Monday 30 April 2012

Coming soon...

Much excitement in the EH camp at the moment as I have been working on a new website. My old site was great when I first had it, but was set up for me by someone else and as a result I have had no way of updating it as time went on, meaning that now - 6 years since it first went online - it's looking very dated. When a friend mentioned a great site she was using to build a new site for her business (Thanks Jan!) I decided to give it a go - how hard could it be?

The site concerned was - it describes itself as offering "drag & drop" website building, and you know, it really is that simple. You decide what you want on each page, click on the relevant element on the toolbar, and drag it into place on the page. Seemples - as that Meerkat would say! Options for page layouts include differing numbers of columns, photo galleries and even slideshows, plus lots of different options for photos and text. You can incorporate a blog using Weebly's own software, or do as I have done and link a page straight to an external site meaning that once I hit the button to launch the site officially you will be able to click straight through to this blog from within it, seamlessly. The best thing about Weebly has to be the functionality - things work as you would expect them to, photo galleries for example - when you click in a picture in one of my galleries you will get an enlargement of the shot, followed by the option to click through the rest of the photos in the gallery. I have also built in navigations which means you can get from gallery to gallery without having to go back to the top every time, and links to external sites will open new pages. Best of all, it's an entirely free service, which fits wonderfully with my frugal credentials! All it has cost me is a small sum to buy my new Domain name - although in time I hope to get the old one back, this is going to take a while yet I think.

This is the first time I have even attempted anything like this - and I can honestly say I went in with a fairly cynical view on Weebly's claim of how simple it was - they were right though - the whole process has been straightforward and easy - the hardest thing has been deciding which photos should go in the galleries! I'm extremely proud of the result - which is now having the finishing touches put on to it - watch this space, and follow @EssexHebridean on Twitter for news of the launch date - I'd love to know what you think once it's up and running shortly!


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday 27 April 2012

Frugal Friday... 5 Little things...

So, you've filled your storecupboard, batch-cooked for England, and planned your frugal-but-fabulous weekend away down to the last must be time to have a little look at the boring stuff, the everyday things that don't save much, so the temptation is to say "Oh well, it doesn't really matter!" - you know what though, all those "not very much"'s, for us, have added up, and up, into the bulk of the overpayment on our mortgage now! Let's have a look at five areas where you can potentially cut back, without making a massive negative impact on everyday life...

1) A real Martin Lewis favourite, this - Drive economically and think about your motoring costs! I've had diesel cars for the past 8 years or so - Between us we do around 24k miles per year, so the cost of motoring is a good part of our income accounted for. We did the maths on a diesel -v- petrol car and the diesel won hands down, even if for the first few years of having one I had to stick my fingers in my ears and shout "la la la!" loudly to cover the noise of the slightly chuggy engine...! Do you know what though, diesels don't sound half so bus-like as they did a few years ago, and the cost savings are quite astonishing. When we came to look for a second car for Ben diesel was the natural choice. Both of ours are relatively small (A Clio and a Citroen C3) and so the road tax is low - £30 per year each, and we both get around 60 miles per gallon out of them, by driving smoothly, not screaming about everywhere flat out, and keeping the "stuff" we carry in them to a minimum. Servicing is a little more expensive than for a petrol engine, but only a little more, and the lifespan of a diesel engine should, with care and regular maintenance, be greater than a petrol engine, too.  Remember to use sites like to check the cost of fuel too - I saved 4p a litre in the week simply by filling up closer to where I was working, than to home.

2) If you're not using it....TURN IT OFF! Lights, TV, stereo, battery & phone chargers, heating, car engine when waiting for someone....seriously, the "standby" button is NOT the frugal person's friend. Get yourself one of those electricity meters - the ones that attach to the main household meter and tell you exactly what you are using. Then fill the the top, switch it on, and then go and check your meter. Scary, huh? Now you see THAT is why people bang on about only boiling the water you need. Your electric kettle uses a terrifying amount of power for such a small and regularly used device, so it makes sense to use it carefully. Many folk have a flask next to the kettle for any "extra" boiling water to go into - this can be used later for making coffee (not tea which really should have freshly boiled water), putting in the pan for cooking veggies, or even topping up your washing up water. On the note of water for cooking - in spite of the previous rant about the cost of using the kettle, it still works out better, as a rule, to boil the kettle and pour into the pan, rather than heating the water from cold in the pan.

