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Why are carrier bags 5p now? – Explanation & alternatives to save you money

Sustainability, Thrifty

You have probably noticed by now, that most shops in the UK are charging 5p per carrier bag at the checkouts. It’s caused some confusion and has caused more than a few cross words over the last couple of weeks, at tills across the country. Lets take a look at why carrier bags now cost you money, and the thinking behind this new cost.

Why shops started to charge 5p per carrier bag:

On the 5th October 2015 the Law in the UK changed making it compulsory for larger shops to charge for every ‘single use’ carrier bag. This law affects all of the shops and supermarket chains with over 250 employees. This law does not affect the smaller shops at the moment, but they can choose to charge 5p per bag as well, if they wish to, on a voluntary basis.

When carrier bags are free:
Some items are allowed a free carrier bag, often due to health and safety reasons. Free carrier bag items are as follows: unwrapped food, raw meat and fish where there is a food safety risk, prescription medicines, uncovered blades, seeds, bulbs and flowers, or live fish.

You can read the full terms and conditions set out for retailers on this government web page about the carrier bag charge.

Landfill land fill environment eco friendly sustainable carrier bags carrier bag charge 5p sustainability

61,000 tonnes of carrier bag waste in 2014

Why the government want us to re-use or use less carrier bags:
Single use carrier bags cause lots and lots of litter (at least 61,000 tonnes of litter in 2014). Because they are currently thought of as quite a disposable item, many are thrown away in the rubbish bin, or discarded in the street, the average person uses 140 single use carrier bags per year! UK landfills are full of all of our old carrier bags. As well as causing lots of litter, discarded carrier bags are dangerous and destructive for wildlife in the town and country. And, lets face it, tumble-weed carrier bags blowing in the breeze are not such a pretty sight.

Reducing the amount of ‘single use’ carrier bags will really help our environment and ensure that our shopping habits are as sustainable as possible in the long term.

Where does the money go:
The 5p charge is not a government tax and they do not get the money raised from the carrier bags. The money goes to the supermarkets and shops directly, the shops have to keep track of their carrier bag income and it is hoped that the majority will put the 5p charge to good causes and charities. The 5p charge is already in place in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The charge in Wales has, so far, generated millions of pounds for good causes, so the government’s hopes were well-placed.

The government estimate that the 5p charge will have the following benefits over the next 10 years:

  • an expected overall benefit of over £780 million to the UK economy
  • up to £730 million raised for good causes
  • £60 million savings in litter clean-up costs
  • carbon savings of £13 million

You can read a full breakdown of the government’s explanation for the 5p carrier bag charge on their website.

Alternatives to carrier bags:

Shopping bags eco friendly sustainable recycled materiel weave carrier bags carrier bag charge 5p sustainability

Recycled material shopping bags

I’m sure that we’ve all seen some interesting, creative alternatives for carrier bags over the last couple of weeks. As a few irate customers discover the 5p charge at the checkout and decide not to pay it, they invent new ways to carry their shopping home.

Some of the funnier scenes have included an angry chap in Iceland turning up the bottom of his jumper to make a kind of bulky kangaroo pouch to pile his shopping into – A few pedantic patrons marching out of supermarkets with arms full of shopping balanced here there and everywhere, apart from in a carrier bag. Some supermarkets have even trained their till staff to resolve the arguments that the 5p charge might provoke.

Save yourself from feeling miffed, save a stranger from feeling miffed – carry these alternatives to the carrier bag around with you…

    • Bag for Life – often costs 10p-£1 at the checkout, is supermarket branded, thicker and much sturdier than a ‘single use’ carrier bag and lasts for lots of shopping trips and often the supermarket will replace a worn out bag with a new one for free! This saves you lots of money in the long run
    • A fabric tote bag, made from recycled material – they fold, or roll up, small enough to fit into a handbag or pocket, and they are very strong
    • If you have driven to the supermarket – re-use a cardboard box to carry your groceries. Just pack loose shopping from the shopping trolley into the cardboard box in your car boot
    • Similarly, you could re-use stackable, plastic storage boxes from your home, keeping them in your car boot
    • Start wearing a backpack or carrying a large shoulder bag, such as a messenger bag
Shopping trolley cart eco friendly sustainable carrier bag carrier bags charge 5p sustainability

Shopping trolleys – not just for pensioners!

