It has been some time since I started my quest for less (and dragged my husband along in my enthusiasm). The general idea is to use less fuel, prepare meals from scratch, consume a lot less meat, more fish (freshwater fish being the ideal), and more vegetables, use fewer chemicals around the house, generally use things more economically, and (importantly) filling our hearts and minds with more good stuff, while being less exposed to all the negativity and pressure of our ‘More!’ culture

I genuinely believe it has had a positive impact on the lives of our family as individuals and collectively. We’re by no means at the finish line, but these are a few of the things we have done so far:

We used public transport to travel the 300 miles to my parents at Christmas (this had as much to do with my fatigue as anything else, to be honest). We haven’t found a way around using the car for transport to and from school and work, but I make the round trip twice a day with Frank and the girls, which is better than if he went on his own. Unfortunately, public transport is not a daily option because there are not enough buses, and the cost of a family is extortionate (children have to pay full fare if they use the bus to get to school!).

I began making my own cleaning products to use fewer chemicals around the home. Did you know that parabens, which have a proven link to cancer, are used in many household items? I even found parabens listed as an ingredient in shower gel from The Body Shop (of all places). My cleaning products have been very successful, though it has been trial and error. They work just as well, if not better, than the chemical versions. I have an idea of manufacturing and selling them, but as yet I’m too busy with other things. I have also explored making my own soaps, bath bombs, etc., which has not been as successful but I have high hopes. I think I could also sell these, alongside the household products, in time.

We were given a slow cooker as a wedding gift and use it at least once a week, as well as the bread maker. A halogen oven has just been added to the house (mainly for use when camping but it is useful for cooking at home too). Both of these mean we have delicious, freshly-made food ready in the evening, at little cost. Coming home on a grey, English evening to fresh bread and a bubbling stew is marvellous. The stews are often vegetable-based, for health reasons and because this is so much cheaper than meat (which, when we buy it, is as free range and locally-sourced as possible). One way in which I often make it easier for myself, however (because this is not an exercise in self-flagellation), is by using frozen, ready-chopped vegetables. They cost slightly more than fresh vegetables, but they don’t get left unused and then thrown away. I use as much as I need and then put the rest back in the freezer.

We make big batches of food, especially low fat curries and stews, then freeze the leftovers. This means we have food available in minutes for those days when we just don’t want to cook or we’re in a rush (this aspect of modern life still seems to be pervasive!). They’re always just as delicious re-heated as they were when they were first made. Hence no need for ready-meals.

Without going into too much detail, I use the products from here:

I find them actually more comfortable than traditional pads. They wash easily and are ready to use again. I won’t go into any more detail, to spare your blushes! If you’re interested, have a look. I can’t recommended them highly enough.

There is one thing that we have not succeeded with: we tried not having a tumble dryer for about a year. When we no longer have HRH being incontinent at night (the night-time toilet training is not going very well), and Tinkerbell’s weak bladder has matured, and little Squidge learns how to eat food as opposed to wearing it, we might reconsider. Until then, the dryer is staying! And we use the line where we can.

Unless it is very cold, we turn the heating off in the middle of the day. Jumpers and slippers come in handy. I even have a poncho given to me by my sister.

We buy second-hand clothes, often through ebay or the charity shop. We sometimes buy new things, but the advent of ebay brings so many possibilities. I admit sometimes too many <blush> my girls actually do have more than they need of ‘ebay special’ dresses!

We holiday in our trailer tent (we were given this in March, before that we had a tent). This year we will have a total of 27 nights under canvas! We have bought things for camping, but consider any money spent in this manner an investment for future years (e.g. the recent acquisition of a halogen oven).

I order food online from my friendly local Asda and get it delivered (costs £3 if you time it right). That way I don’t buy anything that is not on my list and I know exactly how much it adds up to so I can always stick to a budget. I also shop in the cash and carry, which has loads of food past its official ‘best before’ date but still perfectly edible. Last time I came back with a whole crate full of bottles of Liptonice. £1.50 for 30 bottles! The local butcher is also a good source of meat, fresh from local farmers.

We buy fair-trade goods wherever they are available – tea, coffee, chocolate, bananas, oranges, grapes, etc., clothes where possible (fair trade clothes are often very expensive so this is not always an option – which is where second-hand is a good compromise), even gifts such as jewellery and a cute mouse-shaped cheese knife for my sister’s last birthday.

When we have no use for something, we recycle as much as possible and either give things to the local charity shop, sell them on ebay, or sort for recycling by the local council, who have a recycling depot about a ten-minute drive away.

Being more frugal has meant we are able to make the most of our finances. This includes being able to give to our chosen charities on a monthly basis (part of this is sponsoring dear little Marleth in Colombia, for £21 a month). It also means, conversely, the occasional treat as a family – and that the children are able to continue all their activities (currently gymnastics, swimming and piano lessons).