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Collect moments not things

August 23, 2015

Father and son paddling in the sea

I was a terrible spendthrift until I turned 40. Now I aim to ‘collect moments not things’ and I’m much happier for it.

The photo above shows my husband and son paddling in the sea. I remember this as being a really lovely moment, worth more to me than any swanky handbag or fancy gadget.

As I grew up I was told that spending money on experiences, such as going to the cinema or eating out, was a waste of money because I ‘would have nothing to show for it’. But I have learned that buying things just for the sake of it does not bring happiness, it just means your house gets full of stuff you don’t really want or need.

For some time now, I have been buying less stuff and decluttering the stuff we already have. Items that we are not using could be used and enjoyed by other people. I’m never going to manage to be a proper minimalist, but I have already made progress on creating more space and reducing the amount of stuff in our home. This is especially important because our current house is smaller than our old house, and has much less storage space.

I’m a big fan of ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A Simple, Effective Way To Banish Clutter Forever’ by Marie Kondo. It has really helped me to get rid of items that do not bring me joy, and to make better use of my favourite things.

With limited money available, I would rather spend money on experiences than things. In particular, I don’t want to waste money on things that do not bring me joy!

I’ve worked to get my credit card bill under control by having a wishlist, instead of buying things as soon as I see them, and using cash wherever possible. We are aiming to to be mortgage free by 2020, by making regular over-payments to shorten the mortgage term.

This is also about trying to be a good role model for my son. I have talked to him about why I think having fun together is more important than having things, and why having less stuff means that there is more space to play. We still buy toys, particularly Lego, but we are more selective.

When it comes to expensive toys, like games consoles, I have explained that I think it is more fun to spend the same amount of money on a seaside holiday. This seems to have worked (so far!), because my son loves the seaside as much as I do.

So if you carry on reading this blog, you can expect to see more about moments and less about things.


VegfestUK London – ticket giveaway #BringAFriendToVegfest

August 7, 2015


Vegan food can be absolutely delicious if you do it right. So I’m really looking forward to getting lots of inspiration at VegfestUK London at London Olympia on 10th and 11th of October.

VegfestUK is described as being ‘a top day out stuffed with sumptuous cuisines’. For a limited period, tickets for VegfestUK London are available on a ‘buy one get one free’ basis, so you can #BringAFriendToVegfest.

I’ll be bringing my sister Soph who is vegan and has been to VegfestUK a couple of times before. She says it’s really good.

With 200 stalls and 14 caterers, I’m planning on trying out lots of vegan foods. Normally when I go to events I have to choose carefully in order to carefully avoid foods containing meat, which I haven’t eaten since I was a teenager, and I also try to avoid cow’s milk because it gives me stomach ache and digestive problems.

If you want to go to VegfestUK, leave a comment below telling me your all time favourite vegan food in order to be entered into a draw for a pair of free tickets.

Updated 28th August 2015: This draw is now closed. 

The winner of the draw for two weekend tickets to VegfestUK London is Steph, who will need to supply a UK postal address in order to have the tickets posted to her by VegfestUK.

I will receive a pair of tickets to VegfestUK.

Sugar-free me – the results!

May 16, 2015

Ruth a

After six weeks of being (mostly) sugar-free, here are the results:

  • my energy levels are more stable, and I no longer get that terrible late-afternoon tiredness
  • my teeth feel lovely and clean
  • I have lost 5lb in weight
  • my waist measurement has decreased by 5cm (2″), which means it is now less than half my height
  • my clothes fit me better and feel more comfortable

After the first couple of weeks it actually became much easier to resist sugary food and drink, because I craved it less. Lots of things I used to like taste horribly sweet if I try them now.

So it’s all good, and I’m going to stay off the sugar from now on, apart from a couple of portions of fruit a day, some good quality dark chocolate and the occasional piece of birthday cake.

With thanks to Sandy Calico who took this photo of me at BlogOnMOSI on 2nd May.

Sugar-free me!

