Monday, August 29, 2011

Devonport Whole Foods

Here's one for any of my New Zealand readers.

I'm currently living in Auckland and I'm always on the look out for new options when it comes to working towards my sustainable lifestyle. And recently I heard about a place called Devonport Whole Foods. Not surprisingly this little store is situated in Devonport and really is everything you'd want in a local eco-friendly store.

Along with being a coffee shop they provide a number of organic and whole food options for purchase. I originally stumbled across them because I was looking for more information about my eco-friendly house products I had been buying (dishwashing liquid, laundry powder etc) and I found this store provides refills. Bonus! So not only can I now ensure that I are using plant based products but I can also re-use my recyclable packaging. What a great find.

Now for me this store isn't quite local so I know I will have to limit my visits to around monthly to reduce travel times. But I decided to check it out this weekend to see what kinds of things I could get there. And I wasn't disappointed.

They have an array of household products available for refills including dishwashing powder, laundry liquid, fabric softener, shampoo and conditioner. Currently all of these are from the eco store range and you check out a video here of the eco store company interviewing the owner of Devonport Whole Foods.

But that's not all they have. Here is just a small sample of some of the other items you can get refills for:
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Sesame oil
  • Soy sauce
  • Olive oil
  • Curry powder
  • Spices
  • Black Pepper / Salt
And that's just the ones I made note of!

While I was there I was in the need for laundry powder but unfortunately they were out at the time, so if you are traveling from outside of the suburb it can be worth giving them a quick call before hand if you are needing something in particular just to make sure they have it in stock on that day. But otherwise why not just go for a cup of coffee?

It's a really friendly atmosphere and they are more than happy to help with any of your questions. I really couldn't recommend this place enough. 

If you want to go and check them out they're open during the week and on Saturdays from 9am - 1pm. 

Address: 63c Lake Road, Devonport, Auckland
Phone: (09) 445 9598

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Weekend Baking: Scones

 Somehow I have never made scones before. Which now really doesn't make sense to me as they are one of the easiest things to make ever! So few ingredients and really quick cooking time.

They are absolutely divine with a bit of jam and cream for a special weekend afternoon tea.

This is the recipe I used and I was very pleased with the outcome. They were crunchy on the outside but soft in the middle and straight out of the oven they were delicious!

3 cups plain flour
6 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
75g butter
1 - 1½ cups milk, approximately

  1. Preheat oven to 220 deg C. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. 
  2. Cut butter into the dry mixture
  3. Add 1 cup milk and quickly mix until a dough forms (adding a little more milk if necessary). Knead a few times
  4. Press scone mix out onto a flour surface and cut into 12 equal portions. 
  5. Place on an oven tray and and brush tops with milk
  6. Cook for 10 mins or until golden brown. Cool on a rack covered in a tea towel. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Product Review: Next Generation Laundry Soaker

A laundry soaker to make your whites whiter that uses phosphate free biodegrable ingredients, not tested on animals and comes in a recyclable container. I have used this soaker in two ways; the first to supplement my washing powder in white loads, and the second as a full soak for tougher stains.

Unfortunately I wasn't as impressed by this product. I didn't notice any significant difference in the whiteness of my clothes and I have a few stains on one particular white top that still haven't come out yet (maybe they never will). I don't think I would buy this again, instead I'm going on the look out for other options for my whites than your standard laundry soaker. I've just never really found one I'm satisifed with. If anyone has any suggestions I'd love to hear them.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Updates 22/08

I thought I'd start sharing odd updates now and then to let you know how I'm going in all my attempts to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

It has been a stressful week unfortunately due to my cat getting sick and needing a vet visit. She is on antibiotics and should be fine this time next week but she is getting plenty of cuddle time from us.

I have made great progress since deciding to cut the grocery bill. I have set myself a realistic target for my weekly grocery expenses and have kept to that target in the past couple of weeks. The major difference has been switching to lower cost meals which has been very effective.

I also had a big win at home last week! My boyfriend has agreed to try one vegetarian meal a fortnight. Trust me, if you knew my boyfriend you would know how much of a step forward this is. I hope to eventually have one vegetarian a week to help cut our grocery bill and to reduce our meat intake. I also want to ensure we are eating fish at least once a week too therefore limiting our red meat intake even further.

Photo credit
I have been trying to determine the best way to shop in bulk in order to reduce packaging when the bulk store is so far away. I was very torn with myself between the packaging versus the long distance travel to the bulk food store. In the end I decided to email the lovely couple at who are just incredible and they were nice enough to respond to my dilemma. Matthew was able to point out for me that it is important to look at the full distribution impact as the items you buy at your local store may have travelled from overseas and there may have been a large number of production steps which result in waste all the way along that production cycle. He also suggested that if I buy in large bulk every 6 months than the impact of my travel would be even lower. This has definitely given me something to think about and I a currently writing out a list of all the items I could stock up on at the bulk foods store in order to limit my trips there. I hope to visit every 3 months until I get to a comfortable familiarity with the process and then expand to 6 monthly visits.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Product Review: Next Generation Dishwasher Powder

First off yes I use a dishwasher. I battle with myself over this one a lot but ultimately with our household working full time having a dishwasher just frees up our nights to focus on other activities.

