Author: downshiftingweek


Haven’t got a garden? Think you need acres of space to grow anything? Not so says Frugal Dad. Read on for all the details! Prices are in US $, but if you think the same in UK £ you should come in well under budget! ($50 is approximately £31)


As this week (7-13 May) is Real Bread Maker Week, we at the Real Bread
Campaign have penned this open letter to all of Britain’s doughmongers.

Whether making a loaf for yourself and family, baking as a professional, or sharing bread recipes and skills with other people now or later in the year, we have some questions that you might like to ponder:

Is there any need to use fast-acting / instant yeast?

Dried active yeast (usually sold in cylindrical tins) is much cheaper than sachets, widely available, just as convenient – even in bread machines if added with the water, will keep in the fridge for months, and, unlike most brands of the instant stuff, contains no artificial additives. Or you could get your mitts on the fresh stuff.

Do I really need to add sugar?

Flour contains more than enough food to keep yeast thriving. So unless you’re making a sweet bread try leaving out the empty calories of sugar, honey, syrup or whatnot.

Does I really need to add oil or fat?

Delicious, moist Real Bread is not reliant on either, so unless you’re making an enriched bread (such as a buttery milk loaf, or focaccia drizzled with olive oil) then these are just more unnecessary empty calories.

Could a no-knead recipe be what I need?

Homebakers: If you feel kneading is too much work, takes too much of your time or that you’re just not up to it, then try a no-knead Real Bread recipe. These effortless doughs are given more water and more time (theirs, not yours) allowing you to just mix, leave and bake. Professionals: not exactly no-knead, but you might like to experiment with an autolyse method…

Could I use less salt?

Homebakers: when baking Real Bread try using not much more than a teaspoon (6g) per 500g of flour. Professionals: the Food Standards Agency’s target is 1% or less by loaf weight.

If I’m using any artificial additives, do I know exactly why?

Homebakers: before throwing a pinch of ascorbic acid (or flour with it added already) into dough, please ask yourself why and find out how it works. You can only make great loaves of what we call Real Bread without  it. Professionals: if using artificial additives they are making you miss an opportunity to offer your customers  what the Campaign calls Real Bread. Might ditching them open the doors to you increasing your skills as a baker even further?

Could I slow things down?

Homebakers: the more time dough has to ‘ripen’ the more flavour it develops, but extra dough time is not your time, freeing you to go off and do something else. Rather than rushing dough by putting it somewhere warm to rise, using large amounts of yeast or adding sugar, make it fit in with your schedule by slowing things down instead. Using a recipe with less yeast and letting dough rise somewhere cooler can allow you to leave it unattended for hours – or even overnight in a fridge. Professionals: try retarding your dough. Some bakeries find overnight proving even helps them change shift patterns to more sociable hours…

Could I use locally-milled stoneground flour?

Stoneground flour (wholemeal or sieved to make it lighter) not only tastes great but also contains more of wheat’s natural goodness. And if you’re lucky enough to have a locally-owned mill nearby, you’ll be helping the local economy, too. Even better if it’s locally-grown grain milled by an eco-friendly wind or water mill!

Is sourdough the way forward?

As well as boosting flavour, the ‘friendly bacteria’ (sorry for using such a yuck marketing phrase) in genuine sourdough have a natural preservative effect – without unnecessary additives or extra salt. There is also a growing number of very interesting scientific studies reporting all sorts of health benefits of sourdough bread making – though the Campaign would like to see much, much more being invested into research.

You can find more information on these thoughts and more, as well as recipes, courses, events, competitions, discounts and other offers, places to buy Real Bread, and links to a whole world of bready matters at

Happy baking from The Real Bread Campaign!

Wonderful.  My thanks go out to the team at TRBC and I hope their letter gave you a few new ideas. Don’t forget if you’d like to come on one of my Organic Bread Making courses, take a look at this and drop me a line!


Being able to cook using fresh ingredients is one of the cornerstones for  successful downshifting and being able to knock up a simple loaf is a fabulously frugal feather in your cap.

Getting to grips with dough and all of it’s quirks is far easier to do than you might have thought and on Bank Holiday Monday, I’ll be teaching as many people as I can to do just that.

I’m giving three interactive talks and demonstrations at The Town Mill in beautiful Lyme Regis and for four of your good English pounds, you can come along and listen to my essential How To’s.

Here’s the text from my poster – come along if you can!

Talk & Live Demonstration of Easy Organic Bread Making with Tracey Smith.

Come to The Town Mill in Lyme Regis on Bank Holiday Monday for an unforgettably inspirational 1½ hr talk & demonstration with sustainable living author, columnist & broadcaster Tracey Smith.

