February has been a much busier month than I expected. Firstly it was my birthday, which was relatively low key this year, because I finally got to see Hamilton the day after (having booked the tickets well over a year ago). Two people close to me both gave birth to their first children, so I’ve been getting baby updates, and my friend is dog-sitting so not only are there regular pics from her, but I got to have a birthday lunch with Misha the dog.
I’ve been pretty terrible at blogging recently, and of all the blogs this is the one left to the bottom of the pile. But I wanted to start trying to blog more here, do more of a diary style update, pulling together some thoughts on films, books, theatre and such. I saw a weekly round up work well on another blog, so thought I’d give it a go.
I can’t believe it’s the official end of the Live Lagom project with Ikea. I haven’t written about it nearly as much as I’d have liked, but I’ve been busy enjoying the journey – and hoping that a lot of the lessons learnt will continue on.
Back when I was setting my New Year’s Resolutions, and looking for one that would encourage my sustainability, I knew that for me it would be a case of small differences, so I settled on two areas: cook more, thereby being responsible for, and reducing, my food and packaging waste; and continue to make sure my flat was comfy and cosy, without using energy unnecessarily.
So how did I do?
I really thought running an award-winning food blog that focuses on dining out, I would really struggle, but I was pleasantly surprised how much of a rhythm I got into with it. Any excuse for stationery is a good thing in my eyes and I started meal planning, initially a week in advance, but then I moved to a monthly plan – mainly because I was convinced I kept eating the same thing!
I thought I’d hate the predictability of pre-prepared lunch, but I continued to enjoy them and will keep up with it after the project. I bargained with myself that I needed ten home-prepared meals a Monday through Friday. A typical turkey meatball lunch worked out to be about £1 per meal, compared to the previous £3 meal deal. Breakfasts were a mix of toast or porridge, still working out to be about £1 compared to nearly £4 for a coffee and pastry – saving about £20 a week.
In terms of the comfy, cosy flat without using unnecessary energy had the biggest surprise around mid-point day when my energy bill dramatically dropped from £78 to £5 – hard to believe I know! The original cost was likely calculated based on the previous occupants of the flat and I do expect it to go up after the surplus has been depleted, but the energy company is suggesting it’ll be about £25 a month, which is still a monthly saving of £53.
It’s only an estimate, but if my maths is correct that’s a yearly saving of around £1,500!
During the project there’s been a LiveLagom Facebook group of other people who are also involved in the project with other Ikea’s up and down the country. It has been a wealth of ideas, inspiration and mainly enthusiasm. There has also been a couple of meet ups at Ikea and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about everyone else’s journey.
My main plan is to carry on doing what I’m doing. I’d also like to start cooking more vegan meals because it seems meat-free meals are better for the environment and I don’t get on too well with dairy. I also want to get better at writing shopping lists and sticking to them! And now that the evenings are lighter I want to take advantage of it and walk home from work more.
I want to say a massive thank you to Ikea for asking me to be part of this journey, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the challenge, not only the saving money but also the lessons learnt and interactive with a vibrant and passionate community.
Years ago, I got involved in one of those workplace campaigns to see which department did the most steps and it mainly involved wearing an annoying little pedometer. As someone who doesn’t drive and co-ordinates events on a fairly regular basis, I was pretty interested to work out how many steps I do – both on event days and not.
It feels like there’s been a bit of an explosion in wearable tech, particularly in trackers measuring steps and sleep, as well as others doing things a bit snazzier (like heart rate). And I love a good graph with data, so at the end of January, I decided it was time to get myself and a friend recommended the Jawbone UP2.
Wearing my Jawbone
I did a little research and the web seemed pretty convinced that for the price the Jawbone UP2 was a pretty good deal. I wasn’t sold on the strap, which looked a bit fiddly, although I didn’t get it caught nearly as much as some of the reviewers suggested. Also, is it just me or does most wearable tech just look a bit ugly? The Jawbone is less blocky than some other popular wearables, but still isn’t the nicest thing; I’m hoping as their popularity increases, manufacturers will more inclined to make something less functional and something more appealing.
The Jawbone Up2 lasted a week, if not a little longer – which I think tended to be on weeks when I didn’t sync with the app as much. To me this is a major bonus as I could charge the Jawbone once a week on a Sunday whilst watching Netflix and not feel bad for not moving. The USB charging cable wasn’t my favourite; it’s small, wasn’t overly helpful if charging from a desktop and the magnetic element is helpful, but you have to remember to get it the right way round – thankfully the flashing lights tell you if it’s charging.
Sing me to Sleep
As someone that has suffered from sleep problems for over a decade, the sleep tracker was something I was really interested in. I’ve previously tried one of those apps where you leave your phone under your pillow so the tooth fairy can leave you a graph to tell you how well (or not) you slept – and frankly I found it a bit crap.
