap and pretty good (though my husband isn't so convinced on the shape and design of their potty, because it leaks through if you're a boy).

and i bought a couple of things off amazon, which have all turned out to be brilliant - some bambino mio washable training pants (UK/US), a very loud timer which he nicknamed 'the poo timer' (UK/US), the Pirate Pete Potty book (UK/US), and a car seat protector (UK/US similar). eventually we also bought a little foldable step too (UK/US) for ease of use when out and about (lifting a very heavy child whilst he is learning to wee is not easy!)

the whole process of purchasing took about 6 weeks, and in this time we were talking about everything, showing how mummy and daddy use the toilet. we also printed off a potty chart (this is the free one we used) and got a bunch of dot stickers (UK/US).

let's start

to begin, i brought the potty downstairs, put it on a plastic mat (UK/US), and then he got half naked and we asked him to sit on it. of course this did require some incentives - we would read the Pirate Pete book, play with the Bible for Kids app on my phone, or watch Chuggington on the iPad.

once he was happy to just sit on it, i explained again that now this is where the wee-wee goes and the poo-poo, and when you need to do one of those then you must do it in there.

i set the timer for 30 minutes and asked him to sit again, although he loved sitting so much he kept sitting anyway! he was really quick to learn to do his wees and poos in the potty, and it was only about 3 days before there were zero accidents around the house. though, in honesty we stayed so much in the room with the plastic mat to avoid ruining our carpets, so he was always really close by to the potty to remember what to do.

BUT there was a major flaw! although after 3 days he could happily use the potty half naked he couldn’t pull up his own pants or trousers yet! somehow in most of the potty training advice people don't usually tell you that it's important for them to be able to pull up their own pants.

so i decided to get a better book on potty training and wait for another few months. it was coming up to the busy Christmas season and we were moving house soon, and they say not to try and do potty training around big life events. the Gina Ford book i bought laid everything out so plainly and showed quite how to move to true toilet independence, which is what i was truly looking for - a great little book if you want to teach your child quickly (UK/US).

round two

so we started again in the long two-week Easter holidays in April, as he started preschool just after we moved house, so we had a limited choice of time, and i felt we'd both feel more confident if we chose a longer two-week option instead of a half-term single week. and i'm glad we did.

the second time round was easier to begin with because he remembered what the potty was for (for the most part), but he was super resistant to “big boy pants” for the first couple of days. but we persisted even when he cried for nappies instead.

we had one day off where we went out to a friends house, it was the third day and i didn’t feel like he was ready yet for a long journey in just pants - we hadn’t yet mastered “mummy i need a wee”, instead he’d just go when he needed because the potty was right there, so we did the whole trip in nappies. it's fine to have a day off if your life needs it. the Gina Ford book says not to resort to the 'easy' option, no nappies, no pull-up nappies either, but for one day his regular nappies was fine. we still haven't worn pull-ups because i agree that they're a confusing and 'easy' option for the child and will make the process longer.

on the 4th day i felt like we were going in a backwards direction, because he made more mistakes and the biggest ones too on that day. he had thought he needed a wee, gone to the bathroom to try, and upon nothing coming out had gone back to his task - but then two minutes later was at the bathroom door with wee all down his legs and a huge trail of wee behind him... he learnt a lot from that, though he was annoyed at the time. that was also the day he did a poo in his pants, which he was more upset about, but again, it only happened once (and thankfully was an easy one to clean).

he was dry for naps quite quickly though which we took as a good sign, after 4 days we even confidently left him in pants for naps. and so we continued on, making sure he had plenty of delicious drinks to keep the systems flowing and getting lots of stickers on his chart. even though it was April i made a lot of smoothie ice lollies, both as incentives and an aid to the process.

on the fifth day he woke with a dry nappy, and he stayed dry until he did the biggest wee on the potty just before breakfast. the rest of the day we had a couple of outings in the car, all dry, though not without worry from me. but i was feeling confident from the signs that morning - he had never held such a big wee for so long! and i felt confident with the car seat protector and the thicker Bambino Mio pants as an additional layer, and then of course a full change of clothes in the car boot, just in case.

