Downshifting? Here are some handy household tips…

* Used glass jars (sauces/jams) make great lighting… either toss in a wick and pour wax for your own candle, or put candles you already have in them. Wrap with wire and hang – and they work GREAT outdoors!

* Empty film canisters make great change purses, seed savers and button or craft boxes.

* Kitchen roll tubes cut in half are perfect for making your own Christmas crackers, as you will struggle to find any here in France!

* Plastic bags from the grocery store can be used for small trash can liners.

* Replace paper napkins with reusable cloth napkins.

* Use newspapers for cleaning windows! Windows don’t streak!

* Replace your paper coffee filters with a permanent washable, reusable filter.

* When the fingers wear out of your rubber gloves, cut the wrist section into strong rubber bands. Ideal for the garden!

* When you purchase large items, tools particularly, write the translation on the back of the receipt and keep the box too! If you need to take it back for any reason, trying to make sense of a French abreviation is hard work!

* Make a note of where you find laden blackberry bushes and other wild fruit and nut trees on your exploratory walks. So long as they don’t belong to anybody, they could be in your next pie!

* Promotions in the big stores can give you tremendous savings on large and necessary items. All the publicity arrives on a Monday or Tuesday in your mail box and is generally advising you of the offers for the following week. Take the time to flick through them – you could save a fortune!

* When you purchase your chainsaw, stretch to purchasing a spare chain and a sharpener! If you leave it until next year, the model might have changed and you will set off on a wild goose chase, when all you really want to do is light a fire and get warm.

* When you chop off all of your old plugs, hold on to the fuses! You will not be able to replace them all with French plugs and when the fuses go, you will be stuck without a trusty bag of spares!

* Save your weekly copies of freebie newspapers “Bonjour” and “47” (or whatever your department number is of course). Keep them dry and use them with good kindling instead of firelighters to get your fire blazing.

* Plastic punnets recycle brilliantly into seedling trays. The ones my mushrooms came home in had a plastic lid too – it’s a mini greenhouse!

* Rub petroleum jelly over hands and forearms before you get involved in a really dirty job. It will save you having to use half a bottle of washing up liquid to get clean afterwards.

* Mosquito repellent sprayed onto clothes as opposed to the skin, will give you longer lasting protection, as it won’t evaporate when you perspire.

* If you don’t have a spray to hand, rub your body with a good sprig of mint.
Flies and Mossies hate the stuff!

* Give your old sewing kit new life. Sharpen blunt needles by poking them through sandpaper a few times.

* Make the most of an abundance of fresh herbs from your gardens. Freeze batches of them in water filled ice cubes trays. Defrost and go!

* Don’t buy special rug grips – prevent rugs sliding over your wooden floors by sewing the rubber seals from glass paté jars onto the corners.

* Throw the odd batch of potato peelings into your open fire to prevent soot forming in the chimney.

* FrenchEntrée reader John Manley says: “You can also use paper towel cardboard rolls (cut in half) and loo rolls as ideal bio-degradable plant pots especially for sweet peas which like long roots and put up a do not disturb (on replanting) sign whenever they can!”

Tracey Smith

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