Cutting down plastic…

When discussing this topic, I often detect a sense of guilt and panic in people. And, yes, I had it too. And still do from time to time. Appliances come wrapped in plastic, sporting clean-lined easy wipe casings. Food, all the food. And yes, plastic does help keep food fresher, and reduce food waste. However it comes with major environmental consequences.

Plastic in those oh so convenient microfibre cloths, towels and micro fleece. Bright blouses, dresses and so on all made from plastics, cups, plates, straws, bottles, tetra pak, bloody tea bags. It is everywhere. House fittings, insulation, flooring, rugs, sofas cable covers, sockets, laptops, tvs, home cinema, plastic, plastic, plastic. It is laminated of leaflets, magazines, business cards, and cardboard food containers. Everywhere.

Plastic is baaaaaad. The media bleat on but we are just told to stop plastic and there seems little help for the average consumer. We tell ourselves, “well at least I try to recycle”. But in reality, comfortably less than 50% of it ever gets recycled. And that figure has gone down since China put a stop to global plastic being dumped in their country. They asked it be cleaned as sorted before being heaved off the ships and dumped port-side. How utterly selfish!

It’s inescapable, this plastic, it’s found in every spot in the world now. Choking up nature, quite literally, and screwing with hormones, causing infertility. Microplastics are commonly found in salt, mineral water, and many foods. It’s in our tyres, shoe soles, exercise clothing and equipment. We cannot outrun it.

Slowly, governments are starting to create legislation to stop the flow of plastic, there are now more solutions for washing machine microplastics filters.

But there is still much we can do. It is presently complex, because there are still so many products that come in plastic or are made of plastic. I thought silicone was relatively ok, but the manufacture of silicone involves petrochemical processing. And let’s face it, modern life is so damn complex and exhausting, all these well meaning blogs and articles can often seem like berating and brow beating. It’s a big subject and yes, legislators very much need to deal with control of plastic production. The absolute sting in the tail is it is still cheaper to buy newly created plastic than it is to buy recycled high grade plastic.

In the meantime, as consumers we can use our power to choose items with less plastic. I have been reducing plastic for some time, however there are budget issues for me. And storage issues too. I can’t afford to buy meats direct from farmers and smallholders. Even the markets are a bit pricey. There is no fresh meat service counter in my local supermarkets and butchers are few and far between. So we will have to buy a freezer and buy half an animal at slaughter times to reduce our plastic meat tray problem.

I should back up here and just explain, we went through our plastic recycling to identify our worst offenders. Crisps, meat packages and tetra packs, along with Amazon packaging. So we are slowly working on those.

  • Replaced milk tetras with glass bottles and now collect from the local dairy farm. A benefit of living a bit out in the sticks.
  • Started getting washing powder in card boxes, not liquids in bottles, pods, or tablets.
  • Switched from the limescale tabs wrapped in plastic to the powder, same with dishwasher tabs.
  • Started buying soap bars and shampoo bars. I have found tooth cleaning powder too.
  • Baking my own bread.
  • Curing my own ham.
  • Making quark, cream cheese and kefir at home.
  • Home brewing ginger beer helps us not buy bottles of fizz.
  • Buying fruit and veg loose, taking cotton net bags to hold things.
  • Buying larger packs of things so there is less plastic per unit of product.
  • I make my own body moisturiser.
  • We use ear spoons instead of cotton buds. I use rags for face wipes.
  • Changed to metal safety razors, use shaving brush with shaving soap
  • Using rock salt deodorant (wow, this was a surprisingly good switch!)
  • We store and freeze leftovers in jars.
  • We make packed lunches and store in tubs.
  • We have swapped to glass containers for condiments and sauces.
  • Specifically ask for plastic free gifts and try to avoid it for the kids toys.
  • Try to reuse plastic, or take items to the charity shop.
  • Using cotton dishwashing cloths that we can boil wash, natural bristle brushes.
  • Make coffee from scratch, avoiding pods and instant packets
  • Reusable shopping bags.
  • Taking reusable water bottles and coffee cups out with us.
  • Initially converted to buying crates of mineral water in glass bottles, then gave up and just drank tap water.
  • Growing fruit and veg at home.

Bloody hell, I am really surprised at what we have achieved! However we also have a long way to go.

However we have been chipping awy at it over about the last year, gradually adopting a new practice or alternative once we have nailed the last one and we have become habituated.

Really we need to purchase a washing machine filter and ensure we don’t buy plastic fiber clothes too. I think that is very important.

The point is, you can make changes. Most of the time I am a hot mess (ADHD!). I am disorganized and confused. And with 2 little kids, I get tired. I am very lucky that I don’t formally work, however now my work is making our income stretch as far as if we had 2 incomes, which is time consuming. And giving up plastic is really in conflict with cutting costs!

You can make changes. I would say the big one is to get a filter for the washing machine or buy guppy bags.

Have a look at where you create the most plastic waste and start with that one. Once you feel comfortable with it, then take on the next thing.

Also, always remember to return your reusable shopping and veg bags to the car boot after shopping, to avoid forgetting them!

Good luck!

Slow food and neurodiversity

If you have heard of the Slow Food Movement then you will know that it stands for the preservation of traditional cuisine around the world, cooked using traditional ingredients, and traditional preparation methods. Basically it is a big step away from ready meals, processed and packaged foods from the supermarket.

