Plastic Free July: how did I get on?

You may have seen my last post 10 ways to kickstart your Plastic Free July which also included the extra steps I planned to take in my own. I decided to go totally single use plastic free as the next logical step in my Saying Goodbye to Single use plastic journey, and now it’s all over I thought I should hold myself accountable and let you all know how I got on. Here goes…

What went well?

  1. Loo roll
    This I managed to do by first trying a trial box, then subsequently ordering a bulk order of Who Gives a Crap? toilet roll.
    I love this stuff because it does the job well, it’s made from 100% recycled paper (or bamboo and sugarcane if you go for the fancier version), no nasty chemicals, inks or dyes added, 50% of profits go towards charity & building toilets in communities that need them AND they arrive totally pointless plastic free. What. A. Dream. At 0.135p per sheet too, compared to Asda’s own brand (plastic-wrapped) 0.16p per sheet*, it’s clearly price comparable.
    *figure from a colleague who worked it out specifically for price comparison
    Maker:S,Date:2017-10-15,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y
  2. Tea bags 
    Following on from part 3 of my ‘saying goodbye to single use plastic’ series I bought a couple of boxes of Pukka Herbs teas – three mint, night time and turmeric to be exact – which I’ve been using as well as the occasional pot of loose leaf from Natural Weigh. Besides the extra added cost (search for the deals on the Pukka teabags) I’ve loved making this change and fully intend to stick to it, particularly because there’s such a range in the Pukka herbs selection too.
     

  3. Veg and fish 
    Even in supermarkets now there seems to be an increasing amount of veg available loose; Morrisons in particular have taken the bold but
    sensible step to sell cucumbers without that ridiculous plastic shrink wrap around them. Thank God someone has a brain. You’ll likely already know that these guys as well as quite a few other supermarkets will happily let you take your fresh fish/meat cuts home in your own box too if you ask (or in some cases, insist before assumptions are made), which I continue to do as and when I need it.

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    This was actually a little haul from Cardiff Market 🙂 (in the box are some glamorgan sausages)

  4. Milk 
    In the absence of a proper front porch suitable for milkman/woman deliveries, I’ve been buying glass bottled milk from a nearby Nisa local which I was reliably informed about on Twitter, as well as the odd bottle from Hard Lines Coffee in Cardiff Market, as above. Thank you social media!
  5. Olives 
    Deli counters are not exempt from the above, don’t be afraid to ask to use your own box when stocking up on olives and that sort of thing – if you don’t ask you never know!
  6. Using my reusables
    This past weekend we visited friends in London and headed to Foodstock in Battersea Park. I was thrilled to see they were using the £1 deposit per cup scheme already, but me being me I already had my own with me and was glad that using them on this occasion felt far more normalised. We also asked for our food to be put into the lunch boxes I’d brought with me, which the vendors happily obliged to and so we tucked into our food guilt-free. (I also had my spork and cloth napkins on hand because I’ve become a super nerd with this stuff now)
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  7. Straws 
    These have been mentioned before but nowadays I often take enough out with me to lend to a friend so that as few straws are sacrificed as possible. On a family meal out last week my request for no straw meant that all of us enjoyed our happy hour cocktails straw-free – result!
  8. Takeaways – I’ll come back to this later, some pros and some cons.
  9. Refusing to buy 
    Things I’ve not bought for the past month: salad, fruit, ice lollies, biscuits, crisps. Might sound easy to go without but rightly or wrongly for me it really wasn’t. The latter two, however, gave me the opportunity to really demonstrate to my OH why the problem is as big as it is when he realised there are absolutely no plastic-free biscuits in our local corner shop and pulled a sad face. We opted for Toblerone instead as the cardboard and foil can be mostly recycled. I also made my own ice lollies with a super cute little mould set 🙂
  10. Chocolate & sweets 
    Following on from the above, I thought chocolate was going to be super hard to find but actually it seems there are quite a few you can get in foil and cardboard. These do come with a slightly higher price tag though so moderation is required unless you’re a total baller. Sweets-wise it took me until halfway through the month (when a craving kicked-in) to realise that pick’n’mix is the only obvious way to get sweets loose – why had I never thought of this?! I subsequently stocked up on our next cinema trip, paid a small fortune for it, then realised that Wilko and some Tesco stores also sell it for an undoubtedly slightly cheaper price. We live and learn.

