Five time-saving services busy mums should know about

Being a mum can be hectic, with a recent study by Welch’s finding motherhood equivalent to having 2.5 full-time jobs and working 98-hour weeks, where women bear the brunt of household chores. With non-stop lists of daily jobs and duties, it sometimes seems impossible to get it all done in time, but there are ways to save yourself some time and cut down your daily workload. 

1. Household helper apps

You might spend half of your life prying your kids away from technology, but it can play a big role in helping you to get things done more efficiently — freeing some of your time up for that bath you’ve been daydreaming about. Laundrapp is a nifty little app which means you can request the company to collect, wash and then return your laundry to you in. If it’s more than a wash load that your house needs help with, all-rounder cleaning apps like GoFantastic give you the option to choose a range of professionals in your area in under 30 seconds.

2. Recipe box subscriptions

For many modern-day mothers, the reality is that there’s simply not enough time to think up, go shopping for, and then create a fresh and healthy meal for the family. So, what’s the solution? There are plenty of recipe box services — likeHelloFresh— who deliver the exact ingredients you need to make the meals of your choice. With an app to control your subscription, giving you options to choose from the recipe book, skip a week of deliveries and adjust your meal plans whenever you want, it’s never been simpler to cook delicious and nutritious meals from scratch. Plus, it saves you going to 4 different supermarkets to find that one ingredient your online recipe claims you can’t make the dish without!

3. Repeat prescriptions delivered to your door

With more demanding schedules, many pharmacies — including Lloyds Pharmacy— now offer door-to-door services for your NHS repeat prescriptions, with some of these having no delivery cost. The process is simple to sign up to and the pharmacy will remind you when it’s time to re-order, making your to-do list that bit shorter!

4. Pet-sitting apps

We all get a little nervous leaving our pets alone for long periods of time while we try and shoehorn everything into our day, but lucky for you, you’re not the only one wanting to be around your fluffy friend. With the invention of apps like Borrow my Doggyand Cat in a Flat, it’s never been easier to make sure they have everything they need in your absence, provided by a registered and responsible pet-lover.

5. Beauty box subscriptions

Often struggle finding time to go shopping and treat yourself? With the ever-growing ability to get almost anything delivered to your door with the click of a button, we have just the thing for you. There are now a multitude of beauty box subscriptions which can introduce you to new products every month, so you can look less frantically-busy-mum, and more cool-calm-collected mum. Containing more than just cosmetic products, your skin, hair and body will all be taken care of as well. Check out Look Fantasticfor consistently great beauty boxes which will give you the TLC you deserve.

Getting through all of the daily tasks can prove impossible for many mums, so make use of these little time-savers to get you up to speed in no time — no sweat necessary.

What really happens to your breasts after pregnancy?

Having a baby is one of the most incredible experiences any woman can go through, but your body is set to experience some significant changes both during and after pregnancy. Alongside the stretched stomach which will continue to grow as your baby grows, you are likely to see changes in your body shape, hair, skin and also your breasts. Here, we’re taking a closer look at what really happens to your breasts after pregnancy.

Breast deflation

Many people marvel at the benefits that breast feeding can have for your child but very few focus on the negatives – which often lies in the deflation that your breasts experience after breast feeding. As soon as the placenta leaves the body, hormones will surge in order to increase the volume of milk that your breasts are able to produce. Babies need frequent feeds in order to ensure that they obtain the calories and nutrients that they need as they continue to grow and build up their immune system, but this can lead to your breasts becoming saggy and losing almost all shape and firmness.

In fact, some people have even described their breasts as “deflated water balloons”. As a result, some new mums seek breast surgery after having a child and breast feeding, in order to restore the natural shape and size of the breasts that they once had. With high quality breast enlargement Turkey procedures, performed by some of the world’s most sought-after surgeons, becoming steadily available at an affordable price, more and more new mums are seeking the procedure.

Nipples can become bumpy & dark

This is something that can occur throughout pregnancy as well as after and is a result of the hormone fluctuations. As early as the first trimester, new mums can experience their nipples beginning to stick out more, and their Montgomery glands beginning to become more prominent in preparation for breast feeding. Nipples can also darken in colour during and after pregnancy as a result of hormones beginning to stimulate pigment producing cells. This is especially true in women who have a naturally deep skin tone. However, within a few months after breastfeeding finishes, new mums should see their nipples return to their original shape, size and colour.

Stretch marks

Stretch marks are entirely dependent on hereditary, and where breasts swell as a result of the milk being produced, collagen and elastin can stretch far beyond the point of snapping back to how the skin was originally. This can leave a number of red or purple stretch lines, or even white ones depending on the type of skin you have. The more weight you gain during pregnancy, the more likely you are to begin to develop stretch marks across your body – particularly on your breasts, and other areas such as your stomach and thighs.

