Wednesday, 1 October 2014

The Frugal Manner

Ages ago Vivien kindly clipped a newspaper article for me. It was an interview with Baroness Patricia Rawlings who gave tips on being frugal in the running of a 13-bed home on the market for £6-7 million (it comes with 40 acres).  At 75 she is still very attractive, once dated the Aga Khan, is a life peer in her own right, etc., etc. 


I mostly appreciated her frugal tips:

Never serve plated food. "It's a waste, let guests serve themselves." This tip speaks for itself really. I generally present a buffet for large parties. When it's just Bill and me we each serve ourselves from the kitchen stove and carry it next door to the dining room. I have dessert (chopped fruit) already on the table. I find I'm much less likely to have seconds if I have to go back into the kitchen. Lately we've formed the habit of having dessert and decaff coffee in front of the TV while we catch up with "Who Do You Think You Are?" Not a great habit but better than other TV snacks we could choose. This winter I'm thinking of trying service à la russe to help keep food warm so I can try eating more slowly; also keeping plates in the oven. Any other suggestions?

Grow Your Own Fruit. But if you do buy, buy local; don't pay for air miles.  Our single remaining raspberry cane has surpassed itself this year whilst the strawberries never got past flowers. I'm seriously toying with the idea of dwarf fruit trees in the front garden where the west and southern sun is best. I buy from the green market or tinned fruit from various grocers. In the few days we were home between trips in blackberry season we picked three kilos for the freezer to use over the winter.

"White linen napkins are hard work. We use them on Friday and Saturday night. But for breakfast and lunch, a guest can reuse a separate napkin kept in a duck-shaped ring with their name on it."  I put out a stack of cloth napkins for my Thanksgiving buffets but no one will touch them. I've no idea if they worry about the work or if they think them unhygienic or what, but I gave up and buy the one package of paper napkins for that occasion. We're awfully lazy and tend to grab a cloth napkin from a drawer on the odd occasion when one of us feels the need for one. None are white, but cream with age and there are a few blue prints in there. I don't have napkin rings but they sound like fun!

Waste nothing. She talks about saving crusts from melba toast for frying later as 'soldiers with boiled eggs.'  This is a dish I never heard of til moving to Britain and I've yet to try it. I love toast with runny eggs but don't own an egg cup...perhaps another item to collect? Still, I got this far in life without one. We look upon leftovers as homemade convenience food. My stale bread is frozen until I need it for breadcrumbs or salmon puff. 

Attend auctions and use eBay. She mentions these as sources of furniture, also to sell unwanted Christian Louboutins. I've yet to attend an auction, but it's firmly on my bucket list. I'm just a bit nervous about what mountain of stuff I might bring home! Having bought shoes online that were less than a great fit, I'm now in the camp of in-person shopping so as not to waste money. If you know a brand well enough to predict its sizing, perhaps this is a better hint for you than for me. I can't fit another piece of furniture into this house, but if I could I would definitely shop second hand first as it is usually much better value for money.

Keep everything. "Wherever you look in my house there are drawerfuls of string, bubble wrap, carrier bags - you name it. Everything will be useful at some point." Most of us have limited space, but I agree with her re-cycling strategy. Chose a cupboard for such things and when it is full, stop collecting.

Leave bathwater in the tub for a couple of hours to warm the room. I have tried this but couldn't tell it helped much. Besides we tend to take showers to save on water (except that I take marathon showers...). But I appreciate the principle.

"I give my guests a fresh bar [of soap]. But I reuse it afterwards. And when it's down to practically nothing, it ends up in drawers and cupboards to keep moths away." I thought I was the last person on the planet still using bar soap! Not sure how effective soap is against moths, but again it is the principle. 

"Electric blankets, open fires, hot-water bottles and, if possible, an Aga - all are vital."  You get the picture about fighting cold in this wet wintery place, right? I doubt open fires are that efficient and I've no experience of an Aga but I agree about hot-water bottles and the like. Left to my own I would heat the East bedroom with an electric heater, set the central heat to come on at a low level after dark, and use the gas heaters in the living and dining room until time to go to bed. Bill likes a wider use of the house in comfort. We did agree last year that not being miserably cold was a financial priority for us so we've put the thermostat up to 65 F.  

Avoid expensive marquees. I've taken this out of order because it's beyond my experience. She says marquees are expensive. If it rains her guests can come inside; if it is hot and sunny she hands them a Panama hat, which she buys a couple hundred at a time. I think I would expect my guests to provide their own hats...

The Baroness isn't alone in her penny-pinching. Quite a few large house owners find themselves in this position.


Gam Kau said...

I've attended a few furniture auctions and there is always a significant surcharge so I've never really found it to be particularly frugal. It can be a fun thing to do for a day though.

I always entertain buffet style, easier on everybody involved I think. I buy 2nd hand if possible, use cloth napkins, save bits and bobs, and keep the heating very low in the wintertime - I always say, I'm nothing if not frugal. :)

I have a wealthy relative who is very frugal and someone asked me why she is so frugal if she is so wealthy. I replied, "she is wealthy because she is frugal!".

Shelley said...

Gam Kau - So right! I don't know a lot of wealthy people, but most of those that I do are usually well off because of their thrift. They may or may not do all these things, but they definitely make conscious decisions about how to spend their money. Amazing how many people do not!