11 lessons waste food taught me…



So after reviewing Zero waste home by Bea Johnson I said I was going to participate in Zero Waste Week which this year is focusing on food waste. Turns out that even knowing that this week was coming and therefore being more mindful about what was coming in, a lot has still gone out!

I usually have a rough menu plan for the week, however this week I was mindful of trying to use things up so as to not waste them. We often batch cook so have several meals that are quick to heat up on the three nursery nights a week. Saturday is usually wild card night to use anything up but this week it ended up being Wednesday as there were so many things about to go off.

Planned Actual
Monday Butternut squash lasagne (left over from Sunday) Butternut squash lasagne
Tuesday Quorn Pasta bake Quorn Pasta bake
Wednesday Fish Pie (Frozen) Quorn Pasta bake, tofu wiener & coleslaw
Thursday Egg Spaghetti Beetroot & Goats Cheese Salad
Friday Spaghetti Bolognese (Frozen) Spaghetti Bolognese
Saturday Sausages & Frozen Yorkshires (that had been around a while!) Sausages & Yorkshires
Sunday Tagine (made on Saturday) Tagine & Rice

In total I managed to “save” several items

  • Mini mozzarella balls – ended up in the pasta bake.
  • Pasta shells – ended up in the pasta bake.
  • Tofu wieners
  • The end of  some goats cheese.


As for the waste, I’ve decided to try and use each item that has gone as an opportunity to learn. I should be clear, I’m not counting food waste (e.g. vegetable peelings) but rather food I have wasted.  The grand total at the end of the week has been:

  • Half a (mouldy) melon.
  • Half a jar of mayonnaise that had gone funky even by my standards
  • Crackers/bread sticks/oatcakes that were stale.
  • 3 (mouldy) half lemons
  • Half a pot of hummus
  • Half a bag of funky spinach
  • 1 portion of fish pie


Lesson 1. Visibility – Don’t forget you have a melon, or for that matter fish pie in the freezer.

Lesson 2. Correct storage. After eating half a melon, don’t leave the other half covered on the side for 24 hours when it is sweltering. Put it in the fridge.  Equally breadsticks and crackers stored correctly last much longer than in open packets.

Lesson 3. More is not always cost effective. – Although the cost per gram is cheaper in a larger jar, the speed at which I consume mayonnaise would have made a small jar more economical. It’s better to use all of a small jar than half a large jar.

Lesson 4. Using waste food often takes creativity and time. Factor this in to life.  In hindsight the stale crackers & breadsticks could have been used to form the base of a savoury cheese cake, however I have no plans to make this anytime soon due to time constraints.

Lesson 5. Stock rotation 101 – Agree as a household on a where things are kept so food is used sequentially. Clear storage containers would also have helped with this, so I might employ some of Bea Johnson’s go to solution: Jam jars!

Lesson 6. Take responsibility for your own waste – While there are somethings I’m willing to eat, others are my wife’s responsibility. She went away mid week and it didn’t last until she got back. Equally the fish pie was completely my responsibility as she is a vegetarian.

Lesson 7. Pay attention to food you don’t eat as much. This again was the wife’s and while I don’t eat as much of it (she is Popeye) I would have eaten it if I had noticed it before it dissolved.

Lesson 8. If it’s been in the freezer for a year, I’m not eating it – We need a stock rotation system for the freezer for the infrequent items.

Other lessons I have learnt:

Lesson 9. Bizarre combinations of food are edible, even if they won’t make the regular meal plan. Wednesday night’s dinner was left over pasta & quorn bake, tofu wieners and coleslaw.

Lesson 10. Portion appropriately. The pasta bake was more successful this week as I halved the amount of pasta so it fed us all one night with only one portion left over for my lunch (which I had forgotten I didn’t need).

Lesson 11. Don’t stockpile items as whims can change like the wind blows. We currently have 13 tins of chickpeas and 3 packs of cod pieces (plus various other fish in the freezer from when my daughter was eating fish). My action plan at the end of Zero Waste week is to identify oven baked cod recipes I can do easily.


So how have you been doing with reducing your food waste? What are your top tips? Do you have regular offenders that get wasted?




