Lizz Roe – February
The challenge for this month is to BUY NOTHING! I knew by the last week of Jan that this was the plan so I had to steel myself not to cheat and stockpile in advance! As well as not buying stuff – books, dvds, clothes etc I’ve decided not to buy any food until I’ve used what I’ve got – I’ll let myself forage (in February!) or go skip-picking (sometimes known as dumpster diving or freeganism) or gleaning (picking up after markets) but I won’t buy anything new if I can possibly help it. I should admit right now that I get lunch at work every day so I know I won’t end up with scurvy or starve – and a friend has asked about food parcels and barter.
First off I’ve made a list of what is already in the kitchen (I have two tiny food cupboards and some shelves so I wasn’t expecting much) – I am shocked at how much there is!
Here’s the list:
- a tin of tofu
- 2 tins chestnuts
- tin of chestnut puree
- 2 bags of flour
- huge bag of red lentils
- half a bag of couscous
- large bag of rice
- large tub of peanut butter
- 21 individual packets of soup
- bag of nuts well past sell by
- bag of pumpkin seeds also past sell by
- jar of vegetable suet (I forsee some bird balls)
- two bags of porridge oats
- jar of treacle syrup
- 10 jars of honey – my dad buys it for me faster than I can eat it
- two jars of olives
- bottle of avocado oil (a present)
- bottle of olive oil (also a present)
- bottle of sunflower oil
- kilo of sugar
- spices -including a 500gms each of star anise, cinnamon sticks, mixed spice, nutmeg and rosepetals – how did that happen??
- fruit teas – which I don’t drink but keep for all the weird people who don’t drink caffeine
- sachets of coffee – which I don’t drink but keep for all the wired people who do drink caffeine (yes I know tea has caffeine)
- 3 half jars of jam and marmalade
- 2 half jars of marmite and natex
- 3 jars of tahini
- 1 large tub of coconut
- 2 actual coconuts
- 1 jar of coconut oil (currently solid because of temp in kitchen)
- bag of chappatti flour – maybe past sell by but as it’s all in gujurati I can’t tell
- bag of gram flour (same problem)
- 18 onions
- 4 beetroot
- 4 packs of sprouting mix
- 6 packs of soya milk (I don’t use cows milk – it gives me terrible cattarh – and as I mostly try to be vegan if I can’t get soya milk I drink tea black- yeuch)
- 1 tub of smash
- 2 pots of dried yeast
- 4 packs of dried mushrooms
- 1 jar each of – mung beans, kidney beans, borlotti beans, chick peas, aduki beans and something I don’t recognise!
- 2 small bags of dried tomatoes
- half a small bag of sosmix
- 4 more bags of mixed dried mushrooms (why??)
- two boxes of chai tea
- 8 apples
- 9 jars of pickled beetroot – anyone want some?
- 1 very large jar of pickled gherkins – which have lasted this long because I can’t open the jar!
- 1 box of egg replacer
- bottle of lemon juice
- 12 pack of loo roll, plus two rolls
- one full toothpaste, three halves
- shampoo – one and a half bottles
- 1 and half deodorant
- washing up liquid
- laundry liquid
- sanitary towels – 8 packs mainly becuase whenever I see them for a £1 or less for a pack I stock up otherwise they’re nearly £2 for a pack – isn’t that dire?
- soap nuts (a present – after I mentioned eco balls in last month’s posting)
- soap,soap,soap – all presents!
- tub of soup mix
- tin of vegan bouillon
- 2 tubs of engevita
- small tub of vegan parmesan
- half a jar of vegan pesto
- 500 gs of ground almonds
- 2 small cartons of orange juice
- small pack of cashews
- pack of poppadums – which I think I might have brought back from india 15 years ago – I wonder if they are edible
- tub of dried fruit
- two half bars of dark chocolate – one so rich that a square at a time is enough, the other so vile it’s almost inedible.
- 6 packs of hula hoops – which are the only vegan crisps!
- 8 carrots
- 16 small potatoes
- 7 parsnips
If you read this lot and think – ridiculous how could she have that much – just try doing your own inventory – even if you have very little food which you immediately want to eat you might be rather surprised by what is there.