And so many people know about the whole issue of diet and hyperactivity, with ADHD, well they think they do. It’s not quite what it seems and you can find more information here.

Then you have issues such as people with Autism having significantly different gut bacteria, increasing Bifidobacteria found, for example, in fermented foods has been shown in research to reduce symptoms by nearly 50%.

But I actually want to talk about something slightly different:

Slow Food and Executive Function

When you nourish your body, your brain functions better too. Links between inflammation caused by viruses and depression have been identified, and the immune system is pretty much governed by the microbiome in the gut. This much we do know.

So it makes sense that the more foods you eat that support this system, the more your health should improve. Obviously there are always exceptions to the rule, but in general, it stands.

I have been on my own journey, starting with Sourdough bread, initially, because I found that my body reacted unpredictably to both commercial bread and gluten free bread. I tried sourdough in desperation about a year ago. I caught my own wild yeast, and developed it into a starter for all my bread. Sourdough is fermented over hours, sometimes days, and in that time the bacteria and yeast break down the grain, and gluten into more easily digestible nutrients, although the bacteria and yeast die in the baking. So suddenly my diet broadened again. I have also ventured I to brewing authentic British ginger beer using a ginger beer plant, it’s an organism which is a symbiosis between another type of yeast and accompanying bacteria. They ferment the sugar in the water, and the result is a fizzy refreshing drink, supercharged with vitamin C and anti inflammatory ginger. It’s also rather exciting as the bottles can tend to explode if you forget to burp them. Recently I also slid into the world of milk Kefir. I wanted to boost my immune system after a long series of viral and bacterial infections beat the living crap out of me. Seriously, a sparkling yogurt drink seems to have got be back on the road to health. Bummer.

Next up will be water Kefir, to make fruity sparkling drinks. I think I can definitely get the kids into that too.

And yes, it is healing, nourishing and so on. But my biggest advancement has been learning to see something through to the end.

It’s taken me just shy of a year to get really good at baking sourdough bread. And alongside that there have been cinnamon swirls, peach cobbler, hot cross buns, chapattis, Naan and pitas. Oh, it’s been pure hell. But at times I did want to drop it. It the small improvements I made each time, the incredible cost savings and the cutting out of plastics. It’s not straight forward, because you have to remember the process, and it involves mixing then leaving it for a few hours, working it, leaving some more, and then shaping, proofing and baking. And it is tricky with a family bussing around to make sure this all finishes so you aren’t baking in the middle of the night. So over time I have become better organized. And I have become better at pre planning. Those of you with ADHD and ASD will know what an absolute pig it can be to even get it together to leave the house in a respectable fashion, arrive at the supermarket, remember what you are buying, get home and remember what you bought and why! But the sourdough has been slowly training me. Incremental steps have helped me. At the beginning I got more dough on me and the kitchen cabinets than into the oven. Now I can process dough for a batch of 6 loaves really easily and with virtually none making a giant slug like skid mark over my boobs. It’s a victory. A real victory and a point of pride. And every time I bake, I feel a sense of achievement. I could have given up. But it has become natural and automatic to me.

It has led me to be able to even contemplate other things like curing meats from scratch, getting the ginger beer going and the kefir, from which I also make cream cheese, and this involves collecting the raw milk from the local farm.

Soughdough has actually given me the confidence to trust that I can succeed and see something all the way through to completion. And this is new and important, especially for someone with ADHD. Actually it has made me start a veg patch too, and frankly I am expecting this to blow up in my face, and not in an abundant harvest kind of way… But more about that in another post!

Bloody Sourdough, getting me into all sorts…

Wait! How did I get here!?

Well, I think it was always there, but I got lost a little in consumerism for a while.
My parents weren’t hippies, some friends’ parents were. I wasn’t raised as an extreme prepper, not extreme in faith, just grew up, mostly confused and somewhere long the line, qualified, worked, emigrated and had kids.

I am totally not pinterest fodder, not selling anything, just starting out and learning.

Ultimately, I dream of becoming mostly self sufficient. Escaping the rat race and rescuing/reclaiming my husband from the stresses and grind of daily employment. Right now we’re firmly stuck in the salary trap. And I guess we have grown accustomed to our luxuries, and have, in our forties, passed by the boundless energy rookie stage and are acutely aware that our bodies are a little less boundless, and our fear of new risks likes to impose itself fairly regularly. So this blog type thingie is really just tracking our journey. Will we reach our dreams? I don’t know. But for now I am skilling up. Because regardless, I want my kids to be able to feed themselves well by creating food from scratch, to be able to create, repair and build.

It started with wanting to use less plastic about a year ago. Then sort of snowballed from there, into eating well, and reducing waste. And as the Americans call it “homesteading” naturally I plopped into a lot of self sufficiency/prepping skills. Mending, Making from scratch etc. I will pop up some retrospective posts of what I have tried so far, but it has been a slow trickle, as with 2 little cheeky chops who keep me occupied, time can be woefully limited!

So, really I blame everything on Sourdough. Making Sourdough from scratch planted the seed in my head, the idea that I could succeed at a project without chasing random distraction squirrels, and actually learn new skills, started to boost my confidence. It started my curiosity. It started my quest for tasty quality food, that is processed minimally.

So, yeah, blame the Sourdough!