Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Mortgage overpayments - Small bite sized Chunks!

I didn't manage to make as big an overpayment to my mortgage as i'd hoped this month, but still managed £1000.00. I paid this before I sorted any other bills etc so the money was gone and can't be spent.

Does anyone else currently overpaying their mortgage get moments where they swither about making the call to bank and, even just for a few moments, think about what else they could spend that money on? I had that yesterday as I was making the call.

However I didn't act on the urge, I made the payment and felt very relieved afterwards. The money was paid and it cannot be spent on anything else.

Like Laura at No More Spending and Frugal Queen and many others blogging away out there I am also on a misson to get rid of my mortgage as soon as possible.

I have mentioned it before but I have a LARGE mortgage. I cannot bring myself to tell you the exact amount outstanding but it is over £200,000 (wince). It seemed such a good idea when we bought the place but the reality is it has to be paid off some time! We recently remortgaged and got a fantastic deal. The (almost) £700.00 we are saving in interest each month is now getting overpaid each month.

I find that rather than thinking about the outstanding balance all the time if I think about reducing the interest owed each month it seems more manageable, as it is a much smaller number. This may not make sense to some of you but I just find that concentrating on reducing the interest payment makes it easier to stay focussed. 

I have only been overpaying in earnest since August and so far have reduced our monthly interest payment by £14.37. When we remortgaged the interest was £517.25. I am aiming to be below £500.00 by the New Year.I have not chosen to reduce the monthly payments either so a little extra gets paid off on top of every over payment.

Small bite sized chunks, as a wise colleague used to say, when faced with a seemingly huge task.

I would love to have my mortgage paid off by the end of 2017, all being well. This is quite a task and I know and I will have to remain focussed. However life will happen in the meantime and we don't know what is ahead of us. I also have kids and there are things we want to do as a family so ploughing every single spare penny into the mortgage isn't realistic for us.

Mortgage freedom is the ultimate dream for me right now. I wish I had been more careful in my younger days as I could have been mortgage free right now if I had been more sensible. But hey ho, I can't go back, only forwards.

Good luck to everyone trying to achieve mortgage, or any sort of debt, freedom.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Frugal Tips #1 & 2

#1 -  never call 0870 / 0845 numbers, either on my landline or mobile 'phone. I always check on SAY NO TO 0870 and find out what the company's landline number is. Just type in the number or the company name and you can usually get their landline number.

Depending on what call plan you are on you will usually get charged for calling these numbers and they can be expensive. My mobile provider charges me for calling them whatever time of day, despite hundreds of 'free anytime minutes'. BT will also charge you to call them during the day.

#2 - I also use my mobile to make any calls during the day to use up my call allowance and cut down BT costs. I have just received my latest bill from BT and I have spent £0.87 on calls (actually SM did as I have been disciplined about using my mobile minutes) compared to £13.76 on calls during the last quarter.

I am hoping for a reduction on my monthly direct debit in due course.

I have another 7 months approx' to run on my current mobile contract, for which I pay the princely sum of £25.00 a month (oh the shame!) I have a nice Blackberry and hundreds of 'free minutes' and mobile internet time that I don't use up every month. So come the end of the contract I will be keeping my Blackberry but reducing the call plan / contract to half of what I am currently paying as it is a WASTE OF MONEY.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Culinary successes & failures

I have spent most of today in the kitchen cooking and baking and very happy I have been too. Eldest child was helping his granny with some gardening chores and younger two were actualy playing well together in the garden.

I made some sweet potato and butter nut squash soup, which will be good for lunches for a few days.

A large loaf of bread, 50:50 white & spelt.

Lemon sponge, in a tray, so I can cut into squares for packed lunched etc. It just goes further with five of us in the house.

I attempted a so called 'foolproof' banana loaf but it didn't work out at all. Raw in in the middle, although the kids ate the ends

I also made a piece of brisket in the slow cooker which we had with roast potatoes, roasted carrots, peas and HM Yorkshire puddings.

After all that I am having an early night.

November grocery challenge update

Good afternoon, I can't believe a week has passed since my last post. I have been so busy this week.

