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.

  Leave a reply


  1. Hello Fiona

    I have thought about wearing a bedtime beanie however, I’m sure if I went to bed just a bit sooner after the heating goes off in the evening I would feel less need of a hat! I may not have cash for buying presents this Christmas but I do have time, so a couple of visits to the local charity shops and I have bought a couple of duvet covers and some pillow cases which are going to be transformed into presents for my family and friends this year. I have made some extras that I am hoping to sell so might even make a profit on Christmas this year. My sewing machine is working overtime and I uncovered a stash of goodies which I had long forgotten about when I went rooting for some interfacing a few days ago. I have been offered all sorts of fabric by people who have heard about my project, including some fire retardant fabric which I think might make good, water resistant yoga mat bags. Anyone interested? So my niece won’t be getting the Nintendo DS game she was angling for last night because my entire budget is less than the cost of one game. But I’m happy and there will be presents under the tree for all. Anyone know where I can get some neoprene? I’m thinking of having a go at laptop bags too!

  2. Hey me again, yes I agree Kate completely. Although I am not sure my nephew would understand. He is all about the presents at the moment. But I am holding off, I have looked on Moneysaving expert forum this morning and not everything is half price and the have taken some of the must have toys and electrical gadgets off of the shelves. So the advert on the radio should have said UP TO. Not ALL, stock.

    So no buying for me! I will make the whole week!

    Regards Smug me.

  3. We bought a steamer from ASDA a couple of months ago for about a fiver it works fine.Keep up your good work I read your Blog every day.

  4. Being over 50 (not by that much!) I can say from experience that feeling stretched financially tends to fluctuate throughout life. I have been up/down/up/down due to jobs, taking on a hefty mortgage just before the last housing crisis, doing well on selling, losing job through ill health, making on selling, buying house with no mortgage, hubby out of work, hubby in work …. it really does go on and on. The only certainty is change, yes?
    I really feel for younger people with hefty mortgages, they have been led to have such high expectations of life. Also for older people whose income is shrinking at the moment because of low interest rates and high fuel bills.
    All we can do is hunker down and try to get through.
    On the steamer, my reasoning would be this – will the purchase price running costs make it cheaper than using the one you already have – even if the current one costs slightly more per use?
    Love the doggy hot water bottles – portable free heat!!

  5. kate (uk)

    As to saving on heating- we face mainly South and on a sunny day the sun heats the house, dramatically different on a dull day I’ve noticed. When it is really cold- as it has been this week- I keep the curtains on the North and East (once the early sun has moved on) sides of the house shut likewise in unused bedrooms, doesn’t make a huge difference to the light and certainly keeps the house warmer.
    Hello S.O.L- when my great nephew arrived I decided he had plenty of other relatives to give him toys to ignore so I set up a saving account and put money in, when he’s 18 we can discuss what he might want to do with a useful sum of money. Some of the family think I’m a meany, but his mother agreed it was a really good idea-stick to your guns!
    Love the photo Fiona- Andrew has a pink blanket…

  6. Veronica

    I’m so impressed with your 60% saving — you must have a great feeling of achievement. Especially as your lives don’t sound all that deprived, apart from having to wear a beanie in bed of course 🙂

    We have a small plastic electric steamer (it was free with something else!). I use it quite regularly and it hasn’t cracked yet. No need to wash in the d/w, it just needs a quick rinse. I can recommend it if you can get a good price on one; it cooks veg more quickly and they taste better too.

  7. You are going great guns with the 60% reduction in food costs. That has to be a record. Good for you!

    We are currently in a no buy week. I have carried it on for the No Buy Day, so I feel smug at the moment. (Yes smug isnt a nice quality, but if I dont pat myself on the back no one else will!)

    The question is to break my money-fast and go to woolworths and buy presents for future birthdays, or to hold out. Children dont understand that plastic aint fantastic. And toys on birthdays are coverted and the discarded. Am I a good Aunt by buying or not buying. I find this so hard.

    Sorry forgot to say the reason for breaking the money fast is because I heard on the radio that Woolworths is selling all stock at half price today. I think I am going to hold out. As they are going to go into administration I am wondering if they will sell the stock of for something crazy like 75% off.

    P.S. Apna basmati rice is still only £4.99 for 5kg, in Tesco. Dare I say the word Tesco out loud? Basmati is so much better than plain Long grain, in my opinion anyway. You wil find it in the ethnic aisle in the larger stores.

    Have a great day. (sorry long comment)

  8. Richard J Schneider

    Here in the U.S., I’ve used an all plastic Black & Decker steamer and rice cooker for years and it has help up well. No cracks. Still works. Don’t know if you can get it in the U.K. but the unit is probably available under different brand names.

    As for a major cutbacks here in the states, my ex-wife and I (very good friends) are becoming roommates – combining households in her townhouse and probably selling or renting my single-family home. We are shedding all unnecessary items, culling through the library and doing what we can to shore up our lives in these uncertain times. I will be giving up my vegetable garden, but we will be “sharecropping” in the yards of two of our sons.

  9. I like to hear how people are cutting back to save money. Necessity breeds a lot of creativity on that front.

    The night cap reference made me chuckle.

  10. Just to quickly let you know I have a plastic tefal steamer ( the larger oval shaped one with 2 tiers) I brought it in …..erm I think it was about 1998, its still going strong the only part thats cracked it the top tiers knob on the top of the lid which is a different grey plastic to the rest. I use it regularly ( although I do only put filtered water in it cos we live in a very chalky water area) So I think if you look after them don’t wash them in a dishwasher and dry them properly between use I think they do a great job.

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