Category Archives: Environment

Making money and saving it too

I spent the whole evening listing clothes for eBay last night. Quite a boring task but hopefully my efforts will prove fruitful. I currently have 40 odd items for sale 😀.

Dinner was chicken wings marinated in a bottle of Nando’s sauce that appeared from nowhere – I think my darling daughter must have bought it and it was forgotten about in the back of the cupboard. In my opinion chicken wings are very under-rated. There may not be lots of meat on them but what’s there is very flavoursome. Great value too. We had them with a baked sweet potato and some salad for a thrifty dinner. The marinade was nice but it would obviously be cheaper to make it yourself.

It was a gorgeous day here in Essex yesterday. I wish I had known it would be then I would have got the laundry outside before I left for work. I love to see it hanging out there, and it’s so much better than having airers all over the house. Today doesn’t look promising so it is indoors. Roll on spring! 

I refuse to waste money buying and running a dryer. People  are forever asking me why I don’t get one. Firstly, there is no space in the kitchen, secondly even the AAA rated ones cost a lot to run and thirdly not having one is better for the environment. I managed to raise three kids without a dryer so I think I can carry on without one now they are grown up. I swear I am considered rather eccentric to take this stance! 

What about you? Are you a line dryer or do you rely on the tumble dryer?

Save money, save the planet

I wrote this blog post in my first year of blogging in 2013, when I had no readers! I thought it was worth revisiting 😀.

Happily, lots of things that save you money are also good for the environment. Simply consuming less, wasting less, holding onto things for longer, repairing rather than replacing, buying second-hand, etc, will give you a greener lifestyle. Getting off the treadmill of working more to buy more stuff pays dividends to the state of your bank balance and the planet – not to mention your sanity!. There is so much you can do to get a warm green glow…

Don’t waste food. Plan your week’s meals and then go shopping with a list. Stick to the list!!! Watch your portion sizes too. This will help your waistline as well, so double bubble.

If something stops working get out the manual to see if it is something simple. Look on the Internet to see if there are any suggestions. Get a quote for repair.

Likewise, repair your clothing and get your shoes mended rather than throwing them away.

If you need to replace an expensive item check Freecycle or Freegle first, then the noticeboard at the local shop, eBay, charity furniture shops, etc. If you really need to buy new, look at as many reviews as possible and buy energy saving devices – they are cheaper to run.

If you have a garden, make your own compost. Don’t throw peelings, apple cores, teabags, eggshells, etc in the bin. Mix them with your garden waste and compost them. Save as much as possible from going to landfill.

If you like crafts check out websites like Pinterest. They have a whole section of ideas for recycling and upcycling. I spotted some fabulous planters made from old tyres and also brilliant Christmas tree decorations made from old lightbulbs.


Eat less meat – firstly, it is expensive and, secondly, according to Donnachadh mcCarthy in his excellent and informative book ‘Saving the Planet without Costing the Earth’, one acre of land can produce 30,000lb of carrots but only 250lb of beef. Also 15% of methane, a gas that contributes to global warming, comes from farm animals.

Let your garden be a bit untidy – don’t waste money on chemicals, and create a wildlife friendly garden. Gardening costs very little, is good exercise and a great stress buster.

Grow some of your own food! I can’t afford to buy organic in the shops, but everything from the garden is chemical free. Packets of seeds cost just a few pounds and produce masses of delicious vegetables.

Use vinegar and bicarbonate of soda to clean your house. It is extremely cheap, plus do you really want your home to be full of chemicals?

Buy large containers of washing up and laundry liquid. This produces less plastic waste and usually works out cheaper.

When you need new items for your home, buy second-hand. Most of my furniture, curtains, bedding and rugs has come from the charity shop, eBay and auctions. If you are a creative sort you can shabby chic a solid piece of furniture and make it a work of art.

Forget nasty chemical air ‘fresheners’ and plug ins. You are literally inhaling pollutants! If you want fresh air, open a window.

Insulate your house – check to see if you are eligible for any grants. Your energy supplier should have information on this, or try the Energy Saving Trust.

If you exercise, try to resist the urge to buy energy drinks and bottled water. Invest in a sports bottle and fill it from the tap.

Train your family to turn off lights, PCs, TVs and DVD players. Don’t leave items on standby.

Don’t buy clothes that need to be dry cleaned. This is expensive and the dry cleaning process uses toxic chemicals.

If you like to read, use the library or buy second-hand from the charity shop or online.

If you have a baby check out reusable nappies rather than disposables. This saves so much money!

This one will separate the greenies from the dark greenies! Consider using washable sanitary towels or perhaps a Mooncup instead of tampons.

Keep a scrap paper box. The back of junk mail letters and the envelopes they come in are good for list writing!

