What I’ve made this week.

This week I finally got round to painting the Shefco Kitchen Unit that I bought for £8 on ebay about 6 years ago. I think you’ll agree it looks pretty awesome. In my impoverished student days I would upcycle furniture by giving it a fresh lick of paint and my recent sustainablity kick has re-ignited my enthusiasm for this old hobby.  Following the bumper crop of parsnips we have enjoyed a number of parsnippy recipes including Parsnip and Pineapple cakes (I used sunflower seeds instead of walnuts), Parsnip and Potato cakes (I used polenta instead of breadcrumbs), Parsnip and Carrot Latkes and just plain roasted parsnips. They are so sweet and delicious, I had no idea they were such a versatile vegetable.

Earlier in the week I came across a website explaining step by step how to make your own yogurt!!! Having never known this was a possibility I was beside myself with excitement. First thing the next day I was at the cooking stall in Swansea Market purchasing the only piece of equipment required: a thermometer. Instead of using an expensive yogurt maker to incubate the yogurt I placed it inside a cool box with a hot water bottle and a couple of towels. I also found a blog with a number of suggestions for incubating your yogurt if you don’t have these things. With the yogurt I also made a small batch of frozen yogurt and I am looking forward to exploring the possibilities of different delicious desserts that I can make. What I am most pleased about is that it is SO fresh, full of pro-biotic goodness and it cost me hardly anything to make.And finally, due to another round of blackberry and apple jam making a few weeks ago I used the apple peelings to make apple peel wine again. This time round I am leaving it for 12 days instead of 9 as my first attempt had not finished fermenting when I bottled it and was blasting the corks out of the bottles and resulting in a fizzy, apple flavoured wine, which we renamed- ‘Wider’. This caused much confusion and hilarity when we took some over to our friends for dinner a few weeks ago. When we arrived the man host announced to the lady host- “Ellie’s got wider!” which sounds a bit inappropriate without first explaining what wider is. The wider received good reviews so hopefully the apple peel wine will too! I also worked out that it cost about 35p a bottle, so even in these austere times Lloyd and I can afford to take a bottle of wider along with us to any gathering – and it’s good for a laugh.

VEG BOX OVERLOAD!!!!!

Another veg box!!! Looks like my message to Green Bean Organics asking to cancel my repeat order must have got lost down the wire. Not to worry though, as I was going to buy a veg box this week anyway, and the produce in the Green Beans veg box looked so good I couldn’t send it back. Here are the contents just after I scrubbed the  carrots and potatoes.

Last time I had a fruit and veg box from Green Bean Organics I promised to analyse the contents, and I didn’t do it (sorry). This veg box cost £12. So lets use Sainsbury’s again as they seem to have a better range of organic produce.

Non-organic

So Organic

500g Kale

£2.50

None- use price for non-organic

3 large carrots (500g)

45p

83p

1 sweet potato (400g)

51p

£1.06

1 swede (600g)

95p each

94p for 600g

1 leek (200g)

50p

£1.00

2 courgettes (300g)

54p

£1.34

2 bramley apples (400g)

60p

None- use price for non-organic

Baby vine tomatoes (200g)

£1.30

£2.10

Chestnut mushrooms (200g)

£1.00

£1.40

4 onions (750g)

75p

£1.00

Potatoes 1kg

60p

£1.50

½ red cabbage

42p

None-use price for non-organic

Total

£10.66

£14.69

As you can see Green Beans veg box is £2.69 cheaper than Sainsbury’s So Organic even though three of the items would be non-organic from Sainsbury’s. I also found out today that Green Bean Organics DO take orders for individual fruit and veg. So my friend Ffion can have 7 bulbs of garlic if she wants!! This is good news as Green Beans is closer to Swansea than Organic Fresh Food so will reduce the carbon footprint of delivery, although both companies deliver in Swansea every week anyway, so I expect I will probably be using both.

Hopefully you are finding this as interesting as I am. I am so excited to be discovering new and interesting things about food and the local producers. These guys are leading the way to our future food system. Three cheers for local producers, for filling 3 out of 4 levels of my fridge! This is the most veg my fridge has ever seen- and it’s all LOCAL, ORGANIC or BOTH!!!!!