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    Pick’n’mix in a tupperware and some plastic-free chocolate, the paper and foil can be recycled

  11. Snacks 
    I had every intention of making loads of my own snacks but life has been crazy lately so got in the way a little. I did manage to finally get around to making popcorn though which was way quicker than I realised and so much cheaper! I also have a bag of dates which I
    will get around to making energy balls with – both from my last trip to Natural Weigh.
    My main snack substitute has been a stroke of pure genius if I do say so myself; I always get sugar cravings after lunch and had recently got into a bad habit of buying a chocolate bar from work most days. Instead, I bought a jar of chocolate spread and have been shamelessly snacking on spoonfuls at my desk rather than wasting all that packaging. It’s probably even worse in terms of nutritional value and clearly not a long term solution, but it addressed a problem and for that I am slightly proud. Much cheaper over time, too and I’ll add the empty jar to my collection.

What didn’t go so well?

  1. Theatre drinks ×
    During our trip to London last weekend, we were unable to take glasses into the theatre itself for hygiene and safety reasons so I sacrificed two plastic cups for G&T purposes. The bartender assured me they are recycled so I’ll have to hope that’s enough, and we did use my bamboo straws of course. I must admit I felt quite deflated about this, but sometimes I have to reality check myself and remember there are so many other things I work hard to do that the odd slip-up is only natural. Yes, I could just not have had a drink but it was a treat experience we’d wanted to do for a long time, so I have to let that be okay.
  2. Ordering online ×
    Packaging is always tricky when ordering online because basically, if you’re not ordering from a specific environmental/plastic-free store, more-or-less 9 times out of 10 there’s single use plastic involved. As much as I hate that, it would be largely impractical to stop ordering things online completely (#firstworldproblems) so this is another area of compromise. For now. (Let’s hope it can change)

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    Something I recently ordered online, ironically an ‘eco-friendly’ product…

  3. Ice lolly/cream ×
    I knew this was going to be a tricky one for me and if I’m honest, it’s the one thing I’ve not been painfully strict about. Not everyone has a sweet tooth but for me ice cream is easily one of my top 3 favourite foods, I don’t go a week without it! Despite this, we have tended to only buy it in a guilty pleasure-type way from the local Tesco express rather than planning it into my weekly shopping and as a result, most of the ice cream we eat is either Ben & Jerry’s, Halo Top, or something else in one of those cardboard-looking cartons.
    The problem with these is that they have an inner plastic lining like disposable coffee cups which make them non-recyclable waste (and upsets me greatly), yet much to my dismay even when I gave myself a talking to and bought a tub instead which could later be used as yet another lunch or freezer box, there was a plastic film between the lid and the box. WHY?! Carte D’or, I’m very disappointed in you. (FYI – I’m not actually that snobby about ice cream it just appears that way reading back…)

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    #POINTLESSPLASTIC

  4. Bread (hit & miss)
    Not all supermarkets have their bakeries loose so when we have run out of fresh loaves or I haven’t had chance on the weekend to pop to the market, OH has bought a couple of loaves in wrapping. I recently learned that plastic bread bags can actually be recycled, however, along with carrier bags at larger supermarkets – as can some of the frozen Quorn packaging and bags from frozen peas – so this offers some light relief at least. Check the label next time you’re out shopping and it should say.
  5. Wrapping on a nut butter jar / sellotape ×
    Some of the jars or tins I’ve bought over the month have still had plastic wrapping around the lid, despite my best efforts. Meridian I’m looking at you.
  6. Greetings cards ×
    Some places like Card Factory or the odd local store stock greetings cards without wrapping but not all that many sadly. Maybe I’ll get back into making cards but then sourcing the resources without packaging may be a challenge in itself. Tips welcome.
  7. Takeaways
    This is a weird one which has some ups and downs. I know what you’re thinking. Why not just go out for food or make it yourself? But realistically when you’re spoilt for choice in as wonderful a place as Cardiff we do like to treat ourselves once in a while (aka more often than we’d like to admit). Deliveroo have recently added an option that lets you tell them you don’t want cutlery in an attempt to reduce their environmental impact, which is fantastic, and some of their vendors are clearly making conscious efforts to adjust their packaging.
    An example of this is Pieminister who have taken to using cardboard boxes for their deliveries which they assured me are suitable for kerbside recycling. Result! A lazy morning breakfast delivery from Pret the other day was also almost completely plastic free, bar a small pot of smoothie bowl which I’ll keep for seeds and that sort of thing.
  8. Smoothie ×
    I did give in on one of our SUPER hot days this month and buy a big bottle of Innocent smoothie. I know, I could’ve made one myself at home, but it was just too tempting and too convenient – I caved. I’m obviously keeping the bottle and intend to take it along to my next zero waste shopping trip because reuse > recycle.
  9. Toothpaste & deodrant ×
    Whilst I’m still using Lush shampoo and conditioner bars and recently started on their shower gel (although they’re not doing the naked one at the moment so not totally plastic-free), I have recently regressed from using natural deodorant and toothpastes for two reasons. I felt it important to keep myself accountable and be totally honest with you all.