Sore, cracked & bleeding nipples or breasts

This is where breast feeding becomes a bit gory, but unfortunately not all babies are gentle when nursing. This often occurs when a baby hasn’t latched onto the nipple correctly when breast feeding, and if this is the case, your baby may not be getting as much milk as he/she needs. In this case, your milk production could be compromised, and this can cause your nipples to become even more sore than they may have been already. It’s also important to look out for lactational mastitis which is a painful bacterial breast infection, caused by a break in the skin caused by sucking becoming infected (a baby’s mouth is full of germs). The infected area can leave your breasts feeling very sore, red and swollen, and the infection can also lead to a fever, flu-like symptoms, and in the most severe cases, a breast abscess.

Top tips to make your home greener

As well as taking care of the environment and helping the kids to learn about sustainability, making your home greener can save you a lot of money, both in the short term and the long term. With energy bills always increasing and lots of other essentials to pay for, getting set up for a greener home will bring many benefits. Here are some top tips for saving energy and making your home more environmentally friendly:

Energy efficient appliances – When you are buying new appliances, check out their energy performance rating and choose one with the best energy efficiency rating available. Washing machines are notorious for using a lot of energy, so switching from one with bad energy efficiency to one with the higher rating will make a big difference.

Rainwater harvesting – If you have a fairly large garden with lots of plants that need to be watered throughout the summer then you can invest in a rainwater harvesting system that will allow you to capture rainwater from the roof to use in the garden rather than draining it away.

Smart meters – If you don’t have a smart meter for your gas and electric then you should look into it. As well as being able to monitor usage better, you can use your phone to turn off the heating if you forgot to before you left the house in the morning.

Don’t leave the tap running! – It sounds like an obvious one but a lot of water can get wasted if the tap is being left to run when people are brushing their teeth or doing the washing up for example. Getting your kids into the habit of brushing their teeth without the tap running throughout will save plenty of water over the years, so get the habit started whilst they are young. In some households, the tap is left to run whilst someone is doing the dishes but it is much greener to run a bowl of water instead. Also, leaving the shower on when you‘re waiting for it to heat up is a big waste of water as you can often get side-tracked and leave it running much longer than needed.

Kettle clever – Boiling a full kettle takes up a lot more energy than heating up enough for a cup of coffee for example. So by only heating up the amount of water that you actually need, you save energy. You can also buy 1-cup kettles that are great for saving energy each time you fancy a cuppa.

LED spotlightsLED spotlights use a lot less energy than their halogen alternatives, so next time you are shopping for spotlights, make sure you choose the LED ones.

Keep the heat in – By keeping doors closed, having thick curtains and having roof insulation installed, you can prevent heat from escaping and reduce the need to turn the heating up. Only heat up the room that you are using rather than the entire home if you aren’t using it. If you have windows or doors that are letting warm air escape then you can get draft excluders or better seals to try and prevent the problem. You can even make your own draft excluders from old pillows and blankets rather than spending money on new ones. Click here to see some eco-friendly internal doors that will help you to keep the heat where you need it.

No to standby modes – Leaving TVs and other appliances on standby mode is still using energy so instead of leaving on standby just switch off completely. Standby mode can cost around £30 per year according to the Energy Saving Trust.

Top tips for flying with children

Some people enjoy flying, while to others it’s simply a means-to-an-end part of the holiday experience. Us parents know, however, that flying with children in tow is a whole different challenge.

Keeping young minds happy and occupied for the duration of the flight isn’t always easy. So, to help give you some ideas, we’ve got in touch with the travel experts over at Thomas Cook. Here, they tell us their top tips for flying with children. 

Always plan ahead

Okay, so you can’t entirely guarantee how your kids will behave and what they’ll demand of you once you’re onboard -  but you can take a pretty good guess. The key to a successful and peaceful flight is plenty of prior planning. If they’re likely to complain they’re hungry during the duration of the flight, but are picky and may not like any of the on-board options, pack some of their favourite snacks. If they get bored of toys and games quickly, plan a few different activities to keep them occupied and store these in your hand luggage.  But, at the same time…

Be space smart

Sure, if you pack half your children’s toy cupboard into your hand luggage they’re unlikely to get bored. But that doesn’t leave much room for your things, not to mention the extra weight you’ll have to lug around the airport on both sides.

Give them a bag of their own

One clever idea is to pack each of your child a bag of their own. A light backpack they can carry themselves, that’s full of cheap and easy favourites like crayons & colouring books, handheld puzzles, Lego sets and small bags of sweets. Lots of kids will love the sense of independence they get from having their own luggage, stuffed full of things they enjoy.

Don’t tell them the full truth about the flight time

‘Are we there yet?’ is sure to crop up sooner rather than later. If it does, only two hours into your 10-hour Caribbean flight, it’s easy to panic. The trick is to be honest with them about the remaining time, but not too honest. Several hours can seem like an age to kids, so never tell them they exact time until landing. Instead, use replies like “It’s still a bit to go yet!”, and “Just a little bit further!”. It never hurts to tell them you’re “halfway there!” a little prematurely, either. This should stop them dwelling on the flight time too much and getting agitated.

