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Year 2013

Well , Hi again, It has been quite some time since I posted anything here, sorry for that. Nothing much that I can do on the allotment other than a bit of digging which I think its too wet really so I havent been doing, and the cooking at home has been mostly Christmas food and quick stuff like fish out of a box and pizza and frozen chips. So I am hoping to be getting back to normal now that my youngest is back in college and my eldest heads back to uni this weekend. I did start learning to crochet over the holidays, so maybe I will be adding a new section on basic beginner crochet stitches and patterns this year too. And I also discovered that I can get free Kindle downloads and I dont even need to have a Kindle to read them, just an app on my laptop; any way of cutting expenses or getting things for free is all good in my book. Anyway, thats all for today, I will try and be a more regular blogger this year.

MY EXPERIENCE AT FARESHARE

Ok, so this is not cooking or growing but it is food related, and I thought some readers may find it interesting enough to perhaps spare a few hours each week to volunteer at their nearest depot.
Food poverty & Food Waste are subjects close to my heart, and this organization does its best to deal with both issues by bringing them both together.

17/10/12 – this was the day of my first visit to FareShare.  Hidden away on a minor industrial estate, it is very easy to miss.  I drove past it first time, then after turning around I entered through a gate marked Exit Only.  Watching out carefully for any vehicle coming the other way I made my way to the depot.  I needn’t have worried as there was no traffic around.  After parking I made my way inside and found the office.  I was introduced to Charlene and explained that I would like to volunteer.  She gave me a whistle-stop tour, as she was expecting someone else (she thought that I was the expected visitor at first).
I discovered there had been a break in the night before.
I also found that there had recently been a large collection through Sainsbury Supermarket and there were enormous pallets full of donated food items.  It seemed to be mostly pasta and rice, jars of pasta sauce and curry sauce, tea and coffee, and tins of fruit and custard and rice pudding.  These all needed to be sorted and moved around.
I was introduced to Chelsea, a young lady who also volunteered.  Together we sorted jars of coffee and packets of tea into trays ready to go onto the bank of shelving which contains assorted foodstuffs.  Then we sorted cans of fruit and custard in a similar way.  Chelsea told me that the day before there had been interviews for a job and everyone was very excited and nervous about whom had got the job, they would find out later on that afternoon.
During our coffee break I met some of the other volunteers.  Paul, Alan, John, and a chap from Lithuania whose name I didn’t find out. Others came and went during the day, and I didn’t get everyone’s name. Everyone was chatty and friendly and I felt very welcome.
I discovered that Sainsbury charge FareShare 90p per pallet per day to store the donated food and that they increase the cost by 1p on each of the items that are being collected.  I thought that is really poor gameplay of Sainsbury.
During the day we continued sorting the pallets of donated food, I saw vans being loaded and going off to do their deliveries.
Later in the afternoon the volunteers who had interviewed for the job were called to the office to find out if they had been successful.  Neither Chelsea nor John had got the job unfortunately.  They were obviously disappointed although they hid this well, but Chelsea was very quiet and John was overly jolly.  They had been given feedback on their interviews and were obviously giving this a lot of thought; so that next time an interview came up they could do better.
At one of our breaks Charlene came and asked if Chelsea and I would be interested in doing a food hygiene course.  I remembered the advice my grandma had given me – never turn down any opportunities that come your way – so I agreed, even though I was very surprised that I would be considered having just started that day.
Chelsea told me that there were courses offered at different times for a variety of things; for instance she is due to do some fork-lift training, and Charlene told me there would be opportunity for health & safety training and other things like this.

At the end of the day everyone did a bit of a clean-up, and then it was time to go home.

WHAT IS FARESHARE

FareShare is a national UK charity supporting communities to relieve food poverty. FareShare is at the centre of two of the most urgent issues that face the UK: food poverty and food waste.

The charity addresses these issues in three ways:

  1. Providing quality food – surplus ‘fit for purpose’ product from the food and drink industry – to organizations working with disadvantaged people in the community
  2. Providing training and education around the essential life skills of safe food preparation and nutrition, and warehouse employability training through FareShare’s Eat Well Live Well programme
  3. Promoting the message that ‘No Good Food Should Be Wasted’

FareShare has been operating since 2004 as an independent charity and today has 17 locations around the UK. Established in 1994 as a project within the homelessness charity Crisis, FareShare aims to help vulnerable groups, whether they are homeless, elderly, children, or other groups in food poverty within our communities.

FareShare Helps Improve Lives:

  • In 2011/12, the food redistributed by FareShare contributed towards more than 8.6 million meals
  • The FareShare Community Food Network has 720 Community Members across the UK receiving food, training and advice
  • Every day an average of 36,500 people benefit from the service FareShare provides

As well as redistributing food, FareShare provides a programme of education and vocational training opportunities – the Eat Well, Live Well programme.

FareShare Helps The Environment:

  • The redistribution of food by FareShare minimises surplus food going to landfill
  • This redistribution of food helped businesses reduce CO2 emissions by 1,800 tonnes in 2011/12.

