Free things and readers tips

free things

Sometimes the best things are the free things! A walk on the beach above…

Free Things

Olio is an app that you can download to your phone to receive and give away food and non-food items in your local area. It does have a desktop version too. People share things that they can’t use up in time from their fridge, or cupboard items that they no longer want. Farmers and gardeners sometimes offer produce that they have too much of.

Kindle Unlimited costs £7.99 a month, but has a 30 day free trial available here. Our founder’s book, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR, is one of the over a million titles available on KU.

Audible have a 30 day free trial – you get a free audio book of your choice to keep regardless of whether you cancel at the end of the trial.

Graze now give you your first box completely free with no obligation to continue past that free box!

If you’re a student you can have a six month free trial of Amazon Prime with all its free one day delivery and streaming goodness! – pays gift cards and cash for things you do online anyway like shopping and taking surveys.

Be rewarded the Web's Premiere Rewards Site

Got a kindle? Did you know there are thousands of free titles for it on Amazon? If you don’t possess a kindle but have an iPod Touch, an iPad or iPhone, there’s a free kindle app for them.

Get great discounts from Go Groopie!

Many of the major washing detergent and shampoo manufacturers offer freebies from time to time – it is worth typing in a search on Google for their names and products “+ free sample”.

Misc. Tips that don’t quite fit elsewhere

1. Complain! If you have been treated badly or let down by a company the best way of getting compensation is to write to the managing director. You don’t need to know his/her name, just send a firm and polite letter detailing your problems to the ‘managing director’ at whatever main address you have.

2. Christmas shopping – don’t leave it until Christmas – nothing is cheap in the shops then. If you see nice gifts for your friends and family at other times of the year in sales buy them then – it takes the expense out of December! Don’t miss our Frugal Christmas section

Readers Tips


My tip for frugal living is themed around energy saving re-usage of ‘tetrapak’ drinks cartons around the home. During the past several years I have come up with or across three types of usage which are as follows: 1: re-use empty cartons to keep home freezers stocked so as to make the unit more energy efficent, as well as saving money. 2: cut down ‘tetrapak’ as well as other juice and milk cartons to be used as seed planters in the greenhouse, as well as elsewhere (courtesy of Jay Waite) 3: cut open, flatten, wash, clean, cut to size and re-join with foil tape to create radiator heat deflectors. This not only saves heat and money, but also means no travel emmissions in transportation for recycling and avoidance of landfill. Martin Thomas.

I cut up all of my food boxes ie. cracker box, frozen food boxes and use it to let the children draw on or write shopping lists or notes on. Chrissie.

Being a seamstress in the past, working with textiles, I know it sounds disgusting but if you spill your own blood on a fabric, the quickest way to partially remove is your own saliva, everyone having different blood groups, then a wash will finish cleaning it but I have know for it to completely disappear this way (completely free too). Teresa Saunders

I have found that if you use half a dishwasher tablet instead of the recommended whole one, the dishes come out just as clean. Hope this helps somebody! Ev

The charity bags that turn up as regularly as clockwork in the past, unless I’ve filled them with clothes, often get thrown away. By all means fill them with clothes for the charity in question. If you dont have any old clothes to give them, just open up the bag and put the charity bag directly into the swing bin. Voila, a free swing bin liner!! JW BULL, Stoke-on-Trent

I keep a spray bottle of diluted washing up liquid by the sink – useful if you’re just washing a single item. Also, I always empty my purse of 5p pieces and copper coins, and keep them in a tin with some bank coin bags. When I have filled a few bags of 5p, 2p or 1p, I take them to the bank and pay them into my account. Dodie Allen

Using a fabric softner keeps your clothes looking new for longer – it also lessens the time you will spend ironing. Jean.

From Louise: If you buy fabric softener mainly for the smell you will often find that it disappears by the time your clothes have come out of the tumble dryer. I don’t put any in the washing machine any more. Instead I add 1 – 2 tablespoons to an old, clean & dry, face cloth then put that in with the wet load in the dryer. Your clothes are soft and static free and the smell is lovely. And what’s more you are saving money by not buying expensive tumble dryer sheets!

Never boil your kettle with more water than you need in it. You’d be amazed at how much electricity a kettle uses and the more water you put in, the longer it takes to boil. Watch the electric meter when you are boiling your kettle if you don’t believe me – it whizzes round! Also this means you are using a little less energy and doing your little bit for the environment too! Natalie.

