Going sugar free this February? | Simply Marcia


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Going sugar free this February?

WHY AM I DOING SUGAR FREE FEBRUARY?

As I bathe in the smug glow of having successfully achieved Dry January, and having found I do actually have some kind of restraint and willpower, I’ve decided to throw myself in to Sugar Free February. I don’t think I have a massive sweet tooth (I do love cheese however!) or consume a huge amount of sugar but I’m guessing the truth is that I probably do. It’s hidden in some of the unlikeliest foods …

So, to help boost my health, discover new recipes and hopefully help me make some longer-term sugar-free changes, I’m going to give it a go!

WHAT ARE MY SUGAR FREE RULES?

– no added sugar
– no ready-made or processed foods
– homemade meals and snacks only
– fruit, dried fruit, maple syrup, honey and cacao powder are allowed*

*I want to be realistic and find natural and healthier alternatives to refined sugar on a long-term basis. Plus these ingredients have many health benefits in themselves.

MY GOALS FOR SUGAR FREE FEB

– to experiment with and create some new family-friendly sweet treats – both The Body Coach and Deliciously Ella have some yummy-sounding and easy-to-make sugar free recipes (they will be my lifeline I suspect)
– to make healthy choices and food swaps – so nibbling on nuts and seeds rather than biscuits and the like
– to create sugar free versions of sauces that normally have loads of hidden sugar – things like sweet chilli sauce, tomato ketchup – and baked beans!

CHALLENGES I CAN FORSEE

– two birthdays in our family this month (eek, that will mean the temptations of birthday cake and meals out!)
– having 3 children means there will be sweet treats in our house as usual (I’d love to be able to say the whole family will be going sugar-free but it’s a definite no ha! I will however, be secretly trying to reduce their sugar intake via homemade cookies and fruit crumbles – shhhhh)
– February half term means the kids will be around (needing food – constantly!) and, combined with planned days out will mean lots of food related potential temptations
– Pancake Day and Valentines day also fall within half term
– alcohol – I don’t want to undo all the good work and health benefits from having completed Dry January, however, I do want to enjoy the odd drink – so it’ll be clear spirits – gin! (the alcohol containing the least amount of sugar) with soda water for me this month (I had no idea tonic water has so much sugar in it!)

Wish me luck! During Sugar Free February I’m planning on sharing a couple of sugar-free recipes that I enjoy and have helped me achieve my sugar-free goal!

Are you taking part in Sugar Free February? Let me know if you have any tips!


Environmentally friendly cleaning brands

Inspired by many recent campaigns and programmes highlighting environmental and ecological issues, it’s time for me to properly ditch all harmful cleaning products in our home. Instead, I’m now switching to natural and environmentally friendly ones. However (ashamedly), I’m a bit new to this world so I’ve done a little research to find brands that have no impact on aquatic life, are chemical free, cruelty free and are plant based (perfect for vegans). The good news, is that there are actually loads of brilliant, environmentally-friendly brands available (some of which are stocked in major supermarkets), but these are the ones I’ve personally come across and like:

Method offer a massive range of vegan and cruelty free cleaning products for cleaning your home, doing the laundry and washing up! Think antibacterial bathroom, floor and kitchen cleaners as well as gorgeous smelling hand washes. Basically, the entire range smells as though you should be bathing or showering in it! And the great thing, is that you can buy Method products in a huge range of places: all the major supermarkets as well as stores like B&Q, John Lewis and Boots.

Faith in Nature pretty much says it all really. Have faith in nature – this range of cleaning products covers everything from household cleaners, to laundry to washing up and their refills come in 5L sizes (and are brilliantly wallet-friendly!). They also offer environmentally friendly beauty, skincare, baby and pet product ranges.

Humblestuff is a range of environmentally friendly cleaning products I found on Twitter. This is a small business, based in Scotland, creating hand-made and amazingly-scented products (thanks to the addition of essential oils). At the moment they only offer 3 products in their range – but that’s all you need right?: a multi-surface spray, a toilet freshener and a soft-cleaning paste. All their products are vegan, paraben and cruelty free.

Holland and Barrett‘s ‘Earth Friendly’ washing and laundry cleaning products range is perfect to get hold of if you’re out and about as there’s a store in most high streets – think washing up liquid, laundry tablets and eco eggs.

If you like to mix and match your cleaning products, one of the best UK sites that stocks almost every environmentally friendly cleaning brand you can think of, is Ethical Superstore. They also sell groceries, vegan skincare and other ethically sourced and fair trade products for your home and family.

Finally, there’s also the option to do-it-yourself and have a go at making some of your own cleaning products. Ok, I haven’t actually done this myself (yet!) but maybe one day! In the meantime, The Green Parent and Vegan Food and Living offers some brilliant DIY tips as well as guidelines on what to look out for if you’re more interested in ethical cleaning products.

