Monday, 28 February 2011

The joy of being resourceful...

For many of my twenty seven(!) years I have dabbled with the idea of becoming a resourceful person. We all know the type, compost heap in the garden, stash of carrier bags in the boot, homemade preserves in the cupboard etc. Well tonight I feel I have made yet more leaps and bounds in that direction. I can't explain why or how, it isn't something I have done or not done, it's just my mind set I guess.

I recieved a bunch of beautiful tulips yesterday, my all time favourite flower, from my sister who knew I was feeling a little down in the dumps. Usually I would have oohed and ahhed at the flowers and given little interest to the packaging. Instead I popped the cone shaped cellophane in the drawer when I was setting them in a vase. Tonight I was using up some leftover pastry making jam tarts and I made a tear in the flour bag. Voila, that cellophane came in handy! I suppose the point of my story is not the wrapping, the use of left over pastry or the fac I recieved flowers but just the joy I got from reusing something. From beginning to think as a resourceful person and put my available resources to good use. Obviously that was just a small story to illustrate my point but there are a million and one things I have done over the past few weeks that tonight I am feeling very proud of. It has proved to myself that it sometimes is the small things that make a (healthier) world of difference.

Some of the things I have done include:-
  • Beginning to shop in charity shops, thus reducing my carbon footprint
  • Cut my food shopping bill in half for two weeks running by resourceful thinking and clever planning- plus we are eating healthier meals!
  • Reduced my waste significantly, admittedly some is just recycling but also alot of upcycling going on
  • Changed the midset of myself and my family towards the environment and the way we treat it
  • Cooked more- which I find relaxing and rewarding
  • Gained confidence in my ability to make these small changes
  • Made my first bowl using only magazines and hot glue- I will post the tutorial for this in the week. it looks fab!
  • Reduced our gas, water and electricity. This is easier for us to monitor as we are on meters but I am sure it would be just as easy to take meter readings
  • Spent less on 'things' and 'stuff' I have analyzed every purchase and more often than not decided I do not need it
  • Re organised my wardrobe and donated a lot of clothes and bric-a-brac to charity
  • Drank more water. Well it saves boiling the kettle every hour and is good for my skin :)
  • Had more eaten pack lunches from the princess. I have decided to use up the left over pasta etc in packed lunches instead of preparing sandwiches. This has been an immense success with my little fussy eater!

That is all I can think of for now. But above all of these things I have gained a great deal of pride and satisfaction in the way I run my home. I feel like I have become a fully fledged adult!!

I wonder what the rest of this week will bring?

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Thrifty tips for the eco minded ;)

After a rather large Sunday lunch (I know, oops) I am unable and unwilling to move, even to do the dishes! Speaking of which I am thinking of investing in a dishwasher, a second hand one initially from E-bay (fee-bay) I had the use of one during a short holiday in the Country earlier this month ans I must say it made cooking and cleaning up a breeze! Absolutely essential in the small cottage kitchen as there simply was not the room to cook and have dishes, pots and pans everywhere. I need one!
Anyways, I digress!! I thought I would pop on and detail some of the usual little hints and tricks I have started adopting to save resources, money or in the best case scenerio both!