I have found that boiling a near full kettle and putting the rest of the water into a flask saves boiling the kettle several times if you drink a lot of tea or coffee. Also free weed killer. Once you have boiled your potatoes take it out and pour over your path I dont know why but the hotter the better. It clears it up and saves pounds. Tracy.

Plastic lids from the big 500g yogurt pots fit perfectly over ramekins. Save on cling film by using plastic lids to cover food to store in the fridge. Also, greaseproof paper and parchment used in baking can be wiped clean and re-used again and again. It has the advantage of being ready-cut to fit your baking tins. Helen.

Citric acid from the chemist makes a good cheap descaler. The chemist recommends using a quarter of a box but I used half a box as my kettle was thick with limescale. I put the minimum amount of water in my kettle with the citric acid and boiled it up and left it to cool overnight. The kettle was spotless next morning and citric acid is only 69p a box from local chemist. I also use it as a safe descaler for the steam steriliser. Rachel

The plastic lids from a Pringles tub make good covers for cat/dog food tins. Angie.

If you use eco balls containing soda crystals in the wash programme you can save in several ways: use a quick/economy wash cycle, no need to rinse as there is no soap residue to rinse and no need for fabric conditioner as the soda is a natural water softener and prevents limescale. This saves electricity, water, washing powder, conditioner and water. It is also better for your machine. I find the wash is good enough for most things, but I would spot treat stains. If I’m hand washing I use ACDO which is very cheap and made from vegetables. Becks.

Washing advice from Maura: Greasy stain removal – apply washing up liquid to spot on garment, then wash in machine as usual, most stains disappear.

personal hygiene/cosmetics

Instead of paying for cosmetics like Clarins as I have done for so many years – you can make beautiful gorgeous smelling ones using essential oils. Geranium and lavender are quite inexpensive oils as are lemon, grapefruit, lime, mandarin etc. You can make bodyscrubs using salt, vegetable oil and essential oils. Pep up shampoos with rosemary, peppermint, ginger. Facecreams – get a basic base and then add lavender and geranium-rose if you can run to it smells gorgeous with geranium. Look on the net for recipes. It’s great fun and smells gorgeous. Lissa

Cheap face scrub: Mix some ordinary table salt with olive oil in the palm of your hand. Massage gently onto damp skin avoiding the eye area. Rinse with warm water and soap. Pat dry – lovely soft smooth skin! Moisturiser and make-up seems to go on better after this as well. Hope this is useful. Dee Hagan

From Polly: It really is worth cutting open tubes of make up to get more out – you’d be amazed how much is left in there. If you get a little brush you can scoop out what’s left of lipsticks too and you can make lotions go that bit further by adding a bit of cold water and then shaking vigorously to mix.

Don’t buy expensive shower gells. Buy supermarket family size bath creme and fill up your empty shower gel bottles. With 1 bottle of 69p Asda bath creme you can fill up 4 shower gel bottles and you cant tell the difference (Im sure there is no difference!) – Anne .

Contact your local college of FE for cheap beauty treatrments and hairdos – most of them train beauty therapists and hairdressers and all activities are closley supervised by the teachers. You can get all the hair treatments including colours at my local college – they even do a “spa” day which includes a facial, sauna, jacuzzi and massage for about £30. I know people who always get their legs waxed at the local college and I am planning to get a foot massage (for £5) – Julie.

I found that having a mobile hairdresser that comes to the house substantially cheaper than the salon. She’s actually become a family friend as she cut the children’s hair all through their young years. Factor in your hot water and shampoo costs; mine was still loads cheaper and convenient as she would come in school holidays and evenings. I make whole years appointments at once with our diaries. Great for organisation too. Sheila – Manchester U.K.

The Works - Britain's Leading Discount Book Store


Catalogue advice from Cat: Buying from mainstream catalogues can be expensive but the ‘free’ credit facilities can be useful if you’re on a tight income. Look out catalogue websites such as Kays where many items are hugely discounted and you still get the 20 week ‘interest free’ period in which to pay!

A freezer tip from Jane: an empty freezer wastes money. When shopping buy up the bread products that are `reduced to clear`. This is an economic way of filling space in your freezer and if you split it down to what you use on average a day (say half a loaf) even less will go to waste. Hope you find this tip helpful.

