Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Buy local- support the underdogs and reduce your carbon footprint and food miles :)

A few weeks ago I was sent an email from one of my Uni lecturers inviting me to attend an optional seminar held by a eco warrior and scientist. The seminar aimed to enlighten us about our carbon footprint and the amount of food miles we tot up on items we do not need. I really enjoyed the seminar and my trips to Tesco have been unfulfilled and guilt ridden ever since! Seeing a line of eight fellow students demonstrating how far your sack of oranges travel (and the mileage involved) to get to you is quite shocking I assure you!

So, this led me to thinking. I already buy local where possible but I must admit that I do find Tesco and the like complete money magnets. It is no coincidence that when you pop in for a few key items (the staples, bread, milk, etc) they will be located at the back of the store. Meaning that you pass every 'Offer' gondola on the way too and from picking up your items. I am often disheartened by the amount our weekly shop comes too, less so admittedly since I have made a massive effort to plan meals and snacks more efficiently. In addition to this the food often does not stay fresh up until the use by date. Specifically I find the fruit and veg to be at the 'needs to be eaten within a day or two' stage from the day of purchase. There is no way it will last a week. Leaving the consumer with two options, One- eat fruit and veg that is less than fresh or 2- face gondola city a few times a week to buy fresh!

I now have a new system in place, well an ever evolving and developing system, that allows us to eat fresh produce that is locally produced and often organic. The best bit? It is also cheaper!

Some tips:-
  • If you are going to use supermarkets try to shop online where you will be less influenced to buy products you do not need.
  • Make sure you have a menu plan for evening meals for the week.
  • If you buy lunch out you will find it cheaper to take a packed lunch. This can mean preparing a little extra evening meal and taking the 'leftovers' or factoring the lunch into your menu plan.
  • Buy from local suppliers. That way you will get better value for money, a more personal service, you will know where your produce came from, it will be in season. I bet you will save money and have twice the shelf life out of your products.
  • When using markets for fruit and veg go at the end of the day. They do not want to take any produce back so you will get bargains! This does require some flexibility with what veg you end up with, not a massive issue if you menu plan 'chicken dinner with fresh veg' or 'lamb curry' (add anything from onions, peppers, mushrooms, peas- whatever you have!
  • Use your local butcher. I have said it before, I will say it again. My local butcher is the best. I am sure if you get to know yours and become a regular they will happily throw in a few extras/meet any requests for special cuts etc. Aswell as being experts on how to prepare your meat. Can you say the same about the server in the supermarket?!
  • I don't eat meat but ditto the fishmonger.
  • If you are feeling especially green you can make your own cleaning products. If like the 90% of us that have a million miles an hour life you do not have time buy in bulk. Make the most of BOGOF deals and coupons and find a small corner to store your stock. This also means you avoid that dash to the supermarket that ends up costing a few pound more than you budget!
  • Buy produce that is in season, this should happen naturally if using local suppliers, this will always result in cheaper, fresher food. It does not harm to have a vague idea of what is in season and when. Google is an endless source of help on that score!
  • Make the most of charity shops for kitchen bits and bobs, ornaments, furniture, clothes, accessories, books and everything non food related. One off bargain buys and the satisfaction of not looking like a cookie cutter person. And all for a good cause? What better reason to indulge in some retail therapy!
  • As with everything we do the best money saver is to *try* to help our children to understand that a certain brand of product is not better simply because of the marketing. Invest in some reusable containers, or better still save some yogurt pots, takeaway cartons etc. Buy in bulk and put a small amount in these containers for packed lunches. Let the children decorate the pot in whatever way you choose and they usually don't object (if they are young lol)

Monday, 14 March 2011

Sew Sew Happy!!

Ok, I will be the first to admit that this little guy is no contestant for 'best made rag toy thing'! However, I think I am a little bit in love with him. Just a smidgen! The best bit he was simple as pie to make. I am quite literally a beginner, my Mother bought me a sewing machine a few years ago. Yesterday I finally found the time to sit with sewing machine and YouTube guides and work out how to use it!
I made the owl by drawing an owl shape on the back of some scrap matieral, you can draw any size or shape- the only limit is imagination (and perhaps skill in my case!)
I then cut around the shape, leaving a cm or 2 around the edge for sewing.
Then I put this against another piece of matieral and cut an identical shape.
Put the two shapes, right side facing each other so the back of matieral is visible not the front.
Hand or machine sew around the lines you have drawn, leaving a gap large enough to stuff.
Stuff, I used the stuffing from an old teddy.
Hand sew the little gap up, making sure to tuck in the edges.
Sew on any decorations!
NB. It would be easier, on reflection, to dew the features on before sewing the two pieces of matieral together!

