Most kids love pizza, but shop bought pizza bases often taste like cardboard. It’s really simple to make your own pizza bases and dough balls – the little people will love getting involved and creating something yummy to eat. My little helper had a great time with this recipe!
350 Strong Plain Flour (for making bread not the normal plain flour you use for cakes, pastry etc)
7g sachet of fast action yeast
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
250ml warm water
1 large bowl
1 large mixing bowl
Making sure the mixing bowl is warm (you can pour boiling water in it and then wipe it over or use it just out of the dishwasher), mix the flour, salt and yeast together.
Stir in the olive oil and water and xix together until it collects into a dough.
Sprinkle some flour onto the work surface and then empty the dough out of the bowl and knead for five minutes or so. Little people can get creative with this – for example by using their elbows!
Put the dough into a the large bowl, cover with cling film and leave somewhere warm for 30 minutes until the dough has doubled in size.
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C/ 400 degrees F/ gas mark 6.
Tip the dough back onto the floured surface and cut in half. You can use one half for the pizza base and one half to make the dough balls. Roll out the pizza base into a circle and use the remaining dough to make the dough balls by rolling out into a long, thin sausage shape and cutting into small pieces. Then roll each shape into balls using your hands. Our dough balls were not so small or even, mainly because I let my daughter make them herself!
Put the pizza base on an oven tray and add your toppings.
Cook the pizza in the oven for 15 minutes (or more if required).
Place the dough balls on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 5 – 10 minutes.
It really is that simple! My little chef was delighted with her Italian feast.
Aimee Foster is a mum, freelance writer and social media manager, stationery addict and sea lover. Find more of her ramblings over on her blog, New Forest Mum.
As we move towards the end of summer and the days become slightly shorter, it’s inevitable that our minds turn to winter and how our energy bills will creep up. If you worry about how you’re going to manage the bills this winter, here are some tips for reducing the cost:
It may sound obvious, but you can save a lot of money by changing energy supplier. Have a look on comparison websites to see how much you could save. Switching to the cheapest supplier could cut your bills by half.
Make sure you check out comparison websites regularly and switch whenever you can get a better deal.
Get the whole family involved
If no one is watching the TV, make sure it goes off. Switch off lights when nobody’s in the room. Take care is taken with water use.
Young children can be taught to be careful with the energy they use. For example, when brushing their teeth, ask them to turn the tap off. When they leave the room, keep reminding them to turn off the lights and TV until it becomes second nature to them.
Sitting down together and making a plan on how to save energy as a family will greatly help to reduce those bills.
Put a jumper on
Most people wander round their houses in winter wearing a thin shirt with the thermostat cranked up to 20 degrees. Your first port of call could be to put on more layers before the heating goes on.
Apparently turning down the thermostat by just one degree can save £85 per year.
Dare we suggest a onesie?!
Not only is this good fire-safety practise, it will also save you pounds from your energy bill. If you leave your TV on standby, it’s still using 50 percent of its energy.
The same goes for washing machines, dishwashers, tumble driers, microwaves etc. When they’re not in use, turn them off at the wall and unplug them.
Shower the kids
One way to save water is to shower the kids instead of bath them. They may not like it at first but they’ll get used to not having a bath and your water bills will quickly reduce. When you do give them a bath, only fill it as much as you need to.
Be energy savvy
. There are plenty of ways to become energy savvy.
Make sure the dishwasher is full before you turn it on. The same goes for the washing machine. Don’t overload them but also take care not to use them until you have loaded them fully. Two loads of washing where one would suffice is just a waste of money.
In the winter, buy draught excluders and make sure all windows are shut before you switch the heating on. Close curtains to keep heat in. If you don’t use your fireplace, block the chimney with a pillow. Look into other ways of insulating your house such as loft and wall insulation to make it better able to keep heat in.
Use energy saving light bulbs. Fix dripping taps. Only fill the kettle with the exact amount of water you intend to use (did you know the kettle uses a lot of energy?) Turn down the washing machine temperature to 40 degrees and use the quick wash.
When you need to replace appliances such as washing machines and boilers, make sure you choose the most energy efficient ones as possible.
Keep up to date with your meter readings
Record your meter reading each month so you can see how you’re doing. Make sure you submit your readings to your energy supplier to avoid paying an estimated bill. Estimated bills can be grossly inaccurate.
Get a smart meter
All households will be offered a smart meter by 2020, at no extra cost. A smart meter not only sends meter readings to your energy supplier for you (ending the problem of inaccurate, estimated bills) but also allows you to see, in real time, exactly how much energy you’re using in pounds and pence. If you’ve ever tried to work out your energy bill, you’ll have seen how deliberately complicated it is. Smart meters put an end to all that.
You can find out more about smart meters here. Everyone will eventually be offered a smart meter, but contact your supplier to see if you can get one now.