    • firstly, it’s been bloody roasting during this heatwave and as a sweaty human being (sorry not sorry) I wanted the safety net of a classic antiperspirant during this time. The aerosols are recyclable in my local kerbside but still not the ideal solution.
    • secondly, our bathroom sink is having trouble draining and we suspect it may have something to do with the film clay-based toothpaste creates around the basin… so I’ve swapped to the cruelty-free, but not plastic-free, toothpaste I buy for my OH from Superdrug for the time being.

 

 

And there you have it, my Plastic Free July round-up. I didn’t keep track of my waste in a glass jar because I didn’t have one going spare, but I do kind of wish I’d kept my month’s waste somewhere as a physical demonstration. Measuring it in terms of bin bags wouldn’t be accurate in our case either because as much as this is important to me and my boyfriend is happy to go along with most of it, I also don’t force it on him so there will be things he’ll buy that I wouldn’t.

Now the official challenge is over there are some things I’ll succumb to buying again such as berries and the occasional salad or stir fry, but I do intend to try out some local pick-your-own farms and forage for blackberries in the near future. The important thing is that I made some more changes I hadn’t done before! And I hope I’ve inspired you to do the same. Don’t forget, saying goodbye to single-use plastic isn’t just for July…

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

National Vegetarian Week – My top 5 vegetarian dinners

A little earlier in the week than my usual blog post but I thought I’d take the opportunity to talk about my top 5 favourite veggie dinners this week, seeing as it is National Vegetarian Week, in the hopes of giving at least a few of you some inspiration to try something new or different!

First off, I’d like to add two disclaimers: a) I’m not full veggie but have become more so recently, only eating fish a few times a week, and b) some of these recipes are my own but I don’t claim to be any amazing chef or anything, I just like throwing stuff together to see what I can make. Take from that what you will.

1. Veggie risotto

This is one of mine and is detailed in its own blog post from a while back (click here for the recipe), but is brilliant for cooking in bulk or for feeding guests as it’s super easy to bulk out – just keep adding more veg! The trick here is not to underestimate how much stock is needed and to be careful to add it slowly and steadily, waiting for it to be absorbed into the Arborio rice before adding more.

You can also mix it up by using a different cheese of your choice or by using butternut squash instead of pumpkin, just see what you prefer or what you’ve got in the fridge. Don’t be afraid to experiment!

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Veggie risotto with pumpkin and halloumi

2. Quorn cottage pie

Some people really aren’t keen on Quorn and that’s fine. I used to be quite picky with it myself and actually went off it for a while, but when I realised I was eating a crazy amount of fish instead I decided to bring it back into focus and have rediscovered a love for its diversity.

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Mini Quorn cottage pie

Again, cottage pie is pretty easy to make a few extra portions of so I’d recommend making this on an evening when you’ve got a bit of time (it isn’t the quickest dinner in the world but definitely worth it) and saving the rest for lunches the following day if you can. It’s not only packed with flavour and goodness, it’s also proper comfort food if you do the mash right. My mash is something I take great pride in but, unfortunately for you guys, is and shall remain a secret recipe… Just trust me when I say that playing around with the ingredients a little can make a world of difference.

