Why We Should All Learn To Swap Food

When I was sat out in the garden a few nights ago I had a quick thought. I should create a Facebook group for my local town, where we can all swap and trade food with each other. The only rule would be that no cash would exchange hands. We could spring-clean our cupboards and gardens, and swap the food that was just hiding away, sitting unused. Tins of soup, packs of spaghetti or even the fruit from a tree that has taken over the back yard.

I quickly set up the page and within half an hour I had over 100 members! I even had lots of comments saying what a fantastic idea the group was. Soon, we had members swapping packs of salt for chutney, garden apples for a George Foreman Grill (OK, its not food, but its used to prepare food, so it was as good as) and lots of positive comments pinging between members.

So, why did I set up this page? Too much food is wasted today. People are scared to use an item that is 2 days past its ‘best-before’ date or if a tin has gathered some dust at the back of the pantry, it is no longer appealing to the owner. We live in a society where it is acceptable to just throw food away. A disposable society. We throw away 7 million tonnes of food away every year in the UK and more than half of this wasted food was perfectly good enough to eat. Why do we throw away food? Is it not the same as throwing away our well earned money? We often finding ourselves giving in to tempting BOGOF offers in supermarkets and we never use the freebie or we often over estimate how much grub we need to cook for dinner, resulting in a few extra portions a week, worth of waste. There are people who still go hungry in this country, who find it hard to put meals on their tables and we just throw ours away! What an embarrassing society.

I wanted to change all of that, even just locally. I swapped some soup that sat unused in our pantry this morning for some yummy fruity tea bags, with my neighbour over the garden fence. She wasn’t using the teas, and for me to buy them would be a luxury that I rarely afford to buy. We made a good trade. She had some lunch and I had a nice cuppa. I have also picked a full bag of apples from a lady’s garden, prepared and frozen enough for about 4 fruit crumbles (along with some rhubarb from my dads garden) to make for another day, or even month, with the help of my deep freeze!

If every town set up a food swapping page on Facebook (or even a weather proof plastic box in a town centre would do!)  think of how much less food would be wasted, think of how much money we could all save and think of all the new different foods we might be tempted to try. We can start teaching our children the importance of food and our respect for it. They will grow up to not take food for granted and waste even more of it but to give it to those who can give something back. Our society would bond, and we could even start making new friends. We would be going back to what they country did many years ago, when we all knew how not to waste food.

Since creating my local food swap page, I have since created one for Bedfordshire county, Bedfordshire Food Swap. Why don’t you create a page for your local area, and get swapping!!!


Meet Our Chickens

We have wanted chickens for a long time, and a few days ago we finally took the plunge.

As a kid, my nan always spoke of keeping hens and my husband attended a working farm school when he was in education. Up until we moved into our new home, keeping chickens was not an option (we didn’t think our landlord would be as keen as us on the whole idea), but now we can freely keep our own hens we decided to go for it.

I stumbled across a selling page on Facebook and a local lady was advertising the chickens and coop for a very, very cheeep (geddit?!) price. I couldn’t just let the opportunity pass. For frugal reasons we always wanted our hens to cost a low start-up price, so that the efficiency of receiving eggs was worth it I the long run. I also want our daughters to grow up understanding basic animal husbandry, because I believe hat not many children these days truly understand where their food comes from, and if they do, I can only assume many only know a world of mass produced, low quality food that is no longer connected to the land and the respect of how much time, love and energy goes into producing proper quality food. Chickens are an amazing and easy to keep animal that helps children learn just how fun and simple producing eggs can be. You feed a hen and give them some love, and in return they deliver us with their goods.

Of course, eggs are not vegan. And since I have been living a vegan lifestyle I have avoided shop bought eggs. I don’t know the welfare of the laying hens, and I query how free-range, they supposedly are. And don’t even get me started on the subject of caged hens! But, eating the eggs from my own hens I view differently. I know my girls are happy. They are fed a good quality range of food, they are free to roam the garden and most importantly they are happy. My girls are loving finding fresh eggs every day, and the eggs taste delicious.

