Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Another Small Eco Product Haul

I was running out of dental floss this week, so I decided to place another order with one of my favourite eco product sites, Natural Collection. I think I've mentioned them before, as I placed an order with them a few months ago, when I stocked up on dishwasher tablets and other toiletry and household cleaning products.

My order this time was a small one, which didn't qualify for free delivery, but I needed the items quickly, so sucked up the delivery fee of £3.95, which isn't very frugal, but there you go.

Anyway, I ordered the following:



More dishwasher tablets (for the stash). These worked out at 20 or 30p each, which sounds a lot, but we use one each day or every other day sometimes.

Fruit and veg wash (x2), which I use on supermarket bought fruit and vegetables. I realised, when looking back at my previous post, that I already had a full bottle of this in the cupboard, so now I have 3.  Looking on the label, however, I noticed it is manufactured in Greece, so dependent upon the outcome of Brexit, it might not be such a bad idea to have a supply stashed away.

Degradable plastic bags, that I intend to use in emergencies, for sandwiches that I take to work, on the days I don't have a clean fabric baggie. (I normally have 3 of these, but two seem to have disappeared or maybe they're in the wash basket)  Anyway, I'm currently using non-degradable plastic bags and I am not proud of myself for doing so, hence I bought these which at £2 for 50 are pretty reasonable, so I bought two packs, which should keep me going for a while.

Dental floss and Dispenser -  This was by far the most interesting purchase. Since my last order, they had a new product in stock, which is made of plastic made from corn starch, making it a slightly better option than the floss I was using before.  I did succumb to buying a new container for it, in spite of already having a glass container that I bought last time I ordered some.

This was mainly because I'm a bit nervous of the glass one breaking.  I know that sounds really wasteful, but I feel a lot better about having a stainless steel dispenser, as it will be much more hard wearing and can just be thrown into a wash bag when travelling. I will just keep the old one as a spare, just in case I lose this new one.

I also bought 2 extra rolls of floss for refilling it, so I'm pretty well stocked up for a while.  These new rolls gave me 20m more floss each than the one I've been using, for pretty much the same money, so I did save money in the long term by changing to the new brand.

This is the old one:



And this is the new one:



A much more practical solution.

In terms of service and delivery, what I love about Natural Collection is, there was no plastic packaging, save for the bottles the veg wash came in. Just scrunched up brown paper to fill up the box, which I can shred and put on the compost heap. Thankfully, there was no corn starch bits used as packing filler, that I would feel obliged to save and find space for until I can re-use them, nor bubble wrap or anything similar. At least it is one online shopping experience that is virtually zero waste and positive, which keeps me going back when I need to.

Monday, 16 September 2019

15 Positive Things about the Summer

I loved Kezzie's recent post, where she listed 15 positive things about her summer. So here's mine.  I'm not sure if I'll reach 15, but I'll try.

1) LB passing all of her GCSE's was a great day this summer.  It probably sounds a bit boring, but it was probably the highlight of the year for me. I was so pleased for her to have done so well, after all the work she put in this year. Her school had a great year with regard to exam results, which was also a good thing for everyone who studies and works there.

2) Growing quite a lot of food on our allotment this summer has been another highlight. It's great to feel a bit more independent of supermarkets, even if it is restricted only to a few months of the year and to just a few types of food.

3) Our trip to Australia was special. We all loved our time on the Gold Coast, despite the fact that OH had to be rescued by a life guard at one point. Did I mention that? I was so thankful to the guy, who appeared out of nowhere and set off on his surf board to bring OH back to shore when he got into trouble in rough waves. They are thoroughly professional, all respect to them. We learned a big lesson that day. Seeing my sister and her family and some members of OH's family, was also very special, of course.

4) Continuing with the simple task of completing my current hand stitched quilt is bringing me much positivity and joy. I just find it so relaxing and being able to make something that will be useful, from resources that I already have around our house, is very satisfying. I always enjoy snuggling under my homemade quilts on the sofa. It hands down beats a bought blanket any day, as they soften and fade so nicely with age and washing.