Once I got the bug I had to make a phone cover! I was incredibly proud as I didn't use any instructions or guides. Simple things please me! For the phone cover I...
Measured the size of my phone and cut two identical rectangles a few cm too big.
I machine sewed the top of eacch rectangle to give a neat top finish.
I turned the two pieces of matieral face inward, so I was looking at the back of the matieral.
Then machine sewed the two pieces together leaving the top edge not sewn.
Added some embellishments

Quite a cute little duo! And I can't say it enough but I only started sewing yesterday, these are so simple. Yes I did make lots of mistakes and no the finish isn't perfect. But as I tell my 6 year old 'Practise makes perfect!' And it was fun practising!!

My phone all dressed up with no where to go!

The worst photo of the lot, I really really need lessons with both the camera and photoshop!!
Ignoring the quality, and the fact you have to put your head on the side to see it....! Its a ... drum roll.....BAG BAG!! Yes, a bag for bags. Not a new concept but a damn handy one!!
I used to work for Nando's so I 'repurposed' and old apron into this handy bag-bag. If you want to know how to do it drop a comment below and I will post the know how!!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

A thrifty makeover- check out my new key cupboard!

Me and the Mr were at a bit of a loose end today so we decided to do what all sensible people in our situation would do (no not that!) and ... scour around the local charity shops! I have been looking for somewhere to store our keys for a while, the little one is getting a little fed up of us using her shabby chic 'bracelet' holder. I finally found my key rack lurking in the back of a charity shop for the grand price of £2.50! Ok, it had spice written on it and the colours werent to my taste but didn't I say I was bored!?
When we got in, via a very noisy and packed indoor park, I set to work. First I carefully removed the old deco from the front using a wallpaper scraper. Then I cleaned the glass, it's all in the prep the OH keeps telling me! I lined the inside with some pretty wrapping paper I had hanging around and spray painted a heart with blackboard paint (that as my other posts show has been used frequently since its purchase!) I love love love it! All it needs now is some mini hooks, it was way to cold and dark at this point to rummage through the shed.

My not so realistic view of how it will look on the wall :) I am one happy thrifty Mammy today!

Just incase you haven't had enough I have reposted the pic...ok you got me I can';t find my delete button!!

Sunday, 6 March 2011

If it stands still....PAINT IT!!!

Bought for £1 in a charity shop. Quick makeover and it is ready to be a portable tray for little one whilst still looking decent(ish) The pics don't show off the gorgeous orange paintwork, infact it looks distinctly unloved in this pic!
You can see the orange better in this light. Believe it or not it is the same on top, the camera does lie ;)

An old ottoman made into useful, understair toybox for the little one. I painted with lilac wood paint, spray painted a chalk board front and added some pretty transfers I had hanging around waiting for their moment in the spotlight!

Pretty plain at the moment but as the front is a chalk board I really didn't want to make the decore to fussy. The top is sturdy so doubles as a seat, bonus!

This is my absolute favourite thing I have done today. The hallway of our home is positioned in a shady area and can look a bit bleak even in Summer. The door didn't help as it was the same colour as the panel rims I have left unpainted. I was always a little too nervous to take a paintbrush to it but I am so glad I did. A pot of paint (£2 from No Frills 50% sale) and I was good to go. Wood paint rather than gloss paint seems to be a little easier to use and less of a thick, gloopy finish. It has a nice welcoming cottage vibe, I love love love love it!!

And when I wasn't busy painting furniture I was painting hallway, stairs and landing. I also had a pot of paintpod paint for £5 in the No Frills sale! A saving of over £25 on B&Q prices! I highly recommend using that paint, I used it with a normal roller and brush, it is the easiest paint I have ever used, glides on and only takes one coat, a perfect consistency!
I wonder what tomorrow will bring :) Hopefully more sunshine. Lets join hands and sing .... "The sun has got his hat on, hip pip hip pip hooray. The sun has got his hat on and he's coming out to play" Oh how I love bright, crisp days!

Friday, 4 March 2011

A much needed lick of paint = A new lease of life!

This isn't really one of those 'projects' I can detail the steps on. Unless you want 1, Take a slightly/very worn set of metal garden furniture. 2, Find DIY shop with 50% off everything including sale bin. 3, Find suitable outdoor metal paint for grand price of £1. 4, Spend cold but sunny afternoon in the garden painting old said furniture. Simple! I want to take some nice pictures with it all set up with the little centre piece pot but to be honest it got too cold and I got too hungry. It is top of my to do list tomorrow morning!
But that said I must admit I was very proud of my attempts. Mainly I guess as it was the first piece of furniture I have had the time to rescue this year (thanks in no small part to my studying schedule). I felt the familiar joy of bringing a nearly dead piece back to life. In this case it was less nearly dead, more really ugly. But in either case it is now a piece of furniture I will proud to sit at and drink my morning cup of tea or afternoon juice (no pepsi max anymore remember!)
This weekend is going to see me undertaking quite a few abandoned projects both indoor and out. I am like a child at Christmas today!
Ps, please bear with me on the photo front. I am trying, technology and me are acquainted but not friends. I will win it round though :)

