Baby it's cold out there... frugal living tips for winter!

YOU can tell winter's on it's way - it's increasingly harder to get out of a cold bed, I'm craving meat 'n two veg type dinners and this morning I deeply regretted my choice of breakfast instead of hair drying before what turned into a very chilly school run!

knitting, with slippers, by the fire.
Forget turning the clocks back, what marks the change of seasons here is the annual sweeping of our chimney. We were particularly keen to get this done early this year after a chimney fire in the spring!
The children thought it was great fun being given the job of checking to see if the brush could be seen popping out of the chimney pot -we drew the line at sending a small boy up the chimney to check for blockages- it's not that Victorian here!

Smelling the soot and getting excited about lighting the fire (whilst less excited at the prospect of kneeling in the freezing cold to clean the grate out every morning like a scullery maid) it got me thinking how much lifestyles, certainly in my village, have changed since I  moved here 20 odd years ago. We've gone backwards instead of forwards I think. But in a good way.

Most of us here use heating oil which is eye-wateringly expensive nowadays so basically we will do anything not to actually turn the central heating on. Luckily most of us have open fires and so can keep warm without radiators.

And we have developed strategies which not only make for warm toes but for a great community feeling too so I thought I'd pass our top tips for keeping warm cheaply on!

Throughout the winter the SAHM's make a plan. We take it in turns to host coffee mornings or afternoons, knitting circles, craft sessions or just a gossip-fest and then only one house needs to be heated, saving gas, electric or solid fuel.

It is totally acceptable here to take your slippers to a friend's. In fact a group of us who meet very regularly have our own slippers kept permanently at each others houses in case we forget. And it's not unusual to be offered a knee blanket, which means the thermostat can be kept a few degrees lower.

Obviously we all know the basics - layer up, choose warmth over fashion (or keep socks in your bag for when you are sitting!) and when outside wear hats, gloves and scarves - then you are already warm when you go into a house and don't need to warm up so much.

It does sound Victorian I know, and it doesn't make us sound very stylish but fuel is expensive and even my better-off friends who live in gorgeous but draughty Tudor homes with their pretty but single-glazed leaded windows need to cut back on the cost of heating.

We are in a 1950's terrace but even with double glazing and insulation I'm keen to keep my oil bill as cheap as possible. I use an electric blanket and hot water bottles instead of nighttime heating and have a small oil-filled radiator on a thermostat to heat just one room quickly if I'm on my own in the house and it's not worth lighting the log fire. And right now I'm sitting in the chair  nearest the window where the sun is still quite warm through the window and I have my chilly feet covered with a fleece. So I'm toasty!

Our OH's do their bit too- a couple of times a year they form a working party and go and collect timber from a friend's wood. It helps him keep it clear and the lads have a great day or two using axes, saws and power tools and being manly. The day often involves beer and bacon sandwiches too and usually we end up with enough free logs to keep us going most of the winter.
My village in winter

My DH remembers as a child being sent up to the nearby forest to collect logs for his mum. As villagers we have certain rights to free wood apparently as long as it is fallen and of a certain length and diameter. Check before helping yourself I think is my advice there!

I look forward to our coffee mornings. I've got to know some people I only kinda smiled at in the playground previously. We share the effort and the cost of hosting and it means you are never lonely either. You know there will be something to do and somewhere to go at least once or twice a week.
I learned how to knit and crochet at a friend's house, we swap childcare tips, recipes, chat about school issues and we often share home-made soup or cakes too.

A few of us have little businesses - everything from child-minding and crochet to making wooden platters and organic firelighters so it's a great place to network too!

I'm very aware this all sounds a bit old -fashioned but I think there are some great values to preserve from days gone by.  Now where did I put my floral pinny.....

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