If you are in the mood for a different minimalist challenge, Anne over at Minimalist Sometimes is doing a 21 day declutter challenge getting rid of 231 items in 21 days (Day 1 = 1 item, Day 2 = 2 etc). Current circumstances mean I’m not going to join, however if you need the motivation…

Book Review: Zero waste home by Bea Johnson

zero waste home

As I journey along the path of minimalism, related ideas have caught my attention. In recent months I have become frustrated by the amount of rubbish we throw away. Our main source of waste is seemingly food and nappies. While I have reduced the total partly by savvy shopping, having a wild card night on the menu plan and taking compostables to a friends allotment, I have not made nearly the dent I would like.

It was in this frustrated and disheartened state that I read Bea Johnson’s Zero waste home. Her family doesn’t actually produce zero waste, but last year they were down to a pint. Yes, you read that correctly, a pint. Her book is a straight forward guide to reducing waste by following the 5 Rs: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot. She applies these golden rules religiously and in that order. (Decluttering fits within reduce).

The 5Rs have an intuitive appeal and she explores each of them in detail before applying them to:

  • Kitchen & Grocery Shopping
  • Bathroom, Toiletries, and wellness
  • Housekeeping & maintenance
  • Work space and junk mail.
  • Kids & school
  • Holidays & gifts
  • Out and about

Application can be somewhat harder. Refusing, for example, is not always straightforward. Recently I purchased some hair accessories and the shop had a buy 3, get 3 free offer. I only needed 4 and it caused the cashier no end of confusion when she repeatedly told me that I could have 2 more free… “They’re free!” “I only need these”, “But they’re free”, “and I have all that I need” and so on. In the end I told her I was a minimalist and I really did understand that they were “free” however I still wouldn’t be getting any more. Under normal circumstances I have found that a cheery “No thank you” will suffice, but some people are tenacious with the desire to give you things.

Johnson’s book is thought provoking and I have already implemented some straightforward, easy swaps, like making my own liquid castille soap and using a compostable bamboo toothbrush.  I also hadn’t realised/thought about the variety of personal hygiene products that can be composted including hair from a brush and silk floss .I’ll never need to experiment with her homemade make up (I choose the zero waste option of not wearing any), but she includes handy recipes along the way from refillable oil votive, water colour dyes, pancakes and cleaning products.

However the phrase I found most annoying throughout the book was “available in bulk”. Well not where I am! I assume stores with bulk aisles are more readily available in the US and she does have a BULK app that indicates Glasgow and Edinburgh are hot spots in the UK . The phrase popped up with such regularity I nearly stopped reading. I stuck with it and in the penultimate chapter, Johnson encourages you to “get involved” and even offers an A to Z of possible ways.

I also struggle with extremes (of anything). Zero waste is an ideal. It needs to be taken in balance with other choices. The book is selling Zero waste, and Johnson’s typical grocery run involves her visiting both a farmer’s market and a health food store in the car (in addition to other errands that day). She aims for optimum fuel efficiency by maximising right turns (in the UK it would be left turns) AND she is still using a car. Similarly her recipe for dryer lint putty would not even hit our radar as we don’t have a tumble dryer. Perfectionism doesn’t help anyone and can result in crippling indecision: is it better to buy the fairtrade bananas in packaging or the non-fairtrade ones without packaging?


While there are many great ideas, Zero waste home is going back to the library tomorrow. I’m sure I’ll revisit it at some point, however if you’d like a taste for zero waste I’d recommend starting with Janie Baran’s post over at Simple not plain.If you work well with motivation from others or a target, the 5th -9th September 2016 is Zero Waste Week and this year it is focusing on food waste. I’m in. Are you?

Taking a purchase pause

R&D Purchase Pause

There are numerous advantages to pursuing a mindfully minimalist lifestyle. Since beginning to whittle down my possessions, I have already reaped the benefits of more time to spend how I want to: writing, learning to crochet, time with friends and family, & sleeping to name but a few. In my experience,The financial impact of minimalism however is a bit more complex. Through selling some of my possessions I have saved nearly sufficient to pay for a Master’s degree. While I have yearned to study at post graduate level for years, I’ve never had the financial means to do so without sinking deeper into debt.

