Oggy Oggy Oggy Oi Oi Olio

I regularly mention Olio in my blogs and instagram posts, but it occurred to me that I’ve not actually fully explained who they are or what they do.

I can’t quite remember how I first heard about Olio but an app with which you can share food, well that has my name all over it, perhaps not all over it but my profile reads Laura and I’ve achieved champion status so I’ll settle for that!

The app was founded by Saasha Celestial-One and Tessa Cook, after the latter had been desperately trying to find a new home for her old food when she was moving house. The idea was to bring communities together and lessen food waste.

I’m struggling to recall what I first collected using the app; what is with my memory?! However, since then I have picked up unwanted food on a regular basis, sometimes a few times a week. Common reasons for users sharing food seem to be house moves, holidays, changes in diet, overbought and plenty of leftovers. It’s an amazing way of meeting new people and what I love about the app is that it effortlessly cuts through social divides. I’ve had a woman collect a couple of boxes of chocolates from me having had her state benefits sanctioned. I was giving said chocolates away as I’d gone vegan; a lifestyle choice that I’m privileged enough to make.

More and more businesses are distributing unwanted food on the app via food waste heroes; volunteers who will collect food from eateries such as Pret A Manger, Deliciously Ella and then list and share with users on the app. I had a bit of a first world crisis recently when I agreed to accept and distribute 30 jars of Hellman’s vegan mayonnaise, arriving home to find boxes of almost 200 jars! I needn’t have panicked it was all gone in less than a week! I kept a fair few jars for myself, a perk of being a food waste hero is that you get to keep 10% of the food that you are distributing, and discovered how well it works in cakes! The recipe shared with my by a lovely Olio user when she collected a few jars of mayo.

A few of my favourite collections have been a couple of huge hauls of vegan cupboard foods when, coincidentally, both families were moving to Dubai. Meeting Anna who shared her battle with cancer as well as the tasty salads from Deliciously Ella’s deli. Lip glosses; there is a non food section on the app. Collecting regularly from B and Natalie. Coming across wild garlic for the first time after Tamara left it on my doorstep. Being able to share the giant pumpkin from Andy’s allotment; that’s a whole other story. And, that I’ve come across so many warm and like minded individuals.

I often hear from people, when I mention Olio on Instagram, that it’s not running in their area. One of my favourite hacks is to change my location when I’m in different areas. I work across London so have arranged collections, and drop off’s, 30 miles from my home address. I’ve even been known to check the app when I’m outside London for whatever reason. And, do you know what, if it’s not yet taken off then it could start with you. I’m not saying that you have to make like Tessa and dodge removal men, armed with sweet potatoes, knocking on your neighbours door, but there is something to be said for being the change that we want to see. Can you sort through your cupboards and create your own listing? Contact local businesses to enquire whether they would be interested. Ask us how to go about getting started. There is a forum on the app for any questions. We have a Facebook group. Instagram account. Regular newsletter. We are a community of which you are welcome, and so is your day old bread!

Download the app at:-

https://olioex.com

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£1 food & drink in 24hrs

£1, 100 pennies, in 24 hours, 1440 minutes. Whatever way you look at it, it’s not a huge amount to spend on food and drink, and I like my food!

I pride myself on being able to eat well for less and have often flippantly said that I could live off next to nothing. Well I was challenged on Instagram to put my money where my mouth is; see what I did there 😉

I routinely take a packed lunch, and snacks, to work which I prep the night before. This time I had to not only think about what I’d be eating throughout the working day but how much it’d be costing. My grocery shop is made up of yellow stickers, reduced food, but even that required thinking about. I decided against including a box of organic strawberries. Whilst they’d been reduced on their best before date from £2.75 to 69p, with a £1 budget that would have been two thirds of my spend.

I run most mornings and seldom eat beforehand so as usual I just had a black coffee. I’d bought a tin of instant coffee reduced to £1.99. There are 59 servings so that worked out at just short of 3.5p. I made another coffee to take on my commute, in a keep cup, bringing it up to 7p.

I don’t tend to eat until I arrive at work. This morning, I was co-facilitating a group where we were providing lunch. I helped myself to grapes and cherry tomatoes which cost me nothing. There were still plenty of sandwiches leftover from the group, even after sharing with the rest of the office; before I left for the day I put the remainder in Tupperware and gave to the cleaner.

