Is it just me or is everyone in a COVID funk??

a train station with empty platforms

Am I suffering (post)-COVID funk? Last week I talked about the idea of mini habits suggested by Stephen Guise and the strategies used by Michele Bridges in her 12WBT Challenge (12 Week Body Transformation) as ways of getting myself off the couch, or more correctly out of bed and into action.

Let me set a few things straight, it’s not that I am NOT exercising or eating OK it’s just that I know I can do better.  A lot better. I know that once it’s done I feel GOOD after I have exercised first thing in the morning. That smug sense of self-satisfaction gives me a real boost for the rest of the day. My problem has been maintaining or re-establishing my preferred routine.

There have been two factors that have led to my routine crashing around my feet, one novel and one that happens every year. Firstly, the novel Coronavirus, COVID-19 and the second, winter.

Been here, done that, sort of.

I can see from my Facebook memories that this time last year and the year before and most likely the year before that, I was in a similar space. On top of that, we have COVID.

Speaking with friends, reading social media posts and a quick search of “post COVID funk” on Google shows that I am definitely not alone.  There are a plethora of articles already published claiming   we’re all feeling like this. That is, unmotivated and not liking it.

Articles published by the Sydney Morning Herald right through to a blog post about getting back into your bass guitar practice are offering support and advice.

The advice is consistent. Get off social media and get outside (after you finish reading this post of course). Stop watching the news. Eat well, sleep better, connect with friends.

The bass guitar blog even agrees with me on the benefits of mini habits

It is common to hope for motivation to show up to make us want to practice. But a more useful strategy is for us to show up for a small, doable task – regardless of motivation being involved or not – and then celebrate the fact that we did the task.

Motivation is overrated.

Regular short practice bits (and feeling better about ourselves for having done them!) are underrated.

Focus on a short task – one scale, one verse of a song, one technique exercise. Then high five yourself for having done them. The good feeling the high five creates will have you coming back tomorrow. (If you want to know more about this, check out this book).

More serious concerns

My personal situation is not a dramatic problem and I anticipate my laziness will begin to evaporate once we head towards spring and the mornings are brighter and warmer. I have a secure “essential job”, I have a house where I can retreat to if needed. I really have very little to worry about.

There are real concerns that some people will develop more serious health issues and potentially post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the months of uncertainty and stress. For many Australians, particularly those on the east coast, COVID hit when we weren’t yet over the devastating fires of summer. Just as families were getting back on their feet, we were locked inside. Health care workers and other “front line” people haven’t had a chance to catch their breath. They have lurched from one crisis to another.

According to a report from The Black Dog Institute (one of Australia’s peak mental health bodies) people who have had  positive diagnosis of COVID-19 are also at a specially high risk.

“In past pandemics, patients who experienced severe and life-threatening illnesses were at risk of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, months to years following their illness [12, 13]. Appropriate systems and supports need to be put in place to screen patients, especially hospitalised patients who have survived COVID-19, to screen for common mental health problems and to provide appropriate psychological supports.”

Problem solved.

I have spent enough time wallowing and when I look at the hardship some others are experiencing, I am embarrassed. I need to recognise the privilege I have and stop whingeing! I’m going to use the idea of mini habits and JFDI to drag myself up by the shoelaces and get out there and exercise.

Next month, I  am going to look more closely at mini habits or more specifically Tiny Habits. I will post a review and executive summary of  the Tiny Habits book by BJ Fogg. (Similar idea to Guise’s mini Habits)

In the meantime,  I am off for a run.


If you are suffering from severe anxiety and are seeking more useful help than I am talking about here please reach out to people who can help.  There are some great resources here at the Black Dog Institute’s website.

Australian readers can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 for mental health support.

The Search for the Missing Mojo Begins! 

Last week I declared that my mojo was missing. I reported my feelings of laziness and malaise. Exercise has become a chore and eating right a battle. The anxiety monster is lurking just around the corner waiting to pounce on me if I let it. Last week’s goal was to start searching for answers.

Perhaps it’s not mojo I’m looking for?

As a first step, I decided to define a few terms. What even is mojo? Am I using the term correctly? Googling led me to this:

1ZoqnzE0nzLuetceuE9Sby61Olhscfit7ylDyIAwwMKWxOJZy7dmbTdObytOhUSs

Am I looking for mojo? Or am I looking for enthusiasm? Is it motivation I need or more willpower?  Some further search terms lead me to this blog article

Should I Get Motivated Or Use Willpower? The Ultimate Guide For Taking Action When You Don’t Feel Like It

Now that sounds like what I’m after!

