The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

How to save money in 2008: September review.

Dr QI’ve always been touched by those wonderful tombs in churches and cathedrals all over England. The wealthy couple lie formally side by side, uncomfortably on their backs. At their feet, one or two little dogs lie for warmth and company.

After a brief glance at the faces of the couple it‘s always the dogs that draw my attention. Quite often these dogs have clearly inspired the sculptor. They are full of life – perhaps they had dogs of their own that dived under the covers and warmed them on a freezing night.

Our resolution not to turn on the central heating until the first frosts is beginning to bite, now that the nights are getting chilly. We have several hotties complete with covers, knitted by my mum. These have become the household’s best silent huggable friends.

If you have no heating upstairs, three warm Min Pins are a boon. Combined with a couple of hot water bottles you have a small furnace.  The Min Pin element stays warm till dawn. They are initially attracted by the intense warmth of the hottie and suddenly your tiny medallion of heat expands. You do need to negotiate three sets of tiny paws sharing the hottie if you want to defrost your feet but generally it’s not worth the effort as the lolling Min Pins seem to warm the entire bed. Canine radiant heat is a wonderful by product from the gang that welcomes me home each evening with the prospect of supper.

Having cleared the chimney of nests and repaired our wood burning stove we now bask in a wonderful heat downstairs. We are tweaking and learning about the best ways to use the minimum fuel for the maximum heat. Sometimes it roars and devours like a dinosaur possessed. Sometimes it whispers and flutters like a demoted fund manager.
“It might only be burning one log an hour but I’m cold.”
The muscles on Danny’s poker wielding arm have grown quite hefty.

On the saving money front, September was a good month. I step out of the cottage with an ultra slim purse on a Saturday and we’re not missing the deluxe treats of more halcyon days. We’ve started to run out of basics now but it makes us a bit more creative with what we have. Spending slashed by 60% this month. The fuel price hikes have been frightening but it’s worth the effort as we can buffet the waves that would have demolished us a year ago.

And that’s quite scary.

How did we do it?

  • Always visiting what our friend Tessa calls the ‘Casualty Department’ in Tesco before starting the full price shop – one week I actually managed the weekly shop from there with the exception of butter and milk. A menu plan might have scuppered this triumph.
  • Making our own bread – the price tag of £1.59 (same store) for a loaf of bread finally made me grit my teeth and buy dried yeast and flour.
  • Forcing the Sunday joint to stretch to three rather than two meals.
  • Giving up our Friday rib-eye steaks (sob).
  • Reducing trips to the local town to a minimum.
  • Switching off lights until our arms ache.
  • Cooking more vegetarian food.
  • Eating our own home grown vegetables.
  • Not using the oven unless we can fill it (thank you Angela for suggesting the slow cooker).
  • Searching for breaks and possible swaps – this could be selling our preserves, bartering or just cutting a good deal at the butchers. A small pack of home cured, traditionally smoked bacon opens a lot of unexpected doors.

  Leave a reply


  1. Have you tried car boot sales for breadmakers? We were at one the other week and there seemed to be a lot around.

  2. Hi
    Re the first part of your piece; “An Arundel Tomb”, a poem by Philip Larkin, might appeal to you.

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Jane

    Thanks for that. Delighted that you are enjoying the blog. I spent a naughty five minutes on your blog this morning (on my mobile) – love your photographs, your dog and cats.

    Hello Joanna

    Thanks for the tip about the bread maker. I tried Freecycle for bread makers but nothing materialised. I’ll keep my eyes peeled though.

    I don’t mind so much about making bread, especially as we both love soda bread. Quick and easy if you’ve run out. But at the end of a long day…

    Thanks for dropping by. No central heating! I’m impressed.

    Hi Rachel

    All the dogs are up under the duvet as I type this. Years ago I invested in some delux duvets and they’re paying off now! Tomorrow I’ll find the other one to zip onto the present one. Thanks for the nudge – I’d forgotten about layers for warmth and comfort.

    Hi Wendy

    Yes the panasonic bread maker would be great even if it was just for preparing the dough.

    Mrs Boss and her brood are fine. Thanks for asking.

    Hello Monica

    You are spot on there – turning down the heating makes a vast impact on the bills. Thanks for your support!

    Hi Sam

    We have no oil ATM so have no choice! Next week we’re going to order some but will treat it like gold dust. Was thinking about wearing a hat this evening, it felt so cold. Off to bed now with a berth preheated by hotties and Min Pins!

  4. samantha winter

    The heating!! What’s that? – no don’t give in just yet. It may be cold out of the covers but under a warm quilt at night with a hot water bottle it’s so cosy.

  5. Getting used to a lower indoor temperature during the winter makes a lot of difference in the electricity bill. It’s a good way to save money – and better for the environment too!

    This is a very informative and inspiring blog!


  6. Love your posts about saving money and doggie stories always interest me as you know. Hope Mrs. Boss and her chicks are still doing well.

    There are lots of things worth following in your list.

    I’m like Joanna – I use my Panasonic breadmaker to do all the kneading and rising on the dough setting. I then shape into loaves or rolls for a last rise and then bake. I make special or flavoured bread by hand the old way.

    Loved the bit about Danny’s poker-using
    muscles! x

  7. Thoroughly agree on the breadmaker thought, I got a good one on Freecycle.

    I shared the bed with one of the cats last night, and had a second duvet too (winter means 3 duvets and a quilted throw!) Keeping the heating low/off is one thing I pride myself on doing.

    I have to confess that your challenge to save money makes me question my own shopping trolley around the shops – so thanks!

  8. Hi Fiona … when you say you grit your teeth and buy the flour – why not try a bread machine? I haven’t bought a loaf of bread since I got mine, I use it for everything, because it’s a great way to make dough – no problems with the wrong temp, which is always too hot or too cold in our draughty house without central heating (but with a full complement of woodburners). If you didn’t want to buy one, you could try freecycling one – amazingly, people give them away. Panasonic’s the best if you’re going to lay out ready money


  9. Jane aka:aromatic

    Love your blog.. I have followed your blog well before I started blogging myself.. you were my inspiration.
    Without putting myself down my blogs are nowhere near as brilliant as yours and may never be… you have a real talent of making everyday life so interesting. Your subjects are varied and informative and you put your words together so well.
    I have been following your ‘How to save money’ post with much interest. We also need to pull in our belts and I have to say our costcutting is so far not working that well… so need to take more heed of your experiences and apply them to ourselves.
    Your description of canine life is so true… they are always their to greet you and keep you warm at night. We are blessed with canine and feline warmth… so the cats (two of them) fill in the spare gaps on the bed.
    Keep up the good work with the cost cutting.
    Many thanks for a wonderfully interesting blog.

    Jane xxx

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