Why we should scrap the Wonky Veg box

Firstly, well done to ASDA for rolling out the superb Wonky Box yesterday into some of its stores. It got me excited, I purchased one, I Instagram’d it, I was interviewed about my thoughts on it and I’ve so far planned a weeks worth of dinners from it. It’s a bloody good idea ASDA, I’m glad someone finally did it.


The £3.50 ASDA Wonky Box, is a 5kg cardboard box crammed with fresh veggies, that would otherwise not have made it into the supermarket shelves because of it non-perfect appearance. I was disappointed though to open the box and actually find NO wonky veg. Just normal looking veg. Where was my rude carrot or my mutant cucumber? Instead I was faced with a box of perfectly boring (if not tasty) veg. Humpf. Must try harder ASDA. I wanted FREAKS!

My second disappointment came from where I actually found the Wonky Veg box within the store. Anyone who is a regular ASDA-goer will know that all of their best deals are normally at the front of the store, by the entrance doors, big yellow and red stickers, posters and 2ft high price tags all drawing the shopper to the said bargain. But not for the poor Wonky Box. It was stuck at the very end of the vegetable aisle, away from the eager bargain-hungry shopper’s eyes. It was on a pallet, and there were no fancy labels. And the price tag was only about 3cm high.

So why is this a problem? I have a theory. The supermarkets want to look like the bee’s knees selling its knobbly bobbly veg, They want you to think “Wow, ASDA really care about us poor folk and want to help us out.” The Wonky Box is just a trial run. If it fails they can go back to binning the shameful veg that makes them little money and go back to selling the Sexy Aubergines and the Manly Parsnips with stickers that scream ‘Chosen by You!’. ‘Chosen by you’… that’s an interesting phrase. I didn’t want to choose that straight edge hunky carrot, I quite like rough and ready ones. I don’t know why, but I think it comes from my childhood of growing-our-own. That’s what a carrot looks like right? Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall ran a programme about his War On Waste recently and he managed to get Morrisons selling a couple of wobby Courgettes (if I remember correctly), but once again the store trialling the courgettes failed to make them look appealing, instead they were just shoved to one side, below the fancy courgettes out of direct eye line. Have you noticed that all of the snazzy expensive supermarket buys are at eye level? The ‘value’ goods tend to be on the bottom shelf, were mums with bad backs never dare to bend.

So why do we need to scrap the Wonky Veg Box? Because Wonky Veg is normal! Its edible, its tasty, its just as bloody good for us! The new ASDA Wonky Veg box is amazing, don’t get me wrong. Its opening the doors for families on a budget, is getting more people buying good quality produce for a much lower price, and its giving the farmers that would otherwise be shafted a bit of extra income rather than seeing their crops rot to waste. Lets keep the Wonky Veg box going… for now. But I would love to see them scrapped altogether, and instead every shelf in every supermarket filled with lumpy bumpy fruit and veg. Lets get folk’s opinions changed, and lets stop the Celery Snobbery. We encourage people not to judge, so why should judging a vegetable be any different?

Actually in an ideal world we would all buy local farm produce, but I feel that we are along way off of that. Lets just take one small baby step at a time. For now, we are doing great!!


Could you live without disposable items?

Many of the products we use daily are disposable. We don’t think twice before we reach for the kitchen roll or the pack of baby wipes, and just throw them into the bin after use. But what in your home could be replaced with a reusable product? There are many alternatives to nappies, baby wipes, make-up wipes and even toilet roll. But would you be willing to turn completely eco-savvy and take the plunge removing all disposable products from your life?

The list of things that we throw away seems endless. Just think what ends up in your black bin bag daily. How much of that waste could be avoided? Money is being thrown away, and our landfills are filling up fast. Soon our planet, as well as our wallets will be a nasty mess- of misery.