Is there an environmentally friendly cleaning brand you use and would recommend?

Happy, ethical cleaning!


2018: 12 months, 12 challenges

Having made it to mid-January without a drop of alcohol (the longest I’ve gone without a G&T for years – literally), and determined to see Dry January through until the bitter end (16 days and counting …), I’ve decided to create 11 further month-long challenges.

Why? Well a) because having an end in sight is motivation in itself, b) around 4 weeks for a challenge is doable as far as I’m concerned (and before the novelty value wears off) and c) past experience has shown me that grand sweeping, generic resolutions along the lines of ‘I’m going to get fit’ or ‘I’m going to lose weight’ just never, ever work for me.

But, short-term commitments or challenges are good for me. I’m not always very good at trying new things – it’s the scared-of-failure thing I think! So anyway, I’m hoping that one of the outcomes of my challenges is that I learn to enjoy new habits – so most of my monthly challenges are based around nutrition, health, fitness and good mental health practices.

So this is my plan of monthly challenges:

January
I’m already half-way through dry January and to be honest, it’s going ok actually. I’ve had the odd moment where I’ve really fancied a cheeky little G&T but I’m determined to get to 1st Feb without alcohol – I think I might be finally discovering the will power I never thought I had.

February
Sugar free February. Supported by Cancer Research UK, this is another higher-profile monthly challenge. Their site has loads of tips and advice. I’ve also found some great recipes on The Body Coach site as well as individuals on Twitter to follow including London Health Mum for sugar free tips.

March
30 minutes of blogilates every day. Ok, so 30 minutes a day might not sound like much of a commitment but, this will be on top of my 45 minute daily uphill dog walk (and work, children, etc) – so for me, this IS a commitment.

April
3 vegan days per week. I try to have around 3 completely meat free days per week and have vaguely dabbled with vegan meals but want to do it properly a few days a week. A great site for tracking down ready-made vegan meals, snacks etc is My Vegan Supermarket and for vegan recipes and a 30 day Vegan Pledge you can take, to go vegan for 30 days, The Vegan Society will be my go-to.

May
The Body Coach’s 2 week (x 2 workout plan to lose weight and tone up fast! I’m anticipating this one being tough – we’ll see how it goes!

June
No dairy. I’ve more time to research this monthly challenge but found Healthy Magazine is a useful starting point.

July
Meditation and month of calm! In preparation for the kids breaking up from school, I thought this might be apt – I’ve done a bit of research and loads of people swear by the Calm app so I’m going to be downloading this and

August
I’ve always fancied having a go at making some of my own skincare, so with that in mind, James Wong’s book ‘Grow your own drugs‘ in hand and Lucy Bee’s website on stand-by, that’s my plan (though if it doesn’t quite work out I will might treat myself to a VeganKind beauty box).

September
Like January, September is a month of new starts and good habits, so am planning on doing the squat & plank challenge (eeek, do I know what I’m letting myself in for?!)

October
Surf school. I’ve always wanted to learn how to surf properly – or at least have a go! I’ve chosen October as it’s out of season but the sea is still a good temperature. There are some brilliant surf schools here in Cornwall – the one I’m thinking about learning with is Surf’s Up in Polzeath.

November
Walking to running. I remember running as a child ha! But am keen to see if I can still run so will be downloading the 30 minute run plan from Women’s Running to get me motivated and started!

December
Green Christmas. I’m pretty sure that as per all previous years, December will be busy and pressured enough as it is, so no fitness or health challenge here except to have as green a Christmas as possible.

Have you ever set yourself a month long challenge? How did it work out for you? Or maybe you’re feeling inspired to try a challenge or two this year?

Wish me luck! x


Starting an allotment – some tips!

Ok, so I’m not particularly known for being green-fingered or a natural gardener amongst my friends and family – which means I’m definitely not an expert horticulturist. But I do love food! I do love using fresh ingredients and creating new recipes, and I do come from a family of small-holders and grown-your-own’ers. So as far as I’m concerned that’s all the qualification I need!

I had an allotment a few years ago when my children were really little but to be honest, I didn’t really have a clue … I mean, I did actually grow stuff – but more by luck than proper planning – think too many courgettes, very scraggly, teeny-tiny carrots and, amazingly, an annual glut of berries! After a couple of year I sadly had to let it go – basically the combination of other commitments – work, children, logistics – and the fact that the allotment was a good 3 miles from my home at the time didn’t help…

Roll on a good 10 years: a new home in Cornwall, a new freelance working-from-home life and a close-to-home allotment means that 2018 is the year of the allotment for me. And in order to get it a bit more right than last time, I’ve been doing my homework and been plotting and planning and have come up with these ‘starting an allotment’ tips:

Do your research
Have a proper nose around your own allotment and the other allotments. What seems to grow well (obviously this will depend on the time of year)? More importantly, talk to and ask the locals – in my experience, other allotmenters are a friendly, helpful, super-knowledgeable bunch and will be the best source of local soil conditions, what grows well and what doesn’t.