5) In spite of the ups and downs at work, we've consistently been getting very good sales, especially compared to last year when it was very quiet in the shop over the summer, mainly due to the heat. I'm very grateful for that and it is very satisfying to know you are doing a good job and raising lots of money for the charity.

6) I'm very thankful to have missed the extreme heat of summer whilst in Australia, and that the summer weather has been more mixed this year compared to last year. I like the unpredictability of an English summer.  Rain is good (in moderation).

7) It's been great having LB at home for almost 10 weeks this summer, after leaving school way back in June, following her GCSE's.  Having said this, she's been out and about most of the time, so I haven't seen that much of her, but it's good to know that she's got lots of friends to hang out with and isn't bored and lonely. (Boredom can be good too though, as it does spur creativity)

8) Whilst in Australia, I found a soap saver in an Op Shop (Charity shop) for $1.  I used to have one of these when I was a teenager, until it got thrown away, contents and all. You use it to save up all your slivers of soap and create a new bar with them.  As I am a bar soap user, I'm hoping to make good use of it and I've already warned OH never to throw it away. It takes an age to fill, which was why I was so disappointed when it originally got thrown out, as it was almost full.

9) Finally, we have got around to taking some older plants out of our garden and replacing them with new plants after 3 or 4 years of procrastinating about doing it.  I have a problem letting go of things, plants included, but it feels good to have a garden refresh.

10) Attending another Give and Take event and giving away more items from our home. Many of them belonging to LB, but regardless, it felt good to send them off into the universe, to possibly be of use to someone else and save them from having to spend money.

11) Recycling all of LB's GCSE exercise books felt very good, probably for her too. She didn't want to keep them after her exams.  I did make her keep her Maths and English books just in case, but now she has passed both, they will be going the same way.  I did tear out all of the blank pages and have been using them for making lists and paper pieces for my quilting.

12) Walking with my dog in and around the green spaces near where we live. We love our dog and miss her so much when we go away.  Walking her in summer is so enjoyable and gets me out of the house and into the sunshine on a daily basis. I love to observe the nature around us when we're on walks, whether it is the plants in other peoples' gardens or the hedgerows and trees in parks and other open spaces.

13) One more positive memory from our holiday in Australia was that whilst we stayed on the Gold Coast there was a Country Music Festival one weekend.  We walked down to the beach where they were playing and I got to watch some of Australia's best known Country Music artists play live.  Being a country music enthusiast, it was a great serendipitous moment for me.

14) Letting go of the housework and ironing and caring whether it got done or not was great for me for most of the summer. In any case, it was way to hot most of the time to stand over an iron. LB even started to wash some of her own clothes this summer, which is all good to encourage independence as far as I'm concerned.

15) One of our shop volunteers winning Volunteer of the Year Award across the whole charity I work for, was a great moment this summer.  We're yet to have the Award Event, but the person concerned really deserves it for her commitment and hard work over a number of years.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Taking Steps

This post may be a little controversial, which I apologise for before hand. If you don't agree with what I'm saying here, please feel free not to continue reading this post or to comment in a respectful manner.  Everyone has their own view and opinion, not everyone will agree with me.

This post involves the dreaded B word, that we are all so sick of hearing, but the reality is that it looks like it is looming and there is not long to go now.  As a consequence, I have decided to take things into my own hands, and I'm sure I'm not alone in doing so. I am building a Brexit stash of food, just in case there are shortages if we do crash out without a deal.

I'll start by saying that some people may feel that my thinking on this subject is negative, and if that is the case, so be it, but the way I see it is that I am responsible for feeding my family, and if I feel there is a possibility that food may be difficult to come by after Brexit, or even just more expensive, I am quite entitled to spend my money as I wish and put away some supplies of food, just in case the worst happens.  If that makes me feel more secure, then that is a good thing as far as I'm concerned.

