Eco friendly laundry: Eco Egg review

ECOEGG REVIEW

I purchased my Ecoegg laundry egg just over four months ago. As I have been using it for a while I thought it was time to give some feedback. So here is my Ecoegg review.

My reasons for buying the Ecoegg were as follows:

a) to reduce the amount of waste I created in the form of plastic bottles and cardboard;

b) to save money on laundry detergent;

c) to cut out some of the chemicals I use here at Shoestring Cottage, benefiting us as a family and the environment.

How does it work?

The manufacturer claims that “The Laundry Egg is a complete replacement for laundry detergent and fabric conditioner.  Just pop it in the drum of your washing machine on top of your clothes – no powder, liquid, tablets, gels, or fabric softener required.”

According to the blurb it works like this: “The Ecoegg contains two types of cleaning pellets. The tourmaline ceramic pellets weaken the adhesive forces between the dirt and the fabric. The mineral pellets then naturally ionise the oxygen molecules in the water which then penetrate deep into the fabric, lifting away the direct and grime. The two types of natural mineral pellets inside the egg work together, lifting off the dirt and odours, leaving significantly less residue on your clothes.”

ecoegg reviewSounds good so far, so when I received my Ecoegg – in recyclable cardboard packaging – I was really excited to test it out. I really wanted this little blue egg to be effective!

It arrived with 2 little packets of pellets. You have to fill your egg with one and when the pellets fall beneath the refill line, add another packet. I have been using mine since September last year (during Zero Waste week), so haven’t had to refill it yet. You can also buy refills of the pellets and use your egg over and over again, helping to save money and reduce plastic waste for years to come.

Money saving

The egg I purchased was the Fresh Linen 720 wash version, which cost £24.95 on Amazon. The price per wash works out at 3- 4 pence. Even if you currently buy a generic supermarket laundry liquid or powder, this is a significant saving!

Better for your skin

The Ecoegg is dermatologically tested and supported by Allergy UK . It has been awarded the Allergy Friendly Product Award, so could be the perfect product for those who suffer from eczema or dermatitis.

But does it really clean your laundry?

I have been really happy with the effectiveness of the Ecoegg. On a general wash of clothes worn to work or about the house it is great. I do think you might miss that (totally fake) ‘just washed’ smell from your normal laundry liquid. I add a few drops of essential oil to the fabric softener drawer but, to be frank, it’s not really needed.

However, I want to be honest in my Ecoegg review. On really dirty items such as Mr Shoestring’s work jeans, it doesn’t lift tough stains out. I think it would have a hard time with blood or oil too. Having said that, any commercial washing powder might struggle with this! To counter this I use a pre-wash stain remover. Ecoegg sell their own stain remover, but I am still using up a bottle I already had of Sainsbury’s own. At £9.99 the Ecoegg one is a bit pricey for me!

ecoegg reviewI still have a cardboard box of washing powder from Aldi too. If a wash looks particularly dirty, or is a messy white wash, I use the powder instead of my Ecoegg. This doesn’t happen very often, but I wonder if families with kids who play football on a muddy pitch or love to jump in filthy puddles would manage?

The Ecoegg doesn’t soften clothes in the same way a fabric softener would so I still add conditioner to each wash. I purchase mine at our local food coop, who do refills, which means we aren’t generating the need for more plastic bottles.

Concluding my Ecoegg review

Overall I am an Ecoegg convert. Mostly the clothes we wash are my barely dirty ones as I work in an office, or Mr S’s slightly grubbier ones, which can be dirty if he has been working outside. It doesn’t leave your sheets ‘whiter than white’, but that is because if doesn’t contain a lot of chemical bleaches, so I can live with that. This means it doesn’t leach the colour from your darker clothes too, which is a bonus.

I am happy enough to have a box of laundry powder to get things a bit cleaner on the odd occasion. Because I can buy fabric conditioner in bulk I don’t mind that the Ecoegg doesn’t leave our laundry super soft. It might be enough for many people to add a cup of white vinegar to be even more eco-friendly.

The Ecoegg has definitely saved us money and will continue to do so, I hope, over the next few years. So would I recommend it? Most certainly!

Do you prefer greener methods to regular laundry products? What do you use?

This is not a sponsored post and I purchased the Ecoegg myself. However, this post does contain affiliate links and if you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

 

Home made lemon cleaning spray #ecofriendlycleaning

home made lemon cleaning spray

I thought I would share this recipe (if you can call it a recipe!) for  a fabulous home made lemon cleaning spray. Regular readers will know that I have gradually been replacing the nasty chemical products at Shoestring Cottage with more eco-friendly alternatives.

Cheap as chips

However, you can pay through the nose for more environmentally sound products. The beauty of this home made lemon cleaning spray is that it is as cheap as chips! Ideally you would use the rinds of lemons that have been used for something else first. I made a lemon drizzle cake with two lemons. This involved using the juice and some of the rinds. I couldn’t face chucking them straight into the compost bin as they smelled so wonderful. Lemons are well known for their cleaning and antibacterial properties so a concoction for cleaning seemed the obvious solution.

I usually use a mix of 50-50 white vinegar and water as a spray when I am dusting the furniture, in the microwave, on the windows and to clean the kitchen surfaces and cooker top. The addition of lemons means it smells so much nicer.

home made lemon cleaning sprayI usually use old plastic spray bottles, but this time invested in some home made glass spray bottles from eBay.  The spray part is still plastic but they will last a long time hopefully. My home made lemon cleaning spray will save me buying lots of polish in spray cans that are extremely difficult to recycle or items in plastic.

The recipe: Home made lemon cleaning spray

You will need:

The rinds of two lemons

Around half a litre of white vinegar

A suitable glass container with lid

Method:

Add the lemon rinds to the glass container. Pour over the vinegar and put the lid on. Leave it somewhere for two weeks. Strain into a large measuring jug. Check how much vinegar you have and then add the same amount of cold water. Give it a stir then pour into your containers. Bob’s your uncle! Couldn’t be easier. Using a home made lemon cleaning spray such as this will cut the number of chemicals in your house that you and your family breathe in and save you money too.

Do you make your own cleaning products? I also like this one using borax substitute.

This post may contain affiliate links.

OnlyNaturals Review: ecofriendly cosmetics and toiletries

I recently discovered a lovely company called OnlyNaturals, a family run British company based in Berkshire. They only sell natural and organic skincare and cosmetics containing no harmful chemicals. This is the direction I am trying to move towards with the products we use here at Shoestring Cottage.

CBD balm

Regular readers will know that I have been struggling for months with pain from a trapped nerve in my neck. I have tried all sorts to get relief, from massage and acupuncture to an array of drugs from my doctor.  Next stop is an MRI scan to see if I have damaged discs. I am not used to spending so much time with medical professionals – I am usually so healthy! However, this has proved a tough issue to relieve.

onlynaturalsI have been using CBD oil orally, but had heard that CBD ointment applied to the skin can be helpful for pain. With a bit of research, I found that  OnlyNaturals sell it!  I am trying a small pot first, so have ordered the 10g balm for £13.99. They also do CBD oil in capsule form, which might be worth exploring as it tastes vile!

Fewer nasties

Looking at the OnlyNaturals website, there are so many beautiful cruelty free products with fewer artificial ingredients. all of their products need to fit the following criteria:

  1. No Parabens
  2. No SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulphate)
  3. No Phthalates
  4. No artificial Colours
  5. No artificial Fragrances
  6. No Mineral or Petroleum Based Oils
  7. No contaminated Talc or Lanolin
  8. No animal ingredients (other than milk based ingredients and beeswax)
  9. No animal testing

only naturalsBecause they use only the best, natural ingredients, their products aren’t cheap. However, if you want to do natural beauty on a budget, you can do some savvy shopping with their offers. This Sukin Love Your Skin set is on offer at £15.99, down from £23.99. It consists of a foaming facial cleanser, hydrating mist toner and moisturiser. Pretty good value for three products I think.

onlynaturalsThey have some great value items in their sale too, so it’s worth a look. I wear lipstick a lot and really love their Lily Lolo natural lipsticks at £9.50 each, which I think is pretty reasonable. This one, Demure,  is in the sale for £6.50 and is just my colour!

Sound environmental policy

I like the OnlyNaturals policy on the environment as well. They choose products made by companies who are environmentally responsible and their packaging is either recycled or comes from sustainable sources. They ship products in cardboard and recyclable jiffy bags and use packing material inside the boxes that is fully biodegradable and dissolves in water.

Check them out and tell me what you think! You get a 10% discount on your first order.

This post isn’t sponsored but it does contain some affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase using my link I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

 

 

Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson Book Review


zero waste home
Can you imagine your family producing just one mason jar of waste each year? Even reducing the waste in your recycling to the bare minimum? Can you envisage for one moment your home as a minimalist, plastic-free haven containing only the things you really need? Less to clean and maintain, fewer toxins, and a simpler life richer in the things that really matter? Bea Johnson and her family have created just that and her book Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life explains how.

Achieving simplicity

By adopting a zero waste lifestyle, the Johnsons have achieved a balance and simplicity that most of us can only dream of.  It may not be possible for all of us to create a completely zero waste home, but we can learn from their experience to reduce our dependence on plastics, cut our waste dramatically, to eat more locally and healthily, and to learn to place our emphasis on experiences over things.

zero waste home

You can follow the 5 Rs by taking your own containers to a bulk shop

The recent Marie Kondo phenomenon has illustrated our dissatisfaction with the vast amount of stuff we purchase and cram into our homes. We work harder to make more money to buy yet more stuff, and only occasionally stop to consider how little lasting satisfaction comes from this lifestyle. By moving towards the attainment of a zero waste home, we can help to reduce the stress on our environment, save money and improve our physical and mental well-being.

Five steps to a zero waste home

1# REFUSE

Johnson advocates a five  step approach to reducing your waste. Step 1 is to REFUSE. This means curbing your consumption overall, refusing business cards, leaflets, junk mail, goody bags, receipts, plastic bags and single use plastics generally. By taking a reusable bottle, cloth bags for your groceries, taking your own containers to buy loose goods and refusing as much potential waste as possible – ie not bringing it into your home – you will reduce the demand for many items to be produced in the first place.

2# REDUCE

This means questioning your need of past, present and future purchases. It means the reduction of stuff, maybe donating or selling items that you have accumulated but no longer use. Even giving up shopping as a leisure activity, maybe downsizing your property, gettimg rid of one car if you have two, etc.

3# REUSE.

Repurpose the items that come into your house that you weren’t able to refuse or reduce. Finding a new purpose for an item that might otherwise be thrown away or sent for recycling helps to alleviate resource depletion and extend their useful life. For example, you can used old coffee jars to collect and store dry goods purchased in bulk.

#4 RECYCLE

If you have followed steps 1 to 3 so far, you won’t be sending so many items for recycling. This is progress, since recycling isn’t a panacea for our over consumption. Recycling uses a lot of energy for a start and is confusing. Some plastics are recyclable and some are not. Some claim to be compostable, but how long does this take? Are our recycling systems properly regulated and robust? How do we know they aren’t shipped off to a third world country and dumped?

#5 ROT (compost the rest)

When you have gone through the four preceding steps, hopefully all you have left is compostable food and maybe also paper waste. You have achieved zero waste!

Can you really achieve zero waste?

zero waste home

We are lucky to finally have a zero waste shop

Johnson does admit that a truly zero waste lifestyle is pretty much impossible, but we can all move towards it. The benefits to our finances, our health, our time and the environment will be immense. She guides you through the whole of your home and lifestyle, giving you invaluable information and advice to enable you to at least follow a low waste existence.

Zero Waste Home has had a huge impact on how we live at Shoestring Cottage. I urge you to buy a copy and lend it to all of your friends and family members to encourage them to tread more lightly on the earth.

This post contains affiliate links.

Inspirational Books for the New Year

Inspirational Books

I have said it before, I love a good book. Only rarely will you find me reading fiction these days. I prefer real life, constructive and inspiring reading matter these days. The following is a list of inspirational books to help you save money, live better and motivate you in 2019. They are under broad headings but some of those that encourage you to live more frugally also happen to be more eco-friendly, and vice versa. I have a heading for motivational books, but many of those under other headings will also motivate you to move in your chosen direction. I hope you like my list. Feel free to add your own in the comments!

Inspirational books to help you save money

Total Money Makeover:  A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness

Anything by Dave Ramsey will help you to take control of your finances, as well as to grow your money. I was extremely impressed with his The Total Money Makeover, which I reviewed here. Thousands of people have found financial peace by following his baby steps to get out of debt and create wealth.

How I lived a year on just a pound a day by Kath Kelly

This is an entertaining and inspiring read. How I lived a year on a just pound a day follows Kath Kelly’s journey as she finds creative ways to have fun and live a good life on the toughest of budgets. She cycled everywhere, ate reduced price food and even managed a couple of holidays. Whether she could still do it today I don’t know. I wish she would do a follow up! My full review is here.

