Simple low waste kitchen hacks

I often hear people talk about a zero waste kitchen. For most of us (unless we grow a majority of the food we eat in our own backyard) this is something that’s quite difficult to achieve.

For quite a few years, I have actively looked at where I can waste less and be smarter with how I shop for groceries and store my food. In the current global pandemic (it’s July 2020 as I write this), I’ve found it’s much harder to access food markets and some of the places I used to buy bigger bulk items from, but I’m still doing my best to reduce the amount of plastic bags and packaging that comes into my home.

Here are my top 5 favourite tips of how to reduce waste and plastic in your kitchen!

  1. Bring your own shopping bags. Goes without saying that bringing our own bags to the shops (not just the grocery store!) is a great first step. I always have a few canvas bags in the car, but I also keep a small fold up bag in my handbag and another one in my gym bag. That way I always have a bag with me for groceries and other shopping so I can say ‘no thank you‘ to any unnecessary plastic.
  2. Reusable produce bags. I bought similar bags to these ones about 4 years ago and I use them every single week. If they get dirty, I just wash them in hot soapy water, they dry very quickly. If you don’t want to pay money to buy something similar, it’s super easy to make your own produce bags using old t-shirts, pillowcases or pretty much any type of fabric you have laying around your house.
  3. Bees wax wraps and reusable silicone bags. I have found that bees wax wraps are great for that half of an avocado, onion, tomato or other thing you need to wrap up and use later. I have bought most of my bees wax wraps at local markets over the years, but you can of course buy them online or even google how to make your own. I wash mine out in lukewarm or cold water and sometimes it’s good to use a sponge or gentle scrubber to get any stubborn food stains off. Instead of ziplock bags, I bought reusable silicone bags a few months ago and absolutely love them! They store things really well in both the fridge and the freezer and wash our really easily with warm soapy water. They have also worked really well as sandwich bags on a few hikes.
  4. Food storage containers and glass jars. As an avid meal-prepper, I have a bunch of different types and sizes of food storage containers on hand. Glass jars from your old pasta sauce or mustard can easily be washed out and used for storing salad dressings, soup and a bunch of other things.

    Over the past few years I have gradually started replacing my plastic food storage containers with glass tub versions. You can pick these up online or at your nearest well Kmart or similar. I do still use my old plastic containers for storing food in, I just make sure to not reheat the plastic tubs in the microwave, but rather put the leftovers on a plate for reheating. It makes me a bit sad when people throw all their perfectly good storage containers in the trash just because they happen to be made of plastic. Reducing your plastic waste is a great intention, but where do you think most of those plastic tubs you threw out actually end up? In landfill waste. So rather than throwing things out and creating more short term waste, use the items responsibly until they break and then replace them!
  5. Wash out and reuse ziplock type plastic bags. A very simple hack that saves both money and plastic waste. If I use ziplock bags (which is rare), I make sure to wash them out with hot soapy water, let them dry out and then use them again. If you buy frozen berries or fruit, they often come in sturdy resealable bags which you can easily wash out and use again. For any plastic bags that are torn and can’t be washed and reused, I make sure to recycle them.

I think zero waste is a great intention, but for most of us it’s very hard to achieve it. Rather than thinking we have to be perfect or not try at all, I welcome you to join me and do your best to reduce the waste that’s generated from your kitchen and household. I believe in progress over perfection and hopefully that’s something that can help you too!

Meal planning basics

I can’t believe it took me so long to start embracing meal planning! It helps us manage our budget, save time and eat healthy (depending on the types of food we choose of course).

My partner and I have been meal planning on and off since we met 2 years ago, but started to really do it on a weekly basis since the start of 2020. It’s been a game changer! I think it was hard to be consistent with it in our earlier attempts, simply because you need to plan your meals upfront AND do an organised grocery shop.

In more normal circumstances (outside of Covid19 lockdown) our meal plan actually works very similarly to what I share in this week’s video. The only thing that has changed is that we eat all our meals at home.

My top tips:

  1. Keep it simple. I just use a marker and a blank piece of paper to draw up a 7 day meal plan. You can make it pretty if you want to of course, for us it’s just important that it says what we’re having and who is responsible for cooking.
  2. Divide responsibility. My partner and I split the cooking and each prepare dinner every few days, since neither of us love to cook. I typically do most of the salads, soups and new recipe experiments. Paul is the king of pasta bolognese, roast and homemade pizza.
  3. Batch cooking means you have to cook less often. We are usually happy to have the same dish 2-3 days in a row, but if we’ve made a bigger batch than that, we just freeze anything extra and have it the next week.
  4. Be flexible. Right now (#physicaldistancingandcrazytoiletpaperhoarding) some things are harder to find at the supermarket, so it’s best to make a realistic meal plan, but be open to changing up the ingredients if needed.
  5. Follow the meal plan 90% of the time. Even with a great basic meal plan, we sometimes swap the order of the meals, order the occasional takeaway or go out for dinner. The plan is not set in stone, it’s just there to help you simplify your week and stay healthy and on budget more often than you don’t.