Re-use wrapping paper.

Save water – if you are on a water meter this makes financial as well as economic sense. Shower instead of bathing, but put the plug in and use the ‘grey’ water to water your plants in the garden.

If you buy fruit in the supermarket, save the plastic bags it comes in and reuse them as sandwich bags.

Keep your accelerator foot light and save petrol. Boy racers must all live at home with their parents – once they have to pay their own rent and bills they may slow down a bit…

These are just a few ideas. There are so many other things you can do once you start to think about it. I would love to hear your suggestions.

Saving money on drying clothes, and some domestic dramas…

I have been considering buying a heated airer for some time now and spotted one that looked good in the Lakeland catalogue recently for £80. I don’t want to waste money on buying and running a tumble dryer, I think they are terrible for the environment and, besides, I don’t really have space for one in the kitchen without sacrificing a cupboard.  So I was really pleased to see a very similar one in Aldi this morning for £30! ( I know, I do get excited about some very odd things!). I think this was a pretty good impulse buy 😀. 

It already has some washing on it and appears to be working well. It can’t take quite as much weight as the Lakeland one – 5kg as opposed to 7kg. I weighed two large wet towels this morning and they were 2.5 kg to give you an idea. So you can’t load it up massively but it will take a medium load of wet clothes I think. Wet towels are pretty heavy though!

Lakeland claim their model costs about 4p an hour to run and this has the same power so I would say it will cost a similar amount. I had it on for four hours earlier to kick things off so 16p so far. I am considering buying a second one for the lodger, if we ever get one. We have some jobs to finish before we advertise the room but I hope to do so within a couple of weeks.

I discovered on the way to Aldi that the wiper on the car had completely shredded. As usually happens, I only found this out when it started to rain and I could barely see to drive! Not a great start to the day. I am not remotely interested in cars as long as they get me where I need to be and don’t cost too much to run, and I usually leave anything car related to Mr S. However, he is away so I had to go get them sorted. Luckily it wasn’t difficult or expensive – I should be more of an independent woman when it comes to these things! However, now an odd warning light has appeared and I am definitely leaving that to him for tomorrow! 

The next drama: I have started to suspect we may have a carbon monoxide leak somewhere as me and DD3 have been feeling headachy and nauseous on and off all week. This morning we both woke up feeling like our eyes were swollen. I thought it was probably a bug but felt better today when we went to see my parents. It occurred to me as we drove home to get it checked out. So we have been sitting with all the windows open waiting for the gas safety people to arrive to check the boiler and cooker. I hope they come soon as I can’t have a cup of tea until they have checked the cooker since I have a hob kettle rather than a plug in one! Luckily it isn’t too cold. 

Fingers crossed it is nothing – I don’t want to have to find the money for a new cooker or boiler. I have just ordered a carbon monoxide detector though and asked myself why we don’t already have one…

UPDATE: all clear…the gas man checked us out and no sign of carbon dioxide. I think we must both have a bug!

A walk on the beautiful Essex coast


I believe that many people have a rather warped view of Essex. The old Essex girl stereotypes, reinforced on the tv by TOWIE (The Only Way is Essex – I don’t recommend it) might paint a view of the county and is inhabitants that most of us don’t recognise and definitely don’t aspire to. In actual fact there is so much more to this area. It is very beautiful, has a fabulous coastline and you don’t in reality see that many orange people with ridiculously white teeth and huge hair!

We went exploring the coast near us on Sunday. It was a glorious September day so we took a trip to Walton on the Naze to visit the brand new Essex WildlifeTrust visitor centre. The beach there looked stunning so we took a walk before having a cup of tea in the cafe.

There also happened to be a classic car show in the town which of course we couldn’t resist. I loved the vintage camper vans. Look at the interior – gorgeous!

We have become members of the Wildlife Trust again and will be exploring their sites all over the county. Let’s hope we don’t spot any TOWIE wildlife en route 😀.

Cutting out the plastic and saving money

Almond oil makes a good cleanser and moisturiser


A while ago I blogged about trying to reduce my plastic waste. I knew that this could save me money too, and it has! I focused on my toiletries and stopped buying handwash and shower gel, instead reverting to good old fashioned bars of soap.

I began buying solid shampoo bars from Lush. These aren’t that cheap to buy at around £6.50 a bar, but they do last a long time. I am on my second bar since April and think it will last me another couple of months. I like them! I did try a solid conditioner bar but this was not a success. It didn’t feel like it was doing anything. I also tried almond oil purchased in a glass bottle but it made my hair rather lank. I am back to cheap conditioner in plastic bottles and still looking for a decent alternative that isn’t expensive. I know you can use vinegar to get a good shine but my hair is dry so I need a bit of moisture.

