Website Has Got A New Home

Standard

We have moved to FreEcoBus.co.uk

Hope to see you there soon!

Advertisements

Minimalist / Project 333 Shoes

Standard

So I am a big believer in reducing the number of shoes and clothes that my family own and this was in large part inspired by The Minimalists and Project 333.

There is a lot of tips and hints out there about how to plan your wardrobe, capsule wardrobes, starting project 333 and the minimalist movement. I wanted to share with you my journey and today I thought I’d talk about my shoes.

When it comes to shoes, I wanted to really reduce them and I thought this was more apparent if I went for one set of shoes I always had available rather than having a set of shoes for each 3-6months.

stock-photo-a-pile-of-shoes-in-an-old-brown-suitcase-with-a-retro-effect-165479144

I had an overflowing shoe box of family shoes, plus shoes just stuffed in our hallway and then more shoes stuffed under our bed… most of which we never even wore… Yes I included the children in this downsize too.

So what stayed for me?

  1. Wellington Boots or Country Boots – we live in the country side and are often romping around fields and muddy puddles so these were a must in our household. I have country boots rather than wellington boots (or wellies as we call them but I’m not sure how to spell it so I went with wellingtons!) but either would suffice.
  2. Work shoes – I have to wear flat practical shoes for the type of work I do, so I have a smart pair of black flats. These can be worn with a wide range of outfits so aren’t just for work but still you get the idea.
  3. Casual trainers – I had a few pairs of trainers and I realised I didn’t need them all, I settled on my favourite pair and kept them. Unfortunately I didn’t have any plain black/white trainers which would have been more versatile and easier to fit into a minimalist wardrobe with a wider range of possibilities, so when these are worn out I will probably go down that route, but for now I love my flowery Vans and they are going to stay.
  4. Black Boots – I went with my flat biker girl style ankle boots as an essential as they add a funky edge to most outfits but are still practical, versatile and comfortable. I get a lot of wear out of these boots so they stayed.
  5. Brown Boots – I have a lovely pair of flat warm winter boots that are also funky and practical and so I kept these for cold snowy winter days a they are versatile, can be dressed up or down and I really like them
  6. Black heels – This is versatile shoe for dressing up for work or going out and can be worn with just about anything. I went with a pair of comfortable black court shoes.
  7. Stunning heels – I chose one pair of heels that make me feel really good and that I love wearing for special occasions, I went with my red heels that I absolutely love and couldn’t be a part from, these are my special ‘treat’ shoes but by no means is essential in my wardrobe but I just couldn’t let these ones go… guilty pleasure
  8. Sandals / flip flops – I actually don’t have a pair at the moment but a pair of summer flip flops or sandals for hotter days is on my allowed shoe list.
  9. Running / exercise shoes – Again I don’t have these in my wardrobe as yet, I usually just borrow someone else’s (thanks mum!) but I think this is another shoe most people including me, would need in their allowed shoe list.

This could be minimalized more or less to suit you, yes I could do without the pair of guilty pleasure shoes and could be more vigilant in my options, however for me this seems to be a good year round minimalist shoe list. I may adapt it in the future to suit changing needs or trends but what it has taught me is a certainly don’t need any more than 10 shoes in my wardrobe at any time and there is no point holding on to the large number of shoes  that I never or hardly ever wore.

The above list is comfortable for me at this time and  that it why I stuck to it, you could go more or less extreme to suit your own wishes. The point is to only have things that are valuable to you and I genuinely love and/wear all of the above shoes and that is key when you are making your choices. I think the key to my minimalist journey is to have numbers and tips as a guide such as project 333 but to adapt it to suit your own needs and values.

As for the children they have the following

  1. A pair of school shoes – smart black shoes which can have a variety of uses
  2. A pair of party shoes – they’re girls and they deserve a touch of sparkle too
  3. A pair of trainers – for my eldest that includes running trainers and casual trainers as she does a lot of exercise including cross country running (shoes get muddy and aren’t so nice for going out to hang out with friends)
  4. A pair of wellington boots – again same as me, country girls
  5. A pair of sandals – for hot days again, I try and get ones that are practical, comfy and pretty so they can be dressed up and dressed down.

What are your essential shoes? And what are your views or experiences of minimalism or project 333? I’d love to hear from you!

How can we protect the planet on a tiny budget?

Standard

Today I pose a question to you all… how do we protect the planet on a tiny budget?

I have read and watched a wide variety of books and documentaries, on eco friendly tips, living off grid, self-sufficiency, minimalism, etc. all of which have been influential and inspirational sources of information and ideas… however during a conversation I was having, the question arose…. most of the people who are leading the movement and some stage had money (i.e. access to capital/investment).