we made sure that he knew where the toilets were in each place we went to, so he would know that it was available. and said “make sure to tell mummy or daddy when you need a wee-wee and we will take you”. but actually he didn’t ask, even though we made sure to remind him, but he didn’t wee whilst we were out. and then at the end of the day he did his first no. 2 in the potty all by himself, followed by a big wee he’d been saving up all afternoon. both my husband and i were so happy!

after that day i felt like we'd accomplished the majority of the task!

steps ahead

we had a whole other week of practice, which was sprinkled with only a couple of accidents - mostly where he had struggled to get his pants down in time, even though he had made it as far as the potty. pulling pants up and down is a bit of a tricky one to learn, and although we'd done some practice, it will still take even more time for him to get the hang of it entirely.

it wasn't until the middle of the second week that he felt more comfortable doing a number two on the potty, and then even into the third week until he was genuinely happy to do it regularly. because until the potty training, he had really found the whole process of pooing uncomfortable and embarrassing and had been taking himself off in private somewhere to stand and relieve himself with rather a great deal of effort. that's why we knew we needed to persevere with the potty training!

thankfully Easter fell at the time of his training, so we had little chocolate egg incentives to give him, which worked really well. and the sticker sheet was also one of his favourite things to do!

the next step very recently has been to practice using the step and seat instead of the potty, which is still favoured, but of course less readily available when we go out. and he's become so much better since daddy has been home this week to show him what to do on a regular basis.

we've taken the portable step with us on a few occasions just-in-case, and we've also purchased the Potette Plus (UK/US), which is a foldable toilet seat, so little bottoms can use toilets everywhere - we bought it when we had a last minute trip this last weekend and we knew we'd be away and we'd forgotten the potty. but it worked really well. you can also use it as a standalone with sanitary bags. hmm.

it's lovely to see him wearing proper pants instead of the bulky nappy, and i'm very happy for the savings in costs. it had been a long time since a cloth nappy was possible to use for us - they were all too small for him, and we loved our Bambo Nature ones (see my video on eco biodegradable nappies), but the price of any kind of nappy is very high in comparison with pants.

thankfully we have now done many long car journeys and outings and he's been totally dry, and he hasn't had issues since we've started back at preschool. so hopefully it will mostly be smooth sailing going forwards, and we can get him out of nappies overnight too soon!

i hope this has been a helpful blog post for you, please pin it in some way for future reference if you need to! and leave me a comment letting me know any other resources you found helpful, or any tips you'd not heard before.

otherwise, have a lovely day x

Monday, 11 February 2019

curly haircare products i've tried - a working list

someone on Instagram asked if i had a working document of products i’ve tried and my thoughts on them. so, today i thought i’d start it, for you to reference whenever you like.

if you’ve got similar hair to me then you’ll know that products can be hit or miss, and that a lot of them can weigh it down or make it feel greasy.

if you don't know what type of hair you have, then check out my YouTube video about figuring out my hair porosity, density, thickness and curl type, because all of these play a factor in which types of products work for your hair - and if you're similar to me then you'll find this list super useful, and i hope you save it somewhere so you can keep it as a reference guide (i'd also love for you to recommend products that might work in the comments below!).

i've also added links to where you can pick them up, just to make it a bit more convenient for you to find the exact thing i've tried. some of these are affiliate links, which means they throw me a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to yourself, and that enables me to continue making content for you.

for each product, i'll give it a star rating, tell you if it's 100% Curly Girl approved (i've put it through, and also give you my opinion + thoughts based on using it with my hair type. i've ordered them by my most favourite to my least favourite, so if you want to know my HG, you'll find it at the top of each list!

ps. HG stands for 'Holy Grail', and I've listed which my current top HG products are in the mini reviews ;)