According to the author, Stephen Guise, you are better off relying on willpower and habit rather than motivation. He defines motivation as a desire to take action, whereas willpower is forcing yourself to take action even if you don’t feel like it. Creating habits is the ultimate goal. When something is a habit you don’t have to make a decision, you just do it because you have built it into your life. I’d recommend the article. It’s long but his writing style is easy, amusing and straight forward. He has a book to sell called Mini Habits.

Working SMARTer

Guise recommends taking action even when you feel unmotivated. Just get out and do it.  This is the same strategy Michelle Bridges uses in her 12 Week Body Transformation Program. (12WBT)

Her motto is  JFDI (just f*^%#$ do it!)

Just get out of bed. Don’t think about it! Just put your workout gear on, don’t think about it. Once you start, you’ll keep going.

I have signed up for the 12WBT three times in the past, and every time it has worked well for me. I’ve gotten fitter and stronger. At the conclusion of the 12-week program, I have felt empowered, healthy and proud.

Why does this style of program work so well for me and others? It boils down to a few simple factors:

  1. The program isn’t free. The fact that I’ve paid for it is a huge part of its  success for me. The idea of wasting money if I don’t stick to it is an important external motivator.
  2. It’s for a well defined period of time. Long enough to see results, short enough to maintain interest.
  3. It is measurable. There are some very carefully planned milestones that involve actual measuring including a weekly weigh-in and a monthly fitness test. On top of that, you take your body measurements every four weeks.
  4. The program asks you to set mini-milestones and a final goal. For my last round, these goals were timed running events and culminated in a final event where I aimed to crack the 56-minute mark. (missed by 5 seconds!)
  5. There is a supportive online and IRL* community attached. I didn’t join in on this aspect much but it was there if I wanted it.

That list sounds very familiar and a lot like SMART goals. That is goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.

Make a start – even if its small

While SMART goals are a tried and true strategy for many people, Guise suggests another option. Using brute force! In a strategy, he calls ‘taking stupid small steps” he suggests you take a very small action which you repeat over and over again until it  ‘turns into a powerful, healthy habit.’

The idea is to force yourself to do one push up (or another similarly very small step), then do another and then another and before you know it you’ve done a workout. Guise says that harnessing the power of stupid small steps will increase your willpower, stamina, build momentum, lead to action rather than just thinking about taking action and finally bring a greater level of consistency.

Here’s a good summary of the idea.

What’s next in the mojo hunt.

My Year of Zero precludes me from signing up for another round of 12WBT so I am just going to wing it on my own with a very strong mini habits flavour thrown in. I’ll set some milestones, do some measurements and give myself 12 weeks to whip myself back into shape. I have a 5 km race booked in for December. Maybe I can get down to 25 minutes. (My previous best time is 26 minutes)

Yep, that’s what I’m gonna do…Starting next week…I really really mean it this time! 


Next week’s post: I know I’m not alone in this potentially COVID induced funk. Next week I’ll examine the possibility of this lack of motivation being a bigger shared problem. 

* IRL = In real life

 

 

 

Losing your mojo

Lighthouses of scotland - Kinnaird Head Lighthouse

Mojo no-go!

If you were browsing through my past posts dear reader, you would be excused for thinking that I am a paragon of virtue. You’d see that I exercise regularly, look after my gut bacteria, care for the planet, meditate, volunteer, make stuff from scratch and can make a darn fine photo. My curated self is a frugal homemaker, a canny traveller and witty writer.

Darn! I might just nominate myself for “Domestic Goddess of the Year” while I’m at it because I can cook and sew and when I put my mind to it I CAN make flowers grow.

Steel Street - Cringila
What’s stopping me?

Excuse me; have you seen my Mojo?

Just of late though, like many other people in the world, I am in serious danger of losing my mojo. My get up and go is close to getting up and going, except it’s too lazy to put its shoes on. 

The dark, cold mornings are making it tough to rise and shine and do the exercise I know will make me feel refreshed. The spectre of coronavirus particles lurking on the gym equipment has kept it a no-go zone.

