Beat the squeeze: Our guide to some vital savings in the cold months

Beat the squeeze: Fine dining on leftovers for £1 a head, winter-proofing your home, and the wardrobe updates that won’t cost a thing… Our guide to some vital savings as the cold months roll in and belts are tightened

Eight ways to winter proof your home 

By Jasmine Birtles 

Autumn has been mild until now, but with the weather taking a turn for the worse, there are simple ways to winterproof your home which will help cut down those energy bills.

Here are eight ways you can make your house warmer without a huge price tag.

Plug the gaps

Is your home draughty? Rather than turning the heating up to compensate for the cold air getting in, try these easy fixes to fill the gaps.

Draught excluders (I call them sausage dogs) will stop the wind whistling under your front door — and through any internal doors with a gap at the bottom — and you can make your own.

Use one leg of an old pair of trousers, fill with sand and sew up the openings, for a cheap alternative.

For small gaps around windows or doors, buy some foam insulation tape (Amazon has rolls of it from £2.95) which you can fix on yourself.

If there are any small cracks, spread a blob of decorator’s caulk over it with your finger (available from hardware stores or at Screwfix for £2.49).

Draught-proofing measures like this can save you about £60 per year (based on a gas-fuelled, semi-detached property). The house will feel warmer too, which means you are more likely to turn down your heating, saving even more on your energy bills.

Autumn has been mild until now, but with the weather taking a turn for the worse, there are simple ways to winterproof your home which will help cut down those energy bills

Cheap double glazing

Windows let out a lot of heat, but installing double or triple-glazing is expensive. However, you can cut down a small amount of heat escaping through single-pane windows by putting an insulating clear film over them.

Amazon has a selection with prices starting at £3.25 and you can get different sizes on eBay from £12.96. If any windows don’t close properly, get them fixed now. Online platform bark.com can put you in touch with a handyman in your area.

Line curtains

If your curtains are on the thin side, improve their draught-resistance by adding some thermal lining.

Lauren Guthrie, from the BBC’s Great British Sewing Bee, has made a helpful step-by-step video of how to do it for the National Trust which is available on YouTube: search ‘Lauren Guthrie National Trust’.

JustFabrics sells thermal curtain lining material for £5.95 a metre (justfabrics.co.uk) if you make your own. Another option is ready-made thermal curtain linings which you hang behind your existing curtains (from £10 at dunelm.com).

Or you can buy ready-made thermal-lined curtains from retailers such as Argos, which has pairs from £30 (argos.co.uk) or try John Lewis where they cost from £85 (johnlewis.com).

You could also install thermal blinds. Research from the University of Salford found that drawing the blinds at dusk can reduce heat loss by 13-14 per cent and closing the curtains from 15-17 per cent.

Thermal blinds cost from £9.99 upwards at Blindsbypost.com. The company is also offering an exclusive 10 per cent discount code for Daily Mail readers. It’s valid on all BlindsbyPost thermal blinds and has no minimum spend and is available until December 31, 2022.

Just enter the code DAILYMAIL10 in the box at the checkout to claim your seasonal discount.

Bleed radiators

Feel your radiators. If they’re cold at the top but warm at the bottom there is probably too much air in them.

Use a bleed key on each one (you can pick them up for a couple of quid in hardware stores or online) with something to catch the water as you let out any air bubbles. This will allow the radiators to work efficiently.

To stop heat escaping, putting reflector paper behind your radiators is very effective. I have this behind mine. You can get a 4.7m roll for £7.99 at Screwfix (screwfix.com). Thick kitchen foil will also do the trick.

Feel your radiators. If they’re cold at the top but warm at the bottom there is probably too much air in them. Stock image of a radiator 

Adjust the boiler

If you have a condensing combi boiler, you could cut around £200 from the average energy bill by turning down the flow temperature (please note: this is different to the thermostat).

Check your manual to find out how to do this — it’s usually one of the knobs on the front of the boiler. Or there is a very useful guide at theheatinghub.co.uk which explains why a lower flow temperature will make the boiler run more efficiently.

Save even more money on your bills by setting your thermostat at 17-18c rather than the Mediterranean temperatures of 22c or more that some of us get used to in winter.

It’s healthier and it will save you money.

If you’re at home during the day you can save hundreds through the year by just heating the room you’re in with an electric or oil- based heater rather than turning on the central heating.

Stop heat escaping from hot water pipes by lagging them. You can buy insulating tubing from most hardware stores or online and it’s pretty cheap.

