Where growing, making & good living come together

How can you tell when something is good quality?

Posted by on Thursday 26 August 2010 in bad buys, frugal, green | 0 comments

This is another cross-post between The Really Good Life and my recycling blog, How Can I Recycle This?

The first stage of the recycling triangle is Reduce – reduce the amount of things you buy/use and buy items that’ll last and can be repaired rather than ones that need replacing frequently. A key rule of frugal living is similar: don’t pay twice for something – a more expensive quality item might last two-three-four-times longer than the cheaper alternative.

But how can you tell when something is good quality – that it’s worth the extra money and it’ll last?

Back in the day, it used to be all about price – better quality items made with better quality materials cost more. But the rise of all powerful brands put an end to that. Now poor quality items made from poor quality materials command a huge price if they’ve got the right logo on them. And once respected brands have lowered their quality, or spun off lower quality ranges, without dropping their prices, hoping we won’t notice the difference. I’ve used a picture of clothes because the fashion mark-up is really obvious with them, but it’s an issue across the board: clothes, food, homewares, tools, electronics, cars, cleaning products…

Whenever we’re making major purchases, we look up reviews online/tap the expertise of friends on Twitter to ask their opinions but people have a habit of suggesting the thing they have/use rather than the best thing: partly because it’s often all they have experience of and partly because the more people who join them helps justify it’s their decision. Most people I know have their own area of expertise – for example, I know a lot of geeks and they know from painful experience what computers should be bought and what should be avoided like the plague – but outside their area of knowledge, they’re at a bit of a loss.

So how do you tell what’s good and what isn’t? What cues tell you when something is worth the extra money? And when it definitely isn’t?

Do you have a particular area of expertise? If so, tell us all about it!

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Getting ready for winter: insulating jobs to-do list

Posted by on Tuesday 24 August 2010 in frugal, green | 0 comments

We moved into our new house at the very end of September last year. The first weekend after we moved in there were gales which felt like they were blowing through the house and then we had the coldest winter in a long time — we very quickly learned how poor the insulation/draught-proofing was here and realised in hindsight how snug our last (considerably smaller) house had been!

I pledged to spend the spring/summer months completing small insulating tasks to get the house ready for winter this year – to save wasting energy and therefore money — but here it is near the end of August and I’ve hardly started, so I think it’s time for a to-do list which will hold me accountable for my actions!

  • Check/fix the rubber seals around all the external doors Most of it is there but some of it has fallen off. I’ll restick it into position. As we have a lot of external doors, this should cut down a lot of draughts.
    • Find out what glue will be needed
    • Buy glue if necessary
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Fixing runny/solid jam and reusing marrow & squash leaves

Posted by on Friday 20 August 2010 in green | 0 comments

Just a quick heads up that over on Recycle This, we’ve had a few relevant posts this week.

Yesterday, I asked how to fix jam that was too runny or too solid – and lots of other jam related reuse/recycle questions.

And today I’m asking about reuses for marrow & squash leaves, other than just heave-hoing them into the compost. They’re so giant and tough that they seem like they might have other uses… we’ll see what people suggest.

If you’ve got any answers to either question, head over to Recycle This and tell us all about it :)

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Bread baking – making efficient use of the oven

Posted by on Thursday 5 August 2010 in cooking, frugal, green | 0 comments

Following on from yesterday’s post about my love affair with slow rise/no knead bread, I’ve asked a question on Recycle This today about how to make better use of the oven while baking.

It uses a fair bit of energy (and therefore money) so I want to make sure the process is as efficient as possible.

If you’ve got any suggestions, go post a comment over there!

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Making our pets zero waste: the dog

Posted by on Friday 23 July 2010 in frugal, green, zero waste | 4 comments

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about drying ox heart and other offal to make dog treats for our springer spaniel, Lily.

We adopted Lily from the Dogs Trust in March and she very quickly made herself a core member of the household – and here, that means being green and frugal :)


As first time dog owners, we accepted the Dogs Trust’s recommendation of a certain type of dry food, with water – or whey or gravy, when they were available. Following feeding advice online, I tried feeding her veggies too – mixing them in with her food or giving them to her like a treat – she politely took them, because she’s a very polite well-mannered dog, but then gently dropped them to the floor and gave me a look. If you have animals/children/beloveds who you regularly try to deceive and betray by handing them a carrot when they expect beef, you know that look.

So, anyway, her food is very low waste: the dry food comes in giant paper sacks = recyclable. And because it’s biscuits, they don’t go off like meat does, so there is no food waste.

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