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Oh No, I may have to say goodbye to my beloved...Pepsi Max

I admit, I am a junkie for the brown, fizzy, strange tasting liquid. A major junkie. I love it. If I am ever ordering a soft drink I would not think of any other, it is part of my weekly shop and indeed daily diet. I know that is terrible, I constantly consider swapping it for more water, juices, tea etc and invariable come back to my little caffeine drink. Not that I don't also drink all of the above but they are not a match for Pepsi Max. Now I have been aware for some time of the health reasons to stop drinking the stuff, the financial reason and in addition those god damn awful plastic bottles! But up until now I have always come back to, Oh well I am as eco friendly as possible but Pepsi Max (and long hot baths) are my two luxuries that make me happy. Sad but true!

Then the unthinkable happened. I stumbled across an article that made me feel too guilty to continue buying the stuff. Now that I have read it I cannot unread it and so the damage is done. I am going to be caffeine and fizzy stuff free. Bummer for me, bonus for not only the environment but my recycling box which creaks under the weight of those horrible plastic bottles! Have a shifty if you like

I remember when I was younger, probably about a decade ago now, there used to be a 'Pop Man' who used to come around in his van filled with locally produced (20-30 miles from my home) fizzy drinks in glass bottles that you returned when they were empty for a few pence off your next purchase. Bring back that pop man I say! And while we are at it, there used to be four milkmen on their rounds in the area a few years ago. I have not seen a milkman in the past year, I know there is still one. ONE. Why are we so determined to do away with local businesses, scupper any attempts at reusing our resources and replace every bloody thing with plastic. Ok, it may be slightly cheaper. But as this article shows at what cost? And I have always found the more I have of something, the more I use. So with this is mind, I will be tracking down that milkman and placing my milk order, if I find the pop man I will be one happy lady. As always I will continue to use the local butchers, newsagents and other small businesses in the local community. Long may they be available, I raise my glass (milkbottle) to them all.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Good Afternoon Mr Sunshine, let's make some edible delights!

The day I have been waiting for finally arrived...the cold winter sun shone on my tiny, suntrap postage stamp garden :)
And I was ready! Well, actually I was far from ready...

But alas I managed to get the fence, shed and gate revanished (using some very old and dodgy coloured vanish from the shed, eco might be slightly dodgy but thrifty? definately!) Job done, huge tick to me.

Secondly I managed to empty all the old plant pots, destined for the scrap heap but with a little TLC appear to be fit for another decade or so. Incidentally, I have decided never to purchase another new plant pot. There are so many abandoned ones to be found, not to mention the hoards of them in every carboot sale and charity shop. I will make it my mission to rescue as many as I can use.

A quick trip around Wilkinsons proved rather fruitful, excuse the pun, as the small (an essential for my garden) perspex style greenhouses were all half price. I really want to become self sufficient eventually and I definately need to start somewhere. I need to learn and make those critical mistakes, feel the joy of producing my first fruit and veg, I really am so excited about it! If you had told me six months ago I would be considering stepping into insect world, rifling through compost and relishing the site of new sprouting plants I would have presumed you liked your drinks strong! I did have to leave it there though as part of my new pledge to myself is to consider all purchases before making them. That and I know due to the area we are located in the dreaded RAT is a problem. I do not wish to grow tomatoes for them to have a healthy salad lunch! I have now managed to get this fear in check thanks to an hours research, the links for which I cannot find at the moment but will find and link in here. The general consensus being, live and let live, whilst they do carry diseases they do also get alot of 'bad press' and are in many respects no more dangerous than other rodents. So consider me told, still don';t know if I can brave the greenhouse but I will say I now appreciate that each little creature on this earth has its part to play.

I did manage to get around to planting my sprouting garlic and shallots yesterday. I am beginning to think my approach to gardening is much the same as cooking, don't bother with the instructions just try it and see (as I am sure you can imagine this leads to quite a few 'interesting' meals but in fairness some genius creations too!)
If I have any luck with thhe garlic and shallots I shall post pics :) Essentially I just took a medium sized pot for each, planted a shallot/clove with sprouting part facing upwards about an inch under the soil. I watered them and put them out in the day and they are cosying up in the kitchen at night time. Wish me luck!

I have this vision of a beatiful little med style garden, all terracotta, glazed pots and shrubbery, vine tomatoes growing bright and strong in the sunshine.....We will see. As always these days I am taking pleasure in the little things, this is a fun, free, healthy, educational and great bonding experience for the family and I loved watching little one with her wellies on sweeping the compost away and ordering Dad to 'put the pretty plant by the gate so I can see it' Oh The Good Life....