At Wickes, for example, prices start at £1.30 (wickes.co.uk) and there are plenty of YouTube videos from official sources, such as water companies showing you how to do it.

Clear the gutters

While the autumn leaves have been glorious this year, they are a menace when they fall into gutters. Water running down the exterior walls instead of through the pipes can lead to damp spots and even leaky ceilings.

Keep the gutters free of debris yourself or hire a handyman to help. Also get them to lop overhanging branches from nearby trees that could be clogging up the gutters.

Leaks over time can cause areas of damp which can lead to mildew and black mould on the walls and damage to foundations. Removing black mould costs from £50-£350 per room. Serious damage to walls and foundation can cost thousands to put right.

While the autumn leaves have been glorious this year, they are a menace when they fall into gutters. Water running down the exterior walls instead of through the pipes can lead to damp spots and even leaky ceilings. Stock image of man replacing guttering 

Block chimneys

If you have an open fireplace that you don’t use, the chimney can be a big cause of lost heat. The Energy Saving Trust estimates that installing a chimney draught-excluder can save about £65 a year on energy bills. Stormguard’s draught excluder balloon, which will fit most chimneys, does the job and is £21.79 on Amazon.

An environmentally friendly alternative is the ‘chimney sheep’ — a removable draught excluder made from felted Herdwick wool which plugs up the chimney.

These are priced from £18, come in a range of sizes and are available from chimneysheep.co.uk.

The company website claims the Chimney Sheep stops about 5 per cent of your household heat from escaping, reducing your heating bill by about £125 on average (based on the current Energy Price Guarantee of £2,500).

Insulate the loft

Up to a quarter of heat in the home escapes through the roof, according to British Gas.

Loft insulation can be expensive. Checkatrade says the insulation material alone for a detached house would cost about £600.

But it will definitely cut down your energy bills by a considerable amount, if done properly.

Loft insulation can be expensive. Checkatrade says the insulation material alone for a detached house would cost about £600. But it will definitely cut down your energy bills by a considerable amount, if done properly

The Energy Saving Trust estimates that installing the recommended 27cm of insulation will lead, on average, to annual savings of £590 on your energy bill in a detached house or bungalow, £355 in a semi-detached house, and £330 in a terraced property. You can do this more cheaply yourself if the loft is easily accessible and you don’t have damp problems. But you will need to wear a protective suit, a mask and gloves.

If you’re renting, speak to your landlord about insulation. The rules are fuzzy when it comes to insulation and tenants’ rights. Legislation puts the onus on landlords for properties to be energy efficient but only at EPC level E.

However it is worth asking your landlord to better insulate the property.

If they won’t, and you want to stay in your rented home for a few years, ask them if you can install it yourself.

Are YOU guilty of bad habits that drain your bank account?

By Rachel Halliwell 

Cutting our thirst for energy has never felt more important. With the Chancellor having now slashed the length of the Energy Price Guarantee to just six months, it’s vital to start getting your usage down now to avoid an even heftier bill in the spring.

Last month, Lakeland, the homewares retailer, conducted a survey that showed an impressive 89 per cent of us have already begun to take active measures in an attempt to save energy — the most common move being to turn off lights in rooms that aren’t being used. It’s great that one in eight people have got themselves out of that particular bad energy habit, which could save the average household £25 a year.

It might seem like a drop in the ocean. But small measures add up. In fact, by quitting these ten common bad habits, it’s possible to shave more than £1,000 a year off your energy bills.

1. LEAVING APPLIANCES ON STANDBY

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: Many appliances use up energy while in standby mode. So one of the simplest changes you can make is to turn devices such as TVs, computers and games consoles off at the plug when you’re not using them.

POTENTIAL ANNUAL SAVING: £65

HOW TO GO A STEP FURTHER: If some of your plug sockets are hard to reach, use a standby savers plug — you can buy a set of three for less than £20. You can then block power to the appliance via a remote control.

2. OVERFILLING THE KETTLE

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: Instead of filling the kettle for every cup of tea, use the mug to measure how much water you need. Just make sure you reach the minimum-fill amount for your particular brand of kettle, otherwise you could damage the heating element.

POTENTIAL ANNUAL SAVING: £13

HOW TO GO A STEP FURTHER: Fitting an aerator onto your existing kitchen tap reduces the amount of water coming out without affecting how it washes or rinses. An aerator is a small gadget with tiny holes — they attach to the spout of taps and are cheap and easy to install — and could save you an additional £30 a year.