My knees and hips might be enjoying the interlude from pounding the pavement but my tightening waistband is reminding me of the self-sabotaging messages being sent to my brain. “Stay in bed,”  my knees say, “you can exercise this afternoon,” chime in my hips. “Snuggle under the blankets a little longer…”

Winning mojo medals
I’m not winning mojo medals right now!

On other fronts, my diet has been marginal and my gut bacteria are in danger of switching to the dark side!  I have gained 3 kg in 3 months. I still fit into the healthy weight range but my curves sure aren’t flattening! If I keep on this trend I’ll be tipping into unhealthy before I know it.

I am sticking to my no alcohol for a year pledge and more or less sticking to my Year of Zero spending goals, but these are negative or passive goals, I don’t actually have to do anything to make them happen.

My rational self knows that something will happen in the afternoon that makes exercising impossible.  I KNOW that the best time for me to exercise is in the morning before the rest of the world intrudes. I KNOW THIS! I know that my mood is better and my brain more sprightly when I eat well. I KNOW THIS TOO!

I have discussed my plan for living in some previous posts. I use goal setting and big picture thinking. I have thought about this before.

So why am I struggling?

Where did the Mojo go?

Why is it that sometimes we can be at the top of our game, pumping on all cylinders and slam-dunking the goals we set ourselves, while at other times we self-implode and eat the whole packet of Tim Tams?

Is there such a thing as motivation fatigue? Am I just in a COVID-funk? Do I need to find different goals?

I’ve been here before and I know I’ll get over it. I know I need external accountability but is there another tactic I could try?

The Mojo-quest begins.

I’m looking for answers to find my misplaced mojo! I have started to research by reading books, listening to podcasts and falling down into a  deep YouTube Vortex.  Join me on my quest to find the path to the Mojo warehouse and let me know what works for you. Over the next few posts*, I’ll be writing about my findings and I’ll share the treasure map by summarising the salient points from the source materials.

Mind you it might not be next week… I might still be in bed!

 

Smart Mojo
Having a specific time-bound goal that I sign up for, helps my mojo stay on track.

* You see what I did there? I set myself an accountability trap! 🙂

300 not out!*

This is my 300th blog post. My 200th post was in October 2019. My stats say I have 464 followers although my homepage says “join 612 other subscribers”. I am not sure why there is a discrepancy between those numbers. Does it mean that some people, who at one time were subscribers, have dropped off my perch?

300!

Perhaps I’ll make it to 500 followers/subscribers by the end of the year.

2020 has certainly been a tumultuous year for the whole world! Certainly not what I expected when I started my Year of Zero. I thought I’d be making tough personal sacrifices but it turns out we have all been having a year of not much happening!

Thanks for joining me on my journey. I hope you’ll stick around for my 400th post!


 * 300 not out is a cricketing reference for any of you from non-cricketing places!

Full mind vs mindfulness

Have you mastered mindfulness, or are you a mind full person like me? You may have noticed that I am not very good at paying attention to anything for a very long time. Without external accountability from others, lists and reminders, I would chase after bright shiny things that come into my field of thinking.

I can stick to some things. I am extraordinarily proud of myself for sticking to this blog for three years with weekly posts.  However, I have jumped from topic to topic which, according to the SEO experts is a bad thing.  I should be sticking to a branded theme.

I have more or less stuck to my Year of Zero. I more or less stick to a sustainable lifestyle with frequent exercise and healthy eating.

I’ve wanted to add meditation to the mix to help calm down my mind. To help me tame the thoughts that keep me too busy when I should be sleeping. The ideas that jump into my head when I am trying to concentrate. The thoughts that stop me from getting into a flow state more often.

 

I’m a meditation failure!

IMG_5965

I’ve tried meditation a few times with online apps but decided I was useless at it because I could not stop my thoughts from intruding. In a serendipitous twist, a course I did for school this month, has allowed me to see the light! (No cosmic rays, no angels singing! Maybe a little bit of new-age synth music!)

You don’t have to silence your thoughts when you meditate; you just let them slide on past and then refocus. 

 

The realisation that it is impossible to stop thinking and that this is not the aim of meditation was a revelation! Even though I had read that before, hearing it from a real live human being with her personal anecdotes,  made the difference. The aim is to concentrate on one thing, like your breathing, and then if you get distracted, which you will, refocus. If you get distracted again, refocus. If you get distracted again, refocus! As many times, and as often as you need to. Over time you’ll get better at it, and the time you can remain focused will increase.  And ta-da!! You’re meditating!!

