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Friday, 30 December 2016

Looking forward to a less packaged 2017

It isn't just me, is it? People are generally coming to the realisation that packaging is a big problem for the environment.

I was recently asked my opinion on what I thought was the worst case of packaging that I had seen. That's a tough one for me as I don't see a lot of packaging these days as, since my year of no single use plastic in 2015, I have totally changed the way I shop.

These days I buy all my meat from my local butcher where I take my own containers and the meat is put straight into those. I buy vegetables and fruit from a green grocer in my nearest town. Most of their produce is unpackaged and loose so I buy the exact quantity I need. They do sometimes "package up" some things, usually if there are items they need to sell quickly. I have sometimes bought these but I undo the bag carefully and reuse it and these clear plastic bags are recyclable in my area.

I buy dry goods from SESI Oxford  where I refill my own containers and I also know that I am getting fairly traded, ethically sourced produce too as that's the ethos of the shop.



I buy in charity shops too, where there's no packaging either.

But I had a feeling I might find some over packaging at Christmas, especially with six nieces  and nephew's visiting. To my surprise there was nowhere near the amount of packaging I usually see. It was pretty much all recyclable too. Things are looking up.

I thing the worst packaging to be seen was actually this.



This is surprising in that it seems to be a product aimed at people who want to reduce their use of resources. The idea of it is that you don't need cling film as these discs of plastic fit over your cut fruit and veg and help it last longer by stopping the cut edge from coming into contact with air. For decay to take place air, water and warmth are required for bacteria to grow. The cut edge of fruit and veg is usually moist whereas a whole piece of fruit or veg with its skin in tact is dry on the outside. That's the point of the skin. This is why people use cling film to block in the moisture and block the air out. That's also what the fruit huggers are designed to do. They are a reusable version of cling film. I am all in favour of that.

So what is wrong with this packaging? I will start by saying it is not awful. I can see that the card is separated from the plastic, which means it can easily be removed so the card and plastic can be recycled. The worst thing about it is that I can't get in it without taking scissors to it. That means I can't use the packaging to keep the unused bits together and clean for when I want to use them.

I think for something like this a better quality reusable form of packaging would be far more suitable.





Maybe a tin or sturdy plastic box like these pastry cutters I was given for previous Christmases would be too expensive to produce, but what about a clear zip lock bag. The cardboard insert can go in just the same.

Whenever I buy anything I always consider the packaging and I won't buy things knowingly that I feel are over packaged or are packaged in non recyclable material. I think there are more and more people who think like this these days. So I say I am looking forward to a less packaged 2017 because I feel that by the end of the year we may well reach the packaging tipping point. Mainstream media are getting the bee in their bonnets about it just like me. That will get more people talking about it and it WILL get manufacturers running scared and thinking of better ways to package their produce. That thought makes me very happy.

Happy New Year!





Friday, 9 December 2016

The Food Rush - Start-ups Christmas Fair

Yesterday I went along to a tasty Christmas Fair organised by The Food Rush.  All the stall holders were food related start-up companies and they all had great stories to share.  The event was a sell out, which was very encouraging as it shows there's a growing community of people who care about the ethics and provenance of their food.

We were welcomed with wine from a company in Bristol called Vin2o. They have teamed up with Vineyard Toutigeac in Bordeaux and Bristol-based charity Frank Water, turning wine into clean water for communities in Gambia.  Vin2o donate 25p from every bottle of wine they sell to Frank Water. Here's their story.


Vin2o - About our business from Vin2o on Vimeo.

Plenty of other tasty treats were available to sample and with opportunities to do a bit of Christmas shopping.



Spare Fruit are a company who are making apple crisps and soon pear crisps from surplus and "mis-shape" fruit.  The fruit is air-dryed and there are no added ingredients so they are a low calorie snack.  You can read their story here.  They taste great.  I'm not a fan of dried apple rings, but these have a different taste and texture, which I really like. They are crisp and yummy.
 
I always ask that awkward question about packaging.  At the moment the packaging is not recyclable, but they have been researching options and they have talked to Snact, who make fruit jerky from surplus produce. Snact recently changed over to 100% home compostable packaging.. For now, though, cost is prohibitive, but it is on their radar for the future,which is good to know. Sometimes my self-imposed no packaging rule is annoying. I could just eat some apple crisps right now.  I think it is the sound of crinkling packets and munching next to me that is making me hungry.

Spare Fruit is available in various shops and cafes in London and will soon be available for online ordering.  I can't wait to try their Pear Crisps too.



Tasty Misfits is a veg box scheme with a difference. Based in South London, every Saturday morning  they deliver a weekly box of vegetables or fruit and vegetables that have been collected from mostly local farms that have mis-shapen produce and from markets that have surplus stock.


Onist make delicious avocado chocolate pot deserts blended from Fair Trade ingredients.  For each pot purchased, Onist funds a healthy breakfast for a child in need.  These chocolate pots are gluten-free and vegan (and so delicious - I have to mention that bit again).


The next stop on my tour round the Christmas Fair was another vegan option.  More Than Meat make plant based protein dishes for people wanting to reduce or replace meat in their diet.  The lamb casserole was very tasty and I wouldn't have realised that it wasn't meat. Plant-based sausage roll anyone? These are available to order online.

The Tabl table was so  crowded I didn't manage to snap a pic. Tabl provide an online outlet for independent producers and organise foodie events in London and Brighton.  Check out their website for lots of Christmas hamper ideas and "experience" gifts.


Time for another drink, I feel. This time we stopped by at the Kentish Pip table for a taste of their Skylark cider.  This is definitely on my Christmas shopping list as Senior Daughter particularly will love it. We then tasted the non alcoholic drink options from Thor.  I love talking about the inspiration behind a product and Thor are aiming to create a "grown-up alternative to an alcoholic drink" for people who are driving.  I really like that and would definitely be part of that demographic on occasions. I almost felt bad when I bought one of their gift packs for someone who I am pretty sure will love it with gin. I couldn't help myself but say this and they recommended 55 Above Raspberry Gin which they said was lovely with the Mint Apple Spritz.  On the way home today we stopped off at the Oxford Wine Company and realising I have a packed week ahead, decided to strike while the iron was hot and in the absence of 55 Above, I bought The Pinkster Gin to go with the Apple Mint Spritz and that is a Christmas gift to be excited about.

Last but not least we sampled some insect protein from Eat Grub. This is a food source I have long been fascinated by, given that insects are pretty prolific. I first tasted meal worms in the Natural History Museum in Halifax,Canada in 2000 and I remember eating some very tasty crickets at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford a few years ago, but insects as a deliberate food source has yet to take off, I feel, but is surely a sustainable food for the future?  The insect snack bars were on offer to taste and very tasty they were too.  I didn't get to ask about the packaging, but I would definitely tuck into one of these if it was on offer in the post half marathon goody bag next March. How about it #BathHalf?