Since the UK carrier bag tax came into effect in October 2015, many people found themselves plunged into the world of reusable carrier bags, and actually scratching their heads at how reliable we have become on these little disposable plastic sacks. Again, it is only a modern convenience that became a necessity. If you have not bought yourself a ‘Bag For Life’ yet, consider making yourself a shoulder bag from an old pillow case, or even ripping apart that old tatty knitted jumper and using the wool to knit yourself a new bag. It won’t take you long, and you may even learn a new skill along the way. Many people have been caught out at the shops since the new law came into place, with an armful of shopping, and no where to put it, and begrudging that 5p spend for another bag. A pretty cloth bag can be rolled up and stuffed into your hand bag, used again and again, and is washable! If it gets a hole, sew it up, or patch it with an old patch from your punk-rocker days.

cloth nappy week 2015 pretty nappies

The popularity of using cloth nappies has boomed in the last few years, with tricky to fold towelling squares becoming a forgotten thing. They have been replaced by beautifully pattered, easy to wash and use copies of their disposable partners. The internet is now full of cloth nappies with budgets to suit all. And no nappy change is complete without baby wipes. Baby wipes are a relatively new invention starting out in the 1950’s, and not much has changed from their design since then. The napkin sized wipes are often scented and alcohol based. With cleanliness and nice smells, comes a price. Baby wipes contain a cocktail of chemicals that can irritate soft sensitive skin. We are advised to use cotton wool and plain boiled water on the delicate skin of a new born, but cotton wool is still a disposable item. Instead take the switch to using cotton wipes. These can be inexpensive by creating them yourself, cutting up old pillowcases, t-shirts or towels. There are companies out there that sell ready-made washable baby wipes, if you don’t fancy having a go at making some yourself. These cotton wipes will last you years before replacements are needed. I have not bought baby wipes in 3 years. Relying on my trusty cotton wipes, and a quick dampen under the tap before use.



Many ladies menstruate, and with sanitary pads and tampons being considered a luxury item by the tax man, women are getting out of pocket each month by around a fiver. There are now many options for women to explore which can mean that she will cut out buying these monthly luxuries, from cloth sanitary towels, to menstrual cups, and even crocheted tampons. Once you open your eyes to alternative’s you discover a whole world of options that you may never have known existed. A menstrual cup will cost you around £20. Which shall last you around 10 years. You most certainly would have spent more than £20 in 10 years if you were still buying disposable sanitary items. No more irritating plastic pads, laced with chemicals and bleaches that can slowly poison you, instead make the switch to soft cotton, that’s easy to wash and has cute colourful patterns!

We throw away 350,000 tonnes of clothing every year. These clothes could otherwise be used to make other items for daily use. Such as the baby wipes I mentioned above, or cut up and sewn into new bed quilts, patchwork table cloths or dish rags. And if you really have not got the heart to cut up your old work Christmas party dress from the year 2000, donate it charity. There will always be someone who would appreciate a superb dress for next to nothing.

girly cloth wipes

One final disposable item that we can really live without is toilet paper. Yup. You use it every day, several times a day and you pay quite a lot of money for it, yet you literally just flush it down the drain! The idea of washing ones own toilet paper does turn noses up at the thought, but is it really easy and after a couple of days, you really won’t miss that scratchy old paper. Your bottom will be blessed with soft cotton, and a quick wash in the machine, its ready to be used again and again. OK, it’s not for everyone, but it’s worth considering if you really want to save some money, and the planet… one wee at a time.

As you can see, there are lots of little changes that you can simply make to your day to day living that will soon save you some big pennies. You start to eliminate more chemicals from your life, your health improves and you start to view life a little bit differently. For the better.

And that money that you saved from not buying loo roll, treat yourself to something special with it instead.

