Tuesday 30 August 2011

Open Thread - Scrimping for Victory

Those dinner parties of the noughties, where everyone talked about how much their house was worth are giving way to discussions about how much everything costs and how hard it is to make ends meet.

My well off friends, my middle class friends, my student friends and my pensioner friends are all looking for ways to trim their bills and on twitter last night, people were sharing their tips for getting by.

As I'm up to my neck in toddlers this week, I thought you all might like to share your tips and suggestions here in the comment thread. Got any brilliant ideas for cheap food? Tried any clever ways of cutting the bills? Know any really cheap holiday options? Anything goes, or if you just want to debate and share, please do. The comments are often the best thing about my blog.

I'll start with a tip or two :  Most supermarket's will give away their carvery ham bones when they're finished. They still have loads of meat on and make a lovely stock for minestrone or Italian soups. Try asking at the deli counter - nothing ventured!! (Morrison's are excellent for this kind of thing and give me breadcrumbs from the bakery if I ask too)

Chorizo : Look out for the knobbly end of chorizo, reduced or sitting there forlornly. Don't get it sliced, just add small amounts to pulses or tomato sauce or rice dishes. Incredibly tasty. (hat tip to @immigrant007 on twitter)

If you know anyone who works for EDF energy, they can get you 10% (or even 25%) off your mobile phone bill if you have a contract with Orange.

There. Your turn! I'd like to have regular open threads so if anyone wants to suggest other subjects, then please feel free.


  1. Friend just tweeted this astonishingly brilliant idea for free cake!!! Yep, free cake!! Give it a read and let me know if I can join your Herman network!!

    end biscuit/cake shopping with herman the friendship cake ('neverending' cake mix) http://is.gd/FtDbAI - I promise it's delicious

    In fact while typing, I've already had the offer of a Herman from a twitter friend!

    She also suggests smoking cheap fish with left over teabags : "put the dried out tealeaves in a dry frying pan, cover over with tinfoil and poke holes through then put fish on top of foil & cover with big pan lid. if no pan lid big enough, you can construct similar contraption for the oven"

  2. Hahaha, same friend (@bunnyrabble on twitter)on a roll now!!

    "bread tip: using flavoured oils makes rly delicious bread cheaply - bay leaves and peppercorns, chilli, or sundried tomato oil=yum
    cheapest yummy bread I make: bay leaf oil, onions and cheapo tesco value 'parmesan'- smells, looks and tastes amazing"

  3. Talking of parmesan, although expensive to buy, it keeps for ages in fridge and pasta with just olive oil, parmesan, garlic and dried chilies is incredible!!

    I always have parmesan in as it can make a good pasta meal for next to nothing. (Italians know a thing or two about povera-cucina - google it)
    Also, when it's done, never throw the "heel" away. Add it to soup made from that ham bone and experience food heaven!!

  4. Breath Arianism (the ability to live without food or drink) - the ultimate cost saving!

  5. Hmmm, Anonymous, "The consensus of the scientific community is that "breatharianism" is potentially lethal pseudoscience"

    Might give that one a miss, lol. Also, don't give the coalition any ideas, they'll believe any old nonsense if they think it'll save them a quid.

  6. http://www.turn2us.org.uk/
    Great resource for finding help from charities. several thousand a year help from a charity ON TOP of benefits may be possible and its all perfectly legal!
    Many free items just requiring pick up or postage. :-)
    there are loads of these sites just google FREE Furniture etc
    Swap shop of second hand goods
    Free vetinary treatment for your pets if you are on earning related benefits.

    ALso Always look for online software tools / free downloads. Try never to pay for software.

    Just a few.

  7. "SPAM", Now you can do a lot with spam.

  8. In France the poor citizens get free cake complements of Marie Antoinette. In the UK the subjects have been known to freely give their politicians well matured organic eggs, tomatoes and other mixed vegetables, pies, milk and if I remember correctly the farmers brought them a huge free pile of steaming dung to their door.

  9. Now i like the dung idea, but they are already so full of it lol

  10. Clr Ralph Baldwin30 August 2011 at 13:11

    Hmmm let me see, well this politican (not an MP thank God) with ulcerative colitis saves money by cooking home made flapjacks (porridge oats are great and inexpensive and porridge is great in winter),as Sue has hinted at using any bones or meat leftovers to make soup. You can always pick up reduced fresh foods in the evenings, growing your own veg from tomatoes to broad beans is always handy (not for me as I can't eat them), make sure you buy in loads of preserves.

    I always buy the largest bags of pasta and rice, use instant smash for mashed potatoes as well as buying the fresh ones.

    Tins of food are not great but with toast and bread go a long way.

    Hovis bread is crap as it smells of plastic after three or four days due to the chemicals so avoid dodgy bread. But sandwiches that are home-made are best and you can always get a cheap packet of crisps in a multi-pack if you need it.

    When I was a student I used to eat a lot of 6p cans of beans/tomatoes with pasta.

    Can't do that now do to my illness.

    Hope this helps.

  11. if youve got a local chain shop such as tecso local, sainsburyrs local, coop, jacksons, spar, etc that shuts at 11, go in around 9pm. they will have put any frther reductions on and you can get fresh foods, veg, fruit, bread for as little as 5p.