After three months of using the Jawbone UP2’s I was impressed by how well it seemed to pick up on my sleep habits; on mornings I’d woken up feeling like I’d had a rubbish night’s sleep, the Jawbone seemed to agree. And as someone who fidgets a lot, even asleep, the Jawbone did a good job of recognising what was me moving around during my 40 winks and what was me being awake. It also did a fairly good job of knowing when I woke up, hit the snooze button and went back to sleep for a few more minutes. It also does this automatically, so there’s no need to tell it when you’re going to bed and worrying how long it’ll take you to fall asleep, which I thought was a major bonus.
There’s a lot out about how accurate wearable tech is, given that most rely on a accelerometer, and frankly those guys did more research and testing than I’d done – the most I did was try and see what my iPhone and Jawbone UP2 thought about the steps and I don’t know enough to know which was more likely. But it seemed fairly alright as a general guide.
The UP2 app also allows you to track bursts of activity – and is responsive enough that it will often prompt you to do so if it thinks you’ve been doing something energetic. Apparently if I’m on a bit of a mission, my Saturday morning power walks to the bakery would count. As there’s no heart rate monitor it asks you to decide the intensity of the exercise, which I struggled a bit with, as there’s no guide so deciding whether a hilly hike is harder work than a faster walk is up to you.
I Get By With A Little Help
In hind sight I should probably have looked at using the tracker to monitor my longer walks, but some of the reviews I’d read suggested that they weren’t too keen on if you stopped – although I didn’t find this on my walks to and from the bakery. I tended to use Map My Walk for longer walks (5+ miles) and the app integrated well with the Jawbone UP2’s. Actually, there were a few apps that I ended up syncing with it, including the Apple Health app and My Fitness Pal (although I was less good at remembering to use that). Having had a look, Jawbone also created a bunch of other apps and I quite liked the one to measure caffeine too, although it was annoyingly geared towards the US market and measuring drinks wasn’t as easy.
Can’t Keep Checking My Phone
The Jawbone UP2 app itself was simple and easy to use, and I liked the interface which gave you the details simply – and that celebratory pattern on the step/sleep bar if you’d hit your targets was a nice touch. I didn’t find the food tracker particularly helpful, and so when I did use this I found it far easier to use My Fitness Pal, which had a lot more UK foods and generally felt a bit easier to use.
Smart Coach, one of the things Jawbone seems to pride itself on, was for the most part pretty good. There were a few things that made me go “hmm” a little, mainly ones on mental health and physical beauty, but for the most part it was encouraging and gave some nice little snippets of trivia. Although it was really very excitable and (over) enthusiastic, something which I suspect works a little better in the US market than the UK one, but I did enjoy that for the most part it didn’t feel judgemental if you missed your target, rather than supportive – and gave you the option to choose your own targets to begin with.
Generally though, it was the weekly insights, which I also had on an email, that I was interested the most; these told you how you’d slept and stepped compared to the previous weeks. Whilst you could see a how you were doing daily, I enjoyed seeing the weekly compare and contrast.
So in conclusion have I made my decisions clear
Aesthetics aside, for three months I really enjoyed the insights and the reminders to get myself moving more. The Jawbone UP2 for the price is a nifty little gadget and seemed to work well. However, one thing I have to mention is that just over three months of daily wearing, the strap seemed to inexplicably brake and dropped off my wrist with no warning. And whilst the tech bit worked fine, the wearable element was redundant and sadly had to be taken back. Having had a look online, this seems to be a reoccurring problem (at least from photos on Amazon) and I’m hoping that the lack of stock in store means that Jawbone are looking to resolve its problem.
Sadly for me though, it means I was unable to replace my Jawbone and have gone for another make of wearable tracker, so will review in due course.
“Oh my gosh, it’s like the sun!” was the first comment I had when installing the LED lights in my kitchen as part of the Live Lagom project.
Seeing the bright side of things
Okay, so beforehand I’d gotten to the point where there were only two lights working, but when I swapped over the light in my hallway too and could finally see to the front door, I realised that these were useful AND money saving. Couple that with my snuggly STOCKHOLM blanket, which means I rarely put the heating on, and a new quilt on my bed and my energy bills have dramatically decreased…they’ve gone from £78 a month to £5. Yes five! I’m fully expecting them to go back up after the surplus has been decreased on my account but even still it’s pretty evidential this project is saving me money.
Food glorious food
It’s really no surprise, but my favourite thing from the project so far has been cooking. I’ve become a master at meal planning and sit down to work out what I’m going to eat for the week. I really expected that I’d hate this, that knowing what I was going to eat all week would ruin the fun but if anything it’s the opposite. It means that I can legitimately spend time more time thinking about my dinner, not less.
Failing miserably on the whole staying in to cook and then having leftovers for lunch the next day (which would’ve made this so simple), I’ve realised is that batch cooking is the future. I’ve become slightly obsessed with the FÖRTROLIG glass food containers which are the perfect portion size for most things, and as well, they move between freezer and oven and also don’t stain. Honestly, that not staining thing is way more of a plus side than I’d ever have realised, and doesn’t make me look like I’m keeping the local takeaway in business.
