Thursday, 18 May 2017

its all about balance

I have the career of my dreams as a textile artist.   Therein lies a trap, however.  Work is work, however much you love it and we all need balance.  I also thrive when I am doing more than one thing.  Preferably lots of bits.  So this week it is back to basics.

A simple low cost cycling holiday, this is how I think and write...

that means keeping simplicity principles and  values at the core of what we do.    Your principles and values may be different.  The important thing is that you know what they are and can use them as a guiding light. 

Our values are: 
Mental and physical health first
People- those we care about who also care about us
Start by building community in our own locality
By doing the above we inevitably end up being healthier, saving the planet and saving money
spend less that we earn
No debt ever again

So exactly how does building community make us healthier, save the planet and save money?

It works like this:
When you are involved in your local community there are consequences for things.  Offend someone, and the next time you want a plumber, it turns out the person offended is their second cousin once removed.  So no plumber for you.  In other words, being involved makes us behave better.

When you shop locally, you get to know people, chat, see posters and get to learn what is going on in the community.  Then you can go to local things because you know they exist.  Contrast that with someone who drives to work in another town.  They will typically shop at a supermarket on the way home so may never go in a local shop and don't tend to know about local activites.  They get less exercise than the person who gets the bus to work.

The person who works in another town but gets the bus  on the other hand, meets others on the bus.  They will buy groceries on the way home after they get off the bus and meet yet more people.  And have got exercise walking to and from the bus stop.

For us, the expense of running a car averages out at £300 a month, including replacement of the car every few years, So Health, the environment and finances all benefit by the one action, getting the bus. Cycling to work or working locally have similar benefits and there is always more than one way to achieve a given outcome. 

Janet returning from her ten week cycling project, 'Knit 1 Bike 1'

So now you may be thinking 'I can't get a bus to work'.  It doesn't matter, the same logic can be applied to many different things.  And the 'green triangle' as it is called, seems to work regardless.

For example, when we originally decided to spend less on food many years ago, we cut down on eating out, ate less meat and ate more pulses and vegetables.  Our health benefitted and so did the Planet.  We ended up with a better diet, travelled less by car and there was less packaging on the food we bought.   We were healthier, saved money and reduced our environmental impact.  Then we decided to grow more vegetables and the benefits multiplied!

So back to work.  I simply like doing more than one thing.  A couple of years ago, I cycled round Scotland.  Since I was a textile artist, I decided to do workshops on the way, in exchange for a bed for the night or a hot meal.  Apart from meeting some wonderful people, I camped for the first time in years, spent 10 weeks travelling alone and wrote a book about it.  It also led to an exhibition.  See more about Knit 1 Bike 1 here.

The whole thing was transformative and I came home really fit.  Two years later I am still fit and the garden has benefitted from my extra fitness too.  So now we are growing even more vegetables and have wwoofers come to stay with us.  That is volunteers who help with the garden and textiles. There have been positive benefits socially, health-wise and for the environment yet again.  

Monday, 23 January 2017

Shopping in your own cupboards/closets

Many of us in more affluent countries speak of de-cluttering and having too much stuff. The trick of course is to not buy it in the first place and put the money in a savings account instead.

That is how you build up an emergency fund (3-12 months living expenses) then have a fund for luxuries and extras and finally a 'retire early' fund.

We have decided to trim our spending again. It crept up when we had a larger income, as it does. That is the main reason it is how much you spend/don't spend that will get you ahead of the game, not how much you earn. Once you earn £15,000 per person that is. Below that more income does tend to make a difference.

I decided that I would rather do something I loved and earn less.  So now I teach spinning and weaving and write books.  I have let go of my other income stream.

I looked at a recent book written by someone who spent on nothing but essentials for a year. She still paid her basic essentials which came to £1800.00 a month. That is more than we live on anyway - and I suspect more than a lot of you do too.

So I have been shopping in the cupboards.  In other words, when I think I need to buy something I consider what we have that might do.

Our duvet was too small.  I was going to buy another but remembered there was an old smaller one insulating the hot water tank. So I cut a strip off and sewed it to ours.

I needed a watch but then hubby remembered he had an old one and now it is mine.

I have been using up food that has been in the cupboard for a while. The dried fava bean soup is utterly delicious and i am going to make hummus from them too.

I had been buying frozen berries to put on porridge.  The home grown ones ran out months ago. Then I remembered all that rhubarb in the freezer and am eating that instead.

We will have different snacks instead of crisps etc.  Rhubarb and custard. Fried potatoes or home made oven chips.  Crackers and cheese.  Soup. All far more nutritious of course...