Non-organic

So Organic

500g Kale

£2.50

None- use price for non-organic

3 large carrots (500g)

45p

83p

1 sweet potato (400g)

51p

£1.06

1 swede (600g)

95p each

94p for 600g

1 leek (200g)

50p

£1.00

2 courgettes (300g)

54p

£1.34

2 bramley apples (400g)

60p

None- use price for non-organic

Baby vine tomatoes (200g)

£1.30

£2.10

Chestnut mushrooms (200g)

£1.00

£1.40

4 onions (750g)

75p

£1.00

Potatoes 1kg

60p

£1.50

Total

£10.24

£14.27

Complimentary Veg Box Arrival!!!

Hi Everyone,

Last night I received my complimentary veg box from Organic Fresh Food Company. This was offered to me simply by going to the Mumbles Farmers Market and showing an interest in organic produce.

Pine cones and jam not included.

So far we’ve just tried the oranges and the salad and they are lovely. I have no idea what to do with the celeriac (I think that is what it is!) so any recipes would be welcome. I’m definitely going to order some more stuff from this company as you can pick and choose what you want unlike most veg box schemes. This suits me much better than a veg box as I can get many of the locally grown items much cheaper at the green grocers (see local vs organic blog) and get the imported veg from the Organic Fresh Food Company. They also do a variety of Organic Welsh dairy products which I can get delivered with my veg. Hooray!

In other news, Lloyd and I went for a walk down to Whiteford Point in the Gower on Sunday. We collected about 1.5kg of the most perfect blackberries you ever saw which are now in our freezer. We also found a load of puffball mushrooms and this little fella growing in the sand…….

Isn’t nature grand?

I also went to the Transition Swansea Steering Group meeting last night and met some of the lovely people who volunteer their time to lead Swansea towards a low energy future. You can find out more about the Transition Movement here and Transition Swansea here. The result of this was finding out about loads of things going on in Swansea that I have sadly missed (by not hearing about it) but also lots of things happening in the future which I am really excitied to get involved in, such as the Food Group, the Green Fayre and Vetch Veg. I also found out about Bat and Moth night next Friday 28th Sept 7-9pm at Clyne Gardens (Woodmans Pub entrance) however I’m gutted as you have to be 5-11 years old and I’m 29. However, if you or anyone you know has kids of that age, this sounds like a fab event, and only £1 per child (call 01792 635485 to book a place).

Supermarket- it’s over between you and me.

Hi everyone!

When I started this blog a couple of weeks ago I had no idea that I was going to get such a big response. I’m not really sure why I even decided to do it but I just thought I’d give it a shot, have absolutely no expectations and be open to see what happened. So far I’ve had loads of positive feedback, advice on making the blog better, tips on cooking, starting the food co-op and offers to link me up with other like-minded people and projects. It’s been a big boost for me to have that support and it has given me the belief that this is a worthwhile venture.

As there have been no recent major events in the ‘personal journey towards sustainable living’ I thought I’d do a blog explaining a bit about my relationship with supermarkets.

What I used to be like:

Before going on the Otesha tour I loved the supermarkets. So much so that if I had a spare half hour I’d go there to see what was on offer. In reality I was going to the supermarket because I was hooked by the idea that there could be an absolute bargain to be had inside the supermarket and I’d be damned if I was going to miss out! I’d often walk out holding the newly purchased item that I was missing from my life even though I had no idea I needed it when I went in. The supermarket had done it’s work well, lured me in and I’d willingly handed over my money for something that I didn’t need. Evidence for this manifested itself at a recent car boot sale where I sold many unused and unworn things (the clothes store sales always have the same effect on me), and when emptying the pantry last week to find piles of food past its sell by date which I never even opened. I found myself saying ‘I can’t believe I bought all this rubbish, what a waste!’

At the same time I thought that I was a really savvy shopper because I’d check out all the latest offers and for my regular products I had a little routine of where to get the best deals. I knew the prices of EVERYTHING in every shop, so I thought I was playing the game! Little did I  know that this is actually how it works- draw customers in with the special offers and while they are in the shop, 9 times out of 10, you can sell them a load of other unneeded stuff. This survey by DEFRA states that 15% of all our food and drink purchases are wasted.

What happened:

While on the tour I found out a few things about supermarkets that left me feeling really disappointed and realising that I’d been played by the supermarkets. Basically they have been doing a lot of things that are totally unethical and unfair behind the scenes and I feel deceived. In the UK the supermarkets have dominated the milk production industry meaning that small farmers have been paid less for their milk than it cost them to produce, not to mention the effect that profit loss will have on the standard of animal welfare (link).