Instead of filling the kettle for every cup of tea, use the mug to measure how much water you need. Just make sure you reach the minimum-fill amount for your particular brand of kettle, otherwise you could damage the heating element

3. DISHWASHER BEING RUN ONLY HALF-FULL

 WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: Only switch on your dishwasher when it’s full. Using it when it’s half-full is an expensive way of staying on top of the pots. A wash typically costs 32.5p irrespective of how full the machine is.

POTENTIAL ANNUAL SAVING: Reducing your dishwasher use by just one run per week could save you £17 over the year. But if you’re a persistent half-loader you could turn eight loads a week into four and save an impressive £68 a year.

HOW TO GO A STEP FURTHER: If you’re due a dishwasher upgrade then the most efficient dishwashers on the market have an A-rating, which the Energy Saving Trust says cost about £45 less per year to run than the lowest rated dishwashers.

4. USING THE TUMBLE DRYER

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: A 9kg condenser tumble dryer typically costs £1.77 per cycle when you can line dry clothes outdoors for free on a sunny day.

POTENTIAL ANNUAL SAVING: Reducing usage to three loads a week through the winter months only could save you up to £207.

HOW TO GO A STEP FURTHER: In winter use an indoor heated airer, which typically cost about 8p an hour to run, drying cottons in around five hours and bulkier clothes in ten hours. This could save up to a further £60 a year.

5. WASHING CLOTHES TOO HOT

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: Modern detergents are formulated to get your clothes clean and fresh at low temperatures, meaning that unless you have an exceptionally dirty load, you can cut energy costs by washing on a 30-degree cycle.

POTENTIAL ANNUAL SAVING: £34

HOW TO GO A STEP FURTHER: Only wash your clothes when they’re dirty. It sounds obvious, but if you wash your clothes after every wear then not only will it cost you in energy — the repeated agitation of the fibres in your clothes will reduce how long they last. Anything that still looks clean and hasn’t been worn against your skin can simply be aired before going back in the wardrobe.

Decide what you want to eat before you open the fridge or freezer door. Leaving the doors open for ages while you raid your fridge-freezer means it needs to spend more energy getting the temperature back down after you finally close it again

6. LEAVING LIGHTS ON IN EMPTY ROOMS

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: Turn off the lights in empty rooms.

POTENTIAL ANNUAL SAVING: £25

HOW TO GO A STEP FURTHER: The Energy Saving Trust recommends replacing lights with LED bulbs. For every 100-watt incandescent bulb you replace with an LED, you could save £15 per bulb per year — switch five bulbs and that’s a further annual saving of £75.

7. LUXURIATING IN THE SHOWER

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: Indulging in a long shower will cost you dear. Limit every member of the household to four-minute showers.

POTENTIAL ANNUAL SAVING: £95

HOW TO GO A STEP FURTHER: The Energy Saving Trust suggests that fitting a water-efficient shower head could save an average household up to £195 a year. You can buy one for as little as £20, making this a cheap fix.

Indulging in a long shower will cost you dear. Limit every member of the household to four-minute showers. Stock image of man showering 

8. KEEPING HEATING ON LOW CONSTANTLY

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: It’s a myth, says the Energy Saving Trust, but 46 per cent of us believe it’s cheaper to have the heating on low all the time. Instead, use a thermostat to regulate your home’s temperature so the heating comes on only when it’s needed.

POTENTIAL ANNUAL SAVING: £145

HOW TO GO A STEP FURTHER: If you are warm enough, try turning down your thermostat by one degree. You might need another layer of clothing, but this could save you up to another £100 a year.

9. NOT CLOSING CURTAINS AT NIGHT

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: Draw your curtains at dusk so they can act as a layer of insulation over your windows.

POTENTIAL ANNUAL SAVING: £30

HOW TO GO A STEP FURTHER: Move furniture away from your radiators and make sure curtains aren’t hanging in front of them so nothing blocks the heat they’re throwing out.

Draw your curtains at dusk so they can act as a layer of insulation over your windows. Stock image of woman opening curtains

10. FRIDGE AND FREEZER GAZING 

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: Decide what you want to eat before you open the fridge or freezer door. Leaving the doors open for ages while you raid your fridge-freezer means it needs to spend more energy getting the temperature back down after you finally close it again. Combine that with not defrosting the freezer section properly and you’re making this appliance work far harder than it needs.

