Tuesday 30 April 2013

Live Below the Line for Oxfam

A lovely guy working in conjuction with Oxfam sent me a very interesting email yesterday asking if I would highlight their cause this week.  I am only more than happy to.

I worked for Oxfam, first as a volunteer in one of their shops in Cumbria, then 'rising through the ranks' to Donated Goods Manager and then Shop Manager and finally working in conjunction with my Area Manager of the time training other Shop Managers to run shops of their own.  I thoroughly enjoyed my years working with them.  It really brought home to me, through the various urgent appeals I was involved in and the work behind the scenes to make sure the money donated got through to the folks it was intended for in the best possible ways, the marvellous work that this charity does in the most poverty striken parts of the world.

I think my favourite part of the job was when customers would come in with their squares of knitted wool and we would pile them into bags, when we had enough one of my vounteers would take them home and sew them into warm cosy blankets ready to be sent to the huge storage facility at Bicester to be on standby to be sent to where they were needed most.  These were not just random squares of wool, they were love sewn into usable items, made with love, sent with love and received with gratitude and relief.  Well anyway this is beside the point but this shows how deep my respect for Oxfam is and why when they ask me for help I do what I can.

So all that I ask of you my wonderful Blog readers is that you take a minute to read this.


Oxfam Supports Live Below the Line 2013
In the world today, 1.4 billion people live below the poverty line. That’s 1.4 billion people who are forced to get by on less than an equivalent of £1 a day for living expenses.
This month, the Global Poverty Project’s Live Below the Line Challenge returns. From 29 April to 3 May, participants from the UK, Canada, Australia and the USA will get a taste of what it’s like to live below the poverty line by pledging to spend only £1 a day on food for 5 days. You can get involved too by visiting the webpage for Oxfam’s Live Below the Line and signing up for the challenge.
Other things you can do to get involved with Live Below the Line include:
-          Sponsorship – ask friends, family, colleagues and neighbours for donations
-          Shopping Bill – Donate the difference from a weekly shop
-          Get Creative – Host a ‘Come Dine with Me Below the Line’ evening and ask guests for a donation.
Oxfam has been fighting poverty and deprivation for 70 years across 94 countries. This year’s Live Below the Line Challenge sees it joining forces with 30 organisations in the UK alone. Oxfam is one of the many UK charities working to create a global movement around food and nutrition in 2013. With the world’s most powerful leaders meeting at the G8 summit this year, action must be taken to change the lives of the millions around the world who struggle with hunger every day of the week. No one should have to go hungry, and Oxfam is actively working to raise awareness and campaigning for change.
The Live Below the Line initiative began in 2009 as a result of a house share and the ensuing conversations about extreme poverty between Rich Fleming from the Global Poverty Project and nick Allardice from Australia’s Oaktree Foundation. 15,000 people worldwide took up the challenge last year, raising $3,500,000 for anti-poverty initiatives.
Visit Oxfam.com to sign up for the challenge. For further information, please email fundraising@oxfam.org.uk or call 0300 200 1300.

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He also included a few recipe cards  which I have copied here to help you if you are taking part in this weeks wonderful Live Below the Line Challenge or indeed if you are just trying to make your food go as far as possible.

If you click on them they should appear larger.

I'll be back to my normal Blogging tomorrow launching my Challenge for myself for the month of May.
I have a confession to make and I shall have to stand up and admit it, well I have to ..... there's evidence I have the pictures :-)
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For those of you who have been asking, and I apologise for not letting you know sooner, we did not buy either of the properties we were after at the auction last Friday.  These believe it or not were the ONLY two properties in the entire auction that went for way above their reserve prices AND we had made the decision that unless we could get either of them 'for a song' we were not going to bother as only the day before we had found a property we absolutely love the look and sound of complete with 20 acres of land ....... we have a viewing booked for this Sunday ...... in SOUTH WALES.
I know you will wish us luck, but I think it's time you uncrossed all your fingers, I think you will be losing all circulation in the poor little digits :-)
Sue xx

