Wardrobe Revamp – Preloved Style

Since I wrote about not needing any more clothes No new clothes – learning to love the clothes I have and realising I actually don’t need more., and successfully extended my challenge to not acquire any new or new to me clothing from an initial 4 month period to 10 months, I have really fallen off the wagon when it come to clothes shopping.  Over the last 6 weeks I have acquired, I think, 3 new dresses, 3 new tops, a scarf and a necklace .

But do you know, I don’t feel guilty about it at all – all my recent acquisitions have been pre-owned and purchased in aid of charity, at a friend’s fantastic clothes swap party and the local Oxfam Shop.    These are great ways of having a bit of a wardrobe makeover without breaking the bank, and in a more sustainable way than buying cheap new fast fashion. And this is pretty much all I have bought over the past year.

Buying pre-loved is an easy way to be part of a circular economy, prolonging the life of items and preventing (or at the very least delaying) them ending up in landfill.  My new clothes were all acquired without a need for more resources going into clothes production, and in turn many of the items I no longer wanted were passed on to new owners.

Swishing Party (Clothes Swap)

This has to be my favourite way of looking for some new clothes. Even though I didn’t end up with quite what I wanted this time, it was a great social event.

A friend kindly opened her house to host a swishing party which was really well attended.  I had a bit of a wardrobe rummage and managed to come up with 2 coats, 2 skirts, 4 pairs of trousers, 1 pair of shorts, 1 cardigan, 1 blouse, 2 hats, 2 necklaces, 2 belts and 1 handbag to take along.  Wow, that’s 18 things I had in my wardrobe that I didn’t need or want!  And that’s not counting the ones I couldn’t quite decide about, some of which went later.  I hoped to come home with a dress, ideally a shirt dress.

Clothes swap parties work in a number of ways but for this one, there was a £5 entry fee with clothes sold at a flat rate of 50p per item.  I also took along a bottle of Cava for the raffle and some Prosecco for the evening.  All proceeds were donated to the Red Cross.

As you can see from the poorly focussed pictures above (and I was only on my first glass of prosecco at that point), everyone had managed to turn out a lot of things from their wardrobes, so there was plenty of rummaging to be done, with clothes and bags spread across several rooms in the house and bedrooms serving as shared changing rooms.  Some people knew each other, others didn’t, but trying on clothes together is a great way of breaking down any barriers and we were soon trying things and passing them around between us to see who they suited and fitted best.  A few glasses of Prosecco probably helped!  At the first round of trying things on I decided on a T shirt and was persuaded about a pair of jeans.  Remembering I’d been wishing I had a larger scarf to cover up with when I had caught the sun a week earlier I managed to find one of those too. Sadly, although there were lots of dresses, I didn’t find quite the one for me.

After much rummaging, chatting, drinking and trying on a few more things we congregated for the raffle – there were so many prizes this went on for a while and I eventually won a cute little manicure set.

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At this point in the evening the clothes rails were still bulging so, as some people were starting to leave, I suggested a second round of rummaging.  This turned up a couple of blouses, a T shirt and a necklace to add to my earlier buys.

A couple of the items did end up going straight off to the charity shop when I tried them on at home, where I am sure they got more for them than the £1 I had paid, along with a few extra items I cleared out subsequently.  In total I had spent £8 (excluding the raffle and wine) on a whole load of new things to refresh my wardrobe. And I did achieve my goal of coming home with fewer things than I had donated!

At the end of the evening I helped with the clear up and took a bag of items to the nearly new  shop in town where they earnt some additional money for the Red Cross Charity – the event raised around £350.  I would guess about 10 bin bags full of good quality leftover clothings  were also donated to a variety of charity shops around town from where they hopefully found a good new home as well as raising additional funds.

 

Dresses

Still on the hunt for a dress I popped into my local Oxfam shop and over a few weeks managed to pick up not one, but 3 lovely dresses. My wardrobe has definitely become more dress orientated over the past few years , primarily pre-loved.

The first is a Per Una dress from Marks and Spencer which cost me £6.99.  This is perfect for the office, and happens, by chance, to match perfectly the grey and green necklace I had picked up at the swishing party.

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Per Una Dress for work

My next purchase was a bit of an impulse buy , which I am trying to avoid. We were off out for a walk on my birthday and I spotted a lovely green cardigan in the shop window.  As I was still thinking about it when we walked back I popped in to have a look but sadly it had gone already.  As it was my birthday I had a bit of a rummage through the rails anyway and came up with this casual cotton dress from  Mistral which will be perfect for holidays.  I think this one was £7.99.