  12. You can earn a little bit of money or vouchers doing online surveys - MoneySavingExpert has some advice on good firms, and I tend to do Ipsos and Global Opinions. Not all of them pay in money or points for vouchers - beware the ones that just enter you into prize draws - but do enough and you can end up with a spare 20 quid every few months. Also a good distraction for those of us who have to sit on the sofa feeling crappy for much of the time!

  13. planning, it's all in the planning! Make a weekly meal plan and stick to it!)

    I cook for a family of 4 for £50 a week (that's the food budget only)

    I make bread every other day - costs about 80p a loaf or 14 bread rolls.

    Bulk everything out with veggies, I buy a chicken to roast - only carve 1 side - lots of roast veggies pea,broccoli etc.

    The 2nd side might be used in a chicken salad or a chicken and mushroom pie or even blitzed with an egg and made into chicken nuggets for the kids using an addition egg, seasoned flour (usually paprika) and bread crumbs made using the end of a day or 2 old loaf)

    Freeze left overs! very handy for in a hurry.

    One of the cheapest recipes we all love - marmite pasta - marmite, spagetti, butter and grated cheese. boil spagetti, couple of spoonfuls of the water into a pan, add spoonful of marmite and a unhealthy sized knob of butter. when spagetti ready drain, add the sauce, grate cheese over top and serve. the deluxe version you do a garlic bread with it.

    finally buy bulk when on offer - we prefer tuna in springwater to brine or oil so when it's on offer we'll buy 2 or 3 packs of 4tins for about 50p each rather than £1+

  14. Only a quick plug for one of my favourite websites:


    1. User submitted and user reviewed FREE recipes

    2. Capacity for searching by ingredient, so just type whatever you've got in the cupboard into the search bar.

    3. Includes very simple ideas, right down to sandwich ideas and cocktails, if you've got a few dribbles of alcohol that need using up.

    My tip: bookmark the ones you like the look of, get a notebook and copy them in, adding your own notes if desired, or scoring them out if you don't like the way the food turns out.

  15. As autumn is coming in, soup season is coming. Homemade soup with plenty of lentils and root veg. Stock cubes are easy and cheap but not necessarily the most nutrious. Best thing about it is that the root veg bulks it out and really fills you up. If it lasts as long as 2 days then it will taste better second day.

    Also, get to know when your local supermarket reduces its meat counter. I have picked up a number of good meat joints by hanging around at 7pm on a Friday night!

  16. www.approvedfoods.com is a great website for cheap food. It's worth checking them out once or twice a week to see if there's anything there you fancy. They will tell you how much you've saved over the retail price of the items too.

    Never throw a chicken carcass away. Make stock by boiling it up in a very large saucepan (or rice cooker) with an onion, a carrot and a bayleaf and whatever else you fancy. Then you can make soup with some of it, and freeze anything that's left over.

    Pulses, beans and lentils are very useful ingredients: they can be added to soups, stews or casseroles and also make main meals in their own right. Arab cookbooks will give you some good ideas for recipes: my favourites are written by Claudia Roden.

    If you are paid irregularly in lump sums (freelancers etc) then buy your meat in bulk. I buy a lamb and half a pig from my local farm shop every 6 - 9 months, and I've worked out that I save 80% on the price in the shop. It's organic rare breed meat too, so it's a real bargain.

  17. Papworth Trust said : "having loads of DIY to do is saving me lots - no time to spend money and friends avoiding me (incase I make them paint...) ;)"

  18. Freegle, Freecycle, Realcycle -

    For free stuff that people are getting rid of. You can get rid of your stuff that way as well, which means people who are too ill to take wardrobes to the tip can offer them, and someone will ask for them and collect them. Half my house is furnished with stuff this way.

    Readitswapit -

    For free books - you upload isbn numbers and the site does most of the work. You agree to swap and each post your book secondhand. A word of caution - don't list large and heavy books because the postage is too much to make the swap affordable.

    OpenLearn -

    Free education through the Open University. Short units from various courses. You won't get a degree that way but it will keep your mind active.

    Cool Trader -

    If you have this shop near you, use it! 900g bacon offcuts for £1.49. 300g ham offcuts for £1. Lots of great value food.

    Aldi -

    Warburtons bread £1. Cheap veg.

    Home Bargains -

    Great for crisps, sweets, cool drinks and dry groceries.

    Pound Shops -

    We get most of our toiletries here; much cheaper than supermarkets.

  19. Learn to make things from scratch and buy in bulk. Why buy loads of bread when you can have eggs, self-rising flour and milk on hand and make pancakes? throw some fruit in as well.

    Learn to forage! Yes I've heard this one shot down for some reason (usually something about "foreigners" thrown in) but why buy blackberries when you can pick them? Provided you're picking away from major roadways and have the permission of the landowner - I have gathered elderflowers, elderberries, rosehips, cooking apples, blackberries, gorgeous yellow plums, damsons, filberts and chestnuts this way over the years.

    I bake my own bread (not impossible) and since I make my own soap (also not impossible) I can also make my own laundry soap (see above). No, you don't have to turn into a total self-sustainer but it's worth learning at least one skill.

    learn to homebrew and give out results as gifts over the holidays (doing this now myself actually). It's not hard to make liqueurs.

    Buy your meat from reputable local farmers as a meat box which is infinitely better quality than the rubbish at the supermarket. Not everything that is "cheap" is worth it. Instead, try to buy quality and make it worth it.