The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

How to save money in 2008: June review

Contessa in the garden

When I was selling toys in Covent Garden the best week of every month was the week after monthly payday.

I realised that the week that Danny puts his sizeable contribution into the housekeeping account our spending rockets. So this month I pretended that every week was the week before pay day and entered a new realm of saving. My horizons were bolted so low that at times I couldn’t even see a horizon.

And it worked.

Savings were around 50% most weeks and, once, much lower. Last year I struggled to shave a few pounds off the cost of our weekly shop. I was shopping for what we wanted rather than what we needed. I now believe that if you have a figure set in your mind, you will shop to around that point. The subliminal mind is much cannier than we think.

Prices are jumping up alarmingly. Every week there are a few extra pence on most of the things that we buy. This will rocket in the future once the high oil prices really kick in. If you have a full trolley this translates into pounds. So how can we possibly be saving money?

I’m not cosying up to the suppliers, yet. I’m trying to turn our shopping habit on its head. Dumping ˜the old budget’ and just trying to think on my feet. In fact, I have an imaginary poverty stricken friend shopping with me. This penny pinching pal is also living with us. Shaking her head at any waste. Applauding when I can run up a meal out of seemingly nothing. It’s a love hate relationship. And a very tight learning curve.

It’s hard to admit but people like Danny and me have been spoilt for far too many years.
“Let’s buy lots of different vegetables so we can choose what we fancy each evening. Vegetables are so cheap.”

Well, they’re not.

These days we buy whatever vegetables are on special offer. The chickens get the peelings. We might have to buy more vegetables mid week but nothing is put into the compost bin at the end of the week. The garden won’t suffer. It will have the wood ash from the fire that we’ve been ˜too busy’ to scrape out and carry down the garden. We’ve been very lazy too.

Danny and I can shave our budget with a bit of improvisation and creativity. And it’s fun, as every tiny saving racks up with a dazzling pring. We are eating much less meat and, when we do buy it, making it stretch far further than before. Home curing bacon, making our own yoghurt and bread. Switching to tea leaves. And now enjoying quite a few vegetables from the garden. Eating vegetarian meals every other day has had a huge impact on lowering costs.

We have turned down the immersion heater a few more degrees and are now looking at the lighting in the cottage. Why sit in a kitchen with seven halogen lights blazing when a table lamp with a low energy bulb does the job perfectly. Jalopy rarely chugs into town these days. I didn’t even notice when Newmarket ran out of petrol during the fuel drivers’ strike.

The rise in energy prices is frightening. What about the millions of people living on the breadline in the UK? The majority have poorly paid jobs and have been struggling to make ends meet. They have been budgeting for years. They’ve no soft edges to trim. How are they going to survive now?

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Sarah

    I used to be extravagent with shampoo etc too. I must check out Boot’s Basics.

    Going for the stuff on offer makes sense and keeping a tally as you go round the shop.

    I’ve found that setting the challenge (to save 25% on over the counter spending) in 2008 has been the best way of curbing spending. The challenge makes it fun in a wierd sort of way.

  2. Sarah

    I think we all must be pulling in our reins these days, I too watch what I am buying when I go shopping.

    Once upon a time I would see me spending £4.00 on shampoo and conditioner, just for me and seperate ones for the rest of the family… I now buy Boots Basic’s @ 59p each a significant saving and it does everyone.

    Another thing we do when we go shopping is to try and guess what our bill is going to be once we get to the checkout, If you watch what your buying, take advantage of the reduced items, which can be frozen you can get a really good shop. This week I spent £69 this constituted our basics for one month, we were both surprised at the till because I estimated £90 and my other half £110 so just goes to show you it can be done 🙂

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Wendy

    Thank you!

    The rising gas and electricity prices are scary. We don’t have gas out here so it’s electricity and oil. One fill of the oil tank is now equivalent to the cost of four fill ups when I first moved here 15 years ago!

    Hi Pamela

    Poor you. Moving from full time employment to part time has a huge imapct on income.

    Shopping with just cash in your pocket is a great idea as you have to count the cost of everything that you put in your basket.

    Hopefully your allotment will come soon and you can get into growing your own veg.