Quorn have their own recipe on the website which uses their mince and is the one I usually follow, making a few of my own tweaks along the way, but there are loads of recipes for it online too so have a Google and see what you most like the look of.

If you’re not into cottage pie their mince is also good for a bangin’ veggie spag bol (title photo of this post) – also a recipe on their website.

3. Quorn sausage casserole

(Believe it or not, I’m not sponsored by Quorn, I just eat it a lot. If I was I’d be asking for some more changes to their packaging, but this isn’t a plastic post so I won’t go on).

Quorn sausages are my favourite of the lot and actually the most versatile, in my opinion, because aside from having them as classic bangers I also like to cut them up into chunks to have in fajitas, pastas and casseroles. Casserole recipes vary online including Quorn’s own, but personally the below is what works best for me:

  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 4-6 Quorn sausages
  • 1 tin butter beans
  • ½ a leek, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 onion, diced
  • Italian herbs seasoning or similar
  • 1 red pepper, sliced

Method:

  1. Fry the chopped onions in a little olive oil in a large pan, at medium-high heat until beginning to soften. You can either add the sausages (cut into chunks) at the same time or grill them separately and add later.
  2. Once the onions are softened, add the pepper slices and leek and continue to fry for a few minutes. Drain and rinse the butter beans then add to the pan along with the chopped tomatoes. Stir around to mix it all up, then sprinkle the Italian herbs (perhaps two teaspoons or so, not too much) and add the frozen peas too.
  3. Reduce the heat a notch and let all that simmer away (with the lid on if you have one) for around 5 minutes, until the sauce starts to thicken and the peas have melted. If you didn’t add the sausage at the start, now add the cooked sausages cut into chunks.
  4. After simmering take off the hob, taste test the seasoning and serve. Save any leftovers for lunch the following day.

Alternatively, you can put all the ingredients in the slow cooker, no need to brown the sausages first, and do it that way but the sauce doesn’t thicken in the same way.

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It seems I’ve never thought to photograph my own casseroles so here’s Quorn’s. Source linked.

4. Chickpea curry

One of my own recipes, this is my go-to if I want to make a homemade curry. Super simple, very satisfying and easy to customise by varying the ingredients to include spinach, beans, sweet potato or butternut squash if you wish. My recipe includes prawns but for a vegetarian curry just omit those – it still tastes just as good!

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Butternut squash and chickpea curry

5. Burrito bowls

Finally, another one of my own concoctions but it’s one I make time and time again because it’s just so… you guessed it, quick and easy. Sometimes I chuck in some Quorn sausage chunks and sometimes I don’t, it’s completely up to you, and you can cook the exact same thing but enjoy as a fajita rather than a burrito I just haven’t been brave enough to make my own tortillas yet!

Best served with a little bit of mayo, yoghurt, or half an avocado (seasoned with salt and pepper), this is one of my favourite homemade vegetarian meals to date. Even my meat-loving other half loves it. Find the recipe within this blog post.

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Burrito bowl deliciousness

What about eating out?

If you’re not so confident in the kitchen don’t fear! There are all kinds of places in Cardiff offering fantastic veggie dinners that shouldn’t be missed: The Grazing Shed’s Naughty Shephard burger is a favourite of mine, anything and everything from Milgi (I’m still yet to try their Sunday roast but have been dying to for ages!) and Anna Loka is full of vegan delights, just to name a few. Many chains now also offer some great veggie and vegan menus including Wagamamas, Wahaca and The Stable.

Basically, you’re spoilt for choice whichever way you look at it so I urge you to try at least two new vegetarian meals this week – after all, variety is the spice of life! Who knows, you might even find something you didn’t know you liked until it was on the plate in front of you.

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

This post was not sponsored in any way, all opinions or recommendations are my own.

5 things to remind yourself of this Christmas

The festive season brings forth all kinds of emotions; excitement, anticipation (constipation if you’re not careful), stress, sadness, depression, love. It can be easy to get bogged down in any one of these, whether it’s the run up to the big day stressing over whether you’ve got every last present right, the wishing a loved one was with you, wishing you had more loved ones (dark, but for some this is a sad reality), or even get so caught up in the excitement of it all that you forget to appreciate the smaller details, casually overlooking something that should actually be crucially important. The most important thing, however, is to make the best of what you have and be sure to appreciate it. Really appreciate it.