  • Calia Purifying Shampoo - (US/UK)
    *****, CG approved
    Cleanses beautifully, lovely ingredients and fab brand, my HG shampoo - a little pricey but worth the investment, also a little hard to source in the UK (I get it shipped from the continent).
  • Not Your Mother's Naturals (NYM) Blue Sea Kale & Coconut Water Shampoo - (US/UK)
    *****, CG approved
    I love how this doesn't strip the hair, but yet gets it feeling really clean. The smell is divine too. It lathers great, much like a conventional shampoo, and adds great shine.
  • Bentley Organic HydraVitality Shampoo - (US/UK)
    *****, not CG friendly (sodium coco-sulfate, alcohol)
    This is a cheaper option for those who still want a 'natural' brand - it cleanses well, lathers a good amount, and doesn't leave a residue at all. My hair loves it.
  • Shea Moisture Black Castor Strengthen & Restore Shampoo - (US/UK)
    *****, not CG friendly (hydrolyzed vegetable protein pg-propyl silanetriol - a silicone)
    This works great for my hair, and is so easy to find around the globe. The silicone included is one that is a protein and silicone blend that helps fortify and strengthen the bonds in the hair - so if you don't mind silicones (and your hair doesn't) then this is a great one.
  • Childs Farm Strawberry & Mint Sensitive Shampoo - (US/UK)
    ****, not CG friendly (sodium coco-sulfate, alcohol)
    I find this shampoo works beautifully on my hair as a clarifying shampoo (which I use most wash days tbh), but it got demoted for its ingredients list - it will likely dry my hair over time.
  • Boucleme Curl Cleanser - (US/UK)
    ***, CG approved
    I don't find this washes deeply enough, but it's certainly better than the below Boucleme alternative. High cost-per-use.
  • Rhassoul Clay - (US/UK)
    ***, CG approved
    I did a video with my brother and niece where we washed our curly hair with just plain clay - one of the best things to remove product build up and give some definition to your curls, plus it absorbs oils really beautifully afterwards. But it's hard to use and can be drying for the hair.
  • Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Shine Shampoo - (US/UK)
    ***, CG approved
    Left a residue that meant that my hair needed to be washed more regularly, but looked great on wash day.
  • As I Am Coconut CoWash - (US/UK)
    ***, CG approved
    When I used to straighten my hair I really loved this cowash, but now I'm curly I actually really don't love it. I find it doesn't clean well, sits heavy on my hair and is a bit too chemical smelling for me.
  • Boucleme Hydrating Hair Cleanser - (US/UK)
    ** , CG approved
    Did not cleanse my hair well at all, would perhaps work for someone who doesn't use much product or who has very fine hair, or who has the patience to scrub it into their roots for 5 whole minutes.
  • Tabitha James Kraan Hair Cleanser - (US/UK)
    *, CG approved
    The most expensive hair cleanser I've tried, and I really didn't think it was worth the pricetag (thankfully I only bought a trial size). It says 'It's not a shampoo' on the website, and it's right that it doesn't lather, but it also doesn't really clean...
  • Not Your Mother’s Naturals (NYM) Blue Sea Kale and Coconut Water Conditioner - (US/UK)
    *****, CG approved
    This is my new fave, because it's reasonably priced, has lots of slip, smells amazing, and it's only flaw is that the pump dispenser isn't that great. I love this conditioner.
  • Inecto Naturals Coconut Conditioner - (US/UK)
    ****, not CG friendly (isopropyl alcohol)
    Demoted for it's one drying alcohol ingredient, but my hair seems to love it anyway and this is also the cheapest conditioner on the list. It's also my HG.
  • Tresemme Botanique Nourish & Replenish Conditioner - (US/UK)
    ****, CG approved
    I used this in my recent 'Trying Curly Susie' routine' video, as I probably wouldn't have reached for it otherwise. But it's a lovely conditioner, lots of slip, and washes out without leaving residue. You can't get much better for the price (and Susie agrees with me).
  • Bentley Organic HydraVitality Conditioner - (US/UK)
    ****, CG approved
    This conditioner doesn't have huge slip, but always makes my curls look healthy and shiny anyway.
  • Boucleme Curl Conditioner - (US/UK)
    ***, CG approvedI like this product, but I don't love it. It's ok, but it's a little bit heavy. I wanted more from it for the price that I paid.
  • Tabitha James Kraan 4 in 1 Conditioner - (US/UK)
    **, CG approved
    I really found this conditioner had no slip, and I needed a lot of product to coat my hair. It also left a residue on my hair.
  • Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Shine Conditioner - (US/UK)
    *, CG approved
    Leaves too much product residue in my hair, so it gets weighed down easily. Not great for fine hair.
Treatments/Deep Conditioners
  • Briogeo Don’t Despair Repair Deep Conditioning Mask - (US/UK)
    *****, not CG friendly (isododecane - form of wax that may cause buildup)
    My absolute HG deep conditioner, always leaves my hair feeling moisturised and cared for. I think it helps the curl pattern.
  • Jessicurl Deep Conditioner - (US/UK)
    ***, CG approved
    I like this blended with rice water to make a moisturising protein treatment for my hair. Otherwise, all by itself, it's a little too heavy for my hair type.
  • Boucleme Intensive Moisture Treatment - (US/UK)
    *, CG approved
    The most mega list of ingredients, the nastiest smell. Also doesn't seem to hydrate my curls?!
  • The Innate Life Herbal Hair Mask - (US/UK)