Bon appetit!




Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Anyone else going upcycling this Christmas?

To me, Black Friday means  I go into hibernation and spend nothing until the craziness has passed over and sanity is restored.
I've heard it said that "Everyone loves a bargain."  But actually what a 'bargain' makes me think of is more the profit made the rest of the time and whether it is a fair one -benefitting all the people and communities involved in the production of said bargain item.  Most of the time, when it comes to conventional shopping I don't know whether that is the case or not.


So, as a result, I have pretty much given up conventional shopping and instead I turn to small businesses, craft fairs and charity shops, particularly the lovely "community shop" in my village that has recently re-opened after a relocation to larger premises.  I paid a visit there last Saturday to take a bag of books and DVDs.  One of the DVDs was on its second visit already as I took it there a couple of years ago, and then when Junior Daughter decided to take German A Level, I bought it back along with a few others as it had a German language option on the soundtrack.  But that's another story!
Back to Christmas presents...


I have nieces and nephews to shop for and I do like to find them something that they can make, do or read.  This year I have ordered these lovely Postage Stamp Art Kits from a local upcycling business (but they are available online, I believe).





I think these will be fun to make and nice to keep (or give away if they don't want to keep them once they are done).  They will provide a bit of creative r&r that children often need during the Christmas holidays, especially with the limited day light for playing outside.
Earlier in the year I "commissioned" some jewellery pieces to be made from a huge collection of broken strings of pearls from my grandmother. She liked the idea of them being reused.  I am sure she must have thought about reusing them herself but didn't get round to it. So she was delighted when I suggested they could be made into something.  Now, this does sound a bit posh and expensive, doesn't it?  Commissioning art, hey?  Well, all I can say is that if you know people who love making stuff, then why not ask them if you have something specific in mind with materials you already have. You can judge roughly how much something might cost by comparing your idea to the artist's existing work. Give plenty of time, but it is always worth asking. This way, you get gifts that are truly unique, meaningful and "green".
In addition to this, I will be on the look out for storage jars, baskets, or pretty trays and plates in my community shop for some home-made treats and local produce.
The best thing... I won't need to go anywhere near a crowed High Street, I won't have to queue for a car parking space or at a check out and no traffic jams. What's not to love?  Merry Christmas.












Sunday, 6 November 2016

The Pumpkin Festival

Hubbub tells us that "18,000 tonnes of edible pumpkin ends up in the bin each year. That's the same weight as 1,500 double-decker buses!"  Back in 2014, Hubbub held their first Pumpkin Rescue to raise awareness of this scary statistic and to encourage people to rethink their attitude to pumpkin waste.  Each year since then I have been invited to be park of the"Great Pumpkin Rescue" helping people learn ways to make the most of their pumpkins and understand that pumpkins are food.

This year, I was invited to put on my Love Food Hate Waste apron and help out at the pumpkin day at Cogges Manor Farm in Witney to help them make the most of the pumpkins the children were carving to take on their lantern walk.

Pumpkin Day was a lovely family event that I hope will be repeated.  Here's a taste of the day in a lovely video from Box Cottage Photography.



I was making pumpkin soup from the flesh of the pumpkins the children were carving and I toasted the pumpkin seeds. We warmed the soup on the lovely fire in the Victorian kitchen of the manor house.  Lots of people had a cup of the pumpkin soup, sampled pumpkin tray bake cakes and toasted pumpkin seeds and lots of people went away with new ideas about how to make the most of their pumpkins as food.

Plenty of people said they didn't realise that  carving pumpkins were edible. Plenty siad they had no idea that you could toast and eat the seeds.

I was dismayed to hear the culinary experts on Jay Rayner's The Kitchen Cabinet saying that carving pumpkins are for carving not for eating and that they don't taste good.  I disagree.  It is not hard to make a tasty pumpkin soup. Here's my method used at Cogges.

I peeled some onions.  I put the onion skin into a big pan and added a couple of litres of water and brought that to the boil then turned it down to simmer gently while I went foraging in the Cogges walled vegetable garden to see what herbs I could find.  I picked rosemary, thyme, lovage and fennel.  Jess was making mulled cider and so I added the cores from the apples she was peeling into my stock pot of onion skin and added the apple peel to the bowl of pumpkin flesh.

I sweated down the chopped onions in another big pan, and once my stock had taken on a good flavour and lovely reddish brown colour, I added the pumpkin flesh and the herbs into the sweated onions and then poured on some of the stock.  Before whizzing up the soup in a liquidiser I removed the herbs. I often don't do that at home, but you know that thing about mixing colours that you learn in pre-school, it shouldn't be forgotten.  Orange and green make brown. By removing the green herbs, you will get a nicer orange colour when you blend your soup.  Keeping the herbs in there will make the soup turn brown.  However, they will have done their job and added flavour whether you keep them in or take them out.  Once liquidised, I tasted the soup ready to season it.  I added a little sea salt, black pepper and a small quantity of chili powder.

The toasted pumpkin seeds were also sprinkled with a bit of sea salt, black pepper and chili powder.

I was pleasantly surprised how many children liked the pumpkin soup and the toasted seeds. Hopefully next year they will be making the most of their own pumpkins.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Just Eat It

Last week I was invited to be on a panel of experts at the Oxford Brookes Document Club screening of Jennifer Rustemeyer and Grant Baldwin's "Just Eat It".

My fellow panelists were Rina Melendez from SESI Oxford, Jasmine York from Brookes Hub and chairing the panel, Hannah Fenton from Good Food Oxford.

I felt that the Q&A after the screening really deepened the thinking about the messages in the film – for me as a panelist as well as for the audience. It made the experience one of sharing thoughts and opinions and questioning the messages by relating to our own local experience. Having a discussion about the film deepened the understanding of and reaction to the issues in the documentary. Both the post screening talk and the opportunities for further discussion afterwards made for a powerful evening that was thought provoking, and I feel, more likely to encourage behaviour change than if people experienced the film alone.

It was a documentary equivalent of a book club, which I love.  I always find I get more out of a book when I get the chance to discuss it afterwards, particularly in a diverse group of people who have different opinions.  I find things are brought to my attention that I might otherwise have missed and the whole thing seems more memorable and enduring than just having the experience of reading a book / seeing a film or TV programme on my own.

"Just Eat It" charts the experience of the film producer, Jen and director, Grant as they embark on a challenge to live for six months on food that would otherwise be dumped.

