Upcycled Gift Tags

Is this an original idea? No. Is it something we maybe need reminding to do? Maybe. Christmas is a wonderful time of year but it is also a time when we all generate a lot of waste unfortunately. Instead of just tossing all those lovely cards and gift bags we receive why not cut them up into pretty tags to use for next year!

Make use of any prints on the front of the gift bag or card such as Merry Christmas or cut out around pictures such presents or snowmen. For gift bags the first thing you need to do is remove the ribbon handles (keep them to use next year too)

Once I cut open my gift bag I ruled up lines on the back. I roughly did them about 2″ x 2.5″ and cut them out. If you have a cutting tool such as guillotine this would be super easy to slice them up but I did mine by hand. Some are a little wonky but that’s ok no one is going to complain! You could cut them into any shape or even use craft cutting machine such as Sizzix Big Shot but it would generate a little more waste around each shape.

Don’t just use the fronts/backs of gift bags. Make use of the folds in the sides of gift bags. Once the bag is cut open you can easily fold the card the other way to make tiny Christmas cards. I again cut them roughly 2″ tall. These would be super cute to add to any gift

This idea isn’t just for Christmas you can use this idea any time you get a card or gift bag. I will confess this isn’t a zero waste project as some parts needed to go in the recycling bin as I cut them out. Some had marks on the reverse side of the cardboard and others were jagged edges from when I cut the bag open along the folds. Compared to just tossing the bag in the bin the waste was minimal. I was just thinking this year I was running low on tags for my presents but now I don’t have to go out and buy more which saves money and I have reduced waste. I’m keeping my cards in an old ice cream container which I will label so I know exactly where they are for next year.

Merry Christmas

Latte Mix

Are you a tea drinker or coffee drinker? For years I was always team tea drinker with the occasional coffee if I was out. I never liked instant coffee.

In 2019 I had a regular coffee catch up with a friend several mornings a week but it started to cost a fortune as Starbucks was our go to place. On my non Starbucks days still wanting a coffee hit I started drinking instant coffee sachets. I had a box of sachets at both home and work and would drink up to 3 a day. Although not as costly as a brought coffee the cost still added up. More importantly I noticed the amount of packaging waste involved. The box they came in could be recycled but the sachet didn’t say it could be recycled but even if it could when you are throwing out 3 a day that soon mounts ups. Another thing of concern was the ingredients in each sachet. Each sachet had about 13 items listed as ingredients! It is only instant coffee why the need for 13 things in it.

Looking online I wanted to find a MOO (Make Our Own) Latte mix. There are heaps of recipes out there but most of the latte recipes involved adding in instant pudding mix to give that creamy texture. I don’t want to be drinking instant pudding I just want a coffee hit. I decided to make up my own mix and this is what I came up with.

Latte Mix makes 1 batch

  • 2 cups milk powder
  • 1/2 cup instant coffee granules
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar

Put all ingredients in a food processor to blitz up. To ensure an even mix I put in 1 cup of milk powder then add in the coffee and icing sugar followed by the remaining cup of milk powder. Blitz until all a fine powder forms.
Use one heaped teaspoon per cup. Place mix in cup and pour over small amount of hot water stirring to dissolve the mix then top up with water to fill the cup.

My version isn’t thick like the regular mixes as it doesn’t contain any ingredients that would make that thick texture but it is nice. Although it contains icing sugar it isn’t sweet. You could increase the amount of coffee granules if you wanted a stronger coffee mix. As a bit of luxury I use Moccona coffee. I buy a large jar when it is on special and it lasts months as you are only using 1/2 cup per batch.

I have been making my own mix for over 12 months now. I make a double batch each time and it lasts for weeks. I have a container of it at home as well as work. I bring my work container home and refill it from my home stash. These days at work I have become lazy and don’t even use a stirrer to dissolve it, I just put it in my keep cup and swish it around until the coffee granules dissolve before topping it up, this saves having to wash up a stirrer each day (I was using a plastic chop stick) The latte recipe is on our fridge and Mr StitchNSew makes me up a batch whenever he sees my stash is low. 

