The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

How to save money in 2008: November review

Dr Quito waiting for supper

Dr Quito waiting for supper

I woke one morning to find Danny wearing his beanie in bed.
“Finally I can understand why nightcaps were worn in Victorian times.”

He headed downstairs looking unusual but warm.

We no longer fly the central heating on auto pilot. Captain Danny and co pilot (me) confer before flicking the switch and allowing the boiler to roar. We always turn it on when it is cold but sometimes the wood burning stove is enough on milder days. We are enjoying its radiant heat in the kitchen. The dogs spend their evenings stretched in front of the sturdy black beast and then accompany us to bed. Organic hotties that  always retain their heat through the night.

We have chosen to treat our tank of oil like liquid gold. Quite a few people I know can’t afford to fill their tanks as the hike in energy prices has eaten massively into their budgets. I meet these people every day. The cleaners and gardeners and groundsmen that work in the houses that I decorate. Many have signed up for the ‘budget’ deals that a lot of oil suppliers are pushing now.

“We didn’t have to pay up front. Just half the cost of the tank fill up and then monthly instalments and a two year contract. Our tank is always full. And we got a complimentary stilton and bottle of port.”

Last month someone I know paid 56p a litre six months into one of these schemes. I didn’t mention that we’d paid 39.9p a litre at the same time. We were able to shop around. And the prices have dropped more in the past few weeks. These schemes seem good value but the price per litre is not fixed and you can end up being trapped in a scheme where you are paying an awful lot more for your oil than you need to.

On the electricity front we are using our steamer more and more for cooking, rather than having two or three stove top rings heating simultaneously. We are seriously thinking about investing in an electric steamer as only a small amount of water is needed to generate the steam and it might be a real economy in the long run. I just don’t know which one to plump for. Reviews suggest that plastic steamers tend to crack but the metal ones are very expensive and it takes years to recoup the original investment. Any ideas?

Our weekly shopping bill is now around 60% less than it was a year ago. This takes time and a bit of creativity to achieve. I thought I was being really economical in the past. A weekly meal plan is out of the question now that we tend to just buy special offers and a lot of ‘remaindered’ food.
“I’ve bought fennel, cod and Brussels sprouts. Can we do something with them?”

Danny is an enthusiastic budget food shopper.

I often end up cooking when I’d rather be doing something else but our freezer is full of home cooked meals that just have to be defrosted. And we are eating better and tastier meals than we’ve had for years.

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  1. We used a Tefal steamer out of necessity when we moved in and ripped out existing kitchen. The steamer worked fine but with daily use we eventually wore it out. Another was purchased Tefal again but newer model, this fell apart ! We now have stainless steel steamer which was MUCH cheaper to purchase and is easier to clean. It worked well on our 2 ring camping stove and takes pride of place on our proper cooker now kitchen is finished (well nearly!)

  2. I love that you are sharing this. I too am trying to reduce my spending this year. Even though I feel like I have done a pretty good job, telling myself “well done” doesn’t seem to satisfy the need for congratulations that I feel. Reading your blog does fill that need. I can say “well done” silently to you and feel it myself as well. Thanks for your time and trouble. Rosanne

  3. Of course I was straight away enchanted by the cosy MinPin photo and would obviously have been equally enchanted seeing Danny in bed with his beanie on!
    However, your page is so inspiring as usual, very interesting reading. All the comments you have received have been so interesting to read as well.
    All in all a very comforting posting hearing how everyone is managing. Makes me feel in very good company with my own pennypinching etc. x

  4. amalee issa

    Too flaming right, Fiona and Danny! I refuse, absolutely refuse, to put the central heating on anything other than absolutely maximum (6am and 7pm for 1-hr or if the chicks are home from uni and even then only really if they bring chums with them.) I’ll be damned if I shovel any more hard earned cash into the pockets of the disgusting swineherd running British utility coys. There is no reason to increase the price of gas “other than it is linked to oil.” My standard greeting to visitors? Welcome to the igloo.

    Amalee, defiant AND losing weight through shivering…

  5. kate (uk)

    A few years ago I decided we all had enough ‘stuff’ and that I would make presents from now on, just buy little things to go in crackers. After initial scepticism, the rest of the family have started doing it too and we swap jars of jam, jelly and chutney, cranberry sauce, sloe gin, necklaces ( so easy to make) knitted scarves and gloves, bags- you name it, we’ll try it- all such fun to research and make and lovely to receive. We are now all hooked on few, but choice home-made gifts.I would recommend it, much more enjoyable than schlepping around shops!

  6. Veronica, I could so make these. Email Fiona, who I am sure would forward your message to me, if you want to discuss this further. I have some really groovy fabric just waiting for a project like this.

  7. Scintilla

    My other half sometimes complains that we live off supermarket specials, but at least they are seasonal food. I too have a freezer full of homegrown string beans and soft fruit from the garden. My cellar is full of crates of cooking apples from our tree. With a family of six, you need to cut costs somewhere.
    Heating gas (also for our water and stove) has gone up almost 40% too this year to match the oil prices. That’s about £65 more per month on the household bill!

  8. Lucy @ Smallest Smallholding

    I distinctly remember being around 10 years old and wearing the Santa hat that Mum had bought me from our local market in bed every night. It kept me so toasty warm!

    There is a lot to say for shopping frugally, as you say it really does make you much more creative with the ingredients, because eating the same thing day in day out is just a little bit soul destroying!

    This year, because me and my family are still feeling the pinch due to various circumstances and problems, we’ve decided to stick to our “£5 Christmas” – either £5 worth of ‘raw materials’ to make something, or something shop-bought for £5. Again, makes you much more creative to make that present special for each person.

    Financial challenges can be difficult, but in a way they can introduce some positive changes into your life too.

  9. We7Steve

    You can also save money on music without breaking the law. We7 lets you stream any music you want, for free, it’s funded by advertising so it is 100% legal and artists and rights holders get paid.

    Steve – We7

  10. Veronica

    Pamela, I think laptop cases in bright fabrics are a great idea. You might get inspiration here — I’m hankering after one of these:

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