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February 2024
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Am I understanding this bill in the right way?

We buy our gas and electricity from Ovo and our water from Anglian Water.

Nothing unusual about that, but like many, I am paying close attention to our bills as they come through. Many are struggling and all my energy company seems to want to do is put me on a fixed tarrif that is so much more expensive than the floating rate.

Having come of a good fixed rate last March, we had already made the decision to let our bills float. That does mean the price is going up each month (or so it seems) though not by more than a few pence an unit. We’d ended our fixed rate with a credit balance (i.e. we’d over paid) with our supplier which seemed to indicate we could ride out the next 18 months or so. Having made that decision, we stuck to our guns.

Now, like many, our supplier is feeling a bit twitchy and keeps suggesting we up our £100 direct debit to £375!!! That’s quite a hike, bearing in mind before Christmas last year, our monthly energy payments were £5 a month. We put it up voluntarily to hedge against energy inflation.

So we waited for this month’s bill with a little bit of caution – had we done it all OK?

So far, so good. We paid £5 for our electricity usage (largely thanks to a dull April, but that covers our EV, cooking, some water heating (again dull April), entertainment, lighting, fridge/freezer, vacuum cleaner, floor steamer, iron, lawn mower, hedge trimmer, washer, dryer, and electric garage doors and toilet (don’t ask)) and £67 for our gas (heating and hot water), all in, VAT and everything. Which means with our £100, our credit has increased by £30 ish.

What do I mean by cooking? Well, we have a bread maker, toaster, kettle, coffee maker, and a food processor so we make much of our food from scratc, either on the hob, in the oven or microwave. Where possible, if we’re doing something small, I use the microwave.

Cooking with radio waves

Let’s run the numbers. For lunch today, I had a salmon fillet. I could bake that in an oven at 200C for 20 minutes or so, plus the 10 minutes to warm up the oven. Let’s say our oven is efficent at 5kW and once it gets to temperature, doesn’t use very much energy to keep it warm (an A+ oven). 10*5/60 to give us kWh or electrical units or 0.83 kWh, at 27.48p a unit, that fish dish has cost me £0.23p to cook.

In the microwave, the same fish takes 1 minute 40 seconds – it was perfect by the way.

Now, the microwave is running 1000W (1kW) for 100 seconds, that’s approx. 0.02kWh or units or £0.01p to cook. That a factor of 23 times more efficient and that was assuming our cooker was god like in its efficiency – most are not.

Now, over cooking in a microwave leads to horrible tasting food, so you have to get it perfect. But I love it for fish and fresh vegetables. If you can afford it, a combination microwave and oven gives the best of both worlds. Quickly cooked foods that are charred. I personally like a microwaved baked potatoe (about £0.05p to cook) though my husband prefers the combination (about £0.10p to cook) in about 12 minutes for two potatoes. That still beats the oven’s hour and shall we say conservatively £1.29p to cook?

Scrambled eggs are no brainers, asparagus from the garden in seconds, done to perfection. I even do a chocolate sauce in the microwave.

A roast chicken can be put with carrots, leeks, peppers, potatoes. Some microwaves have a “whole roast chicken” setting, so just set the weight or following the instruction book. If I do a 1.5kg chicken, I’d do it at 190C convection cooker and microwave power simmer for 40 minutes, no preheat, as I’d cook it for 12 minutes per 0.45kg. With the veggies done at the same time! I would need to flip the chicken half way through but at £0.50p to cook the bird, it would be worth the effort.

Happy zapping 🙂

Actually, I’ve just been made redundant, how does this help me?

You’re in the UK, so if you’ve got 2 months redundancy pay coming, this is your strategy.

One: sign on for job seekers allowance (JSA) – and put the redundancy money in the bank. That’s going to cover your mortgage for 3 months. Job seekers allowence can be claimed even if your partner has a job – you have paid national insurance, so you’ll get £77 a week if you’re over 25 years old, £61.05 if you’re less than that. Once that’s sorted, look for another job.

Your £61.05 a week is to pay bills and buy food – you can’t go crazy on it, but if you’re the only wage earner it is enough to feed a family of 3 and pay for water, electricity, and gas. Your redundancy money will pay the rent. It’s summer, so you can afford to watch the TV if you share the experience. Mobiles are luxuries, can you cut down to one or two in the family, please? If not, can you switch to a cheaper plan?

If you don’t have a microwave, and can afford it, get a combination one. £200 if you shop around – get one which you can fit a roast chicken for your immediate family. You’re not looking for fancy features, just something that will allow you to all have one hot meal a day without breaking the bank.

Job hunt, cut any direct debits you can, but keep life insurance, car insurance, and house insurance. You need them more than ever right now. Your rent then heat, light, and water come next. Then food from JSA – it will cover the first 3 months, so with your 2 months of savings (you should be sitting on two months worth of savings for each wage earner), you should be able to ride out this lean time.

Look at your car and other motor vehicles. Can you put them off road? Public transport is expensive but less pricy than petrol, road tax, servicing, and insurance.

Good luck x

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