    *, CG approved
    I required so much of the bottle to saturate my hair, as the consistency is very thin without much slip at all. Therefore, cost per use is extremely high. I also felt that it didn't make much different to my hair, other than adding shine.
Oils & Scalp Treatments
  • The Innate Life Rose Hair Elixir - (US/UK)
    *****, CG approved
    My HG hair oil, for refreshing, for eliminating frizz, for providing shine, for scrunching out the crunch. It smells divine too.
  • Righteous Roots Hair RX - (US/UK)
    ****, CG approved
    The perfect oil for both scalp massage, adding shine, and also an all-over hot oil treatment - I love this stuff, and I see it staying in my routine for a long long time.
  • Living Libations Scalp Tonic - (US/UK)
    ****, CG approved
    This is a great oil for nourishing your scalp, goes in easily, washes out easily and leaves your scalp feeling fresh.
  • Evolve Beauty Nourishing Hair Elixir - (US/UK)
    *, CG approved
    It's started to refer to itself on the website now as a 'serum', and that's much more accurate. This oil sits on top of the hair providing shine for a short while but not penetrating the shaft.
  • The Innate Life Scalp Treatment - (US/UK)
    *, not CG friendly (cera alba)
    I expected so much more from this, and perhaps it just didn't suit my hair/scalp type? It was difficult to apply, difficult to wash out and made very little noticeable difference.
Leave-in Conditioners/Creams
  • A’Kin Leave-in Conditioner - (US/UK)
    *****, CG approved
    I loved this conditioner, and I will likely buy and use it again. It isn't too heavy, you need very little product, and it makes a noticeable difference even used just by itself.
  • Boucleme Curl Cream - (US/UK)
    *****, CG approved
    My current fave, although not my HG, this curl cream does the job and is totally reliable under pretty much any gel.
  • DevaCurl Wave Maker - (US/UK)
    ****, CG approved
    I find this to be so very similar to a lot of the above mentioned products, it is light and yet adds definition. My only hesitancy is with the price and the availability of this product.
  • Briogeo Curl Charisma Rice Amino + Avocado Leave-In Defining Crème - (US/UK)
    ****, CG approved
    I really like this creme - it's sort of a cross between a leave-in and a gel, and so I included it in this category so you know not to double layer it. Otherwise it works so beautifully at holding you curls, adding hydration and it's a great one-and-done product.
  • Andalou Naturals Styling Cream - (US/UK)
    ***, not CG friendly (amodimethicone)
    This isn't my favourite, and I found it a little heavy. The ingredients list isn't the best. The A'Kin one is a much better buy for the money.
  • Briogeo Rosarco Milk Leave In Conditioning Spray - (USUK)
    ***, not CG friendly (isohexadecane)
    I like this product, but it's not love, like any other spray conditioner I feel it's good on refresh days but I'm not convinced it actually does anything for my hair.
  • Calia Purifying Leave-in Conditioner Spray - (US/UK)
    **, not CG friendly (cera alba)
    I don't find this does much for my hair.
  • Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie - (US/UK)
    **, CG approved
    The 3rd ingredient is shea butter, so I think this is why this product sits so heavily on my fine hair. I really didn't get on with this, when I use it (I hate throwing things away) I use a teeny tiny pea sized amount mixed with gel.
  • Flora + Curl Floral Hydration Hair Mist - (US/UK)
    *, CG approved
    Smells so bad, leaves my hair sticky... perhaps this is intended for much thicker, denser hair types? I cannot figure out who would benefit from this product.
  • Jessicurl Spiralicious Styling Gel - (US/UK)
    *****, not CG friendly (alcohol)
    I really love this gel, and I always get super tight ringlets when I use it.
  • Boucleme Curl Defining Gel - (US/UK)
    *****, CG approved
    I love the way this smells and feels, and it provides just the right amount of hold for me. I will always go back to this.
  • Calia Organic Styling Gel - (US/UK)
    *****, CG approved
    Probably my HG gel, I love this for the price, the quality of the ingredients and how nice my hair looks and feels when I use it.
  • Kinky Curly Curling Custard - (US/UK)
    *****, CG approved
    This is so similar to the Calia gel, in that the ingredients list is super similar, so whichever you get you'll be happy with, lovely tight curls and great longevity. I love this!
  • Not Your Mother’s Naturals Blue Sea Kale and Coconut Water Weightless Mousse - (US/UK)
    ****, CG approved
    I love this for a very easy and quick drying wash and go style. The curls aren't as defined, but I like it that way, they're looser and more romantic but with lots of volume still. The smell is gorgeous as with the rest of the line. The only trouble is that it really doesn't keep any hold to the second day, meaning a completely new wash or new product application.
  • Bounce Curl Light Creme Gel - (US/UK)
    ****, CG approved
    I really love the longevity I get with this one, it keeps the curl structure overnight better than any of the other gels I've tried. However, it can be easy to add too much, you only need a tiny amount, and it isn't always friendly with leave-in cream products.
  • Biotera Ultra Gentle Clean Gel - (US/UK)
    ****, CG approved
    I like this one for refresh days - it's really light and therefore will work better in some climates than others, and in certain seasons. This is a really reasonably priced product as well, and layers brilliantly.