    Hi Jane

    I’m beginning to envy the people with solar panels! We are lucky, we have a large fireplace in the sitting room and a wood burning stove in the kitchen. We may not run the central heating next winter is we can think of an alternative for the bedroom.

    Kay has answered your wood ash question with her usual panache.

    Hello S.O.L.

    I didn™t realise that using a bread machine is so cheap “ 25p including electricity is brilliant.

    The bread producers are blaming the rise in the price of grain, I think.

    Hello Kay

    I knew that it was good but didn™t exactly know why so thanks for taking the rouble to explain!

    Hi Crescent

    The power of the subliminal mind is amazing!

    Yes, I agree. Eating no or less meat is good for us and the planet. It is hard to make the switch though if you are used to a diet based around meat.

  4. Crescent

    Hello. Your reference on the subliminal mind was intersting. I learnt this sort of things, idea of vegetarian, mind of animals etc. from my English teacher when I was in UK. He had a big impact on me. Since then, I’ve been near-vegetarian.

    I believe that redusing meat (or cutting meat totally) is not only good for savings and our health, but also results in helping other people who are surfering from a food shortage.

  5. Oooh, an ash question. Bags-eye! This is my specialist subject.

    First you have to try and burn untreated wood which is more difficult than you might think as some commercial forestry producers spray a lot of their waste wood with pesticides (you don’t want those in your garden food chain unless you know where they’ve come from) But ash from untreated wood is always liming so it raises the ph of the soil and if it’s quite granular (which depends on the wood you’re burning) will help improve soil drainage too. If in doubt about your wood ash, you can always compost it first, so that the potassium and other helpful trace elements it contains aren’t too concentrated for your plants.

    Don’t compost or spread coal ash because it generally clogs rather than helping to improve soil drainage and it can have quite nasty volatile compounds that remain after burnnig.

  6. S.O.L.

    Hi there, I have taken to making our own bread. we are fortunate that we were given a bread maker a few years ago. We have guess-timated (is that a word)that it costs us around 25p a loaf, including the electricity. The loaf lasts us 2 days worth of toast and snacks for 2 adults. Maybe a little left over.

    Which is nothing compared to the £1.46 paid by a colleague for a white hovis medium sliced loaf. What are we paying for? I havent a clue why it was so much.

    I wish we had slghtly more land and then we could grow more food. Then I really would save more money.

  7. We too are economising in a big way, asking ourselves if we really need to spend money and trying to save on lighting and hot water costs.
    My mother has always said wood ash is good for the garden. Can you tell me why? Many thanks.

  8. Belinda

    When I shop for a treat/luxury item such as camenbert etc, I NEVER pay the full price. I always hunt for thr almost OOD stuff that is reduced.

    With brie & camenbert its better anyway.

    I was a bit unsure of doing this with pate but so far, so good.

    Now that we live in the country we only have big supermarkets (I dont drive, so I need the delivery service, shop fortnightly)

    When I lived in Sydney I used to buy veg daily, whatever was going cheap. Either what was in season, so cheaper, or veg that needed to be used that day.

    Our local tiny little village “supermarket” (independantly owned) is very expensive for most things, and the produce is usally terrible, or I would shop there. They are slowly improving things, but Im still waiting for them to stop bagging the mushrooms in plastic bags. YUK!

  9. Pamela

    I too have had to seriously rethink my spending. Having given up a full time teaching job due to ill-health I now find myself only working part time on minimum wage. I rarely use my car – and when I do it’s usually when someone else is paying the costs. I am fortunate in that I work mostly from home and living in a small town I can shop daily from the reduced for a quick sale counter. I have had to cut down on making veggie juice as it is too expensive but that has had an adverse impact on my waistline! My best advice is always shop with cash as I am reluctant to leave myself with nothing in my purse and when it is gone it’s gone.

  10. I really meant it when I have commented on previous posts how inspiring some of your entries are. We along with many others are also trying to economize in every way possible and your words make it just a bit more bearable. For us the main worry is gas and electricity. Cutting back is such a soul destroying exercise when prices keep rising and taking back all that we are trying to save.
    I will bookmark this page which I am sure will be read often! x

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