Kids can be expensive – like *really* expensive. I always knew that there’d be large child-related costs when it came to things like pushchairs, car seats and clothes, but I’ve discovered plenty of unexpected costs along the way. Take something like the cost of family entertainment – I never realised I’d spend so much on the likes of toys, crafts, TV, days out, classes, food, parties, playdates etc.
In fact, research by commissioned by frozen pizza brand Goodfella’s found that it costs £2,602 each year to keep the children entertained. That’s a lot of moolah! Delving into a bit more detail, this includes monthly expenditure of £37.69 on movies and TV, £35.31 on toys, books and magazines, £50.81 on meals out and £34.11 visiting soft play and play parks.
That worries me a bit because I’m pretty sure we spend more than that. It’s difficult to get an exact figure without examining our finances, but I know for a fact that we spend more than £50 a month on buying food and drink as part of a day out.
Similarly, when it comes to ‘on-demand’ entertainment we have Virgin, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Amazon Fire For Kids Unlimited and Spotify – that’s a combined £100 a month to just give us something to stare at and listen to.
However, despite the above two examples, I’m pretty happy at how much we spend compared to how much we do as a family. That’s not because we’re loaded – far from it. Instead, it’s because I consider us pretty smart with how we spend our money on keeping the kids entertained.
That’s not to say that changes aren’t needed though. For example, if we subsituted one paid day out for a free day out or swapped one takeaway for a fakeaway each month it’d help you save more money on family entertainment.
As such, as part of the launch of their Romano range of premium frozen pizzas, Goodfella’s asked me to share some of the things we do in order to reduce the cost of family entertainment. Here’s 4 of my tips and then some more info on the new pizza range which we’ve been trying:
1) Consider Free (And Cheap) Days Out
To keep the costs down, we also do a lot of free days out. I think there’s sometimes a perception that the more expensive something is, the better it has to be. That may be true with some things – a car, for instance – but it’s not our experience when it comes to days out and entertaining. Ultimately, does a kid really care how much something costs? Just remember the classic ‘plays with the box and not the toy’ scenario!
For us, we’ve always found that L has the most fun when we’re all together as a family, regardless of what we’re doing. Yes, we could spend £50 every time we go out on attraction tickets, but that soon becomes untenable. Anyway, there’s plenty of free (or cheaper) alternatives out there. We have adventure playgrounds, splash parks, museums, lakes and woods all in close proximity to us which cost nothing more than petrol.
It still astounds me that you can visit local places like the Natural History Museum in Tring, the Royal Air Force Museum in Hendon or Stockwood Discovery Centre in Luton for nothing – and that doesn’t include the big London museums like the Science Museum.
We’ve also seen that Councils near us are investing more and money in local attractions and events. For instance, Cassiobury Park in Watford now has a huge playground, a splash park and a miniature railway, plus over summer there is an outdoor cinema and a beach – all for free!
2) Entertain At Home
Finding ways to entertain the kids doesn’t always have to involve going out. Visiting new places and seeing new things is undoubtedly a great – albeit sometimes stressful – experience for all, but it soon adds up cost-wise. Not every day can be a proper day out.
As the dad to an energetic bundle of energy known as my daughter, I get that being cooped up at home doesn’t always appeal. It’s not long before they’re bored, annoying and bouncing off the walls, which I guess feels something similar to being locked in a prison cell with Mr Tumble. That was a rough couple of months – although he’s a fantastic cuddler.
Sometimes, it just takes a bit of effort, planning and creativity to set up some entertainment at home. As an example, I’ve recently written about some fun garden activities to keep the kids cool this summer – so, things like water balloon pinata, water painting or making a DIY hosepipe as a makeshift splash park.
We also find that watching films is a nice thing to do together and a much cheaper alternative than going to the cinema. We’ll often just snuggle up on the sofa, but sometimes it’s nice to go a bit overboard for the benefit of the kids. For instance, blowing up the air mattress and watching it from beneath a duvet, wearing fancy dress, making our own popcorn or having a pizza and movie night which involves staying up a little later and eating in front of the TV rather than at the dining table.
3) Use Vouchers And Special Offers
I’m never going to appear on Extreme Couponing, but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy getting a bit of money off. It’s just a mindset I’ve always had and means that I rarely buy anything unless it’s discounted in some form or another. Why pay £10 for something when you can get it for £9 with a 10% discount code? “Look after the pennies…” and all that jazz.
We tend to have the same mentality when it comes to family entertainment, particularly on days out. The world isn’t short of deals, special offers and discount codes, so a few minutes of looking is likely to save you a bit of money. For instance, cereal and chocolate packets often have 2-for-1 deals on family days out.
If you know that you’re going somewhere in the future, you can save money if you buy in advance or online. This not only works on transport if, for instance, you’re getting the train, but many attractions also now offer slightly cheaper prices compared to buying at the gate on the day. The same goes for peak versus off-peak which is great if you can go when it’s not school holidays.
