Welcome to my latest Lylia Rose blog giveaway. The prize is a £10 Amazon UK gift voucher to treat yourself! Pop back each week as there will be more chances to win more vouchers and prizes. Do check out my Giveaway category to see all the latest giveaways and prizes up for grabs! Good luck!
In the 21st century it's important that we take every chance we’re given to spend time with each other as a family. People work longer hours than ever before and it just seems everyone is busy all the time, even before taking into account the added digital distractions around the place. Of course, on the continent, where lunch may be a two-hour break and people sometimes travel home from work for it, being much better at planning time to eat together is part of the culture. That means over here we have to try a little harder at it.
Rarely anyone in the UK goes home for lunch. In fact, most workers are lucky if they have 30 minutes for a lunch break, let alone an entire hour. For me, it’s important to spend as many dinner times together as possible. We can only share lunch together at the weekend and even then it can be rushed between swimming lessons, outings and plans to visit family. In the evenings there are days when the children eat first as we go to the gym over their usual dinnertime and then Ben and I eat afterwards. This can happen 2-3 times per week and so the rest of the time we are lucky to eat dinner together. We share 3-4 evening dinner times together and it’s a great way to catch up on each other’s days as well as enjoy great food. Some of the best meals, I believe, are those that can be shared between everyone; bowls of food in the middle of the table and everyone tucking in and helping themselves. An array of colour, texture and flavour that everyone can dig in to.
The best way to do that is to plan meals that necessitate everyone being together and sharing. That doesn't just mean show-stopping recipes, but also meals that are built up of different components as I mentioned above. At those meals, you have to reach over the person you are sitting next to in order to grab the bowl full of deliciousness you want to add to your plate. Some cultures even created food to be shared in this way and this is a list of some of the best. My family is of course vegan, so I want to show you how these popular sharing cuisines can also be plant based too!
This cuisine is always a winner, that's how dishes like jerk chicken top the charts for ideal festival foods and sharing platters and now even us vegans no longer have to miss out. With jackfruit fast becoming a favourite meat substitute, it has the versatility to be used in numerous Jamaican dishes as it can be shredded or pulled and will soak up flavours just like meat. Whether you’re talking about a simple patty or stew with rice and peas, it’s all amazing. A lot of people think it’ll be too spicy for them, but that's rarely the case. Plus if you make it yourself then you get to control the spice levels! Get a spread of jerk jackfruit, rice and beans, greens, curried potatoes, jackfruit curry (instead of goat) and fried plantains and the whole family will be happy - all the more so for the sharing factor.
Indian is another great idea for all the family to enjoy together with spicy curry options for the adults and mild korma or paneer options for the younger ones. Load up the table with sides of vegetable samosas, onion bhajis and cauliflower pakora, along with doughy naan breads. Cook two or three different heats of curry and serve with plain boiled rice and mushroom fried rice. Whether you cook Indian food yourself at home or order takeout, there are plenty of options for vegans.
This is the classic option. And though Chinese takeaway may conjure up images of thick MSG-laden sauces, that's not so true of the present as it was back in the 1980s. Now there are far more authentic Chinese restaurants to choose from, with huge dim sum offerings, noodle soups and fresh salads. It is also seriously fun to make dim sum as a family, where everyone gets to choose different fillings and make their own batch to be shared out later. Save time and stress on making the wrappers yourself by getting them from your nearest Asian supermarket instead. Of course, there are so many vegetables in Chinese cuisine that it’s easy to make vegan versions of the lot.
Eating as a family is an important thing that we often lose sight of. Hopefully taking heed from these other cultures - ones that put a greater emphasis on sharing meals - can help to encourage eating together more. And to encourage eating more delicious food, even for us vegans!
We recently went camping to Rhossili Bay in our Mazda Bongo Friendee for a spur of the moment one night trip without the kids, and let me tell you, it was freezing! We got a great deal on the campsite as it was the end of the season being October and they don’t open past this month. I quite enjoyed it as it meant the campsite was really quiet. I did ask Ben why he thought they shut at the end of October, but before he could answer, I answered my own question as I realised it’s probably just too cold.
Even though we went near the beginning of October, it was still freezing! The weather was quite unpredictable. It was 6 degrees when we woke at around 7am to 7.30am in the morning, so who knows how cold it had been overnight. In the day time though, it was really warm by midday in the sun. So warm, in fact, that we had to take all our layers off and we were in t-shirts!
It seems a shame to have the van all through winter and not be able to use it. Even though I detest the cold weather, I do sometimes like wrapping up warm and getting outdoors. I don’t want to totally hibernate inside for the entire winter. I love being outdoors in nature and seeing the change in season. I just need to find a way to stay warm!
Here are my suggestions of how to stay warm when camping in a campervan in cold weather:
Wrap up warm!