Whilst there are lots of simple, small steps we can make to reduce the impact of our existing lifestyles, if we want to go mainstream into our eco values either through self-sufficiency or community initiatives… we need capital.

We need money to fund the land, invest in technology (sources of power and water) and much more….

Some have access to this source of investment to fund their eco homes and lifestyles, others choose to live above the law and I am not criticising any of these means, but I have access to neither of these options, and I don’t think I am alone…

What do average day to day families do? The families who want more intense options such as off grid living do when they have zero or very small capital, are working to pay off bills alone, and are unable to take the risks of doing things that do not fit with the law either for principle reasons or due to family commitments?

I am a single mum working part-time. I can not increase my hours as this would involve increased child care which I can not afford. My wage goes towards essential bills and servicing debts. My budget has been squeezed as much as is viable and I still can not seem to save any money each month…

I have no capital, I live in rented accommodation and all I own is the furniture within it which has little sellable valuable…

I am able to do a wide number of things to reduce my impact on the environment and I am well aware and striving towards this… but my dream is to live off grid ideally as part of a community of like minded people, but doing such requires land (costly) particularly land that I would be allowed to live on, access to technology (such as solar panels) and so on and I have no means of gaining  the funds to do this….

So my question is, how do people like me who are on a very limited budget step into the world of off grid living? Particularly in a way that provides a secure roof over my children’s heads….

I’d love to hear your tips, ideas and views on this discussion!

Simple Family Friendly Plant Based Breakfasts

Standard

So week one of my plant based transition has focused on breakfasts. Was it a success? Honestly I’m not really sure… Can I eat a plant based breakfast? Yes… Does it fill me up? Yes… Do plant based breakfasts make me jump for joy? No…Uh oh!

I’ve seen tons of amazing recipes for plant based breakfasts on the internet, but I have two kids, a school run and work to get to and I do not have the time to spend hours slaving away over a stove, at least not on an average morning!

I have found some super quick, simple and substantial plant based breakfasts (which don’t taste awful by the way), but when compared with the high sugar cereal my family has been accustomed to they’re just not as nice.

Before the plant based diet, we were eating the worst breakfasts we probably could be… I’m talking coco pops and cheerios… They’re quick, they’re easy and they taste good…. But that’s miles away from a nutritional or ethical breakfast.

So I bought 5kg bag of organic porridge oats from a local farm, 5kg bag of organic muesli from the same farm, a range of milk alternatives, some whole meal bread, maple syrup and some organic peanut butter. I was prepared and ready for a week of plant based diets.

The toughest challenge with this diet was probably the milk alternatives… we’re struggling to transition away from cows milk but we’re dedicated, keep thinking about why we’re doing this and persevering. I believe that we will adapt with time, but it’s just going to take time for our taste buds to adjust with the changes.

So, here are my top 5 plant based breakfasts that are kid approved and simple and quick.

  1. Peanut butter and whole meal toast – this is my go to now as it tastes good, I don’t miss the butter either for some reason. It’s so easy to prepare, gives us some nut intake before school (where no nuts are allowed) and tastes good. This is definitely a staple in our house now!
  2. Porridge with milk alternative and maple syrup – we are still trialling the milk alternatives to see which one we all prefer, but this is a nice easy breakfast that we can all enjoy and the maple syrup adds a nice flavour to it that we are more familiar with.
  3. Muesli with milk alternative – I’m not a natural muesli fan to be honest, but it’s such a quick and easy breakfast that the kids can even prepare themselves so it’s a go to when we’re really rushed and just need something quick.
  4. Pancakes – ok to this one is a bit of a cheat as it does take a bit longer, this is not our school day breakfast (although if you are more organised and prepare in advance then it could be) but this is a great weekend treat. We got a recipe for a wholemeal vegan pancake mix and although they don’t taste as good as our traditional pancakes, topped with some bananas and maple syrup it tastes nice, different yes, but nice.
  5. Green smoothies – these are a great nutritional kick and my kids love them and they’re so quick and easy, but they’re not my go to for breakfast as I don’t find them filling enough, but for someone who just wants something light they’re a great option, but we normally have it with one of the other options or as a mid day snack.

So there’s my go to quick and easy plant based, vegan breakfasts that are family friendly and can be done with a busy schedule. I hope with time I will learn to love them as much as I did the naughty coco pops, but they certainly hit the button and get good food in my system.

I hope my lack of enthusiasm doesn’t put you off! I know from previous experience when you stop eating convenience / processed food it can be a real challenge, but with time you learn to love really simple flavours, so hopefully I will learn to appreciate these dishes more with time. Watch this space!!!

 

Plant based diet

Standard

I’m going to talk food for a bit… but not the foraging, home grown food of my dreams. I’m going to talk about plant based diets.

