Using up herbs – part 1: blending herbs

Before I started harvesting herbs this year I had already run out of space to store them so I took advantage of a spare afternoon and decided to go through some of my older herbs. I don’t worry too much about adhering to storage dates. It’s more important for me to consider how herbs are stored. I try to keep mine in glass jars in a cupboard. If they have lost colour and scent they are probably less effective. I would certainly never use dusty or mouldy herbs.

I decided that some of the older herbs would be fine for general use teas. I made up four teas and one general purpose herb mix for cooking. I’ll list the ingredients at the end but for reference purposes only as these were intended to use up what I had and provide me with free beverages rather than to treat any specific conditions. The quantities were variable depending upon how much was left in the jar and whether larger quantities would be too overpowering. The blander and abundant herbs like nettles tended to be the main ingredients.

All blends got put through my mini chopper until they were a uniform size. I use a tea ball at work (similar to the picture above) and if the pieces are too big it won’t shut properly so the contents escape through the middle; too powdery and it escapes through the fine holes.

All the blends have been OK but nothing exceptional. I had a really good night’s sleep after the stressbuster tea and the goddess tea was probably the most pleasant to drink.

Hopefully I will be following up the using up theme over the next couple of weeks.

Blend #1: Cleansing tea

  • Cleavers
  • Nettles
  • Dandelion
  • Red clover flowers
  • Ginger
  • Calendula flowers
  • Golden rod
  • Ground elder
  • Peppermint
  • Corn silk

Blend #2: Goddess tea

  • Lady’s mantle
  • Rose
  • Motherwort
  • Sage
  • Red clover
  • Nettle
  • Fennel seeds
  • Hops
  • Hibiscus

Blend#3: Winter health tea

  • Elderberry
  • Elderflower
  • Ginger
  • Calendula
  • Nettle
  • Rosemary
  • Peppermint
  • Sage
  • Ground ivy
  • Marshmallow

Blend #4: Stress busting tea

  • Chamomile
  • Lemon balm
  • Vervain
  • Rose
  • Nettle
  • Catnip
  • Betony
  • Orange peel
  • Hibiscus

Blend #5: General pot herb blend

  • Nettle
  • Dill weed
  • Coriander leaf
  • Shepherd’s purse
  • Hyssop
  • Lovage
  • Cajun spice blend
  • Coriander seeds
  • Basil
  • Fennel seeds
  • Marjoram
  • Yarrow
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Homemade supplements

In the past I have spent a lot of money on nutritional supplements such as green powders and multi-vitamins.

I am currently working on building up a selection of vitamin and mineral supplements as well as improving my intake through my diet.

Vinegars

One easy hit is to take herbal vinegars in hot water as an alternative hot drink. I find this works well and I am currently taking a combination of lemon balm, nettle, mint, dandelion and horsetail in cider vinegar with a drop of honey. I pop a generous splash in a mug of hot water. It’s a pleasant alternative to tea or coffee although this particular blend is quite astringent.

Powders

As I am new to dehydrating I am intending on creating a range of herbal powders which I will try blending together. These can be added to soups, stews, smoothies and juices to provide additional flavours as well as vitamins and minerals. I have been powdering fruit and veg peelings along with some greens. As soon as the opportunity arises I will be collecting and dehydrating dandelions, nettles, cleavers, ground elder, chickweed and plantain. I’ve found in the past that some herbs including cleavers do not dry at all well yet they are available for purchase in a dried form. This year will be a big experiment on whether they can be preserved better in the dehydrator. I will also be looking at dehydrating more veg including pulp from juicing.

Teas

Some vitamin and mineral benefits may also be obtained through herbal teas. I will be making some experimental tea blends over the next few months.

Vitamins & minerals present in the herbs mentioned above.

N. B. More vitamins and minerals may be present. Where B vitamins are mentioned there will be at least one but not necessarily all present.