My homemade lunch was leek and potato soup using leeks from my work bestie’s allotment, yellow sticker potatoes, chives and vegetable stock free from food sharing app Olio, working out at 3p a portion. I had it with a yellow sticker bread roll 4p, topped with half an avocado – 11p and more of the cherry tomatoes. Afternoon snacks were carrot batons 3p and chopped grapefruit at 6p. Whilst they were reduced, it’s still unbelievable how much money you can save simply by cutting your own fruit and veg and avoiding pre chopped packs in the supermarket.

We have a tea club in the office but I only drink the ground coffee and bring my own herbal teas to work; although there was the time that a work friend found cartons of herbal teas on the street which we fondly named dumpster tea. Anyway, I have a range of tea flavours which I’ve collected from Olio and had a couple of those in the afternoon. The rest of my drinks were tap water.

On my way home, I had a 10p apple and a bag of Pretzel Bites which I’d collected for free using Olio. Dinner was leftovers; beetroot, leek & coconut dal with turmeric rice which came in at 24p. I added spinach on the side which was no more than 10p.

At the weekend I’d baked a vegan mayo chocolate cake topped with pear that was 4p a slice. I was given the recipe from an Olio user when she came to collect the mayo that I was distributing on the app. I adapted the recipe to fit with what I had including chocolate protein powder that I was gifted from an insta friend when she’d had a cupboard clear out.

The total food and drink spend for the day was 82p; now what to do with my change? Other than 18p, what did I take away from the day? Well, it made me appreciate that whether your budget is £10 or £1, it takes planning and preparation to fall within it. I needed to think about how and on what I was spending my money. Also, even with just £1, and in only 24 hours, I still came across ample food that could have easily been wasted. Aside from the leftovers in the office, I arrived home to a bag of apples on my doorstep. They were going spare at a friend’s work place, as a loss of staff members meant that there fruit box wasn’t getting eaten.

With just a £1 budget, I had to choose carefully and make sacrifices; broccoli florets never made the cut. I can’t however say that I went without; I had 2 main meals, snacks, exceeded my 5 a day and even had my cake and ate it. I was still able to give and receive surplus food. So, whatever your budget why not give some thought as to what you want, need and have going spare.

Banana and Rhubarb Muffins

Being blessed with a work bestie who has a huge allotment, I have rhubarb forced on me; get it forced rhubarb. Ok puns aside, it is the season for rhubarb and buying food seasonally can mean lower costs, as it’s less expense for farmers to harvest and distribute.

I made these dairy free, banana and rhubarb muffins using what I had, so feel free to substitute the ingredients. You could use dairy free milk instead of yoghurt, use oil or vegan butter. The Aunt Jemima butter flavour syrup was a freebie from food sharing app Olio so feel free to leave it out. It was a handy addition for me as without milk, oil, vegetable spread I was limited with wet ingredients. It does mean that these muffin contain little fat.

The cinnamon sugar was another Olio freebie so go ahead and use what you have; sugar, mixed spice, ginger, nutmeg. I like the sweetness from the defrosted bananas, and that it works as another wet ingredient. Freezing bananas is also a great way of reducing food waste and for delicious baking.

I’m a bugger for licking the bowl, and struggle to wait to try baked goods once they are out of the oven, but trust me these are so much nicer once they have cooled. Go ahead and lick the bowl, you are amongst friends, but issue restraint and let the muffins cool for a few hours, even until the next day. The smell of bananas will have developed, the muffins softer, slice open so you can see the rhubarb and enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 4 defrosted bananas
  • 8 rhubarb stems finely chopped
  • 225g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate soda
  • 6 tsp cinnamon sugar
  • 150g vanilla flavour soya yoghurt
  • 1/2 cup butter flavour syrup
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Enough oil for greasing

Makes 10 muffins, more if you have smaller tins, cases.

Recipe

  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 6.
  2. I know most recipes call for you to mix the dry and wet ingredients separately, but what can I tell ya, more often that not I don’t bother!
  3. Let your bananas completely defrost in a mixing bowl; take them out the freezer earlier in the day or the night before.
  4. Add 225g plain flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp bicarbonate soda, 150g yoghurt, 1/2 cup butter flavour syrup, 1/4 tsp salt and 6 tsp cinnamon sugar or whatever ingredients you are using.
  5. Mix with an electric mixer or spoon if you don’t have one.
  6. Taste as you go and add spices to your liking. The last time I didn’t taste as I went, I ended up with salt instead of sugar in my rhubarb crumble!
  7. Loosely stir in the chopped rhubarb with a wooden spoon.
  8. Place the mixture into individual greased, muffin cases, I used silicon cases but you could use a tray, whatever you have. Do not overfill about 3/4 full should do it as these will rise!
  9. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
  10. Allow to cool!