Sunday 28 April 2013

Live Below the Line in One Shopping Trip

I was sent a really interesting question yesterday from someone considering doing the Live Below the Challenge on Monday to Friday of this coming week.  In her words ...
 "If you were me with access to only supermarkets, no growing space and no chickens so no eggs, only a pot of basil and one of parsley on my windowsill, knowing what you do now after doing this challenge for the last two years, what would you buy with your £5 allowing for finding NO special offers at a random visit to the supermarket, also what would you make from these foods to last you the week".
A very good question it really made me think ..... and this is what I came up with.
Brown bread 50p

Peanut Butter 62p
Instant coffee 47p
Last year (LY) I got 22 slices from my brown loaf, I would have two of these each morning, toasted with peanut butter (LY = 6 servings from one jar) and a cup of coffee, (luckily I now have my coffee black and with no sugar or sweetener a real LBTL money saver).
1kg Rice 40p
The rice would be split into 5 x 180g portions and 1x 100g portion, one 180g portion allowed each day for lunch or for my evening meal.
Curry Sauce 26p x 2 = 52p
Each jar of curry sauce would be cooked with 2 or 3 of the onions and two fifths of the frozen mixed vegetables to make two and a half portions of vegetable curry to have with the rice meal
(two jars = divided into five portions of vegetable curry)
I would cook this all at once at the start of the week and portion it up.  It would keep well in the fridge or it could be frozen in daily portions.
Frozen Mixed Vegetables 75p

1.5kg Onions 95p
Vegetable Stock Cubes 15p
(chicken and beef flavours also available at this price)
Allowing that potentially 6 of the onions have been allocated to the curry the rest would be peeled (carefully to give you as much onion as possible) and finely chopped. I would then turn them into a basic pot of soup using around six of the stock cubes.  Once cooked either blitz the entire pan of soup with a blender and divide into 5 portions, one for each day or blitz some of the portions and leave others chunky.  The final portion of frozen vegetables can be split between some of the portions of soup, as can the 100g of rice not allocated for the curry meal. 
This I would serve with a slice of brown toast for either lunch or tea.

Sparkling Water 17p x 2 = 34p
Ice cold Sparkling Water would be my treat each day, a glass of this with ice served in a wine glass with the evening meal makes a lovely cheap treat. This would be rationed out to last over the entire 5 days.

3 slices Bread and 1 serving of Peanut Butter - available for an emergency snacks or could be added to give the soup more substance/flavour
4 stock cubes - could be used to cook the rice in to give it more flavour.
Any herbs growing on the windowsill or wild could be added to both the curry and the soup for extra flavour
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This is my personal choice of foodstuffs for the week, and comes to a total of £4.70, allocating 10p for salt and pepper and herbs to use as seasoning it would give me 20p left over, with this I would try to find a potato (of the right weight and costing 20p, Sainsburys scales are brilliant for this as they print out your price sticker for the checkout and you would know the potato is going to cost you exactly this) to help give the soup more substance.
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Alternative to consider