Dandelion:

Vitamins: A, B, C, E, K

Minerals: Iron, Calcium, Manganese, Potassium, Phosphorus, Copper, Magnesium.

Lemon Balm:

Vitamins: B, K

Minerals: Copper, Manganese, Magnesium, Zinc

Horsetail:

Vitamins: B

Minerals: Calcium, Zinc, Silicon

Nettle:

Vitamins: A, B, C

Minerals: Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Potassium

Mint:

Vitamins: A, C

Minerals: Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium, Phosphorus, Iron

Cleavers:

Vitamins: B, C, E

Minerals: Calcium, Sodium, Iodine, Copper

Ground elder:

Vitamins: A, C, E

Minerals: Iron, Calcium, Magnesium

Chickweed:

Vitamins: A, B, C

Minerals: Calcium, Magnesium, Manganese, Zinc, Iron, Phosphorus, Potassium

Plantain:

Vitamins: A, C

Minerals: Sodium, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Copper, Zinc, Manganese, Phosphorus

Disclaimer

I am not a nutritionalist, scientist, herbalist or doctor.

The presence of vitamins and minerals is based on third party information which has not necessarily been verified scientifically.

The information collected has been gathered solely for my own purposes.

Some vitamins and minerals can be harmful if taken in excess or for certain conditions including pregnancy. Quantities present will vary according to preparation methods.

Please seek advice from a qualified herbalist or doctor before preparing your own supplements.

Organising and letting go of “useful” items

When you are a frugal crafter with hoarding tendencies you eventually reach a point when your hoard prevents you from crafting because you cannot access items or have no idea where anything is. Luckily my house is not yet as bad as this picture.

A lot of the items taking over my house would be instantly binned by most “normal” people I know. Some of these items include:

  • Boxes/bubble wrap/jiffy bags
  • Buttons/zips/ribbons/old clothes that might come in useful for craft projects.
  • Card/coloured files/sequins/beads/broken jewellery for sewing or paper crafts
  • Glass jars/bottles/unmarked plastic pots for herbs/oils/cordials/salves/tinctures/homebrew
  • Old paperwork
  • Old herbs and herbs stems
  • Tissue paper for wrapping or pattern making
  • Bags – paper and plastic
  • Old greeting cards and sentimental items
  • Old wrapping paper/gift bags/bows

The biggest problem I have is that these items are not organised so any one of 20 or so boxes of miscellaneous unsorted items in the loft could contain a mixture of these items.

What I am working on is creating a home for these items and setting a limit so that I don’t become overwhelmed.

I’ve recently been through a load of boxes and bags and extracted out all packaging, gift wraps and paper bags. I have a large plastic box and they all have to fit in there. The box will be stored in the office for easy access. I have a friend with an ebay business who needs a wide range packaging materials so I now keep a bag to put in items I will never use but hate to throw like polystyrene chips or small boxes and periodically I take it round to her house.

I’ve set up crates in the garage for glass jars and bottles and when I reach the limit I have to stop and recycle instead. I also know of someone who makes preserves is always on the look out for small jars so I can always donate some to her.

I’m planning on making all handmade cards this year and am currently working on setting up a card making kit containing glue, scissors, card, paper, paint, glitter, stamps etc so I can easily work on a few cards in a evening. At present these items are scattered all over the house. Hopefully card making will help to reduce the stash.

Herb stems and old paperwork are being slowly used for fire starting (I’m not an arsonist, I have a garden incinerator and a chimnea).

I now just need to work on the sewing items which is probably the equivalent of four or five bin liners full scattered across numerous boxes and bags in the house.

My ten top tips

  • Research recycling in your area
  • Create a home for items that are currently homeless
  • Once you have created a home tidy things away
  • Decide what your limits are going to be for each type of item
  • Store items next to other similar items so you don’t have to go to five locations to complete one project
  • Make friends with people who need your surplus items
  • Find out if any charities are collecting your items
  • See if you your items are selling on ebay. If you see a value in something other people might too
  • When you have decided upon a craft project assemble all the items you need then find a suitable container to house them in until the project is completed. You will be more inclined to spend odd spare time on the project if you don’t have to go hunting for bits

Time management with lists

Creating a weekly to-do list

I’ve started experimenting with my to-do list/diary.