POTENTIAL ANNUAL SAVING: £150

HOW TO GO A STEP FURTHER: Thawing frozen food in your fridge isn’t just safer — it will also help keep the fridge cooler, which means it uses less energy.

Don’t miss out on easy freebies

Are you missing out on perks you might be entitled to? Using discounts and freebies you’ve overlooked can save you money.

  • Bank those benefits: Packaged bank accounts, which usually involve a monthly fee, often provide extra benefits including breakdown cover, mobile and travel insurance. It’s worth checking what your account provides so you don’t pay twice for cover.
  • Mobile treats: Mobile phone contracts often come with benefits. For example, O2 currently has free weekly cinema tickets, as well as free coffees, pastries and pub drinks. EE customers get discounts on shows and days out. Vodafone offers two Vue cinema tickets a week for £7. And if you have a BT Mobile contract you also get free access to BT Sports on your phone.
  • Food for free: Fast-food chains often offer discounts and freebies when you download their app. If you share the date of your birthday some will even help you celebrate with free food and/or drinks. Usually all you need to do is sign up to their mailing list and you’ll be sent a voucher around the time of your birthday.
  • Instant discounts: Online shoppers often get invited to join an email mailing list for an instant discount. Some brands continue to send offers such as your favourite pizza for less than half price and early access to a Black Friday event, so check your inbox before you shop.

Fine dine on leftovers for only £1 a head

By Miguel Barclay

British households waste 4.5 million tonnes of food every year. Even things you might assume can’t be used, like vegetable peelings or banana skins, can be turned into delicious meals.

I hope I can help you become more conscious of the food you may be throwing away, by providing brilliant ideas and tasty inspiration for meals that can be cooked for just £1 per head.

Planning meals is important. You don’t have to be super regimented about this, but thinking about what you’d like to cook before you go shopping can help you avoid waste and make sure you pick meals that share ingredients so you can use leftovers from one meal in the next. Generally speaking, replacing stodgy meats and heavier carbs with vegetables saves money and also helps you feel better and more energised.

Miguel Barclay: ‘I hope I can help you become more conscious of the food you may be throwing away, by providing brilliant ideas and tasty inspiration for meals that can be cooked for just £1 per head’

It’s all too easy to see vegetables as a side dish or just a token bit of green on your plate. Instead, try to make at least half of your meal fresh veg. From using lettuce wraps instead of tortillas to replacing meat with cauliflower, this is a much healthier and more vibrant way to approach your menus. How about flipping Meat-Free Mondays on its head? Try having meat only on a Monday (or any day) and eating plant-based meals the rest of the week.

Eating seasonally can help, too. We think of asparagus as a luxury, but when in season the price plummets and there are shelves and shelves of it in the supermarkets.

This is when you should capitalise and eat so much asparagus you don’t even want to eat it again for another year!

These recipes are for one person. But to cook for more, just multiply the ingredients by the number of people. And don’t worry if you cook too much, just save your leftovers for the next day.

Pulled chicken and black bean chilli

Replacing beef with chicken is a small step in the right direction when it comes to reducing your impact on the environment. Great for a midweek meal. 

To make 1 portion

  • 1 chicken leg
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • ½ red onion
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 200g chopped tomatoes (from a 400g tin)
  • 1 veg, chicken or beef stock cube
  • 200g black beans (from a 400g tin)
  • Dollop of drained creme fraiche
  • A few coriander leaves (optional)
  • A few slices of red chilli (optional)

Season the chicken leg and place it in a saucepan or heatproof casserole dish with a splash of olive oil over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook for about 10 minutes until the chicken is coloured on all sides. Next add the garlic, paprika and cumin, and continue to fry for a couple more minutes before adding the chopped tomatoes and the stock cube. Stir to combine, then cover with a lid and simmer for about 25 minutes, adding a splash of water if required.

Remove the chicken from the sauce and place on a plate. Use a fork to shred the meat. Discard the bone and return the meat to the saucepan. Add the black beans to the pan and simmer for another couple of minutes.

Season to taste and serve with a dollop of creme fraiche, and a few coriander leaves and slices of chilli to garnish, if preferred.

Pulled chicken and black bean chilli: Replacing beef with chicken is a small step in the right direction when it comes to reducing your impact on the environment. Great for a midweek meal

Patchwork roast chicken pie 

What do you do with all those leftover scraps of puff pastry? Simple, chuck them on top of this patchwork pie, which also features leftover roast potatoes, veg and shredded roast chicken. If you’re missing any of the ingredients, just swap them for something else.

