Supermarket foodbank collection – a dilemma

The other week I had a moral dilemma. Perhaps that sounds more dramatic than it actually was. If I stuck to my principles, it would either have been even more of a dilemma or, in fact, I’d have acted differently. Here’s what happened…

I was shopping in my local Tesco. If you’re a regular reader you may know that supermarket shopping makes me feel guilty because of a range of ethical and environmental factors (you can read more here). If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll also know that I’ve gave up supermarkets for Lent last year, and for 28 days the year before. I plan to go supermarket-free again for Lent this year. I don’t live my life sans supermarkets for the rest of the year but I do try to limit my expenditure in them, especially in favour of shopping locally. Anyhow, on this particular day last week I was doing my shopping in Tesco, and Tesco was collecting for the local foodbank.

When I see a collection point for a foodbank, I want to help. Of course I do. The thought of there being people in this country – people in my community – having too little to feed themselves, is both shocking and humbling. Thank goodness for foodbanks – for their ability to provide, and for the way that they mobilise those who would like to help, into action.

My initial feeling on seeing the collection point was positive. Here was a super-convenient way to donate – my alternative is to take items on foot to the local library, where there is a collection box. This however is rarely emptied, presumably due to lack of donations. I never feel that aid is being rushed to those who need it.

Swiftly on the back of feeling pleased to have the opportunity to donate, guilt washed over me and I felt frustrated that by donating to the food bank, Tesco was going to benefit even more, as a result of my additional purchases.

Still, faced with a lack of convenient options for giving to the food bank, at least Tesco is doing something. It even had an initiative to add an extra 30% on to customer donations. I have no idea if this benefits Tesco in any way in terms of tax relief for example, but it seems to be a generous and significant gesture.


I am that strange person who takes pictures of foodbank signs!

I’ve been here before with the supermarket vs food bank dilemma. Eighteen months ago, my local foodbank was looking for volunteers to hand out leaflets in Tesco, encouraging customers to donate items. I’d not long finished my 28 days of ‘supermarket-free-ness’ and it was a struggle to decide what to do.

After huge internal debate I volunteered – and last week, I donated a bag full of food. Nothing in me wants to increase Tesco’s sales – yet I just can’t stand by and watch people struggle, when there is an almost effortless solution being presented to me in a shop which I (let’s face facts) use regularly. For me to have walked away would have been hugely hypocritical, and would have caused me more guilt than shopping at the supermarket does anyway.

So what can I do to ensure I am never again faced with such a dilemma? My answer is, of course, twofold.

Firstly I have to work harder towards not shopping in the bloody supermarket! To resolve myself of all of the guilt that goes hand in hand with that particular activity, I need to keep out of there. You can read more in this post about my difficulties in going completely supermarket-free. The bottom line is though that I need to make obliterating my reliance on the supermarket a real goal. I am definitely due another look at ways I can trim my spending there. However, as long as I am shopping in supermarkets, I will be donating whenever the food bank is collecting.

Secondly, I need to find other convenient ways of donating to the foodbank. As I said, I donate when I go to the library. I do this on most visits, but as said visits usually coincide with returning books that are horribly overdue, my donations aren’t particularly regular.

As a family, we have sent a cheque to the foodbank before, but I am aware that this didn’t allow us to add Gift Aid. As I write this, I realise that at 25%, Gift Aid falls only slightly short of Tesco’s 30% contribution to all donations? I’m also wondering if Gift Aided cheques would allow foodbanks to purchase a greater amount of food themselves from wholesalers? Do foodbanks have enough volunteers to go out and buy food, or is it a valuable time-saver to have food already bought for them?

I have sent an email to the Trussell Trust (the organisation with the most responsibility for foodbanks in the UK) asking those questions and am waiting on a reply. I have also tweeted my local foodbank.

There are also options for donating time to helping with the foodbank and, of course, helping with preventative measures, such as lobbying the local MP for policy changes that will reduce reliance on foodbanks. According to the Trussell Trust here 30.93% of people referred to the foodbank in 2013-14, were in need of help due to their benefit payments being delayed. Other types of volunteering, such as working in a Citizens Advice Bureau, would also help potential foodbank clients to claim money that they are entitled to, thus possibly reducing the numbers of people that need to rely on food aid.

