Friday 10 January 2020

Frugal Friday

Well it IS a long while since we've had one of these posts, isn't it now! Lots of reasons - I think I've said before that when you are doing pretty frugal stuff ALL the time it just becomes a way of life, so you notice it less, so it becomes harder to write about. There is also a limited amount of things to discuss on the subject - and I absolutely don't want this blog to be one of those where the same thing gets endlessly rolled out time after time - just "posting for the sake of it" either - that's boring for me to write and for you to read!

As you know I have always enjoyed a bit of a frugal challenge - and that is something that hasn't changed. Prior to Christmas we did quite a lot of eating from the freezer to run down the stocks in there, but it now seems to be reasonably full again - not a bad thing of course, and especially as quite a lot of what it is full off is stuff that has been bought at bargain prices!  I had nothing specific in mind as a challenge until I was making a stew last weekend - I went to automatically reach for a "stock pot" to throw into it for some added flavour and then remembered that in the larder were some sachets of "sausage casserole mix" that we'd been given free at the Good Food show a coup....few.....SEVERAL years ago. Now you don't want to know about the best before date, but it WAS "best before" so I opened a sachet, gave it a sniff - all smelt fine, so into the stew went the contents! However, while sorting through for the casserole flavouring, I realised that there were quite a lot of other oddments in the larder that really ought to be used, and as I KNOW that there are quite a lot of bits in the storecupboard, also, that have been lingering about for a long while, I decided that it was time for a "use it up" challenge!

This one is going to have only one aim - and that will be to use up as many of the random items that have been in the cupboards, fridge etc for a while as we can, which makes good use of the things that we have, and also should save us some money on shopping, too. I've already done a bit of thinking about the sort of things I have in mind, and have a starter list that looks a bit like this:
- the remaining sausage casserole mix sachets
- some sachets of stir fry sauce
- fajita seasoning
- Beetroot - bought yellow stickered for pennies
- a large red cabbage - bought in Aldi pre-christmas for a bargainous 19p
- garlic - I bought another pack of 4 heads without realising that I still had one in the larder
- Part used jars of various things in the fridge
- tubs of home grown gooseberries in the freezer
- individual portions of home grown redcurrants - in the freezer

There's lots more too - this is just - I suspect - the tip of a large iceberg! Although it was under three years ago we had the kitchen redone, because we ended up moving forward with the upheaval of that rather sooner than we had planned, we also ended up just boxing up quite a bit of stuff for the duration - telling ourselves that we would sort through it all when it came to unpacking again. However, by the time the job was finally completed, we were so fed up with the whole situation that what actually happened was that everything just got put back into the larder again, meaning we STILL have lots of old stuff. Then there were the bits that we did look at, but decided we couldn't justify throwing away because food waste blah blah blah... now though, it's time. I need to actively sort out what we have, and make a plan for using it.

Stir fries are never a chore, so those sauces will be a pleasure to use. The gooseberries and redcurrants can become the sweet element to go with rice pudding, or even ice cream or plain yogurt. And half the red cabbage and beetroot I have a fancy for finely slicing, combining with a red onion, also finely sliced, and turning into a winter coleslaw.The remainder of those will probably be roasted as a veggie side with a dinner at some stage.

I'm also going to continue this idea outside of the kitchen too - so focusing on reading books I already have, and that have been waiting to be read, and using the lovely array of toiletries I have as well. Books were already on my "2020 goals list" as I have accumulated a number that are now making me feel guilty - I have them because I feel I *should* read them - either they were given to me by someone who said "you must read this!" (Always a kiss of death for me!) or I have made a start on reading but failed to get engrossed - either way those are now making me feel guilty for not reading them, so they either get read, and then passed on, or simply passed on.

If you are feeling the pinch a bit after the financial excesses that often come with Christmas, this can be the perfect time of year to get stuck into a "use what we have" challenge - and let's face it, most of us have more than we realise, so taking the time to step back, evaluate, and make decisions around the things we've gathered can be really positive on more levels than the pure financial, too. If you've not done it for a while, why not have a quick check through your fridge, freezer and cupboards, and see what you might be able to use up - and maybe save a few pennies doing it?