April 6, 2015
Marmite cashews

Marmite cashews

A week ago, I decided to go sugar-free. I had put weight on over the last few months and was feeling tired and hungry all the time, and I suspected this may have been caused by eating too much sugar (e.g. doughnuts in the office, biscuits at meetings, ‘healthy’ cereal bars, etc.).

I have read lots of books and articles* which convinced me that fructose (which is in most forms of sugar) has been making me fat for two reasons:

  1. it is converted by my liver into fat
  2. it means I never feel completely full so I eat too much food in general.

I now suspect that the reason I lost weight on WeightWatchers was that I reduced my sugar intake. This is because sugary foods are high in ProPoints, so given the choice between a chocolate bar and a sandwich I usually chose to eat a sandwich.

Some people can moderate their sugar intake, but I find this very hard to do. Eating sugary foods just makes me want more. So I decided to cut sugary foods out as much as possible.

The main exception to this is that I am still eating a couple of portions of fruit per day. Fruit contains fibre which slows down the speed at which the sugar is absorbed, and fibre also makes you feel fuller which makes you less likely to consume large quantities of fruit in one go.

I am not having any artificial sweeteners because I prefer to eat real food, and because I want to kick the habit of eating sweet things and re-train my ‘sweet tooth’.

Unsweetened dairy products are ok because they don’t contain fructose. I have goat’s milk with my porridge in the morning because cow’s milk doesn’t agree with me and soya milk is sweetened with apple juice or other sweeteners.

I am still having savoury treats, including the Marmite cashews shown in the photo above. My favourite lunch is smoked salmon and avocado on toast, which seems very luxurious! I think it’s important that I continue to enjoy my food!

Fortunately, my husband is giving me lots of support with this. He has been keeping sugary stuff away from me, and making sure that there are lots of savoury treats around, including nuts and nice cheeses. But I am actually snacking less because I feel less hungry.

After a week of low sugar food I’m already feeling less tired, and I no longer count down the minutes until my next sugary snack. I’ve also lost a bit of weight, and my waist is a bit slimmer too. So my trousers feel comfortable for the first time in ages, which is good.

Tomorrow will be the real test because I’m going back to work. But I don’t want to undo my efforts so far, especially after making this blog post public, so hopefully it will be ok. Watch this space!

See also – Sugar-free me – the results!

*Some people have asked me for more details about the books and articles I read, so I will write a separate blog post about this soon.

MyBuddy-Box (review)

March 8, 2015
Groceries in MyBuddy-Box


For years we have grappled with several reusable bags every time we go to the supermarket, as this seems more environmentally-friendly than using plastic bags. So I was pleased to be offered the opportunity to test out a MyBuddy-Box, which is a folding box for grocery shopping and household use.

When the folded-up box arrived in the post, I was immediately impressed with the fact that it was very lightweight and portable, just 32 x 25 x 4cm. It was very quick and easy to open up the box by unfastening the press-stud fasteners, pulling the ends up and then sliding the supports across to make the box rigid.

The MyBuddy-Box was designed and made in Britain. I love the ‘Paradise’ print on my box which makes it look pretty and feminine, but you can also get the box in a plain colour, basket or crate effect or even a ‘Wild’ leopard print.

We tried out the MyBuddy-Box on a recent supermarket trip and it worked really well. Much easier than using lots of separate bags! The handholds were comfortable to use, and the box seemed strong and solid, even when full of heavy groceries. (Once opened out the box is 32 x 25 x 55cm – and it is tested to be able to carry in excess of 20kg!)

These photos show the folded box hanging on the hook on the supermarket trolley, then the box full of groceries in the trolley after we had paid for them, and finally in our tiny car boot.

Using MyBuddy-Box

We will definitely use the MyBuddy-Box for future trips to the supermarket. And I’m using it to carry laundry and other things around the house. It will also be great to transport stuff when we go on holiday.

In fact I’m quite tempted to buy a second one. You can even stack them, using a nifty feature to push down little supports at the top corners of the box.

