Christmas Crackers – Zero Waste Style

Home made Christmas Crackers
Home made Christmas crackers

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.

If you have enjoyed reading please leave a comment and  use the links to follow the blog, or follow my linekd Facebook and Twitter account.  Thanks

 

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Looking for new ways to eat your Halloween pumpkin? Try these recipes for Pumpkin Pizza Dough and Pumpkin Pasta.

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:

Ingredients:

  • 375g bread flour (or 00 pasta flour)
  • 1tsp quick yeast or easy bake yeast
  • 1tsp sugar
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • Approx 400g pumpkin or other winter squash  (enough to make approx 250ml puree)

Method:

  • 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.

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  • 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.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups plain flour or pasta flour
  • 1 cup pumpkin or squash puree

Method:

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:

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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.

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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.

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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?

If you liked reading please use the links on the page to follow the blog or follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram where I share ideas more frequently .

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The easy way to make waste free, wholemeal dried pasta

Who knew that pasta was so simple to make?

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.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups wholemeal bread flour
  • 1 cup hot water

Method:

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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8 easy ways you can stop getting junk mail

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Are you suffocating under a mountain of unwanted junk mail?  Did you know you can opt out of much of it?

Once again this morning I had to chase the postman down the road to hand him back a bundle of unaddressed marketing leaflets.  Fortunately I don’t have to do this too often as we have opted out of such leaflets with Royal Mail but sometimes he forgets.  The “no junk mail” sign on the door is of little assistance to him as almost everyone has one. Did you know that even if you put a “no junk mail”  sign on your door, Royal Mail is still obliged to deliver it to you unless you have specifically registered with them to opt out?

To reduce the amount of unsolicited mail you receive requires several different approaches but it is relatively simple to reduce it significantly by filling in a few forms.

  1. Opt out with Royal Mail  How do I opt-out?.  They will send you a form to complete which you need to return by post.  It will take a few weeks to come into effect, but should soon make a noticeable difference.
  2. Register with the Direct Marketing Association’s Your Choice Scheme.  Again you will need to complete a form.   Telephone: 020 7291 3300 or email for details: yourchoice@dma.org.uk
  3. Register online with the Mail Preference Service

The above opt-out schemes deal primarily with unaddressed mail. So there are a number of further things you may wish to do.

4. Contact your local electoral registration office to  opt out of the open electoral register

5. Remove yourself from mailing lists.  It’s easy to end up on a mailing list these days when you buy something – particularly if there is a loyalty card involved.  We tend to still get the occasional catalogue from places we have shopped at once and are not likely to visit again.  It’s worth taking the time to phone them up or have a look at their website to remove yourself from these lists because as it is addressed to you, it will still be delivered.

6.  When you sign up for something, look for the box you have to tick or untick relating to marketing and other information – this should minimise you getting on other unwanted email lists.

7.  Letterbox sticker – this is still useful to discourage the leaflets that are delivered directly by local tradespeople and businesses or anyone else not covered by the measures above. You can buy ready made stickers or make your own, but unless your door is sheltered you’ll need to ensure it is weather resistant – the ink kept washing off my first DIY effort so I bought a notice in a local hardware store, but even that has since been moved to inside the glass.

8.  If you still receive unsolicited mail try to either return it or contact the sender to ask that they don’t send it again. If we all did this they might start to get the message.

Simple steps but ones that might save you from a mountain of takeaway menus.  And if you do actually need the menu you can generally find it online.

If you found this useful please share with your friends and let me know by commenting below.  Use the links to follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

7 top tips to reduce your household waste

Is your bin full of packaging waste? Are you tired of putting the bin out for collection every week?  Then you might like these tips for reducing your household waste:

  1. Buy food and other items unpackaged: take your own bags and containers when you shop and avoid prepacked items. Write a list to buy only what you need. You can read more here about my favourite places to by unpackaged in Leighton Buzzard. The market and independent shops are great for this.16807726_10210907726622487_2055995162207271710_n
  2. If you can’t find it unpackaged, choose glass, paper or card over plastics, or investigate refills:  as well as being made from non-recyclable fossil fuels, plastic is harder to recycle and can often only be “downcycled”.  It therefore likely to end up in landfill sooner, and takes centuries to biodegrade.  Glass and paper however can be endlessly recycled and paper can be home composted.  Easy swaps from plastic include switching from plastic tubs to butter in paper (Waitrose), from tea bags (which often actually contain plastic as well as coming in plastic wrap)  to loose tea in card (PG Tips is widely available), oils in plastic to oils in glass bottles (you can also get refills of flavoured oils at Dobbies in Bletchley),  bar soap (bought loose or in card), refills of laundry and washing up liquid (in Leighton Buzzard these are available at Nature’s Harvest), laundry powder in card (Aldi), dishwasher powder and salt in card (Waitrose or Sainsbury), milk in glass bottles (Pecks Farm deliver in the Leighton Buzzard area). You can find out more about plastic in tea bags in this article from Treading My Own Path and a list of easy swaps in this article from Happier, Sustainable, Less Skint.
  3. If you can only find products in plastic buy the largest size available for less packaging pro rata as long as the product stores well and you will actually use it all.  For example we buy 5kg bags of basmati and long grain rice from the world food section of the supermarket – if you live close to an Asian supermarket you may have more options and be able to find rice in paper.
  4. Use reusables: take your own coffee cup or water bottle out, use cloth handkerchiefs, cleaning cloths, washable feminine hygiene products such as cloth pads or a menstrual cup, instead of disposables.  Take your lunch to work in a reusable lunch box ( I have a lovely stainless steel one from A Slice of Green but we also continue to use a lot of plastic ones we had already as well as using containers such as ice cream tubs). Extend the reuse of products by buying second-hand and donating things you no longer need – as well as the charity shops there are numerous local sharing groups for giving away or requesting items, often for free – you may be surprised what things people can make use of when you no longer need them, and how often someone else no longer needs something you do.   You can find links to some of them at the end of this post -a search for local similar groups on Facebook is always worthwhile as I have only mentioned a couple I use in the list.  Repair things rather than replacing if you can.   Many areas (although sadly I’ve not found one near me yet) have repair cafes where you can get help to fix your broken items.  If you don’t have one near you can often find information about repairing things online (local people offered me plenty of advice on recent problems with my washing machine via local discussion group Nextdoor – in the list of links at the end).
  5. Have a go at making your own: If you have time bread, cakes and pasta can easily be made from ingredients largely sold in paper bags. White vinegar is great for cleaning and can be bought in glass bottles. You can make your own deodorant and apparently toothpaste from coconut oil (glass from Aldi) and bicarbonate of soda (in card from Selections or Wilco) with a few drops of essential oils. I have saved links to lots of useful recipes on my boards on Pinterest.
  6. Reduce your food waste: meal plan to avoid overbuying and use your freezer to save leftovers. Love Food Hate Waste has lots of tips. Washed peelings can be saved up to make stock, and fruit scraps can be used to make scrap vinegar or tepache.

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    Home made apple scrap vinegar
  7. Compost as much as you can – pretty much anything organic can go in. Like many councils Central Bedfordshire offers discounted compost bins and information.

 

If you want to know more and are on Facebook, the friendly groups Zero Waste Heroes and Journey to Zero Waste UK are great places for sharing ideas or asking questions about reducing your waste.

Local sharing groups and other useful links:

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This post is being shared on A Green and Rosie Life’s Going Green Linky for March 2017 and Skip The Bag’s Waste Less Wednesday Blog Hop

 

 

My favourite places for shopping without packaging 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 18 months 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 now 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.

I now try to buy food, and other items, unpackaged whenever possible.  This tends to be easier done when shopping at the local market and independent shops than in the supermarket, although the supermarkets do tend to have some loose fruit and veg – remember to bring your own bags or containers – 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:

Leighton Buzzard Market : Harris and Sons Fruit and Veg – on the South side of the High Street on Tuesdays and Saturdays.  Happy to sell you fruit and veg directly into your own bags.

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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 – 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 seller at the craft market 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

House of Coffee – Peacock Mews.  They roast coffee in the small shop and are happy to grind it 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.

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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.

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 are still in plastic).

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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.

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.

Model Farm – Hockliffe Road If you are passing ( just 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.

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 local produce and loose fruit and veg.

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?

 

Have you shopped packaging free anywhere else locally – please let me know? This will be useful to update my chapter of  The Zero Waste Travel Companion  which is updated from time to time.

More posts to follow on other local places to shop with reduced or plastic free packaging, and on the local circular economy, where you can often get things you need cheaply or for free, as well as passing on things you no longer need rather than throwing them away.