Give up Lent

I’ve never observed Lent and can’t say that I’m particularly keen on voluntary deprivation for 40 days. However, when a friend challenged me to give up an item for each day, be it clothing, a book, CD, to others, I thought it the perfect opportunity to have a clear out.

I can find it difficult to part with items and having to clear my desk of 9 years during this time showed me that it’s not just at home that I hold onto things I’m sure I’ll ‘need’ at some stage; you know like my quit smoking planner from 2013!

The first few days of the challenge were a breeze, I was having some plastering done at home so needed to clear out the bedroom. As the days went on it became more of a struggle, being unable to part with any more clothes, I turned my attention to books, CDs, videotapes- yes you read right, kitchen utensils, make up.

Where did this stuff go I hear you ask. I’m sure we are all beginning to appreciate that nothing is really binned, something also ends up somewhere, often in landfill. Well I used our local authority recycling service for fabrics, books. I donated to mobile libraries; I feel less guilty about still not having returned the books that I’ve borrowed now! I donated to charity shops; I was little reluctant as some seem so inundated with donations that they can be choosy as to what they will take. I came across one on my way to work who couldn’t have been any more appreciative of what I gave them including a garden light and an oil painting. I listed nail polish on Olio, it’s not only for sharing foods, not before one of my bestie’s had first dibs mind.

The most random item that I parted with was a pair of boxer shorts, new, still in their packaging, that I found at the back of my wardrobe. I packed them in my work bag with the intention of donating to the ever grateful charity shop, when I spotted a homeless man sat at the train station. I apologised in advance if I was going to cause any offence but explained that I had a pair of unworn boxer shorts if he’d like them. He nodded and I handed them to him. As I carried on to work, it occurred to me that I’d never thought about what the homeless do for clean underwear. It’s something that I take for granted on a daily basis.

The 40 days brought home that there will always be someone who can reuse what we no longer need, even my quit smoking planner can be recycled. We can become so preoccupied with what we have in our homes that we can lose sight of those outside who go without. For the food that we are too full to eat someone will be hungry for, The clothes that we think are worn could meet another being warm. I feel like I cheated Lent, as whilst I observed the 40 days, it didn’t feel that there was much sacrifice involved. In fact it made me realise just how much I still have.

Vegan, I got fed up of all the chocolate posts so made, Reese Style Cereal Cakes!

It’s Easter Sunday and no one has bought me an Easter egg; get the violins out, or your purse!

I am more than capable of buying my own but begrudge the eggstronomical prices! I even saw a vegan egg which was pretty smashed going at a ‘discounted’ price of £5!

Of course, today there has been an endless feed on instagram of eggs; novelty, wheat free, gluten free, dairy free, sugar free, to my disappointment I’ve not yet managed to pick one up that was simply free!

I couldn’t take the taunting any longer so turned to my cupboards. Pulling out a box of alpha bites with a best before date of 2017, yellow sticker cocoa powder, coconut oil and peanut butter, I reconnected with my 7 year old self!

Recipe:

Makes 8

  1. Melt 60g oil into a pan on a low heat
  2. Once melted, remove from the heat and using a wooden spoon stir in 40g cocoa powder and a pinch of salt; I added a pinch of salt mixed with sugar as have ended up with both in a jar; that’s another story! I stirred in 2 tbsp peanut butter, 2tbsp butter flavouring which is optional and 50g of the alpha bites or cereal of your choosing. I also added 2g of stevia but if I’d had sugar I would have used this instead as not a massive fan.
  3. Mix well then spoon into individual cupcakes cases placed on a plate or in a baking tray.
  4. Let set in the fridge for around 2-3 hours, then serve.

Peer Influence

I thought my sister was the she devil when she told me of the horrors of factory farming, whilst I tucked into a chicken pie, on a family holiday when I was 12 years old. A couple of decades later I went vegan.

I would look on with disgust as the work bestie ate his pie and baked beans at lunch. Whatever the filling, I would squeal “pies and beans do not go together”. As well as educating me on buying yellow sticker foods, which would otherwise be wasted by stores, he opened me up to experimenting with foods, recipes and letting go of food rules.

I love seeing the different overnight oats that a work friend brings to the office in an old salsa jar that I gave her.