If you hated curry and rice my alternative would be to buy pasta instead.  Two bags of basics pasta would be 60p, two packs of chopped tomatoes would be 62p.
So taking away the rice and curry for 92p, and adding instead the pasta and tomatoes for £1.20, would mean that you have 28p less to spend, which would be possible if you didn't search for that illusive potato and used your leftover 2p for the seasonings (more salt and less pepper would achieve this).
I would use half the onions for the soup in this case and the other half to add to the chopped tomatoes to make a pasta sauce to last the full five days.  I would also chuck in every available herb I could find for added flavour.  I'm sure foraging is allowed and it is the right time of year for Wild Garlic and Dandelions!!
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I hope this answers the question, and now if I was you I would dash out to Sainsburys and Asda or your local supermarket with equivalent foods pretty sharpish to hopefully grab these bargain foods to see you through the week if you are going to give this ago.
  Of course if you get there and something is not available then you have to have your thinking cap on and reconsider the shopping.  But by keeping your eating to the same breakfasts each day, and the same foods that can be eaten either for dinner or tea it does make it much more achievable.  You only need lots of different foods if you want different meals for each day of the week, not something you have the luxury of really if you are living on £1 a day!!
Good luck to all of you who are taking part in this wonderful challenge.  Lets hope that once again it opens peoples eyes to the shocking truth about poverty both here in the UK and all around the world.  It does us all good to stop and think sometimes.
Please use the links at the top of my right hand sidebar to go directly to the official Live Below the Line web page and read all about the efforts being made by so many people and to also make your donation if you can.  I'll be looking around Blog land for more Blogs of folk taking part in the Challenge to add to my sidebar, let me know if you are.
Sue xx

Saturday 27 April 2013

The Year of Less - Less Spending

This week I managed to spend a total of £55.19 on food and toothpaste, we have worked our way through the toothpaste stash and so I had to buy a new pack.  I have searched and searched but have been unable to find our favourite on special offer anywhere at the moment, I will have to keep looking.
I bought  lots of fresh foods and three bags of frozen veggies that should see us nicely through until I have some crops growing outside, (lots of seeds are now in, some of them already peeking through the soil).
As well as spending from the £2 House Keeping Challenge money tin I also spent some of my personal spends this week, all of my last few weeks savings in fact.  I had my hair cut, and then decided to treat us to a Bento box each.  As we are cutting down on carbs Lovely Hubby doesn't take sandwiches to work anymore and we didn't want to take any for when we are travelling preferring instead to take a tub of salad, these boxes are insulated and keep your salad lovely and cool, ideal for when LH can't get his lunch into the works fridge if he's busy in meetings.
I also got myself a replacement timer, so no more clock watching or worrying if the old one would work.  My final purchase was four more dinner plates.
Because during our 'Year of Less', we've decided that less food on our plates can only be better for our waistlines, and the large emptier looking plates looked so sad.  Therefore with smaller plates they will look fuller and we will hopefully think we have eaten more. 
As usual my new purchases were white this way all our crockery is matching, a brilliant tip I picked up from Jane over at The Maple Syrup Mob.   It also saves lots of time when choosing anything new we need as we just head to the white section on the shelves, and any breakages can easily be replaced without the need for whole new sets of crockery or mismatching.
Now I'm off to plan out my Challenge for next month, I have to do something I've spent a lot more than I meant to on food this month although I guess in comparison to other years for us, and other folks weekly food budget this year we are doing pretty well up to now. 
Up to date, by clever shopping and making good use of vouchers and points as well as money earnt through recommendations I have only spent a total of £338 on food which works out at an average of £18.70 a week for the last 18 weeks. 
I guess I shouldn't be too hard on myself :-)
Sue xx

Thursday 25 April 2013

Live Below the Line 2013

For the past couple of years I have joined in with this wonderful Challenge, it's been brilliant to do and I've loved being able to raise money for such good causes as well as awareness about poverty around the world and here in the UK.  The first year I raised money for The Salvation Army, International Development UK, last year I chose Restless Development, but there are many others you can choose to support if you are tempted to give it a go this year.
The basic idea is that to raise awareness of poverty and hunger both here in the UK and all over the world you live 'below the line' that is the £1 a day poverty line that is all so many people have to live on completely, not just for food as we are able to do during the challenge.
In Live Below the Lines's words this is how you do it -

So you want to Live Below the Line, but you’re not sure what you’re getting yourself into.