TV adverts this time of year come out in brute force making us feel guilty, gluttonous and regretful that not everyone is fortunate enough to have a warm meal and people to share it with. The killers for me are the RSPCA adverts and this year’s WWF elephant adverts which remind us that despite recent (absurd) political changes, animals are in fact sentient beings and deserve just as much love as we humans do. With all this going on, it’s important to remember a few things in order to make the most of our own Christmases:

1. You can’t donate to everyone

Personally I find this one hard to swallow but it depends on your own individual beliefs and/or situation. I always feel plagued with guilt from all the emotional adverts and charity cases exposed to us at Christmas but it’s important to remember that whilst you may be more fortunate than many, you can’t give everything away. Yes, by all means give to any and as many charities as you practically can (also not forgetting street singers and musicians because often they’re doing it for a great local cause as well as a bit of fun), but don’t feel bad that you can’t give to everyone because you simply can’t. It’s not practical nor sensible. Just give to whatever causes you can or wish to, be kind and let that be enough.

Side note: if you’d really like to do more, have a sort through your wardrobe and donate jumpers, gloves, thick socks that you perhaps don’t need any more to a homeless charity or individual. Food banks always need extra supplies too – it’s not all about giving money.

2. Write down or organise your gifts

This is important if you’re buying on a budget. Make a list of everyone’s gifts (or dig out the original one you wrote months ago when you swore you’d finally get organised this year) and do your best to tick them off as you go along. This way, you can be sure you’ve got everything (and ‘enough‘) without panic-buying unnecessary things last minute and costing yourself a bloody fortune. If you do this in advance too it can really help spread the cost out over time – bearing in mind many of us have a long wait ’til January’s pay cheque…

3. Don’t be afraid to buy presents early

Basically, buy things when you see them and don’t be afraid to be that person that starts buying Christmas presents in September, because that was me this year and I have absolutely no regrets. As stated earlier, this is cost beneficial and there’s almost nothing worse than going back to buy something you’d seen before and it’s gone. Just, don’t take the risk.

4. Edible/intangible presents are as good as anything

It’s not a cop-out, it’s actually much more likely to be useful if you don’t have anything specific in mind. Moreover, this is immaterial and so can reduce your Christmas waste. A lot of restaurants now have vouchers available in-store or online so treating someone to a free date night could actually be much nicer than a typical box of ‘smellies’ all in single-use plastic bottles, covered in plastic packaging, tested on animals and that will probably take them until next Christmas to use up – if at all.

Alternatively, buy them an experience such as cinema vouchers, zip-lining, wine tasting, spa treatments, whatever their bag. You could even use the Christmas markets to pick up the chutney, cheeses and nibbles for the big day so that you know it’s going to be used and not wasted or forgotten (I do this for my parents, works a treat). As I said, this not only reduces waste in terms of packaging and excessive amounts of wrapping paper (there’s all sorts online about more sustainable ways of gift wrapping) but can also be more beneficial to the recipient anyway (unless you’re an insanely good gift-giver). Not to criticise anyone’s gift-giving abilities, merely a planet-friendly suggestion with everyone’s best interests at heart.

5. Let go and relax!

Whether it’s easing up on your time-managed schedule to make sure you fit everyone in, or taking a care-free approach to (and simply accepting) the serious amount of calories to be consumed; please, please just relax and enjoy the ride. Both are equally as important as each other. I’m a terrible culprit for the first as I’m usually only at home for a few days over the festive season and I like to have my annual traditions, stressing out a bit when the agenda changes. It’s so important, however, to just embrace those changes and enjoy everyone’s company, making the most of everything on your to-do list without worrying about meeting self-inflicted time deadlines.

IMG_6563Secondly, Christmas calories don’t count. I know, it sounds ridiculous and is completely untrue, but what I mean is that restricting yourself on a day we Brits have centred around indulging to the absolute max is just not going to give you joy. Eat that chocolate, those few extra mince pies; crack open that new bottle of booze now & not later because at the end of the day Christmas only happens once a year. Is the January workout going to hurt? Yes. Without a shadow of a doubt. But, once it’s done, it’s done and it’s pointless wasting time regretting anything consumed over the festive period because it’s not healthy to never take a break. (This last point is as much aimed at me as it is you because I’ve conveniently forgotten how to gym lately and it hurts, but no point worrying this side of the big day – what good is that really going to do?!).