Selling unwanted possessions has a downside. Attaching financial value to possessions you are removing is risky. It reattaches meaning and value to them, despite already deciding they have no place in your life. It can be harder to let them go as they are then deemed to be “worth” something. This was a significant barrier that held me back until recently.

I’m not sure entirely what clicked – perhaps it was the ever growing mountains of unsorted children’s clothes in the attic which made trying to retrieve anything a monumental expedition. I realised while eBay is a useful servant, it is an unhelpful master. After concerted effort and a very nice lady at the post office who allowed me to come back (after she had processed the 36 parcels) I have now changed my mind set. Not only do I have time limit on the items I am selling, I have become more generous. Items I would historically tried to make a little money from now move on immediately to charity. I’ve recently received my gift aid updates from two local charities and the items I’ve donated have netted them £400 + 25%. A helpful positive reinforcer for continuing this way.

Minimalism automatically drives towards mindful consumption. If you’ve put the effort into reducing your physical possessions mindfully, you are (hopefully) less likely to mindlessly accumulate more. However being mindful of your purchasing habits takes just that: mindfulness.

I disposed of all of my debt (except the mortgage), prior to the birth of my daughter, and a long time before I discovered minimalism. Since then I’ve been able to live within my means and avoid any further accumulation of debt. This includes while on reduced income during maternity leave, and while paying childcare despite both my wife and I reducing our paid work to 0.8 WTE. However I’ve had this nagging feeling for a while that I’m not spending my money how I want to.

Michelle McGagh at London Minimalists is currently a little over halfway through her year long no spend challenge, while Cait Flanders has just completed her 2 year shopping ban.

Personally I’m not one for extremes, however over the last three weeks I have been inspired to undertake a Purchase Pause. I got the idea from an article by Courtney Carver about the power of a purchase pause. She suggested 5 strategies:

  1. Fake it
  2. Buy it on paper
  3. Identify needs vs. wants
  4. Know what matters
  5. Make rules

I decided to opt for a variation of buying it on paper. I have been writing in my bullet journal what I have purchased, and what I have wanted to purchase, including the cost. Personally paper helps me to be more thoughtful about what I have been buying. I have also jotted down any thought processes I have been aware of. It turns out that the following have contributed to my spending:

  • Desire – wool
  • It’s easier just to get it – a near miss with Zero Waste Home
  • Necessity – a lightbulb & groceries
  • ‘It’s available’ – a near miss with a coffee grinder
  • Lack of planning – food usually
  • It’s for a good cause – donations at a Refugee week event
  • ‘It’s not real money’ – a credit note used to buy shoes
  • Entitlement – ‘It’s our holiday’ – Snacks after trampolining

It was certainly helpful to be aware of of my mental attitudes. Some of the items were purchased through need, but some were definitely wants. The most significant change however was by noting what I would have spent mindlessly (averaging £25 per week) I have been able to redirect this to where I would like it to go.

I have become more generous and seriously begun to think about what I am ‘voting’ for when I spend my money. Initially the money I ‘saved’, or more accurately didn’t spend, has been redirected to help others including pants for refugees, sponsoring a friend who completed Pretty Muddy for cancer charity, a fete in aid of Alder Hey Children’s Charity, supporting the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and a food bank donation. I’ve since discovered it is possible to make regular monetary donations to the food bank so that is on my list of things to do this week.

Perhaps mindful minimalism is a key to generosity.


This week I’ve been dipping into the ocean of Leo Babauta‘s Zen habits and particularly enjoyed A Simple Declutter Habit: Leave No Trace. The premise is fairly simple and focuses on tidying up after yourself, however he highlights the role of mindfulness within this. You have to notice as you move through life and from one task to another.When you finish a task pause and take stock before moving on to the next. His gentle guidance does not expect perfectionism, rather encouraging you to remember as often as you can.


