I thought there was no such thing as a free lunch, but this week, through trying to be thrifty, I've managed both a free lunch and a free coffee!
My cup of rather nice coffee was courtesy of Prêt à Manger in Uxbridge. If you pick up a Prêt Card in the store and then register it online, it will automatically be loaded with £2.10, so you can redeem it for any hot drink (excluding their double hit specials). Go to www.pret.com and use the Prêt Card link.
The idea of the card is that you load it with money and then swipe it when you purchase. Unfortunately I won't be loading mine as I'm making myself packed lunches at the same time as I make Alex's for school.
I know loads of mums who slave over lunch boxes every morning but not me - I make them in the evenings for the following two days. Some mum friends look at me in horror, while others have 'fessed up to making up a whole loaf of sandwiches and then freezing them! The latter are the only ones in whom I've confided that I often send Alex in with a hot flask full of tinned pasta shapes - his idea of heaven.
Actually his idea of heaven is cold fish fingers, chopped up chorizo sausage, grated cheese and hot pasta shapes all mixed up together in his packed lunch. Eclectic tastes, my son!
My free lunch was courtesy of my Tesco Club Card. My sister-in-law Linda pointed out to me some time ago that instead of spending the money-off vouchers they send out in the post against your weekly shop, they are actually worth four times as much if you save them up then swop them for Deal Tokens instead.
I'm a bit of a shopping tart - I don't stick to one supermarket and I have loyalty cards for them all. But without doing the majority of my shopping at Tesco, I still managed to buy a few Christmas presents with Tesco Deal Tokens, such as magazine subscriptions, and I purchased more than £40 worth of Pizza Express tokens - hence the free lunch.
It amazes me when I hear someone in a supermarket queue saying they don't have a loyalty card - why not? It's money for nothing!
In my last column, I wrote about the annual battle of getting my son Alex to write thank you letters for the Christmas gifts he received. It's a job that takes much cajoling and iron-willed patience.
I had a lovely email from local mum Louise Underwood, who said she read the article with a big smile on her face as she's been there and firmly believes it's a boy thing. Her daughter willingly writes her thank-yous but it's a lot harder with her sons. Her solution is to get her kids to draw a picture that she scans, makes into cards and then gets them just to write 'thank you' inside.
She says: "This worked for our family as people really like getting a child's drawing and they get a thank you as well."
Great idea, Louise - and can I borrow your scanner please!