I no longer have my coffee catch ups and in fact have gone off Starbucks coffee having the rare one now and then. The coffee sachets haven’t completely banished from our house. Mr StitchNSew enjoys the cappuccino sachets but doesn’t have as many as I was having. He did notice in recent weeks that they have reduced the sachets down by 2g per serve but the price still remains the same. He can’t work and is home all day so if he is enjoying it I’m not going to take that away from him. I’m enjoying my coffee mix at work and home when I need a coffee hit.


The Less Waste No Fuss Kitchen

Last year I mentioned I was still struggling with the mindset that I need a treat at times when I was at the shops. With the move last year to the new place and now paying a mortgage I don’t have the discretionary income that I used to have. In the post I mentioned a book that I saw but didn’t buy as I was trying to be good and not waste money on things that I didn’t really need. Being honest I even wrote I didn’t need a book on how to tell me what I was already doing. Well that book was meant to come into my life and through a giveaway by the Rogue Ginger I won a copy of it.

I guess the saying not to judge a book by its cover is true. The book isn’t just saying don’t throw out food. It discusses topics you may not even think to consider such as the carbon footprint different foods have. Choices you can make about the way you store your food. It gives practical ways to use up leftover food items or adapt recipes to use what you have on hand. It discusses ways you can prolong the life of the food that you have and ways to dispose of kitchen waste that you do have. It doesn’t preach to you “This is what you have to do or what you need in your kitchen otherwise your not going to have a sustainable kitchen and waste food” It gives you ideas and opens up and your mind to make you think of things you can try.

I got this book towards the end of last year. I read it at the time and to be honest I need to sit down and read it again. Full confession in recent months I have been known to be wasteful with food at times. Leftovers that should’ve been used up get forgotten or I buy too much of things. I need to read this book and look at what I’m doing. Take stock of what is in the fridge and freezer and start planning meals around that instead of just taking the quick fix option making the quickest thing I can think of making for dinner. Look at the amount that I’m buying or the portion size so food will be fully used up. Learn realistically how long it takes me to use up an item so I don’t buy excess of it which is then spoilt by the time I go to use it.

Often I read a book and pass it on but this book is staying in my collection. I think I treasure it more because it was meant to come into my life so there must be a reason. It must be here to help me and sometimes I need a bit of help.


Conundrum – Price v Usage v Packaging

Originally this week I was planning on posting about one of my sewing makes until on Sunday whilst grocery shopping we were faced with a conundrum which got me thinking.

Trying to be more healthy Mr StitchNSew is making regular salads, we are fussy eaters (no lettuce, carrots, celery) so we are slightly limited as to what can be put in our salads. Capsicum shopping has been easy in the past, I would just grab one small one as we are not big eaters and that was it. Trying to add more variety Mr StitchNSew decided to get different types of capsicum. The individual capsicums were each different prices per kilo due to the different coloured varieties, the 3 pack was different price all together. The capsicums themselves were all larger than we would normally pick too. We found maybe 1 or 2 that were our size but even then they were bigger than we really wanted. It was actually difficult to decide which ones to get. We are trying to avoid plastic packaging but we didn’t want to buy more than what we needed as we would end up wasting it. I didn’t quite get to the stage of adding up the individual prices per kilo and dividing by 3 to work out if the combined pack was cheaper per kilo (given a few more minutes I’m sure I would have) In the end we went the 3 pack as they were the size we wanted.

Sometimes it really hard to decided between options when you have to consider the price v usage v packaging. We are frugal but I don’t mind if I have to pay a bit more for something I know we are going to use. Shamefully putting our hand up to say “Yes we do sometimes toss out food items due to not using them in time” We are being more conscious of it now and are trying to avoid it buy using things up or not buying more than we will use in the time frame. We don’t have access to a greengrocer where we live to buy fresh produce. The farmers market I used to visit has been shut due to Covid, I’m hoping it comes back in the post Covid era. We try and buy unpackaged items but our choices are limited as to what is in the supermarket. We are trying to reduce our packaging but sometimes it’s unavoidable if our only other option is to buy more than we need which will end up as waste. I guess our order of choice is

  1. Size – Pick the size will we actually use
  2. Packaging – Is it avoidable / can it be recycled
  3. Price – Is it the cheapest option in the size we will use

At the supermarket we take our own shopping bags to carry items home. We don’t own a car so get a weekly grocery delivery from the supermarket for our main grocery items. Due to Covid we no longer have the option of getting our order bag less so it arrives in plastic bags. Our supermarket has a soft plastic recycling program. We regularly take in our soft plastics and always have a bag on the go to collect them.