So, given that the MyBuddy-Box is such a wonderful and useful product, the surprising thing is that supermarkets do not stock them. There is a plastic bag tax coming in to force this autumn. So it would be good if supermarkets could start to stock MyBuddy-Box so that we have the option of buying this box to transport our groceries home.

In the meantime, the best place to buy this is at the MyBuddy-Box website. The ‘Classic Range’ which includes the box shown above, is £14.99 per box and the ‘Eco Range’ is £9.99 per box. Readers of this blog can use RUTHY free P&P on any orders.

I received a MyBuddy-Box for the purposes of writing this review. All words, photographs and opinions expressed are my own.

How to find nice clothes in charity shops

February 8, 2015



Some of my favourite items of clothing were charity shop bargains. For example, the blue bias-cut party dress above was originally from M&S, but I bought it from the St Ann’s Hospice shop in Stockport for £8.99. And the ‘non-iron’ shirt would have been £39.99 had I bought it new from Lands’ End, but it only cost £4.99 in the Stockport Oxfam shop.

Here are my tips for finding good clothes in charity shops:

1. Keep looking!

I go into charity shops every chance I get. Sometimes I don’t find anything I want to buy. But if you don’t look you could miss out on really something good.

2. Try things on

It is only by trying things on that you can really see whether you like an item enough to buy it. Also, clothing sizes have changed a lot of over time, and vary between brands. Sometimes a British size 12 will fit me just fine, other times a size 14 is too snug.

3. Be choosy

Only buy things you really love and will definitely wear. Don’t buy something just because it’s a fantastic bargain or a designer label. There’s no point cluttering up your wardrobe with items of clothing that don’t earn the space they take up.

4. Check the condition of the item

If something needs a minor repair, such as a replacement button, I’ll buy it and do what needs doing. If it needs a complete overhaul, then I will probably leave it in the shop.

5. Machine or hand wash?

I prefer to buy items I can wash myself, either in the washing machine or by hand. That way I can avoid the inconvenience and expense of dry-cleaning.

6. Natural fibres tend to be best

Natural fibres such as cotton, linen and wool, tend to age better than polyester and nylon. This is important when you are buying something that has already been worn by its original owner!

Linking up with Fabulously Frugal at A Thrifty Mum.

Fabulously Frugal

Slow Cooked Brixton Baked Beans (recipe by Miss South)

February 1, 2015
Brixton Baked Beans in the slow cooker

Brixton Baked Beans (recipe by Miss South)

I’ve just returned from a winter walk and it was lovely to open my front door and smell a wonderful fragrance of pomegranate molasses and cloves. This morning I put all the ingredients for ‘Brixton Baked Beans’ in my Crock Pot slow cooker and switched it on. The recipe comes from ‘Slow Cooked: 200 Exciting, New Recipes for Your Slow Cooker’ by Miss South, who blogs at North South Food. (You can also find a summary of the method and ingredients for Brixton Baked Beans here).

The slow cooker is really useful in the winter because it means I can do everything during daylight hours and then eat delicious comfort food in the evening. This particular recipe is so simple that my 6 year old son can help. The dried haricot beans go in the pot without pre-soaking. So the only real challenge is finding a shop that stocks pomegranate molasses! (I ended up getting it from Ocado)

After trying this out for the first time a couple of weeks ago, I had a twitter conversation with Miss South about her recipe and she said:

“I wasn’t going to include it because it seemed TOO simple.
Then I remembered that’s a good thing!”

The book is a fantastic read, full of tips and ideas about how to cook ‘easy, thrifty and delicious’ food in a slow cooker. Though it is not a vegetarian recipe book, it’s clear that Miss South knows how to create flavourful dishes for vegetarians as she used to be one herself. So I’m going to try more of her recipes soon. Will let you know how it goes!

Thanks to Kavey at Kavey Eats who recommended Miss South’s book and blog. Linking up with this week’s Slow Cooker Sunday at Bug, Bird and Bee.

Slow-Cooker Sunday
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