 Ok so here are the basics:

  • From the 29th April – 3rd May you can spend no more than £1 a day on food and drink.
  • This means you have a total of £5 with which to buy all ingredients for your meals.
  • The full cost of all the items you consume must be included in your budget. This means budgeting for whole packets of food items such as rice, pasta, noodles and eggs etc.
  • For items such as salt, pepper, herbs and spices, simply work out the cost of each item per gram and budget your shopping proportionally. Separate your items before the challenge so there’s no need to be digging around in your cupboards.
  • You can share the cost of ingredients amongst a team, as long as no participant spends more than £1 a day or their total £5 budget. Working as a team will allow you to pool together funds and do more with your cooking.
  • You can’t grab a cheeky snack from the cupboard unless you include the cost of buying the item new in your budget.
  • You can use food sourced from your garden as long as you can account for the price of production!
  • No combination of meals on any given day can exceed the £1 spending limit. Remember this is a challenge to eat creatively and be enjoyed – don’t at any point deprive yourself of three meals a day.
  • You cannot accept ‘donated’ food from family or friends, but monetary donations towards your fundraising goals are acceptable, and encouraged!
  • You are allowed to drink tap water – remember you should try and drink at least 6-8 glasses of water each day.
  • Remember that cigarettes don’t come cheap either! Can you Live Below The Line and still manage to smoke?
In 2011 when I did this I relied a lot on supermarket basics ranges, shopping carefully and making every penny count.  I managed to buy a lot that year, but then food prices were a lot cheaper then.
Then in 2012, because I had kept notes and pictures from the first year (thank goodness for the Blog) I was able to refine what I bought and also use some Approved Foods things that I had bought.
Knowing how little I had growing the first year for this challenge I had purposefully thought ahead at the end of the growing season the previous year and tucked into the freezer things I would be able to use for the next years Challenge.  The costings were amazing, I had things for less than a penny that would make a large chunk of a meal, it really highlighted for me the beauty of being able to grow your own foods.
Lovely Hubby joined in with the Challenge last year for each of his evening meals last year, giving me an extra 33p per day to my budget and meaning I was able to buy these extra foods.
For lots more information on how I did here are some links to the Blog posts written both in 2011 and 2012.  If you read the first post and then click onto 'Newer Post' at the end of each one you will be able to read the entries in the correct order.
I learnt a lot from taking part in this challenge over the past two years and I am disappointed to be unable to do it again this year, but if there are any tips or advice you need if you are doing it yourself I would be more than happy to help if I can.
The Live Below the Line website is excellent for ideas and recipes and a good place to visit to be inspired by all the wonderful tales of other folk getting involved.  I will leave the link at the top of my right hand sidebar for a while as well as links to some of the Bloggers that have let me know they are taking part this year.  Please pop by and visit them and show your support, both with comments, encouragement and maybe the odd donation or two, every penny counts.
Wishing lots of luck to everyone who is taking part,  and if you hadn't thought about it yet there is still time, this years week begins on Monday and runs through until Friday, so there is time to make lists and plan out your menu before shopping to get some bargains.  If you can't make it in time for next week you can pick another week to do it, your donations will still count.
All the very best to all of this years Below the Line participants.
Sue xx


Wednesday 24 April 2013

The Year of Less - Sorting Through the Food

The 'Year of Less' is going really well, and slowly but surely I am working my way around the house sorting through everything we own, and somehow I seem to keep coming back to the kitchen, well I guess it is the 'heart of the home' and the place where the most new stuff is brought in, in the form of food shopping.
Something wasn't sitting right with me and at first I couldn't put my finger on it.  Then I realised it was these shelves.  They were full of foodstuffs in jars that I had used a couple of times maybe and then just left.  Now yes they do look nice, but looking nice just doesn't cut the mustard anymore, things also have to be in regular use and be what we really want in our lives, and we simply weren't eating our way through these at all.
So something had to be done.
I went through each and every jar, thinking back (or trying to) to the last time it had been used, if we had liked the meal or item I had made and if I intended to make anything with the contents in the foreseeable future, everything where there was any doubt about either usefulness or age was thrown away and the jar washed out for future use.
I went through everything and rearranged the things that I was keeping.