Monday 6 January 2020

Small objects of desire...

The lovely MrEH uses the phrase "desire path" to describe those wavering lines through patches of grass - the paths that are not really quite meant to be there, but are, simply because enough people want there to be a track there, and walk that way as a result, that gradually the line appears anyway.  It's a phrase which has chimed with me on another level too - when thinking about the things that you want to achieve, but you will only get there by forming habits, so things that you actually "want" to do, rather than things that you feel you "should do".

RSPB Rye Meads. Hertfordshire
Recently I decided to hijack the concept a little - so I wrote my first "Desire List" - quite simply a list of a few things that I wanted to achieve in the next week - to exercise a certain number of times, to drink plenty of water, to be conscious around the use of social media rather than habitual, aimless scrolling without really thinking about it...there are 8 things in total on there (including, as a point of interest "Write something for my blog" - although at the time I added that to the list I had NO idea that this would be the "something"!) In fact, for this week the full list looks like this:

This week I want to:
- Run 12 miles total
- Gym twice
- Drink enough water 
- Do plenty of stretching
- Be conscious about social media use
- write something for my blog
- read at lunchtimes more than using my phone/iPad

- Get out somewhere with my camera

The common theme through all the items is that they are all items that will make me feel good. Running (exercise generally) is great for my mental health, and I'm also a few days in to a challenge to cover 100km running in January - that is the reason for the prescribed distance there, also. Drinking lots of water and stretching makes my body feel better, more flexible and more comfortable. Social media is something that can so easily become a mindless habit - and while I have no wish to step aside from it (it's a huge part of my social life, for a start) I would like to make sure that when I am choosing to look at Instagram or Twitter, I'm doing it for a specific reason rather than just to kill time. Reading is something that I love to do, but I do less of now than I used to in part because of that mindless scrolling thing - there is a book in the bag I bring to work that has been there for probably over 6 months with barely a few chapters read, and that is ludicrous, especially allowing that it's a book I really want to read! Similarly I love writing, but this blog is sadly neglected and I would really like to make better use of it again. Reading back on posts I wrote a few years ago makes me slightly  sad because I feel that to an extent I've lost some of the ability to write that I had then - possibly partly because so much of what I write now is the "bite size" chunks that go to make up Instagram or twitter posts. Finally using the camera - something which I love, but which often takes a back seat during the colder, darker months of the year. By the end of September most year's I'm actively looking forward to a bit of a step back from it, but I would like to get back into the habit of picking it up regularly again after than initial month or so's break.

That last was inspired by a visit to our local RSPB reserve at the weekend. I did actually take the camera out with me, but realised too late that the battery charge was very low, so left it in the car. Fore general landscape shots I'm happy enough with the phone anyway as a rule, but in two different locations around the reserve we found ourselves watching Goldcrests at fairly close quarters, and it would have been fantastic to have had the camera and long lens to hand to have a go at photographing those beautiful little birds. As a result I now have a plan in mind to return and see if I can track them down again.

These lists probably won't be something I do every week, but I think I would like them to feature occasionally at least - just as a reminder that sometimes it can be good to do things for no other reason than we want to, and because they will bring us joy or simply make us feel better in our own skin. And also because - in a world oft "should" and "must" - there can still be a place for "want" too!


Friday 3 January 2020

Body* Positivity...

* but only if you have the "right" body...

A few months ago I was told in a comment on social media that I had no place taking part in a conversation about body positivity. This is apparently because a) I don't appear overweight and b) because I used to be, and made a conscious and deliberate decision to lose weight, and then maintain that loss. (No effort was made to find out my reasons for point 2.) Apparently this meant that I could not make a comment in support of someone else who had made similar choices, and for similar reasons, to mine.

