An Opportunist

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We were out and about this morning looking for some timber for our next outdoor project.  It was an area we do not usually frequent and I spied a flat-top truck parked by the side of the road.  It was piled with unpackaged fruit and vegetables so I quickly asked GMan to pull over so that I could see what was on offer.

I had bought fruit and vegetables 2 days ago which would probably last us at least 10 days but I was not about to pass up an opportunity.  There were zucchini, tomatoes, capsicums and lemons and everything was $2/kg.  It had been picked yesterday from a farm in an area about 3 hours drive to the north of where we live.  The tomatoes were not sufficiently ripe for me to consider them and we most definitely do not need lemons as we have 2 trees of our own.

Most of the capsicums were green but I selected a couple which were semi-coloured as well as several zucchini.

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This haul cost me $4.70.

While this was somewhat of an impulse buy, it was not without some consideration as to how I would use the produce.  The capsicums are quite large so I am going to cut one in half lengthwise and stuff them for dinner tonight and serve with a side of coleslaw.

I have cooked some quinoa to use as the basis for the stuffing.

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The remaining capsicum will probably be used in a roasted vegetable salad along with some of the zucchini as well as eggplant and mushrooms that I bought on Thursday.

I intend to make another zucchini quiche which will use up a couple more of the zucchini.

It is great to be able to directly support farmers as well as snapping up a bargain.

Most importantly, nothing will go to waste.

 

 

Easily Pleased

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Those of you who know me well or have been following this blog for an extended period of time will be aware that shopping is not a great love of mine.  For the most part, I have pretty well everything I need.  However, my plastic spatula which I have owned for at least 20 years met an untimely end courtesy of the blades of the blender.  I realised that I definitely needed one so checked online and found that Big W had Pyrex brand large and small silicone spatulas on special so when we were out and about on Tuesday I attempted to get one of each size.  The small ones were sold out so I will look again another day as GMan is keen for a small one to use when making sourdough.

In the meantime, here is the new addition to my collection of kitchen utensils.

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Coincidentally, I had planned to clean out the utensil jars and drawer.  Each time I do this there is usually something which I decide is no longer required but I have culled my collection of utensils to a point that everything is worthy of its place in the kitchen.

Like all decluttering/streamlining projects, there is no ‘one size fits all’ as we all have different needs in the kitchen.

I have 2 utensil jars.  These hold the majority of frequently used utensils.

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Here they are laid out on the bench.

The hand beater lives in the side of the regular cutlery drawer.

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The contents of the utensil drawer.  These are generally too small or too sharp to stand in a utensil jar.  Some, such as the vegetable peeler and measuring spoons are used every day while most would be used at least once a month and a few less frequently.

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I have an expanding bamboo divider which helps to keep them in some sort of order.  Once I had wiped the drawer and the divider, I replaced all of the items.

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There is one item missing from these photos.  The pie slice which GMan is revarnishing the wooden handle.

I have not shown the sharp knives which I keep separately in a knife block.

I have multiples of a few things – measuring spoons, tongs, wooden spoons and pastry brushes but these are all used.

What are your essential kitchen utensils?  Have you reviewed or reduced what you have recently?

Buying with Purpose, Not Panic

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There has been a lot written in recent days about people panic buying everything from toilet paper to rice, pasta and Panadol.

We have plenty of foodstuffs and have continued to top-up more perishable items like cheese and butter.  Today I did my small version of panic-buying.  This was prompted when I broke a sewing machine needle yesterday.  I went to the drawer to get out another and found that it was the last of my regular machine needles.  I still had some heavy-duty ones which are designed for jeans and heavy fabrics like denim.

Here is the result of what is likely to be one of our last forays into the shops apart from a basic weekly (or less) grocery shop.

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Spotlight for 3 packs of sewing machine needles, a new pastry brush and a couple of packets of seeds from Bunnings.  The needles should last me for many years but the prospect of being stuck at home with piles of potential sewing and no needles was too much to bear.  In the past few days the media has been reporting that seeds and seedlings are being cleared out everywhere.  My own experiences this week would make me agree with that assessment.  GMan offered the observation that you can’t eat sweet peas!  However, they are one of my favourite flowers, they make me happy and it is the right time to plant them so they came home with me.

Then it was off to another Bunnings as GMan continued his quest (unsuccessfully) to purchase a new wheelbarrow.  We checked out the garden section and were surprised and delighted to find plenty of vegetable seedlings.  I think there must have been a very recent delivery so I took advantage of this and bought punnets of cauliflower, celery, pak choy and eggplant seedlings as well as a well-established capsicum plant.

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The cauliflower, celery and pak choy seedlings had not been thinned out so I did that when we arrived home and found that I ended up with 29 cauliflower seedlings and 24 each of celery and pak choy seedlings.  I am now keeping my fingers crossed that they all survive.

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I hope to share and swap some of these seedlings with others in my extended family so that we can all benefit from nutritious, home-grown produce.

Finding Balance

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It is a little over 6 months since I finished work and I am now beginning to look at how I manage my time at home.

While I was working it was the time available which dictated what I achieved at home.  However, now that has all changed as my time is my own.

The first 6 months were taken up with the final preparations for our overseas trip followed by 9 weeks overseas then it was less than 2 months until Christmas and a road trip and family Christmas.

My activities can be roughly divided into the following categories (in alphabetical order, not priority):

Cooking – meal preparation – sometimes in bulk
Exercise – aquarobics, gym and walking
Gardening – growing vegetables, flowers and shrubs
Household maintenance/renovations – usually in conjunction with GMan
Online/Computer – blog, Facebook, emails
Relaxing – reading, music, television
Routine housework – making bed, washing, ironing, sweeping, vacuuming
Sewing – clothes, mending, patchwork and Boomerang bags
Socialising – book club, film society, theatre, friends, family, Air BnB guests
Shopping – groceries and miscellaneous
Travel – local, interstate and overseas

By their very nature, housework and cooking tend to occur everyday.  Formal exercise is twice a week but I am trying to include either some walking or gardening every other day.

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I try to find time for some gardening, relaxing and computer work each day.

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Sewing and socialising usually happen several days a week.

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Shopping is as little as possible but groceries are mostly once a week.

Some activities cross over such as aquarobics and socialising.  I also try to combine activities and errands to limit the number of trips I make into our local town (8km away).

From time to time a particular activity may demand a substantial block of time to the exclusion of almost everything else but I generally try to keep a mix of activities each day or so.

 

 

 

A Month Later

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It is just over a month since my last blog post on 19th March.  The following 2 weeks were somewhat frenetic with work and also getting ready to head off on holidays to Mauritius on 1st April.  If you missed that bit of detail you can catch up with the travel news and photos on my other blog, Somewhere, Anywhere.

We arrived home yesterday morning after a 36 hour stopover in Singapore.  It was also my birthday.  Unlike my milestone birthday last year, this year was fairly low-key.  We had dinner with my sister, brother-in-law, brother and mother last night. It was lovely to catch up with them and to have someone else make dinner for me.

The weather has cooled down somewhat in the few weeks we have been away.  However, heavy showers of rain are making it a challenge to do the inevitable pile of washing that we brought home.

Cooler weather also meant that I can consider meals other than the inevitable salads.  Today we did some shopping to restock some necessities – fruit and vegetables as well as milk, cheese and Vegemite.  I spent $30 at the greengrocer, including a cauliflower for $4.  This is the upper limit of what I will pay for a cauliflower but it is still good value.  With the addition of stock powder, an onion, salt, pepper and smoky paprika I made a pot of hearty cauliflower soup.  That $4 cauliflower made 4 generous dinner serves plus 4 smaller serves suitable for lunches.  8 meals for about $4.50 seems like pretty good value to me!

Cauliflower Soup

1 full cauliflower (medium)
1 large onion, diced
2 teaspoons stock powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon smoky paprika

Lightly fry the onion in a large saucepan/stockpot.  Remove the outside leaves and separate the florets from the stalk.  Finely slice the leaves and stalk and add to the pot.  Continue to fry for about 5 minutes.  Add the roughly chopped cauliflower florets, seasonings and enough water to just cover the vegetables.  Cover and simmer for at least an hour and add extra water if required.  Blend until smooth and serve.

Tonight we had a big bowl of soup and some buckwheat pancakes on the side.

The remaining soup has been portioned up and is ready to go in the freezer.

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And the rain is pouring down – again!!

Wardrobe Audit – January

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At the beginning of January I turned all of the coathangers in my wardrobe around.  The idea behind this is that once an item has been worn you replace the hanger in the correct manner.  This provides an easy way to identify those items which have not been worn.

Since the past month has been recorded as the hottest ever start to the year in Australia, it is no surprise to find that jackets, cardigans, jeans and trousers were not worn in January.  Of the seasonally appropriate items, there are a couple of tops and 3 skirts which have not yet been worn.  I am sure their time will come.

The other thing I decided to do was not to buy any new clothes in January.  This was not entirely successful depending on your definition of ‘new’.  I bought 3 items that are new to me during the month.  We have a local recycle boutique which I check out from time to time.  I am fairly selective and only choose pieces that are absolutely perfect for me and I could not go past these.

Patterned cropped jeans

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Sleeveless cowl neck top

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Long sleeve white linen shirt

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Although none of them had tags attached, I am pretty sure that they are all unworn.