In the meantime, if you wish to make a food donation, here’s a screenshot of a typical foodbank shopping list


(Eastbourne shopping list)

I know that some foodbanks are especially keen to receive Christmas-related food gifts just now, such as biscuits, chocolate and Christmas puddings :-)

Would stumbling across a collection point in the supermarket cause you a dilemma? If you have any thoughts on foodbanks, supermarkets or the interaction between the two, I’d love to hear them.

Minimalist Game – job done

For the month of November I decided to play the Minimalist Game (loosely – I doctored the rules to suit myself). Basically I had to get rid of 465 items of clutter by the end of the month and, guess what?

I finished early.

Ignoring the fact that I have been procrastinating over my Christmas preparations – or lack thereof – which no doubt helped my speedy completion, I have mixed feelings about whether to be proud of myself for achieving my goal.


Nothing beats a five bar gate for keeping count

On the plus side, I had a really good clear out and tidy up, and obviously I managed to  commit myself to the game and see it through.

On the negative side, as I wrote in my half-way post, I found it too easy to dispose of a large number of possessions.

It really wasn’t heart-wrenching to part with any of the 465 items that I got rid of – which illustrates that I didn’t tackle any of the more challenging decluttering. Although many were things (mainly belonging to the children) that we have made full use of, but have grown out of, I do feel sorry that I allowed so much stuff to linger in our home, taking up space and causing clutter.

I’m not in favour of wallowing in negativity though. What’s the point? You’ve got to learn from mistakes then move on, so I’m going to commit to playing the Minimalist Game again in January (although I won’t commit to boring you with it on the blog). I’m hoping that I can keep up my good work, as well as purging the house of the unnecessary Christmas excesses that we will no doubt fall victim to.

I have yet to fully redistribute all of my 465 items to their rightful destinations. Sadly, too much ended up in the bin without being put to good use (more guilt!), but I think there comes a time when you need to decide whether it’s realistic to sit down with a list of the weird and wonderful items that have emerged during decluttering, and google each and every one of them, until they are all rightfully in the best place for recycling or reuse. Is there ever truly an ethical solution to disposing of low quality broken toys which, let’s face it, should never have been allowed over the doorstep in the first place?*

Happily, many of the items were clothes which have now been handed down to family members who will put them into immediate use.** In a wave of enthusiasm, I even mended some things so that they can remain in circulation for longer.

I amassed a huge pile for the charity shop.


4 bin-bags, a toy farm, a laundry basket & 2 pictures

I have to admit that I was getting anxious about the practicalities of taking this mountain of stuff to the charity shop. I couldn’t leave the kids in the car while I ran back and forwards several times unloading the car (none of my local charity shops have guaranteed parking outside), and I definitely couldn’t get them to help as they would realise within seconds that I was giving away their old things…

As luck would have it though, this very weekend just happened to be the time that we replaced some beds in our house. We were keen that the beds went to people who need them so I phoned Barnardo’s who agreed to come and pick them up and, equally as great, they were delighted to relieve me of all of the bags I’d marked for the charity shop. They arrived with a van the day after I contacted them and it was a close call as to who said ‘thank you’ the most. Thank you. No, thank you. No, thank you! etc etc.

Finally, I tackled a clear-out job that I had put off for at least a year. I have a two drawer unit that sits in the hallway – premium space – that was bursting with artwork my kids have produced. It was always my intention to sort it out by keeping the best stuff and binning the rest, but…you know… it’s kind of hard to get started when there’s a history of your precious children’s artistic development just sitting there…

Realistically though, if we keep it all for the next 16 years, we will drown in it – and let’s not talk about the fire risk! I am already known to the fire service from when my eldest discovered the bathroom lock at 14 months. This discovery necessitated a fire engine to arrive at the house (siren on) at 9am in the morning (I was not dressed to receive visitors). There were no less than three prams sitting in my hallway which would have caused an obstruction, should there have been an emergency, which, it turns out, a toddler alone in a locked bathroom was. I digress… but the mountain of paper had to go!