Watch her unlock the secrets to making your dough rise & turning kneading into a sensual & effortless affair. There’s even a free factsheet to take away with a some of her seasonal recipes & moneysaving tips from utilising kitchen excesses.

Get your ticket to the tastiest event in town from the shop at The Town Mill or call the number below…guaranteed giggles thrown in for free!

Venue: The Town Mill,  Mill Lane,  Lyme Regis DT7 3PU.

Talks & Demonstration Times

Bank Holiday Monday 11th April
10.00am to 11.30am
12.30pm to 2.00pm
3.00pm to 4.30pm

Tickets for this unmissable event are just £4.00 – booking essential!


The People and Environment Achievement Awards are now in their second year and making quite an impact on the green-scene.

I attended the inaugral event last year, which was hosted at The National Geographic Store in London and the buzz was intense to say the least.

Here am I and my dear friend, Community Award category winner Azul-Valerie Thome, as she proudly hoists up her chic green glass trophy.

She’s standing to the right of Maddy and Tim Harland, creators and of the most excellent read, Permaculture Magazine and this year, Maddy is a finalist in the Entrepreneur of the Year category, honouring an individual who has come up with the best new enterprise, venture or business idea based around greener thinking.

I am also in great company with another couple of committed eco-chums. In the coveted Community Interest Company awards, the inspirational Trudy Thompson is featured, she is creator of the Bricks and Bread Sustainable Living Centre in Hampshire and the Schools Award finds the incredible Karen Ford, founder of Footprint Friends Foundation and creator of the Wipe Out Waste Awards, which I’ve been lucky enough to be a judge for.

I am up for Campaigner of the Year with my little Downshifting Week and opportunist promotion of sustinable living in my writing and broadcasting and I sit proudly alongside another good friend, the incredible Polly Higgins, pegged as the ‘Lawyer for the Planet’, also well respected author of Eradicating Ecocide who tirelessly raises awareness of the importance of living simply.


Consumption of more fresh fruit and veg is on the upturn according to a recent survey done by Alpro*, who claim to be ‘proud pioneers of plant-based eating’ creating plant-based yogurts, drinks and desserts for over 30 years.

According to their results, the power of plant-based eating is a fast-growing trend. In fact, four out of 10 of us are eating more vegetables, fruits and plant-based foods than we were a year ago. And six out of 10 of us are eating more of these types of foods than we were five years ago.

People of all age groups are fuelling this trend, although it is younger consumers – those aged between 18 and 30 – who are looking to change their diets and turn to alternative eating regimes in the greatest numbers.

In fact, the independent survey commissioned by Alpro revealed that more than half of 18 to 30 year olds surveyed have added more vegetables, fruits and plant-based foods into their diets in the last year alone, pointing to a major change in the UK’s dietary habits for generations. Meanwhile, of all those surveyed, one in five admitted they ate meat and dairy-based foods merely ‘out of habit’.

I think perhaps these austere times have pinched the purse strings into submission and that along with increased awareness of the damage over-consumption of meats has on the environment (particularly on products shipped to the UK from the other side of the world) has net resulted in more of us realising that local, seasonal, delicious vegetables provide a fabulous option, as well as being a more affordable way of putting mouthwatering food on our tables.

Plant-based eating conjures up images of a strict vegan diet, but enjoying the benefits of more plant-based choices doesn’t mean becoming a full-time vegan or vegetarian. It’s about reshaping what’s on the plate by making a few simple swaps, while still treating yourself to your favourite meat or dairy products every now or then; in my book, equilibrium is everything and I for one will continue to support the market for well produced, locally outdoor reared meaty things!

As mentioned above, whilst many of us are already eating more vegetables, fruits and plant-based foods for health reasons, a growing section of society is also becoming concerned over the affects that the production of meat and diary-based foods has on the environment. For example, it takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat, while it takes 2,000 gallons of water to produce one gallon of milk; it’s certainly food for thought.

In contrast, plant-based crops and foods, meanwhile, are much more water efficient, with an average of 25 gallons of water needed to produce one pound of food.

Despite more and more people becoming more commonly aware of such facts, it appears there is still a lack of knowledge in some quarters about the effect that the production of meat and dairy products has on the world around us.

Six out of 10 people are still unaware that plant-based foods offer the most environmentally sustainable option for food production. Even so, four out of 10 of us are already determined to cut down on the amount of meat and dairy currently in our diets.

The sausages are going to remain on my plate, but I’m all up for raising the levels of food production education, particularly in relation to eating out, which so often drops under our radar…

* Research commissioned on behalf of Alpro by RedShift Research (March 2011) 2,302 UK adults.