This is such a great idea. We have a plug socket in the van and Ben said perhaps we can get a mini heater inside the van. I have found the perfect solution at Coopers of Stortford who stock a mini heater that they call a ‘pint sized’ heater. It plugs into a socket and is not much bigger. It can heat for 1-12 hours and even has temperature control. I’m not sure if Ben realised there would be something quite so dinky, but I think it’s a perfect solution. We have a leisure battery installed so we can run it off this without draining the main battery.
Leave the pop-top down
This was my genius solution whilst camping as I was certain lifting the pop-top roof would just create more space that would need heating up. We left it down so we were in a more confined space and I believe this kept us warmer.
Sleep fully dressed
I didn’t dare get changed into my pyjamas and instead slept fully dressed, socks and all. I would highly recommend fluffy socks, cosy jogging bottoms and a fluffy jumper to sleep in! Perhaps even a hat if it’s super freezing!
If there’s two or more of you, then snuggle up! Keep each other warm!
Take lots of blankets
Pack some extra blankets. And then pack some more. And then pack some more. I questioned ben on why he was packing sooooo many blankets and thought it was overkill, but when it came to night time I realised it wasn’t even enough! We had a couple of cosy blankets under us, our duvet from home and then around three or four throws on top. It was still cold! The extra blankets and throws definitely helped though and we’ll be taking every last one we own next time!
We took a camping stove so we could have warm food first thing!
Or use a thermal sleeping bag
Probably the most obvious solution is to use a thermal sleeping bag. This was Ben’s suggestion, but I just hate sleeping in sleeping bags. I feel so trapped. Perhaps I’ll change my mind if we go in even colder weather!
Use thermal screens
I’ve also discovered these thermal interior screens that will not only keep us warm and retain the heat in the van overnight, but they’ll give us some extra privacy too. We have built in blinds on all the regular windows, but nothing on the front or back windscreens. It’s on our list of things to buy, but we were just thinking of something thin for privacy, instead we can choose thermal screens to keep us warm in the colder months.
Have a warm cuppa
There’s nothing more warming than a nice hot cup of tea or cocoa! Invest in some proper thermos flasks to keep hot drinks hot for hours and use them when you need them the most – to warm up at night time or in the morning!
We definitely need to invest in a few more things for the van to keep us warm outside of the summer months. I don’t want the cold weather to put us off exploring and we’ll be getting a mini heater and thermal screens ASAP!
Welcome to my Money Making Blogger interview series where I interview bloggers who are making money from their blogs!
Read on to discover how they make money from blogging and the steps they took to monetize their blogs. Feel inspired and learn something new from this series! Also learn how many hours they spend on their blogs per week and what sort of income this provides.
I get to write every day and make money by doing what I love. It’s amazing and still amazes me each day, even two years into making money from my website. It’s not without a lot of hard work though, so don’t be fooled into thinking you simply set up a website and voila, income starts rolling in. If only! I work 30-40 hours per week currently and my blog is my life!
In this series I am going to interview other bloggers who also make money from their blogs to hopefully inspire people to start a blog if they wish or to make that leap to monetizing content. I also find it so interesting to learn what other bloggers are up to and even us full time bloggers can learn from each other and inspire one another.
Hello, please introduce yourself.
I'm Saeed and I am a personal finance blogger and founder of MoneyPantry.com, a money blog where we share 100s of awesome ways to make more money, save more money and get free stuff.
How long have you been blogging for and when did you begin to monetize?
I started blogging in the late 2007 but it took me a few years to actually start making money as a blogger. I had to learn everything from scratch since I really didn't know much about coding, building sites and monetizing.
What's your monthly blog income like?
Well, until a few years ago, my income from my blog was more of a side income. But once I started MoneyPantry in 2013 and got it to a place where I was getting decent traffic, the income from MP surpassed my income from my day job by a lot. So in 2016, my girlfriend quit her day job and we both now work from home, focusing all of our efforts on making MoneyPantry the best money blog where everyone can find tips and hacks that they can actually use in their lives to make and save more money.
How exactly do you make money from your blog?
Google Adsense and affiliate marketing are the main sources of income for MoneyPantry.
Were there any steps you took to prep your blog for making money?
The main step was getting traffic to the site so I could monetize it. Of course, that meant learning SEO, optimizing posts for social media and so on.
Has it been an easy process to make money from your blog?
No, it took a lot of time and effort. I'm sorry to burst the bubble, but making money blogging isn't as easy as some people make it seem to be. I had to learn SEO and how to optimize my blog and its content for Google and other search engines so we could rank for our target keywords in order to get traffic. I had to learn the basics of coding so I could at least fix some of the issues as they came up. There were and still are a lot of things that I had to learn from scratch. Of course, none of this happened overnight. In fact, most of my success with MoneyPantry can be attributed to my first few blogs where I actually learned a lot of these things. So in a way, MoneyPantry is the product of my experiments and earning journey since 2007 when I became interested in making money online.