If you don’t want to wait until 2020 for your smart meter, you can buy an energy monitor for about £25 (although some suppliers give them away for free). An energy monitor is a handheld device, which allows you to see the amount and cost of the energy you’re using. This will then enable you to see where cut backs can be made.
By following all of the above, you can significantly reduce the amount of money you spend on energy. This will leave you to spend your money on things you actually want!
Last time I was here I was offering some money making tips to help boost your holiday spending. In that article, I mentioned that one of the best ways was to do matched betting. I’m really grateful to Baby & Children’s Markets for having me back to provide a little more information about what matched betting is.
Matched betting doesn’t involve you betting or gambling in the traditional sense. Instead, it’s completely risk free. By following a set process, you place bets which cancel each other out. Therefore, instead of losing money, you simply get your money back. By using the free bets given to you by bookmakers, you end up being able to keep this money.
With more than £2000 worth of bonuses available for new customers, matched betting is a risk-free way to make a lot of money simply from opening accounts with different bookmakers.
The fact that matched betting had been tried tested out by journalists in national newspapers convinced me to give it a go:
“With bookmakers offering ‘free bets’ to tempt new customers, you can play the system and pocket hundreds of pounds – with little risk to your own cash” (The Guardian, June 2010)
How does matched betting work?
Matched betting is very simple. My guide to matched betting breaks down all of the steps for you in lots of detail. But here’s a summary of how it works:
Open an account with an online bookmaker offering a free bet for new customers.
Join a betting exchange. These are websites which allow you to bet against the outcome of a particular game or match.
Place a qualifying bet. Instead of choosing a random bet, you place two bets both for and against the same outcome. This means backing a bet with a bookmaker and also laying against that outcome with the betting exchange. This means that when the match is finished, you will get your money back.
You will then be given a free bet from the bookmaker. Repeat the same process, placing two bets both for and against the same outcome. Once again, you’ll get your money back. But as you have used free money given to you by the bookmaker you actually make the value of the free bet so will be in profit.
As you always back and lay against the same outcome you will always get your money back. This means it is a risk free way of making extra money. And, as a bonus, anything you make is also tax free.
How much money can I make?
By following this method, you can always make at least 70% of the value of the free bets offered by bookmakers.
With more than 50 bookmakers in the UK offering bonuses worth over £2000, there’s at least £1500 to be made simply by signing up.
Matched betting can also be an ongoing source of income for many people. With the competition between different bookmakers quite strong, they also give out lots of ongoing offers. Since starting matched betting a year ago, I’ve made more than £7500. If you can spare two hours per day, most people tend to make £500-£1000 per month.
I keep a matched betting diary showing how much I’ve made, the types of offers I’ve completed and how much time I’ve been able to spare.
How do I get started?
If you’re anything like me, the whole matched betting world can seem very daunting and intimidating. Before I started, my experience of bookmakers was also very limited. I didn’t really understand how the odds worked or how to place a bet.
So I use a matched betting service to help me do matched betting instead. There are lots of different companies to choose from but I chose to join the largest company with more than 20,000 members, Profit Accumulator. They spoon feed me all of the information I need to do matched betting. This includes telling me what offers are available, helping me find suitable bets, making the calculations for me and showing me how to place bets. There’s a full Profit Accumulator review on my blog.
They offer a free trial where you can access their training and tools for two offers. This is a great way to see whether matched betting might be for you, whilst also making £35-£40.
Thanks once again to Baby & Children’s Market for having me.
Matched Betting Mum
A former career civil servant, Jodie took a break from Whitehall when her eldest daughter Lily was born just over 4 years ago. Since then, she’s had another baby – Oliver – and moved to the sticks. As a stay at home mum, her day to day life is very much dictated by the school run, toddler groups, clubs, feeding and the bed and bath routine.
Missing the freedom of earning her own money, she randomly stumbled across something called matched betting a few months ago. It offered an easy way to make money from home but it also seemed a bit too good to be true. Backed up by reviews in The Guardian, Telegraph and Huffington Post, though, she decided to give it a go. Five months later, she’s made nearly £4000 in her spare time, simply fitting it in when the kids allow.
Now she’s on a mission to tell other people all about it.
“When I started, it was really difficult to find information which told me how matched betting worked. It’s actually very simple but just takes a little time to get your head around it. I’m sure there are other people out there who are interested in giving it a go but are overwhelmed by the betting world and its technical jargon! My aim is to explain how it all works as simply as possible and give people the confidence to try it out.”
By sharing the experience of how she got started and manages to fit it in around her children, Jodie aims to help others who might be worried or nervous in taking that first step. Along the way, her blog also offers wider money saving tips and random musings about life with her two kiddies.
