Green Thursday: recycling, regifting

Long term readers would know I’m on a constant mission to declutter. Trying to declutter without adding everything to landfill is hard.

Op shops are closed at the moment even so, I often worry how much of the really good clothes I put in a clothing bin actually make it on shelves of the op shop.

What I prefer to do is offer friends or colleagues first dibs.

Before lockdown, I offered a friend a quick look at things I was going to donate. She took a couple of items. In return she gave me a Sheridan bedspread, in excellent condition. It has been acquisitioned by my oldest boy who needed a warmer bed cover as we moved into winter. (His doona stays on his bed in our house.) Win, win all round.

The same friend gave me several items that were glamorous aunt’s. Look! An Armani jacket.

I’ve joined a local Buy Nothing Facebook site. It’s a freecycle group, the slight difference is that you need to be local.

I like the concepts of passing things on and keeping it local.

I also like the idea of giving things a new life, giving them to someone who will use them rather that having the items taking up space in my home, unused. Or worse, going to landfill.

Several people have suggested I sell, or try to sell, the items I want to declutter on Marketplace.

I’ve resisted that. Not only can I not be bothered with all the fuss of taking photos and posting and dealing with people who will haggle and maybe not even turn up, but I like the karma that comes with this site.

I have gifted away things big (like a squatters chair which the recipient fixed up$ and small (garden hose attachments)

I have been gifted a nearly new queen bed and a vintage plant stand. The former I was about to buy, at a cost of hundreds, for the “new” guest room; the latter I have been looking for for ages. So happy.

Vegan-ish cooking

This fortnight I have been cooking dinners from Jackie Norman and Gareth Scurr’s Easy and Delicious Vegan Recipes for Busy People, although I have been un-veganfying the recipes with cheese and yoghurt and real milk.

OK, I’ve just been cooking vegetarian meals. But I like the terms unveganfying vegan meals or veganish cooking.

I like vegetarian food. I like the lower impact on the environment. If you want to do something for the environment, and you eat meat, cut out a red meat dinner each week. You’ll lower your carbon emissions by quite a bit.

I also like that I am not inflicting suffering on animals.

But the main reason I like vegetarian foods is: I like the flavour. But not vegan. Nothing beats milk and cheese and yoghurt.

I often go for the vegetarian options at lunches. People often comment, “I didn’t know you are vegetarian!” I’m not. Just prefer it.

I do like some meat. Roast lamb. Yum. An occasional piece of salty ham. Prawns. Mmmm. Roast pork. Occasionally. Not a fan of most pieces of chicken. While I often eat butter chicken, I normally only eat the sauce with a piece of naan, leaving the pieces of chicken for Mr S. I do like the skin off a roast chook. Not so much the meat.

Some of my meat-free choices might make little sense. I hate meat on my pizzas. Except for a few prawns. Spag Bol with meat is horrific. Makes me gag. But I can eat savoury mince. I hate tofu. It also makes me gag. Blurgh.

I’ve been following Jackie and Gareth on FB for a while – they sold up and have been living a minimalist life in a van driving around NZ. When they released a vegan cookbook, I thought it might not be released in Australia. Luckily it has been and my library had a copy.

First dish I made was their Ye Olde Family Chilli. Very similar to my own brew but they add tinned lentils and cocoa powder. Once cooked up, it really looked like meat. Not that I needed it to look like meat, but if sons come it might be good to fool them. I jazzed up our bowls, or loaded them up, with corn kernels, yoghurt, grated cheese, sweet chilli sauce and corn chips. My cheese and yoghurt additions are the non-vegan additions.

This was a winner!

Second dish was lasagne. Similar to my recipe, more so because I won’t use non-milk options to make white sauce and have to use real cheese.

I adapted their Man Flu Minestrone. What made it the BEST EVER minestrone was my addition of a piece of Parmesan. A rind with a bit of cheese still in it. OMG. Devine.

Also adapted their cauliflower curry. I tossed in some Nigella seeds and cardamom pods. Went down a treat. This was vegan. I was going to add yoghurt but it was off.

As well as being yummy, cutting the meat makes for cheaper meals. Which is lucky because I spent a bit on chocolate for Easter. 🐣

What to do with bubble bath you don’t want to bathe in?

Remember I wrote about the bubble bath I bought in Germany? The one I had fond memories of? The one that wasn’t as I remembered it?

I just can’t stand having a bubble bath with it.

But I can’t abide the waste of tossing it.

It’s not the cost. After all, it only cost a few euros. It’s the environmental cost. The cost of manufacturing. And the cost of tipping it out.

So what to do?

Turn it into foaming handwash. That’s what.

If you have a foaming handwash pump container, don’t toss them. Dilute normal handwash. About one fifth handwash and four-fifths water. Yes, those foaming handwashes are mostly water. Given that normal liquid handwash is mostly water too, the foaming handwash is even more mostlier water, the mostest water, even more mostly?

If it doesn’t come out foaming, but kind of sloppy, the trick is to dilute some more.

Don’t be paying those detergent companies extra dollars for water. Dilute your own.

I still can’t stand the scent of the repurposed bubble bath. And it sticks around on the hands, but what to do? I will use it up, that’s what.

Every time I touch my face (I know, I know, I shouldn’t be doing that) I smell nostalgia, nostalgia one step removed, nostalgia not quite right.

And I get to be frugal, thrifty and do a little bit for the environment.

ONE easy thing you can do to help the environment right now

This post is inspired by Fiona’s posts on the environment. The idea is directly taken from the recent BBC David Attenborough documentary.

On the documentary, they give this step which will make a direct impact on the amount of green house gases you put out.

Happily, it will also save you money.

And you can do it without changing your lifestyle. No ashes and sack cloth.

One easy thing to do is use all the food you buy and cook.

OK, it may involve a little change of practice and a little planning.

When grocery shopping, I don’t put things in the trolley out of habit. Unfortunately Mr S doesn’t look in our fridge or cupboard for what we already have before he shops, so often buys stuff we already hav. While he plans our meals, he often over buys stuff, like tonnes more grapes than we can eat before they go off.

We do eat most of our leftovers – for lunch, if I’m lucky. With two grown male offspring, leftovers are often gone – as midnight snacks, breakfasts, afternoon snacks, after dinner suppers.

However, we do toss a bit. Food put in the fridge for later and then pushed to the back and forgotten. Fruit that goes off, especially once it is a little over-ripe, it gets left to fully go off. Cheese bought and not eaten. Veggies mouldering in the bottom of the fridge.

The Chaser’s War on Waste said the average Australian family throw away $3,500 of food every year.

Imagine if your share stayed in your pocket? That’s a good holiday!

And by not having food waste, you will make a contribution to the environment.

My new mini-challenge is to not throw out any food. Fruit tends to be my worst area.

Stay tuned for how I go in this challenge.

In the week since drafting this, I have thrown out some raspberries. They were off in the container in the fridge.

And an end of bread that had gone mouldy.

And some grapes. And some yoghurt that Dirty Boy put in a bowl to eat but then didn’t want to – he is very sick and hasn’t been eating. After he breathed on it, no way would I save the food.

The raspberries and grapes end up in our work farm. Still there was a lot of energy consumed in the product, processing, transportation and storage of these products.

How’s this for clean?

Subtitled: Saving for a whole year off – income cut, not lifestyle cut 8

Maybe it is because my eyes are not as good as they used to be or maybe it is truly amazing.

Look how clean my shower screen is:

You can hardly see it, right? If it wasn’t for the knob, you wouldn’t know there was a screen!

Wanna know my secret?

Inside I use cheap shampoo while I am having a shower. Shampoo takes off all the soap scum but it’s gentle on your skin. No worrying about bleach or caustic chemicals. And you can do it while you’re having a shower.

Money saving tip 8: use cheap shampoo to clean shower screens and bathroom basins. You’ll love the scent, sparkle, cost saving and gentleness on your skin.

Use the power of the sunlight

Subtitled: Saving for a whole year off – income cut, not lifestyle cut tip number 7

The Hills Hoist is among the greatest Aussie domestic appliances. It may not be the most attractive garden item, but I can’t stand it when TV garden make-over shows remove it; on both green and practicality principles. How will families dry their washing?

The sun dries my clothes for free; disinfects and removes stains on white clothes. I think clothes smell much nicer when line dried. Towels are crisper. Sheets straight from the line onto the bed are so crisp and fresh. All round it is a winner. So why would you pay to dry clothes and give up those benefits?

Money saving tip no 7: dry your clothes outside on the line.

We rarely use our clothes dryer. It was bought when we lived in the almost tropical north, 21 years ago when The Dreamer was born. We used cloth nappies, greenies that we were/are. Problem is, it rained for three months, non stop. Nothing dried. So we bought a clothes drier.

