Friday, 21 March 2014

Keeping Up Appearances

I had a lovely email last night from someone who wishes to remain anonymous, who was in a bit of a quandary.  She needs to start living more economically, indeed really frugally but does not want to advertise the fact to friends and family.... could I help?
Well of course there are all the basics, that I've no doubt you have read on here and many other Blogs before - stocktake your cupboards, menu plan, shop with a list and a non-hungry tummy, it's surprising the difference to your trolley if you don't fancy eating half the items on the shelves, and it's so much easier to resist temptation if you completely avoid the crisp and sweet aisles.
Buy just what you need and if you can pay in cash .... handing over your hard earned money is  a good way to stop the bank account dwindling at an alarming rate.  If it scares you the thought of doing this and potentially not having enough at the checkout then have your debit card tucked way down in the bottom of your bag but only use it if you really have to.  Don't shop for food with a credit card unless you can pay the full amount off each and every month.  It's no good shopping for value products and then paying whopping amounts of interest on your credit card every month.
A good start is to immediately switch to buying the own labels. the basic ranges and the value products that most supermarkets are now selling, ...and so that your family and friends don't know you have done this, a brilliant way to disguise the fact, is to display your cooking ingredients in glass jars.
Do you recognise the jar this dried milk powder has just gone into - yes it's a washed out coffee jar.  Start saving all your empty glass jars for this purpose.  You really don't have to go out and buy lots of expensive jars and also look in boxes at car boot sales you can get some lovely storage jars for not much money.

Don't forget to label under your jars, or on the front if you have some nice labels or you can cut out the wording from the pack the food came out of without giving the game away.  At first you may only have a few jars but eventually you may end up with lots of similar looking products and if anyone else cooks in your kitchen it could make for some confusion without the labels ;-)

You can either store your jars in the cupboard ...

... or on full display, as I do. 
Even I can't remember which jars have full price branded goods in them and which have bargain or value range products.

It works with even the tiniest things, this was a little sample coffee jar just begging to be re-used.

I decided to add in the dregs of my Parsley jar to the value Mixed Herbs ...

... and then I got a bit more carried away, well I mean in most cases Mixed Herbs can be any herbs and as I'm a pretty basic cook I very rarely use specifics and find that most things are interchangeable.  And to make it a win, win situation I now have one jar on the shelf instead of four ... I love simplicity :-)
Sometimes refilling your usual boxes with a value product can work well. Either buy the value ones and gradually add to the branded, giving the box a good shake to mix them up, this will get everyone in the family used to the new taste without them noticing too much ...

... or simply refill the empty box with the bag of value flakes and if anyone comments that they don't taste as nice, simply agree and say "yes, we must eat these up quickly so I can go and buy a new pack" ... you can guarantee that by the time the box is emptied and refilled with more Value flakes everyone will simply be used to the taste of the new flakes and won't complain anymore.  It also works with Rice Crispies and Frosties ....  my boys lived through this change with little complaint.
Once your box gets tatty surprise the family with lovely new plastic storage boxes, you can get them cheaply at shops like Home Bargains or B and M or again watch out for them at car boot sales.  Once you have these you can smuggle in the Value cereals and fill them up over and over.

And if you think the top picture looked pretty with the dried herbs in front of their fresh counterparts, this is what usually sits there and YES this too is not what it seems.  The hand-cream in the jar is not what is on the label.  It's actually full of lots of emptied out free hotel sachets and bottles picked up my Lovely Hubby when he has to stay away on business.

It's good too to start reading some of the Blogs on my sidebar in particular Elaine's over at 'Mortgage Free in Three', Jane over at Frugal Queen and Jack's at A Girl Called Jack  all have lots of recipes using good wholesome but cheap foods that you can find by typing your request into the 'Search' boxes and on Jacks you can actually type in the ingredient you have and specific recipes containing it will come up for you.
And Jack and Elaine both have books out that will really help you make every bit of your now reduced money go further and yet still fill up plates and hungry tummies.  Make sure you don't waste any food either, another brilliant book that I would recommend asking for as a birthday present is The Leftovers Handbook by Suzy Bowler of Sudden Lunch blog fame.  Even little tiny bits of left over food can be saved and turned into whole new meals and this book is full of brilliant ideas all listed alphabetically so they are easy to find.  You could always email Frugal Queen and ask for her Feed a Family of 4 for £40 meal planner too which is a brilliant tool for planning your months menu.
I hope these few ideas have helped a little and if you would like any more tips please let me know.
Sue xx


