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!

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

Vegan Protein Banana Bread

Where do you get your protein? Don’t worry about me, I’ve got dough, bread dough, which hardly cost any dough. You still following?

For some reason, I have been receiving so much vegan protein powder; shared on Olio app, from friend’s clearing their cupboards. It’s had me wondering whether it’s indicative of protein powders being a faddy food that few of use long term?

In a bid to staring using up what I have, I made protein, vegan, banana bread. The flour was reduced, yellow sticker, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, mixed spice, free using Olio. My mum won’t eat bananas when they are overripe so freezes them for me. I paid full price for the own brand vegetable oil which is basically rapeseed oil.

If you want a way of using up your protein powder then give this simple recipe a go.

Ingredients:-

  • 160g bread flour or of your choosing
  • 60g chocolate protein powder or whatever you have
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp mixed spice or cinnamon, ginger, whatever you fancy
  • 30g sugar
  • 4 frozen bananas
  • 30g vegetable oil or other

  • Recipe:-
    • Preheat the oven to gas mark 4
      It would be nice to tell you that I mixed the wet and dry ingredients in separate bowls. That I sifted the flour, but I’d be lying. The truth is that I put all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and watched Louis Theroux whilst waiting for the bananas to defrost!
      I then mixed all the ingredients with an electric handheld mixer. Of course you can use a spoon if you don’t have one.
      Grease a bread loaf and scoop in the batter. You can place a halved banana on top of the batter. The one I added was frozen.
      Bake for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick or knife comes out clean.

    Enjoy your gains; muscular and monetary 😉

    Sustainability as easy as Açai Beet Compote!

    As a child, as soon as Shrove Tuesday arrived I’d be eagerly asking “are we having pancakes today”? As an adult, I’m now the person responsible for flipping pancakes!

    It’s only as you transition to head chef in your kitchen do you fully appreciate the process involved in food reaching plate. Not only the time and effort, but the unavoidable expense.

    These stack of pancakes cost next to nothing using ingredients which would otherwise be wasted. I used reduced price, yellow sticker, bread flour because why not? I had no dairy free milk so I substituted with tap water. The frozen bananas, mixed fruits, beetroot… yes beetroot and basil were also reduced. The baking powder, Himalayan salt and cinnamon I picked up for free using food sharing app Olio.

    You see, not only does shopping and cooking in this way mean that money is saved but so is food. It’s saved from going to waste, it’s saved from landfill, it’s saved from emitting harmful gases. As an adult you not only begin to appreciate the financial cost of food but the environmental, which is why, as Shrove Tuesday falls during Fairtrade Fortnight this year, I can proudly say that Sambazon organic Açaí was the only full price ingredient used. Sambazon stands for Sustainable Management of the Brazilian Amazon and they help to protect the Amazon rainforest and the families that farm there. Their factories are run off Açaí seeds, products shipped, fair wages paid, reinvestment in local schools, hospitals.

    There is no avoiding the cost of food, yet small changes can mean respecting that cost on ourselves, others and the world we live in. Happy Shrove Tuesday!

     

    Come Dine With Me

    Back in 2011 when Shells and I started working together, we did our own Come Dine With Me with a couple of other friends, taking it in turns to host a dinner party and score one another.

    I had started buying yellow sticker food back then but wasn’t very confident in the kitchen so roped in my sister, who is a cook, to make my starter and dessert. Red pepper and tomato soup, which was a huge hit by the way! Her speciality apple pie, and I played it safe by making steak and chips. Oh, and plying them with cheap vodka made for a memorable, or not, night!We had so much fun and still laugh, cringe, about the vodka shots, grumble about who should have been the rightful winner and I’m playfully, I think, called a cheater.

    This week I’ve had the pleasure of two friends having me round for dinner, Shells being one of them. Friend’s houses are actually one of my favourite places to dine out. There’s an intimacy that comes from another cooking and serving you which just can’t be replicated in a restaurant. I’m a bugger for checking restaurant menus in advance, yet I love the element of surprise of going to a friend’s not knowing what we are going to eat. I often get to try new foods, recipes, with my needs and wants being held in mind; my dear friend Becky always has my favourite fruit, strawberries, in whenever I visit. I find that friends want to ensure that you are satisfied and are quick to offer you up seconds, often at the expense of their own plates; thanks Ame!

    It’s far more relaxed when eating in with friends; secrets shared, gossip galore, laughing without restraint, tears spilled unashamedly. No staff staring you out to take the hint and go home. Although that said, Sammy’s neighbour did, in no uncertain terms, tell us to go to bed when a boozy Mexican feast in her garden led to us rapping uncensored NWA lyrics!

