How to make creamy oat milk and nut milk at home.

I'm holding a bottle of homemade plant milk.
Photo shows me holding a bottle of homemade plant milk

Making your plant milk at home is easy, uses less packaging, and in many cases works out much cheaper as well (definitely the oat milk). What are you waiting for?

OAT MILK:

1 cup oats

4 cups water

2 dates ( or alternative sweetener such as maple syrup or vanilla essence). This is optional.

4-5tsp oil ( I used rapeseed)

Pinch salt ( optional)

1/4 to 1/2 tsp xanthan gum

Blender

2 sieves

METHOD

1.Soak the oats and the dates ( if using) in the 4 cups of water for 20 mins.

2. Add other ingredients apart from the xanthan gum. No need to drain or rinse the oats first .

3. Blend

4. Set one sieve above the other over a bowl and pour the mix through. TIP: Don’t press it through or use a nut milk bag as this can make the milk turn out slimy – and it is really hard to get through a nut milk bag. Just tilt the sieve to get the milk through.

5. Return the milk to the blender, add the xanthan gum and blend again. The xanthan gum helps the mix stay together but it does give a thicker texture so you will need to adjust to taste. It’s best to start with a smaller amount and then add a bit more to see how you prefer it.

6. Pour into your preferred container and refrigerate. Although the xanthan gum helps stop separation you may want to still give the bottle a gentle shake before using.

NUT MILK

Nut milk is even simpler.

1 cup nuts ( I usually use a mix of almonds and hazelnuts but you can also use other nuts or seeds such as pumpkin seeds)

4-5 cups water

Blender

Nut milk bag

METHOD

  1. Soak the nuts in enough hot water to cover (from the kettle) for an hour (or more).
  2. Drain and rinse
  3. Add fresh water
  4. Blend
  5. Strain through a nut milk bag, muslin or other fine weave cloth. This time you can squeeze to get as much liquid as you can out.
  6. Pour into your preferred container and refrigerate.

OAT AND NUT MILK

My plant milk of choice at the moment is a mix of oat and nut milk. Because the oat milk is best filtered through a sieve and the nut milk though a nut milk bag I find it easiest to make a half batch of each and then mix them together in a bottle at the end. In this case, because of the fat from the nuts there is no need to add the oil or the xanthan gum, although a tiny bit of xanthan gum at the end does reduce the settling of the oats. I keep it super simple and just blend oats with water after the 20 mins soaking time, then sieve. I don’t find the dates or other additions to be necessary. Then I make the nut milk exactly as above and mix the 2 together.

Because the sieve allows small particles of the oats through you will need to shake it before use as the small bits settle to the bottom. If there is a lot of sediment when I’m nearing the bottom of the bottle I often add more water and give it a good shake again to make it last a bit longer.

WHAT TO DO WITH THE OAT AND NUT PULP

After making these you will be left with a small amount of oat pulp and rather more nut pulp. Don’t throw this away as it can be used up in many recipes – I often share how I use it over in my instagram account. Some of my favourites are in homemade granola, in bread, cookies and cake. Treading my own Path blog has a great recipe for vegan chocolate brownies using nut pulp. The oat pulp can easily be added to porridge. You can add some nut pulp in place of tahini and I have tried fermenting it to make vegan cheese before.

Do let me know how you get on if you give this a try – and if you have other ideas for using the nut/oat pulp.

Eco Swaps you may not need – is it greenwashing?

When you are starting out on a journey to reducing waste buying lots of new products as “eco swaps” might seem appealing. But as well as being expensive, you might find out that many of these things are also unnecessary. Below are just a few examples to illustrate the point but I’m sure you will be able to think of others.

  1. Beeswax Wraps

One of the first things I purchased after joining a zero waste group was a set of beeswax wraps. I know some people really love these, and if you do and they help you to reduce waste then that’s fine. We found them hard to clean so didn’t keep ours for very long but we soon realised that we already had plenty of options to store food – lunch boxes, reused takeaway or ice cream tubs, a bowl with a plate over, placing the cut side of a piece of fruit face down on a plate etc. These options meant we already used cling film rarely ( in fact I still have a roll in the drawer bought from Safeway who were taken over long ago).

2. Fancy new storage jars

Zero waste isn’t about buying new stuff so whilst shelves full of matching jars filled with loose food from your local refill shop might look appealing it really isn’t necessary. If you buy food in jars, keep them to reuse, reuse other containers such as ice cream tubs, takeaway tubs, etc depending on what you have. And if you don’t have any of these, check charity shops or ask on local giveaway groups – you will likely be able to find suitable storage cheap or for free, and even matching if you so wish – I have lots of Douwe Egberts coffee jars for storage – I only bought one myself – the rest came from Freecycle and Facebook giveaway groups so cost me nothing. Alongside those pictured I also have lots of mismatched jam jars, pesto jars, peanut butter jars etc that I use for storing smaller quantities of things in the cupboard, fridge or freezer.

Assorted storage jars – mostly reused jars from giveaway groups

3. Water filters

I’ve seen several eco accounts promoting Brita filters recently. In the UK we are fortunate to have access to safe to drink tap water so the need for such a product has always been a bit of a mystery to me, although I understand it is being promoted as an alternative to bottled water if you don’t like the taste of your tap water. Filters need replacing and at the moment you need to take them to a Terracycle collection point which may not be convenient for everyone, and recycling is anyway a resource intensive process. If you don’t like the taste of your tap water there are several alternative options to buying plastic jugs and filters:

a. leave water to stand before using – this will allow chlorine smells to disspate. An ideal way to do this is to keep a jug of tap water in the fridge.

b. charcoal sticks – I haven’t tried these as I like my water straight form the tap but these are a great plastic free alternative. You just leave the stick in the water for a while, it can be reused, and eventually composted.

c. get used to your tap water and enjoy the fact we have such easy access to safe drinking water.

4. Coffee cups, water bottles, produce bags

How useful these are depends on your lifestyle. If you often get a takeout coffee then a coffee cup might be really useful. We actually do this fairly rarely so really would have actually been fine just using the Thermos flasks we had already to take our own coffee from home. Now we have reusable coffee cups we do use them occasionally, but they really weren’t an essential purchase. The same with water bottles – actually we could probably do fine just by reusing bottles that have come into the house with things in them. At least my water bottle was preowned from a charity shop. And produce bags – pre covid I shopped on foot with a shopping trolley, often from the market and used my produce bags all the time so for me they seemed worthwhile – but I could have used old pillowcases or made my own bags from old clothing/ bedding etc for less waste and if I needed them now I would probably do that. This year I haven’t used them at all other than for storage at home as we have been having all our shopping delivered, so if you tend to shop on line these might be an irrelevant item for you.

5. To sum up:

As I said at the start these are just examples, but the point is really to get into the habit of asking yourself a few questions before making a purchase, however eco friendly it might appear:

  1. Do I have something at home already that will serve this purpose?
  2. Can I reuse something for this purpose – or source something preowned to use?
  3. How often will I actually use it? ( e.g. using a disposable coffee cup might actually be a lower waste option if you only get a take out coffee once a year)
  4. Is there a lower waste alternative?
  5. Do I really need it?

Are there any eco swaps you’ve bought and then regretted? Do let me know.

Follow me on Instagram

Hi all. I can see it has been nearly a year since I wrote a proper blog post. So I just wanted to say that I’m still here but with all of us working from home for the last year my access to the PC has been limited by one of us working in the study ( spare room) most of the time. So to keep up with all things zero waste, please follow me on Instagram which I can update more frequently via my phone. http://www.instagram.com/busygreenmum

Sourdough Bread made easy

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Hi all,

We are living in strange times and as a result more of us are baking at home. Since I first posted my sourdough bread recipe my understanding has developed and I have made the process even simpler. Photos will be added to this post later – for now I wanted to put up a quick step by step guide to assist those using a sourdough starter for the first time. This process assumes you have a sourdough starter ready to use, and that it is stored in the fridge before feeding. If you don’t have a starter check out my earlier post. You will need:

80g sourdough starter (see step 1)

560g bread flour ( I tend to use 200g of wholemeal and 360 of white but you can vary this according to preference/ what you have available)

1tsp salt

1tbsp oil ( optional but makes the crust easier to cut)350ml water (you may prefer to use slightly less if using all white flour)

Method:

  1. Remove your starter from the fridge (I keep a very small amount), and add 40g each of flour and water ( I usually feed my starter rye flour but you can use bread flour). This means you will have an additional 80g to use in the recipe later. I do this either in the morning or around lunchtime then it is ready to use in the evening.
  2. Leave it at room temperature until the starter in your jar has approximately doubled in size. Placing an elastic band around the jar can help you tell when this is. Don’t worry about it exactly doubling – the important thing is that you can see it is rising and bubbly. How long this takes depends on how warm your home is – anywhere from 4-8 hours but don’t worry if you leave it longer.
  3. Mix all the ingredients in the order listed. Remember to only use the 80g of starter and put the rest back into the fridge for next time. I use the pizza dough programme on my bread machine to mix for me. You can use a dough hook on a food processor, knead it by hand , or the more traditional way of making sourdough is to stretch and fold the dough at intervals over several hours. I usually mix mine just before going to bed. If you want to mix by hand using stretch and folds you may want to refer to the Foodbod Master recipe at: https://foodbodsourdough.com/about-my-recipe/
  4. Leave to prove. This first proof is known as the ” bulk proof” and you want the dough to almost double in size. I leave mine on the kitchen counter overnight in a bowl covered with a pan lid but if it is warm this may be too long.
  5. Once the dough has approximately doubled you can shape it into a boule. Bake with Jack has some really useful videos on You Tube to show you how to shape the dough (links at end of post). I usually do this first thing in the morning. I don’t have a banneton so I put the shaped loaf straight into the casserole dish/dutch oven that I will bake it in. This also means you don’t need to transfer the dough again.
  6. I then transfer the dough, in the casserole dish, to the fridge for a ” cold retard” This slows down fermentation so you can leave it until a convenient time to bake. I usually bake my loaf mid afternoon ( because that’s when I finish work) but you can leave it to the next day.
  7. Remove the dough from the fridge and carefully slash the top with a knife or razor blade. This helps contro where the loaf expands.
  8. Then place the casserole, with the lid,straight into a cold oven turned to the hottest your oven goes (mine is 230 degrees C) for 25 mins, turn down to 200 for 15 mins, then remove the lid and bake for a further 20 mins. Keep an eye on it because ovens vary. Once ready it should sound hollow when you tap the bottom.
  9. Leave to cool fully ( ideally overnight) before cutting into the bread.

Tips:

If your house is warm and it is proofing too quickly you can reduce the amount of starter you use. Remember that the starter is made of equal amounts of flour and water so for each 10g less of starter you add you should add an extra 5g each of flour and water. Experiment with small increments to see what works for you.

You can add extras such as seeds and nuts to the recipe. I often add pulp remaining from making nut milk.

Other useful links:

Using my bread machine is convenient for me but if you want to mix by hand using stretch and folds you may prefer the Foodbod master recipe

I’ve also found Bake with Jack on You Tube really useful for technique.

The Facebook group Sourdough Bread Baking is a friendly forum for sharing your successes and failures and asking questions.

Let me know how you get on.

Zero Waste Shopping in Leighton Buzzard

Are you tired of putting the bin out for collection every week? Is your bin full of packaging waste?

We are fortunate that Central Bedfordshire accepts a large variety of food packaging for recycling but plastics tend to be hard to recycle, can mainly only be downcycled, and can only be recycled a few times before ending up in landfill ( or in the oceans).  Plastics then hang around pretty much forever ( How long does it take a plastic bottle to biodegrade?).  They are also made of non renewable oil and potentially leach toxins into your food.  We have therefore been trying to reduce not only our landfill waste, but our recyclables too, particularly trying to avoid single use plastics.  This has been a journey, changing our buying habits a little at a time, but over the last couple of years we have managed to reduce our landfill waste by over 80% and our recycling by about 50%.  This post is about just one of the ways of avoiding packaging waste, by trying to avoid acquiring it in the first place, and focusses on the places that, after a change in my shopping habits, I find this easy to do for grocery and household items in my home town of Leighton Buzzard.  If you know of other local shops that should be included please do let me know.

UPDATE FEB 2020:  I have updated the information below since it was first written a few years ago.  As I no longer live in Leighton Buzzard I would really appreciate comments letting me know about any further updates to the information.  Many thanks.


I now try to buy food, and other items, unpackaged whenever possible.  This tends to be easier when shopping at the local market and independent shops than in the supermarket, although the supermarkets usually have some loose fruit and veg – remember to bring your own bags or containers, and most supermarkets now also allow you to bring a container to the meat, fish and deli counters, a big positive change since I first wrote this post. Meal planning and a shopping list will help you have a good idea of how many bags/containers to bring along.  Some of my personal favourites for buying unpackaged items are featured here.

Leighton Buzzard Market:

Harris and Sons Fruit and Veg – on the South side of the High Street on Tuesdays and Saturdays.  Happy to place fruit and veg directly into your own bags.

Harris and Sons Fruit and Veg Stall, Leighton Buzzard Market
Harris and Sons Fruit and Veg Stall, Leighton Buzzard Market

Other market traders are also often happy to sell into your own containers – just ask nicely at the start of your purchase.  It feels strange at first but you soon get used to it, and so do the traders.  I have done this several times at the olive stall at the top of the High Street and at the Delisha samosa stall, a cake stall and at the other fruit and veg stall.  The fish van indicated he would be happy to do this too.

The farmers market and craft markets are also a good place to ask.  Check the market website for the dates of each.   Bucks Star Brewery visits the farmers each month and take their glass eco -growlers back and give you a full one at a discount, whilst the Leighton Buzzard Brewing Company sells refillable growlers which you can refill at the brewery on Grovebury Road. The Honey Man asks you to return your empty jar for a discount off the next one.

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Refillable eco growler from the farmers’ market

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Leighton Buzzard Brewing Company stall at the monthly farmers market.

 

Mimic Gifts – Hockliffe Street.  Offers an extensive range of refills and bath products – including refills for shower gels, liquid soap, shampoo, conditioner, moisturiser, denttabs ( a great alternative to toothpaste), kids bubble bath, bath salts, laundry detergent, fabric conditioner, all purpose cleaner, washing up liquid and much more.  Plus shampoo and conditioner bars, soap, bamboo toothbrushes, reusable wipes, cotton buds and menstrual products.

House of Coffee – Peacock Mews.  This small coffee roasting shop is happy to grind coffee as required into your own container.  I began by taking in a plastic lunch box but having since acquired lots of empty large Douwe Egberts coffee jars from a local sharing site I use one of those, carefully wrapped in a tea towel to protect it in transit.  We then store the jar in the freezer to keep the coffee fresh. Fair trade options are usually available.  A small discount is now offered to customers refilling their coffee bags or using their own containers.  Loose tea is also available.

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House of Coffee – Peacock Mews

Selections – High Street A variety of hardware items from replacement broom heads to individual screws. They also sell replacement gas canisters for SodaStream (as does Argos) which has replaced the plastic bottles of fizzy water we used to buy every week, and saved us money.

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Natures Harvest – North Street  Sells unpackaged soap and refills for Ecover laundry and washing up liquid. Also stocks bamboo toothbrushes, Ecoleaf toilet roll in compostable packaging and lots of other eco friendly products.   Although many of the food items are currently in plastic, the owner is actively investigating alternatives.

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Oliver Adams Bakers- Market Square  Bread, cakes etc either in paper bags or into your own bag/container. The Co-Op – Waterdell off Brooklands Drive has a daily delivery of Italian bread which can be bought loose.

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Strattons Butchers – Market Square .  If you eat meat ask Strattons to sell it you without any single use plastic.  I ask them to weigh it on the waxed paper sheets they use and then transfer in to my own container, which they are happy to do.