Things like the uprise in industrial farming methods (see monocultures and; petro-chemical fertilizers) are closely linked to the restrictive demands that supermarkets put onto farmers, knowing that they will have nowhere else to sell their product (link). The usual argument is that how are we going to feed the world using small farms?  According to a 1992 U.S. Agricultural Census report, relatively smaller farm sizes are 2 to 10 times more productive per unit acre than larger ones (link). This is because of the cost of fertilizers, pesticides, machines and fuel make the large scale monoculture farms less productive. Doing crop rotation with a variety of crop, getting animals to fertilise the land naturally, and using less machinery due to smaller but more diverse crops all comes at a minimum cost.  Even things like packaging have got completely out of control in the supermarkets and although I have thought this was a wasteful practice I didn’t think there was anyting I could do about it.

Another experience that changed my mind about using supermarkets was when we visited a place called Hawick on the Otesha Tour. All that could be found was one lonely fishmonger selling local produce. The owner explained that Hawick had once had a high street with 16 or so green grocers selling local produce not to mention butchers, bakeries and fishmongers. Then the supermarkets moved in and drove the prides down so low that the local businesses couldn’t compete. When the local shops had all gone out of business the supermarkets put their prices back up. So instead of having the choice of 16+ local shops now the community has only got the choice of 3 supermarkets selling out of season veg with massive food miles, tonnes of packaging and they would have to go miles out of their way to buy any locally produced food. It also means that local producers have fewer opportunities to sell their produce, as supermarkets won’t buy from small producers. Farmers in Hawick are restricted to selling in farm shops (two of which were for sale in the wider area), which were miles out of town and therefore inaccessible to people without transport.

After hearing this story I thought about Swansea and how many supermarkets / express stores keep popping up all over the place. I live near the marina and used to use a local newsagents, that was until the Tesco express opened up and I started going to Tesco instead as they had a bigger range and better prices. Now the little newsagents has had to cut it’s opening times to its most profitable (lunch times) because all their business was taken by Tesco. I already knew this but I was bought over by the few quid I would save and didn’t give a second thought to the small business. Its sad but constantly buying from the big supermarkets is going to cost us more than the money we save. Our communities will suffer, we will have less choice, less autonomy and less power.

What I am like now:

What is different after the tour is that I know that I am responsible for my own actions and the maxim ‘actions speak louder than words’ comes into full force here, it’s no good me talking or complaining about the way things are and just doing nothing. I have to use the little power that I have- the power to control my actions and where I spend my money. The main aim of my post-Otesha life is to have a supermarket ban, and to concentrate on rewarding the people and companies that have ethical practices.

Since living (all of 3 1/2 weeks) supermarket free I have had a few experiences which have made me think differently about food production. When I received small apples and aubergine in my veg box I felt a bit short changed. When I visited Elaine in the health food shop in the market she wanted to know if I’d had my much anticipated veg box yet and I explained what I had received and my opinion on the quality and size of the produce. Elaine wisely pointed out that because the weather had been so shocking this year that apples had really struggled to grow and she said that her aubergines had been really small this year compared to previous years.

This conversation made me realise my total lack of awareness of the natural food cycle. Yeah sure I ‘knew’ how it all worked but at the same time I never made the connection, and therefore I wasn’t expecting the recent weather to have any effect on the size of the produce I was going to buy. I suppose what I mean is that I need to start thinking more about the whole cycle rather than just thinking of things in isolation and how it directly affects me (ie all this rain means I can’t dry my washing or ride my bike when I want). In future I will be thinking of how things are affected all along the chain.

Lastly I’d like to say that I recognise that I am in a very opportune situation at present in order to make all these sustainable changes. I finished my degree in June meaning that I’ve been seeking employment since then and had quite a lot of free time. I know that many of the people reading this (mostly my friends) are not able to explore the sustainable food options in their area because they have full time jobs, children to look after or both! This is part of my motivation to do it because I can easily do the detective work and my busy friends can use this blog as a resource to find out what brilliant alternatives there are to supermarket shopping, if they wish to follow suit. It is also a way of putting a face to local producers and businesses that need support (if we don’t use em, we’ll lose em). I’ve already seen loads of activity in Swansea and I can see that there is a thriving local produce scene here which I have totally ignored (for 8 years!) due to my supermarket obsession.

 

Local vs Organic

Hi Everyone,
Today I thought I’d write a post about the dilemma when faced with the choice of local non-organic veg and imported organic veg. In order to help you decide I have compiled a brief table, although, admittedly, it’s pretty biased because I have already made my mind up.

Local non organic (farmers market)
Imported Organic (supermarket)
Low food miles

  • fresher/more nutrients
  • less CO2 emissions
High food miles-

  • nutrients lost over time
  • high CO2 emissions
Uses Chemicals (or not) Could be using organic methods but unable to afford certifications Uses certified Organic methods
(Assuming chemicals + industrial methods are used in Local farming) This theory suggests OVERALL CO2 emissions are higher. Theories suggest a food system based on importing food (organic or not) could not adapt to a post oil world; a local food system could, provided we support local farmers even though they are more carbon intensive now.
Small scale farming -supermarkets won’t buy from small scale farms so you’ll only find them at the farmers market/ grocers.

  • bio-diversity
  • low impact methods
  • UK habitat protected
Unknown scale of farming but this article suggestssupermarket Organic uses industrial large scale.

  • Monocultures
  • industrial methods
  • deforestation
Supports local economy and local farmers Supports world trade
Irrigation /water extraction regulated by UK law Water used to irrigate crops in other countries might not be regulated affecting water supplies and habitat)

If anyone has anything to add to that please comment and lets get a discussion going. As you can see it’s not cut and dry. When I compiled the table I was just thinking about vegetables, but what about large scale organic farms that cause deforestation so that soya beans or quinoa can be grown to meet Western demand?

NOW FOR MORE PRICE COMPARISON!!!!!!!

Following on from this theme I did a bit of research today, using the website for our local non-organic green grocers and the organic fresh food company. I don’t want to load up another boring table of prices but rather a quick summary of what I found. Please keep in mind there is bound to be a price difference as the green grocers is not organic.

The green grocers- out of 46 veg products

  • 13% were Welsh  
  • 41% were British  
  • 47% were imported.
Organic Fresh Food- out of  56 veg products
  • 28.5% were Welsh
  • 38% were British
  • 28.5% were imported
  • 5% were not labeled.

Of interest were:

Sugar snap peas and Fine Beans:

  • Green grocers- both £10 kg from Kenya
  • Organic FF- £8.96/ £10.95 (respectively) from Wales!!!

Courgettes:

  • Green grocers- £2.65 kg from Spain
  • Organic FF- £3.39 from Wales!!!!

Broccoli:

  • Green grocers- 3.31kg from UK
  • Organic FF- 3.91kg from UK (not much difference there, so this is a local organic food I can afford!)

Butternut squash:

  • Green grocers- £1.50 each from Israel
  • Organic FF- £1.38 per 500g from Spain
  • Not sure how big the ones at the green grocers are but I’ll find out.

Aubergines:

  • Green grocers- £3.31kg from Holland
  • Organic FF- £3.80kg from Spain (this is another organic product I can afford, hooray!)

Leeks:

  • Green grocers- £2.65kg from FRANCE!!!! We’re in Wales for Gods sake!!!
  • Organic FF- £4.49 from Wales.

Vine tomatoes:

  • Green grocers- £3.31kg from Wales
  • Organic FF- £6.44kg from UK
  • I’ll definitely be buying these from the green grocers then…..

Basically, when I go to the green grocers I’ll be getting anything labeled GROWN IN WALES…… for everything else I’ll buy from the Organic Fresh Food company, provided it’s not extortionate. In which case I’ll probably be avoiding Avocado’s at £1.69 each and shallots at £7.19kg!!!!!

Oh well I’ll just have to make do with the 54 other choices of veg on offer…….

 

 

 

 

Good things come to those who wait

Hi everyone,

Just a quick update on a few things that have been happening.

Firstly and most importantly I am proud to announce the birth of my first sourdough bread. It took 8 days for the ‘starter’ to be ready and then 2 days to prove the dough but it’s gorgeous. Now I’ve got my starter (or mother) made I can keep it in the fridge and all I need to do is feed it every time I use some for another loaf of sourdough. Who knows I may still have this same starter mix 50 years from now! The main benefit of the sourdough process, long though it is, is that the bread is so easy to digest. This study explains that the sourdough process actually degrades the gluten in wheat flour. In the study celiacs patients could eat wheat sourdough with no side effects (though this was only a small scale pilot study). Fascinating.

In other news Lloyd asked me to pull the parsnips today. It was actually quite exciting pulling them out and not knowing what each one would look like. I was quite impressed as some of them were really big and I had a little laugh at the baby ones and the freaky looking ones. I also had great pleasure discovering lots of worms and creepy crawlies living in the soil, as last night I started reading a Charles Dowding book about No-dig Organic Gardening. I borrowed the book from Swansea Library (a useful and free resource that I’d forgotten about due to my bad habit of buying books on amazon) and look forward to finding out how to make full use of the small veggie plot we have.

Also last week I bought some gorgeous fruit from Swansea Market. The only local stuff they had was veg (beetroot/cabbage/potatoes etc) but they had English greengages, golden plums and strawberries. I even did a taste test with the English plums vs Spanish plums and there was absolutely no comparison. The English plums won hands down. You could tell that the Spanish plums had been picked before they were ripe so that they would survive the long journey, they were a floury texture, not juicy at all and just weren’t that tasty. When I dropped by today there weren’t any greengages but the plums and strawberries are still amazing.Lastly, when I was at Mumbles farmers market last Saturday one of the organic veg producers was taking telephone numbers of potential customers. They offered to deliver a free veg box, no obligations, just so I could try them out. Their website is really good as you can actually choose exactly what fruit and veg you want (or have a veg box), the prices are really reasonable, and best of all almost all of the fruit and veg is listed with the country of origin so you can keep an eye on your food miles. Roger called me today and I’m getting my free veg box next Thursday. Brilliant! The Organic Fresh Food Company

Two good days.

My endorphin levels must be ridiculously high at the moment because I’ve had two exciting things happen in two days. Yesterday I received my first delivery from Green Bean Organics which was pretty exciting as you can see…

In my mixed box (price £21) the veg I got:

  • 1 small aubergine
  • 1 cucumber
  • 6 tomatoes
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • a load of broad beans
  • 1 Romanesco (spiky cauliflower thing)
  • 1 swede
  • 2  Cavolo Nero (dark greens)
  • 1 big bunch of carrots
  • 1 celery
  • a load of potatoes
  • 2 Onions
  • 1 Garlic

Fruit I got:

  • 4 pears
  • 6 very small apples
  • 3 oranges
  • 4 bananas
  • 2 kiwi fruit

When I get a chance I’m going to do some further analysis into whether this is a good deal or not.

Also in my order from Green Beans I had some dairy products from Calon Wen which is a Cooperative of Welsh Organic dairy farmers. On the milk bottles it says “shake me- I’m not homogenised”. Do you remember when milk used to get a layer of cream on the top and you would shake the bottle before you pour? Well homogenisation is what they do to commercial milk to stop that from happening. I’m definitely loving this old school milk for doing what it’s meant to do and not what humans want it to do.

The best part of the order was the Flour from Felin Ganol which is stone ground by a working watermill in Ceredigion. Mostly I just love the brown paper bags; Welsh on one side and English on the other. When I made my starter mix (for sour dough bread) last week I was using up the last bits of Tesco’s own (probably bleached) flour that I had. My starter mix was really not good and smelled really vinegary but for the last two days I’ve been feeding it the Organic wholewheat flour and today it’s smelling sweet and ‘beery’ just like Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall said it would.

LUSH!

 

The second exciting thing that happened was that I went to Mumbles Farmers Market. It was AMAZING!!!! There was a stone oven cooking pizzas, amazing Welsh cheese stalls, free range organic poultry, colourful cup-cakes, homemade preserves, pastries, soaps and loads more. I was like a kid in a sweet shop and people were looking at me a bit odd. I actually said Phoar!!!! outloud when I saw these-

This photo is The Parsnipship stall where I bought a Beetroot Bomb and an Indian Summer Pie which Lloyd and I had for our lunch (and yes they were amazing). The Parsnipship specialise in teaching vegetarian and vegan cuisine and are basically leading a Welsh food revolution. I can’t believe I’ve lived in Swansea for 8 years and never came to this brilliant farmers market or found out about these amazing local producers.

A familiar face from last weeks Sketty Local Produce market was Mair from Mair’s Bakehouse. Mair is also a specialist in her field and teaches sourdough baking courses and even offered to give me a starter mix if mine didn’t work. Here is Mair and her shy assistant.

Lastly I splashed out 75p on two Wild Boar Cheeks. Yes you read that right. Following a discussion with a friend of mine I decided to explore the idea of using some of the more unusual offcuts of meat in order to economise without depriving Lloyd of meat for long periods. Harmony Herd breed wild boar and rare pig breeds and they were even able to tell me where the pigs feed is grown. I explained to Sarah from Harmony Herd about my ambition to live more sustainably and support local producers but that I was, like most people, on a tight budget. She was only too happy to show me a multitude of different cuts and explain the best way to cook them. I settled for cheeks which she said would be nice stir fried if I sliced them up thinly. I wasn’t intending to eat them myself but Lloyd had them for dinner and loved them and I definitely loved the price and friendly service.

On my way back I stopped at the Green Grocers in Mumbles (they also have a stall in Swansea Market) which had some amazing fruit and veg, loads of which was british and some local, but most notably it was really good value. I’m going to do some more research into this and another Organic veg box scheme which I came across at the Farmers Market. My advice to anyone in the Swansea area is to put 13th October in your diary and go to the next Mumbles Farmers Market and while you are there have a look around the village. There was a woman selling gorgeous local flowers from the front of the White Rose pub (Made in Mumbles), a craft fair in the Ostreme Centre and even a man selling onions from a bike. I had no idea any of this was happening only 6 miles down the road from me!

This journey into sustainability might not be quite so difficult as I thought……..

Price Comparison

So…… for a while I’ve been thinking about starting up a organic food co-operative to buy stuff that can’t be produced locally. The reasons for this are as follows:

  • Organic food is expensive but if you buy in bulk it’s not as bad and sometimes even cheaper than non-organic.
  • If I bought in bulk just for myself I wouldn’t have anywhere to store it. A food Co-op would mean that other people could benefit from low priced organic food and I wouldn’t have to worry about storage.
  • Buying in bulk saves on packaging. E.g. you can buy a 25kg sack of rice and the co-op members could pick up their order by bringing clean dry reusable containers (ask any friendly cafes, so far I’ve found them only too happy to hand over unwanted containers).
  • In order to balance out the food miles/ carbon footprint/ embedded water of imported goods I’m keen to ensure that whatever  I buy is organic (as much as possible). This is so my spending power goes towards protecting the land and rivers of indigenous people from pollution, and protecting workers from conditions and chemicals that they would not be exposed to in the UK.
  • If I can demonstrate that buying organic is affordable then maybe more people will join the movement!!!

Below is a little price comparison spread sheet comparing prices from an online wholesalers called SurvivalWholefoods and Sainsbury’s. I used sainsburys as it had a better range of organic food to compare prices with. Two things that the wholesalers could not compete with the big supermarket on were sugar and coffee. The table consists of the type of thing that I would like to buy from them should the food Co-op ever come into existence. I hope that you find it interesting.

£ per kg or litre Survival WF Organic (various brands) Sainsbury’s non-organic (own brand) Sainsbury’s Organic(own brand)
Brown basmati 2.32 1.68 3.58
Brown rice 1.32 1.79 2.58
Chick peas 1.88 1.98 6.32 NB. Sb’s only had tinned org chick peas so 1kg dried = 8 tins
Doves Organic Plain white 1.20 x 1.19
Doves Organic White bread flour 1.20 x 1.33
Doves Organic Wholemeal 1.03 x 1.33
Dried apricots 7.80 5.98 8.32
Dried Green Lentils 3.00 1.98 3.18 (CrazyJacks)
Dried Pinto/Kidney Beans 2.20 1.98 x
Dried Red lentils 2.25 1.80 x
Fruit and nut Muesli 3.00 2.60 x
Maldon sea salt 1.74 x 1.65
Mixed nuts 10.00 13.75
Olive oil c/p e/v 6.80 (Sunita) 3.90 6.00 NB. Sb’s own brand didn’t have cold pressed so I’ve just used extra virgin.
Pitted dates 5.20 7.00 7.56 NB. Survival foods organic dates were also fair trade
Porridge Oats 1.20 1.00 2.00
Porridge Oats Jumbo Oats 1.20 1.90 2.20 (Flavahans)
Pumpkin seeds 8.00 8.30 x
Raisins 3.80 2.85 4.50
Rapeseed oil 3.80 (Clearspring) 1.89 3.00
Sesame seeds 5.25 6.60 x
Sundried tomatoes 8.00 10.00 x NB. this compares Survivals dried SDT with Sainsbury’s SDT in oil
Sunflower oil 3.25 (clearspring) 1.64 3.00
Sunflower seeds 3.50 6.85 8.10 (crazyjacks)
White basmati 2.76 1.81 3.58
White Fusili 1.65 (Essential) 1.79 2.10
Wholewheat Penne 1.85 (Essential) 1.79 2.10

 

 

Sponges, bleach and bog roll.