  • a small fabric shopping trolley with wheels. Once the favourite of pensioners across the UK, these useful carryalls are making a comeback for all ages, thanks to how much you can cram into them and the fact that you don’t need to carry the weight of the shopping – the wheels do that for you
  • A fold up, into a little pouch with a clip, fabric shopping bag – these can be found in any pound shop and in some charity shops and are usually water-resistant too
  • According to government research, the average household is supposed to have about 40 carrier bags stuffed around the house – Go through your cupboards at home and find all of those unloved old carrier bags that may be lurking. Grab a handful and keep them in your bag or pockets for reusing at the checkout. You could do a frustrated stranger a favour by ensuring you have enough for them also at the checkout.

Feel free to share your ideas for carrier bag alternatives, or amusing checkout stories, in the comments section below.


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Switch energy providers to save money


As you start to get into a Thrifty Sustainability mindset, you will cut back on your energy usage to save money, and to help our environment. It is also worth checking that you aren’t paying too much for your energy with your current energy provider. Can you switch energy providers to save money on your gas and electricity bills?

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Can you save money on gas and electricity

It is worth taking the time to compare prices and tariffs with various energy providers, to ensure that you are getting the best deal… If you aren’t, then switch energy providers and this is where you could potentially save a lot of money if you are paying over the odds with your current provider.

You need to ensure that you are on the best tariff for your type of energy use. This applies to gas, electricity or both.

So how do you check to make sure you are with the best energy provider for your needs?

1) Find out who your current energy supplier is and which tariff you are on with them.

You can do this by:

  • checking your bills to see which company sent them – the tariff you are on will also be referenced on the bill
  • contacting the landlord or a previous tenant if you are renting
  • or, if you have no clue where to start, by entering your postcode in the comparison tool below and following the advice provided on the comparison page that you are directed to

2) Once you know who your provider is and which tariff you are on, you are ready to compare providers and tariffs to ensure you get the best deal for you. For instance if you have both gas and electricity, is it cheaper to get both from the same supplier, is it cheaper to get a fixed tariff or a variable tariff, are there any special offers that you can take advantage of by changing suppliers?

To make a comparison you will need to have to hand the following: Your postcode, typical energy consumption, current provider and tariff details… all of which should appear on your latest energy bill or bills. If you do not know your typical energy consumption there are tools and advice available once you enter your postcode below.

Here is the comparison tool that will take you through everything step-by-step and which could help you to switch energy providers and save money on your energy bills.


Tip – You can also save money with many suppliers by paying your bills by monthly direct debit.

For more information and advice about how to save money, check out these related articles:

How to make a budget & save money

Switch it off / smarter use of energy

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How to make a budget & save money

Cheap Food / on a Budget, Thrifty

Making a budget gives you a clear understanding of your finances. Some people get into all sorts of trouble with debt, simply because they spend more than they earn. Working out exactly how much money you have coming in and how much is going out each month, will give you control over your finances. Once you know the facts, you can see where you are wasting money or overspending without realising.

Understanding and having control over your finances will not only help you to steer clear of debt, but it will empower you and give you an extra boost of self-confidence.

If you are already in debt, taking a good honest look at your spending habits and working out a plan of action to change those habits, is a strong first step in getting out of debt.

If you have tried working out a budget before and found it unsuccessful, it may be because you were purely focusing on the monthly spend and forgetting to look at the big yearly picture also.

making a budget working out budget budgeting saving money finaces budgets

Grab a cuppa and a calculator…

Often there are things we spend money on which happen at different times throughout the year and not in any set month, for example, holidays, dentist appointments, gifts for friends and family, house or car repairs etc… and whilst you cannot always know how much these extras may cost, you can at least allow a portion of your monthly spend to go into a saving pot, which can help to pay for those events throughout the year.