At the end of each week I print off a copy of the following week from Outlook. It shows work and personal appointments. I also have print outs of months to a page.

I review my master to do list and realistically decide what will be achieved that week. I then draw a line across. On the top half I add tasks for a specific day and on the bottom half I add the weekly tasks.

Anything that crops up outside of week I can note on the relevant page and then tick off when I have added it to Outlook.

I use the back of the calendar to note things like shopping lists.

Categories

I have coloured pencils which I used to shade in categories which vary from week to week. This week I have a category for needing daylight so I know what I need to do at the weekend. There might be a colour for kitchen or one for online. These categories help me be more efficient. I make a little key up at the bottom of the page.

Allocating time

I then take different coloured pencils and draw outline boxes around the task according to how long I think the task will take e.g. <5 min, <15min, <30min, <60min, <4 hours.

I then add up all the time I have allocated and divide by 7 to give an appropriate guide for each day. If there’s more than 3-4 hours a day, there’s a good chance not all of the tasks will be achieved so I need to decide what is going to be the lowest priority.

Breaking down tasks

Any of the big tasks e.g. 1 or more hours I look to see if I would be more motivated to break the task into smaller chunks and space across the week. Typical things I often put off are boring tasks such as ironing or filling. I only ever seem motivated to do ironing when I am avoiding even worse tasks. I tell myself just iron 5 items a day. Why five? I’ve tried lots of numbers and five seems to be roughly my boredom threshold.

Using the lists

I like to mix things up so I alternate things. One day I might decide to focus on tasks of the same colour category, the next day I might create a little cycle e.g.

  1. A 30min task,
  2. A small chunk of a big task
  3. A 15 min task,
  4. A small chunk of a different big task
  5. A five minute task

I then repeat the cycle until I’ve either completed one of the big tasks or I’m bored.

I’m the sort of person that feels satisfied by crossing off lists so the smaller I can break down a task the more I get to cross off. It is also easier to persuade myself to do six five minute tasks than one 30 minute task.

I also add absolutely everything onto the list because I am more likely to do it if it’s on my list, partly because I get to cross it off and partly because I am so focused on the list I forget to do anything that isn’t on it. Sometimes I even add a reward onto the list.

It has to be said that I enjoy creating pretty lists a lot more than I enjoy doing the actual tasks, but the buzz I get from shading out the boxes when a task has been completed is immense. I colour it in black in so by the end of the week if I can only see black and white on the page I am happy.

Snow start to February

Snow

The last few days have been cold and brought snow. It doesn’t feel like the coming of spring, but according to legend bad weather on February 1st means that spring will be soon. This is because of the legend of the gaelic goddess the Cailleach who determines when winter will end. If winter is going to drag on, she needs to gather firewood on February 1st so makes the weather fair. If the weather is foul she doesn’t need any more wood so stays asleep. Hopefully the snow will mean spring will come soon.

This should have been a time for celebration and making plans for the future. Unfortunately I’ve been wiped out for the last couple of days and struggled to find enthusiasm and motivation. I stayed in for a few days had plenty of rest, a herbal cordial for lung complaints (which included mullein, elecampane, rosehips, thyme, ginger, plaintain and cinnamon) and lots of oranges. The result is that I seem to be on the mend and I haven’t ended up with a chest infection, which is a huge bonus for an asthmatic.

I had been sort of experimenting with some bullet journal ideas to challenge myself for the month. Some of which included recording my steps each day. I have done less steps since the start of February than I would do on a normal day, but now I’m starting to feel better I’ll be able to resume my lunchtime walks. Despite the slow start I am beginning to feel focused again.