Indecision leads to clutter

R&D indecision leads to clutter


In our house, Saturday night is designated “Screen-free night”. No phone, no TV, no computers. It’s a guaranteed night where my wife and I get to interact without distraction. Sometimes we simply converse over dinner and before we know it it’s time for bed. Other times we play board games and occasionally we invest our precious time together in our quest for a minimalist life. Last Saturday it was our wedding that got decluttered.

Now you may wonder what is there to declutter from a wedding. Once the day is over, the gifts unwrapped, the thank yous sent, that is it right? Time to get on with the marriage (or in our case civil partnership). Well the answer in our house was a shoe box full of glass beads, 9 vases of leaves (autumnal wedding) and this!

pre wedding box


Being mindful and attending to the psychological process of decluttering has introduced me to my fantasy future self, my nostalgic self and now, my completely indecisive past self. Apparently anything to do with the wedding got put in this box. Goodness knows why the spare 97 invitations (complete with typo) could not go straight in the recycling. 2 wedding magazines? Why on earth have they been occupying real estate? It’s not like I’m planning another wedding.. In the end we reduced the huge hat box down to this:

post wedding box


We were lucky enough to write our entire wedding service as there are no obligatory words in a civil partnership ceremony. So we decided to keep that, the guest book, the table names, our place cards for the wedding breakfast, an order of service, an invitation, the gift list and the notebook we took on honeymoon.

I have no doubt other people will perhaps judge even this to be a lot to keep from a day that, lets face it, is over. However The Minimalists idea that most things can be replaced in 20 minutes for less than $20 has helped me let go of loads. What we kept can’t. I am sentimental and do like to keep some physical possessions to trigger memories. Having tackled the loft store where I had rocks in a box in a box, I am now more discerning about what I keep. These items seem sufficient without being excessive.

Most of the content and the box itself went in the recycling. Time and distance certainly helped the speed of decision, but ultimately I became aware indecision breeds clutter. The decisions I put off today simply lead to more clutter tomorrow, both physical and mental. The shoe box is more indecision: the wedding cards we received. I have no idea whether to keep them, photograph them, or simply recycle them. What would you do?



Increasingly I’ve been thinking about having a purchase pause and then Courtney Carver from Be More with Less popped up on my social media feed with a  The Power of a Purchase Pause. She outlines the benefits of having a purchase pause, saving money, limiting impulse purchases and the like, before suggesting 5 ways to adopt a purchase pause:

  1. Fake it.
  2. Buy it on paper.
  3. Identify needs and wants.
  4. Know what matters.
  5. Make rules.

I think it deserves an experiment as there is no way I’m up for a no spend year (yet!).

100 words of NOW

June 2016

Bujo, minimise, grief, mindfulness, student, future, essay, joy, clear, tranquillity, presence, daughter, water, gin, group, child, friends, brunch, space, time, wife, gentle, family, write, thoughtful, holiday, restorative, de-clutter, yard, jump, sew, laughter, politics, news, twins, wizard, sitting, bag, fiesta, wine, river, icecream, bicycle, steak, walk, love, spring, bed, birthday, blossom, stillness, reflection, pride, polo, kayak, mama date, dinner, crafting, tomorrow, pleasure, dresser, now, productive, reading, Elmo, orange, skirt, jeans, boots, picnic, park, balloon, Sweden, Gracekeeper, meeting, consume, rubbish, ethics, plans, excitement, habits, structure, yoga, considered, strength, fun, break, film, priorities, life, years, magical, rainbow, teaching, research, new, recycle, today, chair.

The Snowball Effect

R&D The snowball effect


Last Thursday I had a day off from my paid work. I planned to do things that I considered restorative (aka have a lie in), productive (aka de-cluttering pictures in the attic), and pleasurable (aka sew a skirt). The day did not go according to plan!

I slept well so come 6am I didn’t feel I needed a lie in but I enjoyed a final coffee from Clive (the coffee machine), while finishing my book. Pleasure – check; restorationve – check. I then moved on to the attic.

I had in mind to screw a set of shelves together that the Community Furniture Store was coming to collect and move them together with a chest of drawers downstairs, before tackling the pictures/frames. That was it. However, as is usual typical minimalism spreads and soon I was in the middle of a figurative snowball!