3) Check your bank statements - are you paying for stuff you don't want or use any more? Gym subscriptions when you never have time to go, magazines that languish unread until you donate them, still in their plastic wrapper, to the Doctor's surgery, and memberships to organisations that you have no interest in the activities of are a good example of this. Often we sign up for things by Direct Debit and then forget all about them, and the money carries on sneaking out of the bank account on a monthly basis. Check statements for six months back - that then means you will catch anything that goes out quarterly as well. The keep a regular eye on things from then on to pick up on anything you've missed. When we first started doing this we (shamefully!) discovered that we had been paying someone else's water rates for six months. *Ahem* SIX MONTHS! We got it back though, every last penny. And - you've guessed it....we paid it against the mortgage! (If you bank online, by the way, this step should be a doddle, as usually you can sort your bank accounts to only show Direct Debits on screen).
4) Shopping - we feed the two of us, plus HRH The Cat, on £150 per month. This includes all food, her cat litter, cleaning materials and routine medication like painkillers etc. We waste practically nothing - I meal plan in advance, and then build my shopping list each week based on that plan. I also keep a running list of "Stuff that needs using up" which then gets incorporated into the upcoming meals. The plan works roughly around a five-week rotation, which gets round the risk of ending up in a "it's egg and chips, so today must be wednesday" situation. I adjust the meals around things we have in, so for example next week's plan won't use eggs, as I won't have any in, but the following weeks shopping list gets eggs added to it. Think about how much food you buy, and don't use....a shocking proportion of the food bought in the UK ends up in landfill - it's a waste of resources and of course of your hard-earned cash. For the next week - try noting down everything you throw out, then at the end of seven days, add up the rough cost of that food. Then multiply that by 52. Oh, and add £20 to the final figure to account for christmas. I bet you'd rather have that in your bank account, eh?!

5) Think about your everyday life and the choices you make. This could possibly be the biggest single saving you could make. Martin Lewis has a great tool over on Moneysavingexpert - the "Disincentiviser" - this allows you to work out the cost of those little habits - so a latte each morning on the way to work....lunch bought from the sandwich shop, a daily all adds up, and quite frighteningly, too. Once you know the costs - you can work out which of those items are worth that annual cost to you, and which have become a habit that, frankly, isn't worth the cost. For us, it was a takeaway on a Friday night....every week. We still have takeaways, but rather than being a weekly habit, with the occasional one during the week when we've got home late, or failed to plan well for dinner, it's one a month, at the most, with an occasional extra after a day out, when perhaps a little too much beer has been consumed to consider cooking as an option....!

What would be your five best suggestions for becoming more frugal, without sliding across the gap too far into the realms of "tight"?


Thursday 26 April 2012

Hebrides Countdown 2012

As we're visiting North Uist later this year than we usually do, our usual accommodation isn't available, so we'll be staying somewhere new for the first time since 2007! The first time we went with the self-catering option in 2006 we stayed at Park Cottage...

At Sollas on the west of the island, it was perfect for Ben & I, and his parents who joined us for the week - the co-op was just a short walk up the road, so perfect for those "what shall we have for dinner" moments, and there were some stunning beaches also within an easy walk. It also had the amazing "magic cupboard", which, over the course of the week never failed to yield whatever was required in the way of kitchen utensils etc! The following year when we returned it was just the two of us so something a little smaller was required, and so we made Tigh Alasdair our "Hebrides home"....'s felt like that ever since really- there is something great about knowing before we arrive where we will find everything, and of course the exterior beer-storage facility (aka The Shed!) has been a huge bonus! This year we are staying for our first time at "The Moorings" so it will all be new - which is rather exciting! We do however need to remember to take with us things that we've always taken for granted as 'just being there' at Tigh Alasdair...towels, for a start, as those aren't provided. Much excitement has been generated by the Information that there is a dishwasher, though....!


Friday 20 April 2012

Frugal Friday...

"Help!" tweeted a friend recently "what do you Tweeps cook in big batches to freeze - I need to reduce our food bills!" Naturally the reply went back "bolognese, chilli & curry!" - all standard meals in our house, and just ideal for freezing for "ready meals" on nights when we've both had long days at work. I can't be doing with the "ready meals" so readily available in the supermarkets - almost without fail they are overpriced, full of additives, and cost several times what it would cost you to make a whole vat of the meal in question, from scratch! I also find that those sorts of convenience foods taste terribly salty to me now - a sign I guess of how low-salt my own cooking tends to be!