Progress

Today I did have a result, I wasn’t up for a brisk walk so I wandered into a few shops including a charity shop which gives books away for free. Even though a free book would have been allowed on a no spend challenge, I didn’t feel like I wanted to take a book and add to my cluttered bookshelves at home. Next I wandered into The Works knowing that I have a £1.85 voucher to use before March, again there was nothing I particularly wanted so I left empty handed. Normally I would have bought some craft items but I didn’t want anything.

I really am starting to feel liberated by not spending anything. Life is less complicated. For a hoarder like me every purchase means there’s likely to be an item that ends up lying around because there isn’t any room for it to be stored in. I also struggle to use the bin so items like receipts and packaging get hoarded and add to clutter until I can get around to reusing, recycling or burning. I used to bring food packaging home from work to recycle. Now my bag is not full of clutter each day.

This feeling is something I want to try and hold on to so that if I start to struggle I can remember how good it feels to be liberated.

Five Frugal Ideas

Over the last month I have been trying out some new frugal habits. Here are five of my top things (in no particular order) that are pretty new habits to me and are definite keepers for my new frugal lifestyle.

1. Strict Budgeting

Whilst the concept of budgeting is not new to me – I’ve always set aside money into a separate account to cover bills, I’ve never really focused on what I am spending the remainder of my income on. This last month has made me realise just how much money I have been wasting on unnecessary items.

2. Saving fat and bones

Yes I have been saving fat from meals and using it for things like frying, roasties and Yorkshires. I’ve always saved bones from roast chickens but now I’m saving smaller quantities and adding it to a bag in the freezer for stock making.

3. Saving all bags

Before this month I only used to save carrier bags or paper bags for reuse, but now I am saving all sorts of food bags too such as the ones from rice, bread and apples. I try and fill these up with rubbish first before going onto carriers bags or proper bin bags.

4. Dehydrated peel powders

I have reduced my food waste considerably by using my dehydrator to make powders from the peel that would normally be thrown away. I’ve made orange peel powder and flakes for use as a flavouring and teas. I’ve also started dehydrating veg peelings to add to soups and stews etc. It is possible to save peelings in the freezer for stock making, but I never have enough room so dehydrating is the way forward.

5. Citrus vinegar for cleaning

I love the citrus peel vinegar, it’s a better cleaner than commercial cleaners, it smells pleasant and doesn’t upset my asthma. I’m a definite convert.

Just Survive January

Winter blues

I always find it a real struggle to keep going in January. I am permanently tired and when the alarm goes off I just keep snoozing it. I’ve also been hit by one of those annoying viruses where you aren’t ill enough to be off sick, but it wipes you out. This particular one has affected my hearing.

Having said that I am proud that I have almost made it to the end of the month without slipping into any of my bad spending habits. I am still well within the budgets and have achieved a surprising amount of things.

What I am pleased with

  • Digging part of the allotment
  • Using the dehydrator to make powders and actually using them in foods
  • Entertaining friends using what was in the house and less than £10 on mixers and snacks
  • Creating some nice soups and slow-cooker meals
  • Sticking to the food I’ve taken to work and not purchasing snacks
  • Being a bit more sociable
  • Getting a couple of minor home repairs done
  • Giving away a couple of small items
  • Going for lots of lunchtime walks
  • Just surviving without going off sick or breaking my resolutions

I’ve decided that February is going to be find it and file it February. This means that I am going to try and get on top of my paper work, my planned projects and find some motivation and energy.

My one major project that I want completed by the end of February is that the paper clutter is no more. The boxes in my bedroom currently full of crap will be empty and moved so that I can try and keep on top of things for the rest of the year.

Other plans for the month are to

  • Dig over the rest of the allotment
  • Make up some herbal teas for work
  • Harvest some “weeds”
  • Create a list of cards and presents I will need to send this year and work out what can be hand made
  • Blog more
  • Replace a zip in a dress that has needed doing
  • Spend less time on Facebook and Pinterest
  • Start on one present or card

It will just start with picking up one piece of paper and dealing with it.