The discussion, as well as considering the content of the film, revolved around practical actions that people might actually take themselves. There was a high level of engagement in the room and there were lots of further questions afterwards, which was very inspiring.


If you missed the screening but would like to follow a bit of the conversation around the topic, you can listen to the  Brookes Radio podcast.




Wednesday, 28 September 2016

A Food Philosophy

Yesterday I read this interesting article called 7 Small Ways to Begin Your Journey to Sustainable Eating posted by @ReFreshfood on Twitter.


As I read the article, I thought: "This is pretty much my own food philosophy".

1 Meatless Mondays
 We do like to have a roast dinner with all the family on a Sunday, so for us, Mondays often involve eating up the leftover meat from Sunday's joint.  But then on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as long as I've used up all the meat I will then try to keep the meals meat free on at least two out of three days.

2. Buy food with less packaging
I always buy my meat from the butcher in my village.  I take my own containers so there's no plastic packaging.  I also know that my meat isn't going to leak juices all over my fridge so that's an added advantage.


I bulk buy food like flour, dried fruit and nuts, couscous and pasta, again taking my own containers.

I buy veg and fruit from a small greengrocer in a nearby town.  When you buy their produce, which is locally sourced, you will get all shapes and sizes, but it is loose, so you can pick out the shapes and sizes that you want.  If I know I'm going to chop up the fruit and veg, then I'll pick out anything that's a bit wonky, because I want to support them and support local farmers in cutting down waste.  Most of the time, I'll be chopping it and cooking it so I really don't often need it to look pristine.

3. Buy sustainable meat
As, I mentioned, the meat I buy is from a local business, and they source locally.  I make sure I use up every scrap of meat that I buy.  If I want some chicken, then usually I will buy a whole chicken rather than buying chicken breast.

4. Forgo Fish
I do eat fish and seafood, but I look for sustainably sourced and don't eat it often.  I do get my fix, though, if I am by the sea, picking local fish and only where I can sea that wherever is serving it they have a sustainable sourcing policy.

5. Eat seasonally
Absolutely!  As far as I'm concerned, you can forget strawberries most of the year.  Seasonal eating is what makes it special.  The one exception might be that I usually manage to freeze a few batches of blackberries from the abundant supply on my hedge at this time of year.

6. Eat locally
I think we've covered that one already!

7. Lose the bottled water
It is probably getting on for three years now since I bought water in a plastic bottle.  I have a couple of different water bottles and I always take one filled with good old Oxfordshire Tap every time I go out.

And then I thought about one more thing that has become really important to me. So here's my step number 8...

8. Forget the packaged snacks
Last year (2015) my family took on the challenge to go for a whole year without buying anything in single use plastic.  Although we didn't succeed 100%, we did pretty well.  One of the things that I had to do to succeed was to ditch the idea of ever buying packaged snacks out on the go.  This is a habit that we've developed over the last few decades, I'm sure.  I look around me and I see people eating snacks, everywhere, whatever time of day or night.

I'm sure I used to do the same too.  But not now.  I do buy nuts and dried fruit in bulk in my own containers and if I know I'll be out for a while and I'll be likely to get hungry then I will take a container with some fruit and nuts out with me.  But recently, I'm dong that less.  I just came to the realisation that if I'm eating properly, 3 meals a day, there's really no need for the snacks.

Snacks are often just empty calories, full of sugar and salt and SO OFTEN they are packed in non recyclable packaging - my pet hate! So I don't bother (unless I've taken my own.)


Saturday, 10 September 2016

Zero Waste Week -2016 - Day Five

I have been away for two days so my living out of the fridge and freezer for the week had to go on hold. I feel a bit cheated (only by my self, of course). So I plan to extend the eating from the fridge and freezer over the weekend and into next week. 

Yesterday we walked 16 miles along the Thames Path and then took four trains to get back to the car .. oh yes and getting to the station meant another mile and a half of walking. We discussed options for dinner that are quick and easy, but decided on fish and chips.

We are experimenting with gluten free for Mr Pitt so he chose chicken rather than fish. The chicken turned out to be a bit dry. So rather than risk wasting half of it he cut off a piece and put it back in the serving dish. We had planned to have chicken in white wine sauce on Monday night so we will add it to that and use a bit less of the chicken we have in the freezer. I decided to save a bit of my fish, which I put in a tub in the fridge. I ate it as a fish sandwich for brunch with some tomato ketchup this morning. We didn’t eat all the chips either, but we have long since had the habit of saving any spare chips to re-fry for another meal. You can even freeze them.

Today I took the apple sauce cake and the banana skin curry to our love food hate waste event.   A few people liked the idea of the apple sauce cake for their stock of apples - several of us have an apple tree in the garden and in one of the villages the parish council planted fruit trees along the road for people to help themselves to.

I was intrigued about the banana skin curry, but rather pleasantly surprised because having spent a couple of nights in the freezer and then been defrosted and reheated, all the flavours have come together beautifully.  Someone suggested making it with whole bananas which I think would work really well.


Day 4 waste - 60 grammes
Day 5 waste - - 16 grammes
A bit of tough chicken skin - pre-chewed 
Next week, I'm going foraging in my freezer.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Zero Waste Week - 2016 - Day Four

Yesterday's waste weighed in at 158 grammes. I had a cooking morning so there's  always a bit of waste as the by-product of that, even though I try to get every last bit of goodness out of everything.

Yesterday's baking

But yesterday as my fridge became clearer I found my first fridge casualty, a small piece of haloumi cheese that wasn't properly wrapped and had gone mouldy.

This amounted to around a third of the day's food waste. And this could have been avoided. I also found a couple of individual milk cartons.  I have no idea how these came to be in my fridge. I drink black coffee and herb tea so no milk required when out and about. I only have tea with milk if it is not from a plastic pot like this as I feel it is unnecessary waste. These pots rattle when I pick them up and I don't think they are meant to be milk powder. I will investigate tomorrow.

Fridge Lurkers

I had a bit of a delve in my freezer. It definitely needs some reorganisation even though Junior Daughter and I had a use it up session this summer. But I am away now for 2 days so that will be for next week.

My banana skin curry and apple sauce cake are for my Love Food Hate Waste event on Saturday when I meet up with the other LFHW champions to talk about what we have learnt over the year from events we've held. So last night's supper was a sausage casserole from the freezer which was taking up too much space in an over sized tub. That made room for the vegetable peel stock and some soup that made to use up the last of my broccoli including some extra stalks, some cauliflower and the rest of my lovely Oxford Blue, rind and all.

I served yesterday's casserole with some horseradish mash, so that was another jar finished. I had almost forgotten the delights of horseradish mash. Yummy!

It was very pleasing to see my dishwasher full of empty jars too.