I did a little jig, on the inside, when a friend asked whether he could eat spinach 3 days after it’s best before date. Up until then I tended to scream “I can’t even talk to you about this” when he turned his nose up at foods past their expiration date.

The aspiration is to influence others by being patient, understanding, informative. The reality is when someone says something that I don’t agree with, or doesn’t align with the point that I’m making, there can be a lot of feet stomping, eye rolling and “whatever’s”.

We all influence, and are influenced daily. Family tend to have our interests at heart, can have greater life experience and know us intimately so it makes sense to take note of their advice.

We choose our friends because of shared interests, outlooks, personality traits. We respect and love our friends, without being duty bound. We value their opinions; how often do we seek them out for a second opinion on a new outfit, romantic interest, work dilemma. It stands to reason that we’d take an interest in any of their efforts to be more sustainable.

Work can be indicative of our beliefs, ethics, values, aspirations and many of us spend more time with our colleagues during the week than anyone in our personal life. We also share fridge space, food at meetings, office lunches, outings. Shared practices, culture in terms of recycling, waste disposal, food sharing.

We seek out accounts on social media that interest, stimulate, entertain us. That enable us to be part of a community, irrespective of how remotely that is. Online influencers have at times come under fire for misrepresentation. Online images should be viewed as depicting a chosen, to some extent constructed, moment yet we seek out certain information for a reason whether that is to learn, feel inspired, share knowledge.

In all honesty, I’m not sure how much my preaching about food waste, eating well for less has made a difference to those around me whether it’s delivered in keeping with the mature, educated, passionate adult that I am, or my 5 year old self that just wants to kick people in the shin! Likewise advice from others has often fallen on deaf ears when offered, no matter how much I valued the person or how right they were.

What seems to make the most difference is baring witness to the consistent ways in which people live their lives and the benefits that it brings. No one dropping down dead because they reduced their meat consumption or ate food past it’s expiration date. The excitement of trying new foods, meals, eateries. The creativity of using what you have. The money saved. The personal growth, sense of consciousness, satisfaction brought about by showing others good will. The feeling of belonging, making new friends, activities, interests. A lot of the time it doesn’t matter what is said, it’s what we see, we have an innate curiosity for how others live their lives and what we want to know we’ll ask. Which reminds me, I need to ask the work bestie whether the yellow sticker vegan coleslaw in the shared fridge is for me!

Dinner Date(s)

If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that I regularly eat food past it’s use by date; some foods years past their best before date. I often get asked whether it is safe to do so. Now I have no qualifications in food whatsoever, I pretty much failed all the sciences at school and despite Andy’s best efforts I still can’t get to grip with pollination and the process of his allotment produce reaching me; other than being transported in his car that is!

So if you are looking for an expert in the field, I’m not your girl. What I can share with you is how I shop, eat and where I turn when in doubt. I routinely buy foods, and non food items, which stores reduce on their use by, display until and best before date or when packaging is damaged or the stores need to a clear a line for reasons such as shelf space, product not selling, discontinued etc.

Damaged packing is pretty simple to deal with, after all it’s what’s on the inside that counts! I keep and reuse empty jars to store grains, legumes, pasta, oats, after buying products in damaged packaging. Stores tend to use tape or a bag to doctor it and be able sell at a reduced price. I’ve even kept an old washing powder box and refilled when I bought another which was torn.

Display until dates are meaningless; to us the consumer anyway. The stores that do use them, they are not a legal requirement, it allows them to measure, rotate stock.

Best before dates relate to food quality, not safety, so might compromise taste but are safe to eat. I’ve eaten tinned foods years past their best before dates. It helps to think about how food is stored i.e. tins, oils, sugars are all used to preserve food. Stores can sell food past it’s BBD as long as it complies with food safety and regulation standards.

Now food on its use by date, that is related to food safety, and illegal to sell past it. I still buy food on it’s use by date. Whilst I am guilty of losing a shoe on a night out, I’m no Cinderella and haven’t seen any Uber’s turn into pumpkins when the clock strikes midnight. Likewise, I’ve not seen any foods suddenly turn at the end of that day either. Using my own judgement I do eat foods past their use by dates. Most foods will show you when they are on the turn by changes in texture, consistency, smell. I would take far less risks with meat or dairy. However, you can cook food on its UBD and so much can be frozen; meat, fish, dairy, bakery, fruit, vegetables, herbs, leftovers.