The Moneyless Man by Mark Boyle

Another book that shows just how little you can live on if you are determined is Moneyless Man, The: A Year Of Freeconomic Living. I was intrigued to find out how he would live on no money at all for a year. In this thought provoking book, Mark Boyle shows how you can not only live on less money, but actually thrive. His book draws attention to the damage our thoughtless consumerism does to the world and our fellow citizens and offers a radical new way to live. My review is here. If you want to find out more about the movement showing people that money is not true wealth you can watch this short You Tube film. This book could easily have been in the Motivation or Live Greener sections as it encompasses all of these topics.

His book The Moneyless Manifesto: Live Well. Live Rich. Live Free is on my list to read next!

The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn

This is the book that started my journey to frugality and helped to take control of my money. The Complete Tightwad Gazette makes money saving seem like an enjoyable hobby rather than a hard, painful slog. The Tightwad Gazette started life as a money saving newsletter, full of great frugal commonsense and thrifty ideas. Even though it is now quite old, it is a classic and a must for anyone wanting to live a good life on less dollar. My review is here.

Budget cookery books

A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe

Every frugal cook should have a copy of A Girl Called Jack: 100 delicious budget recipes. Lots of super cheap recipes in this one. I prefer it by far to any of the others from Jack. My full review is here.

Save with Jamie by Jamie Oliver

inspirational books

I have never been a massive fan of Jamie Oliver. All that ‘bish bash bosh’ stuff put me off. However, I now have a couple of his cookbooks and they are great. Save with Jamie: Shop Smart, Cook Clever, Waste Less isn’t mega frugal, but very good for the budget cook because it makes sure you use all your leftovers. Pukka! I reviewed it here.

Vegetarian Kitchen by Sarah Brown

I have mentioned this book a lot recently as I have been revisiting some old vegetarian favourites. It is out of print now, sadly, but you can still pick up a second hand copy on Amazon . If you are a vegetarian or have one in the family, it is well worth buying. I still love the cashew nut and mushroom roast and the red dragon pie, especially.

Vegetarian food is nearly always cheaper than meat and healthier too.

The Complete Vegetarian by Rose Elliott

Rose Elliot’s New Complete Vegetarian brings together recipes from many of her books. What I like about any of Rose Elliot’s books is that she always gives you plenty of information on how to eat a nutritionally balanced diet and the recipes are easy to make. I have pulled this one out as it has a lot of good recipes, but actually any Rose Elliot book is worth a look. Many of them are out of print now so grab a copy if you happen to see one second hand. Some are available on Amazon, but are expensive now. The New Vegetarian Cookbook is another good one, but I couldn’t see it on Amazon at all, and I used to love Not Just a Load of Old Lentils, which I think was probably the first vegetarian cook book I ever bought, in my teens.  Spinach roulade, anyone?

Frugal Food by Delia Smith

inspirational books

I come back to this book time and again. I had a copy of the original 1970s paperback, which disintegrated with over use. My mum came to the rescue and bought me the re-published hardback version from the late ’90s. You can do an awful lot of nice dishes with the humble sausage, there is a vegetarian section and lots of good, cheap cake recipes. You can read a fuller review here, but on the whole I would say this is worth buying if you want reliable budget recipes.

The Enchanted Broccoli Forest by Mollie Katzen

This is a really unusual and original vegetarian cookbook. In fact, I have only just rediscovered it and it has been sitting on the shelf for years. It contains recipes for the more adventurous cook, I would say. Again, because they are vegetarian, they tend to be cheaper to make than meaty food. Even if you just want to cut back on the amount of meat you eat rather than becoming a full on vegetarian, there is lots to explore in this book.

I love the sound of the peanut and sesame noodles and might give the sweet potato pie a go. There are lots of interesting sweet and savoury bakes too. I have always wanted to try calzone so this is on my list. The food in The Enchanted Broccoli Forest is influenced by a wide range of ethnic cooking styles and incorporates lots of different nuts, grains, vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices.

If you want a cookbook that doesn’t rely on expensive ingredients yet offers something a bit different, this could be the book to try.

Books to help you live greener

Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson

I love this book: Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life, which I finished reading just before Christmas. Not that I believe we are anywhere near creating just a glass jar full of waste each year, as Bea Johnson and her family do, but it has certainly made me realise that we could reduce our waste A LOT with very little effort.

I found this a very inspirational read, full of ideas about how you can cut the waste you produce, whilst living a more simple and fulfilling life.  The key is to follow the 5 Rs: Refuse stuff you don’t need (don’t take the waste in the first place; easier said than done, but not impossible); Reduce what you do need and cannot refuse (spend your money on experiences rather than ‘stuff’); Reuse what you consume (this doesn’t mean recycling but rather finding a new purpose for items that you didn’t manage to refuse or reduce); Recycle (hopefully, you have refused, reduced and reused so much that there is much less left to recycle) and finally, Rot (compost everything that is left).

inspirational books

I will do a full review of Zero Waste Home in the next month or so, but highly recommend it. If you want to find out more about Bea Johnson and the zero waste movement she created, just do a search on You Tube. She pops up doing talks all over the place.

Saving the Planet without Costing the Earth, by Donnachadh McCarthy

This practical book stops you feeling overwhelmed about how you can make a difference and live a greener lifestyle. It offers 500 ideas to live a more environmentally existence, from turning off your appliances at the plug rather than leaving them on standby, to insulating your home, buying more energy efficient appliances, reducing your waste and reusing where you can.

I love that it offers practical solutions.Saving the Planet Without Costing the Earth: 500 Simple Steps to a Greener Lifestyle is quite an old book now, as it was  first published in 2004. However, it is totally relevant for today, as we become more acutely aware of the environmental damage our lifestyle is causing and strive to reduce our carbon footprint. This is one of the most inspirational books I have found and it has certainly had an impact on me as I have attempted to live a green lifestyle over the years.

Natural Household Cleaning, Making your own eco-savvy cleaning products, by Rachelle Strauss

This was one of my Christmas presents and I was very happy to receive it. Natural Household Cleaning shows you how you can replace the plethora of highly marketed, plastic packaged chemical cleaners with simpler, more natural and less environmentally damaging alternatives.

I have been using bicarbonate or soda, vinegar and soda crystals to clean here at Shoestring Cottage for a while now so much of this isn’t new to me. However, what is really interesting is the information on the chemicals in most commercial cleaning products and the harm they can do you individually (let alone mixed in a chemical cocktail with other products). For example, air fresheners don’t actually freshen the air. All they do is coat your nostrils and block the olfactory nerve with a stronger chemical fragrance. The warnings tell you to not to breathe in the spray and that inhaling the product may kill you. Just open the window or tackle the source of any bad smells!

In Natural Household Cleaning Rachel Strauss gives you simple ideas recipes and ideas to replace all chemical cleaners in your house for the sake of your health, the environment and your bank balance.

Books on Simple Living

Simplicity: Easy ways to simplify and enrich your life by Elaine St James

As more and more people find that having it all – the best clothes, the biggest car or house, the newest gadgets -means working more to earn more, many of us are looking for ways to get off the treadmill. Working to compete with the Jones’s leaves less time for family, friends and more fulfilling activities, leading to a sense of being overwhelmed and stressed out.

In Simplicity: Easy Ways to Simplify and Enrich Your Life, Elaine St James suggests a different way to live, trading in your high pressure lifestyle for one that is less about money and more about valuing the simpler things in life. A great read if you need inspiration to change, but don’t know where to start.

In Praise of Slow by Carl Honore

Another oldie but goody, In Praise of Slow: How a Worldwide Movement is Challenging the Cult of Speed challenges the faster is better, hectic lifestyles that many of us find ourselves trapped in. When Carl Honore found himself speed reading a bedtime story to his child, he knew he had to change and find a better balance. In this book, he explores the idea of slow living, from slow food to slow sex to show how embracing the slow living movement can help you live a more productive and fulfilling life.  A great book for when you are feeling overwhelmed. Give yourself time to read this!

The Complete Book of Self Sufficiency by John Seymour

inspirational books

This classic inspired the TV series the Good Life and caused lots of people to attempt to go back to the earth. You may not be ready to go and live on a smallholding in the back of beyond and live a self sufficient life, to give up the supermarket and grow all of your own food, kill and eat your livestock and make everything from scratch.  However, The New Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency: The Classic Guide for Realists and Dreamers may well inspire you to keep a few chickens in the garden, make some home brew or jam and bake a few loaves every now and again. It will encourage you to waste less, respect the land and be a little more self sufficient.

John Seymour says in his introduction: ” Self-sufficiency does not mean ‘going back’ to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food which is fresh and organically grown…for the health of body and peace of mind which come with hard varied work in the open air…’

Whether you just want to dream or to actually live the good life on the land, this book is a must read.

I hope you enjoyed my (by no means comprehensive) list of inspirational books for 2019 and that they will give you food for thought.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase I will receive a small commission to help keep Shoestring Cottage going. Thanks!

 

Eight ways to reduce your junk mail

reduce your junk mail

I don’t know about you, but I am taking charge of the amount of junk that comes through my letterbox. 95% goes straight into the recycling. What a waste of resources! I figure if I can stop it arriving in the first place – simply refuse it – I can make a difference to the number of trees that need to be cut down in order to produce it. Do you want to reduce your junk mail?

I have enough jobs to do around the home. Sorting the junk mail from the post I actually need to read is an annoyance I can do without. Collecting big piles of paper to go out to the recycling bins is another. Lugging the large bags of paper to the kerbside collection? You get the picture.

Top ways to reduce your junk mail

Communicate with retailers

A lot of the mail that I receive is from companies where I have been a customer but inadvertently forgotten to tick the box asking them not to mail me.  Some I have been receiving for years, but never open and stick them straight in the recycling box (conveniently by the front door). If I really want news on special offers from a certain business, there is nothing to stop me receiving them by email (although these can also be a time consuming annoyance, see below).

Rather than sticking them straight into the recycling, I build up a little pile and then go online to let the companies know I no longer wish to receive their mailings. There is usually an email address on the envelope somewhere telling you how to do this to reduce your junk mail. After all, it saves them money too.

Send it back

When I receive unsolicited mailings that don’t give unsubscribe information, I simply return to sender with a note on the back requesting that they remove my details from their mailing list. They don’t always pay attention to my instructions, but it is worth a go. If they want to waste their time and money continually sending me bits of paper than I am just going to return, that is up to them.

Refuse it

We have a beautiful shiny new front door. I don’t want to mess it up with a no junk mail sticker, but I don’t want the postie or leaflet droppers chucking constant unaddressed adverts through our door. I have therefore ordered this metal sign from Amazon, which I think looks slightly classier:reduce your junk mailIf I catch someone ignoring it, I will be chasing them up the road and giving them the leaflet back. It shouldn’t be this hard to reduce your junk mail, but sadly it sometimes is!

Talk to the Royal Mail

You can also reduce your junk mail by opting out of the Royal Mail’s door to door service. They get paid to throw menus, flyers, etc through your door, but you don’t have to accept it. Email [email protected] or write to them at:

Door to Door Opt Outs
FREEPOST RLZL-LHZH-JZHT
Royal Mail Customer Services
PO Box 740
PLYMOUTH
PL9 7YB

Mailing preference service

The Mailing Preference Service (MPS) is a free service funded by the direct mail industry to enable consumers to have their names and home addresses in the UK removed from lists used by the industry. It is actively supported by the Royal Mail and all directly involved trade associations and fully supported by The Information Commissioners Office (ICO).

You can sign up to the service to reduce your junk mail and any other person who lives, or has lived, at your property. It is well worth doing and only takes a minute or so. Visit the MPS here.

Go paper free

It has taken me a long time to understand the benefits of going paper free. I am the kind of person who keeps boxes of files regarding my bank statements and house hold bills under the bed, gathering dust and rarely serving any useful purpose.

Each time I receive a bill or statement through the post, I am now taking a few minutes to go onto the company’s website and change my  communication settings. I can easily store anything important digitally!

Remove your name from the open electoral roll

Did you know that anyone can buy a copy of the electoral register with your details on it? No, neither did I! But it is possible to remove your details from the open register. Obviously, you will still be on the main register, which is used for elections. To find out how to remove yourself from the open register, visit gov.uk here.

Check the small print

Check the small print on any forms you complete to make sure you are opting out of any future marketing communications. These are easy to miss, so you need to be vigilant.

Of course, digital mail can be just as time consuming and annoying, but at least it doesn’t create paper waste. I am on a mission to unsubscribe from as many email lists as  I can as well.

Does junk mail annoy you? What do you do to reduce your junk mail? I am on a mission! You can read my tips to reduce your plastic waste here.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission.

 

 

 

SHOMOS round up – money blogger awards

What a week! I had an eventful time at the SHOMOS in London, with a few bumps in the road. That’s life I guess. It would be dull if things always ran to plan.

The SHOMOS – what’s it all about?

SHOMOS

I travelled up to London on Saturday for the SHOMOS, the annual conference and awards of the UK Money Bloggers group, sponsored by Yolt.

What a great day – I absolutely loved it! We had brilliant talks from Cora Harrison (the Mini Millionaire), Laura Light (Savings for Savvy Mums) and Jordon Cox,  aka the Coupon Kid, on various aspects of blogging and life generally.