Putting some of the things from the wider 'alcove' shelves onto the little green shelf. 
Leaving myself almost two free shelves in the alcove, so then I went round the kitchen taking the storage jars that have been living on the worktops as they did contain foods we used over and over and placed them instead on the bigger shelves, and I still have a gap.
Freeing space in the house is continuing to free space in my mind and it's a brilliant feeling.
This was the main food cupboard before tidying the other week ....

... and this is it now. 
 Not a million times better but I now know exactly what we have in stock and what meals we can make from what we have, and therefore how long I can make our £2 House Keeping Challenge money last.
All the food has now been sorted through and like stored with like, I just have to bring the bags of bread flour that have been living in a box in the spare room to fill this final gap in the larder cupboard and then we will be able to see all our food in one space.
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Thinking about food and our vast overstocking of it brought to mind that it's almost the time of year for the Live Below The Line Challenge, (next week in fact).   I'm not doing it myself this year but if you are please let me know as I am in contact with the organisers of the charity I raised money for last year Restless Development, as they have asked to link to my Blog this year as believe it or not I achieved the highest Blog referral rate for last years challenge.
If you are doing it and would like me to include a link to your Blog on my next post which will be linking to the Restless Development Blog ready for Live Below the Line week please get in touch, either via the comments below this post or by email, my address is at the very bottom of the blog on the left hand sidebar.
This year I want to follow the exploits of others doing the challenge, see how they manage , what they eat and sponsor them, as unfortunately with all that's going on here I just couldn't do it justice myself.
Sue xx

Monday 22 April 2013

It's Spring ......

It's Spring ... it must be, the sun is shining, although how long for I wouldn't like to guarantee, I have seeds sown in the greenhouse that are coming up after only 4 days, you've just got to love Radishes they give you such hope with their quick growing as well as such peppery goodness,  and best of all yesterday it was actually WARM. 
Wow, how I've missed the warmth.

So quickly this morning I've got to sort through lots of emails, (thank you to all those of you who sent comments and emails wishing me happy birthday, absolutely lovely to receive), then I have to nip to the sorting office to 'buy' a card that was posted to me with not enough postage, why do they have to do that to you, I would willingly give the postman the money at the door, instead I have to hand over my money at the sorting office AND pay to park my car while I do so....totally NOT FAIR!! 
 Deep breath - rant over!
Then I have to go and hand over more money to get our little doggies out of the kennels where they were for the weekend while we shot off looking at another property.  It's all looking hopeful for the auction on Friday of this week, fingers crossed :-)
Then and only then, if the sun is still with us will I be able to get stuck in with weeding the beds at the front of the house and make a start on sprucing this place up ready for (dare I say it) Summer.  The front beds are used as our overflow beds for 'cut and come again' lettuces, herbs and other little bits and pieces that are handy to have right outside the door.  This is a picture of one of the beds in August last year, the other is on the other side of the front door and extends aound the side of the house, we planted them with veggies quite late last year as we hadn't expected the deer to eat as many of our veggies over in the Veggie Patch as they did, (we didn't even know there were so many deer here until then). 
 Usually in Summer the deer are well fed enough not to venture this close to the house for food so our lettuces etc will stand a reasonable chance of survival, and soon we will have the deer defences in place around the Veggie Patch, so hopefully (fingers crossed and fences erected) we will even do better over there this year.
Which would be really good as we need to grow as much as we possibly can because this sign is our new mantra. 
We are hopefully from now on eating only real food at least 95% of the time (off the top of my head I can't think what the other 5% of foods would be, but I'm being generous here and giving us some leeway).  I shouldn't really have to call it real food if you think about it, it should just be FOOD, and everything else should be called 'fake food'.
Since simplifying our diets there are so many aisles of the supermarkets I don't even go down, saves a lot of time and hopefully very soon I will save even more time in there as I will be back to shopping from the Veggie Patch for our meals and there will be absolutely nothing in packets.
My eyes are currently very open when I am in supermarkets, have you ever took a step back and just looked, looked at the mass of processed, mass produced foods in all their packaging, with all the offers enticing us to buy.  Even so many of the 'real foods' have been tampered with in so many ways.  Just take potatoes, you can buy them as actual potatoes very cheaply or you can pay through the nose to have them washed for you, peeled for you, sliced for you, mashed for you, the list goes on.  Yes, it is brilliant if you have no time in an emergency or there is a genuine reason for needing your food prepared I totally understand that, but when you see folk that are simply buying the prepared foods because that's all they know it's a shame, they are handing over twice, sometimes three times the money they need to for the same foodstuff.  Ooops sorry ranting again!!
I better get going and get these errands run, so I can get back to my first love, growing our own food.
I hope the sun is shining where you are.
Sue xx