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So, there you go. I hope this is useful for at least a few of you, to be honest it’s more of a note-to-self. But I wrote it because I know it can be easy to lose perspective over Christmas of what’s actually important, which is not how many gifts under the tree are yours to unwrap or getting upset over things you can’t control, but doing what makes you happy and appreciating what and who you do have.

Nadolig Llawen pawb; Merry Christmas one and all

Charles xx

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Meal prep top tips; Charlie’s cheats

#MealPrep has become a huge thing recently with the boom in food and fitness on Instagram and throughout our current culture; this is not to say that it didn’t exist before, of course it did, but getting people thinking more about their food can surely never be a bad thing.

Personally, I go a little bit nuts if I don’t plan my meals out. Not only because it results in spending way more on my weekly shop without a set shopping list, but also because I like to be organised and know what to expect and when. Plus, reducing your food waste is a huge bonus for your pocket and the environment if you plan it right. So, how do you begin to make it part of your routine?

Cook in bulk

I don’t mean you have to make a cottage pie for 8 and freeze the entire thing, but if you usually cook for one then cooking a little extra is usually easier because most recipes IMG_6227cater for two anyway and you can then have dinner again for lunch the next day without any extra fuss. Simple and effective.

The best dishes to do this with tend to be pastas, casseroles, curries, soups etc. but to be honest the key for me is rice. Simple, white rice (purely because it cooks quicker than whole grain, but it’s up to you) is super easy to cook a big batch of and can last you a good few days if you don’t mind eating it cold. If you do want to heat it up be very careful and be sure to absolutely zap it! If you have a steamer as well then you can chop your veg and have that steaming away at the same time, perfect. As I said, this for me is key because I can cook four lunches worth of rice & veg in one go (simply add tuna/chicken/protein of your choice), all whilst cooking my evening dinner at the same time. [Pictured is a Gousto halloumi salad which I’ll come back to later].

Keep it simple

IMG_6030As stated above, tuna, rice and mixed veg is a pretty simple, balanced lunch to prepare. But it works. Don’t get me wrong, it can get boring after a while! In these cases, however, I like to mix it up by sometimes roasting some butternut squash, parsnips, chickpeas etc. instead or having Quorn sausages as my protein rather than fish. This is only a base meal, there’s nothing to stop you having leftovers once or twice a week instead. Have a play around and find what works for you, something that’s easy to prepare but also well-balanced and hits the spot.

Pick your meals by their ingredients

First off when planning your menu & shopping list, pick one or two meals you really fancy this week – spag bol, fajitas, or cottage pie for example. Then write these in for the appropriate day of the week (i.e. Tuesday dinner, Wednesday lunch) and base the rest on similar ingredients. Take fajitas for example:

  • mince/Quorn/fish (optional, beans & chickpeas would be a fine base for a vegan version*),
  • peppers,
  • kidney beans/black beans/tin of mixed beans,
  • chickpeas,
  • red onion,
  • fajita spice mix (I use Schwartz ‘cos it’s in a handy little jar),
  • butternut squash or sweet potato, if you like*
  • wholegrain wraps

Think about these ingredients, therefore, in relation to the rest of the week: peppers you could use again to steam or roast for lunches; sweet potato could be a mash with sausages or homemade chips or even form part of a hearty salad; sausage/meat/fish could go with the remaining sweet potato or veg; you could even use mince (or Quorn mince) and halve it between the fajitas and a cottage pie, allowing you to use the remaining peppers, beans, sweet potato and onion all in one.

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[Bad] example of my meal prep weekly calendar

At the end of the day it’s totally up to you, but personally I like to think about what I’m going to use the ingredients on my shopping list for before I buy them so I can make sure I use them all and there’s as little waste as possible. This week, for example, I’ve got fajitas on my menu but I’ve converted it to a burrito bowl with rice instead because I don’t think I’ll use a whole packet of wraps and from personal experience they don’t freeze well (plus they come packaged in plastic which I’m trying to reduce, but that’s another post for another day!)