It is great to see that loads of people are downloading Leftover Pie. I will be back to finish off the complete book on Monday. In the meantime please do let me know what you think. Here is the link again.

Yesterday's Food Waste - 158g





Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Zero Waste Week - 2016 - Day 3

Yesterday's food waste amounted to this, weighing in at 90 grammes.



But, there was also the tops and bottoms from some onions, the top and bottoms from carrots, and the 'core' of a couple of peppers from yesterday's vegetable curry, which I don't count as waste just yet as these are the kinds of things I cook up to make vegetable stock for soup or risotto.

Today it is all about bananas.  I had half a dozen bananas ranging from speckled brown to completely black, so I made the most of the information in the Zero Waste Week email today.

For breakfast, I tried out Rachelle's recipe for banana pancake.  I mushed up two very black and quite small bananas and then beat in one egg.  I then fried it dry in a pancake pan and had it with some jam - I have a lot of jam at the moment.  That is definitely one to do frequently. I wish I had known about this when Junior Daughter was doing her A levels.  She spent long hours revising at the dining room table and I would make her meals regularly because although she was perfectly capable of doing that herself, she was going for long periods saying she'd eat something in a minute.  I think if you are around and can plonk some nutritious food in front of your teenage children when they are revising it can only be a good thing.  Banana pancakes would be perfect for that.

Banana pancake with jam

I decided to have a morning away from my computer as my eyes are hurting from so much screen time.  So I used the time to catch up with the Be the Change podcasts that Rachelle Strauss has put together and to potter about in my kitchen, with a main aim of working out how to use up some of the jars that had been breeding in my fridge.

Inspired by the topic of bananas, in today's ZWW email, I wanted to have a go at a recipe from Shane Jordan's excellent book Food Waste Philosophy for banana skin curry.

In my talks about food waste in schools, when dealing with the concept of avoidable v. unavoidable food waste, I often used to say that only giraffes eat banana skins. I had no idea that they were edible food for us too.

So today was the day to try it out.  I looked at Shane's recipe, but oh dear.  I didn't have some of the vegetables in the recipe.  I had no leeks and no peppers, but I decided not to be put off.  One of the things that I've really tried hard to do in my new book, Leftover Pie : 101 Ways to Reduce your Food Waste is to encourage my contributors to use the term recipe loosely and I hope I can help people get into the idea that you can swap and change as long as you keep the proportions consistent and you give a thought to the basics of sweet, sour, salty, then all will be well.

I scurried off to my rapidly emptying fridge to see what I did have.  I had a sweet potato, a couple of courgettes, a yellow chilli, so I decided to give this a try.  I love the combination of herbs and spice in Shane's recipe and I did have all of that.  I knew I'd need to cook my curry for longer than the recipe states as I was cooking sweet potato which takes longer than peppers.

Ingredients for banana skin curry. I did peel the onion skins this time as
 I'm going to use them to make a vegetable stock.
I let my curry simmer for a good long time, and tasted it occasionally.  I felt it lacked a little sweetness.  While the curry was cooking I had been having a look at my mass of jars.  I had three jars that each had a bit of homemade apple sauce which I decided to use up to make an apple cake, like the recipe in my book, but with apple sauce on the bottom instead of apple slices.   It won't look as pretty, of course, but it will still taste good.


There was another jar, that looked a bit like apple sauce but maybe a bit more set than normal.  I tasted it a few times, wondering whether I could use it to add sweetness to my curry.  For some reason, I couldn't place the taste.  Yes it was sweet, but I wasn't convinced it was apple.  After a few goes at trying to work it out I realised it was mango chutney, which would be perfect for the curry.  It has worked.  The balance of sweet and spice is nice now.

Yay! That's another jar gone.

I took out yesterday's bits of peel that I'd put in a tub in the fridge and then combined with the onion peel I covered it with water and made some stock for the freezer.

Back to the bananas though, I cut up one of the bananas and popped it in the freezer, to make some of Many Mazliah's nice cream, which is in Leftover Pie.  I used another two bananas to make some banana and oatmeal cookies from a recipe on Wendy's Moral Fibres blog post.


Oh, yes, and I was planning to do a tuna mayo for lunch, but I had some iceberg lettuce left and I'll be out and about for the rest of the week so it needed to be eaten.  I spruced it up with some parsley and some basil leaves and lavender flowers, topped it off with some pesto croutons made from my gluten free bread disaster and had it with some cheese, oatcakes and the remains of another of the jars - some unidentified chutney.

Salad lunch today
I had lots of ideas from the Twitter Zero Waste Week discussion about what to do to make my gluten free bread disaster edible:  bread and butter pudding, croutons, bread crumbs etc.  The pesto croutons were delicious, despite the bread disaster, so I'm going to blitz up some of the loaf for breadcrumbs and cube the rest to turn into croutons another time.  These can go in the freezer until I need them.

Gluten-free bread disaster
One last think though, does anyone know how to make gluten free bread in a bread maker? What's the secret?

Oh yes, the book... Leftover Pie: 101 Ways to Reduce your Food Waste - you can get the first two chapters and eight lovely autumnal recipes. plus you can find out the inspiration behind my flowery salad.  Click on the link here and the special Zero Waste Week edition will be emailed to you for free.

Don't worry, I won't then send you loads of emails - if you read this blog, you know that I'm an infrequent blogger, except during Zero Waste Week when I make an extra special effort, so I'm not going to start news-lettering as well.  I hope you enjoy Leftover Pie!






Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Zero Waste Week - 2016 - Day Two

So today is all about using your loaf and clearing out the fridge.

My food habits changed a lot since the last Zero Waste Week all about food in 2013.  I learnt a lot from taking part and from being part of a group on a mission and it was a lot of fun because my daughters were both at home and we cooked up all sorts of things to use everything up.  Some things have since become regular family recipes.

But there's one habit that doesn't seem to have gone away... and that's the jars that breed in the back of my fridge, well all over my fridge actually.

Just look at what I'm faced with today!!  What am I going to do with all this lot, I wonder?



I woke up really early this morning despite a very late night (working on that little surprise that Rachelle and I have planned for you).  So when my ZWW email arrived, and I saw the zero waste week challenges for the day, I decided that I'd have to empty my fridge of jars to see if there was indeed anything lurking.

The bread challenge was easy.  I keep my bread in the fridge if I'm going to use it up soon, or in the freezer sliced, ready to pick out the exact number of slices I need.  I know people say you shouldn't keep bread in the fridge but I have never had a problem with it.  I do have a problem if I leave it out in the kitchen when my Rayburn is lit.  The kitchen gets very warm and cosy and just as I like the warm and cosy kitchen so does the bread mould.