So, everybody, we have Barbara and Margo, named perfectly after the leading ladies in TV sitcom The Good Life.

the newhouse hens


Keep Cravings Vegan With A Taste Of Nature

I am still living life mostly vegan, since finishing my 1 month vegan challenge last month. I am thoroughly enjoying it, and it’s becoming very easy to follow. Recipes are getting easier to come up with, supermarket shopping is taking less time (and less reading of labels) and my overall health and BMI is improving. I feel good! I do still have a very sweet tooth and I have to satisfy it regularly. Since cutting down dramatically on chocolate since becoming vegan (I do still occasionally treat myself to a slab of Green & Blacks or Bournville now and again) I have turned to sweet snack bars.

Taste of nature bars

Taste Of Nature have created a whole range of natural fruit and nut bars which are gluten free, certified organic and vegan to keep you fuelled on the go, and help to beat those cravings! While I am still breastfeeding baby Ivy, these cravings pop up quite often… believe me. With no artificial ingredients, sweeteners (They use agave and brown rice syrup as a sweetener in the bars) or nasty additives, Taste Of Nature contain the feel-good-and-filling factor while also keeping your conscience happy that no animal products have been used. The company even proudly use locally sourced ingredients in Ontario, Canada where the company are based. The organic fruit and nut bars are also a great source of protein and fibre, naturally.

The yummy bars are produced in small quantities at a time, with processing kept to a minimum to maximise nutritional density. The resulting snacks are a source of energy, fibre, protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and trace elements, all designed to make eating well a pleasure, not a chore.

My ultimate favourite Taste Of Nature bar had to be the Polynesian Coconut Breeze bar. Chewy, sweet and very tropical, it felt like a really sweet treat that efficiently boosted my energy. Packed with coconut slices, peanuts, flax seed and almonds it packed a crunch! Very moreish, and I had to remind myself not to devour the whole range in one sitting… even though I think it totally would be possible! And naughty!

taste of nature coconut


Available in nine flavours – Argentinian Peanut Plains, Brazilian Nut Fiesta, Californian Almond Valley, Himalayan Goji Summit, Niagara Apple Country, Nova Scotia Blueberry Fields, Persian Pomegranate Garden, Polynesian Coconut Breeze and Quebec Cranberry Carnival – from Ocado and good health food stores, all priced £1.39 (RRP).

Pop over to Healthy Food Brands for more information on the Taste Of Nature range, and to discover even more yummy nutritious snacks.

Chickenpox and Cabin Fever

The first week of the school holidays, Chickenpox struck our house. It’s been crazy, hence why I have not spent much time online and abandoning my blog for a few weeks. First Willow came down with it, not too badly at all. It started with a few spots on her tummy, and a couple of her face. That was pretty much it.


Then 11 days after Willow first started getting spotty, Olive started getting the tell-tale rash. She was hit much harder with the virus than Willow, pushing a temperature of 40*c all night on the second day of the rash, and becoming a little delirious and tearful. Poor baby.


Then, poor Ivy came down with the chickenpox. I was hoping that she would avoid the virus because I am still breastfeeding her and passing on my immunity. She doesn’t have the rash as bad as Olive, and definitely has a milder case, thank goodness!

So lots of cuddles, calamine lotion, oat baths and treats (The girls got a couple of new DVDs) were dished out in our house. I though, have been going stir crazy from cabin fever, I have eaten my way through the  entire pantry and done more housework these last few weeks alone than I have possibly done in a whole year. While Willow is well over the virus, Olive and Ivy are now nearly finished scabbing over and we are ready to venture out again very soon. Whooooooooooop!! ivypox

My Vegan Challenge; Roundup

I DID IT!!! I spent the whole of July vegan. 31 days (well, I still have the remainder of today to go) of eating and living a vegan lifestyle. I ditched the Dr Marten boots, I ignored the Jaffa cakes in the pantry and I didn’t eve glance at the reduced meat in the supermarket.