One of the successes I’ve rustled up was a recipe for vegan shepherds pie, a portion of which fits in perfectly and can be frozen and cooked in the same dish – hurrah for less washing up! Also, after a bit of a flirtation with soup, I seem to have developed a thing for turkey meatballs for lunch. I make a batch every couple of weeks, load the sauce up with vegetables and pop portions in the FÖRTROLIG containers and defrost them for lunch throughout the week. Oh and the Ikea 365+ food containers mean I can finally make porridge without it exploding everywhere – a fate I’d resigned myself to a long time ago.
Is that it?
Because all of this was a bit too easy, I decided that I might as well take the whole Lagom ‘the right amount is best’ philosophy one step further. As I’m already planning what I’m eating Monday through Friday, I’ve also invested in a fitness tracker, which I joked was a chic new version of an ankle monitor, as it’s definitely controlling my life but in a good way. I’m much more aware of how much (or not) I’m sleeping and often find myself going out for lunchtime walks to get my step count in…it’s definitely a case of ‘the right amount is best’!
Honestly, I thought this whole Lagom project would be a lot harder. The saving on my energy bill was a wonderful surprise and other than change the lightbulbs I haven’t really had to do much. Even the food thing hasn’t been a massive effort and the pay off in how I feel has been worth it.
Six months ago when I finally moved into my own flat I had high hopes of rolling all my New Year’s Resolutions into one and being a better person. I started off pretty well; I made sure it was near a pretty regular bus route, then dutifully filled it with mainly pre-owned furniture and started bothering anyone who was involved about the lack of recycling. I told myself eventually I was going to get back into cooking, after a year and a half of not really doing so, partly due to a previously tiny unworkable kitchen and partly due to running an award-winning blog that centres on dining out.
And then, an email dropped into my inbox inviting me to take part in IKEA’s ‘Live LAGOM’ project to make changes to lead a more sustainable life. Coming from the Swedish phrase “Lagom är bäst” which seems to translate roughly as ‘the right amount is best’, IKEA were offering to help improve my sustainability with a bunch of products – and advice.
And so as read through all the stuff they sent over about the project and chatted about ideas with my IKEA Live LAGOM project leader Kevin, I remembered telling myself that once I’d settled into the flat I’d start cooking again. That was six months ago, and if anything I’d gotten worse. With no housemates to guilt my into going to bed at a reasonable hour I stayed up late and breakfast became a rushed take-out coffee and pastry eaten at my desk at work, lunch was a meal deal from the supermarket and food was whatever I picked up on the way home. It was neither particularly sustainable for my overall health, bank balance and, when I totted up the amount of packaging I was throwing away, the environment either.
So when IKEA asked us to create a New Year’s Resolution relating to the Live LAGOM project, I figured I’d do two. The first was I a challenge to cook more, thereby being responsible for, and reducing, my food and packaging waste. The second was to continue to make sure my flat was comfy and cosy, but that I wasn’t using energy unnecessarily.
I wanted to make sure that the resolutions would be improvements to my life, but also ones that would last beyond the usual January “New Year New Me” period. So I decided that Monday through to Friday I had to eat ten home-prepared meals, which would not only force my to cook but also to make sure I used the stores of spices I had. I’d also use a blanket if I was a bit cold and break my nighttime dependance on my electric blanket with a thicker quilt.
Well. this is hopefully the start of a fun few months settling into the challenge. I’m aiming to do a few updates here, as well as the occasional recipe over on my food blog Full to the Brum. Fingers crossed it’ll go well!
A few weeks ago I went to a West Midlands Bloggers Meet, organised by Adele and Kirsty of Pretty Lovely Bloggers, held at the Rainbow in Digbeth.
Over the years I’ve been to a few bloggers meet ups and it’s always interesting to see the variations in them – some are like workshops, others are just a catch up and some are blogging conferences. Having been focusing on Full to the Brum, and food blogging developing a bit of a scene in Birmingham, most of the other bloggers I’ve met recently have been either food, or food and lifestyle bloggers. There’s nothing wrong with that, but what surprised me about this was I knew very few of the bloggers in attendance – which made me a little nervous, but I chatted to some lovely people.
The afternoon started off with us all generally mingling about, photographing and chatting to some of the reps from various products – I spoke to Sarah from Earlybird, which is a subscription box a little like Graze but combines music, food and art under the motto ‘Eat well. Play more’. There were also plenty of samples to try and after grabbing a drink, we all sat down to listen to Elizabeth from Rosalillium to tell us more about getting the best out of Pinterest and another blogger (who’s name I’ve forgotten – sorry!) who talked about how to interact with brands.
During the session Adele and Kirsty were selling raffle tickets to raise money for Mind. I rarely win anything at raffles but Mind is a great charity so I bought a couple of tickets – and only went and won a Degustabox box! Actually two of my tickets got pulled out but one prize was enough for me…although there were some great prizes on offer. After that it was time to pick up our ridiculously generous goodie bags and struggle off home (I caved and got a taxi). Due to a general back-log of blogging stuff I haven’t sorted through all the goodie bag, but I’ll post about it when I do.
They’re organising another blogger meet in Birmingham in November, which #PLBSantasGrotto and sounds like it’s going to be a lot of fun!