After Zero Waste Week

Last week I posted every day in honour of Zero Waste Week, and I thought that today I’d write a little update of how the experience was for me.

I’ve come out of the other end of it all feeling rather more positive about a few things.

Blogging

I’ve been pretty disappointed that I’ve not done much blogging this year, despite the goals that I set myself early in 2016. I have to admit that I set the bar too high and, as a result, I’ve done far less writing that I’d have liked to. Zero Waste Week gave me a much needed kick up the arse – I might have let myself down, but I wasn’t going to go back on my commitment to be a blogging ambassador! It’s got me up and running again 🙂

Food waste

Well, obviously after writing five posts and setting myself daily goals last week, I had to face my food waste head on and…it wasn’t pretty! It’s true that I’m busy, and that I prioritise keeping my family healthy and happy – but really, I was failing to notice how much food we are wasting and actually, how much of the family income that must add up to. Last week was a wake-up call.

Diet

I aim to feed my family with healthy and nutritious food (another partially met goal from the start of 2016), but blogging last week made me aware of how often I cheat with convenience food – a few veggie sausages here, the odd Linda McCartney pie there. I don’t mind making conscious decisions to feed those things to the family every now and again, but I slip up more than I’d like.

Cooking

I mentioned this in my last post, but I no longer have a block about cooking. Yay! Sometimes I felt that it took too long or that I had no good recipes. I started full on cooking last week, and now I’ve got in to the habit of it, I’m rustling up dishes all the time, as well as chopping fruit for fruit salads, and chucking ingredients into the bread maker. It’s just not so hard after all.

Other waste

I wouldn’t say I’ve fallen off the wagon in terms of rubbish but sometimes we throw a lot of packaging in the bin, and Zero Waste Week made me think about how that feels….

…not great. Something to take action on.

How was Zero Waste Week for you?

Dusting off the laptop

Welcome back!

I have just deleted two tedious and rambling paragraphs explaining my absence from the blog for the past few months. Basically I got the cold, then I got the flu, then I got the cold again. My immune system must have got a good battering because I visited the GP after 5 weeks to be told I was ‘probably in the early stages of pneumonia’, and an antibiotic was administered. I now feel amazing (health, I think is one of these things it’s hard to appreciate until it’s compromised), but I emerged to a house that needed a good clean and tidy, ironing and a freezer that needed replenishing.

It has taken over a month since being unwell to be able to motivate myself to post on the blog again. While it’s lovely to be back in full health, and I’ve finally got the house whipped into its usual state of ‘could-be-clean-in-half-a-day-for-visitors’, I’ll admit I’m overwhelmed by trying to meet the goal I set myself for writing two posts per week on the blog. Plus my other New Year’s Resolutions have slipped a bit, although I’m still working towards them all.

However, I am reminding myself that it is still only April and that any steps taken towards success are better than none at all. Much better.

Once again, therefore, I’m picking myself up and carrying on. In the time since I’ve been better I have defrosted my rundown freezer and started filling it up again with healthy and delicious food. I have devised a new ‘system’ (I use the term loosely) to keep track of what’s in the freezer and make meal planning a little easier. A list on the wall of what’s in the freezer saves me opening it and rummaging around.

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I have resumed my knitting class, and despite missing two sewing classes (out of an eight week course), I managed to catch up at home and finished my latest dress with my classmates.

Perhaps most importantly, I have printed off my list of goals for 2016 and pinned them in my kitchen where I can see them several times daily. I want to stay on track. I really believe that the goals I have set are important and part of what I want to accomplish this year.

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I’ve had a set back, but I’m going to go easy on myself and post when I feel like it. I’m still very much working towards my goals for 2016!

“When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal; you do not change your decision to get there.” Zig Ziglar

Preparing to prepare food

In my last post I outlined my New Year’s Resolutions. The first three (writing, sewing and knitting) are a pleasure so, if I’m not doing them, it’s likely to be as a result of time constraints, or being unable to justify them as a priority against the background of a busy family life. My last two however involve food planning and preparation – definitely more of chore!