The solid deodorant has so far lasted 3 months

The almond oil has proved a decent cleanser and I also use it as a body lotion. Mine cost £2.50 for 250ml from a shop in Hackney.
My solid deodorant, again from Lush, has been a huge success and looks as if it will last at least 6 months. It really works and I use it on my feet too so no more expensive aerosol sprays. Mine is based on bicarbonate of soda but they have others. I’m not sure they would work as well. 
I have explored other items sold in glass or metal containers which look nice but are far too expensive for me. They tend to be hand made or luxury items. What a shame the mass producers don’t think about their environmental footprint when producing and packaging their goods. 

Any more ideas?

Designer labels? Only if they are in the charity shop

We have had a lovely last morning in Wales going round the RSPB Dyfi Osprey project just outside Machynlleth. There were cameras trained on the osprey chicks as they were fed sea bass by their parents. They are six weeks old now and will be flying soon. You can see them on camera at http://www.dyfiospreyproject.com


We also saw a few common lizards looking for some sunshine as we walked along the boardwalks over the wetland areas and lots of tiny finches. There was even what looked like a red squirrel, although one of the staff said it was a young grey. It looks red to me!

Next stop was the charity shop in Machynlleth where I picked up some real bargains, including a Karen Millen top with the label on (saying £99) for £4! Who spends that much on a top and then doesn’t bother to wear it? Someone with more money than sense I guess. I also bought two Phase Eight dresses, a Monsoon skirt, an M&S sequinned dress and navy work skirt and a lovely wool blanket. Everything bar the Karen Millen top cost £2 each. If anything doesn’t fit or I don’t like it I will put it on eBay and make a profit. I don’t feel bad if I do this – a girl has got to make ends meet and I do give the charity shops a lot of my spare cash.

We will have a meander this evening and get the car packed and head back to England tomorrow. I could stay here forever! We will be back 😀.

Home made eco cleaning spray

I dumped the Mr Sheen years ago and I have been using a mixture of vinegar and water to clean surfaces and furniture. It is very cheap and effective. I  have also on occasion used bicarbonate of soda to scrub the bathroom. However, until now I haven’t really explored any recipes for home made environmentally cleaners. 

  I hate the idea of living in a house filled with chemicals and the damage that they do to the environment, but I can’t afford the expensive eco-friendly cleaning products you find in the supermarket or health food shop. Over the years a mixture of being very busy and laziness has meant that my cleaning cupboard has started to fill up with standard cleaners. I have bathroom cleaners, bleach, window cleaners, carpet cleaners, oven cleaners….what happened to my green credentials?! My cupboard is full of chemical cocktails in a sea of plastic bottles. Enough is enough!

As I run out of each cleaner I am going to experiment with a cheaper, greener home made alternative. The first has been a general purpose spray cleaner that I have so far used successfully in the kitchen and bathroom as well as the kitchen work surfaces. 

This is extremely cheap and easy to make. I put it in an old spray bottle so less plastic waste too! I reckon it cost about 60p for a litre and I have loads of borax substitute left that should last ages.

Orange general household cleaner

An old spray bottle, washed out
2 heaped tsp borax substitute
4 or 5 drops of orange essential oil
100ml white vinegar
warm water

Use a large jug as this fizzes when you add the vinegar to the borax substitute. Start by mixing them together as much as you can. Add your orange oil and top up to the litre mark with warm water. Keep stirring until the borax substitute is dissolved, pour into your spray bottle and get cleaning!

I got my white vinegar from Asda for about 50p and the oil and borax substitute came from www.summernaturals.co.uk.

Does anyone have some tried and tested green cleaning recipes they would like to share?

Trying out my birthday presents: Lush by name and Lush by nature

I have been trying the Lush products I got for my birthday and I am pretty impressed so far. I was given Godiva solid shampoo, Jungle solid conditioner and T’eo Krysztal deodorant. 
  The deodorant feels like a solid lump of what I suspect is bicarbonate of soda with a wax bottom holding it all together. It smells lemony and herby and I really like it. I wasn’t convinced it could really work though and I have been pleasantly surprised at how effective it is – I am even using it on my feet! Ok, I am not a manual worker and am office based so I guess I don’t sweat that much. Still,  I will buy it again. Don’t use it straight after shaving though as I did as it stings!

The shampoo bar was also nice. I only needed a bit on my hands and it lathered up really well and smelt divine. The conditioner I  still have reservations about. I am used to a big blob on my hands that is easy to distribute throughout my hair. The instructions say to run it down the hair shaft which I did but it felt more difficult to get it all over. I thought my hair would be full of tangles after but actually it wasn’t, so I will persevere. 