things i've got sat on my shelf waiting to review:
  • Noughty Wave Hello Curl Shampoo, Conditioner and Leave-In
  • Giovanni Weightless Moisture Shampoo, Conditioner, Leave-in & Gel
  • Only Curls UK Shampoo, Conditioner, Leave-in & Gel
products i'd like to try in the future:
  • Yes to Carrots Scalp Relief Conditioner
  • Matrix Biolage Conditioner
  • Curlsmith Curl Defining Styling Souffle, Curlsmith Moisture Memory Reactivator, Curlsmith Style Balm
  • Trepadora Quinoa Repair Deep Conditioner, Gojiberry Hair Rinse, Papaya Slip Taming Potion
  • Flora + Curl Superfruit Oil
  • Innersense I Create Volume, I Create Hold, I Create Lift Volumizing Foam, Quiet Calm Curl Control
  • Meow Meow Tweet Shampoo Bar Rosemary Avocado
  • Bounce Curl Hairspray
  • The Curly Co Diffuser
  • John Masters Scalp Spray
  • Mielle Hair Mask
if you'd like to see more in-depth reviews and routines, please hop on over to my YouTube channel and subscribe.

please feel free to make suggestions for other products i should try! the curly girl community on the web is INCREDIBLE and there are so many products i would never have found if it weren't for the recommendations of other people, so please let me know your favourites below…

otherwise, have a lovely day and thank you for reading x