Image

Hello everybody,

Today I was volunteering to paint the exterior windows at the Environment Centre in Swansea- up on the scaffolding, hard hat and everything! Perhaps the intoxicating fumes of the paint gave me dutch courage to get up the ladder because leaning over the large gaps to reach the window frames on the second floor was actually quite scary. Anyway I’m only saying this incase I sound an bit odd in my post- because I do, infact, feel very odd and lightheaded.

Anyway while I was at the environment centre I  bought some eco-cleaning products and toilet roll from their shop. I’ve bought my washing up liquid and laundry liquid there for about a year as this is the only place you can refill your ecover bottles, but pre-Otesha (www.otesha.org.uk) I always bought sponges and cloths from the supermarket. Seeing as I’ve excluded myself from the supermarkets I thought about buying them from the Co-op in town, but knowing that the Environment Centre (a registered charity that I’d like to support) stocked more ethical products I thought I would check out their range.

The dish cloth, duster and sponge are all made from recyled material. Is this good though? For some reason I assumed that they were bio-degradable but actually they are just recycled so they will be going into landfill after I’ve finished with them. Now that I’m thinking about it I usually have a new sponge every two weeks so that’s about 26 sponges I put in landfill every year not to mention cloths! Another thing, I noticed on the label it says not to use the sponge with bleach. Well I usually bleach the sponge and cloths overnight so if I’m going to continue to buy this product what else can I use instead of bleach? I believe you can use bicarb of soda, vinegar, tea tree oil and lemon juice to clean your home but will I be able to give up the warm comfort blanket of bleach and use these things instead?  If only  I’d have known it was going to be this complicated! Some more thinking will be required.

The toilet paper on the other hand, I was quite impressed with as it is 100% recycled and comes in bio-degradable wrapping. Price wise the toilet paper was also very reasonable at £1.85 for 4 rolls or £4.05 for 9 (it’s £1.90 for 4 in Sainsbury’s btw) so I will definitely be stocking up on loo roll next time I pop down to fill up my ecover bottle (or do painting).

Oh and today it just so happened that the Swansea Evening Post came to take photo’s of us  painting the centre, so tomorrow I might be in the local paper. Taking all the glory for one days work!? Shocking, I know.

First Blog!

 

Hello blog readers!?…. Bloggees?…… Oh god I’m so inexperienced in this line of work that I don’t even know how to address people in their proper roles!!! Anyway it doesn’t matter, as with most things the only wrong way to do something is not to do it at all, and making a few mistakes when your just getting started is not the end of the world!
So I guess I should start by telling you why I am writing this blog and a little bit about myself.
Ok so most of my adult life I’ve tried to be conscious and considerate about how my actions affect the planet, people and animals. I always recycled, bought most of my stuff second hand (although this has declined over the years), stopped eating meat, bought free-range eggs and so on. A paragon of virtue you could say (:p). About three and a half years ago I met my husband Lloyd who is a senior environmental planning officer. Status seeker that I am I loved the fact that ‘he saved the environment for his job!” but it did annoy me that he constantly turned the taps off when I was rinsing the washing up, moaning at me for leaving the computer on standby for days and days, protesting when I left my iphone charger plugged in, hair straighteners on standby, fridge door wide open … I could go on but I won’t bore you. At the same time, whenever Attenbrough was on the iplayer, the global warming aspect broke my little heart and I got angered why no one seemed to be taking any action.

Anyway fast forward to the 3rd of June 2012 (just after I completed my degree). While searching for volunteering opportunities to get my young career in motion I had stumbled upon a charity called Otesha that organised sustainability cycle tours. I was drawn in hook line and sinker by their approach to environmental issues and social justice. The tours themselves were operated by the same principles that were in the Otesha message. Themes of a youth led movement, sustainable energy & water use, low impact food and transportation and exercising individual power by making small changes to every day actions. I couldn’t contain my excitement as I filled in the application form and my imagination was taking me on adventures for days while I waited to hear back whether I would be accepted on the tour. At the same time I didn’t know how the heck I was going to raise the £600 fundraising target, get all the gear on the kit list and pay the £160 train fare up to Scotland- but I knew that if I didn’t give it a shot I’d be kicking myself over another missed opportunity. As you’ve probably guessed I did get accepted onto the tour and also thanks to my wonderful family and friends I raised £400 of the fundraising target. My wonderful dad deserves extra thanks as he topped up my fundraising and paid for my train fair without me even asking. I also got sponsorship from Endura and Urban Cyclery (Swansea) who provided me with some of the kit that was needed for the tour- just because I wrote to them and asked!!! AMAZING!!!

So on 3rd August I set off on the three week cycle tour and met up with 18 other volunteers to learn about sustainable food, energy, transport and social justice and learn how to deliver the Otesha workshops to children and young people. It was an amazing experience, too many things to tell you about all in one go, but basically I wanted to start this blog to write and share about a few of the ideas and behaviours that I want to change in myself and whether they are easy to do or not and generally what happens along the way. Here are the ideas so far:

Energy consumption

  • get the gas and elec changed to a green/er energy provider
  • use less- switch things off when not being used

Use of food budget

  • have a supermarket ban! Dun.. dun.. daargghh!!!!!
  • support local businesses
  • buy locally produced food as much as possible (veg, dairy, eggs, some fruit, honey)
  • buy organic as much as possible/ when it’s affordable/ when it’s food produced abroad.
  • buy fair trade sugar, bananas, chocolate, coffee etc.
  • minimise packaging by buying raw ingredients in bulk and reduce buying processed prepackaged food.
  • Start an organic food co-operative???
  • Prioritise a vegetarian diet (vegan is more low impact- but one step at a time!!) We don’t want to rule out eating meat if we know where it’s come from and that the animal’s welfare has been a priority during its life.
  • only buy organic local free range meat (this will be quite rare and only for special occasions as it’s really expensive).
  • when food is given to us it’s down to individual choice to be flexible about organic/free range/local/packaging etc so as to minimise food waste.
  • Grow some of our own food – quick & easy stuff like lettuces and herbs indoors and bigger longterm stuff outdoors.
  • Do research on forest gardening and permaculture to get the most from our teeny weeny garden space. This will also increase beneficial insects and reduce the naughty insect population without using pesticides. Yay!

Transport

  • use my bike more
  • use the train/ bus more
  • only use the car when it’s necessary

Other behaviour changes

  • Clothes shopping in charity shops- use the sewing machine more.
  • Get my overdraft paid off and move to the Co-operative bank
  • Find a use for thrown away items that are useable- see the value in everything!
  • Make and fix stuff before buying new
  • Use free cycle
  • Give thanks!! Show appreciation for all the stuff I receive- make cards and presents more!
  • Start a project in Swansea- but what?

Okay so that just about does it for now. I have been back in Swansea for just over a week and here is a list of my achievements.

  • Started baking my own bread using the much neglected bread maker
  • Bought organic dried food from the local health shop in Swansea Market
  • Bought local veg, honey and bread at the Local Produce market in Sketty (1st Saturday of the month).
  • Started a sourdough starter mix inspired by our talk by Andrew Whitely at Bread Matters (click here)
  • Foraged for blackberries and made a mountain of blackberry and apple jam
  • Decided to make apple peel wine from peelings left over from jam making.
  • Asked for and received 4 x 15litre containers from The Kardomah Cafe in town which also turned out to be my new supplier of fair trade, organic, forest alliance coffee beans.
  • Used one container for wine making- other three could be used for bulk food storage or growing veg in.
  • Asked for and received 12 x wine bottles and corks from La Parilla so I can bottle my wine- if it’s any good they only want to know the recipe in return for the bottles.
  • Showed thanks to the guys at Urban Cyclery by making vegan tahini cookies and a rubbish card (card made from rubbish).
  • Did all my shopping by bike
  • Did a wood cruise in the car looking for wood suitable for making a shelf. We got a shelfing unit and a shelf with brackets- so expectations were exceeded by the kindness of strangers yet again.
  • Got a free hair cut  from my regular hair dressers (well I only wanted a trim at the back) so my hairdresser did it for me in about 5 mins and in return I bought him cupcakes from the new (locally owned) cupcake shop in the market.
  • Researched bulk dry foods online from Survival Wholefoods
  • Got eggs from a friend who keeps chickens
  • placed an order with a local organic veg box scheme who also deliver milk cheese and butter from an Organic Welsh co-operative of dairy farmers and welsh flour.

Anyway that is definitely enough for now and I’ll update the blog whenever I think there is something noteworthy happening in the local area or I’ve had a particularly good or bad experience in trying to achieve the ideals I’ve listed here. Thanks for taking the time to read this blog. Any questions will be welcomed.

Over and out- Ellie :)