It was easy to separate the wheat from the chaff. I kept the first drawings, and the super cute family portraits of us sketched strictly in age order, and the odd piece of brilliance – there was a Disney character that kind of looked recognisable, if you viewed it from the right angle. All other pictures were recycled. (I used to make them into shopping lists, but I soon learned that doesn’t work if you take the kids shopping with you).

The whole decluttering ritual is addictive – I have found myself roaming around the house for the past few weeks, eyeing up items, wondering what I can get away with binning next. I would have kept going if it wasn’t for the fact that Christmas is now less than a month away and I am being panicked by all of the school-gate conversations suggesting that everyone else has finished their shopping, iced their cakes and are just biding their time until they can pour the Bucks Fizz on Christmas morning.

The irony is not lost on me that I am abandoning the process of reducing my possessions to concentrate on acquiring more bloody things, even if they are for other people. It’s been a good reminder though that I need to focus on sourcing gifts for people that are useful – or, at the very least, are fully recyclable!

*If there is, do let me know for January.
**Top tip: encourage your family to have children 18 months + after the birth of each of your kids (preferably matching the gender/s of your own) for optimum hand-me-down bliss

Minimalist Game – half way point

I’m thoroughly enjoying playing the Minimalist Game – you can read my previous post on what it involves here.  To date I have cleared 224 items from our living space and not a single one of them has been missed by anyone.

Removing items that we no longer need is cathartic. I love to see space emerge within my home. If ‘stuff’ is no longer there, then it doesn’t need my attention – whether that means using it, dusting it, tidying it away or fixing it. While I would not describe myself as a hoarder, I will admit that there are some things that I do find hard to part with.  It is reasonably shocking therefore, that I haven’t yet had to make any difficult decisions.  I’m on 224 items and not one of them has proven a challenge to remove from my life! This showcases just how much clutter I’ve managed to accumulate.

I’m enjoying reading my fellow bloggers’ tales of the Minimalist Game. It’s interesting to see how everyone else approaches the challenge.  Personally, since my aim is to hit the heady heights of chucking 465 items, I have been targetting the clutter hotspots in my home.

The children’s bedroom has rewarded me well.  Although I do regular clear-outs of clothes that they’ve grown out of, it would seem that I’m guilty of hanging on to things they are just ever so slightly too big for, in case I need them again in an emergency.  The reality is, however, I never use them and they just clutter up the drawers.  Worse, when it’s my other half’s turn to get the kids ready, he uses the small stuff, not knowing any better.  Not anymore!  All the old things are gone –  I’ve distributed them between family, the charity shop and the Rag Bag.

Toys have also boosted my score as I’ve got rid of some of the broken stuff as well as lots of the crap attractive little trinkets that are accumulated from party bags and magazines.  I can guarantee the kids will not miss anything I’ve got rid of!  I will definitely not miss this plastic toy watch which doesn’t fasten properly and is guaranteed to cause tears (mine) as it falls off after ten seconds.


I’ve finally got rid of this clothes dryer which has a broken hinge.  Both my other half and I have tried to fix it but to no avail.  It’s been sitting in our bedroom for two years waiting for a mending miracle. Off to the dump it goes….


An equally large item is this washing basket.  It has been redundant for FIVE years!  I retrieved it from on top of a wardrobe, washed the fabric, dusted down the frame, and it’s now earmarked for the charity shop.


Because we are environmentally aware, there are lots of things that we recycle instead of binning.  However, there are many items that our Council collection doesn’t cater for so we store these on top of our freezer to take to the appropriate place. Except we forget.


An example is these used inhalers, which have gathered over time.  After bagging them at the weekend, I took them along to Boots the Chemist (where I happened to be anyway this morning) and put them into appropriate box.  The whole task took me about 20 seconds!

We have also, over several months, been accumulating things for the Council dump, which will allow us to recycle some of them. I have finally sorted out the pile (again sitting on top of the freezer!) and moved it ready to be taken there by the end of the month.