My friends and I always seem to be broke around Christmas and have dutifully battled our way through countless shops and crushes looking for the ideal presents, always spending more than planned and thinking “next year I’ll start earlier”. This year we have set a challenge……..our presents have to be free. We’ve already started collecting all sorts of freebies – its amazing what is actually out there if you look. Its a great way to get present buying into perspective as well and hopefully we’ll have started early enough to avoid the frantic panic on Christmas Eve. JJ

Sainsbury’s often has BOGOF offers, and often has foods reduced in price for quick sale. If you can combine the two, it’s possible to get “free” food. For example: A pack of sausages is normally £1.99, but on BOGOF if you take two packs to the till, the cashier will ring up 2X£1.99 and the computerised till will deduct £1.99. If those sausages are reduced to £1.00, buy two packs. £1 + £1 – £1.99 = two packs of sausages for a penny. Lisa.

I have four children and find that filling their stockings can be very pricey, especially the teenagers. Since January, I have bought a small present, say about £2 for example a pack of pencils, a nicely presented bar of soap, socks, note pads, photo frame etc all inexpensive stuff. The loot is piling up in my cupboard so I know I won’t be in a panic 2 weeks before Christmas. Happy shopping! Catherine


Wild garlic – just going now (April/May) in the south – still going strong in the Midlands and north – grows easily in a fairly wet spot in the garden, tear the leaves and add to salads, soups, fish pie – really good. Sandra

One tip I would like to share concerns frugal cooking and energy reduction in the kitchen: introducing the haybox! This isn’t a new concept – our ancestors were familiar with it, the wartime government tried to encourage everyone to use one, and many communities and families round the world are discovering its usefulness- but sadly in Britain it seems to have largely been forgotten. It comes in many forms and can usually be put together with items already in the house- an old thermos box or a basket and cushions or a box with hay… the principle being to insulate your cooking pot and let the residual heat cook your dish, much like a slow cooker does, but without using any energy. It works wonderfully for soups, stews, casseroles, stocks, beans and anything else that likes long, slow cooking with a reasonable amount of liquid. You just bring your pot to a good boil, close the lid firmly and then place into your haybox. Multiply the cooking time by two or three, come back and! find your dish ready. It works wonderfully in my experience, and has the advantages that you can go out and about or see to other things in the house without having to worry about your food burning, it’s great for the tougher, more frugal cuts of meat, and the only energy needed is to bring the pot to a boil. It’s such a simple concept and has made my life a lot easier. I only hope more people will give it a try! Catherine

I’ve been looking at your frugal recipes. I’m a doctor myself but have always believed in frugal living so I can be more generous towwards those who haven’t had the chances I’ve been given in life. I myself cook all my pulses in a pressure cooker, split peas, red, brown and green lentils then require no soaking, whereas beans and chickpeas still need overnight soaking. Pressure cooking cuts down the cooking time substantially enabling us to further save on gas/electricity. Moreover it’s easy to cook two portions (for a family of four) at one go and save one portion in the freezer. This is what I have been practising for almost 25 years now and I’ve never felt any lack in so doing. Abundance is felt at all times. Good luck and God Bless All. GP

Jon shares food shopping and gaming advice: I strongly recommend you visit a Julian Graves shop. Nuts, fruit, herbs, sweets, minimal packaging, very high quality, very low prices (way better than supermarkets) and frequent bargains, 2for1, bigger packs. Julian Graves have very cheap pistachio, different types of peanuts, and their herbs, 20g-50g for around 60p, better than supermarkets. I also recommend you get into german board games. Great fun, huge replay value and cheaper than the rubbish games you get here.

When using an eye-level grill, placing a saucepan on the top will use the grill’s heat to warm up peas, beans, sauces etc and will free up a gas ring, whilst saving you money! Chris

Try looking in newsagents and mini-market shops that are run by an Indian family for dried herbs. I learnt this when I lived in the middle of the Asian community in Coventry & found an excellent choice of spices in my local newsagents for a fraction of the price in supermarkets. Caroline

Linked to your site via Vegan Village, I see you do apple pie, I use Tescos value bags of eating apples, no nead to sweeten them and mix with dates. I bulk prepare the apple pie fillings and put in the freezer. I also use Tescos value range of mushrooms to make chickpea and mushroom flan, again in bulk and in the freezer. The apple pie and flan taste great. Peter.

When making pastry, rather than throw away the offcuts, either make them into jamtarts by cutting into circles, spooning some jam into the centre and glazing with milk and sugar, or freeze the dough and collect for future pies and tarts. The dough freezes really well though can’t be defrosted in a microwave. Still, it’s rather handy for when you know you haven’t got time to make pastry from scratch. Fran.


