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.
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.
Recently someone in a Facebook group I’m in asked for 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.
My bathroom essentials
Bar soap instead of liquid hand soap or shower gel.
Cloth loo wipes (part time – just for wee here). Mine are repurposed baby wipes.
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 bouth in a glass bottle in TK Maxx).
3) Food shopping and baking
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 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
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.
Refills available at Refilled Chichester
Refills of washing up liquid and laundry liquid.
Ecozone eco balls.
Laundry powder in a card box.
Dishwasher powder in a card box.
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.
5) On the go
Stainless steel straws.
6) Other things
Compost all food waste.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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:
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!
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.
When it comes hair washing and reducing waste the first option many people go for is a shampoo bar. You can buy them loose on the High Street from shops such as Lush and there are many options sold just in card in zero waste shops, health food shops and online.
Before deciding whether to give shampoo bars a try you need to consider a few things:
Are you happy to use a bar with SLS as an ingredient? SLS can be (but isn’t necessarily) derived from palm oil, and can be a skin irritant – if you are concerned about either of these you may want to check if the supplier knows the source of their SLS or choose an SLS free bar. On the other hand, the inclusion of SLS means the bar will work much more like a regular shampoo and so is less likely to need a transition period while your hair adjusts. Also should work OK with hard water.
Shampoo bars without SLS generally need to be followed with a ph balancing rinse to counter their alkalinity. Diluted vinegar ( 1tbsp to 1 cup water) is a popular choice but there are lots of alternatives. If you use vinegar it doesn’t need to be fancy apple cider vinegar – plain white vinegar will do, or you can make your own apple scrap vinegar. I often use black tea – if there is any left in the pot I pop it into a lidded cup or jar and store in the fridge until needed. Black coffee or diluted lemon juice are other options. Most people will experience a transition period if moving from regular shampoo, as the hair loses the build up of silicones. Your hair may feel waxy during this time. An apple sauce mask will help with this – more information below. However, while some people get on with them fine, shampoo bars are known to be quite tricky to use in hard water areas.
If you have hard water and would prefer to try an alternative way to wash you hair there are plenty of options. I have been No Poo for over 3 years now, living in an area of extremely hard water for most of that time ( since moving we still have ” moderately” hard water) and these are the things that have worked for me:
1. Rhassoul clay: This is my favourite wash method. I have short fine hair so don’t need to use a lot but I essentially mix a teaspoon or 2 of clay with a little water to form a paste. I then massage this into my scalp in the shower. Always apply to dry hair – this makes your hair less likely to absorb the hard water you use to rinse. Then rinse thoroughly and follow with a ph balancing rinse of black tea or diluted vinegar (homemade apple scrap vinegar when I have it). Then rinse again with water – you won’t smell of tea of vinegar once your hair is dry. Alternatively I just mix the tea or vinegar rinse into the clay to make it a single step process. I don’t worry too much about the quantities but if you do I initally started with the ratios in this Holy Grail shampoo recipe which also includes honey for conditioning. You may be able to find rhassoul clay (or bentonite clay which can be used in a similar way) in your local health food shop but if not you can find it in paper bags online. I most recently found mine at eccoverde but it is is also available from Amazon or ebay.
2. Aruvedyic hair powders: A wide range of hair powders can be bought quite cheaply from Spices of India where you can also find information about the properties of each one to see which is most likely to suit your hair. Depending where you live you may also find them in your local supermarket or international store – I actually found a single box or aritha powder reduced to clear (about 50p) in my local Morrisons although I’ve never seen them there before. The powders generally come in card but do have a small plastic bag inside. When I ordered from Spices of India I asked for no additional plastic in the postal packaging and they heeded my request. I use a mix of shikakai and amla powder – the shikakai is a gentle cleanser and the amla is conditioning. Similar to the clay, I just mix a spoonful or 2 of the powders to a paste with a little water the massage into my scalp ( again starting with dry hair) and rinse well. Aritha (soapnut powder) also works well with hard water although I personally find using it regularly too drying for my hair). No ph balancing rinse is needed with these.
3. Protein washes: chick pea flour / gram flour; rye flour: As with the above methods, mix a little into a paste with water and massage into dry hair and them rinse well. These works well for me as occasional wash methods only – very cleansing but contains a lot of protein. Most people can’t use protein washes more than about once a month but it varies so you might find it works fine for you. I find that if I use protein again for the next wash it doesn’t work at all. And I personally don’t like the smell of the chick pea flour which I find lingers however much I rinse. Egg is another protein wash option – mix an egg with an equal amount of cold water. Apply all over dry hair and leave on for about 10 mins – it will drip so stand in the shower or close to a sink. Then rinse off thoroughly with cool water – otherwise you will end up with hair full of scrambled egg!
These are just the methods I have successfully used – do have a look at wealth of information over at the No Poo and Low Poo Facebook Group for lots more hair wash methods, conditioning advice and detailed advice on dealing with hard water.
If you have hard water I would love to know what works for you.
Dealing with waxy hair during transition:
Apple sauce mask:
Peel and chop a cooking apple (any other apple will do fine too – so use what you have) and cook until it is soft enought o mash easily to a puree. I usually use the microwave. I tend to just mash it with a fork but you may prefer to use a blender for a smoother puree which is easier to rinse out. While the puree is still warm ( but not oo hot) apply it all over your dry hair and cover with a shower cap. Leave it on for at least half an hour and then rinse thoroughly. You may need to do this a few times during the transition period.
Making apple scrap vinegar:
Save up apple peels and cores in the freezer until you have enough to fill a jar of your choice. Then place them in the jar, add a tablespoon of sugar and cover with water. Give it a good stir. Secure a cloth over the jar to let the air in but keep fruit flies etc out. Be sure to give it a stir at least once a day so that the same bits of apple aren’t exposed to the air – otherwise the exposed bits can go mouldy. After a few days or a week, depending on the warmth of yor kitchen, the mix will start to bubble and ferment. Keep on stirring it. After a few weeks the apple pieces will all sink to the bottom. At this stage strain the mixture through a sieve or cloth and compost the apple pieces. By this stage it should already smell vinegary but I usually leave it with the cloth cover to continue to develop.
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This of you that have been following me on instagram will already know that I have been experimenting with different plant milks to find vegan substitutes for some of my milk consumption.
The most successful, and the most like regular milk so far was cashew milk but as I also just heard about the process of harvesting cashews, in which the pickers often suffer acid burns, this was never going to be a sustainable replacement for locally produced cows milk for me.
My favourite more sustainable, and more locally grown candidates have therefore been oat milk ( oats also readily available in card or paper and quite cheap) and hemp (so far I have bought this in plastic from local health food store but it grows in the UK and there are other suppliers online). Both of these are amazingly easy to make. Unfortunately both were very strange in hot drinks, sinking straight to the bottom of the cup. However I liked the taste of hemp milk in tea, after a few cups of getting used to the more nutty flavour.
Then came a game changing solution from someone in the Journey to Zero Waste UK Facebook group. I have been experimenting since and now have a homemade hemp milk I am happy to use in tea on a semi regular basis.
All you need is:
1/2 a cup of hemp seeds
6 cups water
1 or 2 dates (or alternative sweetener such as maple syrup)
1 level teaspoon xanthan gum ( you can find this in the baking section of supermarkets or health food stores)
A sieve / muslin cloth/ jelly bag
Pop the hemp seeds, date, and water into the blender and, at the last moment, add your teaspoon of xanthan gum.
Blend for several minutes until it looks milk like.
Strain through a sieve. If you prefer to remove all the black specks of hemp seed you will need to pass it through something finer such as a muslin cloth or jelly bag – I usually just use a sieve but see from the photos I took earlier that I used a jelly bag the first time. As the xanthan gum makes the liquid slightly gloopy this may take a while and a bit of assistance from the edge of a spoon – if it is really too thick to go through pop it back into the blender and add a bit more water – you want the consistency to be slightly thick but not too gloopy. It is easier to add more water than to add more xanthan gum which doesn’t seem to mix in properly after the first step.
Decant into a bottle or jar and store in the fridge ready for use.
Don’t forget to scrape the sieved out hemp seeds out of the sieve/jelly bag and store those for another use – I have so far used them in cereal bars, granola or added to the next loaf of bread/pizza.
And that’s it – it should keep for 3-5 days in the fridge. Do let me know if you make it and how you get on. And I would love to hear any other plant milk making tips.
Update to add that it also tastes good with 1tbsp of chia seeds added at the beginning – you can leave those to soak for a bit first as they absorb liquid and swell up.
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So you want to use a natural deodorant? It is really easy (and cheap) to make your own using the simple recipe below. No complicated or hard to find ingredients required. And the essential oils are optional.