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Holiday Dress

I then received an invitation to a family wedding.  I wasn’t going to buy something new but having tried on a few things from my wardrobe,  nothing felt quite right, and I noticed I had put on a little weight round the thighs since a cycling injury last year  which had forced a hopefully temporary reduction in exercise. In a spare 10 mins on the way to pick son up from his town centre school I nipped into Oxfam again and found this lovely Phase Eight dress which is perfect for the occasion and also fits perfectly.  It even goes well with a grey cardigan I have already.  A top quality dress for £12.99.

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Phase Eight Dress for a family wedding

 

I admit to buying another unsuitable dress along the way from a local Facebook group for £4 which I donated to Oxfam along with a couple of old dresses replaced by my new items. and a gorgeous dress from Cancer Research UK’s ebay shop which didn’t fit so is on its way back to find a more suitable new home. You can also buy online from Oxfam

Together all these new items,  including the clothes swap and the items I donated straight on again, set me back less than £40. This is all I have spent on clothes since last July.

And the quest for a shirt dress?  Well I’m about to try dyeing one I have already to give it a new lease of life. Will see how that goes.

What is your favourite way of buying new clothes?

 

 

 

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Water Saving Week #1

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This week, I’m excited to be sharing a guest post from my dad who is really good at saving water.

Water Saving Week 2016 runs from 21st – 25th March and is being promoted by Waterwise  who have loads more water saving tips to share every day this week.

Now, over to dad:

SAVING WATER

Water Butts:-Firstly get some water butts to collect as much ‘free’ water as possible. You won’t usually need to water the garden in the winter so the water can be used to flush toilets.

Flushing toilets is one of the heaviest uses of water. Try to do it only when necessary. Keep a bucket handy to fill with rainwater or other ‘saved’ water and use that to flush.

Have your cisterns fitted with dual flush and/or adjust the float to use the minimum amount of water necessary (don’t overdo it or you’ll end up flushing twice, so defeating the object.)

Some people put a brick or similar in the cistern – again don’t overdo it or you’ll be flushing twice.

Bathwater Don’t empty the bath when you’ve finished – use the water to flush the toilet.

Shower better than a bath. Why not keep a washing up bowl in the shower. Stand in it to wash your feet and then pour it in a bucket to use to flush the toilet.

Hot water When turning on the hot tap you usually let it run until it gets hot. Catch that cold water in a jug and add it to your bucket for toilet flushing.

Dirty water In the summer dirty water, e.g washing up water, water that has been used for cooking, tea dregs, can be kept in a bucket and used for watering the garden. Very few plants suffer from this. While water used for cooking is usually contaminated it is worth checking if it usable for toilet flushing or cooking other things.

Aerated water You can buy taps and shower heads that mix air with the water thus minimising water use.

Plug in It is usually better to put the plug in rather than wash your hands under running water. You could use an antiseptic handwash that doesn’t need water although I haven’t checked the environmental impact of that.

Share a bath. Could be romantic

Outflow In the past I have diverted the outflow from washing machines and dishwashers to use on the garden although this isn’t always practical – depends on the plumbing.

Dishwashers People have different views but I feel they use water more efficiently than washing up in the sink. If used make sure they are as full as possible – ditto washing machines.

Re use plates, cups etc. Do you really need to wash that cup before having another cup of tea? Can that plate be used again for the next meal?

In general think about any liquid before throwing it away– can it be reused?

Thanks Dad. Really useful stuff.

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Vegetable Curry in a Wonderbag

I have been lusting after a Wonderbag for ages.  This year one arrived under our Christmas tree. Hurrah!

Wonderbag

With this new piece of equipment I thought it was about time my I posted a recipe as I haven’t done one for ages, having got really engrossed in reducing our household waste and otherwise reducing our environmental impact. Which is where this fits in quite neatly. The Wonderbag, if you are not familiar with the concept, does not require electricity. You do still need a heat source to start off the cooking process, but once it is piping hot through you pop it into the Wonderbag which is so well insulated that it keeps in enough heat to continue the cooking process for around 4-5 hours ( maybe longer depending what you are cooking).
This suits us well as we have solar panels producing electricity in the middle of the day but we don’t get a chance to eat until quite late. As I work part time I am able to get the dinner going when the sun is out on those days I am home, and still have it hot when we are ready to eat .