Jordon gave a very moving account of his recent, very severe illness and how, despite being hospitalised for months on end, he managed to write and publish his first book, Secrets to Saving: The Ultimate UK Couponing Guide. He really is a remarkable young man. I reviewed Jordon’s book here.

There were also a couple of panel discussions on dealing with debt and tips to future proof your finances, which were incredibly helpful and informative.

The SHOMOS event is pulled together by Andy Webb from becleverwithyourcash.com , now the money expert on Channel five’s Shop Smart Save Money. He does an amazing job every year and is an all round lovely man.

How did we do at the SHOMOS?

SHOMOS

Shoestring Cottage was nominated in three categories, Best Frugal Food Blog, Best Money Saving Blog and the People’s Choice Award. Sadly, I didn’t come home with any awards this time. However, I was really delighted to discover that it was quite a big deal to be in the final shortlist of six for the People’s Choice award. The original list consisted of 83! More than happy with this. This is all down to my lovely readers, who took the time to vote for me. Thank you so much if you did!

I was delighted that my friend Emma from the Money Whisperer did extremely well, scooping two awards. When I met her for the first time last year she had only been blogging for a few months. Nikki from the Female Money Doctor also did well. Please check them both out as their blogs are well worth a read and their awards were well deserved. There are so many others I could mention. You can find the full list of winners here.

SHOMOS

Then it all went to pot….

Having had the best day, I started to feel a bit queasy on the way home. Tube – bus replacement service – train, enough to make anyone feel a bit putrid. However, it turned into the winter vomiting virus and by the time I got back it was in full swing. Not good! However, at least I lost a few pounds! So, if I have been a little quiet on the blogging front this week, you will understand why. I managed to infect a few of my fellow bloggers and poor Mr Shoestring too.

The slightly traumatic journey home aside, the SHOMOS is a brilliant event. If you are a blogger who writes about finance in some way, or if you know someone who does, point them at the website. There is also a very supportive Facebook group you can request to join.

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Eighteen of the best green Christmas gift ideas

green christmas

Are you dreaming of a green Christmas? I am! I am hoping to give and receive a lot more ethically sourced and environmentally friendly presents this year. Some will even save the recipient money, so even better.

I am at a stage of my life when I don’t want endless ‘stuff’, especially when it arrives in copious amounts of plastic packaging. Thoughtful gifts with natural ingredients and easily recyclable packaging are my aim for a green Christmas this year. Here are a few ideas.

Plastic free tea

green Christmas

For the eco-conscious tea lover, how about a selection of fine tea in plastic free teabags? We Are Tea ethically source their whole leaf tea and are the first premium tea company to remove paper tags from their entire range. Every tea bag is made from corn starch and sealed with ultrasound, making them 100% biodegradable. This year will see them go completely plastic-free across the whole of their packaging and supply chain.

The range of teas includes Moroccan Mint, Oolong, Super Berry, Soothe, Earl Grey and Jasmine Silver Needle. They very kindly gifted me some to try and they are definitely a cut above in terms of flavour.

I am a bit of a tea addict – I just love the stuff. Recently I have become more adventurous in the types of tea I drink so I think these would make a lovely present. However, I was disappointed that these plastic free teabags arrived in a cardboard box but the inner packaging was a plastic bag! This seemed totally unnecessary to me but, as their aim is to be completely plastic free this year hopefully the plastic bags will soon disappear.

green Christmas

If your tea lover prefers to avoid tea bags altogether, you could give them this cute little glass teapot or perhaps a single cup tea infuser? Ounona do one with a very fine strainer and a drip tray, making it easy to use and mess free.

Glass popcorn maker

My daughter gets through bags and bags of microwaveable popcorn. She is totally addicted! I plan to buy her this glass popcorn maker from Amazon, which will be healthier, cheaper and cut out all the packaging she currently has to dispose of. I have seen others that have no plastic, but I think it needs some protection. It won’t be too sustainable if she immediately breaks it and has to throw it out!

green Christmas

Cycling: green and budget friendly

Cycling is obviously a fantastic, eco-friendly means of transport, and healthy too. The cyclist in your life will appreciate some accessories to keep them on the road. For the serious long distance cyclist I like the sound of 100% Natural Cyclist Butt Balm from Ultra Bee. It’s not clear what the packaging is on this. I doubt it’s glass so hopefully the plastic is recyclable at least. It is however made with natural, soothing ingredients such as honey, propolis and calendula.green christmas

Maybe a snazzy metal bicycle bell? I like this jungle one for £10 from Pretty Useful Tools. I would also really love an old fashioned wicker basket for my bike, like this Home-ever traditional handmade one for £18.99, which I think is a good size and a nice shape. In my ideal world, I would cycle to market and bring home my fruit and veg in this!

Socks with purpose

green christmas gifts

Socks may seem a dull gift for Christmas, but we all wear them! I am always happy to receive a cosy pair. Imagine if your Christmas socks could help save a critically endangered species? Critically Endangered Socks produce
soft and luxurious socks made from a blend of sustainably sourced, Oeko-Tex certified bamboo and cotton.
Each pair is named after and draws inspiration from one of five critically endangered animals, with 20% of sales going towards a different hand-picked animal charity. at £12 a pair, these aren’t budget socks, but they are great quality.

I was given a couple of pairs to try and they are very comfortable and durable.

Ecofriendly teeth cleaning

Did you know that every plastic toothbrush you have ever had has yet to decompose? It makes sense to change to a compostable bamboo toothbrush. I like these ones from Trilink, as the bristles are also biodegradeable – a lot of bamboo toothbrushes still have plastic bristles. One of these would be good in everyone’s Christmas stocking.

You could add some chemical free toothpaste in a glass jar as a nice gift too. This spearmint one from Georganics looks interesting. I confess I have yet to try it but it is on my wish list from my Secret Santa. The reviewers on Amazon either love it or hate it!

Luxury toiletries for a green Christmas

As well over-packaged goods, I have started to avoid skin care products and toiletries with chemical ingredients. Natural, effective products can easily be found as cheaply as the better known brands. They can be even cheaper since they don’t have to pay for the massive marketing budgets of the well known skincare brands.

I wrote a whole post on this recently, Eco-friendly Beauty on a Budget. For a green Christmas, though, I am happy to push the boat out a bit. Yes, you could pop down to Boots or your supermarket and buy one of the usual Christmas gift packs, or you could take a greener and more adventurous approach with some beautiful products that aren’t laden with chemicals.

How about this gorgeous organic hemp shea butter cream from Hemp Help? The outer packaging is made from bamboo. The inner pot is light weight plastic but, as the company explained to me, they worked out that a glass container would mean the weight of the product would multiply the carbon footprint by three. I would prefer to avoid plastic but guess a bit of balance is required.green ChristmasThere is a good article here from Treehugger listing the top 20 ingredients to avoid when buying cosmetics.

Get rid of disposables

When I take my reusable bamboo mug out and about with me people always seem interested in getting one. If you know somebody who likes a takeout coffee or who travels to events where disposable cups are the norm, this would make a great green Christmas gift.

green Christmas

A bamboo or stainless steel lunchbox is also a good present. Taking your lunch to work or out and about saves money too! I found a beautiful bamboo one in TK Max recently for only £5.99, which I thought was a bargain.

green Christmas

I was also gifted this stainless steel stackable one from a lovely online shop called &keep.  This one is priced at £19.96 and would be ideal for a child’s lunchbox. I like that it has a separate small box as I usually take a snack of dried fruit or nuts to work, but I found the bottom layer too shallow for anything except some grapes. If I was making a purchase I would go for the deeper one priced at £19.99 here. They are a lot more expensive than your standard plastic lunchbox, but will last forever. It is an item that somebody might not pay for if they had to make the purchase themselves but would really appreciate it as a present.

green Christmas

Something else that I was gifted from &keep was a pack of three beeswax wraps. I have wanted to try these as an alternative to cling film for ages and haven’t been disappointed so far. They mould round a dish of food to keep it nice and fresh, are washable and last around a year. If you know someone desperate to cut their waste they would love these! At £14.99, these are something of an investment though. As Mr S’s brother is a beekeeper, I have a potentially endless supply of beeswax so at some point I plan to make some of these myself. I have already found a few tutorials on You Tube.

green Christmas

TK Max had a very good range of glass and silicone water bottles too. I prefer drinking my water out of glass and use one every day at work. This one was just £7.99.

Books

I guess e-books are the more eco-friendly option, but I still prefer real, paper books! They can be read and passed on. In whichever format you decide, books still make lovely gifts. I am currently reading and enjoying Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Bea Johnson, which is full of fantastic information on cutting out the waste and living a greener lifestyle.

I often buy second hand books to add as stocking fillers for my daughters. They have never complained! You can get so many in charity shops or purchased from your local library sale.

Charity gifts

For the person who has everything, you could gift a charity in their name. Oxfam Unwrapped has loads of ideas for gifts that do good to deprived communities, such as a Poverty Busting Pig for £23 or Education for a Child for £19. You could even give some of these as stocking fillers. How about a Fantastic Farm Kit for a fiver?

House plants

We have recently started introducing more house plants into Shoestring Cottage. They are known to help reduce indoor pollutants, as well as looking pretty and retro. They also make lovely gifts! This article explains more about why you should have more houseplants.

It’s a Green Christmas wrap

green ChristmasOnce you have made all your green Christmas purchases, of course, you don’t want to ruin all your good work when wrapping them. Avoid clear plastic or foil covered wrapping paper as neither are recyclable. Instead, go for good, old fashioned (and cheap) brown paper with colourful natural raffia ties. Be careful when purchasing raffia, though, as much of it is actually rayon. I would go for something like this one in a nice festive green.

I hope you like my ideas for green Christmas ideas and would love to hear about your own.

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Ten easy ways to cut your plastic waste today

cut your plastic waste

I would love to think that I could go zero waste. In reality, as I have said before, it is really difficult to achieve. However, there are some easy swaps to help cut your plastic waste that don’t cost a lot of money. Some of them might even save you some cash. So, embrace your inner tree hugger and consider swapping some of your single use items for the following. Here are ten easy ways you can cut your plastic waste today.

Water bottle

Plastic bottles are everywhere and hard to avoid completely. However, there is one single use bottle that is easy to replace if you want to cut your plastic waste – your water bottle. We live in a country where the water from the tap is perfectly safe to drink and closely monitored. It makes no sense whatsoever to buy water when you are out and about when you can get it free (well, almost) at home.

According to this article in the Guardian last summer, “A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute and the number will jump another 20% by 2021, creating an environmental crisis some campaigners predict will be as serious as climate change.” Do you want to be part of that, or part of the solution?

cut your plastic waste

Investing in a reusable water bottle (and remembering to always take it out with you) will help you to do your bit. Buy them for your kids to take to school as well. If you like a juice, invest in two – one for water only so that it doesn’t get tainted and the other for anything fruity like a juice or a smoothie.

I prefer the metal lined and insulated kind such as this SHO one, as they don’t taint the taste of your water and help to keep it cool.

Reusable carrier bags

I was really happy when the UK Government introduced a charge on reusable plastic bags and it has dramatically reduced the number people use. However, I still see people in the supermarket or other retail outlets buying them. I always carry a little fold up bag that I got in the Coop. In fact, I have two as they fold up really small in my handbag. We have 4 or 5 large and strong reusable supermarket ones that live in the car boot, so we always have bags when we go food shopping.

Produce bags

On my wish list for Christmas are reusable organic cotton produce bags, which I can use at the market, supermarket and the food coop without worrying about taking home a load of plastic that will mostly go straight in the bin. This pack contains three large, four medium and three small bags. Using these consistently will really help to cut your plastic waste.

Coffee cups

I have been using my bamboo and stainless steel travel mug when I am likely to buy tea or coffee out since my daughter bought it for me last Christmas. I am really happy with it! If we are out for the day we always take a flask of coffee anyway, as this saves money as well as on single use items.

The problem is that disposable coffee cups look like paper.  However, they are lined with a layer of plastic to make them water proof. Products made of mixed materials are notoriously hard to recycle and most people bin them anyway. According to recent stats published in the Independent:

  • UK throws away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every year
  • Less than 1 per cent of coffee cups are recycled
  • Half a million cups are littered every day
  • Packaging producers only pay for 10 per cent of the cost of packaging disposal and recycling

Cut your plastic waste by keeping a reusable coffee cup in your bag or even in your car.

Straws

I don’t use straws often at home, although I have a metal one sitting in my reusable glass water bottle on my desk at work. However, my daughters are often in bars where they are given plastic straws in their drinks without even being asked if they want one.

cut your plastic waste

I bought each of them a pack of steel reusable straws for Christmas last year for them to keep in their handbags. Sadly, they don’t like them much – they get very cold if there is ice in the drink, bash against the glass and they are rigid with no flexibility. I am wondering if a better compromise might be these reusable silicone straws ? Perhaps one for this year’s stockings!

Lunchbox

I have a whole cupboard full of things that could be used as a lunchbox. They are all plastic, some are old ice cream tubs that I continue to use for food storage rather than putting them in the recycling. As I take my lunch to work every day to keep costs down, they all get a lot of use. You can cut your plastic waste by reusing as many plastic food containers as possible.

