When being Zero Waste & Minimalist has to go out the window, temporarily.

I’ve experienced a sudden and unexpected period of ill-health this week and it is set to continue for a week or two more. I’ve suddenly encountered some of the pitfalls of the Zero Waste and Minimalist lifestyle.

  1. First up, although I cook everything from scratch – I instantly regretted the lack of more convenient meal options in my freezer. It’s not even that we would resort to ready-meals, but just a frozen pizza, or portions of Shepherd’s pie or similar would have been fantastic. OK, so often we would have portions of things stashed away. But it just so happened that we’d eaten things down since New Year, partly because I’d been ill then too and partly in preparation for our recent holiday. It had helped us save money too. My husband is not adept at cooking and unfortunately most of my recipes are kept in my head. I’ve been cooking from scratch for so long now, that I just know what to do, off by heart. A Minimalist freezer does not assist much in such circumstances!
  2. Thank goodness for internet shopping! This enabled me to get some easy-to cook options back in the freezer & cupboards quickly and without needing to rope in someone else to do my shopping. Downsides are that our shopping bill just about doubled, plus there’s the added expense of a delivery charge unless you’re going to spend a small fortune. Also a lot of these things are not just over-priced but also over-packaged. But, I am afraid needs must when it comes down to eating or not eating at all. Other annoyances include that despite requesting my shopping came with no bags, all the loose fruit & vegetables I’d chosen arrived in little plastic bags. Alongside all the meat items being individually enclosed in little plastic bags and then all the frozen items being put in a large carrier bag. I don’t understand why people do that! I mean, the containers they put meat in are pretty robust, I’ve never ever had one leak on me. And anyway, unfortunately everything else is also so well-packaged that’s there’s next to no reason to think anything would get contaminated. The frozen items wouldn’t have harmed anything else, if they had touched. It’s not as if a little wetness wouldn’t dry.  I had to rely on supermarket meat rather than a trip to a local butcher with my own containers. Supermarket meat is vastly inferior in taste and quality (and probably welfare too!)
  3. A family member kindly did buy us a few ready-meals as a very thoughtful gesture, seeing as they live too far away to help in person. I’m extremely grateful for them in my current situation, but it does generate a whole lot of plastic waste which we wouldn’t normally have.
  4. I’ve also had to buy medical supplies in an emergency which I had to send a family member to get. This meant that they ended up purchasing a plastic carrier bag because we really were caught out and they wanted to easily carry the items, plus maintain some privacy around the items that had to be purchased. Normally I’d always have a cloth bag to hand, but not when I’ve been rushed to A&E! Then I required a prescription which another family member went to get and it seems to be customary now to be handed your prescription in a little plastic carrier bag. I remember when they used to use paper! I’m sure they’ll say it’s for privacy reasons also. Cue – more unexpected expense, especially as you can’t always guarantee the best price when you’re buying things like this. But needs must!
  5. The medical supplies consequently generated more landfill waste as they are the type of disposable items, that involve some level of plastic and need to be changed and disposed of frequently.
  6. Currently, when I’d normally walk I’m having to take the car instead which also causes extra expense and pollution. I’m not able to do as much as I normally would which means my trips are also less efficient. But I know that all of this is only temporary and really, what else can you do in an unexpected, emergency situation? Life happens, but I still find it a little frustrating as it feels like all your best efforts can go out of the window so quickly.

How to Recover from Holiday Spending Using Your Phone

 

Did you find yourself spending a little more than you had anticipated over the Holidays?It’s easy to do, especially when you want to give all your friends and family the perfect gifts. Well today I have an easy way for you to recover from your holiday spending from the convenience of your mobile phone.

Swagbucks is the web’s most popular rewards program that gives you free gift cards and cash for the everyday things you already do online. My regular readers will know about this, since I write about them often as they are my main online earning opportunity. I am certain that there are still plenty of you reading this who haven’t yet taken the plunge and signed up!

Whenever you shop, watch videos or search the web, Swagbucks gives you points called SB. You can use your SB to redeem gift cards to hundreds of your favorite stores. With the Swagbucks mobile site, answer and SBTV apps I can use my spare minutes to earn free gift cards on my phone! I leave the apps below running when I’m home and on Wi-Fi. So my phone is earning, whilst I get on with my life! Like the Swagbucks website; I can also rack up SB by shopping, answering surveys and downloading free apps.

Here are some quick tips to get your started:

  • While you wait for the coffee to brew, download free games and other apps through the Discover tab: 20 SB
  • During commercial breaks, take a featured survey or fill out your survey profile: 60-100 SB, and sometimes more!
  • While standing in line at the supermarket, answer the daily poll: 1 SB
  • When you’ve finally made it to the gym, watch style, tech and celeb news through the SBTV app: 2 SB for every 10 videos
  • Just as you’ve put dinner in the oven, your Swagbucks app tells you there’s a new Swag Code!: 3 SB
  • Before you go to sleep, use the Swagbucks app to shop from your favorite stores. You deserve it!: 100 SB

By downloading the Swagbucks mobile apps, I could earn a free £5 gift card by the end of my week. Who knew playing on your phone could be so productive?!    There are 6 apps:

  1. SBTV
  2. Sportly
  3. Lifestylz
  4. EntertaiNow
  5. MovieClips
  6. IndyMusic

So you can instantly start earning your way to free gift cards. It’s 100% free to download and easy to use. They are all available for both iPhone and Android devices. They often give out bonus rounds too, so there are extra earning opportunities. It really is a case of the little things soon add up.

False Advertising

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What’s with all the Christmas advertising this year regarding having your best Christmas ever?! It seems worse than usual to me, it’s the mainstay of several UK stores campaigns. Wilko’s tagline is “Bring home your best Christmas”. Asda’s tagline is “Christmas made better”. Swarovski are saying that you must ‘give brilliant’. Since when did stores get so arrogant? I’m all for retailers helping you to achieve ‘Christmas’, after all we all want to buy a little special food to celebrate the day. We may wish to buy a few gifts, or experiences. That’s what makes Christmas different from every other day of the year. But it’s this year I’ve really noticed them piling on the pressure for people to buy more and more. Maybe it’s just that I’ve got fresh eyes now I’m further down the road on my minimalist journey.

In fact the only retailer I’ve seen peddling a different message is Sainsbury’s, who are pioneering an advertising campaign centred on a harassed dad who’s trying to find his family ‘the greatest gifts’. It ends when he discovers the greatest gift he could give anyone is his time. It’s refreshingly different, even if I find the song that accompanies it rather irritating. At the end of the day, a huge part of Christmas is meeting up with people you love and sharing a meal. I think that is a truly great thing – sharing conversation, food, laughter, a few silly hats and a walk in the afternoon.

But, Christmas IS just another day – albeit a special day – but it doesn’t need to be perfect, you don’t need to keep ‘besting’ last year and no amount of stuff, including food is going to stop the odd family argument. After all, you’re probably going to be couped up with these people for a few days! So relax, enjoy it for what it is and take it as it comes. Happy Christmas Everyone!

Make the Most of Supermarket Vouchers

I don’t know about you, but at this time of year I find that the supermarkets are desperate to compete for my business. I have been deluged in vouchers and coupons by email, post and in-store all trying to get me to do my Christmas shopping with a particular retailer. I will use these coupons to my advantage and here’s how you can too.

  • Make sure you take a calculator to the shop with you, so that you just meet the threshold spend. This means you get the full value of the coupon.
  • Look on MySupermarket before you go and compare prices on the items on your shopping list. Make sure you’re buying them at the shop with the best offer.
  • Combine this with money-saving shopping apps, like Shopitize, Clicksnap, Shopinium and CheckoutSmart. This way you can either get an item for free with the app, or at a further discount PLUS you are getting the shop’s discount on top! Even better if it’s a store that gives loyalty points too. You could even spend some of your points and possibly get your shopping for free, or even by getting them to pay you to take goods away. (Yes, it does happen – I’ve done it myself on occasion). Stacking offers like this is the way to go!
  • Take the opportunity to stock up on essentials, if they are on offer. The shops want you to buy over-priced Christmas goodies, but hopefully being a minimalist, zero waste, money-saving type you are going to make these from scratch yourself and save a small fortune! So, take this opportunity to stock up on loo roll, mouthwash or whatever else you can get a good deal on and stash in the cupboard for next year.

For example, the last time I bought 4 pints of milk at Waitrose – they gave me a £6 off a £30 spend voucher printed from the till. Alongside some everyday items that we needed, I picked up 36 loo rolls. I basically got 16 of these for free and they were on a 2 for £7 offer which is the best price I know they are ever on sale for anyway. So I got a sweet deal here. At the till, they printed £8 off a £40 spend. Yes, they’ve upped the threshold but it’s still a pretty decent discount. If you’re shopping at Waitrose – tweak your ‘pick your own offers‘ and on top of the voucher, you can save 20% on those items. Check the internet for manufacturer coupons too, so you can save on certain products. Again, make sure you check MySupermarket and use them wisely, in the right store. If a product is already discounted, you can often take it away for FREE!

I absolutely hate going round the shops the nearer it gets to Christmas, so I am using this part of the month to stock on essentials like shampoo, tea bags, coffee, loo roll and so on. This way, I needn’t go near the shops for a couple of months at least! Fill your freezer, if you have space but make sure you leave room for any Christmas bits.

Look out for on-line only shopping vouchers too – I’ve been emailed a stack of these too. However they have MUCH higher threshold spends which are probably going to be too much for me (like £10 off £100 and that isn’t such a good deal, but better than none). They would be great for families though, or if you have a lot of visitors over the festive period.

Lastly, don’t over-stretch yourself! Make sure you have enough cash left to pay for Christmas. Maybe use your credit card to your advantage, but ONLY if you can afford to pay it off IN FULL when it becomes due.

Zero Waste, Recycled and Free Storage

We have recently reorganised our lounge and I needed somewhere to store my sheet music. I was going to go and buy some of those magazine storage files, since we rarely eat cereal we don’t have boxes that I could cut down. Besides, when I’ve tried that in the past – they were not heavyweight enough to cope. I was in a large supermarket recently looking for said storage options and they didn’t have any. Then I noticed that all of their products were being displayed in the ideal cardboard storage options. Exactly what I was looking to buy, except these were mine to take for free! I located a product of a similar size to my sheet music – A4 notebooks in this case and re-arranged their shelves for them a little 😉 There is no question that these would have gone straight into recycling and so I have saved that waste from occurring because I could use these in their current state.

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I’d like to say that I’ll be covering them – I could do something really clever with some old sheet music. But I know that it’s unlikely I’ll bother – they’re doing exactly what I need right now and for free!

Shopped- The Shocking Power of British Supermarkets

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I’ve just finished reading this book- SHOPPED: The Shocking Power of British Supermarkets

– it’s been on my reading list for years and I spotted it in a charity shop! I wish I’d read it sooner, it was eye-opening. It has a lot of points that are relevant to becoming Zero Waste or Minimalist. I’d encourage you to read it, but I will try to give a flavour of it here.

One of the things which I knew a small amount about, was the buying practices of the supermarkets. But here, you can read about it- in all its horrifying detail. Waste is built into the supermarket system. They specify produce by size and weight and all that doesn’t meet specification is destined to be wasted. Even though it is perfectly good food. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall was amongst one of the high profile people who highlighted this last year. Most of the reason they specify this, it because they want produce- for example, apples, to fit neatly into their plastic packaging.

All of the so-called offers you get at supermarkets, are usually funded by the suppliers themselves. Even though they know that it won’t gain them loyal customers, as British shoppers are so accustomed to moving onto the next ‘deal’. They are powerless to do anything about it, or they will be de-listed by the supermarkets. Since the majority of people do all their shopping at the supermarket, this could be catastrophic for the supplier. However, supermarkets are aiming to deal with less and less suppliers, as they streamline their systems to make the most profit. This means suppliers are going out of business anyway.

In their drive to reduce their costs, they do not care about quality- they just care about appearance. They want the fruit and veg they buy to sit on the shelf for days on end, looking just as pristine as day 1 when it was harvested. They have even developed particular varieties of fruit and vegetable, that have nothing to do with their superior taste and everything to do with their appearance. For example, Elsanta strawberries have no flavour, but are very firm and hence won’t get bashed around in transit. Furthermore, they encourage the use of way more chemical pesticides than farmers think healthy just to keep up this specification. Supermarkets don’t really support local produce, hence so many areas of the UK are facing the extinction of local varieties and dishes. They just don’t fit into the mass production model.

I have been shifting a lot of my spending to independents in trying to go Zero Waste. I aim to buy all my fruit and veg from my local green grocers now. Although occasionally I run out of carrots or something like that, but I can still buy these loose in the supermarkets if need be. But after reading this book, I want to try and shift all my spending. We’ve virtually cut out 75% of meat from our diet lately, partly for health reasons and partly for cost. But when we do buy meat, we try to use our local butcher. He also sells local, free range eggs. I am trying to find a local fishmonger, but it seems that they are all but extinct. We have a great local health food store where I can buy all kinds of loose dried fruits and nuts. They also sell locally milled flour and lots of other groceries. I will aim to spend more with them, although it will undoubtedly cost us more and we don’t have an infinite budget. However I feel so much happier knowing I am supporting the livelihood of local people and they are not part of the wasteful supermarket system.

Over to you, where do you do the majority of your shopping? Do you still have the option of independents?