So far my experience of the Minimalist Game is that it only demands a bit of time from me.  I was already on board with the concept of removing unnecessary items from my home, having taken steps already to do this with several things, but I am guilty of not finishing the job.  With the goal of removing 465 items from the house this month, I am finding it much easier to focus.

To date, some of the items have been binned, recycled or given away, but I am storing the rest in our front room, ready to make a few big trips to get rid of them at the end of November. 

I had managed to keep the kids out of that room to avoid them rediscovering their old treasures, but this morning they wanted in it to wave goodbye to their Dad, who was leaving for work. Panicking, I suggested that we waved at the door. That was met with confusion (it’s November, they were in their pyjamas), so as a compromise I said they could wave at the window, but we’d keep the lights off ‘so that you can see him better outside’. Too late, I’d aroused much suspicion and my eldest, after being lead across the darkened room to the window, took one glance around the shadows, looked at me pointedly and asked ‘Mummy, are you trying to give away our toys?’ Foiled.  I’m off to hide the evidence in my car…

Minimalist Game

I love reading about the Minimalist Game – blog posts or twitter hashtags (#MinsGame) on that subject have me riveted. I therefore took an interest when Jen from My Make Do and Mend Year announced here on her blog that she was playing in November, and I was even more delighted when others I follow – Emma from Mommy Emu, Zoe from Ecothrifty, Shona at @sathlondonshona and Nicola of A Lifetime of DIY were joining in. Lots to read – yay!

I didn’t for one second consider taking part. I’m feeling a bit time-poor at the moment, as my neglected blog will testify, plus we’re hosting Christmas this year and I shudder every time I think about the work involved (although I’m looking forward to having the whole family round).  I’m determined to use November to get Christmas cards written, most of the shopping done and to get the house in order.

When Zoe tweeted this morning asking if I was going to join in though, I considered it for the first time. I do like a challenge, plus I’ve been a bit out of the blogging loop lately. Also when I thought about it, the Minimalist Game will tie in nicely with my efforts to get the house ready for the Festive Season. A good old clear out will create much-needed space and help me in my constant battle for a tidy house.  So….

I’m in!

The Minimalist Game, as I understand it (from reading everyone else’s posts!), is to start on the first of the month by finding one item that you will get rid of, on Day 2 you get rid of 2 items, Day 3 is 3 items etc. As Zoe says in her post, you are meant to get the item out of the house on that day to e.g. charity shop, dump, recycle, bin etc. I agree with her that I will not be taking a daily trip to get rid of stuff – life is too short!! – so as long as everything has reached its rightful destination by 1 December, I will consider myself successful. Also like Zoe, rather than clear a set amount of items a day, I will make sure I dispose of the correct total of 465 items for the month. I hope this is all making sense…

Happily I had a small sort out on Saturday (the first of November) and put 10 old DVD’s in a bag for the charity shop so I’m already on target.


I will keep a tally of my items here (keeping it simple!):


I will of course be trying to ensure that as few items as possible end up in the bin for landfill, and that as much as possible goes to people who can use it. November seems like a very good time to play the Minimalist Game as it should boost the Charity Shops stocks in time to help with their Christmas sales.

I know that the Minimalists’ – Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus – focus is on ‘living a meaningful life with less stuff’, a concept I agree with. I am increasingly trying to work towards this, for example by buying no new clothes for myself for a year, but somehow I still have a house full of things that we’ve acquired but don’t use (nor even care about terribly much). I’m hoping by the time I’ve cleared out another 455 items, I’ve worked out how to stop so many things making it over our front door! Wish me luck…

Owen Jones talk Edinburgh

I want to be Owen Jones when I grow up.

There are flaws in my plan though, not least that I’m already a good few years older than he is…


Last Wednesday, I had the fortune of seeing this great man speak, to a packed hall, at the Edinburgh Radical Book Fair.