 The goal is to spend no more than £10 a week on groceries.  We can feed ourselves very well on very little money and have lots in the cupboards.   Below is the fava bean soup.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Leftover tub pasties

We are focusing on the food bill and on all bills really. The concept I love this month is shopping in your own cupboards.  Leftover tub pasties are always a favourite meal and work as follows:
If there are little bits of savoury food leftover, instead of putting them in the fridge to go off, you keep a tub in the freezer and put them in there. This is not food off people's plates but that left in the pot.

Once the freezer tub is full, make a batch of shortcrust pastry. Or buy frozen pastry if you prefer, or if the hassle of making pastry is going to mean it never happens.  It is still a very cheap meal.

Empty the tub into a bowl and add seasoning. We add curry powder, herbs and/or tamari.

Roll out the pastry and cut into oblongs.  Put a spoonful of mixture in each one. Add a couple of slices of onion and/or some cheese to each one if you want. Dampen edges of pastry, fold over and press them down.  Bake in the oven on baking trays for about 15 minutes until golden.

The miracle is, whatever you put in them, it always seems to work.

Home made pastry freezes well too so why not make an extra large batch for next time?

Voila - several almost free meals.
And the pasties freeze well.

Contents of the leftover tub

adding a small amount of cheese and onion

Ready for the oven

the finished pasties

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

all change - libraries updated and Radio 4 Extra

Our local library was a great resource, particularly for talking books, which I use in the car and whilst knitting.  However despite being well used, it was shut down by the Council as a cost saving  measure.  Do they realise what a huge hole something like that leaves in village life?!

Online library books
However, many libraries now have a free on line resource.  They use different packages to provide this, but a common one is Overdrive.  My own local authority does not have an online resource as yet but the Cargegie library of a neighbouring authority does.  I was able to join their main library years ago becuase I worked in the area.  Most main libraries in the UK will let you do that and it allows me to access their overdrive resource.  You often cannot join a branch library in this way, but there is no need, because once you have a main library ticket, it works for all the libraries in that local authority area.

Older syle Kindles will not work with Overdrive but the website pointed me to a free Overdrive app, This allows me to access both audio and e books on my phone and it could not be easier.   There are thousands of books.  So I sit the phone beside me in the car and can hear it pretty well except in windy weather.  Putting inside  a hard plastic box of some kind really boosts the volume, so I am on the lookout for a suitable receptacle.    If you want to access the books on your phone, get the app on your phone, although there is also one for laptops.

For actual books, you can look up the catalogue for most local authorities online, and get books sent from another library to yours.  Then just return them to your own library.   So here is what I do:
1. Identify a series of books I want to read.
2. visit Fantastic Fiction and check what order to read the books in.  This is an amazing resource.
3. Write a list and put it in my 'reading' folder.
4. find out which ones the online library has
5. find out which ones all the other libraries in the area have and add all this info to the reading list ready to order them in turn.
6. check on Amazon for any that remain and order those at the cheapest price possible.  this is often not a Knidle copy, but a second hand paper back.  actual books also have the advantage that we can both read them more easily.
7. Start reading!

It takes a bit or organising to get started but all the organising takes less time than one on line or physical shopping trip.  About one to one and a half hours.  I got a bit stuck with the Overdrive account to start with but phoned the main library.  They re-activated my library card as I had not used the one there for some time and gave me the default passcode start me off and to access the site.  Then it was easy.

Other libraries
I am a sucker for buying books on holiday.  We had a timeshare in Aviemore for some time and I joined the library there.  I merely had to show the documents proving we had a temporary address there.  It saved me about £30 per holiday in book buying.  Now I can access Overdrive from anywhere so it is far less of an issue.

And if you can't sleep, you can get a book right then.  When I was away on a ten week bike trip and had a rough night in the tent, I was able to download a library book and read it in the dark on my phone. 
Many out of copyright books are available free online and the one below is a particularly good list.

Radio 4 Extra
this is an Internet radio station so can be accessed from anywhere.   There are lots of archived items such as plays, detective programmes, books read outloud and other things.  You can also access it live via digital radio. 

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Here's what we are eating

There is kale, parsley and garlic in the garden and some winter salad leaves and spinach in the polytunnel. Lee's new Facebook group, Practical Simple Living is helping us to re-focus.  It was easy to stay focused whilst paying off the mortgage but has been way harder since then. Tomorrow we will review our bills and see what we can save. This is always worth doing, especially if you have not done it for a while.

And we will re-focus on the food bill, too. That means I need to actually pick the garlic, salad, spinach and kale for starters.  Tonight it is quorn meatballs and spaghetti on the menu and Lee made potato soup with the wonderful box of veggies a friend gave us at New Year.  Total money spent zero and we will give them a 'swap' of something

Yesterday we ate trout caught by a neighbour with the potatoes and carrots from said veg box. So that was  another frugal and tasty meal as the only financial cost was the broccoli (48p/50c).