With that in mind, I decided to jump right in at the start of the year and get off to a good start with cooking and baking from scratch.

As everyone who wants to succeed at anything knows, a little planning goes a long way. Often when I go to prepare a meal, I can only think of a handful of food options – and usually we’ve either eaten them recently or the kids hate them! I therefore grabbed a pen and piece of scrap paper one night with the family and got everyone to shout out every meal we’ve ever had.

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It was a surprisingly fun exercise and the kids happily shared their thoughts on each dish as I wrote it down (my other half kept quiet, he’s just happy he’s not responsible for the cooking!)

So now at least I have a list of ideas to keep handy when inspiration has deserted me.

I have been procrastinating over my next task for over a year. I wanted to find new recipes. In the end, it was a simple and quick job. I opened up netmums and mumsnet, went to their recipe pages and printed off the first ten that I thought looked easy and tasty.

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Finally I bought myself a small diary in the sales (£1) to record what I was making each day, plus what we ate for dinner every night. This is a way of monitoring my progress and motivating myself by being able to see a log of my good work – that’s the idea anyway…

To date (6 days in!), I’m happy to report that my methods are working. I’ve been cooking and baking most days. I’ve also been batch cooking and freezing the spare portions for those days the kids have classes after school, and I’m short of time to prepare food.

Realistically, after having a good break over Christmas, I know my energy levels and enthusiasm are much higher than they will be as time goes on, but for now, I’m off to a good start. I’ll keep you updated on my progress!

New Year’s Resolutions – 2016

Happy New Year!!

It’s not the most original opening to my first post of 2016, but it’s sincere. I hope that you have a fantastic and fulfilling 12 months ahead.

I am starting this year full of hope. I have concocted five goals that I want to work towards on the blog – some build on my previous efforts towards creating a more sustainable lifestyle, some are new, but all (I hope) will bring new and exciting opportunities to learn. Equally as important is that they are all absolutely achievable, as long as I’m willing to put in the effort – and I am! I really am!

So, without further ado, here are my New Year’s Resolutions for 2016…..

  1. Increase my blogging. I’d like my posts to average out over the year at 2 per week, therefore I’m aiming to end in December around the 104 mark.

I love my blog, I really do, but I’ve found that without disciplining myself to write, it’s the first thing to fall by the wayside when life gets busy or stressful. I miss writing though, and without the motivation I get from publicly sharing my progress, I’m in danger of achieving less. I’m also missing my pals in the blogging community, so for lots of reasons, it makes a lot of sense to breathe some new life into my blog. It’s good to be back!

  1. To build on the good work I did last year when I learned to sew. I want to save more clothes from landfill by altering them or upcycling them into other items. Where I do make clothes from scratch, I want to start using some organic fabrics.

My motivation to learn to sew grew from my decision to take a step back (if not completely away) from the fashion industry. I don’t want to support slave labour or environmental damage. I want to use my new sewing skills to extend the life of the clothes in my family and ultimately prevent them from being left to rot and leach chemicals into the earth. By increasing (from nothing!) my use of organic fabric, I will – slightly – minimise the negative environmental impact that producing those materials cause.

  1. I will continue to learn to knit, with the aim of being able to produce items that can be gifted.

Last year, while doing really well with my knitting, I got carried away learning some complicated techniques. This year I must focus on producing pieces that can be given away as lovingly made and thoughtful presents, which have been created as ethically as possible.

  1. I will dramatically increase the amount of food that I cook from scratch, using organic ingredients where practically possible, with the aim of reducing the packaging I contribute to landfill.

I failed in my goal to keep reducing my rubbish last year, and I’m sure the amount of ‘convenience’ foods I bring into the house contributed to this. It’s time to reduce our rubbish and improve our diets! This will also help with goal 5…

  1. I am going to provide healthier and more varied food for my family.

I am bored of the food I cook, bake and buy. When the kids complain about the same old stuff, I tend to agree rather than reprimand – it’s got that bad! I amn’t keen on cooking and creating food but I’m going to grab the metaphorical bull by its horns and throw myself into this challenge. It’s time to cook new meals, bake (some of) our own snacks and find out what it is that those self-proclaimed foodies love about meal times. I want my family to look forward to their meals and be excited about what delight is served. I would like someone at some point this year to ask for seconds!!!