  1. Totally with you on all these tips and blog-recommendations.

    Try the 'fraction' route - it is easier to wean the family off luxury muesli and onto basic stuff if you do it in stages. Mix a fraction of basic [eg a third] in with the best stuff. Then half&half - then two thirds/one third. And by week four, they won't have noticed you have gone All The Way To Basics.
    Similarly, if you really don't like Basics Shampoo, Conditioner, Liquid Soap or Washing Up Liquid, buy your usual, and pour half into another bottle, then top up the container with water.
    I have also started serving food on fractionally smaller plates - so our portions, bills AND waistlines are getting smaller.

    1. I agree with you Angela. Mixing an increasing amount of one in with the usual was really useful for us, we knew we were tricking ourselves but it was fine. I found this particularly useful when we were reducing the amount of sugar in something.

      Using smaller plates is a good idea too, we also shred or grate some foods to make a little look like more, I'm always amazed at how much we eat with our eyes!

  2. You make me feel wasteful
    I want to work harder at being frugal

    1. Well John ... you could start by cutting the Scotch Eggs in half and wrapping the other half in cling film and placing in the fridge for later ;-)

      Yeah ... like THAT'S going to happen!!

  3. I think it is really sad people feel the need to hide their budgeting but some great tips there.

    My top tips are

    1. cook from scratch
    2. a joint of meat or a chicken goes way further than
    3. half of all cleaning toiletries rule.....use half the recommended amount of washpowder etc I even broke dish wash tabs in half
    4. Investigate green DIY cleaners such as laundry gloop etc
    5. Forage for free food
    6. Investigate shopping outside of big stores at £world homebargains and farm shops as often these are cheaper
    7. Butchers and greengrocers at markets are usually cheaper than pre packed
    8. bake cakes and biscuits - cheaper tastier and no rubbish in them

    The biggest friend of a superfrugaller is knowing where every penny goes!

  4. "I would rather my people laughed at my economies than wept for my extravagance." Quote from an 18th century Swedish king. But it is hard to be laughed at. Coming up with an acceptable reason can help. Eg you want to get rid of chemicals.

  5. It's so sad that people are ashamed of being frugal and afraid others will find out.
    I blame all the " your worth it" type ads, the magazines constantly telling people how much better their life would be if..... etc etc.
    If being frugal means paying off debt,paying off a mortgage, being able to do what YOU want instead of what THEY want then I say BE BRAVE because some time in the future other people might wish they had been frugal too.

  6. Great post, I need to start being more frugal, I spend way too much on food,I am looking to live more simply and save for our forever home like you did Sue, I started a blog today, its a great way to keep me on the straight and narrow, and hopefully one day we can have a beautiful home. I have read your blog right through and picked up some great ideas and tips, thank you Sue.

  7. It's really good advice. It is sad that people might feel the need to hide being frugal for fear of judgement. They could do with nicer friends.
    I think these are very important skills that should be passed to our children should they ever need them!

  8. weirdly saving money is a game to me. How little can I spend...

    Can I say one thing, some basic brands are better than others. For instance, rice crispies from sainsburys taste very metallic. The ones from tescos are nicer. Rice crispies can be whizzed up and used instead of bread crumbs and are cheaper.

    Tinned tomatoes, Tesco ones are thinner in the liquid, sainsburys are the same price but have a thicker juice.

    I have found the basics shampoo in coconut from superdrug is the best I have found so far.

    Don't skimp on beans. Heinz is best, there is more bean to juice ratio, where as the cheap ones are more liquid than beans. And yes I have drained them to prove this to my sister.

    Carrots are your new best friend, blitzed up they can be used to bulk out mince and gives it great taste.

    I hope this helps. Love the jars.

  9. Hi Sue, I've just found your blog and I'm enjoying it. I think these are great tips. I am always looking for new ways to save money on food. We also repackage a lot of foods from larger bags or containers, and jars are one of our favorite kinds of vessels to use. My husband found a small suction-pump sealer to use, after making a small hole in the jar lid, which has been good for keeping grains fresh especially.