So, if you're new to batch cooking, how best to manage it? I find my slow cooker is my best friend for cooking in bulk - when I chose it I purposely chose one rather larger than I technically needed. The one I now have will happily take 6 full 2-person portions, and has both high and low heat settings too, which allow more flexibility. I also occasionally use my big stockpot on the hob - that works best for things like bolognese sauce, which I will keep going back to and stirring regularly. For no hassle cooking, I turn to the Slow Cooker every time.

Some people swear by browning off meat and onions before throwing them into the pot, feeling that this adds flavour. Although ideally I would prefer to, we simply don't have the space to have the slow cooker out and the hob working, so I forego this step and lob everything in as it is. For a bolognese, I prefer to use chopped stewing or braising steak - mince tends to "disappear" in the long slow cooking. Same with the veg - cut everything that bit bigger than you usually would so it keeps a little texture. Remember that you're cooking multiple portions of your usual dish, and upscale the seasoning accordingly - whilst still remembering that you can add more, but not remove what is already in the pan. (If you DO find, on tasting the dish, that you have added a little too much salt, then drop some thick slices of potato in and simmer for a short while - the potato will "suck out" some of the saltiness, and can then be discarded. By the same token if a dish is a little too spicy, either a spash of cream or bizarrely a good squeeze of lemon juice helps to calm it down) On the subject of seasoning, I usually use dried herbs in my bolognese during the cooking, then add a handful of fresh towards the end. Tinned tomatoes are one of those things that seems to keep increasing and increasing in price - however it's worth keeping your eyes out for "damaged stock" being sold off on market stalls - often the "damage" is as simple as stained or torn labels, of a bit of bashing on the tin, and doesn't affect the contents in the slightest - earlier today I spotted 4 tins of Napolina brand tomatoes being sold for £1 on the market - a vast saving on the supermarket's prices. Failing that companies like Approved Food often have massive catering tins for a good price, and Lidl and Aldi are worth a look, too.

The main reasons for many people choosing to batch cook are time saving - home cooked "ready Meals" are a great bonus when you get home after a long day at work and a stressful commute and can have a home cooked meal ready in moments. However, the cost-savings are another good reason. Cooking in bulk often means you can buy in bulk, which often works out cheaper - so a large joint of a cheaper cut of meat, for example - the slow cooking will tenderise the meat of course. You can also often get away with a smaller quanity of meat - as it breaks down during the cooking process the flavours the sauce beautifully. A useful tip to stretch things even further is to add a handful of porridge oats or oatmeal - this helps thicken the sauce, and adds a fantastic creaminess to it too.

Finally - a proper "2 for the price of 1" dish to finish up with.....take one free-range chicken (Seriously, yes, they might be a bit more expensive, but you actually get flavour with a free range bird, and, managed careefully, you ought to be able to get at least 4 main meals for two from a mid-sized bird - probably more) of a size to fit snugly into the slow cooker. Cover with cold water, and add a couple of small quartered onions, a couple of carrots, sliced lengthways, a few bay leaves and a couple of chopped sticks of celery if you have it. Pop the lid on, and leave to simmer away to itself gently until the chicken is cooked right through. (The best way to test for this is to feel the breast - it should feel firm to the touch, without too much softness, and give a leg a tug too - if it moves around easily at the joint then the bird is most likely done - it goes without saying never to take a chance on an undercooked chicken - the risks are simply too high). Once this process is complete, not only do you have a beautifully succulent poached chicken, you also have a good amount of really tasty chicken stock at no extra cost.  Enjoy!


Thursday 19 April 2012

Hebrides Countdown 2012...

Yes, it's that time of year again! It has felt quite strange not to have been in the Hebrides this last couple of weeks....the knowledge that the usual things are happening without us - Alasdair's lambing will be well and truly underway now, and the pub will be back open for full time summer season operations...the tourist information offices will be fully stocked with leaflets and souvenirs and will have thrown open their doors - all the things that we usually see happening.... Having said that, we're thoroughly looking forward to being there a little later in the year, and seeing lots of new things happening, no doubt!

The shot above was taken back in 2006,  from Howbeg on South Uist. I love the contrast of the flat Machair I'm standing on to take the photo, with those hills beyond....we're hoping to get similarly bright, sunny days this year, too! Fingers crossed!