PS: If you want a little light reading with your full English breakfast, take a peek at these plant based facts…

Plant-based foods include more than just fruit and vegetables. Five major food groups should form the base of a plant-focused diet (whether in their original form or as an ingredient in the increasing range of plant-based products):

Whole grains, Beans and pulses, Fruit, Vegetables, Nuts and Seeds
Plant-based eating begins with a diet low in fat, particularly saturated fat, rich in unsaturated fats, and provides a wide-range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are thought to promote general health and wellbeing
Plant based products are also naturally free from animal fats, which are increasingly avoided by health-conscious consumers
Eating less saturated fat is particularly important for heart health. Plant-based ingredients such as soya, nuts and oats play an important role in a cholesterol friendly diet
Plant-based foods generally have a higher fibre content. This can lower the energy density in the diet [lower in calorie], which is beneficial for maintaining a health body shape
Making simple plant-based swaps is easier than you think. Incorporate a heart-healthy, environmentally friendlier plant-based diet by eating less meat especially fatty and processed meats, full fat dairy products such as cheese, cream and butter, and fewer high fat snacks such as chocolate, biscuits and cakes. And, where you can, choose soya alternatives, whole grains, beans, pulses and nuts and seeds, and plenty of fruit and vegetables a day – fresh, frozen, canned, dried and juices all count. Giving up meat and dairy completely isn’t essential: even cutting down on half your intake will make a considerable impact on your health and the environment.


If you’re feeling the pressure from work colleagues or family to tread the mill and bring home more bacon than you care to shake a stick at, don’t worry, you’re not alone.

There’s an abominable pressure thrust at us from almost every angle of the visual and audible media, telling us that consuming is good and the only way to sustain the spend up lifestyle is by working your trotters off.

Consumption is necessary for society to remain upright and to continue to function well, so many say, but ‘I’ say, that our consumption would do well to be looked at, re-evaluated in every sense of the word and changed if we are to survive as a global economy filled with more sustainable communities, which in my view, holds the key to the success of us all.

But bucking the trend is hard and can be terrifying when we’re surrounded by souls that simply don’t get the urgent need for change.

I was taken aback today by a delightful comment received by one of my readers, who stated, ‘From the belly of the beast, the homeland of the Corporate Empire… please know your hard work is much appreciated; your encouragement is much needed – many thanks’…

This spoke to me in volumes and I simply needed to share it with you.

One of the most challenging things to overcome when you want to step back from uber-consumerism, comes through the voices of those around us, those whom we love and respect too. It is hard to react positively towards their snipes at times and seemingly impossible to get them to come around to ‘our’ way of thinking.

Don’t despair.  Stay with the programme.  Continue to wear your downshifting hat with pride and take comfort in knowing you are part of a worldwide movement who ‘does’ get it.

My little awareness campaign has attracted comments from the well heeled and those living off grid and every one in between and they all say how inspirational and encouraging it is to find a hook to hang ‘their crazy ideas on’…their ideas are not so crazy at all, particularly when they realise there are lots of others who feel exactly the same way.

So, onwards and upwards my fellow downshifters!

Carry on being the light and shine your positive candle for a simpler, happier, greener and more sustainable existence…those in the dark need to see it more than ever.


There is a growing interest, please pardon the pun, in keeping allotments in the south west and currently, there are 150 eager green-fingered souls on a waiting list in the South Somerset District alone.

I happened across news in today’s newsletter from the Incredible Edible Somerset team and thought you might be interested to hear about a skill sharing event that could be replicated and with a bit of help and a good wind behind you, could laid on anywhere in the country.

If you have a passion for growing and are involved in your local green scene, consider pulling together local experts from your patch to help and inspire others near you.

The Incredible Edible team are about to an event for those who are eager to get growing but don’t know a way forward and are hosting their third Incredible Edible gathering for people looking for land in Somerset.

Join them next Wednesday 28th March at Davis Hall, Howell Hill, West Camel, Yeovil from 7-9pm.

The evening will proffer an opportunity to listen to the stories of groups in South Somerset who have been successful in finding land and they’ll also have a chance to hear the advice of Alan Cavill from the National Society of Allotment & Leisure Gardeners who, incidentally, has supported the development of over 50 new self-managed allotment sites in the South West.

Click here to book a place now and please click the links in the footer below to forward this story onto anyone you know in the district who may be interested.

They are also compiling a factsheet for the night with details of local growing projects & volunteering information.


There are only a handful of great causes and business I give my full support and energy to and My Green Directory is undoubtedly one of them.

Created by the eco-whirlwind that is Sue Jueno, it’s an absolutely amazing directory (yes, proper paper stuff) and a portal of a website too, see for details.

Today is the last day for you to get your sustainable living business into what is going to be known as the Green Yellow Pages…here are the full details, as received in their newsletter earlier this morning

Be there, or be very unsquare…

“Join us and 100’s more in promoting yourselves and our industry as a whole in our ‘green’ version of the yellow pages – book by 6pm TODAY to avoid disappointment!