  • White vinegar makes a fab and cheap fabric softener. I had heard this little tip a while ago but was put off with the thought of clothes smelling like vinegar- they don't! Try it, the clothes come out just as soft as they did with Lenor (my previous fabric softener) and with a few drops of free sample perfume the clothes smell lovely too :)
  • Kitchen roll tubes are a cheap and effective way of storing wires in a neat manner. Ideal if you have children as those little fingers tend to get into everything!!
  • Cold tea without milk makes a natural 'miracle grow' for most house plants. I always pop it into fresh flowers too, it has never done them any harm but I couldn't promish your meant to go that far!
  • Yogurt and spread tubs are fab for storing small portions of left over food in the fridge for the following days lunch. For me personally wasted food was one of the biggest wastes of money in our home. Following little tips and hints like these encouraged me to be more aware of food waste and reusing leftovers so it was more far reachign than you might think!
  • Herbs are simple to grow, nearly impossible to kill, add a little life to the house and garden and for the price of a pack of seeds provide endless flavour enhancers to pretty much any cut of meat and all veg! I will be doing a few blogs on herb gardens the next few weeks as I am only just regrowing mine after a move. Great fun, cheap, easy, they smell fab, deter many insects and rodents, have all the beauty of a house plant, liven up a boring meal, need I go on? Now is also the perfect time for stocking up. My local Aldi store had many herbs and salad leave seeds for the bargain price of 25p a packet. Remember herbs will keep growing and so keep giving!
  • Composting is the future! Well maybe the past and present too but a totally new experience for me! I always thought of this as too 'hard core' for my liking but it really is simple. You just need a good sturdy compost bin (with a lid if you suspect you have rats in the area) and all other resources are completely free! It will cut down on waste, is great for the environment, provides you with a garden essential and the little ones have great fun learning about composting too. A rewarding win win!
  • Your kettle uses a crazy amount of electricity as I am sure you are all aware. Only fill it with as many cups of water as you need, don't boil it and walk off and forget about it then come back and reboil (and lets face it, we have all done that a million times!) and your half way there to saving a good few pennies on the ol' electricity bill!!
  • Invest in a food processor, seriously these little guys take the stress out of cooking and make it an absolute breeze! I was bought mine by my dear (sometimes) mother as a christmas present and since I have been a sponge and pastry making machine. It also does all my veg and ingredient chopping, makes soups in seconds (see my previous post re soups) and has helped me create some fab sauces using whatever leftover ingredients I have. The little one is now eating alot of 'hidden veg' in various meals thanks to my very favourite kitchen gadget!
  • Dilute cleaning products by about 20-30% and you will still get the same results. This is especially relevant if you live with others who are a little heavy handed or less eco minded than your good self :) Most of us are in the habit of using over the recommended amount of product that the manufacturer suggests anyway.
  • Salt is a natural cleaner, helped by it being so abbrasive. It is great for scrubbing at stains and marks, for cleaning out vases or for cleaning the last off products before recycling them- pop a strong salt water solution in, the lid on and shake baby :) Alot more environmentally friendly than all the products!
  • Train your mini me's :) This is an obvious but often over looked tip. If our little ones are brought up to turn lights and switches off as they leave a room, turn the tap off when brushing teeth, recycle, etc then they will not only save us money throughout the years, they will constantly be a friend to Mother Earth and by the time they are raising children of their own they will be fully functioning eco warriors (maybe!)
  • Save that gift wrap to be reused and recycled with a little know how it can be a fun activity closer to holiday seasons to sit and do with the children. Keep a box of all used wrapping bits and bobs ready to wrap a last minute present. Please don't buy rolls of the stuff at christmas, such a waste :( Also cutting out the pictures on cards means they can be reused as gift tags. Free and the gift then has the personal touch!

There are a million other things which I will keep updating as time goes on, but alas it is now time for the little lady to have a bath and prepare for school, we are running very late this evening owing to visitors putting dinnertime back by two hours. So I may have to run a quick search on blogs related to time management ;)

Soup...the key to reusing all leftovers (please note their are exceptions-no half eaten sandwich soup is ever going to taste great!)

Oh I am well on my way to frugal loveliness, eco success and dare I say it? yes, I dare! Domestic Goddess status :)

Yesterday I made two huge pots of stew, one beef (endlessly popular in our home and my personal favourite meal in the world) and one chicken, the first time I have ever made chicken stew as I believe poultry to be too bland for stew. reasoning was, I will make a batch of shortcrust pastry and drain some of the stew fillinng, cover with gravy and make a pie. This can be frozen, total lack of effort as I was making the stew anyway :) Bonus! The pie, you will be glad to hear, went well. So well it never got to the freezer!!

Anyway, the stew was nice, tastier than I thought but we really didn't need two stews. I halved the beef stew, half for now, half for freezer (from experience freezing stews, curries, etc makes them taste nicer when defrosted-the flavours seem to 'mingle' better) So.... I popped all the stew filling and half the stock in the blender, whizzed for a minute and voila chicken soup :) It must be said, very nice soup too!

So this is my new lesson to myself today....soup it up!! When I make Sunday roast I often have its and bits of veg, potatoes and meat left over. I am going to keep the veg stock and left over gravy pop this in the blender with left over bits and Monday lunch is sorted!!

So come on people, put those odds and ends to good use and get some extra veg into you for lunch....healthier, thrifty and tasty.... homemade soup is my Sunday winner!!

Recipe- Chicken Stew

Chicken breasts
chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
dash of white wine (that could just be me! good excuse to open a bottle...)

  1. Cut the chicken breasts into bite sized chunks (about the size of a 10p coin)

  2. Fry cubed chicken until cooked

  3. Put chopped veggies into a stew pot/large saucepan with stock

  4. Add chicken

  5. Add wine and salt and pepper

  6. Bring to boil

  7. Reduce to simmer until all veg is soft and stew has thickened

  • If stew is too thin use cornflour mixed with cold water to thicken-as per pack instructions

  • remember to taste stew for flavour, never be afraid to throw any extras you have in- herbs, spices, play with the flavours!