My hair felt really nice when it was dry. Lots of liquid products make my hair feel heavy and coated and my scalp itch. None of that with these products so far. I will need to use them for a while to see whether they are a good choice long term.

I hope I don’t have to revert back to the old products in plastic bottles! Can anyone recommend any other good products that are plastic free and cost effective?

(This is not a sponsored post and the views expressed are my own honest opinions).
 

A fabulous birthday in Constable Country

  I booked the day off work today. I thought we could have a day out  and use a voucher my daughters gave us for  Christmas at a very fine restaurant at Dedham in Suffolk called the Boathouse. We wouldn’t normally splash out and spend £60 on a meal out ever! I just couldn’t justify it. However, it was lovely food in a very pretty building with views over the river and an absolute treat since we didn’t have to pay.
  Dedham is a delightful old fashioned little place and the area is famous for several landmarks and views painted by the artist John Constable. We didn’t look round the little shops today but instead had a walk along the river to Flatford Mill and Willy Lott’s House, both the subject of Constable’s artwork. It was a beautiful sunny day and I think it did us good to walk off all the calories from dinner. I hate to think how much weight I will have put on this week!
    The girls bought me some products I was after from Lush for my birthday. Since I am still attempting to cut down on plastic waste I thought I would try solid shampoo and conditioner bars and a natural deodorant. They all came wrapped in recyclable paper and smell divine. Reviews I have read say they last for ages so I am hoping they will be good value for money. Toiletries can be so expensive! I haven’t tried them yet but will let you know if they are any good. 

Back to work and reality tomorrow as it is a really busy time. Back in a couple of days!

It’s not easy being green! A review of Splosh products

This is not a sponsored post and all views are my own genuine opinions.

I have been frustrated for some time by the sheer volume of plastic products that enter Shoestring Cottage in the form of containers and packaging and have been looking for ways to reduce the amount of plastic waste we produce.

It is very inspiring to read about people who produce little or no waste of any description. They buy their groceries and household products from markets and bulk buy stores, use second-hand and grow some of their own food. They reduce, reuse and recycle everything, but mostly they focus on reducing; that is they refuse to buy products in any form of packaging.

This is fine if you happen to live near a bulk buy supermarket. I found very few examples in the UK, and none at all near to where I live. We do have a market so I could get much of my fruit and veg from them. I could get my meat from the butcher in town and ask them to place it straight into my own containers. I have heard there is a food coop developing locally but the bulk buy potential there seems to be limited to whole foods. For a full time working mum this is incredibly time consuming. It appears  I would need to spend a whole precious day of my weekend shopping in town and then still wouldn’t solve the problem of all the toiletries and household cleaning products that come in plastic packaging. As a great frog once said, it ain’t easy being green!

The latter problem could be resolved by a cunningly clever concept from a company called Splosh. They sell products such as washing up liquid, toilet cleaner, hand wash, laundry detergent and fabric conditioner in dissolvable refill pouches that come in a recyclable cardboard container through your letterbox. If you like you can buy various starter kits of their products, which are in plastic bottles admittedly but you only need to purchase them once and then reuse them again and again  by refilling them. You can even just buy the refills and use your own bottles. 

  This is such an obvious idea you wonder why all  companies aren’t doing it! They could save masses of money on packaging and transportation if they sold their wares as refills. Supermarkets would reduce the amount of space required on their shelves and local authorities wouldn’t have to spend time and money collecting and either recycling this packaging or sending it to landfill.

So…I heartily approve of the concept, but what about the products? I decided to start by trying washing up liquid and fabric softener. I have already gone back to buying washing powder in cardboard boxes and replaced hand wash with good old fashioned soap so I thought I would go for the products that would be harder to replace with more environmentally sound alternatives ( and yes, before you say it, I have tried a cup of vinegar instead of fabric softener and the results weren’t impressive).

  I purchased lime washing up liquid and cotton flower fabric softener. They both smelt lovely and look great in their smart Splosh containers sitting on my kitchen windowsill. But do they work? The answer is yes! They are very effective products. The washing up liquid coped very well cleaning up two big bowls of curry, a rice pan and lots of plates and cutlery. My washing smelt lovely and even the line dried towels came out nice and soft. 

The only fly in the ointment if you are on a restricted budget will be the price. You can buy a four bottle starter pack with products of your choice for £14.95. 

A refill for 1 litre of fabric softener is £5.95 and a bottle of washing up liquid will set you back £4.95. The products are good and I heartily recommend them if you can afford to pay that. However, I can buy washing up liquid in Aldi for 69p and 2 litres of softener for a couple of pounds. So if you are looking to save money and not just the planet it probably won’t work for you. 

My next step may be to look at making my own cleaning products. I already use bicarbonate of soda and white vinegar for some tasks but I need to expand this idea. Watch this space!