Cost of living: 7 hacks to reduce your family’s energy bills this winter - from hot teddies to bath dams

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It can be difficult to reduce your energy consumption when you have children - here are seven clever hacks that could help see families through the winter

If you’re struggling to keep energy costs at bay as a parent at the moment, you’re not alone. Around 74% of parents in the UK are worried about paying for gas and electricity, according to a recent survey by Nesta.

The cost of living crisis means that families are not only grappling with soaring energy costs, but rocketing food prices as well. New figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that costs for everyday household essentials such as vegetable oil, pasta and bread have increased as much as 60% in the past year.

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Additional data released by the ONS this week has revealed that almost half of adults who pay energy bills (45%) are finding it hard to keep up with payments. As the clocks go back this weekend and evenings become darker and colder, many people are wary of turning the heating on out of fear that it will accelerate their already hefty energy bills.

While many parents are acutely aware of rising costs, it can be difficult to reduce your energy consumption when you have children. Experts from have shared some lesser known tips for how parents can reduce their energy bills while keeping children happy and healthy.

Invest in hot teddies

While it’s common knowledge switching on the heating regularly can cause bills to surge, it can be tempting to give in as temperatures drop. Hot water bottles can be a great option for keeping the whole family warm, and for heating up beds before bedtime. But one smarter option for parents is hot water bottle teddies, or microwaveable hot teddies. Younger children are sure to embrace snuggling up with a cute cuddly toy which will keep them warm and stop any complaints. Alongside this, hot teddies can be a safer option compared to traditional hot water bottles.

Cost of filling a hot water bottle: £0.08

Cost of using a microwave for two minutes: £0.01

Switch to cheaper cooking appliances

When it comes to the cost of cooking our food, the methods we use can make a big difference. Air fryers and slow cookers are great options to cut the cost of cooking, and it’s great news for families as these appliances are often perfect for family staples. Spaghetti Bolognese, Chilli Con Carne, curries and other sauce based dishes are perfect for a slow cooker.  Meanwhile, an air fryer can cut the costs of popular options like peri-peri chicken, fish and chips and even lasagne. There’s an abundance of inventive recipes for both of these appliances, so it’s well worth considering investing in one and cutting down on the use of your oven and hob.

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Cost of using each appliance for one hour- Slow cooker: £0.08, Air fryer: £0.34, Oven: £0.68

Be smart with food prep

Many parents are often rushed off their feet, so when it comes to cooking it’s no wonder we often don’t give a second thought to how we’re prepping food. But some slight changes to the way family meals are prepared could actually save money on bills. When cooking, consider chopping ingredients smaller as this will reduce the time it takes to cook, reduce the amount of energy needed and thus lower your bill.

Another smart hack to reduce energy usage when cooking is to soak some ingredients beforehand. Certain pulses will benefit from this such as beans, lentils and chickpeas — resulting in faster cooking times and less energy consumed. Alongside this, freezing food and ingredients can be a great option to save money but when it comes to defrosting, remember to always leave enough time for food to thaw naturally - reducing the need for a microwave and using more energy.

Cost of using an electric hob per hour: £0.58

20% of adults in MK are already behind on their bills20% of adults in MK are already behind on their bills
20% of adults in MK are already behind on their bills

Be mindful of bathtime

While it’s well known that showers are more energy efficient, baths are often preferred by children to showers. But the great news is that there’s innovative products designed to cut down on water usage, and keep children safe. Bath buoys and bath dams work to close off your tub and allow for a smaller area of water when bathing your child. These can be great options to cut down on heating and water usage, with some cutting down a whopping 56 litres of water. If you can convince your child to shower, it’s well worth investing in a shower timer to ensure they don’t hang around for too long. Many come in fun and friendly designs which can encourage kids to use them. Alternatively, for older children, ask them to pick a couple of their favourite songs and aim to shower before they end.

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Cost of a standard hot bath (100 litres): Gas: £0.46, Electric: £1.26

Set challenges and rewards

Rewards are a great way to encourage good behaviour in your children and allow them to learn. We often use rewards in childcare and education — so why not apply this approach when it comes to energy usage? Educating your children on the effects of our energy use and setting them challenges to use less can not only save you money but also be a great learning tool. Consider allowing children rewards for simple tasks such as remembering to turn lights off, switching appliances off at the plug or limiting time in the shower.

Cost of leaving appliances on standby per hour: Sky Q box: 0.31p, PlayStation 5: 0.01p

Use timers for lights and other electricals

Parents often lead busy lives, and so sometimes it can be tricky to remember all the small tasks when running a family household. Timer switches can be a great option to ensure lights and other appliances are switched off on time. Many will be familiar with the traditional dial timer plugs, but you can also buy options which connect to your wifi for extra ease. Connected apps allow you to turn on and off electricals,whether you’re simply too tired to get up or you’ve only remembered after leaving home. You can even set a schedule for when you’d like your electricals on, meaning you don’t have to worry about nagging children to switch products off.

Cost of one light bulb per hour: 0.34p

Take time away from screens

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In today’s digital world, it’s estimated children spend 17 hours a week in front of a screen. While this is not only bad for their health, it’s driving up energy usage in family homes. A great way to cut energy consumption is to focus on time spent outdoors as a family. Children who cut down on screen time are proven to have improved attention spans, empathy and behaviour. Some great options for outdoor family activities in walks, treasure hunts and time capsules. And if you want to also cut the costs of your food bill why not try foraging or growing your own food?

Cost of running entertainment appliances per hour: TV: 1.02p, Sky Q Box: 1.5p

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