September 9, 2013 posted by littlewhitecottage

How to keep warm this winter…



I lived on a narrowboat for 3 years and due to it being made of steel it was like a baked bean can in summer that got hotter and hotter (we even tried to fry an egg on the top and got quite far though I didn’t really want to eat it) but in the winter if it hadn’t been for the little fire in the front that heated the one and only radiator at the back we would have definitely have frozen to death! There was one hair raising moment when I cleaned the chimney and came back into the boat to find that it had come away from the actual fire and not only was there soot all over the floor but this now meant the fire had broken. After a visit to the local chandlers and fire specialist neither had the part needed to fix it so in that mid winter when the boat was stuck fast in the icy water and the top was covered in snow I was the coldest I had even been -and have ever been sitting on the little sofa watching my tiny telly wrapped in a duvet. When people say ‘I’m cold’ I do think back to that winter and think to myself ‘No, you don’t know what real cold is like!’

I do have a few tips on how to keep warm though learned from my years of living on the boat but also having frugal parents and grandparents so I’m going to share them with you. If you have any more tips to add please leave a comment at the end of this post and I’ll add them in along with your name.

My first tip is really an obvious one but one when I visit people’s houses in the Autumn and Winter I don’t see happening

Shut your doors.

This keeps the heat in your room and not wandering around the house mixing with the nasty cold air that dilutes it and turns it cold. This really works for bedrooms as if the doors are shut all day with the heating on you’ll be amazed at how warm and snug they are when you put the children to bed!

Sort out your drafts.

This is something that we need to do this winter after the shock of the oil bill last year. We had a long and cold Winter followed by a long and cold Spring which meant that we had the heating on constantly but found there were so many drafts from ill fitting doors and windows that this year we’re going to use masking tape to plug the gaps. I’ve made draft excluders for all of the outside doors to stop the air from coming in and if you’re feeling very gung ho you would put a curtain rail above your doors that go outside and hang and heavy curtain (velvet sounds very plush and autumnal) to stop all of the air getting in. If you don’t want this you could always go for draft excluders fitted to the bottom of your doors as my grandparents had. They do wear out carpet though as they tightly brush the carpet as the door opens and shuts.

Turn off the heating in the rooms you don’t want to heat and shut the doors.

This is for those with rooms that you can do without in the winter. If you don’t use the room that often don’t pay to heat it. I would turn the radiators back on though if the temperature got very low as I wouldn’t want the water in the pipes to freeze.

Move furniture closer to your heat source.

My grandparents did this and although it made the room look a bit strange I can see why they did it. They moved their sofa closer to the fire so they didn’t have to have the fire on so high. It makes sense that the further away from the heat source you are then the more it needs to work to warm you.

Have blankets dotted around the house.

We have lots of blankets in the sitting room and they are fab for this time of year when the boys want to chill and watch a bit of telly after school as they do get a little cold as the heating’s not on just yet. They get under the blankets and keep warm that way. I also use them at night on the sofa and we have lots upstairs in everyone’s rooms so we can also add layers should we need too.

Shut your curtains.

Another one I’m surprised that people don’t do. Generations in the past would even have different curtains for winter than summer as they would be thicker fabrics with lining in to help stop the cold air getting in the room. It might be worth investigating if you could sew a line of tape onto your curtains and add hooks so you could hook a lining onto them just for the winter and take it off again for the spring and summer.

Cold at night? Put carpet under your mattress.

This was a Godsend on the narrowboat. The cold air coming up from the water meant it didn’t matter how many layers we put on top we still woke up cold in the early hours of the morning. We found an old offcut of carpet and put this under the mattress and this stopped all of the cold air. It meant for very little money we were warm again. I would take it out in the spring though as it would need a good vacuum with all that dust…

You can also add a top sheet under your duvet to come out at the top and fold over. This is fab as it makes your duvet need less washing (and faffing when you have to change it) as you just change the sheet but it also adds another layer of warmth.

Cold in the day? Lots of things you can do…

I am on my own in the day and don’t like to put the heating on for the whole house just for me so here’s what I do.

Layer your clothes.

I wear a t-shirt then a jumper and then a long flowing cardi that acts like a blanket. I can then put on fingerless gloves if I need to, a scarf and if it were very cold a hat. I really don’t care how I look when I’m at home and with all that on I’m warm and that’s really all that matters! You could also wear a onsie -I’m not a fan of them but after seeing our oil bill last year I am coming round to them. I get a lot of my ‘woolie pullies’ as Hubbie calls them from charity shops. In fact, as I write this I am sat in a cashmere jumper bought just last week for £10…

Try to keep your fibres natural as they really do keep the heat in more effectively. T-shirts from supermarkets can be a cheaper alternative to vests -Tesco’s sell children’s T-shirts for as little as £1.25…


Again a necessity for winter in days gone by but not necessarily these days. Hubbie bought me a pair of sheepskin slippers that cover my ankles so last year I was very warm. I suffer with chilblains so keeping my feet warm and at a constant temperature is quite important. These aren’t Ugg boots or a named brand but they do the job just as well.