Budgeting tips from Derek: Know what you get, and set categories with weekly or monthly spending limits that keep the total outgoings below this. Using multiple bank accounts can help this to work well, I have about 8, one for the car, one for house maintenance and decor, one for christmas, one for holidays etc. This stops annual bills making my ‘core’ account look sick, ideally the core account should increase by the same amount each month. Try not to use credit cards, even if you pay the entire balance off each month. There’s nothing quite like looking at an empty wallet to let you know you’ve run out of cash this week.

Two useful financial tips from Aylie: I have three bank accounts: my wages are paid into Account No. 1, my bills are direct debited from Account No. 2 and my (paltry) savings are in Account No 3. Every month my wages go into account No 1 and from that I have a standing order for a set amount to be immediately transferred to my No 2 Account to cover all my bills which are debited on different days throughout the month. I also have a standing order for £50 to go into my No 3 Account. Because the standing orders happen automatically as soon as my wages go in, I don’t see the money and I can then focus on what’s left which is mine to spend on the fun things in life and when it’s gone it’s gone but at least I know my bills are paid and I have a roof over my head. The trick is to mentally forget about the bills and the savings account, they’re not there for drawing any money out of, and just allow yourself one account to spend from. Before you know it, six months have passed and you’ve amassed £300 in your No 3 account (which, if you’re anything like me, you’ll then use to pay off your overdraft on your No.1 account). This method isn’t for people who keep all their bank statements and remember to pay their bills on time but is a very useful simple ‘barrier’ for hopelessly disorganised and chaotic people like myself who unwittingly shell out a fortune every year in bank charges, bounced cheques and late payment fees.

Many years ago when I moved into my first rented shared flat my older sister gave me some very wise advise (bearing in mind this was before the days of mobile phones and internet access). “If you run out of money and don’t know which bill to pay first, whatever you do, always pay the telephone bill because it’s the only one where they can cut you off without having to be let into your house. As for all the rest, just don’t answer the door until your next payday” I am now a very sensible person who pays all her bills on time.


Even if you do not have a garden, you can still grow some fantastic (almost free) salad leaf crops. Get a few pots and sow a few seeds every couple of weeks and you’ll have several harvests of fantastic additions to your healthy salad. Richard Dunn.

My frugal tip is one we do with our neighbours with huge success. We all share tools, ladders d.i.y stuff and garden equipment. We can’t see the point in each house having all the stuff and it only ever getting used once in a while and having to store so much stuff doesn’t make sense at all. It is a huge success, saves us all loads of money and creates a real sense of community. We never go out and buy stuff without asking around first, usually someone has what is needed so things don’t go to waste either. If everyone did this imagine how much better off we would all be but more importantly how much better of the planet would be. Clare Youatt.

You can make free garden decking from old pallets found dumped or begged from shops I made one from 4 pallets. 3 x pallets were put longways side by side. I fastened them safely together at the back and front with old pieces of metal with holes for screws in them. Then I repaired any damage with wood from the fourth pallet. I then covered front and sides with long lengths of old boards to keep them firmly together and painted with left-over fence paint. You can finish off with any kind of railing/rope you need to complete the look. I used 5 x 4ft metal poles (which were part of a dismantled childs swing) and concreted them around the pallets at corners and middle of the back. I then strung the old plastic rope from the swing from one pole to another and finished the end of poles off with old plastic doorknobs painted gold to look like filials. Total cost: £2 for long screws and nails, £1 for gold spray paint, £1 for quick set concrete. Time taken to construct 1 hour 20 mins. Instant decking which is at least 15-20cms (9-12 ins) high. Judith.

If you grow cabbages (spring or sweet heart in particular) after you cut it make a cross in the stem that remains in the ground and several new cabbages or greens will form. So after you finish the row return to the start and you will have more to cook and eat.

Here’s a tip for the even just slightly green fingered from Polly: Do you have a garden? Get out there in late summer and collect those lovely free seeds for sowing next spring. You can also take cuttings of perennials and shrubs at this time of year too (find out how to do it from a book or the internet). Then next summer you can go to the car boot sale and sell all your lovely wares. If the worst happens and nothing grows, you haven’t lost anything but your time! Alternatively, check for half-empty packets of seed and consider using them up; they can last several years past their ‘use-by’ date.