How many hours per week do you work on your blog?
For the first few years, I was working basically all day and night. I was either in front of my computer or laptop pretty much anytime I had free time. There was a lot to learn and do. Thankfully, for the past 2 years or so, I have been able to manage things better thanks to my girlfriend picking up a lot of the work and my amazing writers who now write a lot of the content for us. So these days my work schedule usually starts around 8 am and goes until 1pm. I take a lunch break followed by a 20-minute nap with my dog, Geeta. Then depending on other life obligations, I may work a few more hours on the blog here and there. Of course, sometimes problems come up - site goes down, technical issues, ads related problems, etc. that have me work for hours without taking a break until I'm able to fix things.
What are your aims for your blog in the future? Do you plan on increasing your income and how?
Yes, there are always plans to make the blog bigger and better so we can serve more people. I am working on creating a useful app for the site, as well as a newsletter so we can send our readers the latest posts and exclusive money making/saving tips and hacks.
If someone is totally new to blogging, what should they concentrate on most to start making money?
Content! Sure, there are a lot of things that go into getting traffic to your site - SEO, social media optimization, etc. - but without good content, nothing happens. You can get traffic to your blog, but if you have no good content, nobody is going to stick around or come back. Focus 80% of your efforts in creating amazing content that people can't help but share with others.
Are there any drawbacks to running a money making blog?
If you want to make it a decent source of income, you have to treat it like a real business. Have a working schedule and be consistent.
What inspires you to blog and what is the best thing about blogging?
To be honest, the best part of blogging is the comments and emails I get from our readers. I know it sounds cheesy, but it really makes me happy when I hear a reader was able to make or save more money by using tips and tricks we share on MP, it just makes me happy.
Would you still blog even if you couldn’t make money doing it and why?
Yes, I would. I may not be able to put a lot of hours into it since I would have to work at a job so I could make money and feed my family, but if the blog keeps helping people, I would keep doing it.
Do you think blogging is here to stay and why?
Definitely here to stay. It's an easy way for anyone to share their opinion and expertise.
Thank you so much for taking part in my Money Making Blogger interview series and best of luck with your blog!
Owning a home is becoming a distant dream for a growing number of people in the UK. Many are looking at other ways to enter the property market. Property remains a popular and profitable asset, and British bricks and mortar remain appealing to investors. Owning a home is no longer a necessary factor if you want to invest in property. In fact, an increasing amount of people choose a buy to let property before they even choose to buy their own first home!
Many people are now finding that the deposit for their first home that they have saved so hard for isn’t enough to purchase their dream home. Though this is obviously a difficult situation, there can still be a way for you to afford that perfect property, but in a different way. You have two options, one of these is to use the rental income you are earning from your buy to let investment to afford a more expensive rental property. This means you can maintain the lifestyle you want, in the area you want, whilst also owning a property which will boost your income. You could also hold onto the property, earn rental income, save that and then sell the property and use your profit to add to your deposit for your dream home.
A recent study found that 36.6% of investors are now first-time buyers, compared to 21.1% the previous year. The term ‘rentvestor’ has been coined to describe this new group of people who are renting a home in one area whilst earning rental income in another area from an investment property. For individuals who have managed to save a significant amount of money, investing in property can be a great choice. It also allows a degree of flexibility, where you can move around whilst still owning a property and earning revenue.
In the UK, the average deposit for first time buyers is £51,000, with an average monthly mortgage payment of £723. Across the country, renting is more expensive than a mortgage, with the average monthly rent costing a steep £912. Savvy investors can use the regional price variations in the UK to their advantage, choosing to invest in a property where monthly rental payments are far higher than the mortgage you are paying. In certain areas of the UK, you can purchase an entire property for the average deposit sum. Hamilton Hub, a development on the Wirral by RW Invest luxury apartments are available for just £45,450. With yields of 8%, these lucrative opportunities mean that getting on the property ladder can be easier than once thought.
There are some considerations to think about before deciding to become a buy to let property investor. There are different tax implications, stamp duty charges and extra expenses like ground rent, landlord insurance and estate agent fees. In order to buy a buy to let property, you will need more of a deposit than you would than buying a standard home and some companies only offer properties to cash investors.
Despite this, becoming a buy to let investor is a great way of owning property and earning from it, and it can be far more affordable than buying in your dream area. Buy to let property investment allows you to both earn a monthly rental income and to gain capital appreciation as the property increase in value. You don’t need to own your home to invest in property, and it could in fact make it easier for you to buy that dream house in the long run.