Snapseed 18
The Nan Tien Institute in Unanderra

Courses at the Nan Tien Institute

The course, Mindfulness, Theory and Practice for Schools centred around ways of embedding mindfulness into schools so that it becomes as fundamental as literacy and numeracy.  It was held at the Nan Tien Institute, a higher education campus attached to the Nan Tien Temple. The temple is the biggest Buddhist Temple in the Southern Hemisphere. The Institute offers many other courses including degrees and diplomas. While rooted in Buddhist philosophy, this course was secular in nature.

It was fascinating, and by the end of the second day, my mind was bursting (in a positive way) with ideas and plans. I was invigorated even though I had been sitting for two full days, listening intently to the lecturer, Dr Nadine Levy.

Nadine had the knack of drawing out good discussion and the room had a great vibe. I came home committed to incorporating meditation into my daily routine on top of any plans I may have for my school.

 

Mindfulness is big business.

Perhaps I’m late to the party, but I am hoping the insights learned at the course will be a permanent change for me. Mindfulness has been a buzz word in the wellbeing industry for many years now.  It has/had a bit of a bad rap (in my age demographic anyway) as being a bit hippy and woo-woo, but despite that, it is a darn good idea.

Scientific studies have shown that mindfulness and meditation are effective in treating anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses. It’s cheap and universally available. It requires no special equipment and doesn’t need the internet! Having said that there are many useful apps available that can help you with your daily practice. Check out Smiling Minds (free), Calm ($A60-ish p/a) or 10% Happier ($A140 ish per annum).

My favourite mindfulness definition so far is “the mental art of stepping out of your own way”.

Dan Harris, the (US) ABC journalist, author and podcaster sums it up well in this short video.

Nadine led us through 7 or 8 mindful/meditation activities during the course. In that short time, I felt that my memory improved and that I was thinking very creatively.  I slept well that night and woke up refreshed—an unusual occurrence for me. I am up to Day 4 of practice on the Smiling Mind app, and I’m feeling good! I’m going to make an effort to make it stick. I intend to include a 10-minute meditation into my morning routine. That’s do-able!

I am not going to go into detail about what mindfulness is or isn’t in this post. I’ll save that for future posts, but I warn you, this Old Chook has found another topic to bang on about!

On another note, if you are an educator, I’d highly recommend the course. It runs a couple of times a year.

Snapseed 19

Healthy weight and mathematics

Maintaining a healthy body weight is a simple matter of mathematics. If your energy intake is higher than your energy output, you’ll gain weight, and if you use more energy than you eat, you’ll lose weight.

Energy in = Energy Out

As simple as that!

Pffft – yeah, right!

Our bodies are burning energy even when we are doing nothing, and because we have not mastered the art of photosynthesis, that energy must come from food. If you eat more food and hence consume more energy than you need, you will store the excess as fatty tissue. It’s not rocket science, even if it is maths!

This not-so-tricky maths gets in the way of things! As is the case with most people, I like eating!  I’d like to be able to eat more and maintain a healthy body weight. To do this, I need to use more energy.

Is there a way I can increase my energy expenditure without noticing it?

Our energy use is divided into three components:

  1. Basal Metabolic Rate or BMR. This is the energy we use merely being alive. It is the amount of energy we use when we are at rest, after just waking up and with an empty belly. It accounts for around 60% of the energy sedentary people use each day. BMR is influenced by gender, age, and body mass. Essentially the bigger you are the more energy you need to keep your body idling. The older you get, the less energy you use. (So if your a little old(er) lady like me you’re not burning up much!)
  2. Thermic Effect of Food or TEF is the extra energy we need to digest and absorb our food.  It takes energy to break down the food in our digestive system and get it into our bloodstream. TEF is a bit like a service fee. The energy in our food needs to be converted into the type of energy our body can use, and this comes at a cost. It turns out that protein needs more energy to be converted into usable energy. TEF accounts for around 10 – 15% of our average daily energy expenditure.
  3. Activity Thermogenesis (AT) is the energy used up in moving around and is further broken into two categories.
      1. Exercise-related activity thermogenesis is the energy we use in deliberate exercise such as going to the gym, running, lifting weights, etc.
      2. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis or NEAT is the incidental energy we use in walking around, picking up the kettle, sitting, standing, talking, shopping, cooking, doing the housework. The stuff we usually don’t change into active wear for!