  10. I like the Branston Baked beans when they are 4 tins for £1 at Lidl, in fact I can't complain at all about Lidl except that its 8 miles away from my house! Aldi is nearer and I'm getting used to their brands too. I was brought up in a household where every penny had to be counted, where we looked for the best bargains every week, and don't see anything wrong with own brands and yellow sticker items. In fact I only buy meat when its a yellow sticker bargain, and it has to be a really good bargain at that.
    I think its a shame when people are ashamed that they have to be frugal, its a skill to make the ££s stretch!

  11. I forgot to say that the Sainsbury's basics rice pudding tastes really good, the label says its a little less rich, but I don't agree!

  12. I have loads of large (200g) coffee jars, like your sample sized one, because I asked my rather more extravagant friends to save them for me. (To be fair to them, they drink far less coffee and tea than we do, so probably spend as little money as us on these things.)

  13. It is difficult to hide frugality from friends, especially if your lifestyle has changed from comfortably off to skint in a short time! You have to grasp it by the horns - tell friends that you are saving to be mortgage free, a new roof, or saving for a special holiday - anything that you feel OK with. Then just do it, and turn it into a game.

  14. Like your reader, I have to live more frugally than my friends or family. I am embarrassed to say that years ago I wasted lots of money on crazy things. I was spending sometimes $12 (6 pounds) a day on my lunches, and buying books and magazines I seldom read. Now I get my reading material from the library for free or next to nothing. Lunches are made at home - this weekend I am making carrot and corriander soup, and with a cheese toastie each day and a piece of fruit, I spend the same amount I used to spend in a day on a whole five days worth of lunches.

    This still allows me a little spend money to meet my friends for a frugal mean once a fortnight. We always choose somewhere budget to eat out, but I would rather join them then waste my money on my work lunches.

    We still love to go out and look at the shops, but I leave credit cards at home and am happy just looking. Sometimes I try some clothes on, then look online to see if I can get the same clothes/shoes second hand, especially if I know it will fit me.

    Good luck to your reader.

    Julie Q

  15. Last night I was shopping in Aldi and commented to the checkout lady how busy it was. She said it's just getting busier and busier and two new stores are due to open locally. I think this shows that people are shunning the food snobbery and putting their money first. You have some excellent tips Sue, for people who want to keep the frugal changes away from other people's eyes. It used to bother me what people thought when they came into my home and noticed the basic tissues, value handwash, the empty tissue box full of kitchen roll which I'd cut in half etc but now I can honestly say that people can think what they like. We'll be the mortgage free ones who can afford to retire and not be sitting up to our necks in debt in our old age! Sorry to sound so blunt, but that's how I see it. Interest rates are going to rise and food and fuel prices continue to rise, with pensions and savings on low interest rates.

    Good luck to the person who wants to become more frugal. The changes are definitely worth it in the long run.

  16. I agree SusanM, good luck to the person who wants to become more frugal.

    I felt a similar pressure amongst friends and family to keep up with the Jones's and have the latest whatever. When we finally started to address our debt and live more simply I did it in secret but my confidence grew and I started to tell friends and family why we were economising. I've never looked back since! We've downsized our home, cars and hobbies and we've never been happier and are almost debt-free after owing over £30,000 two years ago.

    1. Wow, that's fantastic! Well done! We cleared £25k over approx 3 years and I swore I'd never get into debt again. Now working on massively overpaying the mortgage and building up savings, so still living frugally but things aren't quite as tight as they were for us. It makes me realise how wasteful we were in the past.

  17. This blog is the epitome of elegant frugality. (I'm not connected to it btw)

  18. What good tips Sue. I have always found own brands to be pretty good. Although I do prefer branston beans to own brand, but I buy them when they are on special.

  19. Hello Sue, just found your blog courtesy of a link on Money Saving Expert, I was nodding avidly as I read through all of the above.
    Thank you for the suggestion of the 'Leftovers' book, I have Marika Hanbury Tenison's 'Left Over for Tomorrow' but that is a little bit more geared towards not wasting food that costs an arm and a leg to start with. (A bit like Jamie Oliver's book, though his recipes are very adaptable.)

    I agree completely with Value ranges and own brands being fine. I have an Aldi locally so am able to save even more money. It's interesting to see how the demographic of Aldi shoppers has changed. Now you are highly likely to see someone re-using an M&S bag in ours. We don't have a Waitrose locally, but my sis reports high numbers of those bags at her local Aldi. :)


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