The Self Sufficiency Manual book review

The Self Sufficiency Manual: A Complete, Practical Guide to Living Off the Land has been my regular nightly reading since my dad got it for me for Christmas.  This year we have made it our mission to live more self sufficiently. Despite living very frugally already by no longer buying nappies, baby wipes and even toilet paper, growing some of our own food and recycling and reusing what we can, we have come to the realisation that we really can do so much more to stop relying on heavily mass produced goods. As we approach the end of January my garden has already seen plenty of action. We have been clearing up the small growing space that we have, preparing our vegetable beds and sorting our seeds out ready for planting. I’ve even been able to get a few seedlings started off ready for planting out when the time is right.

the self sufficiency manual

The Self Sufficiency Manual by Alison Candlin, is the compete practical guide for beginners and those who are way more experienced than myself at living the self sufficient lifestyle. The book is more than just a gardening guide and contains the ins-and-outs of growing most well known (and many slightly less known) vegetables, fruits and herbs. There is information on what seasonal jobs there are to undertake, water and energy conservation, animal husbandry, preserving your food and even gathering food and fuel from the wild. Oh and trimming your bush. Literally of course.

We have a small back garden and an even smaller front garden. Sadly our back garden is mostly shaded by the house, but the front is a complete sun trap. We have decided to utilise every inch of space to efficiently and effectively grow enough food to feed our family of 5 as much as we possibly can. I am looking forward to this journey, and to see how we cope and adapt to this (rather fun) challenge. The drawing board is full of ideas, and some of which are a little bizarre. Who knew a kitchen sink made such a great planter for carrots!? At least it makes our neighbours’ kids’ laugh on the school run.

The Self Sufficiency Manual has clear easy to follow text, colourful eye catching photographs and diagrams throughout. From organising different sized plots of land to pruning and training a grape vine, this book clearly explains it all with it’s clear diagrams. The book contains a lot of written text but is divided up into easy-to-digest chunks of information that does not require you to read the book from front-to-back. You can simply pick up the book and flick to the bits you need.

the self sufficiciency manual

Stepping out of the garden and into the house, The Self Sufficiency Manual is packed with tasty recipes too. So after harvesting the fruits of your labours, you can cook up some yummy dishes to impress your family and friends over the dining table. There is a large section too on preserving your food from freezing, to dehydrating and even canning, so nothing need go to waste and you can enjoy your harvests all year round.

Animal husbandry is made exciting with useful sections on chicken keeping, milking your goats and even bee keeping, if any of those things float your boat (or ‘rock your barn’ I should say). We keep just 4 free-range chickens that produce enough eggs for my family to enjoy and I feel no need to keep any other animals. Not only do we just not have the space (and while my neighbours withstand a lot of our madness, I think a goat would tip them over the edge) we gave up eating meat and dairy (except for our lush eggs) last year. But for those who would like to expand their self sufficiency skills beyond the veggie patch there is plenty of information about keeping animals to certainly get you going to some degree.

Don’t expect to read the book and walk away as a fully impressive farmer (and my farming ancestors would chuckle at calling what we do ‘farming’) but as far as life-manuals go, this book really has caught my eye and kept me up way past my bedtime on many, many occasions. A well written book, for people of all ages and levels of their self sufficient journey. It certainly contains enough information within its 256 pages to get your journey into self sufficiency off to a cracking start. Oh and there is even a whole section dedicated to building your own composting toilet.
The Self Sufficiency Manual: A Complete, Practical Guide to Living Off the Land by Alison Candlin is £14.99 on Amazon, and the ISBN # is 978-1408156551.

me and margo


Going back to school with NCC home learning

I like to keep my brain busy, and as such, I’m always looking for new challenges to take on.

As a busy mum of 3, going back into education was always going to be tricky. Even with the kids tucked up in bed, night classes are a no-no as I’m still breastfeeding my baby, and she’s well and truly in the middle of the dreaded Separation Anxiety stage of her development.

So, I figured my best bet would be to check out some snazzy online courses, where I can study at my own pace, in my pyjamas, in front of the fire, kid firmly attached to my breast (if you must know). NCC Home Learning are a trusted and reliable online course portal,and they caught my eye with their Teaching Assistant course. I immediately began to wonder how completing this course might help me understand more my own children’s development, and later, how it might shape my future career prospects.