I only had two crusts of bread in my fridge left over from cricket tea so I had those with toast and jam for breakfast.

While I was clearing out the jars from my fridge, I got out the rest of my spring onions (it's ok, no dentist appointment today) and some red pepper, a green chilli and a few other veg.  Yesterday I was going to make a vegetable curry, inspired by the #ZeroWasteWeek Twitter-Chatter .


But then I started worrying about all the milk I had, so opted for pasta with a cheese sauce, some fresh tomatoes from the garden and black olives and basil.  It was yummy!

Lunch is sorted in the form of the very round-about version of mushroom soup that I made yesterday to use up all my salad bits.  It just goes to show how much the eyes contribute to our perception of taste.  Now it looks like something familiar, I'm tasting it and finding it delicious.  So much so that I tasted it three or four times just now before I realised I was almost going to be eating my lunch just from taste-testing.

Looks like mushroom soup now!


That means, I'm going to cook up a vegetable curry for tonight.   I'm going to start it off sometime this afternoon so that I can enjoy the smell and let all the spices infuse nicely while I work.

In the meantime, when my mind slips away from the work in hand, which it is known to do on occasion, then I'll have a little think about what to do with the breeding jars!  Ideas please...

Monday, 5 September 2016

Zero Waste Week - 2016 - Day One

Yesterday I spent the day at Wychwood Forest Fair at Cornbury Park in Oxfordshire, talking about how to reduce food waste and how to compost at home with the help of my colleagues, the Master Composters.

It was a long day, and I had something important to finish off yesterday evening.  I think it was about half past ten when I eventual took off my walking boots and my Love Food Hate Waste apron (standard uniform for talks about food waste in the middle of a field!) and fell into bed.

Why did I wake up feeling like a six year old child on Christmas morning? Yes, because it was the start of Zero Waste Week 2016, which is all about reducing your food waste.  And this year, Zero Waste Week will be a bit different for me, because it is the first time I will be reading the emails for the first time each morning.

For the last few years I've seen the emails in advance, discussed them, lending my editing skills and my humble opinion and generally helping out in preparation for the week.  But this year, I've been totally in the dark about what's coming up in the daily emails, because I've been busy cooking up a little something... all will be revealed later in the week!

Earlier in the year, along with the rest of the merry band of Zero Waste Week blog ambassadors I set out my pledge for ZWW 2016.


I pledged to go "shopping in my fridge and my freezer" for the entire week.  My plan was to avoid buying any more food and just to see what I could rustle up with what I already had.

That, along with weighing and documenting any food waste is now my challenge for the week.

Wanting nothing to go to waste, I scurried off to the kitchen before an early start at my desk, to forage around for a waste saving breakfast.  There was a lonely scone, a bit past its best, but twenty seconds in the microwave, and some butter and home-made blackberry and elderberry jam and I was sorted.

Scone for breakfast? Of course, why ever not?
I read the Zero Waste Week email for Day One before even getting out of bed, so I knew that salad was on the agenda.  That couldn't have been more perfect for me, because guess what I had loads of in my fridge other than way too much milk.

My fridge on day one of Zero Waste Week- Hmm! that's a lot of milk.
I also needed a very quick to prepare lunch so I pulled out a tub of pre-cut salad of spring onions, cucumber, tomatoes, and peppers and added a handful of green salad leaves of various sorts from one of the many tubs of salad leaves (left over from that thing I'm "cooking up" for the middle of the week), pulling out a few leaves that were starting to wilt.  Inspired by today's blog post suggestion of salad soup, I decided to pop these wilted bits into a soup from the rest of the salad - a mix of leaves and herbs picked last Wednesday from my garden. I looked at the soup recipe, grabbed an onion, thought about peeling it and changed my mind. I roughly chopped it, peel on and sweated it down in some olive oil.  I then went to pull out all the bits and piece of salad from the fridge and look for anything that was a bit past its best in the salad drawers.  I shaved off the slightly browning edges of a cabbage and the same for a quarter of an iceberg lettuce.  I kept the rest of the iceberg lettuce for tomorrow, but popped it into some water to keep it fresh. I found some potato peel that I was saving up for making crisps and decided that would be quicker than chopping a potato but do the same job.  One thing I didn't have was any stock, but I did have some apple juice (left over from that project I've been working on for the middle of the week!).  I remembered that my aunt used to make a very nice leek, lettuce and apple soup so I thought I'd give it a go as a replacement for stock.

Salad lunch with a pot of dressing that was lurking at the back of the fridge
 from a pizza delivery a while ago, that Junior Daughter shared with her friends.
 There are carrot sticks hiding under the salad leaves, perfect for eating with the dressing.


Back to my desk with my salad lunch, the smell wafting from the kitchen, notes of mint and fennel, was divine.
Soup ingredients

I then had to dash out to the dentist this afternoon and rather regretted the spring onion!  When I got back I went to taste the soup - fortunately I'd remembered to turn off the hob before going out!  It was ok, but not delicious.  I tasted it a few times to try to detect what was wrong with it and decided that it had quite a kick of lemon grass and was slightly acidic.  What to do?  I decided to add a bit of sea salt and black pepper, and cook it a bit longer which improved things greatly, but it was still lacking a little something.  The recipe I'd remembered was leek, lettuce and apple but I had only added some onion and the green tops from some spring onions as I didn't have any leeks in the fridge.  But then I remembered that I'd saved some green tops from some leeks and a quick rummage in the freezer and I found a bag of these.  I popped these in just as they were, added a half teaspoon of chilli powder and left it to simmer while I went back to work.

When I went back to have a look at my soup - well have a taste really, I found it much improved, but there was still something wrong.  It did taste nice, but my head was still telling me it wasn't delicious and I realised the problem was the rather murky brown colour - green salad, brown potato skins and red onion is always going to end up a murky brown colour.  I felt it looked like mushroom soup, but with no mushrooms in it, the taste didn't fulfil expectation.

What to do?  Chop up some mushrooms.  I decided to leave them whole so it looked like an obvious mushroom soup.  I was a bit worried that I hadn't whizzed up the leek tops before throwing in the mushrooms - as the leaving them whole idea was an afterthought.  However, fifteen minutes later when I went to have another taste the leeks were totally cooked down, and the taste matched expectation.  It tasted of mushroom soup with a pleasant herby note on the finish.

I decided that would be tomorrow's lunch, as I was feeling a little stressed out by the four pints of milk in my fridge, one of which was dated today and definitely on the turn.  So I decided dinner would need to feature a cheese sauce: pasta with a blue cheese sauce, some quartered tomatoes from the garden and some black olives with a few leaves of basil on the top.

