Wasted : Save a Penny or Two

I impulse buy food.  Impulse buying with anything in fact.  Spending over £100 a week on food, when I have plenty of food in the cupboard or fridge already.  Running Phoenix I collect waste bread twice a week and used to work closely with Skipchen to serve waste food on a PAYF basis, so I know how much food is wasted and available to eat for FREE!  I have decided to kick my habit by not spending a penny this month on anything; Food, going out, clothes, bus etc.  Instead I will be reaching out to communities, charities, supermarkets and seeing how I can not spend a penny (on food mainly) sharing it.  It’s not just me though, my 6-year-old son will be joining me.  This will hopefully make me more conscious about what I can cook with no money, as I have admittedly become lazy with food.


Why am I sharing this?  Because I want people to be more aware of how much they have in their cupboards, to make an effort to cook more, exchange foods… I’ll be recording my day-to-day food and how I have managed to eat/survive on nothing.  My first step is reaching out to the people around me.  I am currently writing a letter to all my neighbours to ask if they have any food in their cupboards they don’t want, even if it’s past their use by date.  I can donate any excess to community projects (like @FoodCycle) or put in our PAYF shop in Phoenix.

I am really looking forward to tomorrow as I will be volunteering for FoodCycle, helping cook with waste food and this will mean I get to eat there too 🙂  Working with projects like this is great because you earn your food, you can give your time instead of money.  This is a short post just about what I am doing, but will post more as the days go by about who has helped me along the way and see how hard or easy it is for anyone to do.

Step One:  What do you have in your cupboards?? The first thing I want to ask is for people to look in their cupboards.  Do you have Pastas, Tinned food, Spices etc that have been there a bit too long?  Try using it, or donate it to Phoenix so we can do something with it!  If we get enough donations or collect enough food we will make something with it and invite everyone to come for a PAYF at Phoenix.  We also have a lot of Homeless who collect waste bread from us, so we could start making soups or sandwiches for them?  Email me at info@phoenixcafe.co.uk and we can collect or drop it off at the cafe 🙂




Can’t cook, won’t cook

vegan burger

Phoenix food has been a battle.  When starting we only served coffee, we didn’t have enough money for all the equipment to make food.  After a few months we approached Skipchen, Bristol to create a PAYF menu as we loved the ethos and movement behind it: intercepting food waste and creating meals on a Pay As You Feel basis.  Skipchen would collect food waste and deliver it to the cafe, where we would cook or serve it and split the donations 50/50.  This worked well for the first couple of months as people were just as excited as we were.  Sadly due to us not having a large kitchen we weren’t able to cook much(a microwave, soup kettle and George Foreman will only get you so far), people also got used to the PAYF and stopped donating.  As well as saving food waste, my view was that it helped people who couldn’t afford expensive lunches in and around the centre of town.  In the end the people that wouldn’t donate were the people that could afford to.  Customers who had little money put in what they could and felt bad that it wasn’t enough.  The food we needed to suit our kitchen and have a constant supply, wasn’t always necessarily available(this is the nature of intercepting food waste, as it changes daily).  So I had to save Phoenix and change it.

I am no chef.  I am a baker.  I love making cakes(and eating them sadly), but I struggle with coming up with interesting recipes and Phoenix could not afford to pay a chef to work with waste food.  After sales dropping dramatically and causing stress on the team we decided to stop doing food waste and start doing a basic menu until we had found someone to come and help us.  I’m a perfectionist and when I feel I can’t do it well, I won’t do it.  Can’t cook, won’t cook.  Wrong attitude.  Needing something different, but also wanted healthier food in the Cafe(so I don’t eat donuts all day) We looked into Vegan and Gluten Free options…. The Pattie! Working with Jen we found some basic vegan and gluten free burger recipes, which we adapted; Size, ingredients and serving style.  We spent a day of experimenting and asking for the residents of Pithay Studios’ opinions and created 3 patties:  beetroot and lentil, sweet potato and spinach, white bean and quinoa.

Its only the beginning stages, but we had a trial run with some of the residents in the building today and had a great reaction.  I didn’t think I could cook, but then again I didn’t think I would run my own Cafe.  I’m learning as I go, but doing it with new people every day, which makes my job amazing.  Some might think I am crazy that after 10 months of running the business I am finally writing a business plan for it, but I like the facts its adaptable.

Our new menu launches on Monday and we will be trying to include waste food as much as possible.  Hopefully we will be a completely self sustainable cafe using veg grown in house as well as using food waste.