Good luck to everyone out there hoping to live your dreams in 2016, you can do it!

If you want to see how I got on in achieving my New Year’s Resolutions for 2015, check out yesterday’s post.

Bunting for Zero Waste Week

It’s Day 7 of Zero Waste Week and I have to admit, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed both the writing side of the reuse theme, as well as the creative side. Although today’s post is the last of this week, I’m sure that this is a topic I’ll be writing about again soon on the blog – I certainly have enough fabric at home from old clothes to use up, plus I now have a list of things I’d like to make. The project I’m sharing today is still a work in progress but I’m hopeful that this post will be enough to inspire and instruct, should you be tempted to do something similar.

Click here for National Zero Waste week 2015

One of my children is surprisingly fussy about the clothes they wear. There are key pieces in the wardrobe that are firm favourites, and said child will wear them whenever possible, whatever the occasion. Inevitably, of course, eventually those outfits stop fitting and (unlike toys which I have almost a 100% success rate of sneaking out of the house without anyone ever noticing) those favourite outfits carry on being requested.

For a while I’ve been trying to come up with ways that I can upcycle the outfits for other children in the extended family so that they are still useful, and so that my wee one knows they haven’t just disappeared. Nothing was acceptable though until yesterday (perhaps inspired by Friday’s bunting birthday card), when I suggested that we used the material to make bunting to hang around the bed.

Bingo! My wee one loved the idea, and so I’ve been working away on a mock-up, to ensure I get the bunting right when cutting up the precious outfits. I actually really love the idea that the bunting can be added to over the years, with each piece of fabric  having a story to tell.

Here’s my progress so far…

I made a triangular template from a sewing book – the straight line at the top of the triangle is 19cm and each diagonal side is 22.5cm.

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I then found an old pyjama top of mine and ironed the larger panels of fabric (remember this is just a mock up!)

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I then cut off a front side panel and folded it in half. I pinned my triangle to the fabric.

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I cut out my triangle on the folded fabric which gave me two triangles.

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I then pinned these together (right sides facing each other) and sewed on the two diagonal lines.

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I turned the triangle inside out and snipped the extra material away from the point of the triangle so that the bunting would have a sharp tip.

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I flipped the triangle back the right way around, and poked the point of the triangle with a knitting needle as suggested by my sewing book (for extra sharpness!)

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The next stage is to make all of your triangles and sew them together with bias binding, leaving equal spaces between them. I didn’t have any bias binding so I have improvised with a piece of white paper for the purposes of illustrating what to do! This is as far as I got…

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To hang your bunting, it’s suggested that you make loops at each end of your bias binding. It’s therefore obviously important to factor in a good length of binding when attaching your triangles. The loops may be a good hiding place for the extra binding if, like me, you are hoping to add triangles as time passes.

I’d love to see pictures of any homemade bunting you have!

A massive thank you to everyone who’s read my blog, commented and liked posts during Zero Waste Week 🙂

 

Dress alteration for Zero Waste Week

This week, as you may have gathered, is Zero Waste Week. The theme is reuse and I have chosen to focus specifically on reusing fabric. In today’s post I adapt an old favourite item of clothing so that I can wear it again…

Click here for National Zero Waste week 2015

Despite enjoying a good old declutter, there were a few badly fitting items in my wardrobe that I hung on to for years, hoping that, one day, somehow, I would be able to fit into them again.

This is one such dress.

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I bought it from Monsoon at the start of my second pregnancy. The smaller size didn’t fit me over the bust (as I said, I was pregnant!) and the next size up was too big. I really loved it, so I decided to buy the dress and wear it when my bump had grown. Sure enough, when the time came, me and my wee one rocked that outfit. As soon as I was dressing for one again, however, my gorgeous floral number just made me look like a deflated balloon.