I recently watched a documentary on Netflix called Food Choices which examines the damage to our health and climate that modern diets are causing. It was really fascinating, I knew that vegetarian and vegan diets were better for the environment but I never knew they were better for our health. It is definitely worth a watch if this is something you are interested in or want to know more about!

I have been vegetarian for most of my life and used to raise two happily vegetarian kids, but guilt won over this last year and I allowed them to eat meat, even started buying and cooking it for them. After watching this documentary I started a conversation with them about healthy eating and we agreed as a family to adopt a more plant based diet.

The hardest shift towards veganism for me is dairy… I love dairy! I have cheese, butter and milk as part of most meals and I love it…. the girls were equally worried! So we agreed to transition slowly, but also accept that we would eat what we wanted at times but only as a treat.

So how are we going to structure this shift to keep us on track and focused but without pushing it too far or too quickly?

Our plan is structured over 4 weeks:

  • Week 1 – Breakfast
  • Week 2 – Breakfast and lunch
  • Week 3 – Breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Week 4 – Breakfast, lunch, dinner, pudding and snacks

The aim is to eat predominantly plant based foods, trying to cut out processed foods and sugar and generally eat more healthy. I strongly recommend watching that documentary to see what I mean by this. However I will allow the odd naughty treat once in a while, as eating it rarely is better than always in my opinion and we do love them naughties!

I will post my successes and challenges each week including my old diet and new diet and will welcome any feedback and tips along the way!

 

Freecobus Relapse

Standard

I’m writing today to apologise… one for my lack of posting and two for not living by my own values and goals….

Its been over a year since I last posted anything and I’m sad to say it’s not because I realised my freecobus dream and thus had no internet access…. instead it’s because I well and truly fell off the band wagon!

I started not posting as I was ashamed that I’d fallen into convenience foods, petrol guzzling, electricity addiction habits… then as time slowly passed the Freecobus became a distant dream, unrealistic and unachievable and albeit a bit coo-coo…

Now a year on, I have been contemplating all of this. I regret stopping posting and wish I had posted about my challenges of juggling eco living with hectic busy family lives. Since I started this project my life became more hectic with the addition of ponies and a child who is a competitive gymnast who trains 40 minutes away from home 10 hours a week.

As well as this I believe a big part of my failure was trying to change too much too quickly… it became too hard too quick…

So I decided I need to get back on my path and start again with a slower, step by step approach rather than all or nothing. I debated starting a new blog as I am no longer sure whether I will ever achieve the Freecobus dream but the realised something. The Freecobus is a vision, it’s my ideal scenario and yes it may change and the end product may end up looking completely different, but it’s my inspiration. It started with a dream and it can motivate me and symbolise my journey well however it may twist and turn just like the travels of a bus.

So although I started this post with an apology, I end it in hope and inspiration. My relapse was less of a failure but a fork in my road, a twist in my journey and raised new challenges to overcome…. How do we juggle eco living with hectic family lives and a shoe string budget?

As yet, I do not know… but I’m willing to give it a go? Are you? Have any of you found ways to balance life and eco values? If so, I’d love to hear from you!

I’ll end this post with a picture and quote from my eldest daughter…

img_0238

How to relax without electricity, tv or gadgets?

Standard

On sunday I wanted a nice chilled out relaxing day. Lets face it I would be happy with this most days, but sunday in particular I was so tired! It was the kind of day where you want to just stay in your PJs and sit on the sofa watching tv all day long. But then I wondered about how I would relax when my off grid dreams come true? What could I do instead of watching tv, playing on my gadgets? What is laid back but doesn’t use electricity?

I had previously looked into entertainment options that don’t rely on electricity, but most required me to use my energy and that defeated the point of this day.

So on Sunday I decided to cope without my electrical gadgets and entertain myself in a nice chilled out way.

  1. Read – To be honest this is basically all I did on Sunday and realised its just as relaxing as watching tv. I rotated between a comic book (for when I felt really tired as pictures helped), a non-fiction book (this one was about living off-grid which fixed my google addiction) and a fiction novel. This surprised me, as although I like to read I usually think of it as quite a tiring activity but it wasnt.
  2. Simple crafts – I’m talking knitting, crochet, sewing etc. Something you can do whilst sitting on your butt!
  3. Music – By this I mean play an instrument. I’m not very musically talented but I found the ukulele quite easy to learn and like to sit down and play on that in an evening. Would work just as well on a lazy day
  4. Bake – I’ll be honest if I hadnt removed all the tempations of processed quick foods, I may have faltered on this one on sunday. I couldn’t be bothered to bake. But once I did I felt quite good. I baked a simple cheese and onion pasty but something like cheese scones would do. If you have a bit more energy than I did you might want to try and bake something a little mote complicated.
  5. Snuggles – lets face it snuggles and hugs make us all feel good. So if your family is around snuggle up and have a little chat together, if your on your own then why not spend time with your pet if you have any. I love sitting with my bunnies and having little cuddles. Heck if your lucky convince a willing friend or family member to give you a massage!