Life is full of surprises and if you need to pay for an unexpected repair, or move home in a hurry, having savings put by for an emergency can make all the difference between getting things sorted or getting into debt. I know that building up savings is way easier said than done, but using the strategy below is a good solid start.

It’s going to take a while, but it is worth your time. Grab a cuppa, grab a calculator and start on the first step to taking control of your finances.

Making a budget:

1) To start off on the right foot, it is really worth being as thorough as possible. Collect as much information about your finances as possible. Gather at least three months of recent bank statements, or even take a look over the past year’s spending to see where the unexpected spends occurred. If you have credit cards or store cards, collect the statements for those to see how much you are spending there. Collect your payslips and information of any money that is coming in. Gather all the details that you have of household bills, council tax, tv licence etc. Gather any receipts that you find lying around too, as these may help you to break down further how you are spending your money when shopping.

2) Often, just looking at where you are actually spending money will be a real eye-opener. You will probably be surprised at just how much money is being spent on impulse buys, a coffee in town, a quick supermarket trip where you went in to buy one thing but came out with a basket full, a night out, energy bills at different times of year etc.. These things all add up over time and starting to have a conscious awareness of where and how you spend your money will really help you to get into a money-saving, low-cost, thrifty lifestyle mindset.

Once you stop spending so much on things that you don’t need or use, you can start to put your money towards things which make your life more worthwhile.

make making a budget working out budget budgeting saving money finaces budgets

Work out where you are overspending

It can be quite upsetting when you see, for the first time, where you are overspending. You may be tempted to ignore certain areas, like credit card spend or how much you spend on alcohol and luxuries. It is really important to be totally honest with yourself when creating your budget. If it helps, just keep it to yourself and remind yourself that no one will read it but you. It may help to create it on the computer and make a password-protected file. Do not be ashamed of where you are overspending, just be aware of it and make the decision that you will now be in control of how you spend and that in a year’s time your finances will be in a much better state.

3) To build a picture of monthly spend, make a list of all the regular, known outgoings that you have, such as rent/mortgage, council tax, contact lenses, any debt repayments etc. Work out the average monthly energy bill – do this by adding the last 12 months of energy bills together and dividing by 12 to get an average monthly bill – Do the same thing for your food shopping as well. Keep working out and adding the average monthly spend for things like gifts, christmas, clothes, holidays, car tax etc.

There are many templates for creating a budget online if you do not want to make your own – here is a good tool from the money-saving expert website: or simply Google ‘Budget Template’ to find something to suit your needs.

Now add up all the monthly outgoings and put it at the bottom of the list as your outgoings total. Finally take a look at all your income from employment, benefits, selling online etc, put that total on the budget aswell.

If your outgoings are more than your income… don’t worry, don’t feel ashamed, it’s completely normal and completely fixable. You’ve taken the first step, discovered that there is a problem and now you can take positive steps to fix that problem over time. Keep reading for a few ideas to get your outgoing spend right down.

If your outgoings are less than your income, well done indeed! Perhaps your next step would be to look at where you are overspending so that you may put more of your income into savings and into enjoying new life experiences.

4) Now that you have your budget list of exactly how much you are spending each month on average, it’s time to go through each item on the list and consider if you can make a saving.

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Each small monthly saving adds up over a year

Examples of where you might save:

  • could you live somewhere cheaper or move in with someone to split bills?
  • If you own your home, could you get a lodger to help boost income?
  • If you buy contact lenses and pay monthly, could you make significant savings by purchasing them, in bulk, online, or wearing glasses for half the week and buying half as many contact lenses? If you pay £30 per month and reduce this to £15 per month, that’s a yearly saving of £180
  • Could you set yourself a lower allowance for monthly food shopping, and stick to it? If you can cut down on your food shopping bill by £30 a month… that’s a yearly saving of £360 – You could cut down much further by bulk buying approved clearance food or by switching from brands to non-brands
  • Could you cut out one of your morning coffees on the way to work and make a free one when you get to work instead? If you cut out one £2.30 coffee per week, that’s a yearly save of £119.60
  • Could you switch energy providers and save money there?
  • Are you on the cheapest phone tariff for your mobile?
  • If you pay for a gym subscription but rarely go, could you cancel it and exercise by going for brisk walks and practising yoga or weight training in your living room instead? Cutting back on the average gym membership of £20 per month, could be a yearly saving of £240
  • Can you cut back a little on spends such as cigarettes, beauty products, magazines, take aways, nights out, cinema trips, extravagant gifts etc.
  • Can you reduce the cost of your fuel bill by switching appliances off and wearing a jumper? Check out the article Switch it off: Smarter use of energy for ways to save on household bills

Every little saving that you can make will add up significantly over time.

5) Keeping the achievable cut-backs in mind, draw up a new budget plan that you will do your best to stick to. Keep going back to it every week to make sure that you are sticking to it and to consider where there may be potential to cut back further, or to switch provider and save.

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Take control of your spending & start saving

Once you have a budget to follow, and when you are honest about where you are spending your money, you have control over your finances and can start to steer them in the right direction.

If you have trouble sticking to a food shopping budget, it may be because you are paying for food, as and when, on your card, and not realising that you are overspending. At the beginning of the month, take out the allotted amount for the month’s food shopping in cash. Divide it between 4 envelopes, one for each week, and don’t spend more than you have in the envelopes!

6) If you have a low income and the money going out is way more than the money coming in, it’s time to start thinking about ways to change that. As well as saving on the amount that you spend, there are lots of positive steps that you can take to increase your income.

Long-term financial security and peace of mind is achievable if you can just get a handle on your budget. Each time you go to spend money, check-in with yourself – do I really need it? Can I find it cheaper elsewhere?

Making a budget and sticking to it, is well worth the effort. Over time, having conscious control over what you are spending will change your life for the better.

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how to make sloe gin sloes blackthorn home brew diy gifts alcohol bottle present home made sloe gin

Make it: Sloe Gin

Making & DIY, Thrifty

Making Sloe Gin is one of the most rewarding pastimes in September/October.

how to make sloe gin sloes blackthorn home brew diy gifts alcohol bottle present home made sloe gin

Freshly picked sloes

Scroll down for a delicious sloe gin recipe. If you are lucky, and there is an early crop of Sloes, you will have time to make lots of little gift-sized bottles of home-made sloe gin, to give away to friends and family at Christmas… Won’t you be popular this year!

Giving home-made DIY gifts is a great way for you to save money and over the years the savings will add up. Your friends and family will appreciate something that has been made for them by you, everyone who receives something will feel special, and worth your time and effort, and that is a gift in itself.

Of course there is always the option of getting your Grinch on and keeping the lot for yourself.. no one would blame you, as Sloe Gin is purply-red, bottled bliss. One sip spreads a lovely warming glow through your chest, which makes it the perfect accompaniment to cosy winter nights snuggled up on the sofa.

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Sloe berries – fruit of the Blackthorn

Where to find Sloes

Sloes are the berries of the blackthorn bush, sloes grow in hedgerows all over the UK as a shrub or small tree.

The autumn fruits appear blue at first then they have a slightly cloudy sheen, then turn shiny black. Ready to pick in September/October.

It is best to pick sloes after the first frost, but if you can’t wait that long and there has been an early crop of sloes, simply pop them in the freezer for a few hours before you make your gin.

Just a little warning, don’t try to eat the sloes when you pick them, the fruits are very sharp and tart and not at all tasty. Best to make gin out of them.



How to make Sloe Gin


  • Sloes
  • Sugar (granulated white sugar or caster sugar is best)
  • Gin (shop around to find supermarket cheapest deals or own brand)

Before you start you will need a large, sterilised bottle, jar or demijohn – something that can be sealed (even if you seal it with clingfilm). You could even use the bottles that the gin came in.

how to make sloe gin sloes blackthorn home brew diy gifts alcohol bottle present home made sloe gin liqour

Sloe berries – ready to be washed and pricked!

Preparing the Sloes

Once you have picked your Sloes, wash them to remove any dirt, then place in a bowl. Now comes the fun part… prick small holes in each Sloe. You can do this by daintily taking each sloe and piercing its skin with a sewing needle… or you can get a fork and stab up a bowl of them in a hit and miss, let’s get this done stylee. Either way will work. The idea is that by piercing the skin, the juices will be able to flow into the gin and make a much richer tasting and more beautifully coloured drink.

Making the Gin

  1. Fill a third of your jar, bottle or demijohn with your freshly-pricked sloes
  2. Add sugar, it will fill the gaps between the sloes, up to about the level of the top of the sloes
  3. Pour in Gin to cover the sloes and sugar, up to the top of your bottle, glass or demijohn – If you like, you can add complimentary flavours at this point, such as a cinnamon stick or a few drops of almond or vanilla essence
  4. Seal the jar, bottle or demijohn and give your brew a few swishes to shake the mixture and start the process
  5. Place your Sloe gin in a dark, cool cupboard and give it a few swishes every day for two or three weeks and then you can leave it to stand. The mixture will continue to deepen in colour and flavour and you can leave it for three or four months
  6. After the process is complete your mixture will be a beautiful, rich, purply-red colour. Pour this liquid through a sieve (or a square of muslin) into a measuring jug, and from the jug pour into sterilised screw-cap bottles and seal up, they are now ready to give as gifts. Or… pour the sloe gin into a glass and have some immediately… yum yum!

Once sealed in screw-cap bottles the slow gin will keep for years.. but good luck with that, most will be gone by the new year!

Make use of the leftovers

If you don’t want to waste the gin and sugar soaked sloes that are left over at the end of the process… try eating a couple.. or pour vodka or sherry over them, this time don’t add any sugar, seal up the bottle and swish the mix occasionally over a couple of weeks to make a cheeky sloe vodka or sloe sherry –

how to make sloe gin sloes home brew diy gifts alcohol bottle present home made sloe gin

You can give small bottles of sloe gin as gifts

it won’t have as rich a colour as your first batch of sloe gin, but it’s a great way of adding value to a cheap bottle of vodka or sherry.

Experiment & get creative

You can experiment with the amount of sugar you use each year and with different types of alcohol if you are not a gin fan, there is no set rule when making sloe gin and there are plenty of different recipes out there if you fancy doing a little research.

Get creative if you are making little bottles of sloe gin as gifts, maybe tie a ribbon around the neck or decorate the label with glitter, or perhaps tie a parcel label around the neck and write ‘Drink Me’ on it.

Enjoy, drink responsibly and get used to being incredibly popular – this will tend to happen if you give bottles of home-made alcohol as gifts!
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Cheap food – approved clearance food

Cheap Food / on a Budget, Sustainability, Thrifty

approved food clearance food cheap food breakfast cereals thrifty sustainability shopping cheaper save moneyHow can we save up to 70% on the weekly shop & help the environment at the same time? Make use of the cheap food that is available for everyone, if you only know where to buy it.

In the UK we throw away a tremendous (and disgustingly wasteful) amount of food and drink each year – 7.2m tonnes – most of which could have been consumed. When you think of the energy put into making, packaging and selling that food, you can begin to see why stopping that waste is a sound idea for an eco-freindly, sustainable lifestyle.

One way to cut down on the UK’s food waste whilst also saving yourself a lot of money is to buy Approved Clearance Food.

If you look at food packaging there is usually a ‘use by’ date and a ‘best before’ date to advise us when to eat it by. It is not advisable to eat anything after it’s ‘use by’ date, however, you CAN safely eat food that has passed it’s ‘best before’ date. Best Before dates are only there a guide to advise that  after a best before date the colour or texture might not be immaculate.. but the food is still completely safe to eat and what’s more… it’s a fantastic way to buy very cheap food in bulk and make huge savings on your food bill!

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Visit the Approved Foods website now to discover how you can cut your food shopping bill right down by buying approved clearance foods. You could bulk buy and stock up on store cupboard essentials such as tinned foods, dried foods and cleaning products at a fraction of the price!

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Switch it off / Smarter use of energy

Sustainability, Thrifty
thrifty sustainability energy saving switch off standby appliance low energy sustainable cheap low cost

Don’t leave gadgets on standby, it wastes energy – switch them off when not in use

Did you know that appliances still eat up power when they’re on standby and every time you remember to switch them off, you save pennies on your electricity bill, which over the year will add up to pounds. If you are not using your TV, Laptop, Cooker, phone charger etc – don’t leave them plugged in and on standby with the little red light showing – switch them off or unplug them until you do need to use them.

The same goes for light bulbs, do you need every light in the house on if you are only using one room? For an added bonus, instead of using regular light bulbs, switch to energy-efficient light bulbs or LED lighting which drains less power, costing you less money and they’re better for the environment too. If you want to

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Energy saving light bulbs – conserve energy and save you money

get into super-thrifty mode, use all those candles that you’ve been given as gifts to light your home for a few nights – cosy ambience and zero energy cost.

You might like to consider your water usage, aside from a small cost saving when we reduce the amount of water that we use, we also help the environment by conserving our water. A few ways to reduce your water use… a quick shower rather than a fill a bath tub… don’t leave the tap running whilst brushing your teeth… if you have a garden that needs watering, consider getting a water-butt so that you can use the rainwater that is collected instead of tap water.

Heating the home is usually the largest chunk of our energy bill so this is where you can really save some money whilst reducing your carbon footprint. If you are feeling a bit nippy, rather than reach to turn up the thermostat or to put on an electric heater, why not add another layer of clothes, a hat and a pair of socks does wonders to keep you warm as does a onesie.. or add an extra blanket to your bed. Even if you just do this for a couple of hours before putting the heating on, over the year, you will save pounds. You will also be conserving energy.. another eco win! If you do need to have the heating on, try turning the thermostat down a little, and for the hot water too – again, this will save you money.

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Stay toasty! – Wear a hat and a jumper – to save money on your heating bills

Just as popping a hat on your head keeps you nice and toasty and keeps your body heat from escaping quite so quickly, you can insulate your home to ensure that heat (and the energy that you pay for) does not escape willy nilly. If you have a loft, lay down thick insulation up there (a nice warm hat for your home). Check windows and doors to ensure that no draughts are coming in, if they are this is where heat can escape, so apply foam insulation tape to plug the leaks or use draught excluders to reduce heat-loss in the home. It’s worth being thorough because every thing you do to reduce heat loss in the home will save you money when it comes to the heating bill, and every energy conservation step that you take will help the environment too.

If you have central heating and do not need to heat every room in the house, turn the radiator right down, or off, in those unused rooms. If you find you have a radiator positioned directly under a window, this can be pretty ineffective and a big energy-loss. If this radiator is being used, close the curtains and tuck them in behind the radiator to push the heat back out into the room, there are also heat-reflecting panels which you can put behind and above radiators to produce the same result. Or simply fit a shelf above the radiator and below the window.

Being thrifty is all about looking for those small opportunities – When cooking, if you are going to be using the oven to bake something, what else could you bake at the same time to save using the oven for twice as long? If cooking potatoes and vegetables on the hob, why not get a stacked saucepan/steamer and cook both on the same ring to save using two – and save yourself from using twice as much electricity or gas.

If you have a washing machine and tumble dryer, these are both big energy users – consider hand-washing every once in a while, or drying your clothes on a washing line or dryer frame. Try washing your clothes with a 30 degrees setting instead of 60 or 90 degrees, that alone could halve the cost and amount of energy used! The same goes for dishwashers, if you use one, try to cut back on using it every time you have had a meal and wait until you have a full load or wash by hand instead, every little change helps you to save money and to conserve energy.

If you need to buy a new appliance, you can compare the energy ratings of each appliance to see which will be the most energy-efficient and cost-effective for your needs.

You may also be eligible for an energy-saving grant from the government – check here to see if this applies to you – – the Energy Saving Trust website also has plenty of advice for those wishing to conserve energy use in the home.

Do you have any tips to share, that will save money on household bills? Please feel free to share them in the comments section below. Thank you.

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