While other items were cruelly culled from my wardrobe during clear-outs, this one managed to hang on, waiting for its relaunch. Years passed, but after I recently attended a sewing class which taught me to upcycle a shirt to a skirt, I dusted off my dress and decided to (finally) make it fit. Or at least try!

I gave it an iron and made the decision to work with only the lower half of the dress. I was given advice in a beginners’ sewing class that informed me that the easiest way to go wrong with an alteration, is to mess up the waistline. My dress has an empire waist so I wasn’t sure where the advice fit in, but I pressed ahead anyway.

Luckily because the dress wasn’t designed as maternity wear, I didn’t have to deal with extra material in the front panel. I therefore simply worked out how much I wanted to trim from the sides and then placed a pin on each side as a marker.

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I then used a washable felt pen (another tip from sewing class) and drew a diagonal line from the waist to the pin.

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I then pinned the fabric to hold it in place and sewed down my line with my sewing machine.

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Only at that point did I realise that I’d forgotten to take account of the patterned band of material at the bottom of the dress. Very luckily I’d almost matched the pattern, and I decided that it was good enough to leave.   I took better care the next time though and pretty much nailed it.

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attempt 1                                                attempt 2

When I tried on the dress, and was satisfied with how much material had been removed, and that the fabric hung well, I cut off the excess material that was now part of the seam.  I then did a zig zag stitch down each side to prevent fraying.

As you can see from the top picture, my dress had a v-neck. I had been wearing it with a camisole top when it was warm and with long sleeves underneath when it was cooler, but (constantly drowning in laundry) I decided to see if I could sew a panel behind the v-neck so that I could wear it without involving any more clothes!

This was a bit of a leap of faith, but I was spurred on by the joy that I now had my dress back in working order. I also knew I could unpick any mistakes, should my experiment fail…

I went to my bag of worn out clothes and fabric scraps to see if I could fashion a panel from them. I found a t-shirt of my eldest’s that wasn’t wearable, but the bottom edge was in great condition – fresh and bright white. I roughly cut a piece of it off and hoped that if I added a pretty piece of lace trim, it might give me a camisole effect.

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I’ll admit that I was a bit nervous sewing lace onto jersey material – and no doubt there’s a sewing machine foot and a technique for that – but I just sewed the two pieces together with my machine and crossed my fingers! It was fine.

Delighted with myself, I then pinned my creation onto the v-neck of the dress. As you might expect this was a bit fiddly because I needed it to lie flat, but it probably only took about five minutes. I then sewed it on. That took at least two attempts but it was worth it.

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I have now worn the dress several times and the panel still looks great. The jersey fabric curled up at the joining seam but it hasn’t caused any problems for me. The alteration didn’t take me long at all, and, after buying so few clothes for so long, it’s great to have it back as a wardrobe staple!

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Fabric heart for Zero Waste Week

How’s Zero Waste Week going for you?

Click here for National Zero Waste week 2015

Today on the blog I’m using up some of those pesky fabric scraps that emerge from sewing projects. Sometimes these are the few centimetres that get chopped off the bottom of a dress to make it fit, and other times (especially for beginners like me) they can be the extra half metre bought in the hope that that little bit of surplus material will help you in correcting inevitable mistakes. I was once saved in just this way when I used a pattern that had four skirt options in it. I chose Option B (a maxi skirt) but I was accidently about to buy the amount of material required for Option A (a knee length skirt) when, on a whim at the counter, I asked for an extra metre of material to be added on. Boy, did that save my ass!

In today’s project, I’ve chosen to make a fabric heart. I’ve always loved these – I think they are gorgeous hanging from nails around the house Here’s one I received many years ago from a friend who was coming for lunch – we have it hanging on the edge of our open book cupboard:

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I’ve used fabric today from the grey cotton used in my shirt to skirt project. I’ve also managed to reduce the volume of my scrap bag which is full of worn out clothes and tiny bits of scrap from sewing projects.

