Mother Distracted

Mother Distracted

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Wednesday, 22 February 2017

How To Ban The Bin Now & Love Food This Lent

Caitlin's term project this Spring has been World War II. And not surprisingly she has been learning about food shortages, rationing and 'make do and mend'.

My parents were born in 1939 and still joke about powdered egg and the scarcity of things we take for granted, like sugar and bananas.

 food, healthy, veggies, vegetable, dessert, plate, toppings, pasta, snack, tomatoes

It is ironic, then that in 2015, in the UK alone £13 billion of edible food was thrown away from our homes.

That's a staggering total of 7.3 million tonnes of food binned, which if prevented, would have the environmental benefit of taking one in four cars off the road.

Consumer charity campaign Love Food Hate Waste is determined to encourage us to make 2017 our year of action to do something about this appalling level of waste.

This Lent (1 Mar - 13 Apr), instead of making a conscious choice to give up chocolate or alcohol, they suggest we should be healthier, happier and wealthier if we gave up binning food instead.

To this end they are running a 40 Day Challenge to help us reduce the amount of food that ends up in the bin, and, by making a few small changes, save a few pounds into the bargain.

The campaign, which starts on the 1st of March, will cover a period of just over 6 weeks, each with its own theme and daily tips and challenges.

The themes are:-

Week 1 Meal planning – when’s this for?
Week 2 Storage – where should I put this?
Week 3 Fridge focus – how do I make the most of my fridge?
Week 4 Portioning – how much should I use?
Week 5 Food labels – what do they mean?
Weeks 6/7 Leftovers – what can I do with my ingredients?

So why should we save food?

Rows of bananas in a supermarket

Leaving aside the moral issue of those affected by famine and food shortages who could benefit from the food we waste, when many of us are struggling to cope with ever increasing bills, making the most of one of the large items of expenditure in our weekly budget just makes sense.

As Love Food Hate Waste says, let's change the world one meal at a time.

Save money

Research has shown that if we actually use what we buy, every family could save £60 a month. In fact, throwing good food away costs the average person in the UK around £200 a year, and the average family £700.

It's easy to knock up a quick meal with some leftovers.  For example, left-over vegetables can be blended and turned into a tasty soup.  Off-cuts of meat could be used in a curry or stir-fry.  Left-over berries could be whizzed into a smoothie or turned into a fruit sauce for ice cream.  You could even freeze them for ice lollies for the kids.

Bread can be turned into breadcrumbs and frozen or used in a bread and butter pudding (you can do the same thing with rolls and other kinds of bread).

Nothing beats the taste of fresh food does it, and it tastes even better when you don't have to shell out extra cash for it.

You can find lots of leftover food recipes on the Love Food Hate Waste website.

Save time

If you are organised and cook in bulk then you can simply freeze what you don't use that day and pull a healthier ready meal out to defrost when you need it.

But to really save time and money you need to create a meal plan - and to save argument it's a good idea to get the family involved.

That way everyone's favourites can make an appearance.  We tend to have a roast on Sunday, use the leftovers for a quick tea on Monday and have a pizza night on Wednesday.

I find our meals are planned around the kids' social calendars and occasionally, of course, we are all just too tired to cook.

Save energy bills

If you are using your freezer properly, then you'll not only save money on food but you'll save money on your energy bills too.

And batch cooking will make the most of your oven usage too.

You'll find some great tips for saving energy in the kitchen here.

Woman arranging bread in a bread basket

Get healthier

We know that processed food is loaded with fat, sugar and additives and home-cooking allows us to regain control over what exactly we're putting in our mouths - even more important when you have kids.

Rather than buy a calorie laden fish & chip supper, for example, which comes in at a whopping 2000 calories (your entire day's calorie allowance), you can easily pan-roast a white fish fillet and use spuds (even older, sprouty ones) to make potato wedges.  Chuck some chilli flakes on for some extra oomph.  You could even add some left over tomatoes and onions to the baking tray.

Much more taste, less fat and certainly less than the average £7 per supper.

There is one product though that as a nation we are notorious for wasting - the bagged salad.  I've found that despite all my good intentions, we usually end up throwing half a bag away or even, in some cases, the entire thing.  What a waste!

Now we buy little gem lettuce, baby tomatoes, celery, rocket and grate some carrot.  Throw in some pine nuts and some home made salad dressing and you're done.

The Hobbis Household are fully signed up to the challenge and I hope you'll join us.  Why not set yourself a financial target of saving the £60 per month?  By the end of the challenge you could have saved over £75 on food alone.

The challenge kicks off with meal planning and you can find lots of quick and simple tips at www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/lent to get you started.

It's time we all start to Love Food and Hate Waste.

A Friend In Need Is A Friend Indeed

We all need a helping hand in our lives at some time or another. We can often rely on our partners and relatives, but it is important to also remember that we can always ask our friends whenever we need some help as well! After all, there is that old saying ‘a friend in need is a friend indeed’!

Do you want to be there for your friends as often as you can? There are various ways you can offer them your help. Here are some very common situations in which they might get a bit stressed out. If you know that a close friend of yours is going through one of these, don’t be scared to ask them if they could do with a hand. I’m sure they will enthusiastically take you up on your offer!