If I was buying one for the first time, however, I would invest in stainless steel lunchbox , which should last pretty much forever!

Cut your plastic waste when cleaning your teeth

cut your plastic waste

If you have never thought about what happens when you throw away your old plastic toothbrushes, read this article from the Huffington post. Every toothbrush you ever used has yet to break down. Bamboo toothbrushes such as this pack of four from Greener Pockets offer an eco-friendly, compostable alternative. Another one for my Christmas wish list.

Plastic free dish washing

If you want to cut your plastic waste, then how about buying a plastic-free wooden brush set? They look much nicer than the plastic variety and will last a lot longer. With a wooden scrubbing brush you can dump the plastic when you wash up all together.

Cut your plastic waste washing your hair

I have ranted on about how much I like shampoo bars so many times! I have had excellent ones from Lush so can highly recommend them. However, I also had one recently that someone gave me that was very harsh and drying. I recommend reading the reviews before you purchase.

As well cutting your plastic packaging waste, you may find that using shampoo bars makes your hair feel a lot less heavy and greasy. Some shampoos seem to be full of something that coats your hair. It may appear softer and shinier initially but I am sure this stuff builds up and can’t be good for you.

Go back to soap

I am old and crusty enough to remember a time when hand wash and shower gel didn’t exist! In fact, I have never truly embraced either of them and much prefer good, old fashioned soap. I buy pretty little dishes and lovely smelling soaps and have them next to each sink.

You can convert your soap into a body scrub or soap on a rope using these natural linen soap bagsPop the soap in and hang by the shower.

What do you recommend to cut your plastic waste?

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Do you use a zero waste shop?

I was really excited last week to hear we had a zero waste shop arriving in town.

zero waste shop

As I have seen elsewhere, I envisaged aisles of produce in bins, from dried fruits to lentils, spices to baking goods. I hoped to find bamboo toothbrushes, eco-friendly cosmetics and a huge refilling station for all of our cleaning products. We thought we could take in our own containers to make our purchases and leave with our cotton bags full of plastic free shopping.

Lots of enthusiasm

In reality, our zero waste shop had been introduced with a lot of enthusiasm but clearly no money. It did have a refilling point with four products, along with a few tubs containing large bags of nuts, but you seemed to have to buy the entire bag.

Other than that, it contained shelves full of reconditioned electrical products and lots of second hand vacuum cleaners at bargain prices.

I’m not knocking it. If my toaster blows, our zero waste shop is where I will be going to find a new one! After all, buying second hand is good for the environment and the wallet, as I said in last week’s post on buying second hand clothes.

I have to admit to being disappointed though. This zero waste shop is full of good intentions but only likely to attract those already committed to lowering their waste. I can’t see it inspiring and enabling the good people of the town to adopt a zero waste lifestyle.

Trying to avoid plastic

zero waste shop

It’s hard to avoid plastic if you use run of the mill supermarkets. Even the local market gives you plastic bags now. You have to take your own containers everywhere. How many of us are this organised?

I have found an amazing looking zero waste shop near where Mr S’s niece lives in Hertfordshire. Too far away to pop into regularly but I will definitely go next time we visit her. What do you think of Bamboo Turtle?

This is the kind of zero waste shop I dream of seeing here. Even better would be every other shop adopting a zero waste approach!

Do you aim for zero waste shopping? Can you recommend a zero waste shop near you?

Why buying second hand clothes is good for your wallet and the planet

I love buying second hand clothes. In fact, I rarely buy anything new.

Once you realise just how cheaply good quality second hand clothes can be purchased, you resent paying the full price!

Here’s why I buy second hand clothes and how to find them.

It’s cheaper

second hand clothes

Well, obviously buying second hand will be cheaper than buying brand new. Unless, that is, you buy something labelled vintage! I tend to avoid so called vintage items as I remember many of them from the first time round and they were ugly then.

I was a child in the seventies and mustard yellow and muddy orange polyester monstrosities have left their scars.

You can create quirky looks

second hand clothes

A 99p dress, modelled by DD1

Having said that, buying second hand does give you the opportunity to create unique looks. Whilst the hoards buy identikit looks from the chain stores, true fashionistas love to root round the Oxfam Shop!

Charities benefit when you buy second hand clothes

I buy a fair few items from charity shops. Although many charge a lot now, there are still some bargains to be had. I have mentioned previously that we have a Barnado’s warehouse nearby where they sort and sell for their other stores.

I pop in regularly and find loads of bargains, many for as little as 99p and also donate many of my unwanted things.

second hand clothes

Buying and selling at the boot sale

You can afford better quality

Whereas our grandparents and the generations before them bought clothes to last, cheap, throwaway fashion is the new normal.

Poor quality fashion items can be bought for a few pounds and discarded after being worn a couple of times.

For me, a better option on a tight budget is to buy better quality brands in a used condition. I find Monsoon, Coast, Per Una, Gap, etc all the time.

Reusing is eco-friendly

Reusing rather than buying new reduces waste. As I said above, we live in a throwaway society. Buying second hand clothes extends their life and stops them being thrown away.

Reusing clothing means that less has to be produced in the first place. This in turn means fewer materials and less in the way of transportation.

You can sell yours to make money

When there is a market for second hand clothes this also creates an opportunity for you to sell your old ones and make a bit of extra cash.

You could even source good quality second hand clothes specifically for this purpose. There is a whole army of resellers prepared to get up early and scour the boot sales, or to spend lots of time in charity shops and nearly new sales in order to stock their reselling businesses. See my articles on selling on eBay here and here for more information.

Where to find them?

Boot sales

If you are prepared to make the effort, boot sales are by far the best and cheapest places to find good second hand clothes.

We were lucky enough in the summer to find a very well heeled family getting rid of a van load of designer and top branded stuff for 50p an item!

I have found so many amazing bargains at boot sales – I love them!

Online auction sites

Depop, Mercari, Gumtree, eBay, even Facebook Marketplace – there are many online auction sites these days. I use eBay personally but I am also experimenting with Mercari. They both have a huge selection of used clothing.

Yesterday  on eBay I found a seller my size clearing out her Per Una items and bought 2 skirts, a pair of pumps and a jumper! All used but in excellent condition for the princely sum of £28 including postage.

Charity shops

I am all for supporting charities via their shops. However, some of them charge far too much! I have seen cheap second hand Primark items for the same price as they cost new. Charity shops should make money but they also need to realise that people don’t expect to pay a lot for second hand clothes.

Having said that, the smaller ones tend to provide better value. If you can find the larger out of town branches, where they sort and dispose of items, they are even cheaper.

Jumble sales

Jumble sales hardly happen at all these days. When I was a teenager there used to be one on in a church hall somewhere pretty much every Saturday. However, once in a while you will find one, and it is also worth looking out for any fundraising community event where they might have a second hand clothes stall.

If you don’t usually buy second hand clothes, maybe now is the time to try. Are you a frugal fashionista and, if so, where do you find your bargains?

Reduce food waste: Ten ideas to use your leftovers

reduce food waste

I have been thinking really carefully about how to reduce food waste recently. Generally, I tend to think we don’t waste much that is edible, but the recent Zero Waste Week made me hyper aware when we did. For a start, our food waste bin isn’t empty! Occasionally, we simply cook too much.

Sometimes we forget about stuff at the back of the fridge, or are too tired or uninspired to use ingredients before they go a bit manky. Some non-perishables are perfectly usable, but have been sitting in the cupboard for months or even years. They haven’t ended up in the food waste so far and we need to use them up before they do.

Over the past few weeks, I have started whittling away at our stockpiles. That half bag of couscous, the custard powder, various baking ingredients and two carrier bags (yes, two!) of hazel nuts from a neighbour’s tree last year need to be eaten.  I am not bothered about best before dates here; they are more for the retailer’s benefit that ours.

I am quite good at using up leftovers, however. They either get eaten at work for lunch or we have them two days in a row. Alternatively, I anticipate leftovers from one meal and incorporate them into another. I also use my freezer to conserve even the smallest amounts of leftover food. The challenge is then to remember what is frozen and work it into my meal planning to ensure it is used up.

Here are some ideas for using foods that are commonly left over to reduce food waste and save yourself some money!

Reduce food waste and use it up

Bread ends

Unless you have a large family and eat lots of bread, it pays to keep a sliced loaf in the freezer and remove slices as you plan to use them. However, even if you do this, what to do with the bread ends?

Bread crumbs – whizz them up in a food processor or grate them by hand. I then refreeze these and believe it is perfectly safe to do so.

Bread pudding, apple brown betty, bread and butter pudding, croutons and bread sauce can all be made using the crusts of bread.

Potatoes

Keep them in the fridge in the summer so that you don’t end up with lots of soft, sprouting spuds. Even if you do, they are safe to eat. Just cut out the eyes and any brown bits and use as usual.

Leftover mashed potatoes are easy to use up in lots of dishes. Indeed, in this week’s meal plan I deliberately made too much so that I could add it to soup as a thickener! They can be made into fish cakes, added to a meat or nut loaf, chucked into soups and stews, or mixed with grated vegetables for your own home made veggie burger. Then there is the classic bubble and squeak, which will use up your uneaten green veggies as well.

Whole potatoes are a treat sliced, fried and served with a couple of eggs and some baked beans for brunch or supper.

Roast potatoes can also go into soup, but I fancy this leftover Sunday lunch hash.

Cooked vegetables

You can chop up your uneaten vegetables and throw them into an omelette or frittata or use them in soups and stews. I actually keep a bag in the fridge and put all unwanted cooked vegetables in it for my regular soup making sessions. Many will be nice in a pasta sauce too, although I probably wouldn’t use sprouts or cabbage in this way (I know some people would!).

Fresh herbs

Have you ever bought a load of parsley or coriander for a recipe and left the rest of it to go soggy in your fridge? Yes, me too. However, there is nothing lovelier than a cheese and chopped herb omelette. You can cut them up and stick them in a salad too. If you have a lot of a particular herb you can chop finely and freeze. You can even dry them yourself.

Gravy

I don’t eat meat now, but proper gravy made with the juices from the roast was always a treat. Certainly too good to chuck in the bin. Gravy will keep a couple of days in the fridge so you could make a point of using it at another meal. It will also add lots of flavour to a casserole or soup and you can freeze it to use when you are ready.

Leftover gravy adds depth to a shepherd’s pie or you could use it as a kind of cook-in sauce with meatballs. How about adding it to leftover meat or vegetables as a pie filling?

Rice

I know you have to be careful with rice. Once it is cooked, it needs to be kept cool and eaten quickly. Don’t leave it lying around! It is another leftover ingredient that I freeze to add to soup, but it can be fried up with an egg and some veg for a DIY egg fried rice, made into a kind of risotto with lots of vegetables and some tomatoes or transformed into some delicious cheesy rice balls. If you have a lot, you could make this Mediterranean rice salad.

Bananas

Banana loaf or muffins are so delicious you almost wait for your bananas to turn black so that you can bake some! You can also freeze them in slices to add to smoothies or you could make them into an easy vegan chocolate ice cream.

Apples

We seem to have gone off apples in our household. The last few times I have bought them they have turned wrinkly in the fruit bowl. Fortunately, we are all happy to eat them stewed with custard. They also freeze well peeled and sliced or you can dry them in the oven.

My favourite to use up apples is in a crumble or in spiced apple cake.

If you have other fruit to use up quickly, there are some amazing ice lolly ideas here.

Make stock

If, like me, you love to make soup, then making your own stock first is a great way to save your vegetable scraps from the bin. There are some good instructions here.

You can also use meat bones to make fabulous stock. I often make save chicken carcasses in the freezer for this very purpose. It seems a crying shame to throw meat bones out when you can reduce food waste in this way.

Wilting salad

These days I try to buy small amounts of salad at a tim. I then make sure it is built into our meal plan so that we use it. However, wilting salad leaves do get thrown into our soups and stir fries and no one is ever the wiser. There are some excellent ideas for using up tired lettuce here.

In the end, smarter planning and shopping will stop you having so many leftovers in the first place. Keeping track of what you have already and storing it correctly will also help. Nevertheless, none of us is perfect. Even with good planning we end up with more than we can eat before it spoils. With a bit of determination and creativity, we can all reduce food waste.

Take the challenge to reduce food waste and use up your leftovers. What are your favourite ideas and recipes to stop food going in the bin?

Five frugal things for Zero Waste Week

We have had a really good week here at Shoestring Cottage. It was Zero Waste Week, and the focus on reducing our waste meant we actually saved money too. Thrift and an eco-friendly lifestyle are natural partners I think.  We may be a long way from a zero waste lifestyle, but it is very satisfying to feel we can do our bit, be much greener and make a difference to the welfare of our planet.

Greener laundry

zero waste week

I finally got round to purchasing an Ecoegg. It cost me around £25 from Amazon and, all being well, should last for a massive 720 washes. I worked out in our case that would be about four years! The benefits are threefold. An Ecoegg will save money on laundry powder, save on the packaging it comes in and mean fewer chemicals are on our clothes and leaching into our water system.

According to the blurb it works like this: “The Ecoegg contains two types of cleaning pellets. The tourmaline ceramic pellets weaken the adhesive forces between the dirt and the fabric. The mineral pellets then naturally ionise the oxygen molecules in the water which then penetrate deep into the fabric, lifting away the direct and grime. ” Sounds like a science lesson!

