Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Simple steps . . . reducing your water bill

The gathering of water. I live not so very far away from a reservoir. When the reservoir was build it involved the loss of a valley, diverting a river multiple times and massive amounts of materials. However it is large and reliable. It's a place of beauty now but it came at a cost. The treatment of water for our consumption is also costly, especially when so much of it is flushed down a toilet or used for watering plants. This cost is obviously passed on to us, and I live in the most expensive area of the UK for water bills.

I had a conversation a couple of months ago with some friends to compare water bills. There is the same number of people in each home but their water bill is few times ours despite being with the same water company. The result of this conversation was the realisation that some of the practises that we follow make a difference.

We practise "if it's yellow let it mellow; if it's brown flush it down". You don't have to be religious about this for it to reduce your water consumption.

We also limit shower time. We don't shower every day. As housemate works on his own most of the time he showers even less than me. The timer below is an illustration of a piece of kit we were able to get free from our water company. At first I thought it wouldn't make much difference, but using it has reduced the time I spend in the shower. I never decided to use it to do that really, more it was curiosity about how much time I was spending in the shower. But observation causes change, and so I'm now naturally more conscious of the time spent in the shower.

We also practise that clothes aren't just automatically dumped into the wash. We consider if they're dirty or if they smell. I get changed when I get home for work into jeans, t-shirt and jumper usually. It was a habit I developed at school. I went to boarding school and we had to get changed out of our school clothes within half an hour of the end of school, so it's a habit I follow now. If I wear an item of clothing to make dinner and then sit on the sofa for a couple of hours it is not dirty. I hang it up before I go to bed and wear it again the next evening.

The last thing that we do is again shower related. We have a combi boiler so it takes a little while for hot water to come through when you want a shower so rather than waste the water I collect it in a bucket I keep next in the bathroom. This water is then used to flush the toilet from time to time.

They're small practises, simply things really but they evidently make a difference. The only equipment they involve are an egg timer and a bucket. They can be followed in a flat/apartment or a house or a farm. These aren't extreme steps either, or they don't need to be. We use less water than the water company expects two people to use, and I have further plans for ways to reduce our water consumption.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Three tips for saving money on meat

  1. When you buy chicken, buy whole chicken. Especially when it's on offer. 

Yes I roast my chickens upsidedown to begin with. When whole chicken is on offer I stock up, this time I bought three chickens. One I have roasted and we ate the breasts. Next we will eat the legs for lunch tomorrow. I have the remains of another chicken in my freezer, so next weekend they will get boiled up for chicken bone broth. The other two have been divided up. First I cut the legs off. I cut the string off, pull the legs out a bit, cut through the skin, pull the joint out of its socket and then just cut my way through. Then I cut the breasts off. I haven't yet mastered cutting the breast off cleanly. But I have started pulling the skin off before I remove the breast and that seems to help. Lastly the remains with the extra skin go in the freezer, ready to feed the dog another day. And in case you're wondering, a bird like this takes about an hour and a half to roast and I roast it like this for the first half hour because it helps keep the breast beautifully moist. 

2. Eat offal
Offal in this context means not just organs but also those cuts of meat that are less desired by the masses. I wrote last time about how far a simple lb of lamb scrag went (6 portions). Pork blade is another cut that I have seen for a very good price at the butcher. Liver makes for a very economical meal, or can even stretch a bit off mince/ground meat a bit further. It's highly nutritious as well. Cuts like these often require long, slow cooking. This is where a slow cooker comes in handy. Glands such as kidney and liver require very quick cooking. Butchers are usually the best place to buy things like this however the best price I've seen for ox kidney was actually in Waitrose (although I've yet to try and buy direct). Morrison's are another supermarket where you might be able to get more offal like stuff. 

3. Eat bone broth
Another use for a slow cooker. I use an acid such as vinegar or lemon juice just in case it really does help release minerals. When I make chicken broth I will cook it for a while, remove the carcasses and pick them clean of meat. The meat goes on one side and the bones go back into the pot. The bones are then simmered again until they are going soft before being removed. I then add the meat and some veg back and I have a fantastic soup. Not only does bone broth make food go further, the amino acids in the broth are also protein sparing. If money is truly tight then bone broth is the way to go because it will help you meet your protein requirements without having to consume so much meat. Think of the peasant pot from Ireland to Korea simmering away with little meat but a few bones; nourishing families.