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

If you would like to read more about some of the other ways we have gradually reduced our waste, these blog posts are a good start:

You can now follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram where I share some of our daily waste saving in more regular short posts.

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How to impress with minimal effort – Easy Chocolate Caramel Tart

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Easy Chocolate Caramel Tart

When it comes to Christmas and New Year entertaining, easy is good.  Well, let’s be realistic, easy is good anytime.

Last week I made Banoffee Pie, to take to family for a Boxing Day tea. Since they started selling ready tinned caramel so you don’t have to boil a tin of condensed milk for hours Banoffee Pie has been my go to easy dessert.  But this dessert, inspired by Millionaire’s Shortbread, is even easier.  Yes really.

Ingredients:

  • 250g biscuits ( I used digestives as I had half a pack left from the banoffee pie but I bet something oaty like Hob Nobs would work really well)
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 1 tin caramel (I used Carnation)
  • 200g block of milk chocolate ( I used Choceur from Aldi which comes in easily recyclable card packaging and is free from palm oil)
  • Optional decoration ( I used Dr Oetker Gold Shimmer Spray but  as I subsequently noticed this contains palm oil  I would omit or seek an alternative in future)

( I have mentioned which products I used for convenience only – this post contains no affiliate links)

Method:

  • Grease a flan dish or baking tray well.
  • Crush the biscuits either using a food processor or by wrapping them carefully in a clean tea towel or (ideally cloth) bag and bashing with a rolling pin.
  • Melt the butter – I did this in the microwave, setting the timer to 30 secs and checking and stirring every 10 secs or so until completely melted, but melt in a pan if you prefer.
  • Stir the butter into the crushed biscuits until well combined.
  • Tip the mixture carefully into your flan dish and press down with the back of a wooden spoon.
  • Chill for approx 1 hour until firm.
  • Spread the caramel carefully over the biscuit base and chill again until you are ready to top with the chocolate.
  • Break the chocolate into small pieces and melt in a bain marie or in a jug in the microwave.  I prefer the microwave as it is quicker but as with the butter check and stir it frequently until just melted.
  • Pour the melted chocolate onto the caramel carefully, gently spreading with a spatula until the top is covered.
  • Decorate as required and chill again until the chocolate has set.

To serve cut carefully with a sharp knife and have your plate or bowl at the ready – it will crumble!  And enjoy. Remember, easy is good.

Meat Free January

I don’t set New Year’s Resolutions, and I suppose this isn’t really one anyway as I’m not proposing it for the whole year.

We were out for lunch yesterday, combined with a trip to see the new Star Wars film – I’d just eaten a burger, in a restaurant full of people eating loads of meat a few days after Christmas (perhaps like us they’d just run out sufficient Christmas leftovers to make a decent meal and couldn’t face the supermarket again) when I decided I had probably eaten enough meat over the past few days to last me for a month (I don’t generally eat meat every day).

So I decided that I am going to have a meat free January.  I mentioned my idea to my husband when we got home and said that the rest of the family didn’t have to join in and he came up with a whole range of meat free meals that we could both enjoy (most of which we have from time to time anyway) .  Hurrah!  I’m not sure this means he is officially joining in but that at least I can do meat free main meals for us. There are only a few meat free things I will get son to eat – quorn chilli (as he hasn’t yet realised it’s not meat) and pasta with pesto ( which he would probably eat every day if he could), so we’ll still do some meat dishes for him but that shouldn’t be a problem – we often cook separately for him anyway as he’s such a fussy eater, and we’re not often both home by the time he needs to eat.

I’m sharing this publicly at the start as it will help me achieve it.  The one exception I’m going to allow is to use the turkey stock I made on Christmas Day – as long as it is in an otherwise meat free dish, because I don’t want it to go to waste.

When I lived alone I didn’t eat meat that often, maybe once a week so I’m hoping it wont be too hard, and I have plenty of meat free recipes in my repetoire.  I’m off to soak some chick peas and kidney beans now ready for some chilli and curries.

Wish me luck.  I’ll be sharing how I get on over on Instagram

 

 

 

Christmas and New Year party clothes.

How do you decide what to wear for those Christmas and New Year parties?

Do you have to have the latest fashion? Do you buy something new, or do you start with a rummage through the wardrobe to see what you have already?  Perhaps you already have an outfit that could be refreshed with different accessories?

Last Christmas I was on a mission to not buy any new clothes, including any that were just new to me, from July until after Christmas – you can read more about that here:  No new clothes – learning to love the clothes I have and realising I actually don’t need more.  So when I decided to attend my work’s Christmas presentation evening for the first time, I had to come up with something suitable without buying anything. There was a black and silver dress code for the evening. I already had a gorgeous fitted black satin skirt from Coast, bought in a charity shop a few years earlier, which I had never yet worn as it really didn’t go with any of my shoes.  As I wasn’t buying anything I asked a friend with the same sized feet if she had a pair of smart shoes I could borrow.   She came up trumps with a perfect pair of black court shoes, which she had herself bought from a charity shop and only wore occasionally for parties.  My auntie lent me a black lacey blouse and a silver scarf and I was good to go.  I really liked this outfit although I sadly don’t seem to have taken any photos.

Over the year I have been keeping my eye on the local charity shops for a suitable new (to me) top to go with the same black skirt without any luck.  But, whilst in looking instead for items to go in the Christmas crackers I was making, I happened to spot a lovely Monsoon tunic dress. Sometimes the best finds are when you’re not actually looking.  So here was my outfit – an evening dress for £5.99.  And I was able to borrow the same pair of shoes from my friend.  I wore jewellery I had already (a previous Christmas gift from my husband) and accessorised with  a Planet handbag, also from a charity shop a few years earlier.  My coat and scarf are also charity shop sourced – though only the scarf is new to me this year.

 

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So, why buy preowned?

There are plenty of advantages to buying preowned.  I’ve always bought some of my clothes this way because:

  •  It’s cheap
  • It’s fun – you never know what you will find, and there is something different to look at every time
  • You don’t have to follow the crowd
  • You can often get much better quality items than you might afford  or want to spend on otherwise

But recently I have been trying to source most of my clothing this way with other reasons also in mind:

  • It saves the use of new resources, in terms of the material and the energy and shipping that goes into the production of new clothes
  • I’m not supporting “fast fashion” often made by workers in poor conditions to make it cheap and disposable
  • I like the fact that my money is supporting a charity rather than a multinational clothes shop
  • Because I live in a small town, I can also find the things I want locally and on foot more easily this way

Have you got any favourite ways of shopping or favourite finds?

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Our journey towards zero waste – a year on

We have been a relatively waste aware family for some time.  At least I thought so.  Back in September last year our wheelie bin was only ever half full on the fortnightly collection day and with 2 compost bins in the garden, our garden waste bin was only occasionally used. Our recycling bin was however usually filled to the top. Still, not too bad for a family of 3? Cloth nappies and some other reusables had already been a no brainer, and I thought I already avoided excessive packaging.

I was looking online for a clip about zero waste week from a few years back that I wanted to share with a friend who was struggling with overfull bins.  It turned out to be zero waste week again right then and through that, with the help of Rachelle Strauss, I found my way to the Zero Waste Heroes Facebook group. Thanks to the amazing and friendly support from the group (and other groups I’ve joined along the way) I soon realised we could reduce our waste by so much more! With this support we have considerably reduced the amount of waste we produce over the past year and a bit. This has involved a change in shopping habits,  a few changes to our diet, and a bit more of making things from scratch, but  I am really pleased that we have been able to make a noticeable reduction without any drastic lifestyle changes.

We started out by asking our local council to swap our landfill and garden waste bins for smaller ones. This could already accommodate our fortnightly waste.  By gradually making a few more swaps for reuseables and being more aware of waste when shopping we now only put our smaller landfill bin out for collection, usually less than half full, every 6 to 8 weeks. The garden waste bin is still used occasionally.  We don’t have a food waste collection but have pretty much eliminated food waste to landfill by composting more and getting more out of things that would normally be wasted such as making stock from vegetable peelings and vinegar from fruit peelings (my first batch is on the go now).

The recycling has been harder to make significant inroads into but finally, after more than a year of trying to avoid packaging and reducing the amount of junk mail through the door we are at the point where we can ask the council for a smaller recycling bin too.  We have  just about reached the point where it is regularly only half full each fortnight.

So, we are still on a journey of waste reduction, but we are making progress.  I really wanted to write this post to say thank you for the support of the fantastic online community of fellow waste reducers , on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and fellow bloggers. We would not have got anywhere near this point without you all, and I look forward to continuing the journey.

I am sharing this post on Waste Less Wednesday with Skip the Bag

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