The course is a complete Level 3 Diploma, accredited by ABC Awards. ABC Awards are a leading National Awarding Organisation, regulated by Ofqual, and the Welsh Government for their qualifications on the national framework i.e. the Qualifications and Curriculum Framework (QCF). It has a long-established reputation for developing and awarding high quality vocational qualifications across a wide range of industries. As a registered charity, ABC Awards combines 180 years of examination and assessment expertise but also implements a responsive, flexible and innovative approach to the needs of our customers. So I could relax straight into the course knowing that all of my hard work will pay off with a useful bit of paper at the end of it (and a really nice job!)

Becoming a Teaching Assistant would give me the hours I need to still be mum, homemaker and wife whilst getting back into a working mind-set, something that I am itching to do as my babies are all getting older.

The course is super easy to follow. The whole course is completed online, with no need to download any huge files or print off a million sheets of A4 paper. I only started the course 4 days ago, and I have had a good look through the modules. The course (so far from what I have seen) seems very in depth, with 5 mandatory modules:

  • Module 1: Provide Support for Learning Activities
  • Module 2: Support Children’s Development
  • Module 3: Help to Keep Children Safe
  • Module 4: Contribute to Positive Relationships
  • Module 5: Provide Effective Support for your Colleagues

And 2 optional units (just choose 2 to complete):

  • Module 6: Use Information and Communication Technology to Support Pupil’s Learning
  • Module 7: Support a Child with Disabilities or Special Educational Needs
  • Module 8: Support Children and Young People’s Play
  • Module 9: Provide Displays

I have decided to go for Module 7 and Module 8. I live a short walk from no less than 9 (!) schools, two of which  are coeducational schools for children with complex educational needs, so getting work in a school in my hometown would be superb!

When you have signed up for your chosen course, you are given an easy-to-use account, where all of your modules are clearly displayed for you to work though. It’s easy to spot if you accidently miss out a page of the course, because it will be highlighted in black (rather than grey for completed pages), so you can simply pop back a few pages and finish what you need to.

No prior learning knowledge or experience is essential to take this Teaching Assistant course. You have the freedom to start the Teaching Assistant course at any time and continue your studies at your own pace for a period of up to 12 months from initial registration, with full tutor support, that can help you out with any questions you may have during the course. If you need your tutor at any point, just click the ‘Leave a Message’ tab that is always found at the bottom of your screen and type a quick message. Your tutor will get back to you swiftly.

Like I said, it’s still early days for me and the Teaching Assistant course, so I can’t wait to get back to you after I have completed the course with a full in-depth review and to of course, let you know how I got on. Hopefully I shall have a nice certificate to hang up on my wall too.

If becoming a teaching assistant doesn’t take your fancy there are many other superb courses available through NCC Home Learning such as; accountancy; child minding; photography; psychology; beautician; to name just a few of the hundreds of courses that they offer. The courses are accredited by various awarding bodies such as NCFE, ICB, SAGE and Ascentis.

The Teaching Assistant course is currently available for £255 and you can even pay in instalments if this makes it easier for you. They also offer a price match guarantee, so if you find the same course anywhere else cheaper they will match it!

** This NCC course has been provided to me free of charge in exchange for an honest review of the course**

Blast Off! with Eureka! this February half term

Eureka! The National Children’s Museum in Halifax, West Yorkshire is reaching for the stars this February half term as they celebrate the European Space Agency’s first British Astronaut Tim Peake’s mission in space with a whole fortnight of rocket science for their event Blast Off! running from Saturday 6th to Sunday 21st February 2016.
Bring your budding space explorers to Yorkshire’s unique children’s museum to join in with inter-galactic activities. Eureka! is the only place in Yorkshire where you’ll get to take part in Destination Space sessions, designed by experts in space travel (for children aged 5 – 11), to learn about Tim Peake’s life in space plus the science and people that got him there. Discover the role that you’d have in the space crew, and learn all about the effects that life in space has on the human body.

Visitors can have a go at rocket science, plus the Eureka! crew have got their very own replica Sokol space suit – just like the one Tim wore on launch day. Seriously, it’ll be out of this world.

All activities are free with standard admission or with your Eureka! Annual Pass.

For visitor information call 01422 330069, visit www.eureka.org.uk,

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