FareShare’s Vision:

FareShare is embarking on a vision that will see the charity more than triple its impact.
FareShare aims to:

  • Redistribute 20,000 tonnes of food per year
  • Every day, support 100,000 vulnerable people through food provision, as well as provide training and education through our Eat Well Live Well programme
  • Offer 6,000 volunteer opportunities
  • Provide nutritious food to 2,200 community organisations and charities.

Changing to the healthier options

I have always been big on lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and preparing meals from scratch, but I used jars of sauce and packets of powder to get a flavourful meal on the table in as quick a time as possible.
I also used white pasta which I can buy in 3kg bags and is cheaper than the brown varieties; the same with rice – bigger bags, cheaper price.
Over the last 6 months or so I have been thinking more about what we eat and realised that a lot of the foods that I bought was highly processed and contained a lot of ingredients which I have no idea what they are and often cannot even pronounce!

Looking at those ingredients lists scared me, and made me wonder what effect they may be having on our health, so I decided to go as healthy as practical.
First I switched to wholegrain pasta and brown rice, wholemeal bread, brown sugar, and wholewheat flour for baking; simple switches, done gradually, that largely went unnoticed by the family and appeared not have a huge impact on family meals.  No mega tantrums from disgruntled family made me a bit more encouraged.
I soon realised that wholegrain pasta was far more filling than the white stuff I had been using; yes it costs a bit more and I can’t get it in the huge bags, but as it is more filling we don’t need so much on the plate.  Same goes for the brown rice, and everything I made using the wholewheat flour and brown sugar was also far more filling so lasted longer.  I also have the brown unrefined sugar in my coffee.  I am the only one who has coffee and I just can’t bring myself to go without; my little treat.

I soon realised that I needed to empty my cupboards and take a look at everything that was in there and clear out the junk.  The rule was – if I couldn’t pronounce it, or couldn’t find it in natural form then it went out the door.  So ingredients like onions, herbs, oils that I understood (olive, sunflower, etc) were ok. Anything else was not.

What I got rid of:
All the packets with artificial ingredients ; salad dressings, and jars, etc.
Premade sauces in jars had all sorts of unpronounceables in them
Instant mixes, ready meals, etc I had a few of those for those lazy nights when the family where all out, so I didn’t have to do a ‘proper’ meal just for me.
Anything containing fats or syrups that I didn’t recognise as ‘proper food’ went as well.
I switched the small pots of fruity yogurt to a great big tub of natural yogurt with no added sugar or any other additives.  It is a live yogurt, which means it has natural biotics in it which is good for your gut – like those little tiny very expensive pots of yogurt tasting milk, only cheaper.
I looked at the breakfast bars and found they were ok – only things like nuts and seeds and honey where to be found in those, phew, that was a relief; they are handy for tossing in the pocket when you are running out the door to catch the bus in the morning.
I looked at the cans of fruit and vegetables; I didn’t have many as we mostly use frozen veg; baked beans, tomatoes, kidney beans, chickpeas, peaches, grapefruit.  They looked ok, but I was a bit concerned about the beans in salted water – I decided I would use those, but look for an alternative next time.  I mean, I can understand using salt as a preservative, but they are canned, which is a preserving technique so what is the need for the salt?  The fruit was in natural juices, great. And the tomatoes had citric acid, which is basically lemon juice, right? So they stayed.
Popcorn and pretzels are a favourite healthy snack for the lunch boxes.  I decided to use what we had, but the next time I would get the corn kernels and pop them at home.  It’s fun and has to be healthier and cheaper than buying them ready popped.
White sugar had already been replaced with brown, but I decided to get a few jars of honey and maple syrup for baking.
The flour, rice and pasta had already been switched to wholegrain, and I decided to start using other grains like quinoa & couscous, and to make sure I had more nuts and seeds on hand for baking and grabbing for a quick snack.  These are healthy and nutritious and much better than crisps or sweets.
When the breakfast cereal ran out, I found a great granola recipe, and make it every 2-3 weeks in a big batch.  I also found a refrigerated oatmeal recipe, to which you can add any fruits and stuff that you normally add to hot porridge.  Porridge oats are always to be found in my cupboards, I love the stuff.
The herbs and spices stayed put.  Nothing untoward in those.
I know that the cheese and bacon is highly processed, but I just can’t give them up, and I figure that as I have made so many other changes that a little of something bad may be allowed.
I use cheese fairly often, not every day, and the same with bacon; it’s nice to have to add to the odd dinner dish, or to make bacon butties.  I looked into home-making cheese, and they seem to be cottage cheese types and soft cheeses, which are great, but not so good for grating on toast, and making a cheese sauce to put over cauliflower, so the cheddar stays for now.

If you change just a few things each week, bit by bit as you need to replace pantry items, then that is better than not changing anything at all.  If you cant bear to part with your salad dressing for example, then that’s fine, keep it, just look at alternatives in other areas that you could change.

If you are responsible for what your family eats, and you have only good stuff in your pantry, then that is what you and your family will eat.  It soons become normal.