Monday 16 April 2012

In the words of the late, great Freddie Mercury....


Until a few years ago I'd almost never travelled outside the UK. A few trips to Calais on the ferry, and that was it. Not because of any dislike or mistrust of travelling, simply because the opportunity had never arisen - growing up money was tight, and holidays were limited to occasionally, and within the UK - and then for a good few years my annual fortnight away was spent visiting the Edinburgh Fringe Festival which was an experience I loved, and would strongly recommend to anyone! Anyway, Ben travelled around Europe extensively when he was a student, and speaking with him about his trips left me feeling that I wanted some of that, so we've been visiting places as and when we've had the chance, over the last few years. Paris, Dublin, Germany and Poland have all been visited, and this year a rugby club trip gave us the opportunity to visit Barcelona (no singing, please!).

What a wonderful city! We had plenty of time to wander around on Saturday before the rugby match that was the excuse for the trip. Travel around the city is dead easy, and so cheap - a 10 journey ticket on the metro costs just €9.25, and that can not only be shared between multiple people if there is a group of you, but can also be used for travel to and from the airport - a complete bargain when you think that a cab for just that journey alone would cost you upwards of €30! If you can manage the London underground system, then you'll cope with the Barcelona Metro easily enough, although the signage within the stations isn't anything LIKE as good as in London so a bit more attention needs to be paid to where you are heading.
As were were visiting on a budget, we decided to stick to looking around the outside of attractions like the Sagrada Familia Cathedral - under construction since 1882 and still not completed, this is possibly the most famous Gaudi building, and looking at it, it must be said that the first thought was "If he'd made the design a bit simpler, it would be finished by now!"

Sagrada Familia - Catalonia

Close up of detail - Sagrada Familia
Food plays an important part of Catalan life, and nowhere is this better demonstrated than in the amazing markets. This is nothing like we think of a market in the UK, with a few fruit & veg stalls and maybe a van selling meat of uncertain provenance for alledged "knock down prices" jostling for position amongst clothes, household items and assorted tat - this is an entire huge market devoted entirely to food, with small bars and tapas places scattered here and there, and absolutely packed with people doing their food shopping for their families. Whole stalls with an array of seafood that you would never see for sale here - even though a good proportion of it is probably caught in our waters! Beautifully presented fruit and vegetables, and of course the Iberico and Serrano hams ready for people's high day and holiday family feasts. The very act of eating meals is treated with great respect - the tapas style of eating suits this well of course, being sociable in its nature, and we enjoyed a couple of fabulous meals in just that style - being adventurous and not afraid to try new things helps a lot in this regard!

Incredible displays of seafood....

....and of course the amazing Hams.....

Just after lunch on Saturday we had to break off from all this wandering around, enjoying the sunshine and marvelling at fab food markets to go and watch (and in my case photograph) the rugby match which had provided the excuse for the must be said, it contrasted sharply with our more usual British pitch-side conditions of light rain and a sharp wind.....the sea in the background, palm trees.....I could happily return there every week! Ben was injured a couple of weeks before so was unable to play - something which annoyed him hugely, but thank goodness he saw sense! It was a good fun match, although had the refereeing been a bit better it would have been even more so - we'll put the dubious interpretation of the rules of the game down to the language barrier, I think!

The hospitality of the host side meant that Saturday evening passed in a bit of a blur.....there was Sangria, and Spanish Lager, and a rather deliciously garlicky roast chicken dish with potato.....and then a slightly weaving-wander back to the hotel.......other carried on drinking, but as Ben had clearly reached capacity, we decided to call it a night. Probably a wise decision!

On the Sunday we met up with three of Ben's legion of cousins - Angela, Melanie and Andrew, and had a further guided tour of the city - they live a little further along the coast but it was a straightforward enough journey for them on the train, and it was great to see them - in fact, in my case to meet them, as we've never had the chance to meet up before. All in all we thoroughly enjoyed our time, have no regrets about using trains to get about rather than taxis (especially having heard tales from some of the group about rip-off drivers overcharging them). Some tips we would offer to others:
Very few Men resident in Barcelona wear shorts in other than the very hottest weather, therefore wearing them when it's cooler marks you out as a tourist and means you're more likely to get scammed.
Taxi's: find out the approximate cost for your journey ahead of taking it, then question why if the cost is rising above that.
Barcelona does have an issue with pickpockets - never leave bags unattended, even when waiting outside your hotel for transfer to the airport. Keep smaller valuables in zippable pockets, and spread your cash about your person so that if your wallet gets taken, you haven't lost everything.
Use the markets for food for lunches - it's easy to pick up some good bread, local cheese and ham, and perhaps a prepared fruit salad, and helps to keep costs down too!


