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.
I 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
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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
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.There 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
Once 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.
Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase I will earn a small commission. Thanks!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Just me for dinner tonight. I will probably have something on toast whilst I write some more blog posts!
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.
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.
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!
This 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
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!
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.
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.’
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.
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.’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?