To make 1 portion

  • Olive oil
  • 2 tsp plain flour
  • 200ml milk
  • Handful of cooked chicken (roasted is ideal), shredded
  • Handful of leftover cooked veg (such as peas and carrots)
  • Handful of leftover cooked potatoes
  • 1 tsp mustard (any kind)
  • Handful of Cheddar, grated
  • Salt and pepper
  • Leftover strips of puff pastry
  • 1 egg, beaten (optional)

Preheat your oven to 180c/ gas 4.

Add a glug of olive oil to a saucepan, then add the flour and cook over a medium heat for 1 minute. Begin to add the milk, a little at a time, stirring continuously until a sauce forms. Remove from the heat and throw in the chicken, veg, potatoes, mustard and cheese. If the sauce is too thick, just add a splash more milk. Season to taste, then transfer the mixture to an ovenproof dish. Top with the pieces of puff pastry, then brush with beaten egg (if you want an extra-luxurious finish). Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until the puff pastry lid is golden brown.

Patchwork roast chicken pie: What do you do with all those leftover scraps of puff pastry? Simple, chuck them on top of this patchwork pie

Gnocchi Pomodoro  

This recipe is all about using up that leftover cheese in the fridge — and don’t be afraid of mixing types. Here I’ve added a bit of Stilton along with a little Cheddar, for a dramatic depth of flavour.

To make 1 portion

  • 200g chopped tomatoes (from a 400g tin)
  • Handful of shop-bought gnocchi
  • Handful of grated Cheddar
  • A few small chunks of Stilton
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180c/gas 4.

Place the tomatoes and gnocchi in an ovenproof dish. Add some of the Cheddar and Stilton, then season with salt, pepper and oregano. Give it a little stir, then scatter over the rest of the cheese and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for about 35 minutes then serve.

Gnocchi Pomodoro: This recipe is all about using up that leftover cheese in the fridge — and don’t be afraid of mixing types

Spicy potato peel chips 

A huge amount of potato peelings are thrown away each week, so let’s start using them up! Next time you’re peeling potatoes for a Sunday roast, take a little more care with your peeling to get fatter pieces, and save them for this chip recipe (the peelings will keep in the fridge for one day).

To make 1 portion

  • Handful of potato peelings
  • Pinch of paprika
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

Preheat your oven to 180c/gas 4.

Spread out the potato peelings on a baking tray. Sprinkle with the paprika and some salt, and drizzle with olive oil. Cook in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown, giving the tray a shake halfway through. Serve with your favourite dip.

Spicy potato peel chips: Next time you’re peeling potatoes for a Sunday roast, take a little more care with your peeling to get fatter pieces, and save them for this chip recipe

Thai pea curry 

A quick and easy dinner, but this dish packs a healthy and tasty punch. You can add any other veg you have kicking around in the fridge.

To make 1 portion

  • ½ mug of rice
  • 1 mug of water
  • Olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • A few small potatoes, halved
  • 1 tbsp Thai green curry paste
  • 200ml coconut milk (from a 400ml tin)
  • Handful of frozen peas
  • Handful of mangetout (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 red chilli, sliced, or a pinch of dried chilli flakes

Put the rice and the water in a saucepan with a lid and place over a medium heat. After about 7 minutes, when all the water is absorbed and the rice is cooked, turn off the heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, pan-fry the onion and potatoes in a splash of oil over a medium heat for about 10 minutes until they just start to colour.

Add the Thai green curry paste and coconut milk and stir. Simmer for a few minutes, then add the peas and mangetout and simmer for a few minutes more until the vegetables are cooked.

If the potatoes are taking a while and the sauce becomes too thick, just loosen with a splash of water. Season to taste, then garnish with sliced red chilli or dried chilli flakes and serve with the rice.

Thai pea curry: A quick and easy dinner, but this dish packs a healthy and tasty punch. You can add any other veg you have kicking around in the fridge

  •  Adapted from Green One Pound Meals: Delicious For You, Good For The Planet by Miguel Barclay, published by Headline Home at £16.99. © Miguel Barclay 2021. To order a copy for £15.29 (offer valid to 10/12/22; UK P&P free on orders over £20), visit www.mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3176 2937.