Was it hard? Surprisingly, nowhere near as hard as I thought it would be. The month has gone so quickly. I was shocked when I realised only yesterday, that it was the end of July already. I’m not going to lie, that I did give into temptation a couple of times with food. On my first day I had a sneaky spoonful of lemon meringue, and I popped a chocolate button into my mouth (stolen from the kids) in the second week. But, after that blip my brain just functioned into ‘Vegan Mode’ and nothing seemed tempting anymore. I smelt cooking bacon a few times from neighbours houses and I did suddenly feel a massive craving, but I quickly remembered why I was doing my vegan challenge.

How do I feel about my veganism challenge? I feel really positive actually. I think it went well. You know the saying ‘Time flies when you’re having fun’? I think I can apply that to my vegan challenge 100%. I honestly found the month fly past. Ditching milk in my coffee was so easy. I haven’t touched a drop of milk, and the thought of going back to drinking it really doesn’t appeal to me. I will quite happily stick to milk alternative’s for my drinks, cereals and baking. I started the challenge drinking Soya milk, but later found it to be very fattening and I was bloating on it. I now use rice milk instead. I haven’t missed cheese (weird!) and I have found some great chocolate to keep my cravings happy. Milk chocolate was my vice, but I have switched to Green And Black’s dark range and Cadbury’s Bourneville. I think I can learn so much more about vegan foods and baking (I worked out how to make a mean chocolate cake), and having learnt so much in the space of 31 days, I would be interested to see how much more is out there to discover with more time.

Have I noticed any differences in my body? Massively. I’ve lost 8.5lbs since day 1. I have to keep up the extra calorie intake because I am breastfeeding Ivy, but I have still shifted some pounds. My tummy is less flabby and I have lots more energy. My hair is getting less greasy and my skin appears a lot brighter too. And my nails! I have nails! My brain is functioning more efficiently and it doesn’t take me as long to wake up and get going in the morning. My bad days with post natal depression have reduced, but I have been put on medication and I genuinely feel amazing.

Shopping, cooking and washing. The first few weeks of label reading was tough. It took me ages to do a simple food shop, but I soon got into the swing of things. I stocked up on lots of dried beans and pulses and carbs became my friend. Cooking was a similar story. I felt like I was spending forever in the kitchen, but I soon learnt to cook foods in batches and keep my fridge stocked with food that I could just grab and go. I also quickly learnt that if I was going out for the day, it was easiest to take a packed lunch and a bottle of rice milk, because finding vegan food out and about was harder than I imagined, and having a cuppa at a friends house meant that my milk alternatives were limited. Alcohol was a massive head scratcher. I am not a huge drinker anyway, its tough with kids and breastfeeding to have a session. Many alcoholic drinks are not vegan, due to them being filtered through isinglass, basically fish guts (WTAF is that all about!?!). I found the website Barnivore great for checking what booze is vegan friendly.

As for house work, it was clear that human beings aren’t just non-compassionate beings with food, but also with cleaning and washing our homes and our bodies. So many products have been tested on animals, or include animal ingredients. Looking for the leaping bunny logo on packaging became second nature. I turned to lemon juice for cleaning the kitchen and bathroom, stocking up on huge bags of lemons! I also found Original Source shower gel is very loud and proud vegan.  Sainsbury’s Basics shampoo and conditioner are also cruelty free and very cheap! Sainsbury’s is where I found to be the most vegan friendly UK supermarket to shop in. Any of their own brand vegan products are clearly marked and save loads of time when shopping. Instead of scrolling through ingredients lists, just one quick glance tells me if its an OK product.

Will, I continue? Yes. definitely. I still have so much to learn and write about. I don’t feel like 1 month was long enough. I think I will give it 3! So, there you have it… my word I will go for another 2 months. GULP! If you would like to give the 30 Day Vegan Pledge a go, you can sign up here, through the Vegan Society website. You will receive daily emails with great hints and tips, super recipes and great links to keep you on track. The Vegan Society website is packed full of useful information and resources, and they have a super team of staff that will answer any questions you may have about your transition into veganism.