Invest in a couple of allotment handbooks
I still have my allotment books from first time around and they’re still brilliant – full of useful advice and tips – great for complete beginners or more experienced gardeners. My go-to books are:

The Allotment Handbook by Caroline Foley
Grow Your Own Veg by Carol Klein

Both offer easy-to-understand advice on planning, weeding, sowing, planting out, the months/seasons and soil types as well as all you need to now about the likes and dislikes of individual plant families

Find online allotment bloggers to follow
For tips and topical, relevant allotment and growing advice, allotment bloggers are just brilliant – find some that you like. I find Twitter is the best source. I really enjoy the realistic and easy advice (and humour) from Richard Chivers’ Sharpen your Spades and Bohemian Raspberry.

As I have a large allotment plot, as well as growing fruit and vegetables, I also want to give a small patch to wild flower growing. Little Green Space is a wonderful Twitter account to follow for tips on green living and creating green spaces for nature and wildlife.

Get an allotment planner
This is essential for all your scribbles, plotting and planning. I have an A5 notebook. I jot planned as well as random, thoughts, ideas and drawings in it as well as sticking in snippets of advice or ideas I’ve found in the weekend papers or magazines – it’s a proper scrapbook i guess.

Grow what you like to eat
This time around, armed with local knowledge of the well-growing plants here, I’m going to start the allotment by focusing mostly on sowing seeds, planting seedlings and growing produce that we actually eat. I’m not going crazy as I don’t want to feel too overwhelmed – it’ll literally be an organic, rolling process. So for us, that means fruit, veg and herbs including:

– onions, garlic, leeks
– broccoli, kale, peas
– beetroot
– pumpkin, squash
– cucumber, courgette, lettuce
– berries
– rhubarb
– herbs: mint, rosemary, chives, thyme, sage

Although we eat plenty of them, this year I’m avoiding potatoes, most root veg e.g. carrots, and Mediterranean / greenhouse produce such as tomatoes and peppers. Partly because they’ve seemed so labour-intensive in the past, but haven’t grown too well, but also because we eat so much of them and actually, our local farming cooperative sells them at a ridiculously decent price.

Seeds
There are so many places to buy decent seeds or seedlings and plants now. One of my favourites is Dobies. They have loads of choice, a brilliant tips and advice-laden website and their prices are good.

Get equipped
You will need equipment to help you handle your allotment. Essentials include:
– decent gardening gloves
– wellies
– sturdy spade and fork
– hand trowel and hand fork
– trays and pots for seedlings
– rake
– secateurs
– watering can

What allotment tips or advice do you have?

Next time: Preparing an allotment



Plastic free campaigns you need to know about

Sometimes it can actually be quite hard to know where to start when you want to begin something new; a new habit, a new journey, a new way of doing things, a new project … For me, this year, a new thing I want to start is to become much more proactive in supporting organisations who are doing great things to help our environment, the oceans, our planet – specifically plastic free campaigns.

My motivation has come from watching Blue Planet 2 and the environmental awareness the programme has raised. Here in Devon and Cornwall, there are so many passionate campaigners, who’ve started something new themselves, doing practical things and leading by example – showing us how we can all help in practical ways and by sharing awareness of the environmental damage being inflicted on our oceans and the precious creatures who live in and rely on them.

I thought it might be helpful to share the details of some of the individuals and organisations I follow and support on social media (and who offer brilliant advice and practical tips on environmental issues including going plastic free):

Surfers Against Sewage

If you love the ocean, going to the beach, surfing, swimming, walking the dog along the coastline … this group of like-minded individuals is determined to fight the plastic pollution that blights our beautiful beaches. You can offer support by signing their petition Message in a Bottle (calling for a deposit return system on plastic bottles and other single use drinks containers), or join an organised beach clean.

Less Plastic

If you feel inspired to reduce your plastic consumption, this site is a great starting point, offering advice for both individuals and businesses alike, as well as brilliant plastic free products and informative, educational postcards and posters.

A Plastic Planet

A Plastic Planet is behind the Plastic Free Aisle campaign – its aim is for a Plastic Free Aisle in supermarkets, offering consumers the choice to buy food not wrapped in plastic and ultimately a reduction in the amount of single-use plastics in our supermarkets. You can join their campaign here.

Change.org

This current petition is calling on Michael Gove to ban retailers from using plastic and other packaging which is not biodegradable or recyclable. The petition asks that the Top 10 UK retailers switch to biodegradable packaging materials, You can sign and share this petition here.

The Final Straw

This is a campaign to rid Cornwall of single use plastic straws and raise awareness of the damage single use plastics are causing to our environment. The site offers advice, plastic-free tips and ways you can help share the campaign with friends, family and colleagues.

2 minute beach clean

The #2minutebeachclean campaign is focused on doing practical things to help clear up plastics and rubbish washed up on our beaches, via 2 minute beach cleans. The campaign is growing in momentum and quite simply, involves individuals or families helping to rid the world’s beaches of marine litter and plastic pollution, by picking up plastics and litter at their local beach, 2 minutes at a time. There’s also a fab online shop where you can buy plastic free products (cups, straws, bags), as well as beach clean up equipment.

Let’s all do our bit: ditch the plastic as much as we can and pick it up when we find it littering our beaches, waterways and countryside.


5 easy ways to go plastic free today!

The screening of Blue Planet 2 has been such an eye opener in so many ways; not only have we been introduced to beautiful, amazing creatures and their habitats, but sadly, we’ve also become blatantly aware of the devastating impact plastics are having on our seas, oceans and the creatures who call it home. Watching the show left me feeling both in awe of the natural world but equally ashamed as a human being of the devastation we inflict on it. It’s absolutely time for action.

I’ve spent the weeks since the show finished:
– finding out as much as I can about the impact plastics have had and are still having every day, on our planet
– researching how we recycle, what we recycle and what the issues with recycling are
– discovering some amazing people and campaigns working incredibly hard to help create change
– understanding that if we all made some easy and little changes to our daily lives we can have a positive impact on our environment.

You have to start somewhere. So following all the advice about going plastic free, these 5 tips are easy ways you can go plastic free today:

1. Say a big, fat NO to plastic straws, cocktail stirrers and disposable cutlery. Instead, either sip your drinks (a novel idea ha!) and use proper cutlery. If you (or the kids) like to use a straw sometimes, consider buying environmental friendly straws from a company such as ecostrawz – they have a great array of stainless steel, glass, bamboo and titanium straws – perfect to reuse time and again. These range in price from £2.49 – £5.99.

2. Plastic water, fruit juice and fizzy drink bottles are another NO. Instead, get yourself and the family reusable water bottles. When my kids were at primary school they always took a reusable water bottle to school – we’ve got out of this habit – but no excuses now. I’ve had a look around and for me, one green bottle is the perfect solution. They offer a brilliant range of durable, stainless steel and environmentally friendly products – including water bottles, lunchboxes and reusable coffee cups (see tip 3 below!). Prices for water bottles start at £10.

3. As a non-coffee drinker, the whole take-out coffee thing has kind of passed me by however, I have been known to grab the odd take-out tea at the train station so in at number 3) it’s a NO to take out coffee cups (actually, this also applies to fizzy drink take outs you get in places like McDonalds – they may look like cardboard but they’re coated with plastic). Instead, it’s back to one green bottle again – they have a brilliant range of reusable coffee/tea takeout cups. Simply take with you and ask the barista to use your reusable take out cup instead of an own-brand.

4. We all know the drill by now when it comes to plastic bags so these being on the list can come as no surprise. I thought I’d include these though, as I have many times either a) rocked up at the supermarket without my reusable bags (and cursed myself) or b) underestimated how much shopping I’d buy and therefore not have enough reusable bags. This is more about getting in to a good habit when it comes to shopping and bags. I now keep a load of cotton reusable (and washable) bags in the boot of the car and for my handbag (I’m a bit of an impulse shopper) I’ve just ordered a couple of string bags from Green Fibres. These are cheap as you like (they start from £5.00) can carry a heavy load but are lightweight and squish up teeny, tiny to fit in to your bag. Most of the supermarkets also offer reusable jute or cotton-based bags too – and absolutely preferable over the plastic bags-for-life.

5. If you’re headed to the supermarket today or local green grocers, as much as is possible, try to say NO to buying your fruit and veg in pre-wrapped plastic. Try to buy it loose if you can – but don’t then add it to one of these little plastic bags the supermarkets have on stand by for our convenience! Small, local green grocers or farm shops tend to be better at stocking paper bags so are worth a try if it works for you. If not, when you’re at the supermarket either add your fruit and veg loose (this may not work for things like brussel sprouts!) to your basket or place it in one of your reusable bags for sorting at the checkout (they’ll love you ha!). The other alternative, of course, is to join a local, farm shop vegetable box delivery service such as Riverford Organic Farmers or here, in south-east Cornwall, Tamar Grow Local Food Hubs – that way, you’ll be supporting a local business, eating fresh fruit and veg delivered directly from the farm, cutting out the middleman and the plastic.

Go forth and start your plastic free journey … and let me know if you have any other easy tips to help us all go plastic free x