After I’d done this list I topped up my sprouting jar and went on a local walk to see what plants were around – not much yet – but maybe by the end of the month there will be something. I had a churchill fellowship a few years ago to look at wild food – so I’m not bad on this – I also have the new edition of food for free which has photos. I’ve planted some rocket and lambs lettuce indoors and put the plant pots in the warmest bit of the flat – a windowsill in the living room. That reminds me – I’ve been thinking about putting shelves across three or four of the velux windows – just at the bottom – to have somewhere very light for plants.
I have also made a start on checking the local supermarket dumpsters. The big large Sainsbury’s doesn’t lock its gate – it doesn’t need to – all its surplus goes into a huge closed dumpster fed through a chute from the inside of the store. Hopeless! – at least from my point of view. Nearer to where I live are three smaller stores and another slightly larger one – I’ll have to check them out too.
One of the challenges of skip picking or freeganism is that if you live somewhere permanently you can’t afford to annoy local store staff, or your neighbours – and why would you want to! In the past when I worked part time it was much easier to cycle somewhere a bit further afield and see what was around. (I have a huge number of things in my flat rescued from skips, kerb sides and charity shop bins.) I once lived for 6 months on food from supermarket/coffee shop dumpsters and as well as following the very careful even scupulous etiquette – don’t ever leave a mess, if there are others at the same dumpster don’t snaffle everything – I was well fed and saved a fair amount of stuff from going to landfill. Food waste is a big contributor to the production of methane. Every time I also made sure it was well away from home – I didn’t want the staff to have to have me as two very different kinds of customer in the same week!
If you’re having an eew moment think about it – all it involved was opening a bag removing some unopened and often in date food – tins, packets, bakery goods, bottles and sometimes still frozen boxes of stuff – the only difference was that it was a larger bag and it was black (a bin bag in otherwords) and it came from a dumpster rather than the shelves – oh, and it was free. I was never ill and as I don’t eat meat that wasn’t an issue. The people I met doing dumpster diving were an interesting mixture too.
So why don’t I do it now – mainly the time factor, I often work at weekends and during the week I’m usually at work too. Also I haven’t really plugged into the relevent networks here in brum yet – so maybe this is a good chance to start. Hello my name is lizz and I am addicted to skips…
I have had a good look around for a library within walking distance, and found I’d been looking in the wrong direction! I found one. I’m going to make sure I go once a week to pick up books! I wonder if they do DVDs – I haven’t been in yet.
At the start of this week my elderly dad started to be quite ill – suddenly I’ve found myself flitting backwards and forwards between Birmingham and Watford via Virgin trains every couple of days. This is what happens – life gets into all your plans. I’ve found myself having to do shopping for him as he can’t go out. So I’ve managed to buy nothing for me – but I have still spent money – ie his. I’ve also carried things from my cupboards at home to my dad’s. One of my friends asked if I’d let my self off – but a plan is a plan! so I’ve looked for dumpsters near him instead (behind the local Spar, Tesco and Budgens!) and read books at his place.
I bought one thing this week – a bottle of water on the train – they apparently aren’t allowed to give you a cup of water! I was dead frustrated mainly because I had especially filled a bottle at my dad’s and then left it in the kitchen. And bottled water – uggh. A friend at work owed me some ££ and gave me some oranges and sugar so I could make marmalade instead, this is my kind of barter! So armed with jars and aforementioned fruit I took it all to my dad’s and cooked up a storm – it smells so beautiful; and we gave a jar to the friend who has been driving my dad and me to the doctor’s, the hospital etc!
Staying at my dad’s has meant that I have access to all sorts of books I don’t usually read – history, classics, architecture, plus I dug out all the books at my flat that I hadn’t read and made a pile of them, ready to be read – see the photo. I also dug out more books for greenmetropolis.com
Dad and I sorted out all the freebies that have come with newspapers over the last couple of years – all ready to go to a local charity shop that likes them. Dad doesn’t have a dvd player so he’s not interested.
Someone sent me a scarf! how nice is that? It’s lovely. I also had something I ordered last year finally arrive in the post, I think it might have done its own european tour first! But I haven’t bought anything myself – yet!
Resistance is fertile! A friend said their phone had stopped working so now they have my old phone – the one I mentioned that irritates me – but she says it works for them! Great isn’t it? And ok it might not be the most eco phone in the world but they would have bought a new one otherwise because theirs blew in a recent thunderstorm and power-cut!
Buying nothing – the temptations!