Below is an example meal plan for the other week. You’ll notice we only plan lunch and dinner, as we often do intermittent fasting in the morning and skip breakfast. I’m happy to share more about this in a future blog and video if you’d like to fund out more. Just let me know in a comment here and I’ll add it to the filming schedule!

The best beginner budgeting template

In a previous blog post I shared my thoughts on budgeting and the 5 types of bank accounts I used to get my finances organised. In today’s post I’m going to share the actual budget system/template I used to get organised and track my money. This is probably one of the biggest steps I’ve taken in the past few years to declutter and organise my life and it has been so valuable for both my physical, financial and emotional health.

So many people I’ve met seem to struggle with the concept of budgeting because:

  • It’s boring/hard to track our finances. It’s way easier to not care, have lots of fun and then wonder half way through the month where the heck our money actually went. If you’re able to turn this around and see budgeting as your way to freedom, you’d be surprised at the options that open up for you, regardless of your income level.
  • It’s scary to be that honest with yourself and see what you are/have been spending most of your money on. Somewhat connected to the above point, but I have done that avoidance strategy soooo many times in my life. It’s way easier to avoid looking at it and procrastinate for another month.
  • Many people have very limiting beliefs around money. Telling yourself things like “I could never have wealth” or “I’ll never get out of debt” or “I earn to little to be able to make a difference with my budget” or any theme similar to that is common, but not helpful. Most of us learn these money beliefs from people in our family, and the great news is that all these things we tell ourselves can be changed to help us!

It’s not that complicated really, but it can be hard to get started. So just check out this weeks’ video where I’ll show you how to use my template and then just promise yourself to get started now!

Access the budgeting template for free:

Not having a good relationship with your money (regardless how much you earn) is a huge point of stress, and I can’t believe it took me so long to realise that it would actually make me so much happier to track and keep on top of my finances. Before that I used to stress about money daily or weekly and sleep a lot worse.

Knowing what you have to work with in terms of money, having some basic financial goals (big or small) and taking small steps to action this every week will help you declutter and organise your life now and for the future. Let’s get started!

* Please note: I’m not a financial advisor, so all the advise shared here in the blog and in my videos is just what I’ve tried and learned myself and what is working for me right now. Naturally you need to experiment and see what works in your unique situation! Always seek professional financial, legal or other advice before you make any big financial decisions in your life.

How to start budgeting

One of the best ways to simplify your life AND look after your mental well-being is to have a budget that works for you. Knowing where your money goes helps free up your mind, helps prepare you for any ‘rainy day’ scenario and helps you save up for travels or other fun things you’d like to do. It basically gives you freedom and choices! In the bottom of this blog post, you’ll find the 5 type of bank accounts* I use and would strongly recommend you explore for yourself.

Now listen to me. There is no shame in starting from scratch, that’s exactly what I did. It does not matter how old you are or what you ‘should have’ been doing up until now. Taking charge of your financial situation is something only you can do, and with the right support it’s not as hard as you might feel that it is!

I will admit that I did not used to have a budget at all, I just used to just save like crazy leading up to any big trip I had planned. My dad always nagged me to have a savings account for emergencies too, and thanks to him I did have enough money put away for some of those hard days when I got hit with an unexpected expense. I kind of got by with no real plan. And I’ll willingly admit that I had no financial goals at all, except being able to afford to travel internationally about once a year.

It wasn’t until I had a massive financial scare about 4 years ago (I was single at the time and potentially loosing my job), I had one of those hard awakenings. I had just come back from a big trip to visit family back to Sweden, I had no savings in the bank and if I lost my job then, I would have been in big trouble. I will never forget how I felt that day. The shame and the self blame. How could I have put myself in this situation?

Luckily I did not loose my job, but from that day forward, I promised myself that regardless how much or little I earned, I would find a way to always look after myself financially.