Stock your cupboards

The best thing I find to reduce your spending and food waste whilst getting in a good, balanced meal is to have well-stocked cupboards. Think tins; tuna, mixed beans, red kidney beans, black beans, baked beans (I like my beans… we get it), chickpeas, chopped tomatoes, and rice pudding in case of emergencies. Also frozen veg can be a life-saver. Whilst I’m not an advocate of using frozen veg all of the time – I personally think that frozen broccoli and carrots bags are gross and remove most of the actual flavour – but frozen peas and sweetcorn are real saviours in my house if I’ve run out of fresh veg or I’m trying to stretch it out ’til payday. Even better, if you happen to have a few packets of microwave rice in the cupboard for emergencies then if you’re ever caught off-guard you can just grab a tin of tuna, a packet of micro-rice and chuck some frozen peas in a small tupperware. Boom! A convenient, healthy lunch with no fuss! (For some more healthy work lunch ideas refer back to my previous post which also touches on food prep).

Finally, keep it exciting!

No one wants to eat exactly the same meals every single day of the week! Whilst it’s great to be consistent, it’s also great to try new things or make small changes to make all the difference to your meal time satisfaction. One of the ways I like to do this is to order Gousto boxes from time to time [examples below], where you can pick your meals for the week online or on their app and all the ingredients come readily weighed out and carefully packaged delivered to your door. Yes, I have mentioned these boxes before and no, (sadly) I’m not being sponsored to do so, I just genuinely find them a really good way of trying new foods, cooking new foods and they can take the hassle out of dinner times because those meals are then planned for you and all you have to do is sort out lunches and breakfasts. The minimum portions you can get is 2 but even if you’re only cooking for yourself, have one for dinner and one for lunch!

My only gripe with these is that the packaging is pretty over-the-top. They can also get pricey week-on-week so personally, I’ve had a break; but I definitely recommend them to anyone wanting fresh inspiration!

IMG_4427.JPGOne last point to remember: don’t forget snacks. If you’re a snacker then factor this in too else this could end up being an additional cost over the week you hadn’t initially planned for. Whether that’s making your own healthy snacks such as protein balls [pictured left, a #LeanIn15 recipe] or fresh fruit and yoghurt, or adding a box of energy bars into your weekly shop, it’ll all help in the long-run!

 

So, there you have it. My top tips for introducing successful meal prep into your own lifestyle 🙂 once you get into the swing, you get so used to it that it feels normal, trust me! Any other tips and tricks you have or if you find the above useful, feel free to comment below and let me know. Best of luck!

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Self care essentials: my own personal top tips

I realise this isn’t a food post, but sometimes I feel the need to vary it a little and this is a subject that’s been talked about a lot on social media recently (for good reason) so I quite fancied chucking my two cents in and contributing somehow. It’s also something I’ve been trying to be more mindful of in my own life at the moment as I’m always trying to do fifty-million things at once which can lead to me feeling run-down, stressy and drained.

So, without further ado, here are my super simple tips on self-care (the things I do to help me stay relatively sane):

Make a to-do list

It’s something we’re taught to do from a very young age and may seem a bit obvious or juvenile, but if you’ve got a lot on your plate and you’re worrying about where it’s all going to fit in writing a bullet pointed to-do list can really help. I pretty much live on them.

Try to prioritise things in order of what needs doing first, you’ll likely find that you naturally prioritise things better as you’re writing them down anyway. If you’re like me and you need to write things down more than once to remember (I dread to think how many notepads I went through during revision and exam prep etc) then do. Write as many of the same list or as many different lists as you want. The key thing is the prioritisation and forming a clear, visual plan of action. Setting your head straight, providing a clear focus.

Breathe deeply

We don’t all have to sit and meditate for hours on end with our legs crossed, nor am I suggesting that we ever actually forget to breathe during the day, but when your mind is racing and you’re starting to feel overwhelmed in my opinion the best thing to do is honestly just breathe. Take a minute, maybe even close your eyes if you like, and go back to basics: in through the nose, out through the mouth. Clearing the mind. Take a few deep breaths, feel your heartbeat start to lower and everything will seem just a little bit less hectic, you’ll feel a little bit more in control, I promise you.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it

The whole reason for making the list is to realise what you can do now and what you can leave until later, or maybe it doesn’t even really need doing at all. Ask someone else and don’t be afraid to, whether it’s asking your house mate or significant other to do one or two extra chores around the house or asking a colleague for their input on a project you’re working on. This will free up some valuable you-time that you’re clearly in need of. Believe it or not you don’t have to do absolutely everything by yourself.