I was fortunate enough to only need to try a couple of DIY deodorant recipes before finding one that really works for me. This recipe came to me sort of by word of mouth – via a Facebook discussion group. I have tweaked it only a little – by reducing the amount of essential oils – but they are not an essential ingredient.
This is a deodorant rather than an anti perspirant so it won’t stop you sweat, but it will stop you being smelly.
You can see the recipe above but for clarity the ingredients are:
2 tablespoons of either cornflour or arrowroot – my card box from Waitrose did have a plastic liner but I believe you can buy it in Lidl without. Either way the box will last for quite a while.
1 tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda – I bought this card box from Wilco but you can also find it in most hardware stores.
2 tablespoons of coconut oil – this glass jar was from Aldi and much cheaper than buying from a health food store.
Plus a few drops of essential oils. I chose tea tree oil for it’s antibacterial properties, and because I happened to have some already. I also added a few drops of lavender to my most recent batch for fragrance. Just be sure to choose oils that are skin safe.
If the coconut oil is a little too hard to mix in easily you can soften it slightly either in a bain marie or for a few seconds in a microwave. Then stir in the other ingredients until well blended and spoon into a suitable container. I reused an old hair wax tin to store mine but I have also used glass jars for smaller amounts for travelling or gifts – use whatever you happen to have. If you have an old stick deodorant you may be able to refill that.
To use just apply to the underarms with your fingers taking care to rub in before dressing to avoid transferring any oil to your clothes.
You will find that in a summer heatwave it may turn to liquid – you can just keep it in the fridge for a while before applying but it should still work well. I find it fine for travelling during colder months but do have a back up bought tub of Trust deodorant for hot summer holidays just to avoid any leakage in transit.
I have previously written about the places I shop for consumable items locally – but what about the other things you sometimes need or want to buy?
WRAP describe a circular economy as an alternative to a traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose) in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life.
With the circular ecomony in mind I tend to adopt a ” second hand first” to those non – consumables I sometimes need to buy. Fortunately Leighton Buzzard is very well supplied with places to find some lovely pre-owned things. This post focusses on the shops you can look through in town, but if you scroll to the end you will find a link to online sharing/ swapping and selling sites operating locally.
Ollie Vees – Market Square This is a fantastic vintage store selling clothing, sewing patterns, records, buttons and much more. They also hold regular events including sewing and making meet – ups.
Peacock Mews Collectables A collection of several shops along Peacock Mews selling a variety of vintage collectables including clothing and furniture and other items – pop in for a browse.
Allsorts – Clarence Road – a house clearance business selling a variety of second hand furniture, electrical goods and antiques.
I mainly tend to shop in the charity shops – of which we have a good selection ( and there are probably more I have missed). I can almost always find what I want in one of these – with Oxfam being my personal favourite.
As well as the local shops, there is a wealth of local sharing/swapping/selling groups in the areas, mostly online, forming part of the local circular economy. Some of these are listed at the bottom of a previous post: 7 top tips to reduce your household waste
So, most of the time there is no need to leave town for a shopping fix, and no need to buy new, saving the resources involved in buying new things, and saving other people’s unwanted items from being thrown away.
Do you enjoy having Christmas crackers but worry about the waste?
Of course they are not an essential, but they are a traditional part of the Christmas lunch table setting in the UK, and fortunately a simple one to replace with a less waste, homemade version.
I have been making my own for the last couple of years, using loo roll or other cardboard tubes and decorating with various bits and bobs saved through the year. All you need to buy is the cracker bangs ( I found some unpackaged in lovely local shop Room No 9 in Leighton Buzzard but you can order online or find in craft shops) and your choice of gifts.
The first year I decorated them in the foil wrappers from chocolate bars. They weren’t very neat but the family still really enjoyed them. Next time I used some colourful pictures from a calendar and had improved the technique a little. I have saved some glossy wrapping paper that couldn’t be recycled to reuse this year.
The first step is to place the cracker bang carefully inside your loo roll or other cardboard tube and place it on top of the paper you will be wrapping it in to check for size – you want the cracker bang ends to be just covered. Mark where your cardboard tube comes to on the inside of the paper .
Then, removing the card tube again for now, carefully fold one end of the paper over to the mark you have made and cut some small slits – these will help you squeeze the ends of the paper in to tie them neatly. It’s a good idea to try this out on a spare piece of paper first to make sure you have the slits in the right place and to see how big to make them. Do the same at the other end.
Now, wrap the paper around the card tube with the cracker bang in and fasten with a small piece of tape. Tie your ribbon around one end.
Now fill up the cracker with your chosen gift and joke. I find jokes online to print out, or reuse jokes from the crackers at my work Christmas lunch – even better write your own. We already have a set of Santa hats which are too large to fit in the cracker so we place those at the table separately but you could of course make paper hats if you prefer.
I try to source the gifts from local charity shops. Last year I found these gorgeous wooden tree decorations which just fitted in, and which can be reused for the tree every year. When I haven’t found anything suitably small preowned I have filled the crackers with sweets or lottery scratch cards. Homemade sweets or biscuits would be another good idea if you can leave filling the crackers until close to the day.
Once the gifts are in, all you need to do is tie the second ribbon to close the end – and label them if you have personalised the gifts.
I’m not the most artistic or neat and tidy person so these always end up looking homemade, but there is nothing wrong with that – the family seem to enjoy them and there is hopefully no plastic tat to go straight in the bin.
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Those of you who follow me on Instagram will know that we managed to grown a few humungous green squash of some uncertain variety in our back garden this year. The last one harvested this week weighed in at over 5 kg!
I was expecting them to be a green variety of butternut but they turned out to be much less flavoursome than the nutty butternuts so I have had to be inventive and a bit sneaky to get the family to eat them, especially my generally vegetable averse son who wouldn’t go near anything if he thought it contained squash.
So, I have been experimenting – these are a couple of recipes I will be making again – especially since hubby and son are off to buy a pumpkin to carve today so there will be even more to use.
Easy Pumpkin Pizza Dough
Home made pizza is a firm favourite in our house. We like that the toppings can be tailored to each family member to avoid waste.
I searched for pumpkin pizza dough recipes and came up with several paleo or gluten free versions but I wanted to make it as close as possible to our usual pizza base so no-one would know the difference, and to keep it as simple as possible, because who has time for recipes involving about 20 ingredients? So I experimented with a basic pizza dough recipe:
375g bread flour (or 00 pasta flour)
1tsp quick yeast or easy bake yeast
1tbsp olive oil
Approx 400g pumpkin or other winter squash (enough to make approx 250ml puree)
Start by preparing your pumpkin or squash puree – peel and dice then cook the squash until just tender. I steamed mine as I wanted to keep the flavour fairly bland so it wouldn’t be detected in the finished product but you could roast for a fuller flavour. Steaming the squash took about 10-15 mins. Roasting may take a little longer.
Mash or blend the cooked squash and allow to cool.
Put the remaining ingredients into a bowl and make a well in the centre.
Measure out 250 ml of cooled puree – don’t worry if you have less than this as you can add water to the dough if necessary.
Start by adding about 200 ml of the puree to the dry ingredients and mix well to form a dough – if the dough is still dry add more puree a little at a time. If it is too wet you can add a little more flour. Once it feels about right knead the dough on a well floured surface for about 5 mins until smooth and elastic.
Leave the dough in a warm place for at least 30 mins to rise – it should roughly double in size. You can leave it in the bowl covered with a damp tea towel, or simply leave it on the counter covered by your upturned mixing bowl.
Preheat your oven and oiled pizza trays to 200 degrees C.
Cut the dough into portions and roll to desired size and thickness on a well floured surface. This quantity will make 2 x 30cm round pizzas or more smaller, thinner pizzas. We usually make quite a thin crust so I split the dough in half – put half the dough in the freezer and then made pizzas for 3 of us with the remaining half.
Bake the rolled dough on the hot tray for about 5 mins before removing from the oven, turning the base over and then adding your desired toppings. This will help the base go crispy. Return to the oven for approx 10 mins for a thin base, longer for a thicker base.
UPDATE – THERE IS AN EVEN EASIER WAY: This came out so well I was confident enough to experiment with using pumpkin puree in my bread machine. If you have a bread machine with a pizza dough programme you can use that and simply replace the water with an equal volume of pumpkin or squash puree. I also tried the same with a regular white bread programme to make bread with hidden veg content. No-one noticed the difference!
Easy Pumpkin Pasta
I made this with butternut squash a few weeks ago. The method is pretty much the same as for wholemeal dried pasta but I used white flour and substituted the squash puree for the water. Pasta has to be my son’s favourite meal so if I can crack finding a homemade version he really likes it will be great.