Below is a quick round up of my November grocery challenge, which is a big fat fail. Fuel spending also a fail, big time, but I knew that the cars would start getting used more from this month onwards with the dark mornings and nights and our expensive hobby about to begin for the winter..... more about that in another post...

November grocery challenge update

I went shopping on Thursday 17th to Tesco & Lidl as follows;


Cheerios                                   £2.78
Kellogs Rice Krispies (on offer)   £1.60
Mini Weetabix x 2                      £3.00
Tesco bread flour x 3 (3 for2)     £1.36
Tesco value flour x 3 (3 for 2)    £1.04
Tesco fruit yoghurts (6 pk) x 2   £1.78
Tesco value carrots 1kg             £0.76
Frozen peas 1kg                       £0.99
Mature Cheddar                        £2.49
Jar of Tesco finest mincemeat    £1.96
Jar of value lemon curd             £0.22
Yeo Valley natural yoghurt         £1.48
Refuse sacks x 20                     £1.79
Tomato puree                           £0.35
Oranges                                   £2.00
Clementines x 2 bags                £2.00
Large caulifower                       £1.67
Tomatoes                                 £2.00
1 x tub Finest pesto                  £2.19
Value mushrooms                     £0.97
Honeydew melons x 2               £3.00
Pears                                       £1.00
TOTAL                                     £36.43
Bananas                                  £0.88
Celery                                     £0.49
Mixed peppers                         £0.99
2 x punnets of grapes              £3.00
Apples x 2 bags                       £2.18
Arla 1% milk x 4 @ £0.85        £3.40
Bavarian Ham x 3 @ £0.89      £2.49
Wafer thin chicken                   £1.59
Free range eggs x 2 packs       £1.78
TOTAL                                   £17.78

MORRISONS on 20.11.11
2 x packs of reduced smoked haddock @£1.79 each    £3.58
Lurpak butter 500g (yes, weak, I know!)                    £2.98!!!
2 x tubs of Stork 500g                                              £2.00
1 x Organic pasta flour                                              £1.39
2 x twin pack of paper tissues                                    £6.00
1 x travel pack hankies (x6)                                       £1.29
TOTAL                                                                     £17.24

LIDL on 20.11.11

Bananas                                                                  £0.60
Oranges - 3kg                                                          £1.98
Honeydew melon                                                      £1.29
Arla 1% milk x 1                                                       £0.85
Cushelle toilet roll x 24 pack                                      £6.99
Meat balls x 6 packs @£0.84                                     £5.04
TOTAL                                                                     £16.75

GRAND TOTAL                                                        £88.20

November challenge - £250.00  / Spent -  £ 261.35

So an £11.35 overspend.  Darn it, I just lost it over the last few days, not sticking to my list and buying things I really didn't need this week. Like pasta flour!!! I am going to attempt HM pasta soon, but did I need to buy it this week??? NO! Lurpak butter, I know, I know, I am weak. The other stuff just doesn't taste the same though.... Also the whole family is full of the cold so we needed more paper tissues so that put me over my desired budget.
Nevermind I must try harder next month.

Fuel spend was way over too. Budget - £200.00 / spent £251.00.

Anyway, I am working every day this week so I WILL NOT step foot in a shop unless it is an emergency. I have every thing I need until pay day, which is on Friday this week.

How are everyone else's November challenges going? (or not....)

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Is it fashionable to be frugal?

One of the best things about the recession is that it's almost made it fashionable to be frugal now.

I really don't mean to sound flippant when I say that. I know that for thousands of people there is no choice involved in having to budget and spend very carefully and that so many are having to make the unimaginable choice of whether they eat or heat their homes when it's cold.

I remind myself everyday that SM and I are very fortunate to have our health and good, secure jobs. That we are happy and really have more than we could ever need to sustain our lives. We want for nothing and  this abundance has actually made me feel embarrassed over the last 2 -3 years.

When I see people around me struggling to find employment, worrying about whether they will keep their jobs and manage to keep on paying their bills, I wonder how they keep going. But of course they just have to. They don't have a choice.

When I asked is it fashionable to be frugal, I think what I meant was that it's now acceptable for people to tighten their belts, so to speak. Before the credit crunch 'everyone' was buying bigger houses, new cars, fancy holidays, building extensions, eating out all the time. Money appeared to be no object for most people and no one seemed to be admitting that it was all rather expensive.

