We’re lucky to have had a pretty mild winter so far. But things are on the turn. Fuel poverty is a nasty reality of the country’s economy for many families, and we’re expecting snow as well, just to make this worse. So this weekend might be a good time to carry out an audit of your home to make sure that you have done everything possible to make it snug and cosy as winter draws in. Avoid having to stoop to spending your days swathed in a Slanket.
1. Make sure every window has curtains, preferably with a fleecy interlining. Although floor length curtains look stylish, they often block heat from getting into the room from radiators, so choose curtains that finish above radiator level if fuel economy is an issue for you.
2. Use draft excluder on doors and windows – this is very cheap and can be bought in strips to be nailed on wherever there are drafts.
3. Use temporary double glazing on your windows – this is a type of cling film that is fixed with double-sided tape and then shrunk to fit with a hairdryer. It can be removed in the spring if necessary.
4. Make heat deflectors for behind your radiators by covering pieces of board with foil and sliding them down the back.
5. Fix shelves above your radiators to deflect the heat into the room rather than letting it travel up to the ceiling.
6. Cover your letterbox with a flap so you don’t heat the street.
7. Use door curtains to stop heat escaping to hallways.
8. Consider keeping one room super cosy and pleasant and gathering there when it’s really cold.
9. Use cheap £5/£10 duvets as mattress toppers.
10. Make sure the oven is full whenever you use it, so you are cooking 2-3 days’ worth of meals at once and then reheating them quickly and cheaply in the microwave when you need them.
Image: dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The run up to Christmas is starting, so it’s time to examine spending a little more than usual, with a view to squirrelling way some funds for presents, festivities and the like. Here are some frugality projects to think about for the month of October.
1. This is the time of year for mists and mellow fruitfulness, as they say. Forage for wild blackberries for crumbles, pies, jams and jellies. Pick sloes for sloe and crab apple jelly , which is perfect with cold roast meats. Puree windfall apples for use later in the autumn. Rosehips make a terrific syrup packed full of vitamin C, which can be drizzled on pancakes, poured over milk puddings and given to children on a spoon as a tasty placebo medicine when they have minor colds and sore throats.
2. Try traditional weekdays markets, farmers’ markets or a local Women’s Institute for your meat, fruit and vegetables this month. The food will be a lot fresher and cheaper, and you may well find unusual varieties packed full of flavour.
3. Use beans, rice, lentils, barley and soya to bulk out the meat you are using for bolognaise and casseroles.
4. Look out for cheaper cuts of meat and fish to stretch your grocery budget. For example shin of beef, chicken wings and pork belly make lovely autumn dishes, and good fish to choose include mackerel, sardines and squid.
5. Cheese fans can save quite a lot of money by choosing British cheeses rather than continental ones.
6. See if your energy supplier will give you a free electricity monitor.
7. Clean out your domestic appliances , descale everything, put a new bag in the hoover, clean out all the filters in your tumble drier, clean out the powder dispenser in your washing machine, and make them work to maximum effect. That will save you effort in the long term, as well as money. You may also prevent unnecessary repairs.
8. Look at your list of standing order and direct debits, and see how many unnecessary memberships and subscriptions you can get rid of.
9. Avoid using the car and public transport, and bike or walk whenever you can. Travel as light as you can.
10. Put a weekend by to clear out everything in your house that you haven’t used for a while and don’t see yourself using again, and put the lot on Ebay for someone else to enjoy, as well as to raise funds.
Image: Tom Curtis / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Try looking for these seasonal foods if you want housekeeping bargains this month.
Meat and Poultry – Duck, game
Fish – White fish, herring, mackerel, mussels, mullet
Vegetables – Corn, marrow, peas, pumpkin, watercress
Fruit – Crab apples, apples, pears, plums, quinces, cobnuts
I was interested to read recently that Denmark has introduced a ‘fat tax’ on food. The question is whether this is likely to achieve the desired outcome of reducing obesity? You can read a related report here:
This was of particular interest as I’ve been ploughing through cookbooks and home economics books from the early part of the 20th century over the last year for this blog, and working out the costs and calories involved in these diets, heavy as they were in saturated fat and meat. There are some striking points of comparison to be made.
Most of us simple could not afford to eat as much meat as the average working family put away a hundred years ago (you’d end up spending £70-£80 a week on meat and fish alone for a family of four), and we could not afford to home grow as much produce as many families did – we rely on mass produced fruit and vegetables which works out a lot cheaper, but which are probably lower in nutritional values. The calorific values of our great-grandparents’ diets were much greater than ours, as the meals had a heavy emphasis on animal fats like suet, lard, whole milk, and carbohydrates.
However despite all this eating, people’s average weights were lower, and the only reason for this as far as I can see is the amount of walking they did, and the absence of TV, which meant they engaged in a lot more low level exercise throughout the day instead of slumping on the sofa for hours on end like many of us do. There was less snacking and use of processed foods as well, which may have meant that individual blood sugar and leptin levels may have been controlled differently by people’s bodies. Added to this, previous generations were also shorter on average, and children matured later, probably because of illness in early childhood, and in some cases a poor quality diet deficient in calcium and other vital minerals in the case of deprived households.
Bearing all this in mind, taxing fat seems pointless – it would surely make more sense to focus on increasing engagement in low level exercise for the whole population. However taxing things actively raises money for governments, which makes me suspicious about the motives here, given there is no evidence that just avoiding fat makes you slim (which it doesn’t – if only it were that simple!) Another vested interest might be the food industry, which processes foods to make them low fat, but potentially at the cost of some nutritional values.
Do comment on this blog post if you have views on Denmark’s new policy.
Image: Grant Cochrane / FreeDigitalPhotos.net