I’ll be honest at this point – my fabric heart went nothing like to plan! However it did all turn out well in the end 🙂

The first thing I did in my quest to make the perfect fabric heart was to find myself a template. I have one in a sewing book but if I also discovered that if you put ‘heart template’ into a search engine, you’ll get lots of printables which can be cut out and traced. You can also use heart-shaped objects that you have lying around the house. I’ve used my cookie cutters a lot in projects such as this hand sewn card (but I’ve yet to bake with them!)

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So, the first thing I did to make my fabric heart was to trace around my template and cut it out – easy!

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I then pinned it on to my fabric and cut that out (you can use tailors chalk or washable felt pens to draw the shape on to the fabric if you prefer).

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So far so good. I did this twice and ended up with two hearts of pretty much the same size and shape.

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I then sewed them together with my sewing machine, leaving a 1.5cm seam allowance. It’s a tricky shape to sew but I was reasonably pleased with my efforts…

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…until I turned it inside out! It looked far too wonky to continue with my original idea.

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On to Plan B – which would’ve been ok if I had a Plan B…

I decided that the heart looked sweet the way it had been sewn, so I hastily flipped it back the right way round to see how it could be salvaged. My main problem was, of course, that the edge of the material was going to fray if left unattended. I would therefore need to either use a zig zag stitch (which would look terrible), learn some kind of hand stitch that would deal with the edges (that wasn’t going to happen, I was going off this project with every minute that passed), or use pinking shears, which I’ve read should stop ‘the fray’. I decided to use the pinking scissors and forged ahead like the zero hero I am!

My next task was to select some suitable ‘stuffing’ from my bag of scrap material.

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Ignoring the bag of toy stuffing sitting in my cupboard that would be perfect for this job, I selected an old pair of ripped tights and chopped them into small pieces. I also used some end pieces of wool and shoved gently eased them in too.

My heart still looked heart-like, but the bulge from the stuffing needed a little something to show that it too was in the shape of a heart. I therefore got out some red embroidery thread and hand stitched around the heart. That also added a pleasing pop of colour.

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Lastly I found a piece of red ribbon, which I hand sewed on to the heart. In the end, I had a zero waste heart I was be proud of!

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Zero Waste Week 2015

It’s been a while, but I’m bursting back into the Blogosphere – the new school term has started so I now have a little time to call my own (phew!), plus I have my duties to fulfil as a Zero Waste Week Ambassador!

It’s a grand title for a grand task.

Click here for National Zero Waste week 2015

Zero Waste Week runs this year from 7 -13 September aka next week! It is oh so aptly named, simply because it is there to help all us ordinary folk reduce the trash we send to landfill. This year’s theme is Reuse which is pretty clever as you can join in simply by pledging something as ridiculously simple as swapping your disposable tissues for reusable ones (thus reducing your waste), or as head-scratchingy challenging as reusing anything that would’ve otherwise been chucked in your bin.

Do check out the website www.zerowaste.co.uk and browse through the ambassador list to find inspiring blogs to read next week (and forever more).

My personal Zero Waste Pledge for the week is to reuse fabric. One of my New Year Resolutions was to learn to sew (you can read more about that here and here) and although I have been pretty poor to date at recording my progress on the blog, I am happy to report that I have been sewing my little heart out during the first 8 months of 2015. I will therefore be sharing some of my ideas and projects for reusing fabric and upcycling clothes in a number of blog posts next week.

Here is a sneak peek at one of the projects I will be posting about:

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Spoiler: this skirt used to be a different item of clothing

I would absolutely love it if you could share any posts with me that you’ve written on this subject as I just can’t read enough about upcycling fabric 🙂

This will be the third year that I’ve documented my Zero Waste Week experience, so if you’d like to browse my previous posts on the topics of ‘Reducing Food Waste’ and ‘One More Thing’ please take a look here.

See you back on the blog next week!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 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.