Friday 13 April 2012

Frugal Friday...

....and everything in the Garden's lovely! Indeed, it seems to have come on a storm in the past little while. Still lots to do though....let me take you through our plans for this year.

Our garden food-growing space is tiny. I mean REALLY tiny - around 1m x 1.5m of usable space in one bed, plus pots, a wall, and a sort of improvised wigwam affair that means we have somewhere to grow beans. (It also helps to disguise the hideous miniature conifer, but that's a whole other story!). This lack of space means we have to a) be careful what we choose to grow, and b) choose the most compact varieties of everything. Miniature veg is big in our world, and there is no sweetcorn or rows of cabbages for us! Kale though - that works as the plants are quite upright, and can be squeezed in round one edge - this year I'm considering "hedging" the plot with kale. We will also have baby turnips, and beetroot that are designed to be ideal picked as mini ones, too. We'red trying leeks this year - I have an idea that they might plant out in a nice little line just the other side of the kale......sort of "kale & leek fencing" ......they needen't have any ideas about getting the sort of space the seed packet told us they should though - nothing does! Things frequently have to be picked several at a time, as they tend to rather "grow together".

Tomatoes usually get put into many of our larger salvaged pots....we have a good few nice tall ones, plus an old plastic crate which will take a couple of plants - they can then be fitted in around the place wherever there is room. We salvage pots from all over the place - friends who would otherwise be throwing them out, florists getting rid of excess stock (especially good for the large "flower bucket" type things, and even on occasion when we've spotted them while out and about - that's where the crate came from!) We're trying Courgettes this year - first time in a while for those, but we've chosen the "Eight Ball" round variety which have relatively compact plants. With their lovely vibrant yellow flowers they will go into the flower bed as well as the veg plot - then it's a race to see if we, or the slugs and snails, get to them first!

There they are look....little buggers! This lot (all absolutely tiny!) were removed from my poor parsley plant was like a snail nursery under there. We've shied away in recent years from using slug pellets - it's always worried us that either the cat, or wild birds, might manage to pick them up, and even the "animal friendly" ones can't do them much good, let's face it. We've tried various methods of getting rid, and so far the one that seems most effective is crushed eggshells. We save our shells up, then crush them by putting them into a carrier bag, squeezing out all the air, then stamping on the bag underfoot until they are reasonably finely crushed. The theory is that the bits of shell get stuck to the slime underneath the beasty, and they don't like it. (Well they *wouldn't*, would they?!) It seems to work reasonably, but you do need a fair number of shells! the other methods which seems to work is Ben going outside late at night and picking the little blighters off by hand.....he then treats them to "flying lessons" - you'd be surprised how far some get, and they've never flown before!

There's the Parsley, safely de-snailed. As well as that, I also have rosemary (needing repotting) Bay, savoury, chives and mint scattered around in various pots, and some purple basil coming on along with some salad leaves in the large trough kindly donated by the nice neighbours with the allotment. We swap seedlings and pots back and forth too, which is great - means we all get to try some different stuff. We've got high hopes, although not this year, for the gooseberry bushes we recently put in - replacing the old hedge in front of the window which had been getting steadily thinner and thinner, the goosies should give a nice prickly deterrent to anyone trying to look in once they've grown a the moment they wouldn't deter anything much! If they decide to give us some nice fruit too, then so much the better.

 As well as the frugality of growing all the bits and bobs that we do, there is also the point that pottering around in our little patch of green gives us plenty of fun and fresh air, and while we're pottering around out there, we're not spending money elsewhere! It's a bit of a win-win situation, that!


Friday 6 April 2012

Frugal Friday...

Our choice to live frugally is, as I have explained before, primarily to finance an early pay-off of our mortgage, however, it would be all too easy to focus only on that, and to totally lose sight of the fact that life should be lived and enjoyed in the meantime. Recently Ben's rugby team were heading off for a weekend to Barcelona, with a match to be played out there as well, and we wanted to go with them. I've never visited the city before, and Ben has family not far away, so it seemed likely that we would be able to "kill two birds with one stone" as it were, and see them at the same time  - a good way of adding value to the trip.