3 cups plain flour or pasta flour
1 cup pumpkin or squash puree
Peel, dice and cook your butternut squash or pumpkin until tender by either boiling, steaming or roasting. I started mine off on the hob and left it cooking in my Wonderbag while I was out at a class. Perfectly cooked by the time I came home.
Mash or blend the squash to a smooth puree:
Mix the dough either by hand or in a food processor – with the ratio of 1 cup puree to 2 of flour until you have a nice dough. I didn’t measure it carefully and used too much puree so the dough on the right is rather too wet. This is easily rectified by adding more flour until the consistency is right. (At this point I found I had run out of flour so had to dash to the shop for some more ).
Roll the dough into a ball, cover (with an upturned mixing bowl ) and leave to rest for about 10 mins.
Then, on a well floured surface, roll the dough out to be nice and thin – thinner than I managed would be good – I definitely need more practice, or a pasta machine.
Leave them as noodles or form into your desired shape. Either cook in boiling water for a couple of minutes or dry for future use. When dry they will need to be cooked for 8-10 minutes.
Happy to report that both the pizza and pasta were happily eaten with son none the wiser that he had been eating more vegetables.
As well as these I made spicy soup, cheesey pumpkin scones and pumpkin muffins, pumpkin marmalade which if it passes the taste test will be given as Christmas gifts, and have lots of diced and pureed squash in the freezer for future use so would love to hear more ideas for using up that pumpkin and squash. What’s your favourite recipe?
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I have never been a great fan of pasta, but my son absolutely loves it – he would eat pasta and pesto every single day if I’d let him. But in the UK it is difficult to find pasta without plastic packaging, particularly if you want to buy in large quantities (there are some options mainly in card but with a small plastic window). Having heard it was easy I thought I should give it a go – and it really is easy – and it got the taste approval from my fussy child. You can easily buy flour in a paper bag which you can either recycle or put in your home compost.
3 cups wholemeal bread flour
1 cup hot water
Making the dough:
If you are using a food processor fit the dough attachment.
Add the flour, pour in the hot water and switch it on. It will turn to breadcrumbs to start with but stick with it and it will soon come together into a dough.
Turn out onto a floured surface.
If you are making the dough by hand place it in a large mixing bowl, make a well in the flour and pour in the hot water a little at a time and mix together either with your hands or a wooden spoon. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until it comes together in a dough.
Press the dough down into a flat round. Divide into 4 quarters (this will make it more manageable to roll out later).
Cover with a clean dry tea towel and leave for 10-15 minutes.
You could freeze all or some of the dough at this point for later use if you wish.
Now you can begin to turn it in into your desired shapes:
Working with one piece of dough at a time roll it very thinly.
Then you can get creative and cut and shape to your heart’s desire – but be warned, this bit can take a long time. I like to look on it as something therapeutically undemanding on the brain to do while listening to some muscic but you could get the kids to help or invite a friend round for a natter while you work. Slicing into lasagne sheets or into strips for tagliatelle is probably the quickest. I tried to make spirals on my first attempt but decided this time that bows might be easier. For bows I rolled the dough then cut into strips which I then cut across into small rectangles as shown below. To turn into bows you simply squeeze them together in the middle.
Drying your pasta:
If you don’t want to use your pasta straight away you can dry it for storage. As I have an electric dehydrator I used that but if you don’t you can just spread them out and leave somewhere airy until dry.
The time it takes to dry depends on the size and thickness of the shapes you have made – I dried the small bows for 3-4 hours at 50 degrees C. The first batch of spirals were larger and took 4-5 hours. The best thing is to keep an eye on them and remember to swap around the trays from time to time since the different levels may dry at different speeds.
Once fully dry you can transfer to a storage jar until needed and cook as you would shop bought dried pasta – around 8-10 mins. If you skipped the drying part you’ll need to shorten the cooking time.
Now I know how to make basic pasta dough I’m next going to try to sneak some vegetables into the ingredients – as he’ll happily eat shop bought green pea pasta, and red lentil pasta without realising. I have seen people making pasta from pumpkin puree and flour as an example – but any recommendations on things to try are welcome – please comment below.
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Du zéro déchet à l'écofrugalité. Faire Mieux avec moins ! Une famille qui se sensibilise aux gestes éco-citoyens et qui cherche à réduire son empreinte sur l'environnement par la réduction de ses déchets, la recherche d'économie d'énergie, de l'anti-gaspi ... Changer ses habitudes pour protéger son environnement : c'est possible!