The 3 boxes of picture frames quickly decreased to half a box. The guilt of giving away pictures other people had given as gifts was tricky, but I reasoned that they would not like the idea of them sitting in a box for four years either. At least if they go on to make someone else happy then they are bringing joy in the world. I also realised that it is really not necessary to keep a photo in the frame it’s always been in when you have no intention of displaying it. Seriously it’s not. Apparently that was a revelation to me. Not quite on the ‘why am I keeping three rocks in a box in a box?’ but close.

Decreasing the frames and moving the furniture created space which led to dismantling the cotbed in our bedroom and storing it, together with the dismantled changing table that has been squatting in there for 6 months, in the attic. My bedroom is HUGE! It also made the top of the dresser look REALLY messy and I toyed with the idea of posting a photo to encourage accountability but chickened out. I am committed to sorting it this week though.

In the attic I also ended up decluttering some spare stationery, taking about 60 black pens to work (we can never find a pen when we need one), passing folders on left, right and centre, and releasing a shoe rack. The shoe rack (and a set of drawers from the bedroom dresser) moved to lounge and resulted in munchkin’s art supplies being organised and therefore easier to get out and put away. Marie Kondo encourages  organising around ease of putting away and I have to say I’m with her on that one.

After that I realised I’d generated a pile of stuff in the attic and in keeping with my back to basics approach I decided I had better start as I mean to finish and de-own it pronto. Having recently joined a car share scheme I was able to book a car, pick it up 15 minutes later and drop a box of frames round to a friend, and a load of stuff to the local household waste centre to be recycled.

The sum total of items de-cluttered this week – 10 year old printer/scanner, 60 pens, book case, chest of drawers, 40ish picture frames, 1 whiteboard, 1 pin board, box of picture frames (approximately 40), box of lever arch files, bag of clothes to a nursery, 3 magazine files, 1 bag of assorted stuff to charity, 2  storage boxes, 1 cardigan, 1 skirt, 8 eBay parcels, 1 network card, 1 bag of padded envelopes, 1 vase, shower gel, 2 small sets of drawers, an electric blanket & the entire content of my gift drawer.

What a great snowball!



This week I’ve been catching up on some of my favourite minimalist blogs. Joshua Becker at Becoming Minimalist has set up The Hope Effect, a non-profit aiming to change orphan care world wide from institutional care to provision that mimics family life. It is truly amazing what can happen if you remove the pursuit of material possessions.


Back to basics

R&D Back to basics


So, it’s been a while…

I started this blog originally to develop the habit or writing on a regular basis. I’d been invited to contribute a chapter to a book and having not written regularly I wanted to explore how to communicate ideas on paper (or technically a screen) rather than verbally. Well it turns out the chapter I was writing was somewhat of an Everest that cast everything else into it’s shadow. It took four months to write and every spare second that was not spent at paid work or parenting. I made several sacrifices including this blog.

I submitted it in February and yet it has taken until May to come anywhere near the blog. Why you ask? I simply couldn’t face it. Partly I didn’t want to write but also I didn’t feel I’d been anywhere near minimalism. Sure I’d endeavoured to maintain a status quo, but I certainly wasn’t removing things. Since February, I’ve jumped back in the deep end and discovered I still love simplifying. Mindful Minimalism calls to my soul.

I wrote 7 tips to begin a minimalist journey as I’d been asked numerous times where to start. The last three months I’ve gone back to the same basics, and the basics have helped me to develop a steady stream of possessions out the door. It turns out ‘just start’ was wise advice. I did 40 bags in 40 days, trying to ensure I was picking a Goldilocks challenge and more often than not the decluttering snow balled.

Over the past few weeks I’ve had ideas for blog posts but still not sat down to write. So this post is simply me starting and picking that ‘just right’ challenge. Maybe it’ll feel easier to come back next time.



I’ve been completely out of the minimalist scene since October. However, I have recently discovered the joys of Bullet Journalling which aids my mindful minimalist journey. If you’ve never heard of it check out this link. I’ll certainly be talking about it in the future.