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Model Farm – Hockliffe Road If you are passing ( heading out of town past the garden centre) this is a great place to buy free range eggs.  We return the boxes for reuse when we next visit. ( I know this farm is  currently being surrounded by a new housing development  – eggs confirmed as still available Feb 2020 but this may change)

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Pecks Farm – Towards Hockliffe – we have our milk delivered in returnable glass bottles by Pecks Farm.  It does cost more so is one of our more recent changes, but we have offset the additional cost by savings made elsewhere in our waste reduction journey.  The farm also sells a range of local produce, oil and vinegar refills and loose fruit and veg, including organic options, (thanks to Pecks Farm for supplying the photo below).

Pecks Farm Shop - by  James Rudd
Loose produce – image kindly supplied by Pecks Farm

You can still find some unpackaged options in the supermarket – it does vary but locally I find Tesco tends to have the most unpackaged fruit and veg.  Morrisons and Waitrose also sells loose rolls, croissants and cakes – I use my own bag or container where these are self service but have not been able to do this at the counter.

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Mmm, which potatoes will I choose?

 

Since I first published this post there have been some new additions to the zero waste shopping options:

The Little Buzzard Bakery on North Street – very happy for you to use your own bag for their freshly baked goods – but get there early as they often sell out!

 

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Clipstone Dairy – Clipstone – has a milk vending machine.  I haven’t used it yet but understand they will sell you a bottle you can reuse but are also quite happy for you to bring along your own bottle to fill.

 

And if you need a coffee to take away while you are out and about, both Costa and Espresso Head offer a discount if you bring a reuseable mug.  If you do end up with a takeaway coffee cup from anywhere, did you know that you can take them into Costa who will send them off to one of the 2 places in the UK that are able to recycle takeaway cups?

Have you shopped packaging free anywhere else locally? Please let me know.  Leighton Buzzard is coming soon to the Zero Waste App available at the App Store and Google Play.

For more ways to reduce your household waste you can read:

7 top tips to reduce your household waste

For the local circular economy:

More places to shop with less waste in Leighton Buzzard – the Circular Economy

Now , do you still need to put that bin out?

Did you know that you can now follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram where I share some of our daily waste saving in more regular short posts?  Please do sign up.

To read more about some of the other ways we have gradually reduced our waste:

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Top apps, websites and groups to help you reduce waste and grab a bargain or freebie (UK) : PART 2: Fashion

 

Full wardrobe
Full wardrobe

Welcome to the second in a series of posts linking useful apps and websites to help you reduce waste and save money.  This post focusses on clothes and fashion.

According to WRAP campaign Love Your Clothes an estimated 3000,000 tonnes of clothes goes to landfill in the UK every year. There is no need for any textiles to end up in landfill in the UK – the Love Your Clothes campaign promotes a more circular economy and provides lots of useful tips on extending the life of your clothes to reduce the environmental impact of clothing.

Buying  (or selling) preowned:

New clothing is resource intensive so one of the first things you can do to reduce the impact of clothing is to buy preowned whenever possible, and if you no longer want a piece of clothing, to pass it on rather than throw it away.

My favourite way to buy is by browsing my local charity shops,  or the weekly Swap Rail at the Eco Chi stall on Chichester market (if you are local you can find this near Marks and Spencer on North Street).  Clothes Swaps are another good opportunity to give your wardrobe a bit of a makeover.  But if I am looking for a specific item, online is another good way as you can often set up alerts to be notified when specific products are listed or join brand specific selling groups on Facebook.  Online is also good if you don’t have time to get into town during opening hours.  This is just a selection of the huge online opportunities to buy/ sell/ giveaway or swap.

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Clothes Swap Party

Pre loved Fashion:

Ebay is perhaps the best known and the one I use most.   If you are after a particular brand or size it is easy to set up alerts as new items are listed to make sure you don’t miss out.   Good for selling too as you can reach a large market.  Many charity shops also sell through ebay so you can support your chosen charity at the same time – most offer free returns.

Re- fashion is a great new site for online charity shopping made easy with free returns in case your chosen item doesn’t fit.

Facebook marketplace can also be useful for finding great buys in your local area. Many areas also have local sell/swap groups so it’s worth searching for these groups near you.  There may be dedicated groups for school uniform or uniforms for groups such as guides and scouts.

As well as local groups I use a couple of zero waste related Facebook selling groups:

Journey to Zero Waste UK Sell/Swap/ Gift – for a whole range of items but often includes clothing while Zero Waste Fashion Swap/Sell/Buy is dedicated to clothing and fashion.

Depop  and Vinted  are both sites to browse for your style – although I haven’t used these yet personally.

Free stuff:

Freecycle and Freegle are both, as the names suggest, for free stuff .   You are more likely to find people offering a whole bag of clothes after a clearout here rather than individual items.  You can also share wanted posts asking if anyone  has what you need.

Many areas also have Facebook groups dedicated to free items.

Repair or Upcycle your clothes:

Repairing or upcycling your existing clothes and fabrics is another great way to reduce textile waste.  Love Your Clothes is a really useful resource for this – with a dedicated page for care and repair.

And back to Facebook, the Eco-Friendly Sewing UK  is helpful and friendly.

Look out for sewing  and repair meet ups in your area too.    I’ve taken a few small sewing jobs to my local repair cafe.  You can find our more about the Repair Cafe Network via this link but do note that not all local repair cafes are featured there so do search online to find your local one.  My local one is the Chichester Repair Cafe

As ever, this is just a selection of the many resources available to reducing waste when it comes to clothing and fashion.  I would love to know about your favourites – please do let me know in a comment below.

Happy Blogiversary to me!

WordPress tells me it is my 8th anniversary of blogging today so please help me celebrate by sharing and  signing up to follow this page or my linked Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts.

I’m sharing this post as part of the Going Green Linky

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Top apps and websites to help you reduce waste and grab a bargain or freebie (UK): PART 1: Food Waste

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Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

Welcome to part one in a series of posts linking useful apps and websites to help you reduce waste and save money.    This first post focusses on food waste.

According to the WRAP campaign Love Food Hate Waste , food wasted in the UK is equivalent to throwing 1 in 5 bags of shopping away!  As well as meal planning to help you only buy what you need, there is a range of apps and websites to help you find ways to use up leftovers, pass on unwanted food to someone else to use, or to get hold of food that might otherwise go to waste.  These are just some of them – please let me know in the comments if you have used these or any others.  And if you find the list useful, please share – you can find sharing buttons at the end of the post.

Food waste:

1) Use it up:

Not sure what to do with those leftover potatoes, or that half an aubergine hiding at the back of the fridge?  The internet is your friend, with plenty of places to find inspiration.

Many local authorities have website campaigns dedicated to reducing food waste.  Here in West Sussex you can find tips as part of the #fightagainstfoodwaste campaign, while Norfolk has Plan Eat Save.  Look out for one in your area.

Fight Against Food Waste

Plan Eat Save

Supermarkets also offer recipe ideas such as Tesco Real Food

And I have already mentioned Love Food Hate Waste which has loads of useful advice.

Plus there are websites and apps to help you search by ingredient such as   BBC FoodBBC Good Food which I use a lot, or Supercook

2) Give it away or get it for free ( or cheap):

Olio

Use Olio to give away surplus food to your neighbours or find unwanted food for free.  This app operates across the UK  and is simple to use,  although it depends on having other active users nearby – that will only improve as more people get to know about it.  I’ve used it a few times over the last year, both to giveaway and to claim food.  And it’s all for free.  Whilst the app started out just for food, you can now use it to offer other items for free too.

Karma

Karma is an app for finding spare food from businesses at the end of the day – you reserve it on the app and go along to pick it up.  You usually pay half the usual price for the food.  Primairly operating in London at present.

Too Good to Go

Too Good to Go is another place to find food that restaurants, cafes, bakeries etc might throw away at the end of the day.  Operating in a variety of big towns and cities across the UK.

The Community Fridge Network

Take a look at the Community Fridge Network website to find a community fridge near you (tip : scroll down the page) or to learn how to set one up. You can also search using #communityfridge.   This works in a fairly similar way to Olio in that you offer or collect unwanted food – but this time you drop it off at a defined location for others to help themselves.  Retailers also donate surplus food to the project. Contact the local organiser for more info on how your local one operates.

3) Other food waste initiatives

Fareshare and Foodcloud     both connect supermarkets that have surplus food to charities that can use the food where it is most needed.

The Real Junk Food Project distributes food in a variety of ways – through food boxes, cafes, schools, community groups and more.  Operating in various locations, and indeed across the world.

As well as these there are likely to be a range of other local initiatives going on in your area once you start looking for them.  I’d love to hear about any you have used/ any others you know about.

I’m sharing this post as part of the Going Green Linky  .  Do visit the linky to have a look at other green posts.

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Eco Thrifty Living – Book Review and Interview

I’ve been following Zoe Morrisons’ blog, Eco Thrifty Living for a few years and know she has some great tips to share.  So I was pleased to have the chance to review Zoe’s new book:  Eco Thrifty Living – Save Money, Save the Environment and Live the Life You Want.

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Zoe has a friendly and easy to read writing style – as I read a lot for my work I admit I don’t often read a book when I get home, but I sped through an electronic version of the book in a couple of evenings after dinner.  The book is split into manageable chunks focussing on different areas of the home and different events and activities you might spend money on – so you can easily focus in on a particular area, or refer back to it again later.  There are different options for ways to reduce waste and save money in each area so you can pick the ways that will work for you, and I particularly like the way each section ends with a challenge and advice on how to take things further.

If you are starting to focus on ways to help the environment and save money, this is a great introduction.

The book is currently available to download in Kindle version via Amazon:  Eco Thrifty Living – The Book:  (note this is not an affiliate link) .  Printed copies are also now available – ideal if you want to gift a copy.

I caught up with Zoe to ask her a few questions about the book and her experiences:

1)  Hi Zoe,  you’ve been writing a successful blog about eco thrifty living for a while now.  What prompted you to turn it into a book?

I have always wanted to write a book ever since I was a kid.  The thought of actually writing one was really overwhelming though so it took me a long time to convince myself to follow through on my childhood dream!

2)  Which of the changes suggested in the book did you find easiest to implement?

There are so many changes it is difficult to pick!  There was one challenge that I took on that surprised me though. I found that not buying anything new for myself for 10 months was actually really easy!  Read more about my challenge here: https://ecothriftyliving.com/2013/11/my-year-of-eco-challenges-challenge-3.html I do buy things now, but with a different mindset to my previous one. In the book I suggest taking on a similar challenge.

3)  And which was the most challenging?

There were some changes I wanted to make that didn’t work for me – mainly in relation to cleaning and bathroom products. There are also some eco changes I haven’t even attempted yet. I’m still taking things one step at a time and doing what works for me and I recommend that approach.  I think trying to take it all on at once it can feel difficult and overwhelming. Making one small change at a time that sticks is better than trying to do too much and then giving it all up.