The overall important thing is we are now more mindful in our shopping choices and try to pick the one which will create less waste.


Try Before You Buy – Pie Maker

A pie maker is a kitchen appliance I had heard about years ago (I think I may of even brought my brother in law one for Christmas nearly 20 years ago) I had never brought one as Mr StitchNSew always just made pies at home or got the frozen ones in the shops. I didn’t want another kitchen appliance that wouldn’t get used so that is why I never got one. I was talking to a work colleague who offered to lend us hers whilst I was on holidays in September.


The pie maker comes with a recipe book but I decided to look online as well. I didn’t know but there seems to be an entire online Facebook community addicted to pie makers! One thing I quickly learnt is that a pie maker isn’t just for meat pies. You can deserts, cakes and other savoury food in them. Basically if you can cook it in an oven or in a small pan you can cook it in a pie maker. Mr StitchNSew played around with making pies but I tried other receipes. The first was eggs. They were really easy to do only taking a couple of minutes.┬áThe next item I tried was scotch eggs. If you’re not familiar with them its a boiled egg wrapped in raw mince then rolled in breadcrumbs. You normally cooked them in a frying pan or the oven. I never make these. Again these only took minutes in the pie maker. I was pretty happy with them and they tasted delicious.

After trying it out we’ve decided to get one. As with many things 2020 is not the time to buy one as they are all out of stock at the shops (it seems many people are getting into pie makers this year with all the extra time at home) We have waited this long without one it won’t hurt us to be without one until the shops get them in again. Knowing that you can make more than just pies in them is a big draw card for us. Also Mr StitchNSew has admitted now he isn’t able to do the day long pie making that he used to do as well. The pie maker is easier and less bending for him as it’s on the bench top and not in the oven. It was good to try the appliance out before just going and purchasing one.


Balcony Addition – Chairs

I never thought I would be excited over garden chairs let alone write a blog post about them but here goes.

We have lovely little balcony which is about 10 metres square in a nice rectangle shape. Aside from having an outdoor table, a storage unit and the washing airer we haven’t really utilised it that much due to the fact there wasn’t anywhere to sit. We did put an old foot stool out there but since Mr StitchNSew’s surgery he hasn’t been able to use it as it is too low to the ground. I decided we needed a pair of chairs. We had 2 options – get cheaper plastic chairs or invest in some quality aluminum chairs. Plastic chairs are great but they can be really flimsy and over time the plastic can get powdery. At our local Bunnings (hardware chain store in Australia) I found some chairs which were the same brand as our table so they kind of matched. They are aluminum with a nylon mesh seat and back which does have some padding in both. They aren’t too low to sit on and the back doesn’t lean too far back like some other chairs that were for sale at the shop.

I love our new chairs. They are so comfortable. They have changed how much we use the balcony. Admittedly I’m on holidays at the moment so I am home more but we got these a couple of weeks before my holidays started and we started using them from the day they arrived. We’ve sat at the table and eaten breakfast. I take my knitting and hand sewing out there and can do it comfortably. We live across from a busy health precinct, near the intersection of 2 main roads as well as 2 construction sites but we are still able to sit and relax out on the balcony. Both Mr StitchNSew and I are people watches so we watch the cars, trucks, buses, ambulances, helicopters go by. We watch the birds in the reserve that is below our balcony. Mr StitchNSew has set up a pot plant garden. Last week I was in a total knitting trance and didn’t even notice the fog roll in as I was sitting out there. I was relaxed and I was knitting. I don’t always find it easy to relax and I can only put it down to that I was sitting comfortably focused on my knitting.

The chairs we got weren’t the cheapest option but we invested in quality and comfort. The way we are now using the balcony they have paid for themselves already.