My first step was to educate myself more about budgeting and finance. I have watched countless YouTube videos over the past few years to look at different budgeting systems and tried a bunch of them to see what worked for me. One way of budget thinking that really worked for me was Barefoot Investor. My friend bought me his book a few years ago (I’m in no way sponsored by his brand), and I immediately resonated with his thinking around finance. His book and blog is super useful for you to get started, regardless of your income level or potential debt. My financial approach that I share below is a combination of his advise and other tips and tools I have learned via a range of YouTube budgeting channels.

The 2 things I started doing that made a huge difference for me:

  1. I tracked my spending for 3+ months. Not the most fun I’ve ever had, but very important! I did this to find out what I was really spending my money on and see if my draft budget was realistic. Most people (I am no exception!) vastly underestimate how much they spend on groceries, eating out, entertainment, transport and a bunch of other things. After tracking it for a few months, I pretty quickly worked out what was realistic and set some personal savings goals.
  2. I set up a structure of bank accounts to earmark a certain % of my income to different things. Specifically, I set up (and still have) 5 different bank accounts with very different purposes. This might sound like it’s more than what you need, but most people who are good at managing their money have dedicated ‘pools’ for their money to go into.

Remember, you don’t have to have a high income to set this up for yourself. Most banks will allow you to do this in just a few minutes online.

The 5 types of accounts I have:

  1. Everyday account for salary and bills. This is where my salary comes in and all money for bills, groceries, and rent come out from.
  2. Everyday spending account. This is what I use for eating out, hairdresser, transport (uber, taxi, public transport), gym related things, coffees, gifts and pretty much everything else I spend money on that is not just for ‘survival’. I know some of you would argue coffee is sometimes survival, on most days I would agree with you… 🙂
  3. Smile savings account. In Barefoot investor, he talks about having a savings account where you save up for fun things that make you smile. I love this way of thinking and how much more fun do you have knowing that you can enjoy that experience 100% guilt free when you save up for it first! This is a high interest savings account where I save up for travels, more expensive experiences (like my skydive), a new fancy bicycle and other bigger purchases. Normally about 10-15% of my income goes here.
  4. Future fund savings account. High interest savings account to use for bigger future investments, for me this is a house deposit. I normally put about 20-25% of my income here.
  5. Emergency fund. This is a bank account that I never touch! It’s the one I saved up for first, I’ve got AUD$2,000 in there and it’s only for absolute emergencies or unexpected bills only. I’m happy to say that I’ve never had to use it, but it gives me great peace of mind to have it should I ever need it. Some might argue that an emergency fund should have more than $2,000 in it, so just choose whatever number you need to be comfortable.

If you have credit card debt or other debt, the above might look a bit different for you. There is a wealth of knowledge and tips across the internet on how to pay off debt quickly, so just start researching and start working on it.

The main thing I have learned when it comes to budgeting and money, is that it really does not matter all that much how much you earn every month. Yes, more money can help you reach some goals faster, but what matters the most is what you do with the money you have and the everyday decisions you make to improve your financial situation!

* Please note: I’m not a financial advisor, so all the advise shared here in the blog and in my videos is just what I’ve tried and learned myself and what is working for me right now. Naturally you need to experiment and see what works in your unique situation! Always seek professional financial, legal or other advice before you make any big financial decisions in your life.

An introduction

It’s always tricky to simplify and tell a story in a short and concise way. In some ways, I don’t believe people’s life story is something that should ever be short. Every person we meet have a unique story about how they got where they are today.

It’s essentially all about the journey and the many milestones, some of them very sad and difficult ones, that shapes a person. Some of the best stories I’ve heard about people (and what made them who they are now) have been told around campfires, over the phone, on long drives and every single one of those stories deserves space and time.

Getting to know someone means relating to part of their story, so in this week’s blog post and the below video I wanted to share a bit about me and my background.

Edit: the below was written and filmed before the pandemic impacted Australia and the rest of the world. It goes to show that we never know what will happen and that a simple life helps us be grateful for what we have and make the best of very challenging times.

My brief timeline:

  • 1982: I was born in the south of Sweden and grew up on a small family farm. In 1984 and 1988 I also became a very proud older sister to my 2 awesome brothers.
  • 1998: My first overseas trip without my parents. Went to England with a friend for a summer class to learn English. That same year mum and I moved from our tiny village to the nearest big city for me to start high school.
  • 2001: One of those truly life changing milestones. I graduated from high school and left Sweden for the U.S. where I spent a year outside San Francisco working as an au pair. Awesome experience overall and some of the best road trips I’ve ever had. Confronting in many ways to be so far away from home, especially when 9/11 happened. Finished the year with an epic month long bus trip down the west coast, across all the southern states and up the east coast to fly home from New York.
  • 2003: Started university to study political science on the Swedish west coast. Loved student life and most of the things we learned. Statistics never made it to my list of favourite topics though.
  • 2005: Awesome summer backpacking trip for 2 months with 3 of my best friends through big parts of Asia. We basically travelled from Helsinki to Singapore by train and bus (via Russia, Mongolia, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia). Some hard moments for sure, but an amazing adventure. And yes, we flew home from Singapore!
  • 2007: Graduated university with a Master’s Degree in political science and communication. That same year I moved to England (Manchester) for both love and work.
  • 2010: Left the rain in England for sunny Australia. Started out briefly in Western Australia and then working in Sydney for a few months, before making Melbourne my home in December that year. Had a few fantastic months of traveling too!
  • 2013: Studied coaching and started my part time coaching business whilst working full time in corporate. Learned a lot about human behaviour and running a business. Difficult, but incredibly rewarding experience. I also ran a full marathon that year. A very full on year looking back at it now!
  • 2018: Met my partner Paul in May. So incredibly grateful that our paths crossed.
  • 2019: Paul and I made a big decision to take a career break together and spent 3,5 months traveling around Europe. Beautiful moments reconnecting and spending time with many of my friends and family as well as seeing a bunch of new places together.
  • 2020: Let’s see what happens, shall we?!

Looking at that list you can probably tell that I’ve moved, explored and in some ways simplified life consistently over the past 20 years. And a few things have remained very consistent. I tend to value experiences and relationships much higher than physical things. I have never borrowed money to go on a trip or adventure, I have always had a budget and saved up the money first. I try to always consider the environmental impact of my decisions, which is not always a straight forward thing. having lived overseas for a long time, I have still gone back home to Sweden for a holiday most years, given my family and many of my friends still live there.

More than anything, I feel like my urge to travel have taught me a lot about people, languages and culture. It’s easy to see how there is always a connection between places and the simpler we live, the less clutter and noise we have to cut through to see those connections. To live simply is never about taking the ‘easy way’. When we focus on the simple things by making hard decisions, life opens up with lots more opportunities than we were able to see in the first place.

The easiest way to organise your life in 2020

Every year I choose a theme or keyword for that year and for 2020 my theme is creativity. Having a key theme for your year or month is a great way to start keeping things simple and focused.

Years ago, I used to blog about my travels and life in Australia, but as life and work got busy, that creative writing fell away. So I decided to pick it back up again and hold myself accountable to not just thinking about creativity, but sharing it as well. Check out my first YouTube video here if you’re curious to listen in.

So, what about that key question? How do I simplify my life in 2020 and beyond? My answer would be to welcome simplicity into your life. This is not going to happen overnight, but it’s been the most helpful tool for me over the past few years. I find that it’s best to approach simplicity from 2 angles:

  1. To simplify things is a way of life. It’s asking yourself some basic questions as you encounter clutter, noise, decisions and other things in your day to day life. Some of those helpful questions might be “How important is this for me and those I love?” or “Is this something I should be focusing on right now?“.
  2. Simplification is also a helpful process. It’s about looking at different areas of your life (ideally one at a time) and clearing out, organising and nurturing the parts of your life that needs some extra attention.

My partner Paul and I have both been on the simplification / minimalism / essentialism journey for a few years now, and I’ve noticed that I have worked through both of the above approaches in tandem during most of that time.

Here in my blog and YouTube videos you will find that the underlying theme will always be simplicity. Each week I’ll unpack a particular tool that will help you get more organised, have more clarity and simply get down to what’s really important.

The key themes you’ll see coming back are:

  • Budgeting and finance. We need to know our finances well to know what we have as well as what we want going forward.
  • Organisation and structure. This covers home, digital, calendars and a bunch of other things. When we organise our physical and digital space our mind tends to settle a bit.
  • Health and well-being. This is key for a happy life if you ask me, without our health it does not matter how rich we are. In this area we’ll cover meal prep, exercise, mental well being and mindset. I’ve worked as a coach for many years, so I’ve got lots to share here!
  • Travel, expat life and exploring. I moved away from my native Sweden in 2007 and had travelled lots before that as well. To travel and explore is something my partner and I love, and I’ll share some of our adventures and plans with you here too.
  • Sustainability and environment. To try and reduce my footprint on this planet is key for me. There are so many ways to achieve that with day to day decisions, from how we grocery shop to how we dress or travel.

In a world where so many people feel lonely, let’s share that journey to simplify (including the many obstacles it comes with!) and slowly improve together. I’m only human and I’d like to share the things I’ve learned and implemented in my life with you if you’d like to join in!