Back in much dryer Sydney, we only use our dryer when we have wet spells or, rarely, to finish off the clothes that have mainly dried on the line but are caught out in the dew when we work late.

Delicates and black clothes are dried hanging inside so they don’t perish or fade but for all others I would feel so guilty using the dryer. Paying for something I don’t need to; using energy and adding to carbon emissions for something that can be avoided.

What size scoop? 

Subtitled: Saving for a whole year off – income cut, not lifestyle cut tip number 6

You may have noticed that every Tuesday I have been posting my money saving tips. Our ways to save without impacting on our lifestyle are generally the lazy way out or the easy guide to saving. Little things that don’t take much effort. Things that can become routine and thus don’t involve much thought. They also tend to be environmentally beneficial, which is generally why I put them into place.

So onto my next tip.

I’m not really the world’s best housekeeper. I like a clean and tidy house, I just don’t have time nor inclination to clean much. 

Friends and family say I should get a cleaner. Been there, done that. One did an awesome job. But she got pregnant, damn her. (Only joking!) The others did really bodgy jobs. I resented paying for something not done properly. 

I’m just too tight-arsed now to pay for a cleaner. Even if I could be bothered finding one I was happy with, I’d rather spend my money on travel and our mortgage and clothes and our year off. 

I still sort of keep clean house, well not really, but I am quite fastidious with my clothes. So here’s one of my money saving tips around cleaning clothes. 

Again, this is not a new tip for this year on 80% of our income. Still, it’s one that allows us to save money where it doesn’t make an impact on our life but allows us to spend on things we like. And while it might be pennies, take care of the pennies and … blah blah blah you know the rest.

Tip number 6: Use less detergent than they say on the package to wash your clothes.  

You don’t need a full scoop to clean your clothes. I buy the top quality clothes detergent, mostly when it is on special. I don’t use pre-stain removers, except sometimes on white clothes. I don’t use a full scoop of detergent. Ever. Half a scoop is enough. Three-quarters if the clothes are really dirty.

Having an outstanding brand of washing machine (Miele), the best detergent and drying clothes in the sun means, in the main, stains and marks disappear. (Except for wool but that’s not going to change as you can’t bleach knitted clothes anyway.)

OK, we’re not mechanics or working in environments where are clothes getting really filthy. But then neither do most people. 

Really, you don’t need much of any product to clean anything – sinks, cupboards, door frames, floors. The water and rubbing gets rid of most dirt. Any detergent really does the same job. So buy fewer products all round and use less of it. Most liquid cleaning products are mainly water anyway. And scent. 

If you don’t believe me, here’s what Choice, the Australian Consumer Advocacy group says:

How much laundry detergent should I use?

Depending on which laundry detergent you choose, you may be able to use half (yes, half!) the recommended dose and still get a great wash, saving yourself money and giving the environment a bit of a break. In the past we’ve tested top performing laundry detergents and they performed just as well on all stains at half the recommended dose, while others performed well at half the dose on several types of stains. While we can’t test every dose variation, treat the dosing scoop or cap more like a polite suggestion and experiment with your detergent – you may find you can use a lot less than you think and still get a wash you are happy with.

I can’t stand it when clothes stink (and I use that word with full intent) stink, I say, of detergent scent. Doesn’t smell fresh to me. Smells overly perfumed with cheap artificial scent. If you can smell the detergent after the clothes have dried, you’re using too much. Use less. Dry in fresh air.

And this applies to all products for cleaning all things. Use less than the “recommended” amount on the packaging.

Save money. Save the environment. Chances are you will also get fewer headaches. 

Stay out of the shops.

Subtitled: Saving for a whole year off – income cut, not lifestyle cut tip number 5

I've been cheating with my last two tips. I have been doing them for years so they haven't really saved me extra money this year since we've faced the income cut while on the Deferred Salary Scheme. 

So in a similar light, half of my next tip is not new. But it is saving me money. 

Tip number five: stay out of the shopping centres and unsubscribe from online shopping emails. 

I don't get how shopping is now a family activity. Want something to do on a Sunday? Take your family to the shopping centre!

When did that become a thing?

Years ago I stopped "go shopping" to "look" for something as a regular weekend thing. Now I only go if I need to buy something.

We never took our kids to the shopping centre as something to do even when I did go to shopping centres. I mean why impose this on little kids and why impose little kids on others? We took our kids to parks and playgrounds and the harbour and the beach and the botanic gardens. Places they could run and chase and shout and burn off energy. But it didn't stop me going shopping alone or with friends.

This year I added the second half of the tip. I unsubscribed emails from online shopping retailers. I was deluding myself that these didn't affect me. 

Now I don't get tempted to buy things I didn't know I wanted before I got the email.  I am not tempted by deals which actually cost me money and which if I didn't get the email I would have saved money by not spending in the first place. 

So save money and increase your self-worth and lifestyle by not looking to go shopping for fun and to fill your time; by not feeding the desire for the new, for things you didn't really want in the first place; by not raising dissatisfaction with what you already have. 

I still buy things. I love clothes and shoes and bags. I still visit shops occasionally. But I am not shopping as an activity.

Fill your time with the want to do but say you have no time for.

I've been doing the things I like – reading, visiting friends, exploring our city, planning our next trip away, learning a language. 

Bingo: saving money and improving lifestyle!!!

Ditch the coffee

Subtitled: Saving for a whole year off – income cut, not lifestyle cut

I don't drink coffee. I hate most things to do with coffee drinking in cafes. 

I hate the noise. I so hate the noise!!! All that banging and steaming. It is so uncivilised and stress-inducing. My shoulders tighten at the thought. 

I also don't get why people want a daily drink, an expensive daily drink, from cardboard with a plastic lid. 

Coffee drinking is something Mr S and I have never succumbed too. So luckily we don't waste our money on it. We never started so we don't have to cut it. 

We do have our own weaknesses. We like drinking tea. It's much calmer. More civilised. An altogether more refined beverage. 

Yet we hardly ever buy it when out. Most people can't seem to make it properly. Especially baristas. They don't give tea the respect it deserves. Lukewarm water that doesn't let the tea draw. Incorrect storage of the tea so it absorbs the odour of coffee and herbs and herbal teas. I've even had milk served warm from being steamed by the coffee machine. Yuck!

But just as coffee drinkers like going out and grabbing a coffee, Mr S and I like drinking tea outdoors – in parks, in bushland, in gardens.

Luckily there's this thing called the thermos. We (or more precisely Mr S – it's his job to make the thermos of tea) make a thermos of tea at home. And then we take it with us. With my fine bone china mugs safely wrapped in a tea towel. 

Voilà. Tea as we like it. In new surroundings. A nice outing with a bikkie. If you have time, pack a boiled egg, mayo, lettuce and buttered fresh bread and you have a picnic. 

Who needs a cafe?

So Tip number 4: switch to tea, and drink your tea at home or take your own tea and have a little picnic.

As an added bonus, if you give up the coffee, not only will you save money but your breath won't stink and you will taste the subtleties in food and you won't be adding all those horrid unbiodegradable coffee cups in the environment. 

Of course this tip won't work if you say, "But coffee is my lifestyle and I wouldn't want to cut it out." Or if you hate tea or don't own a thermos. Or maybe you say my one daily coffee on a weekday isn't that expensive. $5 X 5 days X 40 (for most months of the year) X 4 years = $4,000.

And that's another fortnight off for me! You drink the coffee; I'll take the fortnight in my Year Off.

Cut the bottled water.

Subtitled: Saving for a whole year off – income cut, not lifestyle cut

The next tip isn't something new we've doing since our income has dropped by 20%.

Though I very occasionally may buy bottled water, I've become more conscious of it, especially in light of reducing plastic use. 

But given the amount of bottled water that is consumed, I think there must be people who could save a tonne if they followed this tip. 

Tip number 3: drink tap water 

I hardly buy bottled water. When I'm out and about and really thirsty and it's really really hot and there's no bubbler about and I won't be going home in an hour or two, I will buy a bottle.

I never buy it routinely from the supermarket. 

But even though I hardly ever buy bottled water, I still seem to end up with plastic water bottles. From conferences. From work things. From flights. And so I reuse them. Fill them at the tap. 

The little ones from airplanes are perfect for you handbag when going to the city. Not so big and heavy. 

All it takes is a little planning. Take some water with you. 

When I visit areas that use untreated rain water, I boil the kettle and leave the water to cool overnight. When I was in central Australia where they are on bore water i bought big containers of water. We then decanted into small plastic bottles for going out. 

I can't fathom paying $2 for something that is exactly the same product and costs a couple of cents. 

If you say you can taste the difference, boil the water first, or leave the water in sunlight – the chlorine will go away – its chemistry. Or add a squeeze of lemon. 

Do it for you wallet and the oceans.