4)  You mention a few things in the book that you managed to find for free.  What is your favourite free find?

We have had some great free finds, including clothes,  scooters, a trampoline,  a bookshelf and more. One of my favourites is a tent we got given via Freecycle. It is a really large canvas tent with heavy poles and it’s straight out of the 70’s. A bit faded now, but in its day it was bright orange! It has three bedroom sections and a front room that you can stand up in. I love it – is perfect for my family of 4. You can read more about it here:  https://ecothriftyliving.com/2015/06/introducing-caspar-friendly-tent-and.html

5)  If you could give someone new to trying to live an eco friendly life without spending a lot of money just one tip, what would it be?

My one tip would be to read my book! It is filled with ideas for how to be eco friendly without spending much money. It covers how to be eco-thrifty in a variety of areas including in the kitchen, the bathroom, getting fit, clothes, stuff, kids and more!

Thanks Zoe – great advice.

The free tent, which looks amazing – reminds me of a camping holidays in France as a teenager.

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50 + ways to reduce waste and avoid plastic- UK

Harris and Sons Fruit and Veg Stall, Leighton Buzzard Market
Harris and Sons Fruit and Veg Stall, Leighton Buzzard Market

Are you looking for ways to reduce waste?  And single use plastic?  Then read on.  I hope my experience of making changes might help.  If you find the information useful please let me know and feel free to share –  you can find sharing links at the end of the post.

Recently someone in the Journey to Zero Waste UK Facebook group asked about ways to avoid plastic. I’ve been trying to reduce waste and our use of single use plastics for a while now and when I started reeling off a list of changes I was amazed at how long the list got! Some of these are things we have always done, or done for a long time, but many are more recent changes, made since I’ve been part of the online zero waste community. So I thought it might be useful to share our list. There are of course many other changes you can make, and not all of these may be applicable, but these are some of the things that work for us.

1) Ditch the Disposables:

  • Cloth nappies – even if you only use them part time it’s worth it. There are lots of preloved nappy groups on Facebook so you don’t need to spend big and can try different types.
  • Cloth baby wipes – again, even if you mainly only use them at home as we did it still saves loads of waste. Wet as needed and wash with the nappies. We bought some from ebay but if you have fabric to repurpose, so much the better.
  • Cloth hankies – buy vintage or make your own from old clothing. No need to sew – you can cut up old jersey T shirts and they won’t fray.
  • Washable cloths for cleaning (many of ours are the baby wipes/nappies we no longer need for that)
  • Flannel for face washing.
  • Instead of cling film, put things in a reusable container or a plate over a bowl. You can just put the cut side of half an onion etc face down on a plate.
  • Tea towels and dishcloths or going to sink to wash hands/face rather than kitchen towel.
  • Washable menstrual products – either a cup or washable pads as you prefer.
  • Dishcloth, wooden brush or sliced loofah for washing up . A metal scourer is great for stubborn things.
  • Reusable baking sheet liner rather than greaseproof paper or baking parchment.

2) Bathroom:

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My bathroom essentials

 

  • Bar soap instead of liquid hand soap or shower gel.
  • Rhassoul clay and diluted vinegar in place of shampoo – you can even make your own vinegar – more in this post: Shampoo bars are not the only option! Hard water friendly zero waste / low waste hair wash options.
  • Alternatively just use water for hair washing ( doesn’t work for me but seems to work fine for the rest of the family).
  • If neither of these appeal look out for a local refill option – I now have the option of refilling an old shampoo bottle with locally made Green Goddess shampoo at local refill shop Refilled Chichester.
  • Home made deodorant: Easy coconut oil deodorant recipe
  • Flannel and water.
  • Cloth loo wipes (part time – just for wee here). Mine are repurposed baby wipes.
  • Bamboo toothbrush.
  • Denttabs with fluoride – I buy mine from Anything but Plastic but they are available from several online shops or maybe from your local refill shop.
  • Ecoleaf toilet roll made from UK post consumer waste. In a compostable potato starch wrap.
  • Safety razor – bar soap can double up as shaving cream.
  • Oil in a glass jar for moisturising when needed (currently using a blend of oils bought in a glass bottle in TK Maxx).

3) Food shopping and baking

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Percol Coffee

 

  • Loose fruit and veg – generally from the local market. I take my own bags and a 4 wheeled Rolser shopping trolley which makes it easier to get it all home on foot. If I can’t get to the market I do my best to choose loose produce in the supermarket.
  • Dry goods and refills from local zero waste shop.
  • Meat from local butchers – happy to put it straight into our own containers. Waitrose, Morrisons and Sainsbury will also do this for meat and fish.
  • PG Tips loose tea in a card box.
  • Percol ground coffee in a home compostable bag (carbon neutral too).
  • Look for less or easy to recycle packaging.
  • Milk delivered in returnable glass bottles.
  • Make our own bread and pizza etc. I’ve been using a bread machine to make all our bread for 3 or 4 years now but have only recently got into baking sourdough – even less waste as no yeast is required. You can read more about making sourdough here: Simple sourdough bread – by a novice
  • Make yoghurt (occasionally! ).
  • Make plant milks. I tend to prefer almond milk now but I previously shared a recipe for hemp milk: How to make hemp milk that doesn’t split
  • Soda stream for fizzy drinks.
  • 5kg bags of rice from the world food section of the supermarket– less plastic and cheaper.
  • Save veg peelings and trimmings to make vegetable stock.
  • Two Farmers crisps in home compostable bags (available at Refilled Chichester)