If somehow Owen has slipped under your radar, then he’s an author (at the age of 30, he has written two books that patently involved reams of research before the writing even began), he’s a Guardian columnist, plus he appears regularly on the television, putting forward his views on social and political issues. He is one hard worker – oh, and I think it’s fair to describe him as left wing…

Now, although my writing tendencies on this blog veer towards sustainable issues, I am no less passionate about matters of social justice. I care deeply and fill a lot of head space worrying about poverty and inequality in the UK, while berating myself for not contributing enough towards redressing the balance.

Owen Jones is an inspiration to me. He is a do-er and an enabler. Although articulate, and smack-in-the-face intelligent, he is also unassuming, warm and personable, with a broad Northern English accent that both surprises and delights. In short, Owen makes you realise that your actions count in the fight towards a fairer society.

Owen’s focus on Wednesday – and in the most recent of his books, The Establishment – was on the most powerful people in society, and on their role in promoting wealth and privilege for themselves, while encouraging a culture of blame and envy amongst those who struggle financially.

In other words, for the most part in our nation, negative attention is diverted away from those who have influence over the distribution of wealth, and is deflected towards those who don’t. For example, efforts go in to encouraging people to judge their neighbours for claiming benefits they may be perceived not to be entitled to, for not working hard enough or for ‘stealing’ jobs they do not deserve, while others – such as those responsible for the banking crisis – escape their share of the blame for the gross inequalities in our country.

This message, whilst admirably straightforward, seems to have been lost on huge sections of the UK population, assisted by parts of the media – with the ‘strivers’ vs ‘skivers’ culture having been swallowed whole by many. Indeed, there is not enough consideration that the UK, a wealthy nation, is unable to even  feed its most vulnerable.  The growing number of Food Banks is nothing short of scandalous.

What can I do though to make a difference? I am a stay at home parent with almost full-time child care duties.  Apart from keeping myself informed about politics and talking to others about my views; donating money to what I deem to be worthy causes; and donating food to the local Food Bank, I don’t feel that I am contributing towards getting the fairer society I want. In fact, I feel that I am doing next to nothing at all.

A piece of advice from Owen was to join a political party, and through that means, take collective action. It makes sense. I have some serious thinking to do.

Interestingly, and very much in keeping with my own focus on supporting local retailers, The Radical Book Fair was hosted by Word Power Books which describes itself as Scotland’s only radical and independent book shop. The event I attended was free of charge, in the spirit of including everyone regardless of their financial status. The organiser was keen to hammer home the message that, unlike Amazon, Word Power Books pays its taxes. All good. Donations were welcomed and everyone was encouraged to buy a book.

Owen Jones stayed behind after his 90 minute talk and question session to meet attendees and sign copies of his book. He was thoroughly likeable and down to earth. Despite having a genuine ‘stage presence’, he was simply, and in the best possible way, a decent bloke on a one-to-one level. Once his work was done, he put on his jacket and rucksack and headed out of the hall, almost totally unnoticed, on his way to do a television interview. What a guy.


Jeans mend

I’m an all-or-nothing kind of a girl which appears to have spilled over into my blog. I’m either writing regularly or, it seems, weeks pass between posts! I have been working away on a particular post that I’m not stuck on exactly, but it’s taking me a while to write it as I wish.  Maybe one day it will be ready to publish or – as with many other of my drafts – it will be consigned to the trash can. Today however, I’ve got a post about mending my jeans.

I wrote in this post ten months ago that I had a favourite pair of jeans that were threatening to tear at the knee.  Luckily for me (being on a self-imposed year of no new clothes) this threat didn’t become a reality until a couple of weeks ago.

Of course, what I should have done as soon as I knew there was a risk of a tear, was to patch the jeans from the back so that the material was supported and had a better chance of staying intact, but that’s far too sensible and organised for me…

I did however act reasonably quickly when the tears (yes two!) started to show.

IMG_0828 (2)

Disclaimer I have no idea if this is the standard course of action to follow for ripped jeans!

The first thing I did was to turn the jeans inside out and stitch the ends of the tears in the hope that they won’t grow any bigger. I then cut a patch of material from an old pair of leggings that was big enough to easily cover the tears.


I used fabric glue – an impulse buy from several months ago – to stick the patch to the jeans.