I have only used it once so far and it cleaned perfectly well, so I will let you know how I get on.

Batch cooking

zero waste week

I made a big pot of chick pea curry and another of chilli con carne in the week. We had one meal each and I froze the rest. So we have two ready meals each for whenever we can’t be bothered to cook. Cheaper and healthier than a microwave meal and – for Zero Waste Week – with none of the associated packaging. I re-used some ancient plastic containers my daughters once had a takeaway in. These are great for freezing batch cooked meals, home made soup and leftovers.

Selling unwanted items

I listed some things on Facebook Marketplace at the weekend and have already sold three of them. We had two pictures that were in the attic and unlikely to be used again and a rug in nice condition but the wrong colour for anywhere.

I hate unwanted items just cluttering up the house and it makes sense to pass them to someone who will appreciate them – and make a bit of cash in the process, of course.

Dusting off the slow cooker

zero waste week

As part of my Zero Waste Meal Plan, I decided to use up some of the rather large bag of pudding rice that was lurking in the back of the larder.  I love rice pudding but hardly ever make it as Mr Shoestring isn’t keen. However, even he had to admit that with sugar and cinnamon it was actually quite delicious.

Now that the weather is turning a little colder I will start to use the slow cooker again.  It costs hardly anything to run and you can chuck in your ingredients and forget about them all day.

Here we go again

We had a lovely trip to the cinema in Clacton and finally got to see Mama Mia. We have been planning to see if for weeks but things kept coming up. Ticket prices are only £4.50 there, which is a bargain. We took our own drinks and parked in the street, although we did splash out on some popcorn for a change since it cost so little to get in. I loved the film – a bit of lightweight fun!

So this has been our frugal, not quite Zero Waste Week. As I keep saying, we are aiming for progress not perfection. How have you got on? Anyone else managed five frugal things or attempting a Zero Waste Week?

I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky. Check out what they have achieved this week.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

Zero Waste Week: how low can you go?

zero waste week

Next week, from the 4th to the 8th September, it is the 8th annual Zero Waste Week. The UK alone generates over 200 million tons of waste, much of which ends up in landfill. The Zero Waste movement asks, ‘What happens when you throw something away? Away isn’t some magical place; it’s landfill, an incinerator, the bottom of the ocean, litter or the stomach of an animal. It’s always somewhere else…’

Actions you can take for Zero Waste Week

Become a champion recycler

Recycle! Many of us pay lip service to this. We may rinse out cans and bottles and put them in the Council’s kerbside collection scheme, but what about plastic bottles? And Tetra packs? They can be recycled but most end up in the bin. Check which items your council collects for recycling. If they collect food waste, make sure you have a bin and use it. If they aren’t collecting items like textiles their websites should say where local collection points are. What about batteries? Many councils don’t take them but you can recycle them in a lot of supermarkets and hardware stores.  If your local council isn’t doing enough, complain and let them know what you think.

Reuse wherever you can

Lots of things we casually chuck ‘away’, can be reused. Fold up and reuse wrapping paper, carefully open and reuse Jiffy bags, cut your letters open with a knife and use paper envelopes again, either for sending letters or writing lists.

If you have children or grandchildren, keep a ‘bits and bobs’ box for crafts. Bits of foil, coloured paper, sweet wrappers, toilet and kitchen roll tubes, fancy wrap, ribbon, string, etc can be magically transformed into art.

You can reuse all kinds of containers to sow seeds for your garden. Toilet roll tubes, yogurt pots, margarine and ice cream containers all get your plants off to a good start. Plastic containers can be cut into strips and used as plant labels too. I use these types of containers to freeze soup in when I make a large batch.

Reuse plastic bags. I rinse out and keep bread bags if we have them and wash and reuse the zip lock type bags several times.

Buy products that can be refilled.  Ecover has a list of refilling stations on its website, so check out if there is one near you. Support companies who actively reuse their own packaging. For example, Lush give you a free face mask if you return 5 plastic pots.

Reduce your food waste

I wrote posts on this here and here. Reducing your food waste means there is less to go to landfill, plus you will buy fewer items in the first place, meaning less pollution from the production and transportation processes. In addition, you will save money! Reducing your food waste is a win-win situation.

Bread is commonly thrown away. If you won’t use a whole loaf, cut it in half and freeze some. As there is usually only me and Mr S in the house these days, I buy a sliced loaf and put it straight in the freezer. We defrost and use only what we need as we go. Also, there are so many recipes to use up old bread, such as bread pudding. You can find my favourite recipe in my post Why you should make a meal of leftovers.

If you do nothing else this Zero Waste Week, see if you can cut down on your food waste. It is easy with a bit of planning.

Make conscious purchases

When you do purchase something new, be conscious about it. Is there too much packaging? If the packaging can’t be avoided, is it reusable or recyclable? Where does the item come from? If it is from Australia and you are in the UK, can you buy more locally?

You can avoid packaging altogether if you take your own containers to shops and supermarkets. If you are near local independent shops, try buying your bread, meat, fish and vegetables from them as they are less likely to be overpackaged.

Support makers who use recycled materials in what they produce. You can find a range of items made from recycled materials at Protect the Planet.  Does it have to be new? Buy second hand when you can.

Make do and mend

Develop a war time mentality. Our grandparents had to be creative and ingenious to make things last. During the war years, every week was Zero Waste Week! You could learn to sew and repair clothing or transform fabric into something else. Developing DIY and carpentry skills can save you money as well as keep your stuff in good order so that it lasts longer and doesn’t have to be thrown away. Rather than buying new, can you upcycle what you already have? There is plenty of inspiration here.

Cooking rather than convenience

Do more cooking from scratch. Making a pasta sauce from fresh tomatoes creates less waste then buying a jar. As well as making your own sauces, there is less packaging involved if you bake your own cakes and biscuits. You can even make your own crisps!

Compost

Transform your garden waste and household peelings, teabags, etc into wonderful compost for your garden. I have a post all about composting here.

If you don’t have the space for a compost heap, most councils collect material for composting. Food waste collections even take cooked food, meat and bones as commercial composting can cope with these.

Don’t forget your reusable bags!

Keep reusable bags somewhere you won’t forget them when you go shopping. I always have two foldaway reusables in my handbag. In addition, I have 5 or 6 large reusable carriers in the car boot for when I go to the supermarket.

Drinks on the move

Invest in a decent reusable bottle. Some eco-friendly alternatives may seem pricey but will save you money in the long run. I have tried a few and really like this one from Amazon.

Give up the fizzy drinks when out and about as well. Pack a reusable bottle of fruit juice or squash as a more eco-friendly alternative.

Take your reusable coffee cups when you are out and about or a good flask. We rarely leave the house without ours.

Consumer power

There are other things you can do apart from avoiding over packaged goods and taking your own containers when you buy food. How about buying washing powder in a cardboard box instead of liquid? Even better, try an Ecoegg or some Ecozone Soap Nuts to do your laundry.

Think about disposables. There are so many items we use regularly and then just toss in the trash.  You can buy bamboo toothbrushes, for example, reusable sanitary towels or a Mooncup . Instead of using cotton wool pads, invest in some washable cloths (I use these).  Invest in a decent pen and buy refills rather than the usual disposable plastic ones. I have yet to be brave enough to scrap the disposable razors, but you can buy metal ones! Ditch the kitchen roll and just keep a stack of old towels cut into squares to wipe up spills and splashes. If you have a baby, an initial investment in real nappies will cut waste and save money in the long run. You can spend a lot on fancy velcro ones, but old fashioned terry nappies are very cheap and did well for generations!

Buy solid shampoo bars and revert to old fashioned soap, rather than using hand wash and shower gel. Think of all the plastic bottles you will avoid if you do!

Stop junk mail

I can’t believe we all still receive junk mail. It is so expensive for companies to send out and mostly ends up in the recycling. This Citizen’s Advice Bureau article tells you all you need to know to prevent it arriving.

You don’t want it anymore, so who does?

As you have gone to the trouble of reading this much of Zero Waste Week post, I am sure you don’t bin stuff that other people can use. You know that you can sell your unwanted items at a car boot sale, on eBay or you can donate them to a charity shop. However, don’t forget Freecycle and Freegle. People will often take items that the charity shop wouldn’t touch and you definitely couldn’t sell. I have given away kitchen cupboard doors, non-working electrical appliances, battered old furniture and an excess of plants and seedlings. In addition, I have sold and given things away on Facebook.

Just buy less

Even better than recycling or reusing is to avoid purchasing some things in the first place. Question each of your purchases – do you really need this? Do you already have the same thing at home? This will save you money as well as reducing your environmental footprint – a win-win situation!

Spread the word! Encourage colleagues, friends and family to take part in Zero Waste Week. Paste it all over social media. Share this blog post!

Zero Waste Week resources

Sign up to receive helpful newsletters and resources on the Zero Waste Week website.

myzerowaste.com

The Story of Stuff

My Plastic Free Life

Love Food Hate Waste

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A meal plan for Zero Waste Week

Next week is Zero Waste Week and I have a blog post coming along all about it! I try really hard not to waste things, especially food, but I am not perfect and sometimes something slips through.  However, my meal plan for Zero Waste Week needs to be better. If I make a bit effort it will make me more conscious day to day.

I won’t achieve zero waste. There isn’t enough time in my life to grow all our food from scratch. Neither is there a specialist zero waste store nearby for me to buy all of our ingredients with no packaging. However, by using much of what we already have, especially those items tucked at the back of the cupboard that I am cheerfully ignoring, I won’t be wasting them. The ingredients I do buy must be minimally packaged, so I will be taking my reusable bags and containers to the shops to avoid plastic bags as much as possible.

meal plan for zero waste week

What is lurking?

Here are some of the items lurking in the back of the cupboard. I want to use at least some of these as part of my Zero Waste Week meal plan.

Tins of potatoes, chickpeas, green lentils, aduki beans, tomatoes and sweetcorn.  I also have a tin of coconut milk and a can of mushroom soup that has been there for, possibly, years! (Why is it there? None of us like it!). There is a large jar of green olives too, which we forgot about. Usually olives get eaten really quickly as we love them. A pack of poppadoms too.

I have a jar of korma sauce, a green Thai curry kit and a small pot of tikka masala paste.

Lots of tuna! About 6 cans. Plus a small tin of anchovies. A jar of mango chutney and another of apple sauce.

I also have a massive bag of pudding rice. Rice pudding is a favourite for me but it requires forward planning. There is also a bag of organic coconut flour that I bought on a whim in Aldi. Buying an unfamiliar ingredient with no plan for using it is not a good idea.

In the freezer there is a lot of frozen fruit: blackberries, redcurrants and blackcurrants. We also have a bag of apples someone gave us in the fridge and our tree is full of ripening plums. There are also quite a few cans of fruit – prunes, peaches and pears. I am not in a hurry to use these as we have fresh and frozen to eat first.

There are some frozen chicken breasts and 4 small lamb chops that were yellow stickered.

There are two portions each of chick pea curry and chilli con carne that I batch cooked last week. I also have some veggie burgers that I don’t like and some meat sausages that were bought on offer that Mr S isn’t keen on. I need to find a way to sneak these into the zero wast meal plan!

The Zero Waste Meal Plan

Saturday

Lunch is courgette soup from the freezer. I use old butter pots to store this.

Dinner will be lamb chops for Mr S and veggie burgers for me (I will smother them in onion gravy). We will have these with new potatoes and frozen corn on the cob. Leftover plum cake and custard.

Sunday

If we are in we will have cheese on toast or a sandwich for lunch.

Dinner will be lamb chops again for Mr S and a piece of haddock for me, this time with roast potatoes and broccoli. Fruit crumble and custard.

Monday

We have quite a few eggs. I will make Spanish omelette and use the tinned potatoes if we don’t have enough fresh.  We will have this with tinned corn or whatever needs eating.

Tuesday

Chick pea curry for me and chilli for Mr S from the freezer, both with boiled rice. We will eat the poppadoms with this and some mango chutney.

Wednesday

Tuna penne with black olives, except I shall use the green ones! I will make a simple carrot salad as there is a large bag in the fridge.

Thursday

Just me for dinner tonight. I will probably have something on toast whilst I write some more blog posts!

Friday

Chicken and vegetable curry with rice. The girls will all be home, so I will make a large pan full using the chicken breasts, some peppers, courgettes and carrots. I will do a smaller pan without any meat and perhaps add the green lentils.

Work lunches

All my lunches at work will be either leftovers or home made soups and sandwiches. I don’t buy a pre-prepared lunch anyway, so no unnecessary packaging here. Also, I never buy coffee out and make mine in the office. I will take some home made cookies (see below) for snacks.

Snacks and sweets

I will make a slow cooker rice pudding tomorrow and at the same time some stewed fruit, using up the apples and some of the frozen berries. This will be good to take to work next week instead of buying more fresh fruit.

I did an internet search for recipes using coconut flour and found these gluten free chocolate chip cookies. We have half a bar of dark chocolate in the fridge, so I can use that up rather than buying choc chips. I planned to make biscuits this week anyway  as home made means less packaging, so this works well. Another super easy biscuit recipe is this peanut butter cookie recipe. My friend bought these into work yesterday and they were delicious. Gluten free and super easy. I have a huge jar of peanut butter so can bake some of these if I have time.

Progress not perfection

In the end, any effort towards reducing our waste is one worth making. We are aiming for progress, not perfection. One step towards zero waste is far better than standing still like a rabbit in the headlights watching an environmental disaster unfolding!

So, this is my zero waste week meal plan. I am still at a loss as to what to do with the tin of mushroom soup, so your suggestions would be gratefully received! What’s on your menu this week?

As usual, to keep my shopping budget on track,  I am linking up with Katy Kicker and the Organised Life Project. If you want more ideas on meal planning and saving money, take a look here.

Eco-friendly beauty on a budget

Eco-Friendly Beauty

I won’t lie – I’m a low budget kind of girl when it comes to beauty and personal care. This doesn’t mean I don’t like to look and feel nice; I just don’t have a fortune to spend. However, I am also becoming more aware of all the chemicals we put into and on our bodies. How do they affect our health and are there any negative impacts on the environment around us? It isn’t purely money that affects my choice of products nowadays, and I am on the look out for eco-friendly beauty products. They need to be full of natural loveliness, not tested on animals, not over-packaged and easy on my purse!

I put out a plea to some PR companies for some natural products to review, so some of the below are gifted. Some are products that I already use and purchase regularly. I hope they will give you some ideas of how you can increase the number of eco-friendly, more natural items in your bathroom.

Shampoo bars

Eco-Friendly Beauty

I have been using these on and off for years. My favourite so far is the Godiva bar from Lush. Lush says, ‘It’s stuffed with butters and oils to condition, moisturise and soften the hair: cocoa butter, cupuaçu butter, shea butter, camellia oil, organic macadamia nut oil and extra virgin coconut oil.’ It certainly smells nice and doesn’t make my hair feel greasy and full of products after a day, as many cheap shampoos do. However, it does still contain sodium laurel sulphate, which I know some people are keen to avoid.

Another advantage of shampoo bars is that you don’t have a plastic bottle to dispose of. I am determined to reduce the amount of plastic that we all bring into the house.

At £7.50 for a 55g bar, you might think this more expensive than other shampoos. However, I have found these bars last for ages. Try not to let them sit in water though. They are good for travelling too – Lush sell a little metal tin for the purpose.

Eco-friendly beauty products for your face

Eco-Friendly Beauty

I was gifted some lovely items from the Ayurvedic brand, Urban Veda, which harnesses ‘the holistic and therapeutic properties of plants’.  All of their packaging is recyclable and their bottles are made out of post-consumer recycled plastic. The brand prides itself on its sourcing provenance and all of their cartons are Forest Sustainability Certified.

I have been using a couple of them most days. I get a lot of dry, flaky skin around my nose, especially when I have hay fever. This is where a good face scrub comes in handy. Urban Veda’s soothing exfoliating facial polish is lovely. Very gentle on the skin whilst doing a good job of getting rid of any dead skin, and you can smell all the plant oils as you use it. Thumbs up for this one. It is currently priced at £10.90 for a 125ml tube on Amazon.

Another Urban Veda product that I love is the Urban Veda Reviving Day Cream. At £18.99 it is loads more than I usually spend. However, it is a quality product and once again smells divine. I am using it sparingly to make it last longer. This is one for the Christmas present list, Mr Shoestring!

A slightly more budget friendly moisturiser that I have used in the past is the Jason Natural Cosmetics Organic Aloe Vera Cream. All of the Jason products I have tried have been very good and they are a great price considering they use a lot of organic ingredients.

Organic cleansing

Whilst doing research for this and my recent post Can you do eco-friendly cleaning on a budget?  I discovered a company called Beauty Naturals. They sell an amazing range of cruelty free, natural skin care at extremely good prices.

One of their own brands is Skin Revivals. I was gifted their organic facial cleansing oil for review. Initially, I was sceptical as I had never used a cleansing oil.  I thought it would leave my skin feeling greasy. However, I was totally wrong and I am a facial oil convert! This cleansing oil contains organically certified ingredients including rosehip and avocado. It is very effective, you only need to use a tiny amount and it leaves your skin feeling very soft. It is usually £12 for 100ml but is currently on offer for £8.

An eco-friendly beauty brand that I find very budget friendly is Lavera. Their 2 in 1 Cleansing Milk contains organic oils and is vegan as well as 100% silicone free, paraffin free and mineral oil free. This cleaning milk is £6.99 for 125ml.

Super frugal from the larder

Eco-Friendly Beauty

In the mornings I don’t bother with a proper cleanser. I usually use cheap as chips rose water on a cotton wool pad. This one came from the Asda food aisle and cost just £1.14. It is a good skin tonic for after your cleanser too. Not much plastic packaging, apart from the lid, as it comes in a glass bottle.

Another food grade product that I use as an all round moisturiser or bath oil if my skin is really dry is almond oil. Again, it comes in a glass bottle and costs just two or three pounds from food stores. This with a few drops of lavender essential oil in the bath feels quite luxurious but costs hardly anything.

Eco-Friendly BeautyI was gifted some Olverum bath oil, Winner of Tater Beauty Awards 2018  Best Bath Oil. Now, this is a beautiful product that really is luxurious.  You can smell the natural essential oils before you even open the bottle (which is glass). My daughter likes a bath rather than a shower and she totally loved this. You only need a few drops to soften the water and make it smell gorgeous.

However, this is not a budget product and most definitely a treat! It is priced at £32.00 for 125mls.

Make up

It is hard to source natural cosmetics in the shops locally, but I have discovered some good ones online. Thank heavens for the internet.

Lavera makeup is 100% gluten free, cruelty free, and all natural. They produce some nice mineral eyeshadow, for example. They also do a 100% natural lipstick range. I am going to be trying some of these. They aren’t expensive at all.

So Eco are a vegan and sustainable makeup tool brand using 100% ethically sourced materials. I was sent some of their brushes to try, including a stippling brush and a couple of eye brushes. They have wooden handles and natural bristles, which are very soft and good for sensitive skin such as mine. I have been using them for over a month with no signs of wear.

My daughter found the eye brushes a bit too soft for blending, but she is a bit of a cosmetics queen and likes precision. I found that the stippling brush was perfect but used it for powder rather than foundation. I like their ethos and was very pleased to find the packaging 100% recyclable – a rare quality, even for natural beauty brands.

They aren’t particularly expensive and are competitively priced. You can purchase them individually, but Amazon has the So Eco Face Brush Set for £15, which seems reasonable.

In truth, you are always going to have to pay more for eco-friendly beauty products. Organic and sustainably-sourced ingredients cost more money. However, there are some budget friendly options if you do your research.

The curse of the plastic container

One thing I am still dissatisfied about is the amount of plastic packaging being used in most beauty products, even those aiming for natural products made from organic and low chemical ingredients. It seems that at the moment there is an element of compromise to be made. Sure, much of the plastic is recyclable, but many companies seem to be quietly ignoring this part of the issue. I think this is because other biodegradable types of packaging aren’t suitable for liquids. The are some alternatives being developed but they cost more. Glass is heavy so costs more to transport, as well as being easier to break of course. I would love to see some progress on this.

Do you have eco-friendly beauty brands that you prefer to use? Do you make your own? If so, please share your tips in the comments below.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission in some cases. Thanks.

Plastic Pollution and our wildlife: what can you do?

This is a collaborative post.

The wonderful TV programme Blue Planet highlighted the danger that plastic pollution poses to wildlife in our oceans. Images of turtles trapped in plastic bags, seabirds strangled by the plastic rings from packs of beer and other creatures ingesting plastic raised alarm bells and brought the scale of the issue into the public consciousness.

A danger to wildlife

If you have ever taken a walk along many of our beaches, particularly after a storm, you will have seen plastic rubbish and other debris strewn around. However, the hazards of plastic pollution aren’t confined to our sea creatures. Plastic rubbish also endangers the birds and other wildlife that inhabits our estuaries, woodlands, rivers and streams.

The infographic here illustrates the scale of the problem and suggests some small lifestyle changes we can all make to help reduce the problem of plastic pollution on our wild creatures. It was produced by Kennedy Wild Bird Food, who have been striving to make the best food to help keep wild birds healthy for over 30 years.

plastic pollution

What you can do

When faced with such a huge and distressing issue it is easy to feel overwhelmed. You feel you can do nothing to make a difference so you do nothing. This is not true! We can all help by taking small actions starting today. Here are some ideas.

Volunteer: the RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts organise plastic clean ups and are always looking for the community to help. The Marine Conservation Society also has a large programme of beach cleaning events coming up.

Avoid single use plastics whenever possible. An easy one is plastic water bottles. There are some great stainless steel alternatives you can buy that are insulated, so keep your water cold too.

On a similar note, keep reusable shopping bags in your handbag and the boot of your car so you never have to take a plastic bag home again.

How about keeping the kids or grandchildren amused making a bird feeder out of an old bottle? The RSPB has instructions here. Replenish the food regularly so that it doesn’t go mouldy, as this is also a hazard to birds.

Say no to plastic straws. Paper ones are available if you really need them. I invested in a couple of stainless steel ones for the glass water bottle on the desk in my office.

Reduce, reuse and recycle whenever possible and encourage your friends and family to do the same.

Don’t drop litter and pick it up when you can.

Don’t release plastic balloons into the atmosphere. Those helium balloons may seem fun, but balloons in the sea can be confused by marine life as jelly fish and eaten or, worse, fed to their young.

Take a flask or reusable coffee cup out with you rather than buying a plastic lined disposable cup.

Spread the word. Teach your children to dispose of their rubbish responsibly. Buy reusable bottles, coffee cups and bags as presents for family and friends.

For other ways to reduce your use of plastic see my post here.

Ten eco-friendly things to do this week

 eco-friendly things to do

The regular 5 frugal things linky I take part in most weeks has got me thinking. So many of my suggestions to save money end up being more eco-friendly in the process. I love this and wish to make my  environmental footprint much smaller.  There is work to be done but we are aiming for progress not perfection. So, for a bit of inspiration on how you can adopt a greener approach during this hot weather, here is a list of ten eco-friendly things to do this week. Please add yours in the comments.

A drink for the wildlife

Leave water out for the wildlife in dry periods. Bees and butterflies get thirsty, as do the birds, mice, voles and hedgehogs if you are lucky enough to have any in your garden. Some small bowls dotted around the garden in shady spots will be much appreciated and could even save a little life.

Avoid plastic bags

Take some used plastic or cloth bags to the supermarket and buy your fruit and veg loose. Obviously take your reusable carrier bags with you too. I leave mine in the car boot so that I never forget and always have a fold up cloth one in my handbag.

If you have to buy something in plastic bag, snip the top off and reuse the bag. I have a drawer full of these and they come in handy!

Take your own water bottle

Invest in a Moon Bottle. A decent reusable water bottle such as this means you can ditch the single use versions and keep your drink really cold whilst you are out and about.

Rethink your hot water bottle

Turn off the fan and freeze a hot water bottle to take to bed instead. This tip came from my lodger, Jess, and it’s a good one! As helpful in the summer as a hot water bottle is for those chilly winter nights.

Drive less

Walk or cycle at least one journey you would normally drive. How many times do you pop to your local corner shop in the car, when it is a five minute walk? In the summer, you may as well enjoy the fine, sunny weather. This is one of those eco-friendly things to do every week!

Use your grey water

Use your bath water in the garden or stand in a washing up bowl and collect the water from your shower. You have to get creative to keep your plants alive in a heatwave!

Snub the packaging

Refuse to buy anything with more than one layer of packaging. Some items really do need packaging to protect them, but the number of things that are ridiculously over packaged is alarming. Challenge companies that do this on social media. There is nothing like a bit of people power to change attitudes.

Recycle!

Be scrupulous about recycling and pressure your family to do the same. Think about things you might not consider putting in your recycling bins. Plastic toothpaste tubes, for example. Batteries may not be collected in your kerbside collection but many supermarkets and hardware stores will take them. Lots of charities will happily take your old spectacles, such as VisionAid.

Make your own lollies

Another one for the hot weather. Make healthier versions of commercial ice lollies, and avoid all the packaging that comes with them. Silicone versions are a more eco-friendly alternative to the plastic varieties as well.

Make your own toiletries

Cass from Diary of a Frugal Family has some lovely ideas for home made versions of products that might normally be over packaged or contain lots of chemicals. I really love her home made peppermint cooling spray. Perfect for this hot weather.

As well as avoiding chemicals and saving money, this sort of approach means you can re-use an old plastic spray bottle rather than throwing it away.

I hope you enjoy my ideas for ten eco-friendly things to do this week. Can you add some eco-friendly things to do, especially when it is hot?

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

 

Can you do eco friendly cleaning on a budget?

 

eco friendly cleaning

Have you every considered eco friendly cleaning products? Maybe you have made your own? I am sure I am not the only one looking at a gentler way to clean the house. However, can you do it on a budget?