I wonder now if a lot of people are almost breathing a sigh of relief? It's not really the done thing to be bragging about the new kitchen you're having fitted, the brand new car you've ordered or how much one's property is worth these days. Has the pressure been lifted to keep up with the Joneses? Are many people secretly quite glad to live within their means?

If there's something good to come out of this recession I really hope that it's that people are getting back to what's important in life. Recognising that looking after you and your family's basic needs is what matters and cutting out the superfluous rubbish.

Although we don't have to budget carefully I want to. We could go out and buy the latest games consoles, fancy TVs, excess clothes, new cars etc but I don't want to. I want more for myself and my family. I have so many 'wants' but very few are based on material things.

I want to have some savings, I want to be able to make some investments. I want to pay my mortgage off early.

I want to give my children the benefit of experiences in their lives and have the opportunity to have hobbies / past times that we otherwise couldn't afford.  
I want them to relish the prospect of spending an afternoon walking in the woods, perhaps foraging for berries when in season or 'wombling' old wood for the fire, like we did today.

I don't want my children to think it is 'normal' to spend Saturday and Sunday trawling around shopping malls, thinking that money grows on trees. I don't want them to be interested in consumerism. I don't want them to care if they don't have the latest fashion items or endless new techno gadgets.

Most of all I don't want them to care if others tell them that isn't normal.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Packed lunches

Packed lunches can be a huge money saver for families, if you are creative about what you put in them.

My eldest two children are only a year apart at school and and have alternated between packed lunches and school dinners over the years. However with my youngest now at school the decision was taken that all three would be taking packed lunches, as at a cost of £1.75 a day for each child I was going to be spending £5.25 a day or £26.25 a week on school dinners.

That is a lot of money over the course of a month and given that we always have a home cooked dinner in the evening, it is unnecessary for my kids to have an additional cooked meal and dessert in the middle of the day.

Sandwiches are the mainstay of any pack lunch box and can be varied according to your child's taste. Although I have a die hard cheese sandwich boy in my family, whose idea of variety is to occasionally have a slice of ham with the cheese! I

I never buy packaged items such as Dairy Lea Dunkers, chocolate biscuits / bars or similar. The closest thing to a packaged item I will include is the occasional bag of crisps. I am lucky to have kids who are not mad crisp fans so I don't buy them every week.

I always pack two items of fruit. One for morning break and one for lunch time. As I am a regular baker I will include a baked item such as a cup cake or a square of chocolate brownie or sponge or a scone with jam etc. This satisfys a need for something sweet without having to resort to chocolate biscuits or sweets.

All of kids love home made soup and I recently invested in three Thermos food flasks for them which will keep food warm for up to 7 hours. They have been enjoying soup with their sandwiches and i'll sometimes fill them up with left over spaghetti bolognese or similar meals which can be a welcome change from a sandwich.

Instead of baking i'll often include a little pot of jelly or 'Angel Delight' type mousse which I'll make up the night before, pour into little lidded pots which can be left to set in the fridge. 

If your kids like yoghurts another good idea is to freeze them the night before and let them thaw in the lunch box all morning so they stay cooler until lunchtime. 'Frubes' or 'Choobs' are great as they don't require a spoon.

Ice in drinks bottles or freezing juice cartons the night before is also a good way to keep things cool until lunch time.

These are just some of the things I do which save me money and ensure that my kids are eating good, nutritious food at school.

I'm not sure what will happen with eldest son when he goes off to High School next summer. I can only hope i've managed to instill good food habits in him which he remembers when he has the freedom to choose his own lunch.......

I would love to hear if anyone has any other good ideas for livening up packed lunches.

Next week's meal plan & grocery update

Next week's meal plan  - beginning 12 November 2011

SATURDAY - beef & ale stew with carrots & broccoli - (substituted from tonight. We had fish cakes & veg instead)

SUNDAY - Roast chicken, rice with onion & bacon, peas & cabbage.

MONDAY - Stir fry pork with veg in soy, honey & chinese spice sauce.

TUESDAY - Spaghetti bolognese

WEDNESDAY - Pasta & pesto with veg & sausage.