4) Cleaning/laundry

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Refills available at Refilled Chichester

 

  • Refills of washing up liquid and laundry liquid.
  • Ecozone eco balls.
  • Soap nuts.
  • Laundry powder in a card box.
  • Dishwasher powder in a card box or make your own DIY dishwasher powder.
  • Dishwasher salt in a card box.
  • Vinegar. I mix vinegar 50/50 with water in a spray bottle for general cleaning or dab a bit on neat to wipe down food prep. surfaces immediately before using – e.g. when kneading dough.
  • Bicarbonate of soda.
  • Citric Acid – either mix to a paste with a little water as a cream cleaner, or dissolve 2 tbsp in 500ml of hot water and coole before transferring to a spray bottle for general cleaning as an alternative to vinegar
  • Borax Substitute.

5) On the go

  • Coffee cup.
  • Water bottle.
  • Stainless steel straws.
  • Empty container and cutlery if you plan to buy street food.

6) Other things

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  • Compost all food waste, and waste from herbivorous pets.
  • Grow a few things.
  • Forage a few things.
  • Buy things we need second hand first – I’ve bought most of my clothes that way for years but now we also look for other things preowned too. Our oak bed frame has to be one of the best finds when we moved house. It perfectly matches the bedside tables we had already.
  • Repair what we can.
  • Reuse – e.g. jars and tubs from food are saved to reuse for taking to refill shop, making jam, storing and freezing leftovers etc.
  • Rehome things we no longer need – via Facebook groups, ebay, charity shops etc.
  • Recycle as much as we can.

I’d love to hear about your favourite changes that have helped you reduce waste. Please let me know by commenting below and sharing.

Remember you can also follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @busygreenmum

I’m sharing this as part of the Going Green linky for Plastic Free July over at A Green and Rosie life so do check out the other posts there too. https://eco-gites.blogspot.com/2019/07/going-green-29-july-2019.html?m=1

Simple sourdough bread – by a novice

I’ll say right out that I have only been making sourdough for just over a month. If you want to know how to bake perfect looking artisan style loaves of the kind you might see for sale for £3.50 or more at a Farmers’ Market then you are in the wrong place. However, if you want to know about a simple way to make decent, totally plastic free, bread to feed your family, at a fraction of the price, I may be able to help. All you need is flour, water and salt. Plus a little bit of planning ahead.

First off, you’ll need a sourdough starter. You can buy one, or get one from a friend or via a fermenting group online. However, it is easy to make one yourself from scratch. I followed this method from Allinsons

What it doesn’t mention is that if you add 70g of flour and 70ml of water every day, unless you are using a really big jar, you’ll soon run out of space. And if your starter begins to be quite active in that time, it will overflow. You can use a much smaller amount of flour and water – the key thing is to use a 1:1 ratio. It is also a good idea while your starter is getting going to ” refresh” it by discarding some. Of course I don’t mean throw it away. Instead transfer about 80% of your starter to a separate jar and pop that in the fridge while you continue to feed the remaining 20%. Some sites say to do this every day but I didn’t discard until I began running out of space and mine still worked fine. You can use the “discard” to bake pancakes, crumpets, crackers, pizza and lots more – about which more below.

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Sourdough Starter “Bubbles”

After a few days of adding flour and water to your jar you should begin to see some activity – it will start to bubble and smell yeasty. Don’t worry if it takes longer – it depends how warm your kitchen is. I put mine in the warm airing cupboard to speed things up. This is how it looked after 5 and 7 days:

After a couple or weeks you should be able to try making a loaf. There are a couple of ways to tell if your starter is ready. After you feed it with flour and water it should double in size in a few hours and then fall back – you can put a rubber band around the jar to mark the levels to help you tell. Another way is to drop a bit of the starter into a cup of water and it should float. Being a newbie I didn’t know about either of these so I just got baking, but when I tried the float test later it worked.

Once your starter is established you can keep it in the fridge and just take it out to feed a day or two before baking, or once a week unless you are using it often – in which case keep it out on the counter and keep feeding at least daily. You can also just replace the amount you use to keep it refreshed rather than needing to discard any.

I didn’t realise when I made my first loaf that the dough really needs to be contained while rising or it will just spread out. This started off nicely shaped into a baguette but soon spread out to fit the baking tray. Oops. However once baked in still tasted good – and looking back I can see it had some quite good bubbles.

I’m not sure now which recipe I used for that first loaf but I picked up a copy of Hugh Fearney Whittingstall’s River Cottage Everyday in the British Heart Foundation shop in Leighton Buzzard while visiting family at half term. It has a section on bread making, including sourdough, and I’ve been using the straighforward recipe in there ever since with some minor tweaks. I also joined a Facebook Group on Sourdough Bread Making – this has lots of complicated sounding stages to making sourdough which I’m leaving until later on but have incorprated a couple of things into the way I make my loaf. I say complicated sounding because they probably aren’t really – and the folk there are very helpful.

Basic Sourdough loaf:

Step 1: Making the levain/ pre-ferment/sponge:

This step goes by several names but is essentially creating a larger amount of starter to use in your loaf. Put 85g of your starter into a large bowl and add 250g of strong white flour and 275 ml of warm water. Note that if weighing 1ml of water weighs 1g which makes life simple ( other liquids are not the same). Mix, cover with a damp teatowel, and leave overnight or all day depending on when you want to make the dough. On a weekday I like to make this before I leave for work and then make the dough when I get home but at the weekend I tend to make this in the evening and leave overnight ready to make the dough in the morning.

