How to live a more frugal life

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Since becoming a single parent two years ago I have had to really cut back on my spending and find ways to save on everyday items as much as possible so that I can afford to give my daughter the things she needs and deserves.  So, my tips for living a more frugal life as below:
  • eBay (obviously!) - If I ever need to buy anything for myself or my daughter my first port of call is usually eBay.  So far this year I have made substantial savings on cosmetics that would usually have cost me double to buy in the shops, clothes and Christmas presents (£300 worth of second hand Sylvanian Families items that only cost me £90 - my daughter won't even know the difference!).  
  • Homemade - Where possible I try and make everything myself as this really does save money.  So far this year I have learnt to make my own washing powder (recipe below) which is brilliant and so much better than shop bought as well as cheaper and I've also made Hampers for everyone for Christmas saving lots of pennies and giving everyone something personal and unique.  Items in my hampers include Christmas Chutney, Orange Spiced Short Mead, Painted Salt Dough Christmas Decoration and Reindeer Hot Chocolate.  I also painted the hamper boxes and decoupaged them all with Christmas napkins - not as easy as it looks!
Recipe for Homemade Washing Power
1kg Soda Crystals 
500g Oxi Stain Remover (Store own, not Vanish as that is expensive!)
2 bars of Household Soap (Morrisons do one that smells lovely)

Method:  Grate the bars of soap into a bowl, add soda crystals and oxi and mix well.  Use 1-2 scoops of the mix per wash (use the scoop from the oxi as this is perfect).

I've been using this recipe since about May 2014 and will not go back to shop bought anymore.  Our clothes smell lovely and clean and the washing machine seems to be better for it as well.
  • BzzAgent & Tesco Orchard - Earlier this year I signed up for both BzzAgent and Tesco Orchard.  In return for completing a few surveys and writing reviews, if you are lucky and meet the campaign requirements, you will get to try lots of new products.  I've had several campaigns now from both sites and love it.  A great way to save money and try new products at the same time.  I am actually writing this guide as part of a campaign for BzzAgent now!
  • Shop & Scan - I've been signed up to a market research program called 'Shop & Scan' for a few years now.  In return for scanning the bar codes on your shopping you are rewarded with 1100 points per week (if you upload your bar codes).  For every 10000 points you have earnt you can convert them various types of vouchers in £10 increments.  Thanks to this program I have managed to pay for a lot of my Christmas shopping this year, I also managed to buy a brand new 160gb iPod worth £180 from £40 cash as I had enough points to convert into Argos vouchers to cover the distance.  If you can get referred to this program it is well worth it for such a small effort.
  • Slow Cooking - I have only recently discovered the art of slow cooking and I have to admit I LOVE it!  The sky is really the limit for the things that you can cook in a slow cooker, even cakes!  I currently have 2 slow cookers, a big 6.5 litre and a smaller 3.5 litre.  I tend to cook meals in bulk in my larger slow cooker e.g. recently I made a massive batch of bolognaise sauce which so far I have got 6 adult portions of bolognaise out of plus 4 adult portions of lasagne.  Cooking joints in the slow cooker is also amazing and I very much doubt I will go back to oven cooking chickens or gammon joints now that I know how to cook them in my slow cooker.
  • Meal Planning - Initially working out what you have in your cupboards and fridge / freezers can be time consuming but once you've done it it is really easy to keep on top of it.  Once you know what you've got in (usually more than you think) you can come up with meals using what you already have with the addition of only a few things to make up meals.  This saves loads of money.  You can then go from there planning cheap and wholesome home made meals on a weekly or monthly basis and only shopping for the things you know you need to make those meals.  The initial hard work is really worth it.
These are just a few of the things that I do to save myself that little bit extra money that we all need these days.  I hope they help you too.
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