The latest dish washer powder I have tried is Next Generation. Next Generation uses phosphate free, biodegradable ingredients, is not tested on animals and comes in recyclable packaging.

I have found that Next Generation does just as good a job as many of the other top brands out there and I've never had a problem with dishes not coming out clean (note I tend to rinse all my dishes first). It also has a really pleasant smell (citrus) and price wise is pretty competitive against other brands.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Product Review: Earthwise Multi Surface Cleaning Spray

With a Citrus & Mint smell, Earthwise Multi Surface Cleaning Spray is made from plant based cleaning agents, uses biodegradable surfactants and is safe for grey water and septic tanks. It is not tested on animals and comes in a biodegradable bottle.

I really like this spray. It has such a pleasant smell and works really well at cleaning around my stove and bench tops. I have only used it in the kitchen and dining room but I'm very pleased with it. I'll definitely happily use this again.

Sunday Brunch

There really is nothing better than a Sunday brunch.


Buttermilk Waffles with Banana & Maple Syrup

2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs separated
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 Tblsp runny honey
125g melted butter

Heat the waffle irons.
Mix flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
Beat egg yolks and caster sugar in another bowl until thick. Stir in buttermilk, honey and melted butter. Slowly pour buttermilk mix into dry ingredients and mix into a smooth batter.
Whisk egg whites until stiff peaks form, fold gently into the waffle batter.

Lightly coat the hot waffle iron with non stick spray. Pour 1/2 cup of the mixture into the iron and cook until golden brown. Repeat with the rest of the mixture. Store each in a warm place until ready to serve.

Serve with sliced banana and maple syrup.

Weekend Baking: Chocolate Slice

Every now and then I like to make something a little less healthy and a little more oh so chocolatey goodness! This was one of those weeks. When I was a little girl my mum used to make the most amazing chocolate slice made from vanilla wine biscuits. It was my favourite thing in the whole world but unfortunately somewhere along the way she lost the recipe. Well recently I spotted a recipe online that looked like it was the same thing so I had to make it. It was close, but not quite the same but hopefully I'll have a good enough base that I can now tweak it until I get it perfect. Of course that's not to say this one isn't delicious, cause it is! It's just not quite the same as the one from my childhood.

Regardless of that, this is such a simple and easy to make slice that I definitely recommend you give it a go.  Warning: chocolate overdose may result.

175g butter
2/3 cup caster sugar
4 tablespoons Cocoa
2 tablespoons desiccated coconut
1 egg, lightly beaten
250g plain biscuits : crushed (I use Griffins Super Wine)

How to make it

In a saucepan melt butter, sugar and cocoa over a medium heat for 3 minutes. Stirring to ensure sugar dissolves.

Remove from heat add coconut, egg and biscuits. Press mixture into a baking paper lined tin/dish. Chill for an hour, or you can leave it in the fridge over night. When cool, you can ice it.

Chocolate top

250g Cadbury dark cooking chocolate, chopped coarsely
50g butter


Melt chocolate and butter in bowl over simmering water. Spread over slice.Then set in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Recipe copied from original post here

Monday, August 8, 2011

Cutting the grocery bill

I recently stumbled across this old post at which is a new blog I'm following and it got me thinking. After reading through many of the comments from a number of people willing to share their grocery bill online I realised I spend far too much on groceries.

This isn't quite a new revelation. I don't have a budget set out for grocery shopping so it's quite easy to just buy what I feel like at the time. And since moving back home to New Zealand from London I have noticed a considerable increase in the percentage of my income that goes to food, sadly because food costs here are higher.

So I have decided to finally tackle this issue head on and attempt to cut my spending on the grocery shop. I made the decision about two weeks ago and I have seen incredible improvements.

Firstly I have set myself a weekly budget that I am going to stick to. It is a fair budget that reflects the number of people in the house and the variety of food we like to eat.

When I shop I tend to shop at three different locations. The butchers, local fruit and veggie store and finally the supermarket. So I have to track my budget across all three but I find the supermarket is where my budget usually falls over. Cheese, toiletries, and laundry/kitchen items are usually the high ticket items that throw out a week.

I have always been one to plan out my meals but often I just plan based on whatever I think will be tasty for that week. Now I am thinking about the cost of all the ingredients. Looking for low cost meals isn't as difficult as it sounds. I find recipes that are high in vegetables and low in meat definitely cheaper. I also have been finding ways to swap out ingredients for cheaper options. Italian inspired meals are the worst as pancetta, olives and cheese all come at a high price here. But that doesn't mean I have to forgo them completely. I simply look for alternative options or stick to the tomato and mushroom based recipe, bruschetta anyone?! Yum!

Meats can also be tricky, I like to be flexible and replace out meats in a recipe based on what's on special. I would love to cook more vegetarian options but with my meat loving boyfriend that is a tough one. But I have started to reduce the amount of meat I put into each meal and he hasn't noticed a thing ;)

I'm also trying to make as many items at home as I can. I recently baked my own bread buns and have made home made muesli bars.