I could have done with some sarnies on the train, and one evening after the train was late and I was tired I really wanted a takeaway or someone to cook for me. Instead I had egg free pancakes – yum-yum, with dairy free cheese. All good! Tiredness seems to increase the likelihood of me wanting to buy something easy to eat/cook/read/do. But so far I’ve had enough other options or have thought through what I might need in advance – so I have only succumbed to the water in the first two weeks.
I succumbed again on a train station – hot chocolate with soya this time – cold bus journey plus hour’s wait on chilly station = warmth/drink need. Plus I had forgotten my flask at my dad’s house. duhh. On the plus side the dumpsters near my dad are way better then the ones near me in Brum – partly because they are accessible and partly because the stuff is nicer! Dad and I have eaten some lovely soup and bread from the local spar (via their clean new bin – which they don’t yet have a padlock for) – in date, perfect, and yummy!
Still virtuous! And I am keeping up reading a book a day! But that is mainly down to all the trains I’m taking. And see below for the joy of a book token! Ooooh what shall I use it for? Maybe a guide to Amsterdam??
See below – plus someone has left me a borrow of firefly – the serenity prequel! Excellent.
This week has been fantastic – a friend of my dad’s has been collecting all the dvds that come with the Daily Mail for the last week and has presented me with a little pile! Another friend of my dad’s gave me a present of a book token – to buy myself a nice book to read on all the trains I am taking at present. Virgin are refunding two trains I was delayed on two weeks ago! I found a book of stamps – there I was thinking oh look some rubbish I’ll pick that up and bin it and there were 4 stamps inside!!! And my dad got a free token out of the telegraph for a £5 spend at the body shop – no minimum purchase required. So I popped into the one in town and exchanged the token for something for a friend’s birthday and something for me! What a nice week all in all.
Buying nothing the temptations – oops haircut!
I am almost bored of honey on porridge!
What I learnt – food first – Well this may sound obvious but if you can easily see what food is available it’s much more likely you’ll eat it! When I was doing the inventory I found stuff at the back of the cupboard, slid behind the shelves and tucked under a bench that had gone past the sell by all because they were places that were great for storage but not for hey lets eat that now impetus. Over the month I managed to eat some quite odd combos, but for the most part it was delicious! I also had two lots of people round to dinner – I don’t think they knew! One of these was a pancake party where people brought their own toppings, and the other was a proper indian dinner (we ate the poppadums – no adverse effects yet). I also made a v nice vegan, no fat, no sugar (known by my friends as the ‘no fun’ cake) fruit cake for a celebratory meeting of a charity for which I am a trustee – in the end I couldn’t go to the meeting (Dad plus emergency appointment equals running around in the wrong city)
I didn’t buy any clothes – but it prompted me to finally get round to things like buttons, replacing elastic, mending some pyjamas, resewing the hanging up loop, mending a cardigan, retiring some socks and a shirt – I also went through a bag I’ve been meaning to sort for ages – old trousers all dead, now cut up for a new skirt. Plus I found some old pinnafores (too high a waistband – people always ask if I’m pregnant when I wear one, or give up their seat on the train) which I think might also make a great skirt.
Household – I realise that I have a sort of minimum level of things like toothpaste and shampoo and washing up liquid and when I get to half used I buy the next one so that I wont run out – isn’t that strange! So although I used up quite a lot of things I didn’t get close to running out.
Chillin out – I had a big debate with myself about whether it would count to use the roadkill money for train/bus into town for my arabic classes each wednesday – I decided it was cheating – no buying or it would possibly just be a slippery slope – so I cycled instead. Not the most fun thing I’ve ever done late on a wednesday night but not impossible. So I took a flask and a sarnie – home made bread and a home made bit of cake or flapjack and one of the bags of hulahoops – I cycled in on the canal and back on the roads. I nearly went to a winter moot in newcastle (I would have hitched there, couch-surfed and liftshared back), but stayed with dad instead for two weekends and worked the other two weekends. This was especially nice as one of the weekends I spent with old friends of mine in mid wales who live on a very cool permaculture smallholding. Fortunately I had a nice present to take them – home made marmalade – it’s good I think not to go empty handed.
LOAF about! nahhh not just sitting around – trying to make sure that what I buy, use and eat is Local, Organic, Animal Friendly or Fair Trade.
See also in this series…