Energy expenditure

We have the power to control activity thermogenesis. Since it makes up between 25 – 30% of the energy a sedentary person uses, it is the pathway to tipping the balance in favour of weight loss or gain.

Let’s pause for a little more maths.

  1. Every day has 24 hours.
  2. Let’s say you sleep for 8 of those hours where you are running on your BMR.
  3. That leaves 16 hours for you to burn up more energy.
  4. You spend one of your 16 waking hours at the gym (or running/swimming/whatever) and the other 15 hours doing the rest of life.
  5. That means only 6% of the time is used for exercise activity thermogenesis! For most people living ordinary urban lives, we sit on our butts for most of the other 15 hours! That means for 94% of our waking hours, we are using low levels of energy.

 

Thermogensis

Can you increase the amount of energy you burn in those other 15 hours?

The solution is self-evident! You have to increase the amount of energy you expend in all activities! Be more active and less sedentary! Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy!

In real life…not as easy as it sounds.

Life is busy. You can’t spend 5 hours at the gym every day. You have to go to work. You have to get to work, you have to look after your family. You have to DO life. You may not have time to increase your exercise-related activity, but you can increase the amount of energy you expend in non-exercise related activities?

How do you increase NEAT-ness in your life?

Here are a few suggestions. (some more sensible than others!)

  1. Fidget! Fidgeting wastes heaps of energy! Be careful you don’t annoy too many people though.
  2. Don’t sit when you can stand. If you work in an office, get a standing desk.
  3. Don’t stand still if you can fidget or move from side to side or jiggle around on the spot.
  4. Get your smart gadgets to buzz you if you are sitting still for too long.
  5. Walk to the next office to talk to someone rather than ring or email them.
  6. Ditch the remote control. Tape the remote to the TV, so you have to get up to change channels etc.
  7. Don’t sit in front of the telly and do nothing. If you’re going to watch telly – do something! Lie on the floor & do yoga stretches, get some hand weights or resistance bands and do a few (hundred) biceps curls while you’re bingeing on the newest must-watch show.  Alternate arms with legs and do some squats, lunges, hopping, hula hooping, etc.
  8. Don’t drive when you can walk or cycle. Pick a minimum distance and walk it. For instance, only drive if your destination is more than 3 km away.
  9. If you do have to drive, there are ways to do a sneaky car workout! It might not use much extra energy, but it’s better than nothing!
  10. Carry heavy things. Carry heavy things further.
  11. Park the car further away from the entrance when you go to the shops
  12. Get off the bus a stop earlier.
  13. Do 50 quick squats/lunges/calf raises while you’re brushing your teeth.
  14. Crank up the tunes while you’re doing the housework and dance like no-one is watching. If you’re doing the housework, probably nobody is watching! Check out these tips for exercises while cleaning. (some are a bit intense!)
  15. Play outdoors with your children/spouse/friends
  16. Take active holidays.
  17. Go for a hike rather than the movies.
  18. Choose more active leisure pursuits. Play tennis, not trivia. Go bowling.
  19. Choose a more active job! A labourer is going to use a lot more energy than an accountant!
  20. Wear fewer clothes and live in a colder climate! If you need to keep yourself warm, you’ll expend more energy.

The bottom line is, just move MORE and move more often.


Just for the record, sitting is NOT the new smoking. Research shows that the increase in mortality brought about by an excessively sedentary life is around 10%. The increase in mortality due to smoking is approximately 80%. So while both are bad for you, sitting is healthy compared to smoking!

Source:

Levin J.A. Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis. Nutrition Reviews Vol 26 No 1 pp S82-S97

 

 

 

Eco-hacks – Episode 1: A decent cup of tea.

Today I am launching a  new and possibly short-lived series about eco-hacks for the Sunday Post! Coming up with two extended posts a week is hard! So I am trying to reduce some decision fatigue, ensure my posts are as high a quality as I can, and still post frequently. Quick, themed tidbits are the way to go!

Hence,  the  Eco-hacks Series!  This is the little something I am adding to my daily routine to help reduce my global impact, which is part of my Year of Zero project. Not meant to be earth-shattering news, but, hey, every little bit counts!

Category: Reducing single-use items.