Gadgets to help keep your central heating OFF

By Rachel Halliwell

When you’re feeling chilly but don’t want to fire up the central heating, a portable heater can be an energy-efficient way of keeping warm.

No wonder the manufacturers of these devices are now citing hourly running costs as a selling point.

But just how effective is a plug-in heater? How portable are they? And do they quietly get on with the job in hand? We put them to the test to find out.

When you’re feeling chilly but don’t want to fire up the central heating, a portable heater can be an energy-efficient way of keeping warm. Stock image of woman turning on central heating

Instant warm air with retro styling

De’Longhi Capsule Fan Heater, £59.99, lakeland.co.uk

Portability: It’s small, lightweight and has a built-in handle making it easy to take up and down the stairs.

Time to warm up: Instant heat that’s directed straight at you —either from the floor or on a table-top.

Noisy? It has a fan, which is noisy on high but much quieter on its low setting.

Running cost per hour: 31p on low, 61p on high.

Verdict: Despite being small and light this is a quality product with simple settings that feels robust and well-made.

Smart and classic with wheels

LOGIK L15OFR20 Portable Oil-filled Radiator, £44.99, currys.co.uk

Portability: A weighty piece of kit, but those wheels mean it’s easy to move from room to room.

Time to warm up: A little patience is required as all the electricity this heater uses goes into heating up the oil within it. But it still only took five minutes to feel noticeably warmer and the room reached a comfortable temperature within ten minutes.

Noisy? Completely silent.

Running cost per hour: 51p.

Verdict: Slow to get going but then silently radiated steady heat throughout the room. I found it easy to transport between our sitting room and the kitchen. Safest to commit to one floor of the house — I’d say downstairs.

Cheap and cheerful piece of kit

AcornSolution Electrical Convector Heater, £38.06, amazon.co.uk

Portability: Super light, but the metal casing gets very hot so I wanted to let that cool before moving it to another room.

Time to warm up: Immediate warmth that quickly spread throughout the room. In current temperatures, the lowest setting worked well.

Noisy? Silent, even on its highest setting.

Running cost per hour: 25.5p on low. 41p on medium. 68p on high.

Verdict: This is a good value purchase but feels a bit flimsy. It heats up quickly and is super cheap to run on low. The casing gets very hot, limiting its portability. I wouldn’t leave a child or pet with it unattended.

The fake woodburner

Small Black Stove Heater (pictured), RRP £109.99 but on sale for £64.99, vonhaus.com

Portability: Although lighter than it looks, there is no handle so you need to get a good grip under the lip of the top before lifting, making it cumbersome to move.

Time to warm up: Instant. Warm air blows through a grid at the bottom of the stove.

Noisy? Slightly, but not obtrusively so. Once you’re warm enough you can turn the heater off and just enjoy the glow from the pretend coals.

Running cost per hour: 32p on low and 63p on high.

Verdict: If you’re looking to create a cosy, log fire look but without the associated soot and potential fumes, then this is great. However, I’d pick a room and give it a permanent spot rather than moving it around the house.

Buy a fake woodburner: If you’re looking to create a cosy, log fire look but without the associated soot and potential fumes, then this is great. However, I’d pick a room and give it a permanent spot rather than moving it around the house.

State-of-the-art eco heater

AENO Premium Eco Smart Heater, £239, appliancehouse.co.uk

Portability: Too heavy to lug around the house.

Time to warm up: The panel started to heat up as soon as it was switched on.

Noisy? Not a peep.

Running cost per hour: From 5.5p on its lowest setting up to around 24p.

Verdict: Made from tempered glass, this uses infrared technology to heat the panel and can be controlled by a smart app from your phone. It’s astonishingly cheap to run — even working flat out it only uses around 700w. Even a technophobe like me managed to get it going via the easy-to-navigate app that monitors how much energy it uses.

Winter updates that don’t cost a penny! (Just raid your wardrobe like Konnie Huq did…)

By Konnie Huq

Most of us want to look decent — and it’s hard to totally discard fashion in today’s consumer-obsessed, media-driven world. But I live by a lot of hacks and short cuts which mean you don’t have to subscribe to a spend, spend, spend philosophy.

And that’s not only better for your pocket, but for the planet too.

I haven’t really bought new clothes since my 20s. I’m lucky that from a young age I have worked in an industry where clothes are sometimes purchased for you. It also helps that I haven’t grown much since I was about 16! I recently wore my trusty Levi 501s from my sixth-form days in a documentary I presented for the BBC.