THURSDAY - Chilli (frozen leftovers from last week) with rice

FRIDAY - HM pizzas

SOUPS - 1) Butternut squash & sweet potato
             2) Chicken & veg

I will also bake this week. Probably brownies, scones and lemon drizzle sponge.



Tesco fruit yoghurts (various flavours) x 6 @£0.89  = £5.34
Tesco own brand cornflakes                                   = £1.48
Savoy cabbage x 2 (BOGOF)                                  = £0.76
English apples x 2 bags @£1.00 (BOGOF)                = £1.00
Curry sauce x 1 jar (Loyd Grossman, Balti)              = £1.00
Oranges x 2 bags @£2.00                                      = £4.00
Bananas x 2 bunches                                             = £0.97
Broccoli x 2 (BOGOF)                                             = £0.97
Honeydew melons x 2                                            = £3.00

TOTAL                                                                   = £18.52


Grapes x 2 punnets                                                 = £3.00
Leeks   x 4                                                              = £1.19
Red onions                                                              = £0.29
Potatoes - 2.5KG pack                                              = £2.49
Arla 1% milk x 4 @£0.85                                          = £3.40
Bavarian Ham x 3 @£0.83                                        = £2.49
Wafer thin chicken                                                   = £1.59
Free range eggs x 4 boxes @ £0.89                          = £3.56
Rapeseed oil                                                           = £1.29
Olive oil spread x 2 @£1.09                                      = £2.18
Poultry Kabanossi sausages                                      = £1.79
Lidl own brand 'Frosties' cereal                                 = £0.99

TOTAL                                                                     = £24.26

TOTAL SPEND                                                          = £42.78

November grocery spend to date  - £173.15 / £250.00

Balance - £76.85

I am going to have to watch the spends next week if I am going to make it until Nov. 27th on budget, although £250.00 was a pretty ambitious target for us!

The kids are devouring fruit & youghurts at the moment. I cannot complain about this though, so much better than wanting sweets. Thank goodness all of the Halloween sweeties are finished.

How are your grocery challenges going in November?

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

This week's meal plan

I forgot to update last Friday with the next meal plan due to a hectic weekend, anyway, it's a bit late but here goes;

FRIDAY - Macaroni & cheese

SATURDAY - invited out to Mum's for tea!

SUNDAY - Chicken curry, rice & flat bread

MONDAY - Kids - HM pizza's. Grown ups - sirloin steak, baby potatoes, red cabbage & red onion in balsamic vinegar & green beans. (found the steaks at bottom of the freezer, nice surprise!)

TUESDAY - Pasta, pesto, sausage & veg.

WEDNESDAY - Chilli & rice

THURSDAY - Smoked haddock kedgeree

FRIDAY - Beef & ale stew

Grocery shopping challenge update for 09.11.11

Tesco -

2 x value washing powder @£1.68 = £3.36
1 x value fabric conditioner            = £0.90
Bananas                                       = £0.64
4 x cans of tuna flakes @£0.45       =£1.80
1 x value mozzarella                      =£0.44 
1 x tub value soft cheese                =£0.40
2 x Weetabix minis                        =£3.00
2 x Tesco 'readybrek' @£1.32         =£2.64
1 x Cheerios                                  =£2.78

TOTAL                                         =£15.96

Lidl -

1 x butternut squash                     =£0.79
2 x sweet potatoes                        =£0.88

TOTAL                                          =£1.67

TOTAL SPEND                               =£17.63

Remaining grocery budget             =£119.63

Nearly time for next week's meal plan now.....

How I paid for Christmas

For the last few years SM and I have done a few things to save some extra money for Christmas. These have enabled us to save quite a bit of cash on gifts come Christmas shopping time.

1. We always use Top Cash Back when shopping on line. We never buy anything without first checking whether we can get cash back on the item. 

This year we have started taking our 'cash back' in Amazon vouchers as you can boost your credit by taking vouchers instead of having it credited to your account. We did this as we knew there were a few items we would definitely be buying via Amazon this year.

2. We do some shopping at Tesco and nearly always buy fuel from there too. We save our Clubcard vouchers up all year and use them in the Clubcard Exchange Scheme.

