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Penny-wise... the latest fashion

PUBLISHED: 15:02 30 July 2008 | UPDATED: 09:03 13 July 2010

THRIFT is back in fashion.

Nowadays the pound in our pockets buys scarcely enough petrol to drive out of the garage, while 'eating out' for many of us means a sandwich in the back garden - probably filled with Spam: have you seen the price of eggs?

I had an early taste (literally) of frugality after spotting that the WI was selling homemade marmalade at Aylsham's 1940s' carnival earlier this month.

THRIFT is back in fashion.

Nowadays the pound in our pockets buys scarcely enough petrol to drive out of the garage, while 'eating out' for many of us means a sandwich in the back garden - probably filled with Spam: have you seen the price of eggs?

I had an early taste (literally) of frugality after spotting that the WI was selling homemade marmalade at Aylsham's 1940s' carnival earlier this month.

As a huge fan of the proper stuff, I joined the long queue - just like wartime - to be served.

What I hadn't bargained for was that the marmalade had been made to a 1940s' recipe - with carrots. It's actually not bad, though I think it contains the whole of Aylsham's weekly wartime sugar ration.

I remember thumbing through an excellent little booklet, which I'm pretty sure was produced by North Norfolk District Council, when I first moved here 10 years ago.

It was full of tips, sent in by residents, for saving money and resources - does anyone still have a copy? How about updating and republishing it NNDC?

The booklet probably got shredded in the fat-cat years of the later 1990s as everyone gorged themselves on cheapo easyJet city breaks, bespoke villas in Spain, and 42in plasma TVs.

But these last few months have brought an about-turn in the national tone. Now over-indulgence and waste are dreaded enemies and I was entirely in sympathy with a frustrated pensioner interviewed on the radio recently who railed against supermarkets for not selling food in one-person quantities.

We need a cockney barrer boy in every Tesco car park dividing the blocks of butter, splitting up the BOGOFs and the 3 for 2 offers , and flogging them in manageable, affordable, quantities to customers unhappy with supermarkets dictating how we must shop.

Speaking of thrift, second-hand hats off to Jane Cheek, from Overstrand, who wore a charity shop outfit for her trip to a Buckingham Palace garden party last week.

But I have to say that I don't think Mrs Cheek would have been the first, or even the 101st, guest to meet HM in an ensemble which had spent some time scrumpled at the bottom of a bin bag awaiting sorting in a charity shop storeroom.

Monstrous regiments of us regularly attend weddings and parties dressed by Christian Aid rather than Christian Dior - and some of us would even think Mrs Cheek's £30 purchase was a bit on the pricey side.

My advice to bargain hunters is to have a good sniff when you enter a charity shop. If the air's a bit stale and sour, there's a good chance the clothes will be cheaper.

More and more charities try and ape the chains by washing, pressing, sizing, sorting - and attaching a price tag which reflects the time and trouble they've lavished.

Instead, take home a whiffy, but much cheaper, bargain from a rummage bin and give it a good wash yourself.

And a final tip: if you want something extra luxurious, head for towns where the well-heeled live.

Up in Yorkshire we scoured the charity shops of Harrogate or York where women with more money than sense discarded silk and cashmere after barely a couple of outings - not something which happened much in Bridlington or Hull.

So next time you're up in Chelsea-on-Sea, give the charity shops a mosey in case your garden party invite's in the post.

Just one note of caution: make sure Camilla's not going to be at Buck Pal when you call - you wouldn't want to turn up in a frock she'd put out a couple of weeks earlier in a charity sack on the pavement outside Sandringham.

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