    Restaurants seem to be on the rise in recent years with them outnumbering pubs and becoming a regular hangout joint mid week and at weekends. I don’t know about you but I can struggle to say when I’m running low on funds and will more often that not still accept an invitation to eat out. This stress is alleviated with eating in being far more economical. And, so you don’t think that I’m just rocking up to my mates with a fork, I thought I’d share the dessert that I took to Shells. 52p pineapple cream cake; wicked!

    Through the basket hole: a Sunday supermarket raid.

    After arriving home from an amazing holiday in Ethiopia Friday, that’s another blog post if I can do it justice, I’ve spent most of the weekend chilling. With my mum cat sitting Tigs, she’d left food behind which I had and I used what was in the freezer. By Sunday, I decided that I’d better hit the supermarket and get myself ready for the working week; sob!

    I left home just after 3pm and arrived at the supermarket at 3:15pm in the hope of reductions coming out at around 3:30pm. There were 5 or 6 loiterers at the reduced fruit & veg section so knowing that they were waiting on final reductions I quickly nipped off to the other sections. I checked out the meat aisle; whilst I don’t eat it, it’s where other produce like reduced price sandwiches, salads, sauces, dairy free products are often placed. I got a couple of the Wicked range slaw for 17p each. A pack of 40p cooked chicken for Tigs. Being vegan, I feel a little conflicted when buying meat but figure Tigger is eating it in processed cat food anyway and it is heading for the bin.

    I added bleach to my basket then returned to the fruit & veg aisle where my fellow raiders were still patiently waiting. I had a scroll through Instagram and at around 3:35pm the store assistant wheeled out crates filled with fruit & veg. It was a bit of a mad scram but I managed to grab a bag of Desiree potatoes for 20p, broccoli florets 32p, sweetcorn cobettes 15p, a bunch of spring onions for 6p, sprouts 25p, vegetable & beansprout stir fry mix 25p and oyster mushrooms for 9p.

    A few minutes later another member of staff came out to reduce the flowers. There were far more than usual; I guess plenty left over from Valentine’s Day. I picked up a beautiful bouquet for 62p down from £6.25; love thyself and all that!

    With all my veg and having noodles at home, which I’d collected some time ago using food sharing app Olio, it made sense to make a stir fry. I kid you not when I tell you I wondered whether I could get away with making a stir fry without soy sauce or oil ha ha. I decided to treat myself seeing as I had a £3 coupon. It didn’t stop me opting for store brand soy sauce and vegetable oil; well the latter is essentially rapseed oil for less.

    I checked the reduced sections a couple of more times; people often put things back after the initial scurry to fill their baskets. I left the bakery alone as my freezer is already filled with bread, rolls, wraps. Then I headed for the self checkout; I like to be sure that everything scans at its reduced price! Inserted coupon which brought total down to £1.81, an overall saving of £20.48!

    It’s all the money that I’ve spent this weekend. Although, it’s not far off a meal out in Ethiopia. I might have had a yellow Sunday but I’ve still got the holiday blues!

    Coco-Beet Dal; a different sort of CBD

    It may sound odd but a suggestion that I make beetroot macaroni inspired me to make beetroot dal. You see, I had organic yellow sticker beetroots to use but no macaroni or vegan cheese. I did however have yellow sticker green lentils and what can’t be curried! The rest of the ingredients were free from cupboard clear outs and food sharing app Olio so feel free to substitute with what you have.

    Serves 4-6

      500ml Water
      Makhani Paste pot (approx 1 large tbsp) use any paste or spices of your choosing.
      200g Green Lentils; other colours are available
      3 whole beetroots; you can use more or less or a different vegetable. Parsnips, Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Greens; even a mix
      1tbsp Ginger Powder
      1tbsp Chopped Garlic from frozen
      400ml Tin of Coconut Milk; could use chopped tomatoes or vegetable stock
      1-2 Chilli’s; use powder if you prefer

      I soaked the lentils for 7 hours as that was how my day had panned out; I’d only intended to soak for a few.
      Add the lentils to the water, bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the lentils are soft: approx 20 mins. 
      Whilst lentils are cooking boil beetroots. They don’t have to be cooked right through as will cook in dal.
      Peel and chop beetroot then add to lentils with coconut milk, paste, ginger, garlic, chopped chilli’s. I didn’t de-seed my chilli’s. They came from Andy’s allotment and having had a load which I’ve stored in the freezer I know they are rather mild.
      Simmer for around 20-30 minutes depending on your preferred consistency . 
      You can add fresh coriander if you have it; I didn’t.
  • I’m going to have my dal the next day, let the flavours develop and serve with yellow sticker rice and onion bhajis which I’ve got in the freezer.