The only credit card we have is a Tesco Clubcard credit card which we use for virtually all of our purchases to boost our points throughout the year. These can add up with regular grocery shopping and any large purchases. i.e holiday, car insurance etc.The only exception is where a store doesn't accept credit cards, i.e. Lidl / Aldi etc and/or where there is a charge for using a credit card.
I ALWAYS pay the balance off in full each month however.

I never spend my Clubcard vouchers on general grocery shopping, the best value for money is to take advantage of the 'Rewards' or 'Exchange' offers which can be up to 4 x the value of the vouchers.

4. Save a little each month in a separate account.

SM and I never 'hit the shops' to do our Christmas shopping. Neither of us enjoy the shopping experience in town much and prefer to order what we can on line. We started doing this a few years ago when we were living in a more remote location but have stuck with ordering on line because;
  • no spending on travel costs or parking charges
  • no trawling around shop after shop when it's busy with masses of other folk doing the same
  • no extra spending on coffees, lunches, snacks etc
  • no impulse buying just because something caught your eye in the shop

We have almost finished our Christmas shopping for this year and thanks to Top Cash Back we had £157.00 to spend at Amazon and £201.00 in Tesco Club Card vouchers. We had also saved a little each month and had £500.00 in a savings account.

All of the kids gifts have been bought and within budget. Gifts for our three neices have also been ordered. Only our parents to get now and these will unfortunately require a quick trip to the 'big smoke' but this can be done one quiet Monday morning before the December madness descends.

SM and I don't usually buy each other gifts at Christmas as we have pretty much everything we need. However I have been hankering after a Kenwood Chef mixer for a long, long time and just keep putting it off due to the price. I  had hoped to perhaps get one next year but SM noticed that mixers were included in the Tesco Exchange Scheme this year and worked out that we had nearly enough vouchers to pay for one.

So my Christmas is coming early and I only had to fork out about £90.00 of my own cash to get one, thanks to being able to double up the Tesco vouchers! (Oh, and I got Club Card points and Top Cash Back on the purchase too).

Woo hoo! It is on it's way and I cannot wait to start baking with it.

Anyone else started or finished their Christmas Shopping yet?

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Busy Day

Up at 6am today as we have a lot on. So far I have made a batch of lemon curd muffins (from the River Cottage Every Day cook book), baked a loaf of bread and a large pan of leek & potato soup. 

I have also been to Lidl for my main shop, where I spent £36.41 on the following items;

2 x punnets of grapes (red & green) - £3.00
Large Chicken                                 - £3.58
Bananas                                         - £0.62
Vine tomatoes (2.5kg)                     - £5.15 (enough to make 2 x large batches
                                                                  of soup to freeze)
Honey dew melon                           - £1.29
Leeks                                             - £1.19
Red onions (2 x bags @ £0.49)        - £0.98
Broccoli                                          - £0.79
Cucumber                                       - £0.59
Lemons                                          - £0.79
Mixed peppers                                - £0.99
Celery                                            - £0.49
Garlic                                             - £0.89
Carrots (2 x 1kg bags @£0.29)        - £0.58
Arla 1% milk (4 x £0.85)                - £3.40
Bavarian Ham (2 x £0.83)               - £1.66
Danpak butter                                -£1.79
Tomato puree                                 -£0.35
Dark Chocolate (6 x bars @£0.29)   - £1.74 ( will use for brownies / chocolate
                                                                 sponge etc)
Beef mince (6 x packs @£1.09)       - £6.54

TOTAL - 36.41.

Now I clearly made a mistake with the tomatoes. I could have sworn they were marked as 50% off, which is why I got a big bag today but the receipt tells me otherwise. Hmmm, I think I will go back tomorrow if I get the chance and check again....

I also picked up a few things from Morrisons after that I couldn't get at Lidl, namely;

Morrisons pink salmon, 1 x 418g can  - £ 1.58 (for fish cakes)
Morrisons fresh orange juice, 2L         - £1.78
Yeo Valley organic natural yoghurt     - £1.28
Morrisons Value kidney beans, 1 x can -£0.15
Clementines, 2 x 750g bags @£1.00    - £2.00

TOTAL - £6.79

TOTAL Grocery spend - £43.20.