I turned the trouser leg inside out and et voila! the jeans were mended.


I quite like the coloured fabric showing through the rip, I think it makes the jeans look individual, and, the last time I wore the jeans, I matched the hint of pink with an appropriate top. I’m probably kidding myself – I bet no one else noticed!

I’m interested to see whether the glue will stand the test of time. I washed the jeans within 48 hours of applying the glue and it was still sticking well when it came out of the washing machine. I will however confess to not following the super-simple instructions to the letter – my fault as I got distracted by something else in the middle of the mend…

I feel pretty smug about extending the life of a favourite item of clothing. The same thing happened to a different pair of jeans about two years ago and I put them in the Rag Bag without considering that I might have mended them.  I’m glad times have changed for me – I’m saving good jeans from becoming waste, and the £40 it would have cost to replace them is still in my bank account!



Day 7: Zero Waste Week 2014

It’s Day 7 already of Zero Waste Week.

Click here for National Zero Waste week 2013

I have to admit that I’m pleased with my achievements this week. Most of my tasks didn’t take more than a mere ten minutes each, yet they were things that will make a significant difference to me, and the waste that I generate. For some reason, I’d also been procrastinating over most of them and, mentally, it feels good to have pushed forwards finally.

Today’s self-set ‘One More Thing’ task is to make my own short crust pastry. I’m sorry to report that this is something I’ve not done before. I am a fan of cooking from scratch as there are usually so many health, sustainability and cost benefits to be gained but, for some reason, I’ve not been able to face making my own pastry before. I put my reluctance down to the fact that I will have to get my hands messy and I’ve never liked that much!

The time has come to face this challenge head on. Here’s the packaging generated by a packet of pastry (which makes enough for a large quiche, for example). It’s wrapped in a grease-proof paper lining – which feels like it contains a plastic coating – and a cardboard box.

photo (370)

Picture from my archives – no shop-bought pastry was used in the making of this post!

This packet of pastry costs £1.50 on the Tesco website, at the time of writing. The ingredients I need to make it myself are 200g of plain flour, 110g of butter and a pinch of salt. I estimate that I can make my own for less than 70p. I think that saving alone’s probably worth approximately 10 minutes of my time!

As in yesterday’s post, I took a break from writing this post to make my pastry. I used this recipe.

It was really simple.  I weighed out my ingredients, put the butter, flour and salt in a large bowl, as instructed, and rubbed them together with my fingers until the mixture was breadcrumb-like.  I then added the water and stirred it all together with a knife and voila! I had my pastry.

photo (450)

We decided to push the boat out and make a Homity Pie (using up some of the veg box in the process – hooray!)  My other half made the filling and we put it together in super-quick time.

photo (453)

I’m feeling quite pleased with myself for finally ticking this off my ‘to do’ list. Pastry is of course a great way to make food a bit more exciting when left overs are on offer. Check out this great post by Jen of My Make Do and Mend Year on how to reduce your food waste – surely she is the queen of creativity? I especially like Point 7 ‘Dead things tart-tartin’ which you can use, if you master making puff pastry!

I hope everyone’s had a good Zero Waste Week. A big thank you to Rachelle Strauss who is the brains behind this operation and has clearly been working very hard! If you are looking for more reading material and some inspiration do check out the ZWW Blog Abassadors, many of whom have been very busy this week.

What ‘One More Thing’ can you do this week to reduce your waste?

Day 6: Zero Waste Week 2014


This is a little mantra that I used very many years ago when I learned to knit.  I’m not sure how much more I remember about my knitting experiences, other than I used to enjoy it.  I couldn’t knit anything impressive, but I did lovingly create sleeping bags for my Care Bear figurines (remember those?!), made from knitted rectangles with the top portion folded over, stitched and stuffed with cotton wool!

I don’t know if I ever imagined that I’d teach my own children to knit – it’s not the first thing that occurs to you when the line on the pregnancy test turns blue! – but one of them is crazy about craft and is super-keen to learn.