Picnics in the park, games of rounders with neighbourhood kids, watching TV and sneaking ice pops out of the freezer. What memories do the summer holidays conjure up for you? For many, the long break from school offered up a welcome chunk of liberty, enjoyed alongside copious amounts of strawberries and ice-cream.
From a parent’s perspective, however, the enjoyment of spending time with their children can be diminished by the challenge of juggling work and other commitments, while worrying about the impact of soaring childcare costs.
In Britain, the long summer break is a throwback to the time when children were needed to pick fruit and work on farms. With its purpose made redundant long ago, the question remains as to whether the traditional six-week summer holiday actually fits in with modern life. Should the summer break be slashed to four weeks? It is a question that divides opinion and raises many issues including those of:
If you struggle with the cost of the summer holidays, you’re not alone. For those lucky enough to go away, the high costs of peak-time travel can really bite. Even if you stay at home, the expense of entertaining the children and the prohibitive cost of childcare, place a real strain on family finances. Working mum Asha Lewis says, ‘I’m lucky I have amazing friends and family to help, but if I had to pay for childcare over the entire summer I’d hardly be left with anything. It’s a real nightmare for some.’
Jo McGowan of Guildford Business Training says, as a small business owner, she finds the summer holidays manageable but it’s the early September INSET days that present a problem. ‘After six weeks of trying to sort out childcare and activities, the INSET days at the beginning of term are a real headache. Many holiday clubs have finished by then.’
However, a recent report by the Trussell Trust has added a more worrying concern. While 40% of parents worry about extra summer costs such as childcare and activities, 1 in 5 parents will skip a meal over the summer in order to be able to feed their kids. In July and August 2016, the charity issued 67500 emergency food packages to families. This figure is significantly higher than usual and is set to rise again this year.
Another charity, Action for Children, has reported unprecedented demand for its Holiday Kitchen places in some areas of the UK. The phenomenon of children going hungry during the long school break is, in one of the world’s richest countries, extremely worrying. Reducing the length of the summer holidays may alleviate the problem but does not, by any stretch of the imagination, solve it.
The summer learning gap
It’s inevitable that over a six week break from school, children will forget much of what they’ve learned. According to research carried out in the US, academic progress halts significantly during the summer. One study found that pupils returning to school in September are, on average, one month behind where they left off at the end of the summer term. Teachers, therefore, must waste time re-teaching lessons, in order to bring pupils back up to speed after the summer slide.
In 2008, a report by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) recommended the school year be rearranged to five terms of eight weeks, with a four week summer holiday and two week breaks between the remaining terms. The IPPR’s findings that maths and reading skills regress over the summer mirrors the results of research carried out in the US. According to the IPPR report, children from disadvantaged backgrounds are hardest hit, because they may not be able to access the same activities and clubs as their peers.
Children in the UK start school relatively early compared with many of their European counterparts and are under more pressure than ever to achieve. A complete restructure of the school year, with shorter, more frequent breaks may benefit children more than the current set-up.
Disbanding the summer holidays and distributing them evenly throughout the year, could help children achieve and progress. Teacher Sally Hebden says, ‘Children lose momentum and motivation over the summer. The autumn term is too long and tiring for them. I think they would benefit academically and emotionally from shorter, more regular breaks.’
Teachers often finish the year exhausted, stressed and burnt out. Many argue they not only need the summer holidays to recover, but also to prepare for the coming school year. Teacher Gil Wilson thinks the summer holidays should be left as they are. ‘Both the kids and teachers need it. Teachers spend at least three weeks of the holidays planning for the year ahead as well as sorting out their classrooms. Four weeks just wouldn’t be long enough.’
Some parents, like fitness instructor Sarah Feazey, think depriving children of the long summer holidays would be, quite simply, mean. ‘Most people have lovely memories of the summer holidays and it wouldn’t be right to prevent others from having what we had. Also, children need to have as much fun as possible without formal structure.’
A six week school break also provides parents and children with a real opportunity to spend quality time together. Stay-at-home mum Helena Borely says, ‘I enjoy the summer hols and I like having that chunk of time with the kids while they still want to spend it with me!’ The long break from the school run, homework and the whirlwind of after school activities is welcomed by many parents.
Long summer holiday periods are the norm throughout the world. Children in the USA enjoy a twelve week pause, while other countries, such as France and Sweden, opt for a nine or ten week break. Although the reason behind long summer holidays is a relic from the past, it appears to still work for many other countries.
Incidentally, schools are at liberty to set their own term dates. While they have the opportunity to shorten the summer holidays, most choose not to. Whatever your take on the debate, it seems children will continue to enjoy the magic of an extended summer for the foreseeable future.
Aimee Foster is a mum, freelance writer and social media manager, stationery addict and sea lover. Find more of her ramblings over on her blog, New Forest Mum.