Note, this is also relevant for some more serious struggles. If you’re worried that you may be suffering from depression, anxiety, or anything else that may be holding you back or exacerbating the problem then don’t be afraid to seek help if you need it. You may be surprised at how many people will share their experiences with you and how important this can be. Support is always there if you ask for it.

Make time for the things you love

This follows on from the above; if you’ve called in the troops or realised that some of your to-dos aren’t as essential as your worried mind initially thought, then you’ve freed up some extra time just for you. It can be anything from taking a hot bath with Netflix & candles (although be careful to keep these well away from the bubbles as they’re highly flammable), having a lie-in and treating yourself to a super lazy day or film/tv binge, going to the gym or for a run and not worrying about what time you have to get back, or even taking that extra time to paint your nails or soak your feet like you’ve wanted to do for so long. Pretty much anything that you want to do for no other reason than because you just want to is something you need to make ‘me time’ for. For example: myself, I like to do any of the above when I have the chance depending on which I feel I need most at the time, especially if I have the flat to myself. But making the time in the first place is the really important thing. Having said that, it doesn’t have to be something you do alone; use this time to catch up with a friend you’ve not seen for a while or cwtch up with your other half, the world is your oyster in these precious moments.

Indulge in your hobbies or even try a new one

I can’t believe I didn’t mention it earlier but cooking (obviously) is a great way to take some time out from the world and just do your own thing. You don’t need to be an accomplished chef, that’s the great thing about cooking is that you learn as you go along or you can follow a recipe. Something I’d really recommend if you’re not so confident in the kitchen, or even if you are and you’d just like to mix things up a bit, is trying Gousto or something similar which delivers fresh, local and perfectly portioned ingredients straight to your door along with step-by-step recipe instructions. I’ll talk more about Gousto another time but personally I’ve found it a great way to try new things, get back in the kitchen, take time out for myself and all using environmentally friendly ingredients whilst reducing my food waste. What could be better? You could even use this opportunity to get your other half involved with the cooking, making for a cute little date night without any extra cost.

Cooking may not be your thing, but whatever it is don’t be afraid to branch out and try something new, get out of your comfort zone, try that gym class you’ve always fancied but never had anyone to go with – screw it go on your own! And you’d be surprised how much fun doing things on your own can be. I’ve become quite accustomed to it when I feel like it and find that you make new friends along the way, grow in self confidence and absorb more of the experience.

Most importantly…

Rest and recover

This, again, sounds so simple but can be overlooked so easily. We’re told from a very early age that ‘rest and relaxation’ is a key part of human development, so why then do we forget about it when we get older and have our own responsibilities? We neglect our well-being because we’re too busy being busy. Stop. You need rest to recover and carry on else you can do yourself some serious harm in the long-run. Yes, there’s not really any scientific such thing as catching up on sleep but that doesn’t mean you should sacrifice sleep to make way for other things. Staying up once in a while is all well and good but if you’re constantly burning the candle at both ends it may affect you a lot more than you realise. That all important ‘rest day’ from the gym is actually a lot more important than you may think. As much as we have things to do on the weekends try not to make every one busy else you’re not getting the rest you really need to head back to work refreshed and ready on Monday morning.

The point is, sleep and rest is important. We can’t all be seasoned nappers like me, but making sure you’re getting enough down-time is essential for so many reasons. And I guarantee you’ll feel much better once you’ve slept on your worries and allowed your mind and body to relax a while.

 

So there you have it. Nothing ground-breaking I know, but these are just a few things I try to bear in mind when I find myself feeling overloaded and things some of us can unfortunately forget to take seriously enough sometimes. Self-care is never something that should be neglected and I hope that you, like me, can use the above as reminders to take a step back when you need to and take time out from our busy, crazy world.

What are your favourite things to do to look after yourself? What makes you feel 100x better when you’re stressed or run-down? Was this post useful to you? Let me know!

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx