Monday, 4 July 2016

#SmallSteps Week 1 round-up and struggling to find a toaster

I blogged last Monday about three ideas I think might help our disUnited Kingdom communities to get through the post-Brexit turmoil ahead. If you haven't already, you can read that post here. We're obviously not going to get anything in the way of competent national leadership for a while as our politicians are too busy with their own power struggles and posturing, so we might as well carry on without them! SmallSteps lifestyle changes, if embraced by enough of us, could help to keep at least our towns and communities afloat through the months ahead. My brain is buzzing with more ideas and I've decided to keep a track of my attempts to practice what I preach!

My three SmallSteps from last Monday were:

1) to CheckTheLabel and BuyBritish whenever possible
2) to ShopLocal and spend at least £5 each week in independent local shops
3) to eat healthily and walk or cycle short distances

So how did I do?

First up, we spend at least £100 a week on campsite fees which generally is supporting small local businesses, but I am not going to include this because we have been doing it for nearly two years now so it isn't newly inspired by SmallSteps. This week we were pitched up in East Sussex, part of the time at The Homestead just outside Hailsham and part of the time at Fairfields Farm in Westham.

Veg and eggs on Westham High Street 
1) Salad leaves from Shropshire were 27p cheaper than their Dutch equivalent for practically the same mix. I also got us Lancashire broccoli and Kent tomatoes, Yeo Valley greek-style yoghurt, British milk, chicken, beef and pork, Brothers and Westons ciders. I couldn't find British-produced runny honey though so resorted to Gale's - a British company although the product itself is an 'EU and non-EU blend'. I have since seen Sussex honey advertised for sale at Stone Cross Nurseries. Dave bought British music with The Kansas Sessions by fab Manchester singer-songwriter Kirsty McGee.

2) I bought JustACard from each of two independent Hailsham shops  - Special Occasions (£1.75) and Dippy Doodahs (£1.50) - and had a refreshing £2.50 pot of mint tea at Chapter 12. Then in Westham, Sophie at Regal Hair And Beauty did an amazing job of cutting my neglected tresses into a neat bob (£20 + tip) and I bought eggs from a cute little wooden stand outside Myrtle Cottage (£1.20 for 6). We dined at The Six Bells in Chiddingly for £33 including drinks.

3) I walked to the hairdresser, and twice to Westham Post Office, plus Dave and I cycled into Hailsham to drop off a prescription. The healthy eating did take a hit with my sharing a six pack of Mr Kipling's Cherry Bakewells, but at least they were baked in Britain!

So for this first week, we racked up a £59.95 ShopLocal spend and all journeys less than two miles were either cycled or walked. Yay us!

I had a big BuyBritish fail when it came to replacing our expired toaster though. I read through the great resource that is the British Family website - they are attempting to live entirely by buying British - and discovered two British manufactured toaster brands, Dualit and Rowlett Rutland. (This interesting post on UKMade explains why there is such little choice.) Neither were suitable however, partly due to 'How Much?', but mostly because all their actually-made-in-Britain models are too powerful. Living in a caravan restricts us to not wanting more than about an 800w toaster or we would frequently blow up campsite electrics! Ironically, an environmental EU ruling restricting high powered toasters and kettles had been delayed due to fears that Brits wouldn't accept it. It is now probably going ahead, but without us.

Russell Hobbs Futura toaster 
In the end, we decided on a £20 Russell Hobbs Futura 2 slice toaster. It's low powered so fairly economical and I liked the elegant brushed steel and chrome finish. The mechanism feels sturdier that our previous £9 bargain so hopefully it will see us through longer than thirteen months! We've tried it out already and it toasts well and evenly with a variable width slot that should cope with everything we need toasted including crumpets and hot cross buns. Slices of our current favourite bread, Hovis Seed Sensations, fit perfectly!

So that's my week. Politically and nationally I am still very worried for our future, disappointed by our leaders' incompetence and disgusted by reported xenophobic attacks across the UK. This is not how I see my country. Personally, I have a more positive outlook and having this project has certainly focused my mind.

If you are trying similar life changes, let me know what you are doing and how it is working out. @DaddioClarke tweeted to tell me about Macknade Fine Foods - 'the South-East’s leading food hall, built on a 170 year history of food, farming and retailing in Faversham' - and apparently well worth supporting for locals or as part of a visit to the town. Macknade has an incredible array of food and drink from fine foods to daily essentials, much of which is locally produced. Their website certainly does make it look very enticing!

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