If in doubt research food storage, shelf life etc. The below websites are great for guidelines, advice.

www.food.gov.uk

www.lovefoodhatewaste.com

www.wrap.org.uk

Sharing is Caring

What does food mean to you?
Today it meant that I could offer a sandwich to a friend who is having a difficult time.
That I could do something practical for her. That I could say today’s lunch is one less thing for you to worry about.
That she took the time to nourish herself, unlike the day before.
That I can practice sharing; it doesn’t come naturally. I’m most concerned with sharing food when someone else has food that I want in exchange!
Would I have brought her lunch had I not collected free food using food sharing app Olio?
Probably not.
If you’ve not already downloaded food sharing app Olio then what are you waiting for. Link below:-
https://olioex.com

You can also find me on social media – follow me on:-
www.facebook.com/reductionraider1
www.instagram.com/reduction_raider1

Chocolate & Beetroot Loaf

A few of my favourite things; eating, eating free food, eavesdropping. It’s all 3 of these which led me to acquire a bar of bloomed Loving Earth, Coconut Mylk Chocolate, for free.

I was at the Loving Earth stand at the Vegan Life Live festival in Alexandra Palace, working my way through each sample, of every flavour, when I began listening to the 2 assistants discuss ways of reducing waste. Discretion is not really my strong point so I piped up, joined in, talking about food waste and eating foods which would otherwise be binned. The lovely Janet then offered me a free bar of bloomed chocolate explaining that changes in the fat and sugar crystals, can cause a whitish coating on the chocolate, reducing its shelf life. That also explains the colour of the chocolate I brought in Accra market a couple of years back and ate all the same!

Bloomed chocolate is still safe to eat but Janet suggested that I use it in cooking. Having had a bag load of beetroot from Andy’s allotment I thought it the perfect opportunity to bake a chocolate beetroot cake!

I looked up a couple of different recipes as guides and then turned to my cupboards to see what I had. I finished off a bag of yellow sticker bread flour, topping it up with pea protein powder that I collected for free using food sharing app Olio. The baking powder, bicarbonate soda, Aunt Jemima butter flavour, granulated sugar also came from Olio, as did the cocoa powder and icing sugar which I used for the frosting. I added balsamic vinegar which was a free sample from Vegan Life. The own brand vegetable oil that I used was full price. I dressed the loaf with defrosted, yellow sticker, mixed fruits.

It was delicious, the chunks of beetroot and chocolate really topping it off, and the whole loaf worked out at roughly 52p! Conversation, Chocolate and Cake; how Blooming Brilliant!

Not sponsored by Olio, Loving Earth or Vegan Life Live.

Links below if you want to check them out.

https://m.lovingearth.net

https://london.veganlifelive.com

https://olioex.com

You can also find me on social media – follow me on:-
www.facebook.com/reductionraider1
www.instagram.com/reduction_raider1

Food Run

The Big Half marathon 10/03/2019

I remember running much of this route when I ran London marathon in 2017. During that race, running half a marathon was put to the back of my mind whilst I focused on when the race would really start; mile 20.

I remember still smiling through the rain when I ran my first London race, the British 10K in the summer of 2012; this morning it was high speed winds.

I remember my sister warning that I’d be sick as I tucked into a buffet breakfast ahead of Florence marathon. I wasn’t sick and nor was I today after eating a veggie burger bap enroute to the start line; not that I recommend either of these fuelling practices!

I remember when today’s finish time would have filled me with frustration and disappointment. Today I was high as a kite with what seems to be me turning a corner from an iron deficiency.

I remember so many highs and lows of running from over the years. Going back to school sports days; I was the reigning 100 metre champion in my year I’ll have you know! What I don’t remember is ever going hungry. I don’t mean the self induced hunger to drop a dress size in a week. Or on the commute home when dinner is so near yet still too far. Nor do I mean the many times that I’ve exclaimed I’m starving and demanded to be fed immediately.

I mean the hunger of not knowing when, or if, you’ll next eat. Having to make a choice between food and another essential. Having limited choices of the foods that you eat. I’ve never known the physical pain that comes with hunger. I’ve never known weight loss as a window to my deprivation.

It’s the remembering how fortunate that I am to run and have food choices which led me to run The Big Half marathon for food waste/food poverty charity The Felix Project. And what a fantastic day it was. One that I won’t forget in a hurry!

Check out their link below and see how you can get involved:-

http://thefelixproject.org

You can also find me on social media – follow me on:-
www.facebook.com/reductionraider1
www.instagram.com/reduction_raider1