For our first go at this I thought I would play it safe with a vegetable curry. The recipe is approximate – feel free to substitute in whatever spare veg you happen to have and vary the spices and quantities to taste, but this is (roughly) what I did. This is enough to serve 4 – as there were only 2 of us eating I just froze half and reheated in the microwave another day.

Start by getting your Wonderbag ready in the place you want to leave it cooking – the instructions suggest you place a trivet or pot stand inside to put your casserole on but you can also line with tea towels – actually I did both this time.

Ingredients:

  • Sweet potato – diced ( I used half of one as that was what we had)
  • Cauliflower – broken into florets ( depending on size half to one)
  • Broccoli – broken into florets ( again I used about half)
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 onion
  • Garlic
  • Approx 2cm cubed ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 1 green chilli, sliced
  • Handful of green beans
  • 400g tin of chick peas, drained and rinsed
  • A few mushrooms
  • A couple of tomatoes, chopped
  • Coconut milk ( either 1 can or the powdered sort diluted in hot water)
  • Vegetable stock ( if you like – I think I actually forgot this and just added water)

Additional spices to taste:

  • Chilli flakes or powder ( 1tsp)
  • Turmeric ( 1 tsp)
  • Cumin ( 1 tsp)
  • Ground Coriander ( 1tsp)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  • In a tight lidded casserole safe for using on the hob, heat a little oil and fry the onion for a few mins till it is starting to soften.
  • Add the garlic, ginger and chilli and continue stirring for a minute, then add the other spices and stir in to release the flavour.
  • Next add the rest of the vegetables, coconut milk and stock – you want enough liquid to just cover all the vegetables ( not too much as the liquid doesn’t thicken/reduce in the Wonderbag).
  • Stir well and bring to the boil, cover tightly with the lid.
  • Boil for around 10 mins to make sure it is really hot.
  • Transfer carefully to the Wonderbag and seal it up tightly with the drawstring.
  • Get on with something else and come back to it up to 4 hours later ( but as it is all vegetables 1-2 may suffice).  Open it carefully – remember it will still be hot.
  • Serve with rice or Naan bread.

And sorry I forgot to take a photo of it before we ate it 

If you like it spicier you can add any additional spices you like or some curry powder. You could cook the rice in the bag too to save even more energy – you’ll need to add it at least 5 mins before you transfer to the Wonderbag and it will absorb some of the sauce.

Wonderbag 2

 

Notes on sourcing ingredients with minimal packaging:

If you are a more expert food grower that myself you may well have some of the ingredients straight from your garden or allotment – in which case I am in awe.  At this time of year we only had homegrown garlic and windowsill chilli and I had to go out to buy the rest.

I generally find the local market to be the easiest way to get unpackaged veg – so I went off with my trusty shopping trolley and filled up with most of the required veg either straight into my trolley or my own cloth bag. The ginger was unpackaged from supermarket.

The only veg I can’t find package free are the green beans – we have decided the best way to get these out of season is frozen so we can buy a larger amount ( less packaging pro rata) and my thinking is that it might also be more local than the out of season fresh ones shipped from Kenya – although I have yet to check this out ( note to self to do this soon). Sometimes we do have luck growing these so would have our own in the freezer, but sadly not this year.

Rice – I buy bulk 5 or 10kg  bags of basmati rice which last us ages – they are still in plastic but again, relatively less than buying the small bags.

Spices – I didn’t buy any especially this time but they are either in glass jars or again bought in bulk size bags.

Chick peas – I tend to buy in tins rather than dried for convenience – at least the tins are recyclable.

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Reducing my waste a little at a time – the temptation of clothes shopping.

Back in early September I decided I was not going to buy any clothes, either new or secondhand, until at least Christmas.  This is in a bid to reduce waste, and declutter my life a little.  So far so good.  If you just stay away from the shops (including the online ones) it’s easy.  I even managed to go into our local Oxfam with donations several times without my usual trick of looking at the stock and coming out with something else while I was there.

The test came on Tuesday when I when my aunt kindly drove me to a job interview which happened to be near a big shopping centre, to combine the car journey with her shopping trip.  I was determined not to buy anything but couldn’t really avoid having a look around the shop while she was in the changing room.

As it turned out I needn’t have worried.   A couple of items immediately grabbed my attention, that were apparently new styles for Next’s autumn/winter collection.  I have seen them both somewhere before – already in my wardrobe.  The navy wide legged trousers look really like a pair I have been wearing to work for around the last 5 years which started out as a charity shop buy which I customised with buttons from a local vintage clothing shop.  And the patterned velour leggings – so similar to some skinny patterned cords I got secondhand on ebay 2 years ago.  So it turns out I don’t need anything new after all.  Ahead of the trend from the charity shop.  Who knew?   Apart from my shoddy photos ( and the crumpled trousers I just got out the wardrobe)  you have to admit they are quite similar?

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This gave me so much confidence to carry on, and that getting to Christmas really won’t be that hard. Will see how long I can manage after that 🙂

10 ways to save energy and reduce your bills

10 simple ways to save energy and reduce your bills.  Installing a smart meter to help you understand how you use your energy will help.

  1. Only put as much water as you need in the kettle.
  2. Don’t leave anything on standby.  If your appliance doesn’t have an accessible off switch you can get  a remote to turn it off. This includes turning off your WiFi overnight. Nigel’s Eco Store has a range of energy saving gadgets and remotes to make this easier.
  3. When you leave your computer for a while remember to put it into sleep mode or use an energy saving button such as the Eco Button
  4. May seem obvious but switch off the lights when you leave the room.
  5. Change your lights to low energy LEDs.
  6. When choosing a new appliance go for the lowest energy option you can.
  7. Check your thermostat and timer settings to be sure you only have the heating on when needed. Turning the thermostat down a degree and wearing an extra layer makes a noticeable difference.
  8. Turn radiators off or at least to low in little used rooms.
  9. When cooking use a steamer to cook more than one thing on a single ring.
  10. Take a shorter shower.

More tips are available from the Energy Savings Trust

Making the most of your solar panels

We have had our solar panels for just over 6 months now. So far solar power has provided around 3/4 of our demand for electricity, and we have been exporting well over half of what we generate back to the grid for others to use.  Of course it has been summer.

Solar Panles - image from: Photovoltaik_Dachanlage_Hannover_-_Schwarze_Heide_-_1_MW
Solar Panles – image from: Photovoltaik_Dachanlage_Hannover_-_Schwarze_Heide_-_1_MW

So, how can we make the most of the energy we produce as we move into winter?

The first and most obvious thing is to match up electricity use to the time the sun is out as much as you can.  To do this best you need to start by understanding how much electricity different applicances use, and how much you can expect to generate at different times of the day which will vary according to the orientation of your panels.  A monitoring device is a great way of doing this.  There are several different ones out there  – such as the Owl Intuition  – which is cloud based and can be viewed using an app (but requires a constant internet connection), and the Wattson which provides a real time display of your generation/consumption and stores data for up to 30 days for uploading to your computer to build up a longer term analysis.  We have the Wattson simply as I like to see what  we are generating without needing to connect to net/turn on an app.

Once you have an idea of what your energy hungry devices are, use them at the times you are generating most electricity, but not all at the same time.  If you are out at work this can be done using timers, staggering when different appliances are on so they do not all reach their peak demand at once.  When using the washing machine or dishwasher make sure you run full loads – putting them on half full just because it’s sunny won’t end up saving you anything as you’ll be using more water and detergent.  We tend to find that starting one or other around 10am ( earlier in summer) means we are generating enough  for our fairly efficient models but this will vary.

This may involve a change to your routine but it is one that is worth making where you can.

I noticed that one of our real power hungry devices was our electric shower, so on the days I don’t go into the office I simply take my shower later in the day, after the school run and a few other chores, when the sun has had a chance to get going.

Another high energy user is the oven.   If you happen to be at home during the day it is worth switching your main meal to lunchtime.  Alternatively you can use a slow cooker to cook your dinner during the day – most have a fairly low consumption, although on my wish list is the Wonderbag which does most of the cooking with no power at all – you get the food to boiling on the stove, and then pop your casserole into this mega-insulated bag which keeps in the heat to cook the rest.  Alternatively, if you need to eat after sunset, which we do most days, make use of the microwave – cook up bigger batches when you can during the day to freeze and then reheat when needed in the microwave which will use relatively less energy because of the faster cooking time.

We also use a bread maker ( as we are trying to reduce our plastic waste) which works well on a timer – the highest consumption, as you would expect, is the bake part at the end, and when we have surplus crops an electric dehydrator to dry out foods for winter use.

Use your monitor to gauge when you are generating more than you are using – the Wattson glows green at such times – and use the spare capacity for charging phones/tablets/batteries etc.

When we next replace our car we might look at the electric options – although at the moment the car that gets most use is not here at the time we are generating.

We are still learning so if anyone has other ideas please do comment.  In time hopefully there will be affordable batteries to store the surplus energy for use in evening.