Friday, 29 September 2017

You like tomayto, I like tomahto...

Back in the summer something joyous occurred. Our local supermarket was selling tinned tomatoes for 10p a tin. 

They weren't dented and the best-before date was not impending. Word on the check-out  was that Globe tomatoes were a discontinued line and the Co-op was trying to shift them quickly. Naturally we were keen to help in the process. 

For a week it appeared that either we were the only ones aware of this incredible discount, or the supply of tomatoes was endless. As fast as we were loading up our cycle panniers and bags, the shelves were being replenished. We began doing crazy calculations to work out how many tinned tomatoes we eat in a year, or a decade, and wondering whether we could buy a lifetime's supply. Even though it's not difficult to multiply by 10p, I would still gasp with surprise when 20 tins trundled along the conveyor belt and the check-out assistant really did only ask for £2.00.


A small selection of my tinned tomahto collection


In the end we didn't hoard a lifetime's supply, and eventually the supply dried up. But we do still have a LOT of tomatoes  in the cupboard. 

And strangely enough (or maybe not so strangely), because they're there, our tomato consumption has gone up. I would never have imagined this happening, but I've fallen in love with tinned tomatoes on toast; gently heated and with a drizzle of chilli oil on top, or some marmite beneath, they're quite palatable.

And then there are all the usual uses - pasta sauces and bakes, curries, slow cooker dishes...

But is there some wonderful tomato dish that I haven't thought of? What's your favourite thing to do with tinned tomatoes? And what kind of a tinned tomato person are you - plum or chopped?! And crucially: tomayto or tomahto?!

Tinned tomato facts:

  • They are one of the best sauces sources of the carotenoid pigment lycopene which some studies suggest helps prevent prostate, lung and stomach cancer.
  • Tomatoes are an exception to the rule that food loses micronutrients when it is heated - the lycopene in tomatoes is better absorbed when heated.
  • They contain bone strengthening vitamin K.
  • And antioxidants vitamins C and E, which are beneficial in preventing heart disease.
  • One half cup of tinned tomatoes provides 20% of the daily recommended value of vitamin C.
  • Tinned tomatoes count towards your 5 a day.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Puzzling it out.

We haven't had a jigsaw puzzle on the blog before. That's a real oversight, surely? Frugal (they're two-a-penny in charity shops), low-tech, mindful - what's not to like? Hmmm, maybe boring, pointless and frustrating to some...

We don't do puzzles very often but we I enjoyed this one which was a Christmas present. An aerial view of our town with our house on it. The giver described it as 'fiendishly difficult' and that 'team work' would be required. 



Difficult indeed - although at approximately 255 pieces not impossible. As for the teamwork, most of my team deserted me, deciding they'd got better things to do; even the cats. Me? I'm pleased with the end result. In fact, I think it needs preserving. Has anyone got any tips on framing a puzzle - I'm still puzzling it out.



The puzzle was produced by a company called Butler and Hill, who have lots of happy mappy gift ideas on their website. But this blog post wasn't sponsored by them.

How about you - jigsaw puzzle lover or hater? 

Friday, 8 September 2017

More jam musings on Food Waste Friday...

Back in 2014, I thought I'd written all that needed to be written on jam making. And the helpful comments on my jammy blog post just completed the picture.  (It's here if you want to read it).

A couple of weeks ago I thought about that blog post. I seemed to remember that there were some comments about making jam in a slow cooker. So I did.

We only harvested a small amount of damsons this year; enough to make three and a half jars of jam. Quality, not quantity. I think it was a good batch - not too sweet (a ratio of half sugar to fruit), not too runny, not too firm. 

I was so pleased that I'd remembered the slow cooker tip. I made the method up as I went along - pop the fruit in the slow cooker with a sploosh of water, and forget about it. At some point, when the fruit is looking jammy, add the sugar and forget about it again until it's bubbling away and looking even more jammy. Then jar it up. Job done.

It worked so well that once I'd finished I decided I ought to go back to the original blog post and comments just to check I'd done it correctly.  To my surprise slow cookers do not feature in that blog post anywhere...I must have got confused with making jam in a breadmaker (which is mentioned a couple of times) or read it somewhere else.

Whatever. I'm sticking with my new method, and dealing with a small crop of autumn raspberries in the same way! (That's the Food Waste Friday* part - averting a mouldy raspberry situation).



I'd love to know if anyone else has made slow cooker jam - I doubt that I've come up with a new idea!