A quick use-it-up pasta supper
Total food waste today:

1 tea bag
the tiniest bit of the bottom of the onion
some olive stones

weighs in at 24 grams.












Monday, 8 August 2016

Making your money work harder for good causes

I've just received an email from a local charity I support called Helen and Douglas House.  They told me that they made £39.03 from the items I donated, and that they will be claiming another £9.76 in Gift Aid.  What a great start to my week to know the things that I didn't need have now found a home with someone new.

What's even better is that it reminded me of when I took my bag of stuff into the shop.  I was looking for fascinators or hats for my cousin's wedding.  They have eye-catching window displays in Helen and Douglas House shops, as do all the charity shops along our high street actually.  I had a vague recollection that I'd seen some fancy hats and fascinators in the shop window recently so I decided to do a tour of all the charity shops along the High Street to see what they had on offer for myself and for JD and SD.

I took a few photos on my phone so I could discuss that evening with the daughters.  But I left Helen and Douglas House, though, with more than just a photo.  A lovely summer dress caught my attention and it was my size.  I knew it was something I would get loads of wear out of so I payed £9.50 (this was a clearly nearly new designer dress, you know!).

The next day I was honoured to be a guest at a lunch and play celebrating the centenary of school I have visited to talk about my book.  I proudly wore my new designer dress.

By the time I returned just a week later to buy the fascinators and hats I'd seen, I had worn my new dress 3 times.  Because I was returning to the charity shop, I tasked myself with filling a bag of things we no longer want.  It can't remember exactly what was in them, but I can vaguely remember a couple of dresses given up by the daughters and a pair of jeans that were passed on to me but were a bit big.  Maybe a few other bits and bobs.

Perfect for our summer wedding

I bought the amazing hat for £10 and the fascinator for £15 (I bought a third in another charity shop) and having paid for those and handed in my bag I was on my way out when another dress whispered "Buy Me" right in my ear.  As I had worn the same dress three times that week, I thought "Oh go on then."  I looked at the make and size and knew it would be a bit loose fitting but I felt the style would cope with that.  So I went back to the till and paid the grand sum of £3.50.

The next day I put on my new new dress - or tried to, and it seemed a little challenging,  I was puzzled because it is a make that is usually generous in its sizing.  I  took it off - I had to as I hadn't managed to get it on and checked the label again.  then I spotted the careful sewing where it had been very beautifully taken in. But wait... that's when I realised there was a hidden zip.  Rewind ...

I put on my new new dress, did up the zip and found it fitted to absolutely perfection,  It could have been taken in specially for me.  Thank you to that wonderful person who donated the dress that fits me so well, I wear it as often as I can.  Your hard work and skill are greatly appreciated.

Now that really is retail therapy.


Thursday, 5 May 2016

A letter for contributors to #LeftoverPie

Hello lovely food-lovers and eco-warriors,

This blog post is for all the lovely people who will be contributing recipes to my forthcoming book...

Thank you so much for agreeing to contribute a recipe to Leftover Pie: 101 Ways to Reduce Your Food Waste. I hope in this blog post I can give you enough details in just a few short paragraphs so you can decide what recipe to contribute and so you can send it with the minimum time and effort on your part as, being one of the movers and shakers of the food waste revolution, I’m sure you are very busy.

Like my previous book, 101 Ways to Live Cleaner and Greener for Free, Leftover Pie is written for teens and their families. Its aim is to teach young people about the importance of food waste reduction, look at how we have arrived at food waste crisis point and share tips and recipes to help reduce the amount of food that is wasted.

Leftover Pie needs recipes that are not too prescriptive. The idea is to help people use up things they may often have left over, so a bung it all kind of recipe and a bit of flexibility saying you can use this, or this or this, will work well.

I'll be including ideas for using up gluts from the garden, seasonally abundant produce, things that are easy to grow in a garden or a pot on the windowsill, things that we can easily forage for without too much expert knowledge as well as meals we can make by going foraging in our fridge and freezer!

I also want to include recipes for simple stand-by meals entirely from store cupboard ingredients. For some people I have guided them towards specific things I’d like from them, and others I haven’t. You are very welcome to contact me to discuss your ideas before you decide what to send, but we would need to do that soon.  If I have mentioned something in particular, but you'd rather send something else, that's fine. I really want this book to be full of favourites, so that the passion shines through.  Our job is to inspire, just like with any cookery book, and just because we are using something up that might have been wasted, we want it to be delicious, because we know it can be and all food is precious and gorgeous even when it is past its prime.

I realise that by not being prescriptive about what people send in I may get 37 different recipes for banana bread, but I'll cross that bridge in a few weeks.  I have faith that all will be well.

There will also be an opportunity for people to read the text of the book and to chip in if they would like. I want to raise awareness about all the wonderful things going on to help cut down the amount of food we waste and to get people thinking differently about food in general so there will be opportunities to include text about all the wonderful organisations, causes, companies who are part of the sustainable food movement. A lot has changed since I wrote the main text of the book nearly two years ago, so I’ll be rapidly updating and adding. If you want to make sure that something you are passionate about is included, don’t wait for me to come to you, you can come to me and I will do my very best to spread the word accordingly. So, get in touch, ask questions, challenge me (let’s make sure I don’t miss too much important stuff, right?) and, oh yes, encouragement too, will be most gratefully received.

Thank you

Anna


How to contribute: Please email me at anna@dustbindiet.com
I will need your contribution by 30th June 2016. Thank you.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Please include:
· Your Name
· Your Restaurant/Website/Company/Cause or any other information you would like me to show in the book alongside your name
· Name of Recipe
· Why you have chosen this recipe
· Recipe details

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Mum, I need your help

JD has been away for five months teaching skiing in Switzerland.  She has been sharing a chalet with 11 other ski instructors for the season. Last Sunday, a couple of days before she was due to come home, I got a WhatsApp message saying, "Please can I ring you?"

As I message back, "Of course," my heart is racing and my stomach is churning. What is wrong? The three minutes it takes her to ring me back seemed like three hours. Then finally...

"Mum, I need your help!" Her voice is shaky. I am scared...really scared.

"Mum, it's awful, there's so much food left. I can't use it all up. I am trying to pack as much as I can but I can't fit it all in. What can I do?"

My answer (after silencing my massive sigh of relief)...The pub, of course!

JD's favourite pub was Pub Montfort.  It's a popular pub with 'seasonaires' and JD was a regular visitor.  Although there would be lots of seasonaires leaving, I felt sure she would find a few people staying on for the famed mountain biking in the resort.

So JD and one of her fellow instructors packed up the remaining food from the cupboards and fridges into a couple of big bags and set off up the hill to the pub.  She said she was a little tentative, but in fact, when she got there she and her food offerings were very well received.  Everything was welcomed - yes, the pack of pasta with just one portion left,  a 'random mustard and honey sauce', half a bottle of cooking oil, the remains of three boxes of salt, various more interesting and complete items, two part rolls of cling film and she said she could never have imagined the excitement caused by dishwasher tablets.  Apparently no-one ever wants to buy dishwasher tablets so they are a rare luxury in a seasonaire household.

I was very glad that my daughter managed to waste nothing and was interested to hear about the last Verbier feast, which apparently mixed baked beans and lentils - who knew that was a thing?  And, 'not gonna lie' as they say, it was a proud mummy moment when I realised that I have set a good example to my children, and one they are happy to follow.

But... sometimes things back fire, don't they?

Not long after enjoying listening to the tale of the food bags and their trip to the pub as well as JD's interesting innovations in the kitchen, that she has promised to repeat for us sometime, disaster struck.  On unpacking one of her bags, she was puzzled to find some brown powder on her ski jacket (well technically my ski jacket, but we won't go there!). She thought it was some form of make-up spillage, but when I start to poke my nose in, I discover the tub of cocoa, with its lid half off.  It went everywhere.  In fact I can smell cocoa as I write this. We both keep going back to the task of hoovering everything clean and we are still not done. The creatures in my compost heap will probably be on a chocolate high for weeks.

Cocoa filled hoover!


Shame the cocoa missed the trip to the pub!

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Invitation to contribute your food waste recipes for my next book

I will be writing to fellow Food Waste Champions over the next few weeks inviting contributions for my next book all about food waste.

When I interviewed the head of waste management at my local council while researching my book 101 Ways to Live Cleaner and Greener for Free he said as a parting comment following our lengthy and inspiring chat:

"Start with food waste.  It's food waste that is the most important thing that we need to reduce."

Well in a way, I did. The first chapter of my book is all about food waste.  That was in 2012.  At the time, the latest published figures showed that in the UK alone household were wasting 8,000,000 tonnes of food and drink in a year.  That means one third of a tonne wasted on average by every household in Britain.


Some facts and figures from my first book


Then, of course, there's all the waste before it gets to our homes, which raises the total to 15 million tonnes. Yet still one in eight people in the world go to bed hungry. We have a serious problem here. And we know it.

How did this happen and what are we going to do about it?

This is going to be the subject of my next book and I am going to enlist the help of the many wonderful people who are working to change this and revolutionize our food industry and our food habits.

If you are one of those people, I will be getting in touch soon. If you know someone who could contribute who you think I may not yet know, please tell me and put me in touch. If you could contribute please let me know. You don't need to wait for an invitation, just get in touch. I will be collecting 101 ways to reduce your food waste. There will be yummy recipes and top tips. Let's do it. Get your top tip ready to share.


Tuesday, 12 April 2016

#WasteLessSaveMore

Last week I was invited to speak at the Discovery Communities Live event at The Silk Mill in Derby - an event organised by YearHere in conjunction with Sainsbury's #WasteLessSaveMore campaign and the town of Swadlincote.

I decided that the most appropriate thing I could talk about was my experience of taking part in Zero Waste Week back in September 2013, when it was all about reducing food waste.  So I took a look back at my blog posts for the week to remind me about why I took part, what I did and what I learnt from it.

It was an enlightening experience reading back over past blog posts and it really highlighted how much my family has changed behaviour over the years and managed to create lasting waste reduction habits. I wish I'd counted the number of times I asked myself: "Did we really do that?"

One of my fellow speakers, Chris King, who is photographing and documenting the people and organisations who are tackling the food waste problem, asked me what was the worst food waste I've ever seen and immediately I thought about one of the images in the slides I was going to show to accompany my talk - my cheese drawer from 2013.

The seriously mature cheese collection in my fridge
 at the start of Zero Waste Week 2013
One of the things I found so useful about Zero Waste Week, was that it got me thinking about why I wasted food.  I realised that I was the only person in my family who ate any cheese other than cheddar so decided there was no point in buying an array of cheeses when I had friends for dinner as the cheese would generally end up like the picture above. So I changed my buying habits and bought a couple of different cheddars for my cheese selection. It was a simple decision to make. Several years later I find that Senior Daughter has developed a taste for Brie and Camembert, so now I can add another variety knowing it won't get wasted. But still, I keep it simple and just offer a very limited choice.

Another big change I made to my buying habits also revolves around parties.  If we had a summer get-together we used to invite people to bring whatever meat they wanted to cook on the barbecue. Generally what would happen is that every couple/family would bring meat enough for three families - either because they couldn't decide what they fancied to eat - or they were overtaken with a generosity of spirit - or maybe both.  It was a food waste disaster every time - well in fact more than that - it was a waste disaster altogether alien to our Zero Waste  lifestyle.  Again we learnt to simplify the offer.  We now provide just sausages and burgers - locally made from local meat.  We tell guests they don't need to bring anything, which saves them time and money, and saves me from the abundance of packaging and wasted food.  I take my cake boxes to the butchers so what I buy goes straight into those with no plastic bags. The burgers get cooked from frozen a few at a time as and when there are people wanting them.  The sausages are bought fresh, so that any spares can be frozen (in family sized quantities and used from the freezer). Again we only cook a few at a time. This way very little extra is cooked - and it is usually all eaten during the evening or put away for breakfast the next day.  Simple and high quality is the rule and it works.



Several people said this picture resonated with them after my talk.
It was clearly food for thought!


As with a lot of times when I talk at events I am often asked what my children think of my/our Zero Waste lifestyle and the Discovery Communities Live event was no exception.  It is really now that my children are making their own way and their own lives that I am really seeing the impact of life without a bin. We regularly have discussions about how to use up ingredients and I frequently get photos of their creations as they make the most of their food. I really hope that the work of Swadlincote and the other towns that have been working on innovative food waste projects as part of the #WasteLessSaveMore campaign can reach families and young people to inspire the kinds of conversations I am lucky enough to have with my daughters. We must engage with our teenagers on the subject of wasting less over the next few years. We need to move away from seeing food as a low value disposable commodity stacked high on a supermarket shelf, to something of great importance to our health and social well-being, that deserves the time for a conversation about where it has come from, who has made it and how, and at what cost to the planet.  We need to love our food and care about how it is produced and we need to be doing that whether we are 9, 19 or 90.  Let's take time to talk about what we put on our table and why.  A great place to start (or just to carry on the conversation) could be to sign up to join Zero Waste Week 2016 and involve the whole family.  Lots of people who were at the Discovery Communities Live event last Tuesday have signed up already.  I hope lots more will do so over the coming weeks and months, so we can carry on the conversations started and turn some of those conversations into actions.