The body positivity movement is often seen as a "fits any size" inclusive environment, where people -  mainly women, but open to people regardless of gender - are supportive of others choices around their bodies and appearances, and also are united in decrying fat shaming, fat phobia and negativity around those of a different size and shape to the "perceived ideal". I put that in quotes because to some extent I think that is the first issue - what is "ideal" for one person will be very different to someone else. The size and shape of body that is comfortable for an individual is probably close to unique from person to person - and by comfortable I mean both mentally AND physically. In reality though it seems to be evolving into a movement that champions only those with "larger than average" bodies, and is perfectly content to shame those who for their own reasons are seeking to change their appearance. Weight loss is seen as "letting the side down" and "giving in" and those who mention the idea of losing weight for health reasons are regularly told that they don't have to lose weight to be healthy - usually without ANY effort to ascertain WHY they feel that being lighter might also - for them - be healthier.

Regular readers here (well - as regularly as I give you anything to read, anyway!) will perhaps recall that my own weightloss was almost accidental at first - I decided that I wanted to get fitter, a decision that was purely prompted by health concerns. My size had never bothered me particularly in real terms - other than when I encountered negativity for example when visiting the GP when whatever I went in for, weight got mentioned whether it was relevant or not. Shopping for clothes could be a bit of an issue - the difference in shaping of garments between a size 10 or 12, and a size 16 is ludicrous. If any clothes designers are reading this please take note - most larger women have no desire to, nor should their only option be to wear something that resembles a sack. Fitted garments are far more flattering than "tents" regardless of the body size they are being worn by! If you're of average height then you can perhaps get away with a bit more - but at just a fraction over 5', the tendency for clothes with no shape to them to swamp my frame often made clothes shopping an truly unpleasant experience. So in the first instance I simply started making an effort to move a bit more, and the side effect of that was that my shape started changing, purely because a lot of the time, all of a sudden, I was burning more calories than I was consuming in a day. It was quite a few months before I even noticed - because it was a gradual loss things weren't suddenly looser - and when I did first notice the first thing that stood out was that I was physically more comfortable. My knees hurt less (I have arthritis in both), and the movement I was doing was easier, more natural. I had more energy. It was at around that time when I also started thinking more about what sort of food I was eating, and how much of it. I did some research about portion sizes - not the ludicrous portion sizes that food manufacturers recommend to fit in with the "traffic light" system (30g of cereal, or half a tin of soup etc are NOT realistic!) and which are so often what restrictive diets steer you towards, but what is really recommended by those who are actually qualified to make suggestions on such things. I took the decision to start eating more complex carbs, less saturated fats, and more fruit and veg. I began to understand that for a lot of years I'd had a disordered relationship with food in a number of ways - and also for the first time ever realised that there was a path out of that relationship. The activity was hindered somewhat by what turned out to be critical level anaemia - already written about previously on here - but once that was sorted I took to running with gusto and now take great delight to think of myself as a runner.

The key thing for me is that I didn't diet. I eat a wider range of foods, with a lower range of guilt, than I EVER have before. Through the reading and research that I was doing I learned why diets don't work in the longer term (because they invariably have an "end point" after which habits revert to previous), and why a balanced lifestyle does (because it is sustainable, and just something that you continue with as a result).

Naturally, the result of all of the above was that yes, I lost weight and my body changed. Technically I still  show on the utterly ridiculous BMI charts as being "overweight" - but then so would an awful lot of super-fit professional sportsmen & women, so I'm none too worried about that. More importantly though, my mind changed too. The size I am at now feels far more natural to me - I started feeling as though I'd reclaimed my own body after temporarily living inside someone elses, that was a far from good fit. I have more energy because I'm eating better. I am - without question - healthier. So allowing for all of the above, why on earth would someone else - someone who claims to be a "champion" for acceptance of all body shapes - decide that the choices I had made make me "less valid"? Maybe it's time to reclaim Body Positivity as a movement for those us us who actually want to be accepting of everyone's choices - regardless of whether they are the same as ours, or not?