Friday 19 April 2013

Two Very Lucky Girls

Today is my birthday and I've been a very lucky girl.  Two gorgeous bunches of flowers, a basket full of fruit, CD's chocolates, candles .....

... and two books that I wanted the minute I saw they'd been released.
And yesterday a mooch round the charity shop while I was in the village posting off some parcels, which yielded three more books, two for me and The Wild Gourmets for Lovely Hubby.

You can't beat a nice stack of books on your birthday.    Or can you ......

... my best birthday present .
On Wednesday Mother Hens Poultry, where we bought our new Skylines last Sunday, put an appeal on their Facebook page for a new home for a little ex-battery hen that had been dumped over their fence in the night and left to fend for herself.  How could I resist, I was straight in with an offer of a new home for the poor girl. 
What a thing to have to go through, to be 'rescued' once and then for the rescuer to decide that no, you're just not good enough and to then unceremoniously dump you.  At least she somehow survived the night, amazing as where they are is a known fox run and all their hens are securely locked up at night to protect them, during the day it is alive with people as they live on the entrance to a popular tourist destination in these parts and so the birds are safe.
She is in a sorry state with all her under-carriage completely bare and lots of missing feathers from her back.  They had briefly put her in with their birds but she was mercilessly picked on, chickens instinctively peck at 'red things', so they removed her and let her free range in their garden for the day.  Yesterday morning I went and picked her up and now she is to spend the rest of her days with us.
Growing feathers back is a natural thing for chickens and they simply get on with it with no fuss, you do have to watch how you handle them as to push the emerging feathers the wrong way can hurt the bird (imagine a splinter sticking out of your skin and you pushing it the wrong way), but they do need good nourishment while they go through this process and some supplements help.
My first job was to spray her all over her 'red bits' with antiseptic spray, it has a purple dye in so you can see that you have got it in the right place, so now instead of red bits, she has purple bits, but this also serves to stop other birds pecking at the sore spots.  You can't see from the following photos but the whole of her rear end is now bright purple, poor girl.
She made herself at home immediately and made friends with Archie the cat.

After a drink from his bowl ...
... and a handful or two of sunflower seeds,

she was ready to join our other new girls out in the Eglu.
Meeting our only other surviving rescue bird (an ex commercial free-ranger) Gorgeous Girl who is also a Hyline hen through the bars, once she's fully feathered they should be almost identical. 

This is how she should look when she is fit and well and all her feathers have grown back.  Another good thing is that having this lovely new future companion has given Gorgeous Girl a whole new lease of life, she has spent the last week looking as though she was losing the will to live, she is after all our eldest and most hard working of hens.
Lets just hope they get on without the mesh to separate them, here they are playing the 'I'm a bigger stronger chicken than you' game.
Oh, and by the way I've called  her Angel, after all she's survived death twice and she is also absolutely angelic, with a lovely friendly temperament.
So two very lucky girls in this house today.
We've an exciting weekend ahead and I'll let you know all about it on Monday.
Hope you all have a wonderful weekend yourselves, fingers crossed for some sunshine :-)
Sue xx