A chemical cocktail

Many of us use a multitude of household cleaners. One for the bathroom, another for the kitchen. Something for the oven and a different product for the sink. Window cleaning sprays, powders to sprinkle on the carpets, bleaches and toilet cleaners, spray polishes, laundry products, dishwasher tablets, washing up liquids and floor cleaners all combine to make a chemical cocktail in our homes that can’t be good for us. We then add to this indoor pollution by plugging in air fresheners! Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.

All of the chemicals in these various products, not to mention the plastic bottles they tend to arrive in, also have potentially negative implications for the wider environment. In addition, you can spend a small fortune on this stuff! Buy less and spend less.

So, how can we reduce this chemical cocktail and create a healthier environment for ourselves, our families and the planet?

Reduce the number

eco friendly cleaning

You can reduce the number of chemicals you use when cleaning simply by using fewer products. Our great grandparents would have been totally befuddled with the choice. They cleaned with carbolic soap, soda crystals, hot water and elbow grease. I am not saying there was no room for improvement, but it is an illustration of how we got by perfectly well without so many detergents and cleaning products.

A general purpose cleaning spray can be used in the kitchen and the bathroom, for example! A big, cheap bottle of disinfectant in a bowl of hot water will do all your surfaces and floors.

Make your own

I make my own eco friendly cleaning spray from time to time. It’s not as powerful on really dirty areas but I try not the let the house get that bad. You can use products from your larder, such as lemon juice, white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda to clean pretty much anything. Cass over at Diary of a Frugal Family makes her own window cleaning spray and even an alternative to Febreze!

I have used a vinegar and water mix instead of a window spray or furniture polish for years and it works perfectly well. In addition, I have a small bottle of linseed oil to put on wooden surfaces every now and again.

Making your own eco friendly cleaning products saves you lots of money and is much kinder to Planet Earth.

Buy eco friendly cleaning products

Not everybody has time to make their own eco friendly cleaning stuff, of course. But there are so many products available, even for those of us on a budget.

I was amazed to find Carbolic Household Soap still available, for example. Maid Simple Laundry Soap is good for removing stains before washing or for hand washing clothes. It is also great as a  laundry wash when travelling.

Soap Nuts or Ecoeggs are also great eco friendly alternatives to standard laundry liquids, although I am not convinced they work well on really dirty items. They do a lot of washes for your money though.

eco friendly cleaning

In the course of researching this post, I was sent some natural non-bio washing powder and dishwasher powder to try. Both are from LabNatu and are free from chemical additives, bleaches and petroleum. They are 100% natural and the ingredients are organic. I was very impressed with them both. They cleaned well and smelled lovely. Both are available from Beauty Naturals at £7 for a 500g bag, but if you buy before the end of August you can get 25% off this. Incidentally, check out their whole range of beauty and home products! I was very impressed and most items are not overly expensive.

Ecover is another favourite of mine for really effective eco friendly cleaning. They use plant based ingredients and, although they do use plastic packaging, say they are on a mission to stop their use of virgin plastic. I currently use their all purpose cleaner, multi-action spray and toilet cleaner, which I bought when they were on offer in Sainsbury’s. Along with my vinegar spray I need very little else for my eco friendly cleaning routine. I use them quite sparingly as they are pretty powerful.

Yes, I could go back to buying all the cheapest cleaning stuff from Aldi (and I still will if my budget gets really tight), but whilst I have the option I am happy to pay a little more for eco friendly cleaning products.

Eco friendly garden cleaning

You can also get eco friendly products for the garden too. I was recently sent some Ecofective path, patio and decking cleaner and Ecofective Safe to Clean general outdoor cleaner to review. The latter worked well on our bench on the patio. It is safe to use around children, pets, wildlife and ponds and uses friendly bacteria to get rid of the dirt. They do a whole range of green gardening products, which look quite interesting.

Think about the packaging

Buy laundry powder rather than liquid, as it comes in a biodegradable cardboard box. Buy soap in solid rather than liquid form and there will be no plastic bottle to recycle. White vinegar tends to come in glass rather than plastic bottles, which is another good reason to use it. Make sure packaging is recyclable then ensure you recycle it! Avoid products that are ridiculously over packaged. It might be a silent protest, but maybe manufacturers will stop doing it if we all refuse to buy these things.

Do you try to avoid too many chemical nasties in your home? Which eco friendly cleaning products do you find effective?

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

Cheap children’s activities that won’t cost the Earth 

This was first written for Zoe over at EcoThriftyLiving. The school holidays will soon be upon us and you may be on the lookout for some cheap children’s activities. I hope these eco-friendly suggestions help.

Cheap Children's Activities

Cheap children’s activities

 Leaf printing

This is a lovely old fashioned activity.  Leaves are easy to find wherever you live. It is really two cheap children’s activities in one as you will need a fun walk in the fresh air to collect the leaves first! Choose plenty of different shapes of leaf and don’t pick up the brittle ones as they will crumble too quickly.

Paint is cheap too, especially if you buy the powdered stuff and mix it yourself.  Simply paint the leaves in different colours and press them onto card or paper. Very simple and effective.

Pond dipping

I loved doing this with my kids. Obviously you need to pay attention when you mix kids with water. All you need is a body of water – your own or a neighbour’s pond is a good starting point – a sieve, a jam jar and a large light coloured tray. There are some very good instructions on the Freshwater Habitats Trust website.

Recycled crafts

Save toilet roll tubes, sweet wrappers, bits of wool, wrapping paper, foil, fabric, etc and make a craft box. Invest in some PVA glue, some glitter and any other craft supplies you find at reasonable prices. On a cold, wet day your craft box will come into its own, allowing your children to be messy and creative.

You can take a more organised approach to what you are making and have a look on Pinterest. It is a fantastic source of inspiration and there are loads of ideas for crafts and other cheap children’s activities for every occasion.

Geocaching

The modern day treasure hunt, geocaching is hugely popular and very addictive. You used to have to purchase a GPS device to take part, but now there are apps available for your smart phone very cheaply. Some are even free. There is a great beginner’s guide to geochaching on the Ordnance Survey website.

 Beach combing

Cheap Children's Activities
If you are lucky enough to live near enough to the sea or are having a beach holiday, beachcombing is so much fun. Finding little treasures such as shells, sea glass and pretty stones costs nothing and kids love it. They can explore the wildlife in the rock pools whilst you are there. I always like to take a spare carrier bag to pick up any rubbish on the beach as well. I find this maddening!

Charity shopping/boot sales

I love a summer boot sale. You can buy pretty much anything at a fraction of the as new price. Charity shops aren’t as cheap, but you are supporting a charity, of course, and they are still great places to find bargains. Both offer an inexpensive opportunity to teach your children about money and budgeting. Buying second-hand is also good for the environment as you extend the useful life of the items you buy and stop them going to landfill. I used to give my daughters five pounds each and let them spend it as they wished. However, they weren’t allowed to go on the very expensive inflatables you tend to find at the boot sale these days! This was a pleasant way to while away some time and their finds entertained them back at home too.

Visit your local wildlife trust nature reserve

Joining and visiting a wildlife trust is a superb way to encourage an appreciation of nature in your children, as well as supporting the preservation of wild spaces. They offer the chance to run around and let off steam as well as to learn about the wildlife in your area. The Trusts are a campaigning organisation and have huge influence.  Find your nearest Wildlife Trust reserve here.

Delve into a museum

One of the best decisions this government has ever made was to make entry to our national museums free. They are a fabulous way to teach your family about art and history. One of our favourites is the Natural History Museum in London, but there are lots of smaller local museums that may be free too. Have a look on your council website. You can find UK museums here. We have a lovely little toy museum and a natural history museum locally, both of which have free entry.

Have a cookery session

Children love to cook! There are so many reasons why you should teach yours this essential life skill. At its most basic level, it is fun and will while away an afternoon or two. However, it also gives you the opportunity to discuss where food comes from and slip in some information about good nutrition. Cooking from scratch is cheaper and healthier than buying packaged meals and allows you to avoid excess packaging. You could let your kids plan a meal and buy the ingredients as well, so that they get that food costs money. If you want to read about more reasons for teaching your children to cook have a look here.

Plant something

You don’t have to have a garden to grow things with the children. Cress is so easy to grow on your windowsill, along with various herbs. You can also attempt to sprout avocado seeds or try Zoe’s instructions on how to regrow celery.  If you are fortunate enough to have a vegetable patch, involve your children and give them a bit of earth to grow a few bits in. They will get the same satisfaction as you do from growing their own food.

Having fun with your children doesn’t always have to involve a huge amount of expense. With these ideas for cheap children’s activities you may find the most enduring memories you make are those that cost very little.

 

Dreaming of a plastic free life

I have been heartened recently to see the general public starting to get revved up about the dangers of plastic rubbish on our wildlife. David Attenborough and his team on the wonderful TV series Blue Planet II seemed to kick start this. Images of birds feeding plastic to their chicks and marine life throttled by the rings from beer cans do tend to pull on the heartstrings.Now it seems that every other news programme or article features people clearing rubbish from beaches or reports of school children dumping the single use water bottles for reusables. Instagram is full of folk living plastic free lives, or at least attempting to reduce their use of plastic items.

Being plastic free is not mainstream

plastic free

Photo courtesy of @strawlessinchico. Check them out on Instagram!

It is tempting to think the anti-plastic campaign is becoming mainstream. However, if I look around my office I see single use bottles on many of my colleague’s desks. Lots of them turn up in the morning with plastic lined disposable coffee cups from a well known coffee chain. To my annoyance, I frequently pull plastic and other recyclables out of the general waste bins in our kitchen area and put them in the recycling bin.

When I go to the supermarket, I see little evidence of a reduction in plastic packaging. Very few items are available in glass or cardboard. Practically every non-canned item is packed in plastic. It’s tricky even to buy your fruit and vegetables loose some of the time. If you can, they are sometimes more expensive! Paper bags are rarely offered, except for mushrooms. Even if shoppers are really motivated to reduce plastic in their lives, manufacturers and retailers aren’t making it easy for us!

I have been carrying my own reusable carrier bags for years. It made me very happy when the 5p levy was introduced on plastic bags in shops, but would prefer it retailers were only allowed to sell reusable fabric ones. Shoppers would soon get into the habit of carrying a couple if they had to pay more for them.

plastic free

Plastic free shopping costs more

Plastic free shopping involves taking your own containers to the butcher, baker or greengrocer. Let’s face it, how many of these independent shops survive? If you live somewhere trendy you might have a plastic free food store where everything is sold loose. These are great (if a little pricey), but my nearest one is 50 miles away. I also don’t have time to go from shop to shop. I work full time, as many of us do, so one trip a week to the supermarket is all that is feasible. Because we need to stick to our budget, Aldi is our supermarket of choice and it’s full of goods carefully wrapped in layers of non-recyclable plastic film. Buying cheaper seems to involve more plastic sadly.

Even my local market – which used to give you everything in paper bags – now throws it all in plastic, unless I manage to stop them first!

A glimmer of hope

All isn’t lost. There are faint glimmerings of hope for a plastic free life. Iceland, for example, is the first supermarket to pledge to get rid of plastic packaging in their own range foods by 2023. This is great news!

I hope the other supermarkets follow suit. What stance are they taking currently?

Aldi states: ‘…in March 2018, we created a wide-ranging packaging reduction strategy and committed to ensuring that all packaging on our own-brand products will be recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2022’.

The Co0p says: ‘Our long term ambition is for all packaging to be recycled where possible’.

Sainsbury’s policy states: ‘We’ve agreed to hit a series of ambitious targets by 2025, including making 100% of our plastic reusable, recyclable or compostable.’

Tesco has pledged to ban all non recyclable plastic packaging by 2019.

This all sounds like a drop in the plastic filled ocean. What about all the products they sell that aren’t own brand?

The solutions?

Sadly, I don’t believe retailers or the general public will do enough to reduce single use plastics – and the subsequent damage to the environment, our health and wildlife – unless they are forced to by Government. It is up to us to pressurise our politicians to do more!

I would love to see a return to deposit return schemes. It was quite a thrill as a kid to collect up glass bottles  and take them back to the corner shop for pocket money! It might even get some of our children off their games consoles…

Greenpeace are currently running a petition to try to persuade the supermarkets to ditch throw away plastic packaging altogether. You can sign it here. You can also find some of my ideas for ways to ditch plastic here.

What do you think about our current levels of plastic waste? What can we do to reduce it in our lives?

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

Ten unusual uses for common household items to save you money

Something happened recently that made me think about unusual uses for common household items.

Regular readers will know that I love my cats. Lately, however, they have been driving me crazy by pooping in the plant pots on the patio. I searched the Internet for a way to deter them and came up with sprinkling of black pepper on the soil. To my surprise it worked!

This saved me money on a commercial cat deterrent, is non toxic and ecofriendly. Very appealing to a greenie money saver such as myself!

unusual uses for common household itemsThis discovery led me to research other unusual uses for common household items. I haven’t tried all of these, so can’t say they definitely work. However, most are worth a try since you are likely to have many of these items in the cupboard anyway.

Unusual uses for common household items

Black pepper

As above, black pepper keeps cats off the garden without harming them. I have heard that this isn’t the case with cayenne pepper so I won’t be trying that.