There have been comments in the press about panic buyers creating problems and suggestions that there may be a possibility of empty shelves in the supermarkets after Brexit. It is a fact that none of us know what is going to happen, so I don't consider myself to be a panic buyer, I'm a considered purchaser. I'm looking out for my family, as I'm not convinced that the powers that be both here and in Europe are currently doing this. They are so engrossed in their own political point scoring that they are leaving us feeling very insecure for a very prolonged period and I am completely fed up of it all and taking my own steps to feel more secure, whatever happens.

I created a Brexit stash earlier in the year.  I spent approximately £100 and stored away extra dry goods, tins, cartons, jars, bottled goods, etc.  Not a massive amount, but enough to keep us going for a few weeks at least, if supermarket shelves were lacking in produce. I made sure that the best before dates were as long as I could make them and just packed them in boxes in the spare bedroom.

I figured that if the worst didn't happen, which it didn't earlier this year anyway, the food could easily be eaten as we ran out of it and on many occasions that supply has saved the day, when I've realised that we didn't have an item in the cupboard that I needed for making supper. Hence, the stash was gradually eroded.

Last month, I started to build it up again and I will continue to do this until the Brexit date has been and gone. I realise that the real issue will be around fresh produce such as vegetables, fruit, milk, meat and bread, if anything, but who knows what might transpire. I just want to be prepared.

I'm not saying that anyone else should do this, and I realise that there are many people that maybe could not afford to do it either. I'm thankful to be in a position to do it.  We've had very cheap food for a very long time. Things may or may not be about to change. I personally don't see the harm in wanting to potentially soften the blow.  What do you think?

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Trying to Stay Positive

The last couple of posts, I'm sorry to say have been a bit negative and I apologise for that. There's enough going on out there without bringing my winges to the party. In order to escape everything that's going on in the news, politics, etc. I've been keeping my head down and have continued to take pleasure in gardening and spending time at my allotment.

I have also found a few more YouTube channels that I've been enjoying watching, that post regular videos on this subject or on the subject of growing food or homesteading.

The newest one is a channel called MossyBottom (strange name I know), but it's by a guy who has left the rat race in the UK and bought a run down cottage in the West of Ireland, where he is restoring the cottage and land, growing/selling food and using the principles of permaculture to live more sustainably. It's quite interesting to watch someone who's doing this in this part of the world, as opposed to the US.

Another current favourite channel is The Hollar Homestead, which is created by a young couple who in the last few months have moved onto a homestead in North Carolina in the US. The channel follows their efforts to get their homestead up and running.  It's quite interesting, especially as they seem to belong to a community of homesteaders who help them out when needed, which is good to see.

Finally, I'm enjoying the channel called Peter Kanaris Green Dreams FL, who posts videos about growers in Costa Rica and Florida, many of whom grow food and obscure and wonderful sounding fruits, some of which I've never seen or heard of before. It's amazing to see people doing such wonderful things all over the world, to show people how easy it is to grow your own food and not be so dependent on others for survival. Plus they are all helping to increase the diversity on our planet.

It's making me want to grow as much food as I can. At the moment, we've been having great success at the allotment with tomatoes and cucumbers.  We've got more than we can possibly eat, despite giving some away to fellow plot holders and others.

I've been freezing many of the tomatoes, as we realised that when you put them in chilli or spaghetti Bolognese, they taste fine, even after freezing. Hopefully, I won't need to buy tinned tomatoes for a while, although there is now limited room in the freezer.

The raspberry plants, most of which I bought from Poundland or have spread naturally, have also been producing lots of berries. I've not had to buy raspberries for a few weeks now. We've just dug up all of the potatoes too, but there was a lot of slug damage that we've had to cut away. We're still going to use them the best we can. I haven't and won't be buying potatoes or frozen chips for a few weeks, while we use the ones harvested to make wedges instead.

I feel like I want to get serious about growing as much food as I can at the moment. I've even got plans to grow salad during the winter, especially as it seems like were due for an extended Indian Summer. I just need to get around to getting it all set up correctly. Planting only what we actually eat has definitely worked for us this year and reduced wastage.  The only exception has been the rhubarb.  We just don't use it, so it tends to go to waste as no-one likes it.  I've offered my plants to other plot holders, as we're digging them out this winter.  Someone who actually likes it may as well benefit from it.  I've got a couple of people interested in a plant each.  In it's place we can grow more strawberries or raspberries, which are much more useful to us.