I'll keep you posted with how the next couple of months go but I have already noticed a decrease in my weekly spending just by trying out these few small changes.

I would love to hear other tips for how you reduce your grocery shopping bill.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sunday Baking: Home made muesli bars

I love muesli bars and they are a really easy thing to make for yourself. I found a great recipe in a magazine that I tried out today. I mucked up the proportions a little so isn't holding as well as it should but it tastes great.

100g unsalted butter
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup dried apricots (finely chopped)
1/3 cup dried cranberries (finely chopped)
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
2 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 180dec C. Grease and line a 18cm x 26cm slide pan.
Place butter and honey in a small saucepan; stir over medium heat until butter is melted. Bring to a boil and then turn heat down and simmer for 2 minutes.
Combine the butter/honey mix with the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well.
Press mixture firmly into the pan. Bake for 30 minutes or until brown.
Cool in pan and cut to size.

I also added a couple of chocolate chips on top too but they are an optional extra.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Eco-living in a working week

Photo credit

Let's face it. Trying to live a sustainable life while working a full 40-60 hour week can be tough. Trust me I know. I read a lot of eco-living blogs and many of the people are doing amazing things but also a lot of them have quit their day jobs and are farming full time or work from home including many of them stay at home mums and although many of them have incredibly busy lives some things are simply easier when you are at home more often.

So this post is for all those who work outside of home fulltime. When you are away from home for so many hours in a day it does make it difficult to keep up a sustainable lifestyle. But there are things we can all do and that's what it's really about. So how do I sustain this kind of lifestyle while working long hours away from home? Here are some of the things that are working for me.

Weekend Meal Preparation
One of the most important things is to be prepared when it comes to nightly cooking. When you work long days and come home late each night, if you don't have some idea what you are going to cook for the night it becomes all too easy to stop in for takeaways on the way home or grab ready made food in non-recyclable packaging because it's just easier. So each weekend I prepare my meal plan for the week. I am realistic, I only plan meals for Sunday through Thursday as on the weekends we are normally out and about or having friends over so it's not so easy to plan what we'll be eating a week in advance.

I have to be flexible as weekends get busy so at some point when I have time on Saturday or Sunday I set up the meals for the week. I have a great number of cookbooks to give me inspiration and I tend to select meals that contain vegetables that are in season as I know they will be cheaper and I will be able to source them locally.

The biggest issue is meat. Meat can be very expensive and sometimes it is difficult to  know whether a recipe I select will be affordable for that particular week. Lots of people like to shop based on what's on special and that's great if it works for you. For me I like to be prepared but I'm also flexible enough that I can substitute if I need to. For example last week I had planned a delicious lamb and curry flavoured potato salad. Unfortunately lamb was at a ridiculous price but chicken was on special so I simply substituted the lamb for chicken. Also I bought some chicken drumsticks which were crazy cheap and I will use them for a meal this coming week. Sometimes I'll have a meal planned and I'll simply put down 'green vegetable' to indicate I could get broccoli or green beans or asparagus or whatever other tasty vegetable is on special that week. The important thing is to have a base idea for each meal.

Once I have decided on 5 meals I write out all the ingredients I need. After that I can then do the shop, sometimes right after, sometimes I write out the meal plan on Saturday and shop on Sunday. I head to my local fruit & veggie shop and then the butchers and finally the supermarket. The great thing is that if you don't need anything from the supermarket you can skip it all together - reducing the temptation to buy pre-packaged food.

This has been working really well for us so far. Every morning I look at all the meals I have planned and pick which one I want to cook based on how much time I might have that night and grab the meat out of the freezer. Then at night there's no thinking or wondering what I'm going to cook, I can start as soon as I get home. It's great.

Shop in bulk less often
Shopping less often works in my family because we all work long hours and time outside of that is at a premium. But everyone will be different here. So I try and buy things we use a lot in bulk once a month (rice, pasta, coffee etc). Then do the weekly meat & veg shop once a week. Every now and then I have to pop out for bread and milk or the local Asian shop because they don't have the Thai spice I need at the supermarket but overall I have managed to maximise my shopping time really well.

Make your lunch
When you work in an office it is so tempting to buy your lunch but there is two major reasons you should try and avoid this; first is the cost, we all know how much those daily lunches add up! And second is that most of the time you grab it takeaway to have back at the office to 'save time'. And into the rubbish goes all those takeaway containers that will sit in our landfills for years to come.

So make the effort and setup your lunch the night before. It doesn't have to be difficult, you can usually do it at the same time as cooking dinner. One of my favourites for winter is simply chunky soup. Sometimes from a can, sometimes home made depending on what I have in the house. Paired with some bread or home made buns in a reusable wrap it is one of the easiest lunches to take with you to the office. Or why not make a little extra dinner and take it as leftovers for your lunch the next day?

Encourage your work to go green.
If you spend most of your week day at your office or place of work have a look around and see if there are small things you can do in the office. Do they have a recycling system in place? If you have a computer do you turn it off each night? Think about how much paper you print and try to reduce it. It all adds up.

Working away from home or for long hours should not prevent you from living the eco-lifestyle you want. It simply requires a bit of preparation.