  • I have not added quantities, I tend to throw an equal amount of each veg in and an average one breast per person

  • Remember to make extra if removing some for a pie!!

To make the pie just make shortcrust pastry:-

100g of lard

100g of stork or bakers butter

400g of plain flour

  1. Throw all ingredients into food processor (a must have item imo!)

  2. Add a pinch of salt

  3. Blend until breadcrumb consistency

  4. Add a drop of water into funnel at top until mixture takes on a dough consistancy- add water slowly, you won't need much!

  5. Knead on floured surface and form into a ball

  6. Pop ball in fridge (in clingfilm or dish) for 15 mins to harden

Use the pastry to line a pie dish, scoop ingredients from chicken stew out with strainer type spoon (you won't want the stew stock) add generous amount of bisto gravy, put pastry shell on top and .... cook :)

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Today's lifestyle change.....The *whispers*...Charity Shop!!

Today, a day that shall be recorded in my memory forever, Saturday the 26th of Feb 2011, I made my first clothes purchase from a charity shop!
It was a liberating and exciting feeling, kind of like being a child involved in a treasure hunt. I had no idea what to expect!
Now, as an avid reader I am no stranger to charity shops, I have even bought alot of my kitchen ware in various ones over the years (I am quite Cath Kidson country in style-I will post pics of my kitchen soon!) and so love love love all things crockery!
But clothes? Now I would previously have laughed and said 'Oh no, that's not for me!' But guess what? It is!!
Today I bought....

  • One vintage scarf to add to my ever growing yet always used scarf collection. It is gorgeous, vivid pink and blue and a bargain at £1.99! The more observant amongst you may note it is my Mr modelling the scarf, my hair was...ummm....not great at the time ;)

  • A peachy orange loose knit top for my little girl, really unusual and the sort of colour that looks fab with dark denim .... £1.29!

  • A set of old shell postcards that I intend to frame to make a collage of postcards for my dining room. 99p!!

  • A pretty long sleeved pink top for myself that I will wear as a casual top for shopping, school runs, dog walks, studying, blogging and generally life! £2.49!!

And the best bit of all, it is in keeping with my new ethos....reduce, reuse, recycle!

I have always donated clothes to charity shops, mainly as I am a little to lazy to keep up with the ebaying items that sell for 99p! But I had a real insight today into how exciting and satisfying it can be for the buyer. Therefore I have made a pledge to donate all possible items to local charity shops to ensure someone else benefits from our outgrown/ill fitting/not our style clothes!

I also noticed the charity shops were alive with not only the older people I had imagined but also bright, young funky people looking to buy clothes and restyle (or upcycle if you will!) them to suit their tastes. This led to a new found determination to dig my old sewing machine out! Damn it, I can make that size 10 top I fancy a size 14 with the clever use of panels (well maybe!)

Obviously, remember to wash clothes before use and be vigilant in checking the condition as they are used. Aside of that, what are you waiting for? Go grab yourself a bargain and when you return you can smugly rifle through your purchases whilst convincing yourself you have done the charity, your purse and indeed the world a favour! It worked for me :)

Welome to my ramble through the world of thrifty and green....literally a whole new world!

Hello readers and bloggers!

Welcome to my humble little blog :)

A quick intro.... My name is Kate, I am a twenty something Mum of one (currently ttc child number two-babydust needed!) with a wonderful partner (soon to be Husband)

I have always been interested in all things 'green', 'eco', 'thrifty', 'upcycled' etc but of late I have begun to get into it in a HUGE way!

The aim of this blog is to bring together tips and hints, pictures, stories, advice and inspiration for anyone who is interested in living a thrifty (and who in these current times isn't?!) lifestyle.

The benefits for myself and my lovely family are going to be:-
  • Teaching my little girl the value of money, helping her to develop the basic skills that so many of us don't have these days- to cook, to shop on a budget, to furnish her home on a budget, to use a sewing machine and perhaps more importantly to respect her world!
  • To save money!
  • To not be wasteful, I had begun to get depressed with the vast amount of 'stuff' cluttering up our lives and home!
  • To understand the difference between 'needing' something and 'wanting' something...and preferably being able to turn this into 'how can I create something similar on a budget/by upcycling'
  • The most obvious reduce our carbon footprint and food miles! In doing so we hope to...
  • Support local businesses, I really don't want to watch my local businesses die whilst the chainstore fat cats thrive!
  • Here is the big one....we also hope to start a related business at some point...but more about that as it unfolds!!