Finally, I've recently bought a couple of black grape vines to go in at the allotment. I'm hoping that they will grow well up against the back fence and possibly give us another type of crop at some point in the future. The possibilities are endless and it's quite exciting to think about it. It makes me feel much more positive than reading the news anyway.

What do you do to keep yourself feeling positive, when things going on in the world around you seem so gloomy?





Saturday, 7 September 2019

A New and Exciting Challenge

Lately, I've been feeling a little stuck in a rut.  It may be that September feeling, with the start of the new academic year.  LB is starting her new Sixth Form College next week, which is exciting for, whilst I meanwhile feel like I'm stagnating fast. Work has been unrelenting and I often find myself not looking forward to going. 

When I get home from work, I'm exhausted and it takes a while to decompress. I don't always feel appreciated and my morale is at a low ebb. I know that this has been the case numerous times over the last few years, but we've been having trouble with a lot of criminal elements coming into the shop lately, and it's starting to get me down, plus I'm starting to be concerned for my personal safety.

In addition, the menopause is taking its toll on me, in that I'm gaining weight and I need something to boost my energy levels, help raise my self esteem and hopefully help me to keep my weight under control.

I've been doing the same exercise classes for years, and although I like them, because I get to meet up with friends on a weekly basis, things are changing at the gym with some people moving away and I'm starting to think that it's time I did something a little different. I will still continue to go when I can, but I need a new challenge.

For a while now, I've wanted to sign up for some Swing Dance/Lindy Hop classes locally.  There are quite a few places where it's taught in London.  I keep putting myself off by telling myself that it's for young people with more energy, but two years on and I still find myself wanting to try it. It's obviously an itch that needs scratching.

This week, as a kind of early birthday present to myself (it's my birthday next month), I finally signed up for a 5 week workshop in Jazz and Charleston solo classes with London/Brighton based company SwingPatrol. You can find out about them on their YouTube channel SwingPatrolUK or on their website. I've gone for the solo class initially, as I don't know how I feel about partnering at the moment, until I get to grips with some basic steps.  It may be something I decide to progress to later.

At £10 per class it's quite reasonable, and the classes are half an hour away on the bus. I don't know what to expect, save for what I've seen on the YouTube channel, but I'm really looking forward to starting and learning something new.  Sometimes you just have to take up a new challenge to stay sane and if I don't do it now, I may find it too energetic or difficult at some point in the future.

I feel better for making the decision and booking.  I'll let you know how it goes when I've done my first class in a couple of weeks time.  Wish me luck!!

Friday, 6 September 2019

Frugal Friday

It's been a couple of weeks, so I think I'm due another of these posts.  The last week of August was pretty frugal, as I didn't have any money left to spend, and in fact went overdrawn to be able to give LB her reward money for her GCSEs, which she needed to take to a festival with her last weekend. Thankfully, I got paid on Friday, so I was back in the black.

Anyway, here's a few frugal things I've been doing in the last few weeks.

1) Harvesting more vegetables and fruit from the allotment.  It's been a good year with regard to crops. In fact, we've had way too many tomatoes and cucumbers.  I've chopped up and frozen more tomatoes, as they get slightly over ripe, so as not to waste any. 

There's still half a dozen or more small cucumbers in the fridge to eat, but as OH has now taken the plants down, there won't be any more.  It sounds awful to say so, but it's a bit of a relief to be honest.  Luckily, they keep quite well in the fridge and we haven't wasted too many.

2) Once I got paid this month, I decided to splash out on a bulk supply of bio-degradable dog poo bags.  What a glamourous life I lead! I bought about 2000, which should keep us in dog bags for about 2 years.  They were very good quality and worked out at about 2 or 3 pence per bag, which was very reasonable.  It's about time I changed to degradable bags for this purpose, so it was a bit of an eco move too. 