* Food Waste Friday was originally created by the Frugal Girl, and continues to be hosted by Simply Being Mum. Each week people track their food waste in order to commit to wasting less and using up more food. In the past I've been a food waste tracker, and at the end of Zero Waste Week 2017, it's time to get back on board!

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Stuffocated

A while back I listened to the audiobook of Stuffocation. (It's been out for a couple of years so I'm behind the curve as usual).If it's possible to be stuffocated by a book, then I have to confess, Stuffocation did stuffocate me a little. Mainly because it's unabridged and is so thorough in articulating its thesis. Namely, that too much stuff is bad for us - our physical and mental health - and bad for the planet. And that it would be better if, rather than being consumers or materialists, we became 'Experientialists', valuing experiences over things.

Image result for Stuffocation audio book

The book begins by exploring how and why we have become so stuffocated and looks at the darker sides of too much clutter. It then looks at real people living less stuffocated lives, with some very detailed case studies of minimalists, those who have chosen a lifestyle of voluntary simplicity, or a 'medium chill' philosophy (still working but not relentlessly pursuing the rungs of the career ladder). 

Whether you take one of those routes or not, Wallman recommends de-stuffocating to begin taking steps away from materialism - getting rid of stuff, making sure you don't re-stuffocate (perhaps that's where my de-stuffocating goes wrong), and playing a version of the 'Brewsters Millions' game, where you spend what you'd normally spend per month and see if you can do so without having anything to show for it. (I.e. you'll have spent your money on experiences not stuff.)

Although I couldn't see myself in many of the case studies and sometimes the writing style jarred, I like Wallman's premise. Whilst the concept itself is not a new idea, maybe his re-packaging might attract a different audience; one who wouldn't necessarily be interested in minimalism or simple living.

7 Habits of Highly Effective Experientialists...from Stuffocation by James Wallman

1) Know your stuff - How often do you use your stuff? How much do you need? Does it make you happy or cause you stress, debt or even depression?

2) Find your Ladder - be lower on a ladder to somewhere you want to be, rather than at the top of a ladder that you don't want to be on.

3) Be Here Now - Be in the zone or 'flow' 

4) Be your own audience - Do things that you'd do even if no-one was watching (via social media). Don't take pics.

5) Put People First - Don't forget that humans are social animals. Ask yourself, "how might I do this with others?"

6) Spend well - be mindful of what you buy. Are you contributing to the throw-away culture. Focus on experiential products (things that will bring experiences like a bike or a guitar).

7) Choose Life/Choose Experience (rather than being a human cog in the wheel of materialism...)
What do you think?

Visit Stuffocation.com for more - quizzes, the blog, videos etc.


Friday, 2 June 2017

National Fish and Chip Day! Frugally.

Supposedly it's National Fish and Chip Day today. Got to get on board with celebrating that one!

But the cost of fish and chips for four from the chippy can add up. A nice treat if you're by the seaside on holiday, but we're not. We're a long way from the sea, and it's raining.

We've having frugal fish and chips - £1.40 for a packet of 12 fish fingers, 33p for homemade potato wedges (parboiled and baked), 30p for some reduced butternut squash, and 20p for some frozen sweetcorn. I think that's less than the price of one portion of fish and chips...and possibly a little bit healthier?



Monday, 25 July 2016

Five things we love about Airbnb

I had never heard of Airbnb until just over a year ago when an acquaintance mentioned they had used the website to find somewhere to stay in France. Perhaps I'd been living under a rock* or something up to that point, because then it started popping up everywhere...Several of the frugal blogs mentioned Airbnb in passing, as if it was already a word in the Oxford English Dictionary that had been in common parlance for years. A friend came to stay and told me all about renting out her spare bedroom. And it's featured in the media a lot over the last year - the Airbnb'ers who throw wild parties in rented apartments and make life a misery for the neighbours, the insurance and tax implications for hosts, and Airbnb as part of the rise of the sharing economy.

Last summer we were after some accommodation in Devon for part of a week, after staying with family. If you've ever tried to find holiday accommodation in Devon in August for an unusual amount of time i.e. not a full week, it's tricky. Accommodation is at peak price and peak demand. You can probably see where I'm going with this...Yes, I found myself on the Airbnb website, and lo and behold, booked accommodation for four, for half a week, and it didn't cost an arm and a leg.

Since then we've used Airbnb for a bargain break in Lille, France, for a few days, and I nearly used it for an overnight stay in Bristol although I later cancelled the booking, which unintentionally gave me the chance to test out Airbnb's cancellation process.

I suppose you could say we're Airbnb converts. Especially as we've not had any negative experiences. What, therefore, are our favourite Airbnb things?

1) The relationship with the hosts - I guess they're out to get good ratings from their guests, but all our Airbnb hosts have been a pleasure to deal with via email and in real life. The host in Devon deserves a bonus for giving us the chance to feed her Alpacas, whilst the host in France gets extra points for tolerating my attempts to practise my rusty French on her. The Bristol host (whom I never met in person) was also admirable in returning my payment when I cancelled. (I didn't meet the criteria for a partial, let alone a full refund, so this was totally unexpected but much appreciated).


Friendly Airbnb Host and Alpacas
2) You get to see parts that other b'n'bs cannot reach...the slightly rough around the edges or residential parts that wouldn't normally attract a b'n'b. In France this meant that we stuck out like sore thumbs in the local boulangerie and supermarket, but this was a good thing because we got to chat with the locals who wanted to know where these weird English people had sprung up from and what we were doing there. 

3) You can get a good idea of the accommodation and the hosts from the website. For us, this has meant we are able to bypass places where it looks as if you would have to tread on egg shells or incur a hefty cleaning fee (not that we'd be throwing wild parties or anything) and are able to go for places that are more of a home from home i.e. practical and non-deluxe but comfortable. And therefore, relatively cheap. France was the cheapest of all - £37 per night for a whole, large, lovely appartment.

4) There is something appealing in the ethos of the sharing economy - using what's already there rather than consuming 'new' feels more sustainable. However the sharing economy isn't necessarily sustainable - as users we have to make it such. (And in fact there is an argument that the likes of Uber and Airbnb are anything but sustainable and are in fact part of a neoliberal, tax-evading, unregulated private sector...)

5) The website is super easy to use, even for a non-techy like me, and in all cases the hosts have responded really quickly.

So for now, based on our minimal experience, Airbnb gets a cautious thumbs up from us. How about you, have you got any Airbnb stories to share?

* If you, like under-a-rock dwelling me, have ever wondered what Airbnb is all about, here's an overview (taken from the BT website) : "Airbnb is an online marketplace which lets people rent out their properties or spare rooms to guests. Airbnb takes 3% commission of every booking from hosts, and between 6% and 12% from guests. There’s plenty of criteria to list for/search a property: from a shared room to an entire house, to having a swimming pool to having a washing machine. There are photos of the property, and the hosts/guests, with full map listing."

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Elizabeth's Footprints


Wallace and Gromit's Grand Appeal which fundraises for the Bristol Children's Hospital, has long been a charity we like to support. (I blogged about why it is so close to our hearts here). Over the last year and a half we have once again benefited from the expertise of its staff, so earlier this year, when a friend alerted me to the story of one woman's incredible fundraising efforts, 'Elizabeth's Footprint', for the Grand Appeal, I was only too happy to dip into my pocket and support her.



Natalia Spencer is walking around the entire coast of England, Scotland and Wales, in memory of her daughter Elizabeth, who died suddenly and unexpectedly from a life-threatening condition called HLH, at the hospital last November. 

It's a moving and inspiring story on several counts. For a start, embarking on a year-long walk of that length is not a light undertaking in itself. And then to add to the challenge by setting a fundraising goal of £100,000...(£30,000 raised so far). But really, all of that pales into insignificance if you imagine walking so far, and fundraising, and blogging about it, whilst at the same time grieving for your five year old daughter. In fact, I just can't imagine. To me, that seems to require a superhuman amount of strength and courage.

But Natalia is doing it as a way of focusing her energy positively. If you follow her Facebook blog, there are moments of enormous pain and sadness, but somehow she continues to put one foot in front of another. There are also heartwarming moments that restore your faith in humanity. People she meets along the way show enormous kindness - providing food, accommodation and companionship. Inevitably she also meets others for whom her journey resonates deeply because of their own losses. Some people have been so touched by her story that they are actively seeking her out and walking with her.

The walk started (and will end) at Durdle Door in Dorset, and is moving in a clockwise direction, with Natalia currently located in West Scotland, heading towards Glasgow.

I know that there are so many deserving causes crying out for attention all of the time, but if you felt able to then there are many ways of supporting Natalia - from simply reading her blog and being with her in spirit, making a small donation, or buying her a hot drink if you are near her route, to walking with her for part of her journey or even putting her up for the night.

Follow her story on Facebook here or via her website here.


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