The MGD paperback will be going out with Permaculture Magazine, into The Guardian’s Saturday Supplement, to GREEN Magazine subscribers and more.

The cheapest way to get in front of our 600,000++ readership is by booking a Text Box Listing.  Last few remaining – complete our simple online form – it’s easy & quick!

Book your paperback & online special package deal today!  

Our budget paperback ad andpremium online upgrade will enhance your visability.  Be seen above all free listings online and in our mobile apps, be part of our paperback that has a 600,000+ readership, digital release, and just confirmed, a Kindle version too!  Was £120 – now just £100 – available until 6pm today.

There’s limited availability, so phone Miya, Layla or Robert on 016-2497-8517 to make sure there is space in your category.

Would you prefer a larger presence?

Would you prefer a bigger presence in the paperback to get your message across to our audience?

Space is now extemely limitedso take a look at our media pack, decide what’s best for you, then give Roxanne, Roger or Denise a call on 01737 237900 NOW to find out what’s left.

Would you like to be in our next newsletter?

Have you got a new campaign, b2b message or information that you would like included in our next newsletter to MGD listees?  Normal fortnightly contact will resume again mid April once our paperback is ready for distribution.  Do get in touch, we’d love to help you shout about your news!”


The southwest
After much procrastination, I finally set off today with a handful of index cards, a diary, a video camera and a little pot of glitter – there ‘has’ to be glitter.

I hadn’t put off my departure, more like my departure time just kept shifting, as the phone kept ringing and the emails just kept pinging into the box…but isn’t that the way it is most days…
We have to learn how to flick the ‘Off’ button – from the computer and occasionally, from life.
I’d spent far too long trying to nail down every moment of the forthcoming 10 days and it seemed the more I moved forward, the more I kept being dragged back.
The media appointments have been tricky to fit in around my visits to brilliant downshifters and I’ve had to bend with the wind to accommodate them, but they’ve put more than a few spanners in my well oiled works.

The thing is, I want to embrace the media – the local radio and papers aren’t quite like the telly lot – they usually tell the downshifting stories of everyday folks in a positive light and I feel it’s incredibly important they continue to do so.

Downshifting isn’t a fad, it’s not a passing trend, it’s certainly not rife with sandal wearing nutbags (although having said that, I do know a few), but you get the idea – downshifters are everyday people, just like you and me.

And the media machine goes some way to normalising their behaviour by making it more socially acceptable to give up the car,  shop locally,  grow a few fruits and veg,  wash less, consume less and give a positive embrace to living with less.  But it needs to ramp the pace up to encourage more people to join the movement and wear their downshifting hats with pride.

So,  once I turned the darned computer off and set off on my journey, I felt an overwhelming flood of emotion flow through me.  I felt quite tearful to be honest.  Not because I was worried about the trip, or the travelling, but because I’ve got the most amazing line up of people to meet and things to do that hopefully will inspire another batch of aspiring downshfters to take those first steps towards a bit of self-sufficiency and simple,  green living.

And that’s immense…

Tomorrow I leave Cardiff and trade it in for Gloucester then head up to Stoke and beyond.  I’m seeing the amazingly inspirational Rachelle Strauss of Zero Waste fame and her gorgeous family and we’ll chew the cud on rubbish, knitting and this and that!

It’s time to turn in now and as I prepare to find my PJs and lay down my head, my overriding memories of today will be spending time with the volunteers atNACOA’s office in Bristol and teaching the guys how to knit their community blanket!  It was a hoot! They were terrific sports and by the end of their lesson, the fellas were quite enamoured with the concept of a bita knitting!  They remarked how relaxing it would be to do, in between taking calls from the children of alcoholics who ring the help-line.

Knitting, sewing and making are not just practical skills we’d do well to get to grips with, but they’re very enjoyable and relaxing too and in a convivial group situation can be a bit of a hoot….

I’ve learned recently there are hundreds of knitting groups around the country, often fondly termed Stitch and Bitch groups and I’m going to meet a few on my travels over the coming days.


Ten Top Downshifting Tips from Tracey
Ditch the pre-packed options and cook from fresh.
There’s no doubt about it, you ‘can’ buy very cheap ready-meals these days, but the nutritional value, the overall quality and the taste cannot be compared to doing it from fresh! If you’re short of time, double up the ingredients and freeze half for another meal and be sure to use up leftovers in creative new dishes for the next day; soup offers a great way of getting started with this.
Buy your staples in larger packs.
Pasta, rice and porridge oats are perfect examples and you’ll also cut down your shopping trips too. If it’s just too much to store in your cupboard, split your bulk buys with a friend or neighbour.