If anyone has a dog, the website is muttbutts.com and the best thing is that for £1 you can order samples of the different thicknesses before you place a large order, which is what I did.  To be honest even the cheapest ones were better than what I'd been using for months, but I opted for ones on large rolls of 100, as these are more practical to store and use on a daily basis.

3) It's been a week of bulk purchases really, as I also placed an order with Approved Food, for the first time in many months.  I haven't used this website in a long time, but after an email pinged into my inbox, I just thought I'd have a look and ended up spending £60. Not very frugal you might think, but half of this was on Christmas presents for OH, as I managed to bag a very good bottle of single malt for £20 instead of the £40 I paid for the same brand for his 50th birthday. This made the whole order worthwhile and I threw in a few extra consumables for OH as stocking fillers, i.e. coffee, cycling snacks, etc. It actually felt good to start on the Christmas shopping, even in such a small way.

Most of the rest of the order was made up of things we use all the time. I didn't go for out of date items on this occasion. I just stuck to things that were still in date, but as a consequence we are well stocked up on certain things.  I got free delivery too, on account of spending over £55, so I was happy about that too. I did notice that they've reduced their delivery costs back to what they were originally, after raising them a while back, which was why I stopped shopping with them.

4) We had a very frugal weekend last weekend. LB was away all weekend at a family friendly festival, with her friend and her family, so we spent the weekend at home and in the garden taking down the greenhouse and moving the compost bins.  We used our own compost on the border I was refreshing, as well as a bit of bought compost and the cost of the plants I bought a while ago that we put in, totalled just £20, which is a pretty cheap makeover. They don't quite fill the space yet, but they will eventually.

5) We seem to have now got the hot compost bin working properly, so hopefully we will be producing lots more good home made compost for use around the garden, which should save us some money.

6) The only other frugal thing I've been doing is continuing to make my hexagonal quilt, the top of which is nearing completion now.  Just the edging hexagons to do and then I can fill and back it. I didn't need to buy anything for this as I have everything I need to complete it in my sewing room.

I hope you've all been having a frugal couple of weeks.

Monday, 2 September 2019

A Pang of Conscience

With fires burning in the Amazon jungle and much talk about climate change in the news, this week I had a decided pang of conscience about our trip to Australia this year. We don't go on a regular basis, (i.e. approximately every 10 years), but it's still a long way and a lot of CO2 emitted on our behalf.

After reading a blog post about carbon offsetting, I decided to check out how much CO2 our trip would have generated.  The amount was shocking and definitely made OH and I think about whether it is worth flying at all these days. We do it maybe once or twice a year at most, but even this creates a lot of CO2.

Anyway, having been shocked by our emissions, I proceeded to find out how much it would cost to offset our flights this summer. It was a very reasonable amount and although I don't  believe offsetting is the answer and it doesn't absolve my conscience at all really.  How could it? I do believe that doing something, as opposed to nothing is the better option.

As a consequence, I decided to go ahead and offset the flights.  There were a number of options, from planting trees in the UK (which interestingly incurred VAT!!!), to helping to fund wind farms and hydroelectric plants in far flung places.  Whilst the amount of carbon output that these large structures help to reduce is high, I actually chose to offset by contributing to quite small projects that would have a positive effect on individual families, mainly by way of providing efficient cooking equipment or by regenerating boreholes to supply fresh clean water.

It may have been a missed opportunity, but I felt happier with this choice, knowing that families can be provided with a better standard of living as a result of the projects. In addition, I decided to pay it over a year at approximately £10 per month.  Partly, because I couldn't really afford to pay in a lump sum this month and with hindsight, this actually makes me appreciate more the consequences of long haul flights, as I pay it off each month.

I'm not altogether sure if this donation will continue each year until I cancel it, but if it does it's probably not such a bad thing, as it will help offset our annual carbon emissions, just from daily living, commuting, holidays in years to come, etc.  Although we live reasonably sustainably, (save for occasional long haul holidays), contributing to improving the lives of others in this way can't be a bad thing, can it?

Feel free to be honest in your opinions on this matter, as I'm sure some people may not agree with the sentiments expressed here.