According to Organicfacts.net, black pepper can also help you lose weight by helping to break down fat cells. I have no idea how much you have to eat to shed the pounds though!

Banana peel

You can wipe the inside of a banana skin onto leather shoes and then buff them up instead of using shoe polish.

I have tried this one on a pair of taupe boots when I couldn’t find a polish the correct colour. It worked ok but didn’t give a glossy shine.

Banana skins can also be used to feed your roses. You can make a liquid feed by soaking the peels in water or simply bury them by your plants. You can find more detailed instructions here.

Tea bags

There are lots of uses for old teabags apparently! I remember being told that you could fake a tan by lying in a bath of strong tea. It didn’t work…. I have had more success using them to revive tired eyes, making sure they are as cold as possible first.

According to Chasing Green, I have been missing out on lots of other potential uses, however. For example, ‘If you have a bruise, sunburn, a bee sting, mosquito bite or cold sore put a cool, damp teabag on the affected area and use like a compress. The tea will bring comforting relief, reduce inflammation, and promote healing.’

Orange peel

We have ants trying to break into our back room at the moment. I dislike brutally murdering them with ant powder, so I like this idea for using orange peel from Home Tips World. You can soak orange peel in water to make an insect repellent. This, drained and placed in a spray bottle, will apparently keep both flies and ants at bay. If orange peel works, I can’t see why any citrus fruit skin wouldn’t do the job, particularly lemons.

Lemons

Talking of which, you can use lemons, either whole or the piths once you have used the juice, to clean your microwave. This one is from One Good Thing by Jillee. ‘Add lemon rinds to a microwave-safe bowl filled halfway with water. Cook on high for 5 minutes, allowing the water to boil and the steam to condense inside. Carefully remove the hot bowl and wipe away the mess with a damp towel.’

Vinegar

If you are researching unusual uses for common household items, you can’t ignore vinegar. Whole books have been written on this super useful store cupboard staple.   I find it good as a fabric softener, to clean glass and as a general household cleaning spray – here is my recipe. However, these are well known. The website Vinegar Tips says it is also a brilliant stain remover, and I will be trying this: ‘Quickly combine a solution of mild liquid detergent (1/2 tablespoon) with white distilled vinegar (1 tablespoon) and one quart of cool water, and let the stained cloth sit for 15 minutes. Wash with cool water.’

Natural Living Ideas has a whole article on how great cider vinegar is for your hair. It softens and clarifies, adds body, detangles and defrizzes your locks.

Onion skins

As well as chucking them on the compost heap, which is generally what I do, I have read that you can also use onion skins as a hair dye! The blog Trash Backwards claims that they will turn your locks golden brown and also promote hair growth.

Coffee grounds

Another one from Trash Backwards (love this blog!). Coffee grounds can turn your hydrangeas blue by making the soil more acidic. Well, who knew. We always admire the blue hydrangeas when we go to Wales. It’s a shame we aren’t real coffee drinkers!  A bowl of coffee grounds will also apparently absorb odours in your fridge.

Rose petals

When those beautiful roses have faded, you can give them a new lease of life by drying them. You can then make a face cleanser, a bath soak or pot pourri. These tips come from Natural Living Ideas.

Bicarbonate soda

I rarely use bicarbonate of soda in my baking. It is more likely that I will be using it as a deodoriser in the bin or cat litter tray, as a scouring powder or in my smelly trainers! I have a whole post on the amazing power of bicarbonate of soda.

I am sure there are literally hundreds of other unusual uses for common household items. Which do you use?

This post may contain affiliate links.

Composting: the ultimate guide

Hurrah! The snow is abating now for most of us and next week promises more spring-like weather. This means that we can get out in the garden at last. We need to tidy up, start planting and do some composting. We like to grow some of our own fruit and veg. A decent compost makes a big difference to the health and yield of our produce.

To get you in the mood for gardening, today I have a guest post from Emma Metson, who blogs at Fixtures&Flowers. I hope you find it helpful and interesting. Over to Emma!

Composting is good for the environment

Quick fact: The average Briton alone has a carbon footprint of around 9.1 tonnes. Times that amount by the country’s population and you’ll get a shocking amount of emissions. Our friends across the pond produce just over double, with a 20 tonne footprint per person. Truly shocking!

That’s only taking into account the emissions of two countries, let alone the rest of the world. Human-kind has a lot of work to do.

It’s true that there are so many things that can be done to reduce a person’s carbon footprint. Composting, for instance, is one of the best and most efficient methods to reduce waste especially if you have a garden.

Composting is cheaper

Composting is also a cost effective way to add extra nutrients to your garden, which in turn boosts the growth of your plants. If you grow your own fruit and vegetables, compost will help produce a better harvest, saving you even more money.

If you’ve been thinking about composting but don’t know where to start, this guide is specifically for you. It will talk about the main types of composting together with everything that you need to figure out which method suits you and your garden best.

Types of composting

First let’s break down the different types of composting that you can choose from.

Traditional or normal composting

It’s kind of difficult to define what traditional composting is. That’s because composting is a general term that refers to the aerobic (with oxygen) and biological decomposition of organic waste. This process is done under ‘controlled’ or ‘semi-controlled’ conditions — through human intervention.

Regardless of the type, composting can be used to enhance the type of soil in your garden. Compost is packed full of nutrients that are perfect for your plants to feed on, so adding compost to your top layer of soil is a favourite for keen growers. This is especially the case if your garden is home to a difficult soil type.

The four components of traditional compost are ‘greens’, ‘browns’, air, and water. Obviously, the last two don’t need any further explanation as to what they are.

‘Greens’ are the organic matter that contains plenty of nitrogen such as kitchen scraps and lawn clippings. ‘Browns’, on the other hand, contain a lot of carbon like paper, cardboard, newspapers, and dead leaves. Both nitrogen and carbon are needed to make that rich humus which is needed by your plants.

Hot or cold?

Traditional composting can further be divided into two — hot and cold composting. The former is a faster process but requires more labour as you need to turn the compost pile regularly. The latter is as simple as putting all the waste in a pile and leaving them be. As you might have guessed, cold composting is a very long process.

A few reminders:

  • If your compost starts to smell, you need to either add more ‘browns’ or turn your compost pile (in the case of hot compost) more often.
  • If your compost pile is too wet, add more ‘browns’. Your compost should feel like a wrung-out sponge.
  • Lastly, add more ‘greens’ if your compost seems too dry.

Vermicomposting

Vermicomposting is a type of composting that makes use of specific types of worms to produce a by-product that is rich in nutrients and is of course, organic. Simply put, the earthworms consume organic matter and excrete it in a digested form called worm cast.

 

The casts that have passed through the stomachs of the worms contain up to eight times as many nutrients as their feeds. Because of this, these worm castings are also known as ‘black gold’. Vermicomposting can be done using different methods, the most common of which are the bed and pit methods.

 

In general, vermicompost is superior to other types of conventionally-produced compost in the following ways:

  • It’s superior to most composts as an inoculant in the production of compost.
  • Worms, aside from being the perfect ‘plowman’ for your vermicompost, can also be used as high-quality animal feeds.
  • Farmers, for instance, can benefit a lot not just from vermicompost but vermiculture as well. When produced in large numbers, both can provide as an additional source of income.

 

On the other hand, vermicomposting has the following disadvantages as well.

  • This process of composting can be quicker. However, it would usually require more labour to do so.
  • The worms require more space to grow since they are ‘surface feeders’.
  • Worms are vulnerable to environmental conditions such as extreme heat, freezing temperatures, or drought.
  • Vermicomposting usually requires more resources to get started with like money (to buy worms) and labour. That being said, the startup cost isn’t very high.

Countertop composting

This type of composting is ideal for urban dwellers. Those who found a way to maintain a garden despite the limited space will also benefit a lot from countertop composting. A good example would be in apartment buildings where you do your gardening on the balcony or perhaps, indoors.

 

At the same time, this is perfect to reduce your kitchen’s carbon footprint since leftovers and scraps are more than welcome in the compost bin. Do note, that meat and fatty foods should be avoided unless you want your compost to be a party place for insects and pests. Citrus peels and onions are also a no-no because their acidity will kill essential microorganisms which can slow down the decomposition.

 

Pretty much, all you need to have is a container where you’ll be putting all your organic waste into. You can buy them in stores, or if you want to save money, you can go for a DIY countertop compost.

Compost tea

Yes, you heard it right! There is such a thing as compost tea. But don’t worry as it’s not the same as the very popular beverage and no, you’re not going to drink it.

Compost tea is organic fertiliser in liquid form. The process of making compost tea is as simple as steeping aged compost in water. It can be made right at home using your well-finished compost.

Here’s why compost tea has become a hot trend with gardeners:

  • It increases plant growth since the nutrients are easily absorbed by the soil and the plants through spraying.
  • When used as a foliar spray, the surfaces of the plants are occupied with by beneficial microbes which prevent pathogens from infecting the plants.
  • The nutritious content of compost tea is easily absorbed by the plant roots. This encourages the growth of root systems to help your plants pull the nutrients farther down.

Bokashi composting

Bokashi is the Japanese word for “fermented organic matter”. This method was developed by Dr Teuro Higa, a professor at University of Ryukyus, Okinawa, Japan, in the 1980s. How it differs from the other types of composting lies in the fact that it’s done anaerobically — no oxygen.

It’s also one of the least expensive and labour-required methods of composting. The Bokashi bucket has an air-tight lid and a spigot at the bottom to drain off the liquid that will be produced. You will need to layer kitchen scraps (you can also use meat and dairy which are not allowed in aerobic composting) with a Bokashi inoculant inside a bin.

The inoculant or Bokashi bran consists of either wheat germ or sawdust combined with molasses and Effective Microorganisms (EM). You can buy them online or get them from stores. And yes, you can also create your Bokashi bran.

The mixture can be used after it has fermented by letting it sit for up to 10 days without direct sunlight. The fermented mixture can be dug into the garden or added to a compost pile to complete the decomposition process.

Why you’d consider Bokashi composting is most likely because there are no restrictions on what can go inside the bin. Another advantage of it is that it requires very little maintenance because you can just leave it be while waiting for the mixture to ferment.

Conclusion

The truth is, there’s no right or wrong method of composting. The best method is the one that works best for you and fits in with your lifestyle and budget.

Remember: The goal of composting is not only to provide healthy food for your plants. It’s also to reduce the waste which ends up in landfills and help save the environment.

Have you tried composting? Which method do you prefer?

 

Reducing plastic waste and saving money on toiletries

reducing plastic waste

Almond oil makes a good cleanser and moisturiser

A while ago I blogged about trying to reduce 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.

Reducing plastic waste with shampoo bars

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. They are a good way of reducing plastic waste as they come packaged just in paper.

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.

reducing plastic waste

The solid deodorant has so far lasted 3 months

Almond oil

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?

Being Frugal is Green!

I was about to throw away some laddered tights yesterday when I remembered reading that they are good to use as plant ties if you cut them up or to store your onion crop in. So I have kept them, just in case. It made me think about how being frugal is green! Buying less, consuming less, repairing, reusing things, buying second-hand: these things aren’t just good for your bank balance, they are good for the environment.

Being frugal is greenAll is green in the garden

Take the garden. I don’t like to use chemicals, although I did give in to some organic slug pellets last year when my cabbages were being shredded. Usually I set slug traps using Sainsbury’s cheapest lager (I wouldn’t drink it, but the slugs seem to like it) and crumble egg shells or sand around the plants the beasts enjoy the most. I compost all garden waste and food waste such us peelings, teabags, and I collect bags of free manure from a house nearby, which also goes onto the compost heap. I do have to buy potting compost sometimes, but not as much as in the past.

Cardboard egg boxes make great little pots for starting seeds, and larger yogurt or cream pots are good for potting them on. A litre of water with a couple of teaspoons of liquid castile soap  in a spray bottle is good for killing bugs, costs a lot less than the scary chemicals you can buy in the garden centre and is much less harmful to the environment.

Growing your own veg means you can have delicious, fresh and organic produce for a fraction of the cost you would spend in the shops. Buying local and in season is often cheaper. The environmental cost of transporting food thousands of miles is huge.

I love to buy plants but they are so expensive! It is easy to collect and store seeds and to take cuttings from other plants.

If you are on a water meter it makes sense to have as many water butts as you can fit in your garden. The local council quite often has links to companies doing deals on these. You can also re-use the ‘grey’ water from your bath or shower to water the garden.

Being frugal is green

Being frugal is green inside too

In the house, saving energy saves money and is green. Using a lid on your cooking pots makes them boil more quickly so you can turn the gas down. Insulating your house and fitting thick curtains means you can turn down the thermostat.

Driving carefully uses less petrol. Buying second-hand clothes and furniture means items are re-used and not thrown away. Hanging your clothes on the line or an airer saves energy and the cost of running a tumble dryer.

The motto is reduce, re-use and recycle. I try to do all of these things because they save money. Living a simpler life, having less ‘stuff’, consuming less, re-using more: it helps to keep the wolves at bay and gives you a nice warm deep green feeling.

Being frugal is green – you can save money and the planet too.