For people like us, who enjoy getting away for weekend breaks etc, but are limited (even if by choice) financially, there are lots of ways to ways to make this more affordable. This time around the accommodation and flights were being booked centrally, but had this not been the case we would have shopped around online for the cheapest options, and booked the flights as far ahead as possible in order to get the best price. For us, so long as a hotel is clean and decent, then it doesn't need to be fancy. We usually avoid drinking in the pricey hotel bar in any case, so whether the hotel has one or not is largely irrelevant. Breakfast - particularly the buffet style of service - is a useful extra to have included, as it means you can regard it as a proper meal, this meaning less is needed for lunch.

Travel to and from airports can be a large proportion of the costs - particular of a short trip, so it is well worth looking into the best options for this. We live fairly close to Stansted Airport, and have direct buses, however, the fare is now around £9 per person, each way. Parking the car in the long-stay for this trip cost just £27 - a saving of £9 over the bus fare! Sometimes on a longer trip it can be worth booking into a hotel near the airport for the night before your flight - this often entitles you to leave your vehicle in their car park for the duration of your holiday - saving a small fortune on airport parking fees! If you're not too far away it may even work out cheaper to get a taxi to and from, especially if there are several of you travelling. Most of our party intended to get taxis from the airport to the hotel on arrival in Barcelona - at a cost of around €10 per person. We did a little research beforehand and found that there was a direct train from the airport back to the city centre - three of us travelled this way in the end and it worked out to a cost of less than €1 each! The trains were fast, clean and frequent - it took a little longer, but we were in no real rush.

Food and drink on budget airlines is notoriously expensive - a sandwich and a drink can easily cost you over £7 - or even more. A good way of reducing this while increasing your choice is the "meal deal" available from the likes of Boots. Remember to wait until you are airside to buy though otherwise your bottle of drink will be removed from you at security! This time round we took food from home, and just bought a bottle of water from Boots - this also had the advantage of giving us a plastic bottle that could be filled with drinking water at the hotel and taken out with us during the day, although bottled water was so ridiculously cheap over there that this was no great advantage this time.  When we are visiting anywhere different we always prefer to eat local food rather than searching out the familar British menu items, and this often works out cheaper, particularly if you avoid places on the main tourist trail and search out the places frequented by locals in side and back streets. Barcelona has lots of small restaurants serving tapas for a decent sum - €10 or thereabouts gets you a good, and authentic, meal. Some of the street food is also excellent - a flatbread with lamb and salad was superb, described as a kebab but far above the sort of thing we recognise as that in the UK, and the market we visited had plentiful stalls selling fresh fruit salad (€1 - €2 - and absolutely delicious) and freshly squeezed juices for €1 each.  Markets and supermarkets are a great idea for picking up lunch as well - we often buy a loaf of good bread, and some local cheeses or cold meats - and then picnic with those - far less expensive than going into a restaurant for every meal. In Europe most supermarkets have chilled bottles of wine available too - just check for a screw cap and "borrow" the disposable plastic cups from the hotel room and you're sorted, and in Barcelona a perfectly drinkable bottle could be found for just a couple of Euros. Just check carefully that you are allowed to drink alcohol in public in the area you have chosen for your picnic!

With airport security restrictions being so tight these days the ability to pack ones toiletry kit into one small plastic bag becomes ever more useful. Rather than buying those little miniature travel bottles of shampoo, shower gel etc, keep an eye out for companies offering free samples and send off for these. Sachets of body lotion, shampoo & conditioner (often given away with magazines etc, or direct from manufacturers launching new products) are super-handy, and the same applies to moisturiser etc. A standard sized roll-on deodorant is no more expensive than a "travel-size" spray deodorant, and you will be able to take it on trip, after trip, without having to continually replace, or worry that it will not last a three or four day trip. A set of travel bottles and pots are useful as they can be filled direct from your usual bottles and tubes of product at home - just be careful on the sizes as if the capacity of bottles isnot clear they may get taken from you at security in any case. Market stalls often stock the mini tubes of toothpaste at 4 for £1 - and occasionally Boots do a voucher through their "advantage card machine" that you can use to get a small tube of toothpaste absolutely free.

What are your favourite ways of saving pennies on trips away and weekend breaks? Do you camp, or use the cheap Travelodge rooms for example? Ordo you feel that a holiday is a holiday, and hang the expence?