Finally, something else we also regularly do is spend our Tesco Clubcard Points on days out. Points collected when you shop are turned into vouchers, which can then be spent on all manner of things, including days out at theme parks, farms, zoos, museums, aquariums and more. As this just accumulates in the background, you can soon have a free day out at places like Legoland or Sea Life.
4) Limit Eating Out / Takeaways
It’s nice to buy food when you’re out, but it drastically increases the price of family entertainment on a day out. A mid-afternoon coffee and cake stop is going to set you back £15, sandwiches and drinks at lunch is getting on £20 and a family meal at a chain restaurant can easily hit the £50 mark. On top of entry prices, it’s no wonder that family entertainment on a day out can hit the wallet hard.
The only way you can really reduce this expenditure is to stop – or limit – eating out. We’ve now become one of those families that often take food with us – it takes very little effort to make a picnic, but it’s so much cheaper, means you can eat whenever and wherever, plus (depending on what you take) is often healthier when compared to some of the junk served at the likes of soft play.
The same goes for takeaways. When you can’t be arsed to cook or have got in late, the urge to splash the cash on a £25 takeaway is strong. It adds up though – a weekly takeaway is going to be £100 a month, which I know I’d prefer in my pocket (the cash, not the takeaway).
Instead, we try to do our own versions. I hate the word fakeaway, but I guess that’s what it is. You want something simple, quick and tasty, but at a fraction of the price. For us, that usually means frozen pizzas, chicken goujons and a bit of salad that costs three or four times less than the takeaway equivalent.
Talking about pizza…
Introducing Goodfella’s Romano Pizzas
I have a confession. I love pizza. If I had to choose my last meal, I’m pretty certain that it would feature pizza. And chocolate. So when Goodfella’s got in touch to see if we’d be interested in tasting and writing about their new Romano pizza range, it didn’t take too long for my belly to instruct my fingers to reply with an emphatic “yes”.
I was sent each of the five varieties of pizza, then had the ‘arduous task’ of eating them – it’s a hard life, I know. As somewhat of a pizza expert on account of eating so many in my life, I can genuinely say that I was impressed with the Goodfella’s Romano range – so much so that we’ve bought, and eaten, more of the pizzas since and actively chosen these over other chilled and frozen pizzas.
The range consists of three meat pizzas and two vegetarian options, which all have a thin and crispy stonebaked base and a generous helping of toppings. Costing just £2.50 and taking around 15 minutes to cook from frozen, we’ve found them to be a great option to have in the freezer ready for when the pizza-craving kicks in.
If I was forced to rank the pizzas – although I’m not sure what kind of situation would require me to rank them under duress – I’d probably go with the following order:
- Chargrilled Vegetable and Pesto
- Four Cheese with Cherry Tomatoes and Basil Pesto
- Chicken, Roquito Pepper, and Red Onion with Garlic Oil Drizzle
- Calabrese Salami and Spicy ‘Nduja Sausage with Chilli and Black Pepper
- Pepperoni and Chorizo
Writing the above list is very surprising. You see, I’m normally all about the meat. The more meat you can put on my pizza, the better. In fact, I would never usually buy a pizza without meat – for me, it’s akin to a hot chocolate without cream and marshmallows or a 99 ice-cream without a flake. However, that all changed with the Romano range as I found myself enjoying the vegetarian options immensely.
With plenty of aubergines, peppers and cherry tomatoes, the chargrilled vegetable pizza tasted sweet and fresh, with the inclusion of the pesto being a genius move. I’ve never had pesto on pizza before, but it worked really well. That’s probably why I enjoyed the ‘posh’ cheese and tomato pizza too. Incidentally, this one was L’s favourite – being a kid of simpler tastes, you can’t really go wrong with cheese and tomato.
The three meat options were nice too – the chicken being my favourite of these. With roquito peppers, red onions and garlic oil drizzle, this had a kick to it, but it wasn’t overpowering – just enough to shock you for a second as it tingles the tongue and lips.
The final two pizzas – salami and spicy sausage and pepperoni and chorizo – were enjoyed as well. These fit into the ‘all the meat’ category I mentioned earlier and would usually be the ones we’d pick if we were looking in the supermarket. They certainly had a lot of meat on them which is good, however they were a little on the salty side. This didn’t stop us eating them – nothing would stop us eating pizza (!) – but we did require an extra glass of water later in the evening.
As I said before, we were genuinely impressed with the Romano pizzas. They didn’t taste like your bog standard frozen pizza – in fact, the vegetarian ones in particular, were nicer than fresh pizzas I’ve had in restaurants. Quite a claim to make, but one I honestly stand by. They’re also a quarter of the price too which is a nice added bonus considering the cost of family entertainment!
How much do you think you spend on family entertainment? What ways do you try to reduce the cost of entertaining the kids and family entertainment as a whole? Have you tried these new Goodfella’s Romano pizzas yet? Let me know below!
Disclosure: This is a commissioned post in collaboration with Goodfella’s. We were also sent a range of the Romano pizzas to try and provide our honest opinion.