Cool, I thought when the request was first made, and I popped out and picked up those cute little needles and a ball of wool. I smuggled them into the house and got them out when everyone was in bed, checking to see how far my ‘in over out’ mantra would get me.

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Not that far, it seemed.  I managed to cast-on but I think I’d done it the wrong way round – if that’s possible – and I couldn’t get started with the actual knitting. So I bought a book – a kids’ book, but it’s actually for me!

It came from Hive (a site that allows you to support your local independent book shop).  I love it as it has really simple instructions, as well as clear illustrations to help you master the craft.

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So, while sitting writing this post, I paused and opened the book, grabbed the knitting needles and got started.

Ahh, the slip knot – I’d forgotten about that.  No wonder my first attempt at knitting failed earlier.  Casting on was easy and the pictures in the book allowed me to ensure that the way I was holding and looping the wool was exactly right.  For things like this, I really appreciate fail-proof, step-by-step instructions!

Knitting a plain stitch came right back to me, but I’d forgotten how slippery the needles can be, and that you need to be careful not to split the wool, making two stitches out of the different strands… I did feel clumsy (and the few rows I knitted are definitely not the best!) but by the last one I felt like I was getting into the swing of it.

photo (447)

I’ll definitely need to practise but I think I’ll enjoy knitting, and my book is full of little projects I can try out with my small child – knitted bunting anyone? :-)

Ok, so all of this is very lovely, but how does it become Zero Waste Week’s ‘One More Thing’ to help me reduce what I send to landfill? Well, it terms of my children, I hope that knitting might, at least for a while, divert them away from less sustainable crafts like hama beads and the dreaded loom bands.

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If I can brush up on my knitting skills, then perhaps one day I can knit my own socks (I’m keeping my ambitions fairly low.) This was inspired by The Snail of Happiness who left me a comment in response to my sock-mending post, telling me that she knits socks – she really has a great blog, full much sustainable lovliness, do check it out!

Making socks appeals to me. My favourite socks have always been big thick woollen ones and I love the idea of making my own in my chosen colours with the most sustainable wool I can find.  It would also allow me to save those plastic hooks and labels, that come on shop-bought socks, from landfill.

Happy knitting!
Click here for National Zero Waste week 2014

Day 5: Zero Waste Week 2014

My ‘One More Thing’ for Zero Waste Week today is stewing plums.  This is because we’ve had plums in our veg box for the past four weeks and each week they have gone off before we’ve finished them. Sometimes we’ve thrown away several.

Click here for National Zero Waste week 2013

Now, I got pretty good at reducing my food waste a while ago.  I have blogged often about my beloved veg box and my attempts to use it up, and show it who’s boss.  Last year’s Zero Waste Week challenge was all about food waste and I defy anyone to suggest that I shouldn’t get full marks for effort…

So what happened? Other things I suppose… Although I have done well with my food waste in the past, I can’t pretend that it’s been effortless. When I’ve got lots of energy and motivation, I work really hard to keep on top of the food that makes it over our doorstep, and ensure that I use up most of it.  Sometimes I quite enjoy it and I’ve been known to make a night of it with a couple of new recipes, a glass of wine and some music playing. It can be satisfying to work hard and stuff the freezer full of meals for the week ahead.

Often though I’m really busy and have little spare time.  When I get it, I sometimes just want to relax or need an early night.  Until very recently I’ve had full time child care responsibilities, always having at least one of my children with me all day. I feel I’m lucky to have this time with my little ones while they are small – sometimes stewing plums, mashing potatoes or working out what to do with yet another beetroot just isn’t my priority!

Today however I decided those plums were getting stewed!  I had a problem though.  I no unaccounted for time in my day… Part of the reason was because at the start of the week I arranged for the plumber to come and fix a bath tap that has been leaking and wasting water for at least…..a year!  I realised that if I was ever going to get it fixed, it had to be during Zero Waste Week. It meant though that I had to get my kitchen clean, tidy and accessible for him to work safely (and most importantly without judging me!).

This took up my 90 minutes of child-free time. I decided though that having no time just wasn’t good enough! In the name of ‘One More Thing’ those plums were getting stewed, so I washed and chopped them super-fast and let them stew while I attempted to sort the kitchen.