A New Baby

There is nothing quite as stressful as welcoming a new baby into your home! Sure, it is a very happy time that is filled with joy, but it can be very difficult to deal with all the changes, especially for new mums. If one of your friends has just had a new baby, you should let her know that you are there for her to help her out with anything she needs. That might just be some words of wisdom or advice if you already have kids. But there might also be some practical stuff that you can help her with too. You will no doubt know just how tiring living with a newborn can be, so one nice idea is to offer to look after the baby whenever she needs to take a well-earned nap. If you have any old clothes or toys that your kids no longer use, you could consider passing them on to the newborn. Baby things are very expensive, and I’m sure your friend will really appreciate this thoughtful gift!


Planning A Child’s Birthday Party

Once the newborn has grown up, there will be a big birthday bash to plan each year! These are very easy to do when kids are young, as babies and toddlers won’t demand too much for their party. In fact, many parents simply organize a small gathering at home with close friends and relatives. However, things can get very stressful once the child grows up and starts to make demands! If you know a friend is struggling to plan their child’s party, you should offer to help them out. For instance, why not say that you will take care of the food? You could also help with a variety of other small jobs. Offer to ring around a few different venues to see who can offer the best price, or help your friend post out all the invitations. No matter how small the job is, I’m sure it will be a big help for your friend!


Moving House

Another extremely stressful situation to go through is moving house. There is a lot to organize and plan in order for moving day to go very smoothly, such as packing and hiring some movers. If your friend is dreading their upcoming moving day, offer a helping hand to them. You could nip around to their house and help them pack up their final few things before the movers arrive. Another great idea is to take care of their kids while they are packing and sorting things out. Having the kids around while your friend and her partner are trying to get on will only slow them down and cause them to get stressed out.Taking them away for the day will certainly help your friend out. It would also be a nice gesture to help them to organize a housewarming party. You could buy them a few gifts, like hampers with prosecco in them and send out invites to friends and family. It doesn’t have to be a huge occasion; just a small gathering in their new home will be enough to help them celebrate!


Job Troubles

No one wants to go through a difficult period at work. If you think your friend is having trouble in their job, for whatever reason, you should offer them a shoulder to cry on or just be there ready to turn the kettle on whenever they need a strong cup of tea and a chat! More often than not, just being there to talk through their problems with them will be enough to take a large load off their shoulders. But there may sometimes be other ways you can help. For instance, if your friend ever needs a character reference, you should offer to write them one. One reason why our jobs can become so stressful is because more and more people have to work longer hours. If this is the case for your friend, offer to pick up her kids from school and look after them until she or her partner can pick them up. That way, the don’t have to worry about expensive childcare.


Relationship Worries

Do you have a suspicion that your friend’s relationship is going through a rocky patch? If so, invite them round for a brew or glass of wine and see if she will open up to you about things. Simply talking through problems will be a great way to help her out. They do say that a problem shared is a problem halved, after all! However, if she doesn’t open up to you, then you shouldn’t force her to. I’m sure that she will in her own time. If your friend is going through a divorce, all of this emotional support will be a great help. You should also try to organise as many nights out and catch ups over coffee as possible so that you can take her mind off things. Let her know that she can give you a call, no matter the time, if she ever needs to have a chat with someone!

As you can see, there are plenty of ways you can be there for all your friends!

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Thinking Of Taking Out Finance: What Are Your Options?

You can’t always afford to pay for the things you want outright. A home improvement, new car or holiday could all stretch to hundreds or thousands of pounds – and about 40 per cent of people have less than £500 in savings.

mobile phone and credit card on table

So, when a big ticket purchase comes along, what can you do? It’s important to weigh up your options and see which is the best deal for you.

Here are the options that you can typically turn to:

Personal loan: With this option you apply to a lender to get a sum, which is normally several thousand pounds. The lender will need to approve your application and will do this, in part at least, by looking at your credit rating. This is usually paid back over a couple of years at an agreed interest rate. This form of finance allows you to sign up to a clear contract in which you know how much you’ll pay back each month and in total. You can use a loan calculator to be sure about the amount you’ll pay.

Payday loans: Slightly different from personal loans, payday loans are intended to tide you over until your wages come into your account. They are typically given for small amounts and carry a very high interest rate because they are intended to be paid back very quickly.

Overdraft: If you spend more money than you actually have in your bank account then you’ll dip into your overdraft. You need to have permission from the bank to be able to do this, but most banks will allow you a limited amount of money by way of overdraft and some won’t charge you for using this. It’s important to check with your bank and you can talk to them and ask to extend this if you are finding that your current agreed limit is insufficient. This should be seen as a short term option – perhaps when you’re awaiting a payday – and you shouldn’t just treat your overdraft as ‘extra money’ in your account.

Credit card: This little plastic friend can get you out of a hole and allow you to buy something you cannot afford outright. These will come with a credit limit – the maximum you can spend on the card – and might carry interest and charges if you don’t pay the money back in full by a certain date. Many lenders will offer introductory interest free offers, which makes these attractive, short term forms of lending.

Store cards: These products are similar to credit cards – but are linked to one store or chain of stores. Store cards might offer rewards for your loyalty – such as cashback or money off vouchers – but they might also carry a higher interest rate than credit cards.

Credit unions: These are smaller co-operatives, aiming to ‘do good’ for the community by lending to those in need. They tend to offer smaller amounts - £3,000 or lower – and can only charge a maximum of 3% a month interest.

Peer-to-peer lending: This has become popular in recent years as a new way to access finance. It involves individuals providing the finance for lenders through websites that are set up purely to match one to the other. They are able to get a better interest rate than they would in a savings account, while the borrower typically pays less than they would for getting a personal loan. There is, however, less protection for both parties than dealing with a bank or building society.
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