Thrifty Living: Plastic shoes and burnt sausages are the sacrifices we make

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The Independent Online

Saving money. It's a game for all the family. There is absolutely no point in denying yourself shoes from Gina if you then allow your credit card to run wild in Junior Gap. Hence, when shopping for baby Lucien's first pair of shoes, I scorned my former pattern with the older three, which was to celebrate those first steps with a delectable pair of kid-glove soft baby Kickers (£40). Lucien is therefore now staggering around in a pair of First Walkers from Woolworth's, (£6), which come adorned with a flag of St George and "England". I think they are probably made of plastic. If they came in a size 12 they would be perfect for one of Prince Harry's unpleasant fancy dress romps at Sandhurst, but never mind. We all love them and I think Lucien is pretty chuffed with them himself. He gurgles when he sees them.

Meanwhile my old-style habit of falling into Borders, Hamleys or, yes, Harrods, and buying games and presents for my children as the fancy took me, has been replaced with visits to the library, free games (hide and seek, sardines, rock/scissors/paper), and an official pocket money moment each Saturday morning for the older pair. One gets £3, the other £2. All their stickers, sweets, magazines and hairbands must come from this budget. If they want to buy anything that costs any more than this, we then must move into a tortuous set of home banking calculations involving pocket money loans, and chores. Car washing, for example, gets a quid. Room tidying, ditto. Urgent chores, such as finding Mummy's mobile phone, get a fiver.

My parents, who learnt how to read by studying Second World War ration coupons, roll their eyes at this; and indeed, my childhood was marked by enforced, unpaid, washing of the family Cortina. Never mind. I think that teaching Gabriel that a Penalty Football Net, £5.99 (again, from Woolworth's, which I now realise is a brilliant store), is akin to three weeks' worth of pocket money, is a good lesson. Hopefully, it will mean that he will never end up in the same embarrassingly impecunious position as his mother.

Even family meals are feeling the influence of Tightwad Central, although perhaps not quite as happily. Embarking on supper for the Junior Millards this week, I realised I had no tin foil for their planned repast of honey-grilled sausages (note: to be a true Thrift Queen you must plan all meals in advance). Never mind, I thought, remembering what I thought was a key tip in my bedtime book, the Tightwad Gazette, I'll go for the cereal packet option! I distinctly recall reading that emptied cereal bags are usable in the oven. I poured out my Lidl cornflakes into a sandwich box and spread open the waxed paper bag. It was a truly thrifty moment.

The cereal bag went on to the baking tray, the sausages were laid on to the bag, the honey dribbled over the bangers, and everything set under the grill. Brilliant me, I hummed, as I wandered around my kitchen. Then I went upstairs to do my monthly credit card audit. What an exciting life this economic drive has proved to be so far, for me. Hooray! I discovered I will be below the £30,000 mark by the middle of next month. What progress. I then wandered back into the kitchen. Oh, God. The room was full of chemically induced smoke. The smell was an interesting melange of acrid polyurethane and sausage, with top notes of honey. I opened the oven. It was at this juncture I discovered that these cereal bags are actually very much not the sort of thing which you should ever put under a red-hot grill.

The bag looked like something from the Doctor Who special-effects department. I peeled off the sausages. They seemed to be OK. So I put them back under the grill. There was nothing else to give the poor blighters, you see, apart from dry chickpeas, or raw parsnip. The days when I had a fridge groaning with ready-to-eat Sainsbury's fodder, from hummus to cheesecake, are over. Following my Pauline conversion to all things economical, I now only have one meal on offer at any one time.

I decided to leaven the balance by knocking up some fairy cakes from my Nigella cookbook. Well, if I can't be a true Thrift Queen, I'm damned if I can't be a Domestic Goddess.

cashl@independent.co.uk

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