Step 2: After step 1 you should have a bowl of bubbly thick liquid.

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Levain ready to make your dough

Add 300g of bread flour to the levain and mix. Add 10g of salt. You can add 1tbsp of oil if you want but this is entirely optional.

At this stage some recipes tell you to stretch and fold the dough 4 or 5 times at hourly intervals but this doesn’t work timewise for me so I’m sticking with Hugh’s approach which it to just knead it once at this stage. He does however describe kneading it in a stretch and fold kind of way. The important thing is to knead until you achieve the “window pane” effect. Essentially if you lift the dough and stretch until you can almost see through it, it should still hold together rather than tearing. The suggested approach here is to turn the dough out onto a lightly floured or oiled surface and push it away with the palm of your hand, then fold it back on itself, turn by 45 degrees and then repeat until it comes together in a smooth dough. Entirely up to you whether you do this all in one go or in several bursts but it really isn’t as complicated, or necessary to do it a specific way, as it sounds. I’ve found an alternative which works very well is to use a dough programme on my bread machine. I use a 2.10 hour dough programme.

Edited to add that when mixing in the breadmaker I now add an extra 50 -75g of water ( higher end if using wholemeal flour or adding seeds that will absorb more liquid)

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Dough kneaded by my bread machine

Step 3: First proof

Once your dough is made, leave it to rise, still covered with a damp teatowel, in a warm place until roughly doubled in size.  How long this takes depends on how warm your kitchen is – the original recipe I followed suggested overnight but Ive found 2-4 hours works better for me now we are into summer.

Step 4: Shape and second proof

Now you can ” knock back” your dough and shape it into a loaf. I’m not yet very good at shaping but as I have learnt the dough spreads out I at this stage put it straight into the vessel I intend to cook it in. But you can use a bowl or a special bread proofing basket called a banneton. I just use a casserole dish, spraying a little oil inside to make sure it doesn’t stick although you can instead sprinkle a little polenta or rice flour. As you practice you should be able to shape it in such a way that it will retain its shape – I’m not there yet but there are videos on You Tube. At this stage you can leave it at room temperature for 1.5 to 3 hours until it has doubled again. Any longer than this and it is likely to overproof. At this stage it should be ready to bake. If this timing doesn’t fit with when you want to bake you can instead do the second proof in the fridge, where you can leave it several days or more if you wish. I find this approach easier timewise. This is also supposed to improve the flavour.

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Dough after proofing in the fridge

Step 4: Bake your loaf

Before you bake your loaf carefully score it with a sharp knife or razor blade. This tradition apparently dates back to when there was one shared bread oven per village and people marked their loaves to know which was theirs. I definitely haven’t perfected this technique yet. After my first flat loaf, I have been baking my bread straight in the casserole dish. If using a cast iron casserole you can put it straight into a hot oven, but if using Pyrex, or as I am doing, a non stick casserole with a glass lid, you might want to put it into a cold oven instead if you are baking straight from the fridge, to avoid risk of the glass cracking. I put my casserole straight from the fridge into a cold oven turned up to the highest temp (230 degrees on my oven). I baked it for 20 mins at this temp then turned down the heat to 200 degrees. I removed the lid after another 10 mins and then baked for a further 15 making 45 in total but do keep an eye on it as ovens vary. When it is cooked through it should sound hollow when tapped. If you start with a hot oven it might take a little less time. Then leave to cool fully before slicing.

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A sourdough loaf

You can also use your bread machine to cook the whole loaf – I’m still experimenting with a couple of different methods so will report back on that in another post.

Ways to use your ” discard” or excess starter:

Actually the main reason I started sourdough was to make crumpets rather than bread, and rather than finding I have excess to use up, I’m finding I need to make extra starter for these recipes. These need less rise than bread so can use a starter that hasn’t been recently fed.

Pancakes:

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Sourdough “discard” pancakes

Recipe from The Zero Waste Chef: pancake recipe

We found you can use 1 cup of starter to 1 egg if you prefer less eggy pancakes. These have become an expected weekend breakfast now so I have to make sure I have enough starter. The Zero Waste Chef has lots of other recipes I’m yet to try including sourdough crackers.

Crumpets:

I’m still waiting on some crumpet rings aquired from an online sell/swap/gift group (circular economy in action) so no photo of these yet although the splodge like attempt without any rings was given a thumbs up by son in taste terms. Crumpet recipe

Pizza:

There are loads of recipes out there but I liked this one for its simplicity, although I ignored the bit about kneading it after letting it to rise which sounded wrong to me:

pizza dough recipe

Edited to add – I have now gone back to using my breadmachine to make pizza dough.  I follow the recipe in the manual but omit the yeast, add 100g of starter, and then use 50g of flour and 50g of water less than the recipes requires.  Son said it made the best pizza base ever!

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Sourdough pizzas ready to bake

Even if you still think sourdough is complicated please give it a try – I was put off trying it for ages but it is a bit more of an art than a science and there is no one right way to do it. Choose the way that works for you and fits around your lifetyle. Whichever way it make tasty bread that uses fewer ingredients and with no need to buy plastic lidded tubs of yeast. It’s good for you too. And I reckon a loaf costs me about 50p to make compared to £3.50 to buy one from the Farmers’ Market.

If you like what you have read please leave me a comment below. You can also find me posting more regularly on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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Sourdough loaf cross section