DRUM ROLL PLEASE! I have switched from using single-use tea-bags to loose-leaf tea. The tea leaves themselves are still single-use but the packaging and bag part are now banished.

Benefits of loose leaf tea:

1.  Nicer tea! I have been splashing out and buying some nice Earl Grey tea through A Decent Cup Of Tea. I managed to get a Bodum in cup diffuser from the op shop for $3 and I already had a teapot. So I am actually enjoying the tea more than teabag tea. I also get to use the cute little tea cosy I made. I also like putting the milk in the cup first, which I can with tea leaf tea.

2. Less waste. Even though theoretically the tea bags are compostable, there is still the energy and waste that must go into their manufacture. I dump the used leaves into my worm farm or on the garden. The worms seem to like the tea leaves. I wonder if they are getting a bit high on the caffeine?

 

Eco Hacks: Use Tea posts and diffuers to make a better cup of tea.
My current tea making tools!

Cons of loose leaf tea:

1. It takes more time to make a cup of tea. Not so much a problem at home but at work, yes.  I have taken a small teapot to work and have been brewing a pot of tea in the morning. I also have to toss the leaves in the bin and this gets a bit messy.

2. Not so travel friendly: Tea bags are great to keep in your handbag for when you are visiting people who don’t have Earl Grey tea (my fav).

3. More cost? Marginally. I don’t know exactly how many cups of tea I’m getting out of the 100g packs I am buying so I can not compare accurately.

  • 200 g of tea is lasting me about 3 months. Which pans out to be about $12 a month.
  • 100 tea bags were lasting about a month at $10 – 11 a box.

So there’s not much in it really and not worth worrying about.


SIDE NOTE: There is a great deal of ritual and rule-making around tea making. In my opinion to make a decent cup of tea:

  • The water must be BOILING, like rolling boiling, not just hot.
  • Fresh tea – don’t let it linger in your cupboard for too long
  • You absolutely cannot make a good cup of tea in the microwave so don’t even try! Get a kettle! Or a jug as we call them in Australia.
  • Use glass or ceramic teapots and cups
  • Leave it to brew for at least 3 minutes and use a tea cosy to keep it warm.
  • Milk, if you use it, goes in first.

Stay tuned for more eco-hacks in the coming weeks.

Have you got any favourite eco-hacks you’d like to share? Add them in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

Year of Zero – Half Yearly Review

Time for the half-yearly review already??? It’s hard to believe that I am halfway through my Year of Zero. 2020 has, so far, been a very challenging year for the planet and its peoples.  After fires and floods, we faced disease and now there are riots and civil unrest brought about by racism. What’s next? A second wave? An economic downturn for certain, after that who knows!

When I published my first quarter review back in March, the Coronavirus had just hit Australia and we were entering a period of lock-downs. Now, three months later things are returning to normal, or the new normal some of us are hoping for.

I have not been as focused on my savings goals as I would like to have been these last few months. There have been some legitimate distractions. I haven’t strayed too far, but I do feel like I have lost some traction.

Some of the slide has come about because I was not prepared (or able) to go from place to place to do my grocery shopping. I just wanted to get in and out as quickly as possible which meant reverting to shopping in one place and that one place was Woollies. I had been trying to avoid Woolworths in favour of using smaller more independent outlets.

Despite this lack of focus, I have saved money simply because it was not possible to go anywhere anyway! So here is my self-report in the declared categories for the three months from April – June.

The itemised half-yearly review:

1. No overseas travel

Nope! None! I couldn’t if I had wanted to! Given the current ban on travel, I might not be travelling next year either!

Score: 10/10

2. No extended travel within Australia

Once again, easily achieved! The furthest I have been from my home in the last three months is 90 km into Sydney to drop my Grandson off, 3 times. Otherwise, I have stayed in sunny Wollongong. I was booked to go on a cruise to nowhere to celebrate a friend’s 50th, but I pulled out due to work commitments and then it was cancelled anyway.

Score 10/10

3. No new stuff.

I haven’t done so well in this area. I bought several items which did not fit into the categories I had set myself. (Essential, secondhand and only replacing broken or worn out items)

I bought some brand new items. (GASP!!)