So there are five of my favourites, but im sure if you just comit to no technology you will all come up with lots of other things you can do to chill out without electricity.

Minimalist Wardrobe: Time to Downsize

Standard

Well New Year new me… or at least as far as my wardrobe is concerned! Come New Year day I decided I had enough of the ridiculous amount of clothes in my giant wardrobe, chest of drawers and yes I even spread out into my office drawers… Oops!

For the record, the majority of my wardrobe was bought second hand or handed down to me by family and friends. I try to get all of my clothes second hand where possible in order to minimize my impact on the environment. But really there was too much of it and it this raised a number of concerns. One I was buying into consumerism, fashion fads and the waste culture. Two I wouldn’t fit it all in when I eventually get my FreEco Bus Converted, heck even bought would be a good step to achieve!

So I remembered seeing things called capsule wardrobes on Pinterest and began to do a bit of digging. I have found out about Project 333. And decided on New Years Day to join the challenge. I minimized my wardrobe down to about 30 items (including shoes and coats, but excluding underwear, PJs, workout gear and lounging clothes) per season.

It was so difficult to decide on which items to keep and give away. In the end I decided on about 30 items for each season. The ones for Autumn, Spring and Summer I put away into my chest of drawers. Whilst the Winter items remained in my wardrobe.

The rest I put in a pile to give me chance to decide if I was happy with my choices and in a couple of weeks if there are any items that I think nooo I can’t be done with loosing that, I have 3 spare spaces per season to play with… if not, they will be packed off to the charity shop.

I have found it so much easier getting ready in the mornings, but also I feel like I have made a practical step towards my FreEco Bus dream and also a better move for the environment. Now my clothing focus is not on what is on trend, but what is practical, multi-functional and good quality.

Have any of you done anything similar? I would love to hear about your experiences!

Our Pond Building Adventure

Standard

On New Years Eve, me and my daughters had a wonderful day embracing and caring for nature. I had been reading up on permaculture principles, mostly in preparation for when we do manage to obtain our own land but also to try and use some in our current rented house.

InstagramCapture_41adf0c6-3ea3-4d8b-80d7-56b647d7d6b0

My research pointed out to pond building to provide a habitat for wildlife particularly frogs who would also eat garden pests such as slugs and bugs.

The total project cost £30 as I felt that it was better to invest in a good pond liner for this project and I see that as quite a long term investment. I’m not really sure how you would do it for free.

WP_20151231_003

Me and my kids set to work digging a hole, aiming for about 50cm deep but with sloping edges so frogs can get in and out of the pond easily. Then we removed any sharp objects like stones from the edges, lined the pond with something to prevent punctures. Old carpet is good but we didn’t have any so we used old bed sheets. Then put the pond liner down and anchor it with some stones whilst you fill it with some water. Simply edge it with stones and voila a pond.

WP_20151231_004We are going to try and get some water lillies from a friends pond and added our pet goldfish who enjoyed the freedom from the tank and is loving his new home!

All in all it was a great project and I think I will plan a pond in every future garden from now on! There’s just so many benefits! It’s like a beautiful, natural pesticide that protects rather than destroys wildlife.

Chicken Keeping: Routine

Standard

So I have shared a few posts about looking after chickens over the last few weeks, but I think it’s about time I told you the day to day caring of chickens. Being frank they’re really easy to care for!

WP_20151129_001

Each morning I get up and let the chickens out, feed them, refill their water and collect any eggs. I also will have a quick look at them to make sure they seem well. They prefer to come out as soon as it is light so I alter the time I let them out as much as I can depending on the time of year.

If I am at home, I like to come out and give them treats in the middle of the day like scrap from the garden (weeds etc.) to munch on or a bit of corn, but if I’m at work I leave some of this for them in the morning.

In the evening, I simply shut them back up and I used to bring in any feeders for them. These days though, I tend to just scatter the food on the floor as mine used to knock their feeders over anyway.

Each week, I give them a good clean using Smite spray and renew their wood shavings. I give their containers a good clean and then refill their grit containers if needed. I tend to have a quick look around their run and coops as well to make sure there aren’t any holes or signs of digging anywhere too.

This is generally the maintenance that I follow with my chickens. As you can see it is very easy to do and doesn’t take much time for their general care, but as you come to love them you will find yourself lingering to have a bit of a chat with them too… or maybe that just my nutty self!