This is quite a bit lower than I usually spend each week but I have quite a good stock of store cupboard essentials at home at the moment, like flours & baking items, pasta, olive oil spread, cheese, tinned tomatoes, tuna, coffee etc. All bought when on offer previously. I also have quite a few meat items in the freezer also bought on offer. I also had quite a few yoghurts left over from last week so i'm hoping I won't have to do a top up shop during the week.

I have set myself a challenge of only spending £250.00 on groceries in Novemeber and would love to beat this. However I won't beat myself up about it if I don't manage it.

I start my 'grocery months' on our pay day, which is normally on or around the 27th of the month, so this is my 2nd grocery week if you like. Total spent so far is £112.74. Which leaves me with £137.26.

Fuel spend is not looking so good so far this month due to a lot of extra running about this week. Normally we spend about £200 a month but so far we have spent £180.06. I have had to fill my car up again yesterday. Both cars are full so I am aiming to use the car as little as possible (other than today and tomorrow due to running kids around to clubs and a sports competiton).

I will try and upload some images of the muffins (what's left of them...), the soup and the spelt loaf (rather organic in shape...) later today when I get back.

Have a good Saturday x

Friday, 4 November 2011

My attempt at a capsule wardrobe

As I said in my my previous post this blog is not about extreme frugality. I am not a big shopper but I do like nice things and will save up for something of good quality that I know will last rather than spend less on more items that won't.

I have recently bought a few items to update my wardrobe. I am trying to create a capsule wardrobe so I don't open the doors and not know what to wear. So far I haven't actually gotten around to clearing out the older stuff that is past it or I no longer wear but that will happen one day next week when I have a few hours to myself. I can be pretty ruthless once I get going so hopefully I will be left with a tidy, organised wardrobe (which it is definitely not right now).

So just for light entertainment and for those interested in fashion I have shared some of the items I have bought recently.

Quite a few items I know, but I can create lots of different outfits for work or home or (the very occasional) night out. The best thing was I had savings to pay for this little spree and I don't expect to have to shell out much for years now other than on things like basics etc. If my lovely new coat and boots etc don't last a long time i'll be disappointed. Now if only I could look like that Next model I could wear absolutely anything and look good!

Has anyone else updated their wardrobe for winter recently?

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

How i've saved money in 2011

Having had a (relatively) minor health issue earlier this year, which resulted in some time off work, I sat down and went through the family finances with a fine tooth comb in early June to keep me busy. At the time I was seriously wondering if we could manage on one income but thankfully things didn't come to that.

Anyway I started with the mortgage as it is by far the biggest outgoing we have. At the time we were paying £1197.00 in interest alone, thanks to a high interest rate, 7.58% (OUCH!). We ended up having to move with work transfers, just as the financial crisis hit in late 2008 . We managed to get a new mortgage deal with Northern Rock - 2.5% (NICE) and saved ourselves £692.00 in interest EACH MONTH!

About that time I was checking out the 'mortgage free wannabes' on Martin Lewis' MSE site. That's when I got the idea to get rid of our horribly huge mortgage as soon as possible.

Now this blog is not about extreme frugality although if I didn't have the kids I would be more of a tight wad, i'm thinking of the wonderful and amazing Frugal Queen here ( I love her blog

Having said that if I didn't have kids I wouldn't have a big house. I would be happy in a much smaller house. Really getting off topic here, I will do a post about my minimalist dreams for retirement, in France hopefully, ( is another favourite blog about a couple saving for their dream move abroad), another time and I really love where I live so I am not complaining.

Anyway! Having saved us £692.00 a month on the mortgage I really wanted to round those savings up to a nice round £1000.00 so I could make that extra 1K in monthly overpayment to the mortgage capital. So, in discussion with SM, we made the following changes to our monthly outgoings;

  • cancelled BT Vision subscription - £12.50
  • cancelled 'call divert' on our BT phone package - £3.00 (I didn't even know we had this option until I went through the bill!!)
  • changed energy supplier from Eon to N Power. Approx. £10.00 saved. (May work out more in future due energy saving measures inplemented)
  • Reduced spending on groceries from £500 to £350 a month.
  • Reduced spending on petrol / diesel from £300.00 to £200.00 a month.
  • Kids now taking packed lunches (paid for out of grocery budget) to school instead of school dinners x 3 each day - £70.00 approx.
That works out at £1037.50 approx saved every month and available to reduce the mortgage.