  • Firstly, a plastic bread slicing guide. Apart from the fact that it was a lot more expensive than I thought it would be, it seemed like a reasonable purchase.  I have been doing lots of iso-baking (as has the rest of the world) but I can’t cut bread to save myself. I guess I could have just practised cutting the bread more carefully.
  • I designed a souvenir coffee mug, just for the fun of it.
  • A new book – on reducing kitchen waste
  • I paid for some custom made key rings to use as gifts.
  • And of course, I bought a few NEW things for my Grandson! (eg Lego)
coffee cup
You have to admit that’s pretty funny!

The items that did fit in the restricted category were,

  • A replacement iron after my old one shorted out the electricity. I had to call an electrician but thankfully I was able to re-set it myself after about an hour of unplugging everything and plugging it all back in one item at a time.
  • Some winter clothes to make up for the things I got rid of as part of another massive wardrobe cull.
  • A replacement phone case and screen protector,
  • Expensive socks,
  • A new booster seat for my grandson, he’s outgrown the old one and I need to keep him safe.
  • Fabric to make tea cosies.

Score: 4/10

4. Reduction in Expenditure on Groceries

This is the area that took the biggest hit. Returning to Woolies and the inability to use cash* meant that I did not keep such a tight reign on grocery expenditure. I went over my budget 4 out of 8 fortnights in this time period. On the other hand, for almost a full month, I was living out of my pantry and freezer and only bought a few fresh items. Perhaps with the swings and roundabouts, I broke even.

Score 5/10 

* most retailers were insisting on contactless payments.

5. Side Hustle Happenings

Not much happened here. The photography business, OCE generated no income and no apparent interest. I did sell a few of my postcards and A (single) tea cosy through Etsy but taking into account the cost of materials, I am still running at a loss there. The courses I had scheduled for the local Community College were cancelled. I pitched a few story ideas but had no luck. To be perfectly honest I don’t think this side of things will get off the ground till I am done with the day job.

Score: 5/10

6. Only sign up for free courses

I did for a free TAFE NSW course and completed it in a couple of days. I also signed up for three more courses through Future Learn. I finished 2 of them. One on Disaster Preparation was not relevant to Australian conditions so I didn’t bother completing it. The nutrition course was disappointing as it was quite outdated and I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know. The third course on science writing was good but again not something I hadn’t already covered in a paid course a few years ago.

I did pay for an online gym membership BUT this was because I could not go to the gym. My gym provided a 60-day free trial to Les Mills on Demand, in lieu of access and after this expired, I paid for another 30 days as they were still not open. (They reopened on the 22nd June).  I have actually made a net gain here. ($40 so don’t get too excited!) The online classes were good and I enjoyed them, but being at the actual gym is better.

Score 10/10

7. Sell some of my stuff

Not possible. COVID restrictions meant you could not do this sort of stuff. I did sell one of the kombucha kits to someone at work.

Score: 1/10

8. Concentrate on free activities

This was easy!!! I couldn’t do much else! My trivia buddies and I tried a few virtual quiz nights, but everything else was cancelled. I did splurge on hiring and/or buying movies for the Hugh Grant Film Festival.  In total this was around $60 and I am counting these as experiences.

Score 7/10

9. Rewrite my 60 for 60 goal

My 60 for 60 list is a work in progress. I did do a big jigsaw. That’s one more ‘free’ item ticked off. When I look through the list now, many items seem irrelevant. Perhaps it’s time to admit the list was ill-conceived and start a new one altogether?

Score: 0/10

10. Zero-waste-eco-warrior

No new wins and no losses to report. I am doing OK here. I am continuing to reduce the amount of packaged food I buy and I am making more things from scratch. I have got better at bread making and have abandoned the automated breadmaker for fully hand prepared bread which tastes good! I have found an excellent recipe for focaccia. My freezer is well stocked with baked goods. I have been literally clearing out my fridge before I go shopping again and have only had to toss some food scraps that would not fit in the worm farm. I have switched tea bag tea for loose leaf tea.

My zero-waste kit did not get a work out as I did not eat anywhere that required them. I took lunch to work every day, ate at home every night up until 4 June when I went on my first ‘going out adventure’ to the pub!

Score: 6/10

11. Year of Zero Booze

By the time this is published it will be 184 days since I have had any alcohol. This has become a no effort resolution. I have switched kombucha for herbal tea as the weather has cooled down, and since I have not been out, its been easy to avoid social situations where drinking is the norm. I have genuinely enjoyed a few zero alcohol beers. A friend gave me some zero alcohol wine, which they had bought accidentally. It seems a waste of calories. I’d rather do without.