Make it exciting

When you think about it, hopping on board an aircraft and navigating the planet from thousands of feet in the air is pretty incredible. For young minds in particular, this can be a real experience. By making the journey an exciting one, you reduce the likelihood of tears and tantrums. See if you can catch a glimpse of your plane as it comes in, through the departure lounge window. Ask your children to guess which plane they’ll be getting on, and once you’re on board point out the wings and engines. When you’re up in the air, make sure they have a good look out the window and chat about what you can see down below!

Prepare for those popped ears

Nobody likes that pressurised-ear feeling at take-off and landing, but for kids in particular, this can be really distressing. The best way to combat this is by bringing along some sweets or lollipops to suck on, as this motion can help the ears pop and alleviate the pressure. You could also use this as an opportunity for a bit of fun – pretending to ‘be a fish’ and making popping sounds with your mouths is an effective way of making the ears pop.

How to maximise efficiency in your family kitchen

The kitchen tends to be one of the most hectic rooms in a family home — with dinners to cook, packed lunches to prepare, and little ones to keep happy, it can often feel like there aren't enough hours in the day. Fortunately, there are plenty of tips and tricks that can help you to run your kitchen more efficiently, which should save you a lot of time and stress. Read on to find out more.

Embrace the power of meal planning

There are plenty of benefits to planning your meals. It can help you to save money and time, as well as dramatically reduce food waste. Plus, it can make it much easier for you to ensure that your family are getting the nutrients they need.

Once you get into the routine, meal planning can be pretty easy too. Start by creating a template of what kind of meals you would like to serve each week. For example, you might want to make two chicken meals, two beef meals, two vegetarian meals, and one pork meal a week. Or, you might decide that you would like to make two slow cooker meals, two stir fries, one salad, and two meals with rice each week — this doesn't have to be something you always stick to, but it's always helpful to have something to work towards.

As well as creating a rough weekly template, we would highly recommend coming up with a list of core recipes that you can always throw into the mix when need be. If you can build an arsenal of around 20 recipes your family will never get bored, and you can begin to make these core dishes five times a week, and then try two new recipes. Who said meal planning had to be boring? 

Prepare what you can in advance

Any professional chef will tell you that the key to running an efficient kitchen is preparing as much as you can in advance. And, you'll find this much easier when you begin to plan your meals each week at a time. If you're cooking two meals in one week that have some overlap in terms of the ingredients, you can reduce how much work the second dish takes to make by preparing similar components at the same time, and storing them to use later in the week.

Additionally, we would highly recommend making all packed lunches for the week on a Sunday. Or, if you're worried everything will be stale by the time it gets to Friday, make a batch of three on Sunday night, and another batch of two on Wednesday. You'll be surprised by how much easier your life becomes when you don't have to find time to make a packed lunch every evening or morning. Just make sure you pack everything into boxes that will keep your food fresher for longer. Greatist has a list of their top 10 meal-prep containers, which will give you a good idea of how you should store certain foods.

Learn how to get the most out of your cooker

Families that enjoy home-cooked meals rely a lot on their ovens and hobs, so it's vital that you know how to use these as efficiently as possible. To get a better idea of how you can get the most out of your cooker, we asked Katie Georgeson, brand manager at the kitchen appliance manufacturer Stoves, for her top tips. She said: "There are a number of steps you can take to ensure your food is always cooked well in the shortest time possible. If your cooker has multiple oven cavities that you're able to set at different temperatures, this certainly gives you an advantage — you can look at the ingredients for each meal and decide which elements you can cook together. This is particularly handy when you're making something that's made up of several separate dishes, like a Sunday roast. One of your cooker cavities could even be used to keep parts of a meal warm before they're served.

"Also, if you're making a particularly complicated dish that's going to leave you struggling for oven space, you can always look for alternative cooking methods you could use. For example, steaming your vegetables instead of roasting them can be a great option.

"Finally, I know it can be tempting to open your oven to check on the food that's cooking inside, but this allows all of the heat to escape, which means your meal will take even longer to be ready. Instead, ensure that your oven door is always clean enough for you to be able to see what's going on without having to open it."

Let your freezer live up to its potential

When you want to serve your family fresh and nutritious meals every night, it can sometimes feel like you have to make everything from scratch. But, there's absolutely no shame in bulk cooking meals, freezing the leftovers, and then serving them at a later date. As long as you defrost and reheat everything in the right way, your dishes should taste just as good, and still be just as nutritious as on the day you first made them.

If you aren't used to freezing leftovers, or you aren't entirely sure you've been getting it right, BBC Good Food has a guide to freezing food, which explains everything from which foods don't fare well in the freezer, to how you can cook certain dishes from frozen.

When you want to provide your family with nutritious, homecooked meals, it's important that your kitchen runs as efficiently as possible. This will help to reduce how much time you spend cooking and make the process far less stressful. Take these tips on board, and they'll help to make your life much easier in no time.