There were many innovative ideas shared at the event, lots of ideas that were taken away by food waste reduction champions, by people from local councils, by entrepreneurs and by representatives from Sainsbury's.  The highlight of the day, for me, was the delicious food on offer made from food that would be otherwise wasted.  The Real Junk Food Project made a wonderful lunch from food that would have been wasted.  There were several delicious samples from food producers who were taking otherwise waste produce and creating something yummy from it.

Here's some of the delicious food and drink available at the 'Discovery Zone' - all products that are made from ingredients that might have otherwise been wasted.  All this shows just how much we could be doing to make the most of the food we produce and the carbon footprint that it takes.



Sunday, 27 March 2016

The Bath Half

Two weeks ago today team 'now we are three' completed the Bath Half marathon. The sun shone for us, they music played and the atmosphere was amazing.
Lizzi was setting out with the pros and celebs and aiming to beat her previous Bath Half time of  1:48:45. (She started next to Russel Howard). My plan was just to get round and Richard's plan was to run with me to make sure I did that! It was like having my own personal trainer next to me all the way :) 
A huge cheer told us that the race had officially started. We couldn't see the start at this time and continued to shuffle forward with thousands of other people.  But just over 9 minutes later and we crossed that line. Within the first mile you get to the brow of a downhill stretch and so have full view of the thousands of people in front of you. Runners for as far as the eye could see.  No danger of going off too fast!
My feet hurt by mile five and we were overtaken on mile 6 by Darth Vader but we kept going and in fact we both knew we had Cheshire Cat grins pretty much all the way round. On the first lap just over a mile in, I noticed a spectator was holding out a board with a big pink spot on it that said 'Hit the spot to power up.' As We turned the corner to start our second lap of the circuit, I decided that if she was still there I'd be hitting that spot! I was totally loving the high fives with all the children along the way.  It was so much fun. Turning the corner at the end of the Upper Bristol Road to head back in towards town was such a great moment. It felt like the home straight and we were running at quite a pace (for me). The lead singer of the band at the far end of the Lower Bristol Road shouted, "Come on, you've trained for this, we haven't." I loved the sign that declared 'blisters are in this year' and one that said 'Go Mum'.  They kept me going, as did my personal trainer, each time he said 'How are you doing, shall we give it a little more?'

We did manage to up the gear a bit every now and then as the mileage went up and the distance to that finish line came down.  It was only on mile 12, which for me was uncharted territory, that I said to Rich, "This feels hard now." I think he said "It's meant to be hard. It's a half marathon! We pushed on up the hill just keeping the pace as best I could and Rich staying with me. I said,"There's no way I can sprint at the end." "Don't worry, we already are." We turned the corner and we could see the finish line. I felt as though I couldn't believe it was coming to the end. I had been so nervous about it before I started - but I loved every minute of it - all 2 hours 15.35 minutes of it.

Lizzi beat her time, coming in at 1:48:10 (and in front of Russel Howard and Greg James. And not only that she has already run another half marathon on Cardiff yesterday. Would I do it again?

The whole experience was thoroughly enjoyable and I am itching to do another one.

So team 'now we are three' may well run again  or maybe the team will grow to become four.  We have some takers!







Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Talking Rubbish with That's Oxford TV

A few weeks ago I was invited to talk to Robin Shuckburgh about how to reduce waste and make better use of our resources.  Here's the Youtube video.


Sunday, 28 February 2016

A year without plastic - the good bits

Trying to avoid single-use plastic for a year is the hardest challenge I have tried. The reason behind this strange decision that we took was this: I wanted to see if today’s highly packaged lifestyle is necessary and beneficial or not.  How uncomfortable would it be to manage without plastic packaging?

For me, the most uncomfortable part of the whole challenge is that it involved my family and not just myself.  When I have set myself challenges before, which I do most years, it has really been only up to me whether or not I succeeded in my challenge. Involving other people is always going to be harder, but it can also seem more rewarding - or at least that's what I feel now, looking back on what we achieved as a family. 

It was at times frustrating, like when I asked at the covered market in Oxford if I could have some cheese without any plastic wrapper - the guy said "yes, of course" then snuck in the plastic wrapping anyway. Uhh!  Like when I carefully look for packaging that seems plastic free - I open up a cardboard box and find that inside the contents are wrapped in plastic. But I'm getting wise to that one now!

So, it wasn't 100% successful.  However, it was certainly not all bad. In one year we’ve ended up with a 2.5kg cat food bag filled with scrunched up plastic.  It weighed 770 grams.  Even though I can’t say we achieved our challenge, we have cut down our packaging enormously. I’m pretty sure I used to produce about that much plastic in a month, never mind a year.

Here’s what I’ve learnt.
1. Living without plastic requires organisation. It’s when I haven’t planned ahead that I’ve had to buy plastic packaged goods. Having a good stock of dry goods, store cupboard ingredients and buying cat food in bulk helps.
2. Plastic avoidance requires making sure you take lunch, snacks and drinks with you when you are out and about (a huge money saver!) I have a stainless steel flask for water and I make a lunch of leftovers, or a couscous or pasta salad in a Tupperware container. For that boredom/comfort eating I take a small pot of dried fruit and nuts, which I buy in bulk from refill outlets such as Wholefoods Market in Cheltenham or SESI in Oxford when I’m passing by that way.
3. I bake my own bread, cakes, biscuits and oatcakes. Much tastier than anything shop-bought.
4. I cut out crisps, sweets and other plastic wrapped snacks. For me crisps were the hardest challenge, but finding other snacks like nuts, olives, roasted giant corn and dried fruit has helped. Much healthier!
5. Going plastic free gets easier as you learn how and where to shop. At first I thought I was spending more money, but now I’ve learnt where to shop, I save money.
6.Fresh fruit and vegetables are easily found. Sainsbury’s and Waitrose have plenty of loose fruit and veg, and Coop has some availability. I'm sure other supermarkets are the same. However, the best place I found was a local green grocer - the traditional kind - my local is Alan’s Orchard in Carterton and it really is excellent.
7. I buy good local meat and eggs, unpackaged (as you can take your own tubs/reuse your egg-boxes) at my local Butcher's - Patrick Strainge in Bampton.  If you are in the area - don't miss it! It is well-known for its award winning sausages. They also have wonderful pasties, sausage rolls and that sort of thing, which we've used as a way of keeping our holiday travel plastic free.  We have just taken a big tub with a clip lid with us on the day of departure (or the day before) and filled it with goodies.  Much nicer than anything I've ever had from a plastic packet.

So that's the good bits. What about the bad bits? Cheese, cucumber and peas unpackaged? Forget it. Way too stressful!