But it’s about mindset, too.


The yellow dress was first worn in 2010. Now 12 years later a green turtleneck gives a totally new look to this yellow strapless dress

My parents came to the UK from Bangladesh in the 1960s and always taught me to value stuff and not want too much, so I guess that’s stuck with me. Every now and then, for work purposes, clothes are given to me or bought for me when mine don’t cut the mustard, but left to my own devices I much prefer restyling, refashioning and repurposing what I already have.

Instead of chucking something out because of a moth hole or when the fabric snags, I have been known to sew a bow over a mark that won’t come out or add a bit of detailing in the form of a fabric patch, embellishment or motif over a run or small tear. I have worn minidresses as tops and trousers under dresses to change the look, among many other repurposing experiments.

A shirt can be a jacket, a petticoat a skirt and so on. It’s fun to be resourceful and inventive.


I have worn minidresses as tops and trousers under dresses to change the look, among many other repurposing experiments. Konnie first wearing the leopard-print dress in 2010 (left) and being paired with long skinny jeans (right)

Sometimes it’s about being practical as well. A few years ago, I was taking part in an environment march, which involved making a speech in Parliament Square at 4pm, on the same day that I was due to attend the Baftas on the other side of the river at about 5.30pm. A quick turnaround!

So I wore the same trousers and top to both, which makes me laugh as the two events were worlds apart. But I kept it casual for the march by wearing trainers and keeping a jumper on over the sparkly top. 

Then I swapped the jumper out and put on some heels and a bit of lippy for the awards ceremony! In fact the top isn’t even a top, but a short dress that I scrunched up to make it a top! The metallic detail made it look dressy, and it worked well with the plain black trousers.


Every now and then, for work purposes, clothes are given to me or bought for me when mine don’t cut the mustard, but left to my own devices I much prefer restyling, refashioning and repurposing what I already have

If I had wanted to, I could have slipped my black trousers off into my bag and worn the top as the dress it was intended to be, as I did for this shoot. I have never worn it like this before so that gives me a new dress for my next night out.

Black clothes are great for upcycling because you can blend different pieces together seamlessly.

Last month, I was hosting an event and appeared to have a new evening gown. But in fact, it was an old party frock I was wearing with a black blouse over the top. The sleeves looked as though they were part of the dress, which was in fact strapless and backless.

I am actually pretty good at sewing and black material is easy to nip and tuck. I have a long opaque black scarf that has been a belt, a skirt, a shawl, and all sorts in its life.


For a pop of colour, a shirt, such as a favourite of mine which is yellow, can double up as a jacket or a cardi. This dress from 2017 has been transformed by pairing with a jacket and boots 

For a pop of colour, a shirt, such as a favourite of mine which is yellow, can double up as a jacket or a cardie. I’ve worn my yellow one with a cocktail dress for an evening do and with jeans for a casual look.

I am a big fan of sheer clothes like that shirt as they can scrunch up small in a bag without creasing, making them easy to slip on and off! Floppy trousers in a fabric that doesn’t crease are good for this, too.

Mix-and-match is another trick of mine. I wore a short white dress over a long sari petticoat and it looked like a ballgown. For a winter party, a high-neck jumper under a strapless dress works really well.

It’s fun to get creative with clothes. Layer up, or use a bikini top so the neck straps give a pop of colour under a boring top and so on. Think outside the box!

Instead of heading to the shops see what you can conjure up from your wardrobe.


If I had wanted to, I could have slipped my black trousers off into my bag and worn the top as the dress it was intended to be, as I did for this shoot. I have never worn it like this before so that gives me a new dress for my next night out. Konnie first wore the top in 2019 (left) before using it as a dress in 2022 (right)

Waste not, want not! I’m hopefully relaying what my parents taught me to my two young children as well as others. Recently I wrote a children’s book called Fearless Fairy Tales in which I take all the traditional bedtime stories and update them for young readers of the 21st century.

One of the stories is about aspiring fashion designer Lil’ Red Riding who lives in ‘the hood’, and about how she upcycles her grandma’s old nighties for her friend Wülf to model at Fashion Week, only to become a style sensation gracing the pages of magazines such as Vanity Fairy Tale and Vague.

You see, upcycling and re-fashioning clothes really is something close to my heart. 

  • Fearless Fairy Tales by Konnie Huq & James Kay, illustrated by Rikin Parekh, is published by Piccadilly Press at £9.99.

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