Here and Now at Phoenix…

Its been a while since the last blog post and Phoenix has developed a lot.  So much has changed, but rather than going over the last 8 months its best to start with where we are now.  I have learnt a lot, but that’s what Phoenix is about.  You will have to bear with me as I am far from being a writer, but who likes it formal anyway?

We have just launched our new menu and have had a great reaction so far, but it is still changing and we are still learning.  The team of volunteers at Phoenix have been a huge contribution to this; listening to the customers, taking on their own roles, supporting one another and helping Phoenix grow.  I probably would have given up months ago if I didn’t have the team I have.  Let me introduce you…

Cullen/Coffee King applied through Do-it and knew he was going to be an asset as soon as I met him.  Cullen loves coffee and a real perfectionist!  Although he only started working 3 days a week, he now comes in Mon-Fri to banter with customers, make and drink coffee.  He has now become a bit of a legend in Pithay Studios.  Although he is the baby of the bunch, he’s probably the wisest.

Laura/Spanish Toastie Queen started as a volunteer through Skipchen.  I thought we scared her off with Minestrone soup(she couldn’t get how to say it).  She then returned with friends to drink coffee as a customer and we finally got her back on board using Cullen’s charm.  Again, Laura started 1 or 2 days a week and is now in nearly every day!  She is also my food PA as she texts me at 10pm to remind me what food I need to buy for the cafe the next day… so everyone would be having beans on toast if it wasn’t for Laura

Jen/Yen.  I met Jen when she was interested in selling her Macrame in the cafe, in which I exchanged it for her volunteering time instead of commission.  She volunteered by being my in house gardener, keeping my poor plants alive.  I didn’t realise how good a photographer she was.  Obviously I do now as she takes all our photos!  She’s always so positive and willing to help with anything.

Sophie/ SF.  We had our first exhibition in the cafe, Symbiosis, a few months ago.  We had a lot of artists work in, but Sophie enjoyed doodling in the cafe for the exhibition.  I asked her to draw on our mirror as an extra piece, which is still there.  The team loved Sophie’s work and vibe, so she is now our in-house artist! She has completely re-branded Phoenix to an amazing standard.  Plus she’s there, without fail, behind the bar at our acoustic nights.

Beth/The Clever Ditsy Nutritionist.  Beth applied through Do-it and was full of beans when I met her.  She was so excited to get involved, although she knocks into things, she works really hard and is Cullen’s long lost twin.  They are inseperable(they go get vegan brownies from Roll for the Soul after every shift) She is this amazing ball of energy!!

We have had a few different volunteers(Jamie, Jose, Sookie, Sinead) and more starting soon.  The guys have been so patient with me as I have learnt how this business malarky works.  They have created the Phoenix family and the most amazing atmosphere in the cafe, I honestly love my job because of them!

This is probably a more personal/cheesy post, but the Phoenix family is what makes it such a chilled place to hang out and work.  Future posts I’ll go through hurdles and information on how anyone can start a business from almost nothing.  If I can do it, anyone can.

Welcome to Phoenix!

247091_466798980129768_2328646264645549801_nBased in the centre of Bristol, and having opened under 2 weeks ago, we would like to tell you a little more about Phoenix as its not your average business…

I met my business partner, Annie, just a few months back, and having met weekly for chats about our respective clothing lines, it soon became clear that we had bigger plans. After very quickly deciding to take on the old Fitness First gym space on All Saints Street, in Broadmead, we formed plans to start a business with a strong ethos of reuse – and we wanted to begin with the business start up itself!

All the fixtures and fittings, from sofas to plates, hangers to the till, have all been donated from local sources – including individuals, incredibly supportive local businesses, and the members of Bristol ReUse group.Working with meanwhile Creative, who repurpose unused spaces for the use of creative projects and small businesses, we scrubbed, polished, painted and generally molded the donations we had received into a working cafe and shop.

Now the Phoenix is up and running, we want to grow into a truly community focussed space – a centre for  learning, sharing and where Bristolians can experience the amazing range of goods produced locally. We’ve learned a lot about building a business, upcycling, waste, and sticking to your beliefs, even when it seems like madness to do so. We’d like to share what we have learned with you on this blog, alongside the exciting developments that are coming up – please subscribe and let us know your feedback!

Meanwhile, here’s the link to a piece the lovely Made In bristol filmed recently: