Thursday, 5 May 2016

Free food via Olio!

Olio is a new food sharing app designed to get businesses and individuals giving away their unwanted food. I am totally in favour of unwanted or surplus food being redistributed as it stops it being chucked into landfill, which is bad for the environment as it can give off methane in landfill, not to mention all the pesticides, fertilisers, water and carbon used to grow, process, transport and sell it. It also makes no sense to throw perfectly good food away when there are so many people living in food poverty in this country. Whether you are living in food poverty or not it is still better that good use is made of something that would otherwise have been thrown away.

Often when I talk to people about food waste they tell me that they don't waste any food, but I challenge anyone who says that to keep a food waste diary for a week to see what is really going on (take a look at a food waste diary I did here to get an idea of whats involved). According to households in the UK are responsible for roughly a staggering 50% of food waste and it costs the average family around £60 a month - what a waste! There is a lot that can be done to avoid wasting food in your home (read more here), but even people with the best intentions will occasionally find themselves with surplus food. Apps like Olio are a great way to divert perfectly good food from landfill, as well as helping people to find food for free!

I haven't given or received any food yet on the app, but I did sign up and the Olio administrators sent an email round to everyone who had signed up locally recently to say there was a whole load of surplus food being given away at the end of a food festival and did anyone want to come and pick some up. I definitely did want to do that and ended up filling an entire car full of the stuff - I am so glad I signed up to the app! I will be able to eat some of it, but not all of it, so I have been giving a lot of it away.

Food sharing has been on my mind for a while now, ever since I set up a food sharing Facebook group to try and get people sharing food in my local area a couple of years ago (read more here). I don't have any extended family near me and I don't really know my neighbours as if I did I would probably give any surplus food I had to them. Before I started my group it would never have occurred to me to offer food I couldn't use to friends and I wasn't sure how they would feel about it. I remember feeling a bit weird about food sharing at first, but now it feels perfectly normal. 

I think that food sharing groups and apps are a really useful tool to get people thinking about food sharing and food waste. They are also a really easy way to communicate with other people about the food you want to give away. I think they work best though when signed up to by pre-existing communities, because food sharing small amounts of food only really works if you don't have to go too far out of your way to get it. I'm not going to travel to the other side of town to get a bag of rice because the cost and time involved just isn't worth it, but I would take it from my neighbours or someone I saw on the school run. Also some can find it a bit worrying to take opened food from strangers (e.g. half a box of biscuits), but less worrying if it is someone they know. 

Olio is fairly new in my town, but the more people that sign up, the more it will gain momentum and they have a team behind them to help make it happen. Find out more about them, sign up here and to make it work I recommend getting your community involved too!

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Monday, 2 May 2016

5000 apples, a million carrots and a bananas amount of bananas!

Buying in bulk can be a great way to save on money and packaging and there is a fruit and veg wholesaler not that far from me - TG Fruits which I have always intended to go and check out. I wanted to find out if shopping there was a cost effective and practical way to buy unpackaged food. They are happy to have anyone shop there, you don't have to have a business. It opens early (in the middle of the night) and you have to get there by 7.00 am ish to be able to buy anything. I had never quite managed to get round to visiting until recently. 

When I got there I asked for help, as I didn't have a clue how the place worked. They were really helpful and pointed me in the direction of the stuff I wanted and although they are a wholesalers, they let me buy half a box of bananas and half a bag of carrots as well some things like cucumbers and peppers individually. There weren't any prices on anything, so I had to ask how much stuff cost as I went along.

I worked out that some things were cheaper than in the supermarkets e.g. apples and some things worked out more expensive e.g. bananas. None of the produce I bought was organic (at least I don't think it was), but it all came unwrapped in open boxes. The apples I bought had a couple of layers of plastic holding them in place, but some of the other types of apples had paper/ card layers instead.

I was really excited to find that they sold unpackaged cucumbers as they are so difficult to find and at a reasonably priced 35p each!

I ended up paying £29 for a few cucumbers, a box of sweet potatoes, a couple of peppers, what seemed like 5000 apples, a million carrots and a bananas amount of bananas! I'm hoping the apples, carrots and bananas will last a couple of weeks. The bananas might not survive that long, but we have plenty of uses for over ripe bananas (recipes  hereherehere and here) so they will definitely get used! Plus my kids would easily eat 3 apples and 3 bananas a day each if I let them! The only plastic was in the apple box and I put the cardboard boxes in the recycling, so it was almost a zero waste shop and at a very affordable price!

Buying unpackaged fruit and veg in bulk can save you money if you shop at a wholesaler like this and you set a few rules:

  1. Price check - shopping in bulk isn't always the cheapest option. It is well worth looking at supermarket price checkers online or having an idea of what you would pay for the equivalent wherever you usually shop before you buy.
  2. Don't buy more than you can eat - a bargain is only a bargain if it doesn't end up in the bin! Ask if you can buy things individually or half a box or bag of it if a whole thing of it is too much. You could also speak to friends and family about clubbing together to buy boxes before you go.
  3. Make sure you have enough space in your fridge to store the fruit and veg you buy - things like apples and satsumas will last longer in the fridge than out in the fruit bowl.
It probably won't be organic and fair trade, but if your budget doesn't stretch that far, you want unpackaged food bought from a local business and you have a hungry growing family to feed I would definitely recommend checking out your local fruit and veg wholesaler! 

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Friday, 29 April 2016

Nothing naughty about this neopolitan!

My friend Shani of hazelnut biscuit fame (read more here) invited us over for lunch recently and knowing that we aren't into sugar or waste, made us some seriously delicious sugar free, zero waste neopolitan icecream, which was also dairy free and vegan! 

There were only two ingredients in this delicious icecream - bananas and cocoa powder. She chopped up some very ripe bananas, froze them, then blended them until they became white and creamy. Then into half the mixture she added some cocoa powder. She filled an empty icecream tub so it was half filled with the chocolatey banana mixture and half filled with the plain one and refroze it. 

My kids were so excited when they were offered icecream for dessert that didn't have any sugar in it (as they are mostly sugar free) and it was really delicious - definitely something I would eat again!

Amazingly I managed to take a picture of it in my bowl before I devoured the lot!

This is such a fantastic way to use up over ripe bananas that I'm going to have to start buying them that way in the first place! What is your favourite way to use up over ripe bananas?

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Friday, 22 April 2016

Please vote for me to win best thrifty Blog in the MAD Blog Awards 2016!


Dear lovely readers,

Thank you so much to everyone who nominated me in the MAD Blog Awards. I'm really excited to announce that I am one of the six finalists in the Thrifty category in the awards! 

I am really grateful to have come this far and massively appreciate all your support. I know it's not the winning or the losing, it's the taking part that counts, but I would love to win the award and to do that I need your help! Please can you few moments to vote for my blog to win in the best thrifty blog category here

Voting will close at midnight on Friday 27 May, 2016, so please make sure you get your vote in before then!

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this, to vote for me and for all your support!

Wishing you all the best,

Zoe x