Score: 10/10 

So once again my total score on the very arbitrary scale is 67%. I didn’t even try to manufacture that! It just happened!

I am on track to make my year-end savings target but only just!  In previous years, travel has been by far my biggest expense and this is where I’ll make my biggest savings.  The remaining items are just tinkering around the edges, but still, with diligence, the savings will add up to few thousand dollars over the year.

Goals for next quarter.

  1. To return to a more focused approach to grocery shopping, once everything is reopened.
  2. Buy NOTHING that does not fit the criteria.
  3. Sell a few items. I have an idea, that may be too challenging, to raise $1000 in a month by selling some “stuff”. I’ll think about it….I will make it an action step and first make an inventory of sell-able items and get them onto the local buy-swap-sell site.
  4. Do the side hustle thing! Really really!
  5. Win the lottery!

 

The Less Waste No Fuss Kitchen – Book Review

As my Year of Zero approaches it’s halfway point, I must confess that I have bought a book! Yes, a brand new one! Not even second hand! It’s a bit of a Catch 22 really. I said I was not going to buy anything new but then this book will help me with one of my other goals, which is to be more of an eco-warrior princess. The book The Less Waste No Fuss Kitchen, by Lindsay Miles was published this month by Hardie Grant. It is a common-sense, no-nonsense guide on how to cut down  or maybe even eliminate kitchen waste. (depending on how warrior-like you choose to be!)

I have been following Lindsay’s blog, Treading My Own Path, for a few months now and I found her advice there very sound and helpful, so thought the book would be a good way to help  keep me on track to achieve my “be less wasteful” goals.

Lindsay approaches the less waste issue with a huge dollop of realism. She is not into naming and shaming. She sets out her philosophy in her introduction:

“ [the] purpose [of this book] is to give you ideas and tools to make changes and feel positive about the things you can do and not guilty about the things you can’t do”.

Less Fuss No WasteThe 223-page softcover book is full of practical ideas. It is divided into five chapters. There are lovely pastel illustrations throughout and plenty of charts and tables to make things easy to understand.

Part 1 gives a recount of our modern industrial food system and why it is no longer sustainable. (If it ever was) Supermarkets are full of abundant and relatively cheap food which is available all year round. Fruits like cherries which were once only available at Christmas time are now shipped in thousands of kilometres from the Northern Hemisphere. Hardly sustainable! While there is a lot of food, our choices are limited to those species ‘selected’ for their high yields, durability and size not unfortunately for their flavour.

The next three chapters look at separate categories where the consumer can take planet-positive actions.

Part 2 looks at how to reduce or remove packaging and plastic, Part 3 introduces carbon-friendly food choices and finally, Part 4 shows how you can reduce your food waste by careful storage, and using as much of your food as possible. This incidentally will save you money as well.

The final section Part 5: Getting started in your (less waste no fuss) kitchen, gives the reader ideas on how to plan meals, how to avoid single-use items and simple recipes for things you can make yourself.

Lindsay does not suggest that you start with an all or nothing approach but rather tackle what you feel most comfortable with first. That may be as simple as remembering to take your own bags to the supermarket or buying from a bulk food store. As you master one thing you can move on to include something a little more robust like reducing your intake of animal foods or buying only plastic-free produce from the farmer’s market.

Lindsay categorises potential actions by ”fuss level” from Fuss Level + to Fuss Level +++.

For instance, if you want to concentrate on reducing plastic packaging, a Fuss + option would be to “Take a stand: pick one grocery item that only comes packaged in plastic and stop buying it altogether.” The Fuss +++ version would be to make the item, like crackers for example, from scratch.

It’s an easy, enjoyable read that I’d recommend dipping in and out of as often as you like. It’s a reference book rather than a novel. Keep it handy in your kitchen. Lindsay’s writing style is unpretentious, friendly and encouraging.

My goal is to make more from scratch and reduce the amount of food I throw out. To this end, I am planning my meals more carefully, sticking to a list and buying what I can in bulk. I’ll definitely be trying out some of Lindsay’s cracker recipes! My biggest stumbling block is reducing the amount of plastic packaging I have, even though I am making a conscious effort to reduce it. It’s everywhere! My next action will be to try a home delivered fruit and vegetable box. This should reduce my packaging a bit.

Go to Lindsay’s website to see where you can order your copy.