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When the plumber arrived, I hadn’t quite finished the dishes – some stuff including last night’s wine glass was sitting by the sink, making it look as if I’d been indulging in some afternoon drinking…  I’d also been rushing about and smashed a bottle of tomato ketchup on the floor – I really hadn’t been drinking, honest! No matter. I’d got my one more thing for the day done, and I’ve even managed to write up this post despite it being late in the day.

Even just changing the pattern of the last four weeks makes me feel more determined to try to keep on top of it. Each night I’m going to try and identify a part of the next day that I could do some food preparation, and I will even consider cancelling my veg box order on the weeks that I am busy. I’m hoping my little bit of effort today can lead to significant change in the future.

Day 4: Zero Waste Week 2014

Click here for National Zero Waste week 2013

Yesterday’s post got me thinking about creating a sustainable, delicious and temping packed lunch.  Although it tied in nicely with my theme of low effort/high impact actions (a bit of mere thinking isn’t exactly overdoing things!), I did end up with a bit of a headache. What parent doesn’t obsess over making ensuring their child eats properly?  Happily though (as I’d hoped) two of the other Zero Waste Week Ambassadors Liz Burton and Grace Hall did cover the topic of packed lunches, and both made wonderful jobs of it – you can read Liz’s post here and Grace’s here. For lots of inspiration, check out Grace’s entire site Eats Amazing.  My headache has lifted…

Today’s task is super-easy, but will still help me to reduce my waste. It was initially going to be about darning socks but, after my efforts earlier today at darning, I’ll just say it’s about mending socks!!

As I may have mentioned several hundred times in my recent posts, I have given up buying clothes for 2014. It has been an easier challenge than expected and, to date, I’ve done a negligible amount of mending. Most of my clothes have lasted well, with the exception that is, of my socks.

To be fair many of my socks were falling apart at the beginning of the year anyway. I don’t like slippers – for some reason I instinctively kick them off around the house. I suffer from cold feet though, so I do love my socks, but I work them hard. We have old floorboards that are rough in places, and lots of these metal carpet divider things that snag socks as you walk over them.

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I have a couple of nice pairs of socks I’ve kept aside for those occasions that I visit friends who are house proud. I only have a few of these left – most succumbed to chaos during the emotional boot camp that is toilet training. I will also admit to wearing my other half’s socks at times when it’s really cold.  I’ll even confess to him encouraging me to wear his socks because some of mine are in such a state!

I reckon therefore that it’s about time I bit the bullet and mended my socks! Obviously retrieving every pair of damaged socks from my drawer and fixing them is far too much effort during my week of small tasks(!), so I found one pair that sported a nice small manageable hole and attempted to fix them this morning, during a ten minute window  that I had.

Here is the sock:

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This was purchased a number of years ago and was part of a cheap multi-pack, of dubious quality.

Before commencing my mend I read a short tutorial on darning that I found on the internet.  I then found some embroidery thread that I’d bought for a crafting activity with the kids, a needle that may or may not be a darning needle, and set to work.

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Some of you lovely people on Twitter suggested that I made a decorative feature out of my mends, thus negating the need for perfection, so I chose a bluey-green thread.  I know my children will enjoy the novelty value of this, plus I hoped it would show up better in the ‘after’ photo.  As it turned out, the photo is of poor quality anyway so I’m not sure it made a difference…

I turned the sock inside out and started stitching round the outside of the hole as suggested in the tutorial.  I think the idea is to create a strong structure that will hold the darn, but after I started I just decided that I’d stitch the hole my own way. Let’s say I was being creative, not lazy…

Here’s the finished result:

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Not a work of beauty but no hole!

The job took me about two minutes, so I feel that I can close the holes in the rest of the socks without it being a major effort. I might even go back to the tutorial and try out some darning on the nicer of my falling-to-pieces socks.

The end result is that my socks are saved from the Rag Bag and, as long as I can keep my nice ones in good condition for visits out, then I won’t need to buy any more, even when my year of no clothes has come to an end.