Finally, I moved three items out of my wardrobe.  The first was a pair of jeans I bought in 2012.  They have had a lot of wear and are getting pretty thin as well as somewhat faded and stained.  They are are now in the pile of clothes to be worn around the house and when gardening.  Similarly a sleeveless tshirt top has seen better days so met the same fate.  A pair of white shorts went in the bin as the elastane had all given way and they were not in a fit state to be used or donated.

All of this wardrobe activity takes place on a background of the knowledge that my clothes needs will evolve with my upcoming retirement in a few months along with plenty of travelling planned.

As always, I will only be making carefully considered purchases.

I will continue to monitor and report on my progress during the year.

A Matter of Priorities

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At the end of my last blog post I said I would show you more of what I had been sewing the next day.

Well, that did not happen.  Not only did I not write the post, I did not do the intended sewing.  There were other things that rated as more important and demanded my attention.  In fact, if I am honest, that is why there are often significant gaps between blog posts.  The blog has a relatively low priority in my life as the full-time job and running a household definitely come first.

Anyway, in the absence of any sewing, I want to share some of the recent additions to my wardrobe.

I am not keen on buying clothes online but towards the end of last year I bought 3 tops from Covered Perfectly.  This was on the recommendation of Susan from Susan After 60 blog.  The tops are made in the USA and with a buy 2, get the 3rd one free deal they were very reasonably priced, even with the overseas shipping.

Here are the three that I bought.

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Since it is the middle of summer here, these will not be worn in the near future.  I am looking forward to wearing them in the cooler weather and also including them in the packing for our Europe trip later in the year.

Yesterday, I had some free time between appointments in Maleny so I took the opportunity to check out the recycle boutique.  I do have a browse there from time to time and have bought a few things previously.  I was definitely in luck as I found this cute pair of cropped Sportscraft jeans which appeared to have never been worn.  They were my size and fitted like a glove.

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I also found a pretty sleeveless top with a cowl neckline.

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Here are a few styling possibilities that I have identified for my new pieces.

Cropped jeans with teal 3/4 sleeve top.

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Cropped jeans with navy tshirt.

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Cropped jeans with white collared shirt.

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The sleeveless top will be paired with white cropped pants, black trousers or even these green jeans.

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A few years ago my wardrobe consisted mostly of black, white and red items.

More recently I have included a bit more navy in lieu of some black pieces and the addition of some more blue and green is great, too.  I am still sticking to my theory that every piece in my wardrobe must be able to be worn in at least 3 different ways or combinations.

Plastic Free July

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Well, it is a week into to Plastic Free July and I decided that rather trying to to buy any plastic for the whole month, I would simply shop and live as I do on a regular basis and try to capture a true picture of my plastic consumption.

Having our own vegetable garden and fruit trees certainly helps.

Orange juice ready to freeze.

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Grapefruit marmalade.

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Yesterday I took a Weck jar when I went to buy feta cheese at the deli counter of the local IGA.  This was a definite win, but only after reminding the attendant to weigh the jar before filling it.  A reminder that this is not yet the norm and you need to be ever vigilant to ensure that your plastic-free attempts are not hijacked by well-meaning staff.

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Fruit and vegetable shopping is relatively easy to achieve plastic-free, particularly if you choose local, seasonal produce as much as possible.

Here is what I bought today.

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The supermarket is a very different story.  The items I bought today represent the majority of what I buy at the supermarket.  By its very nature, everything is packaged.  The cans are recyclable as is some of the plastic but, as we know, recycling should be the last resort.

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There was also a bottle of vinegar which did not make it into the first photo.

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We make at least some of our food from scratch which helps to eliminate some plastic packaging.  These include bread, pizza bases, tomato sauce and peanut paste.

These pizza bases are partly pre-cooked and ready to be frozen.  The plastic wrap is old cereal packets which have been washed and re-used many times.

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I am far from perfect when it comes to Plastic Free July (or any other time for that matter) but by making and growing some of our own food, having virtually no takeaway and not shopping for recreation we are fairly successful at limiting our single-use plastic consumption.

Are you participating in Plastic Free July?  How is it going?

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Remember, there are no failures – just increased awareness.  And that is a good thing.

 

 

A Spending Spree

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Sometimes I go for ages without buying anything apart from the essentials but then I seem to have a bit of a spree.

In the last week I have bought a clock and a dress.  The clock was to replace the one in the kitchen which had given up the ghost.  I spent a couple of hours trawling online and eventually found one that I liked.  It arrived in the mail today and I was very excited to hang it up.

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The dress was an impulse buy (sort of).  I was at the DFO with GMan and my mother on Saturday afternoon and I wandered into Jacqui E and this dress caught my eye.  It was originally priced at $170 but marked down to $50 and the final price I paid was $37.46!!

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It is an almost perfect fit – I need to shorten it a little and while the bodice fit is good, I could make it better by lifting the shoulders a little and taking a small amount of width out of the upper back.  It is heavy cotton, lined and looks like cutwork.  I have studied the construction and the alteration to the shoulders should be easy.  I will have to give the back a bit more thought.

I have a pretty cobalt blue cardigan to wear with it and now I just need a pair of navy shoes.  Coincidentally, I have already been searching for the shoes.

 

My Shopping List

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The impending ban on regular plastic carry bags in Queensland has created a definite upswing in interest in alternatives.

There will be heavy duty plastic bags for sale, however, these are really no better as very few people seriously reuse them and the inherent problems still exist – the use of non-renewable resources to create the plastic and the waste which invariably ends up in waterways and the oceans.

Many of the so-called ‘reuseable bags’ are also derived from plastic and are far from ideal.

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You can make your own fabric bags (preferably from second-hand or salvaged fabric) or buy from groups such as your local Boomerang Bag group.  Otherwise, grab a cardboard box or two to stack your groceries.

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Beyond these obvious choices, there has been much discussion, both online and in real life, about the impact of the changes.

But what will I use to line my bin?
The fabric bag won’t fit the metal packing rack?
There is no space to pack my groceries?

And so on………

All of these questions are valid.  We need to think outside the box and perhaps change some other habits.

The first thing that springs to mind is reducing waste so that there is less or no need for bin liners.

Secondly, is about how you shop, what you buy and where you buy it.  This is what I want to discuss today.

In an online forum, I recently mentioned that I bought very little at the supermarket and could generally place it directly in my cloth bag as it was scanned through the checkout.  I place the handle over one arm and with the other hand I load the items into the bag.  I think this comment raised some interest about how I actually achieve this.

The most important tip is make the supermarket your last resort.

Eat simply, cook from scratch, grow some of your own food, support local small businesses, buy in bulk, buy online, buy at Farmer’s/Growers markets and finally, go to the supermarket.

I do not shop at either of the two major supermarkets here in Australia, Coles and Woolworths.

We live near a small town with a Woolworths and an IGA supermarket.  I buy a few things at the IGA and also go to the local butcher and our Co-op which stocks a wide range of organic products from both Australia and overseas.  Most of my supermarket shopping is done at Aldi which is about 10km away in a different direction.  The fruit and vegetable vendor that I go to is not far from Aldi.  I buy the majority of my dry goods at a family-owned shop with bulk bins.  It is about 45km away so I plan my trips and stock up about twice a year.

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By shopping at small, independent retailers you will find it much easier to use and pack your own bags as there is generally more counter space, less pressure and the seller will probably be much more supportive of your decision.  I also take my own containers/bags to have them refilled in almost all instances but that is a discussion for another day.

To give you an idea of what I buy and where I buy it, I have created the following lists of everything I buy, including food and non-food items.

I have not included fruit and vegetables from the greengrocer as this is seasonal and depends on my planned meals for the week as well as what is growing in the garden.

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Butcher

Beef mince
Diced beef
Bacon
Chicken breast fillets
Gravy beef

IGA supermarket

Vita Brits
Taco shells
Salmon
Olives
Salami
Cleaning vinegar
Soda Stream gas canisters

Co-op

Brown rice
Olive oil
Apple cider vinegar
Tamari
Coffee
Honey
Shampoo
Conditioner
Face wash
Moisturiser

Simply Good

Bread flour (white)
Wholemeal flour
Rye flour
Potato flour
Brown rice flour
Chickpea flour
Quinoa flour
Arrowroot
Almond meal
Flaxseed meal
Corn meal
Raw sugar
Pepitas
Sunflower seeds
Flax seeds
Almonds
Peanuts
Walnuts
Chickpeas
Kidney beans
Black beans
Haricot beans
Red lentils
Brown lentils
Sultanas
Raisins
Mixed peel
Cocoa
Coconut
Psyllium husk
Chia seeds
Quinoa
Bicarb soda
Herbs
Spices
Salt
Pepper

Aldi

Vegemite
Corn chips
Cheese
Butter
Milk
Sausages
Toothpaste
Toothbrushes
Cat food (tinned)
Cat food (dry)
Frozen peas
Mayonnaise
Dijon mustard
White vinegar
Balsamic vinegar
Tuna in springwater
Flavoured tuna
Baked beans
Corn kernels
Coconut cream
Curry paste
Stock powder
Tinned tomatoes
Rice cakes
Rice crackers
Ice-cream
Skim milk powder

Online

Tea
Dog food
Eucalyptus oil

Direct from manufacturer (local)

Laundry liquid
Enzyme soaker
Dishwashing liquid
Dishwasher powder

I am sure you can see items missing from the lists, so please feel free to ask questions.  It may be that we simply do not use it or that I make it myself.  For example, I make tomato sauce, worcestershire sauce, tabasco sauce, jam, peanut paste, onion flakes, pasta, pizza bases and GMan makes bread.