We achieved the extra savings by meal planning (I cannot believe I hadn't discovered the joy of this before now!), knowing what was in my freezer / cupboards, making a list and sticking to it and being a complete supermarket tart. I will go wherever the cheapest prices are, and I don't mind having to traipse to different shops.( I have a Morrisons, Lidl and Tesco all quite close) Soon we will also have an Asda and I will make use of their cheap prices too.
I now do a lot of shopping at Lidl and get the majority of our fresh produce there.

I 'downshifted' lots of products. As a family we agreed we would try this out to see what we liked / didn't like etc. Examples of items I now buy from Tesco 'Value' or 'Own brand' ranges for instance are;
  • washing powder - £1.69 for 30 washes. ( I only use this on whites / pale colours. I used Lidl 'Formil' colour liquid £3.49 approx for coloured / dark clothing.
  • Fabric conditioner - £0.45 for 1 ltr.
  • Soft cheese £0.40 instead of 'Philadelpia' at over £1.00
  • Mozzarella (for HM pizzas) £0.40
  • 'Daisy' brand dishwasher tablets - £2.23 for 40 (6p per tab) - cheaper than the 'Value' tabs.
  • Market value fruit & veg. i.e. carrots, apples courgettes etc.
  • Tinned tuna - £0.45
  • Tesco own brand 'Butterpak' instead of Lurpak, although I will buy this IF it's on offer.
  • Tesco own brand Readybrek
  • Tesco own brand Weetabix
  • Value flour & own brand bread flour.
  • Value baby bath £0.11 for 500ml - I use this as shower gel and decant into hand soap pumps in kitchen and bathrooms. This gives a huge saving in toiletries with a family of 5 all having showers every day and with young kids prone to wasting gels down the plug hole.....
  • Value baby shampoo for the boys and SM, who doesn't have much hair left to wash bless him...
  • Value general cleaning fluid - £0.27.  Fine for mopping floors and I also decant into old kitchen / bathroom spray bottles and dilute half with water. Way cheaper than CIF sprays etc and does just the job.
  • Value toilet cleaner - £0.27 - cleans my loos just as well as more expensive brands.
  • Value cream cleaner - £0.27 approx. Does the job.
I have managed to reduce the grocery etc spends so much due to doing the above and home cooking every meal. We rarely have take aways and I can't remember the last time I bought a ready meal. I also started baking my own bread and haven't bought a shop loaf for over 3 months now. I don't have a bread maker so I do have to set time aside to make sure I make a loaf but I tend to do a batch of rolls and a large loaf at the same time and this lasts 2 - 3 days.

I rarely use my tumble drier now and am hoping for some obvious savings when my next electricity bill comes in (current DD is £66.00 a month). We were always quite good at not leaving tv's / chargers etc on standby but we switch everything off at the wall now when not in use, with the exception of the BT 'homehub'. The microwave, the washing machine switches on the walls etc are only on when in use. Batch baking etc to make best use of the oven when it is in use.
We have an integrated fridge in the kitchen but have a big fridge freezer which is adequate for our needs. We used the old built in fridge for drinks until recently but it was often near empty so we stopped using it altogether. I'm hoping all these small measures will add up to a nice reduction in electricity use. Next bill due in Feb. 2012 so will report any changes then.

We also have oil central heating which everyone knows is very expensive. We will be trying to keep it's use to the minimum this winter but who knows how cold it will be yet... We have an open fire in the lounge which we like to light most days once it gets very cold and we have managed to gather / 'womble' a good amount of wood so far this year. We are also lucky to have a friend who gets us a good load of fire wood for a nominal sum.

I don't like to have a cold house and would not want the children to ever be cold in the winter. I therefore count myself as very fortunate to know that I can go and switch on the heating any time I need to. So many just can't do this each winter and I really feel for them.

Oh, and SM started cycling to and from work whenever possible. This has saved loads on our fuel spends. I know this will rise a bit again over the winter but come the better weather it will go down again too.

Sorry for the long post but these are some of the things we've done to save money this year and I can honestly say no one in the family has felt any reduction in living standards.