Everything5Pounds, exactly what it says.


This tip works for families with children… pass on children’s clothes which they have outgrown to other family members or friends whose children are younger. I pass my clothes on to and receive clothes from other family members or friends whose children are older than mine are. I have been able to dress my babies and children in good clothes for winter and summer for the past 8 years and have reduced my clothing expenditure significantly. Jill A.

Skype [and a few other VOIP services] enable you to make phone calls to friends and family who are also register with Skype totally free over the net. All you need is a headset or a phone with a USB plug and you’re away. Free signup, all you ever pay is local rate call rate for any calls to outside lines, ie. off the internet.

Save money on shampoo, don’t buy it! You can get your hair perfectly clean with just warm water and some finger rubbing. Either in the shower or under the tap, spend a little longer than you would with shampoo and massage thoroughly. Shampoo is a fossil-fuel con. This way you don’t strip the scalp of all the essential oils your hair needs, but you do remove the dirt. Peter

Haynes manuals can seriously save a great deal of money when it comes to running a car. They talk you through fixing just about anything on your car, and tell you how tough a job is likely to be. Ben. –

Being new to the frugal lifestyle I am extremely impressed by the tips from fellow frugalists. I thought I’d share this fun freebie tip. I have a Pay as you go sim card that gives free texts. So if I buy something and you can text to win I always do. In the past (at no cost) I have won a all paid trip to Paris and played football in the Stade de France from Coca-cola, £100 ticketmaster giftcard from Cornetto, and free sweets, games and mp3s! Lindsey

One of the big costs of driving far in this country is stopping for food or petrol at service stations. I’ve found a good book “The Great Motorway Secret”, which lists (by motorway) the superstores right by the junctions of all the main motorways in England and Wales, which means you can save £££s every time you have to stop. Lisanne. You can buy this book from

A good website is It gives geographical phone numbers.

The Mermaid and the Bear Cover

Ailish Sinclair‘s debut novel, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR, set in a fictional castle in Aberdeenshire, and featuring the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic, is out now. On Amazon and Waterstones or see Author website for more details.

4 Replies to “Free things and readers tips”

  1. hi i have just seen the item on a haybox wondered if you have seen the WONDER BAG i came across this on google, can also see how to make one on youtube, it’s a modern version ideal if you want to travel and take hot food with you.

  2. Some more tips:

    1. Descaling: Sodium hydroxide(drain cleaner) is outstanding for this purpose, and will burn off heavy scale. Add about 5g to 200ml of water which has just been boiled. Remember to rinse out the appliance thoroughly afterwards. Be careful as the crystals are corrosive!

    2. Cheap goods:- Clothing, especially for children, can be bought second-hand at shops operated by charities (also crockery, sports equipment, and books). You will be surprised at the high quality goods some people give away.

    – Fruit and vegetables are sometimes sold at cost in bulk by greengrocers when spoilage is imminent. Look for tomatoes(cook into puree or paste which can be frozen) and apricots(for jam or puree for drying). Avocados (butter pear) are generally not worth buying in this state.

    – buying herbs/spices from supermarkets is a waste of money. Look for them in bulk at Indian and Chinese food stores – they are very cheap there.

    – Some shops give away food which has reached the “sell-by” date but has not expired yet. NB: varies between countries, as this is illegal in some. Certain chains give employees first crack at the goods. (Ask at the local store, as this practice is not advertised).

    Energy: Cooking with electricity is much more expensive and inefficient than using LPG. If you do a lot of cooking, it is worth buying a gas cooker and regulator, along with 9kg of LPG – this will pay for itself in a few months.

  3. I was very happy to see that some one else uses a Hay box. I made my
    1st one from a tea chest in 1963 and when I need to change it, I used my
    mothers old tabletop freezer turned on its back and it works very well. I would love to know how much in costs I have saved over all these years.

  4. If you don’t have much ground space to grow vegetables or live in a flat, then try growing bean, lentil or seed sprouts etc in a large recycled glass jar, with a muslin cloth cover held on with an elastic band..there are plenty of online videos to show you how. Search online for lists of suitable types of beans, seeds etc. and sprouting times. It is so simple, fast, cheap to grow & many kinds of sprouts can be grown for sandwiches, salads or for stir fry etc. Make 1 new jar 2 – 3 weeks, so you have an ongoing supply & they are not all ready to eat at the same time.

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