Have lots of hot drinks.

This doesn’t mean get hooked on coffee and tea as you can just have boiled water with a bit of lemon in or a fruit tea. If you don’t want to keep boiling the kettle (kettle’s are expensive) make up a flask of hot water for the day so you can choose which drink you would like.

Hot water bottles.

A must really as they can be used almost any time of the day or night. I always have  cover on mine since I heard of someone who’s bottle leaked and they were scalded.

Plan your housework so it keeps you warm.

Now this I heard from a pamphlet from the war in which housewives were told to plan their housework so it would keep them warmer for longer. This works even now with all the mod cons that we have. I would come home from the school run and write but writing is quite a cold activity as I’m sitting so I’ll change what I do for the winter and go and make the children’s beds, hoover and sort the washing out. Moving about, as we know, keeps us warm so I would do a bit of ‘moving about’ before sitting down for a while as my own body heat would keep me warm. Washing windows is a good warming activity as is swapping a hoover for a stiff brush!

Cook more.

When we ran out of oil last year and the cottage got very cold during the snow we coped remarkably well. I was surprised and thought it would be awful but the kids didn’t moan and we all just lived in the kitchen. I cooked lunch then baked cakes so the oven was on most of the day which really helped to heat the kitchen with the door shut. After I’d finished cooking I left the oven door open so the residual heat from the oven came out into the room -I totally understand not everyone can do this if you have little ones or animals and an oven near to the ground. This gave me something to keep my mind off being cold as I was moving about and also warmed the kitchen and we really enjoyed all the cakes and stews too!

Eat well

This leads on from the cooking really. If you give your body fuel to burn then just like a boiler it will keep you warm. Skipping meals is not the thing to do. I would rather sit in a sleeping bag (as I have done!) and have no heating than miss a meal. Missing meals also means you could weaken your body’s immune system which at the time of year when coughs colds and flues are around you don’t really want to be doing this.

If I follow all the tips in this blog it would mean that I would be exercising more (rigorous housework) eating better (cooking from scratch) and avoiding the dramatic changes in temperatures that my body doesn’t like. Whilst this  may not actually happen I know that I will be able to keep the fuel bills down a bit by keeping me and the house warmer. Let’s just hope the winter is a mild one…


  • **You could line your curtains with cheap fleeces to keep out the cold (you could just use a loose running stitch then you can take it off in summer)
    **burn candles if you don’t have a fireplace to get some warmth from.
    **If you do have a fireplace, go to the parks/woods and just pick up sticks and kindling (pinecones, small stick etc) to burn-Some people have used those big garden waste bags to store these and dry them out.
    **flannelette sheets on the beds or mattress toppers.

    🙂 i plan to do these and more! we dont have a working fireplace but i will burn candles instead 🙂 x

  • I saw a great little easy make for pocket warmers, scraps of fabric with (uncooked)rice inside, warmed up in microwave, In your pocket and then when hands get a bit cold you can hold them. Perfect when you are scrapping ice off the car in the mornings. Also rather than having central heating on when Kids are in school and it is just me we have a oil filled plug in radiator to keep the main room warm.

    Another suggestion would be to keep your radiators in rooms unused on frost stat setting rather than turning them off. Also turn your main thermostat down just that little bit can save you a bit of money. Curtains can be tucked behind rads to stop the warmth going behind your curtains.

  • I used to live in a cottage with rubbish storage heaters, we had to rely on a fire in the front room. We moved in the end but one thing I’ve taken from that time is still using an electric blanket. Just love it.

  • Great Ideas. Will be using some of those!!

    The curtain over the front door makes a big difference , keep curtains shut in bedrooms during day to keep heat in.

    If you can interline curtains, adding an extra layer between lining and curtain makes them so much warmer.

    If you have an open fire try the local school as they get lots of off cuts from woodwork and can be used as free kindling.

    Looking forward to seeing other tips, want to spend my money on other things rather than heating!!!

  • Yes have well lined curtains, great. REMEMBER TO CLOSE THE CURTAINS AT DUSK. Go round the house and draw them all, not just the rooms you are using at the time.

  • I grew up in a freezing cold house and used to have a bath in the morning so I was warm enough to get dressed and it kept me warm till I got into school/collage.

  • Just remembered a brilliant tip.

    If you have a bath that has a panel, take this off and put loft insulation around the bath, keeps the water hotter for much longer so you don’t need to keep topping up when you’re have a long soak.

    Really works!! And cheap.

    Just a quick thought re money saving I did a piece of toast this evening (last slice) and it got burnt. Disaster no more bread!! Then I remembered my nan scraping the toast so thats what I did, problem solved but made me think that normally I would have just thrown that away.
    Sadly I worked out this would have cost about 7-8p depending what bread you use, I know is not much but as they say ‘Look after the pennies and the pounds look after themselves’

  • Excellent tips here. I much prefer a hot drink and a jumper to turning a single radiator on in the house. I love your tip about the carpet under the mattress too. I once had the pleasure of using an electric blanket. It was amazing, but can add more on to your electricity bill.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Facebook Comments