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Top frugal but fulfilling lessons from thrifty people



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It’s time to be innovative and spend less. Three frugal women share how they have been able to stretch their budgets as they give you essential survival tips.

We all are witnessing bad days in the year 2020 due to Covid-19. Most of our incomes are threatened. We however, need to survive.

With our pockets now thinner we need to take effective steps to stay safe and also to be more strong financially. Here are some pointers from those who have been thrifting for years.

Pillie Nkasara, 28, is the founder of EasyPizi Fruits & Veggies, an agribusiness that deals with large and small scale supply and delivery of fruits and vegetables. She lives in Lower Kabete, Nairobi.

“Growing up, food wastage was considered abominable at home. My mother made sure everything was stretched to the last. I loved accompanying her to markets from which I learnt the art of bargaining. Today, every trick and rule I know about thrifting is just a page off her book. Here is what saves me.

The best places where you can get huge bargains on groceries, cereals and general household items are located around Nyamakima area in Nairobi downtown.

You will save close to 30 per cent of your money if you buy meat at the Burma Market, or if you buy directly at the slaughterhouse in Kiamaiko and the Ndonyo slaughterhouse in Dagoretti, Nairobi.

Source vegetables and fruits directly from the market instead of buying from the supermarkets or mama mboga. Buying groceries through green grocers who source from farmers and deliver directly to consumers will save you more money than when buying from third party vendors.

How to make your groceries stretch

Wash your leafy vegetables such as spinach and sukuma kienyeji, lettuce, dhania, and mint under running water.

Allow them to air dry, then wrap them with paper towels and put them in zip-lock bags or air-tight containers. Then, place them in a refrigerator. They will last for up to three weeks.

You can also blanch your leafy vegetables for five to 10 minutes with half a tablespoon of baking soda. This will help retain their colour.

For herbs, such as dhania, basil, and parsley, cut off the stems, dry the leaves, then drop them in a small cup of water.

Once there are in the cup, place a loose plastic bag over the top of the herbs for optimal preservation and freshness. This method will see the herbs last for up to two weeks.

Store your ripe tomatoes with the stem scar facing up at room temperature and with a couple of lemons. They will last for about one and a half weeks.

They can however last longer if you blend them into a paste and refrigerate. Use fewer tomatoes when cooking, and instead add a teaspoon of tomato paste to your meals.

Garlic, ginger and onions

Buy your garlic and ginger in bulk. Mash them and add a little oil, then put them in the ice cube tray. You will now only take them out one at a time when cooking.

Garlic and ginger are best stored in a cool dark place. In the same vein, store your onions in a single layer.

This should preferably be in a mesh bag, in a dark, dry, and well ventilated place. You should nonetheless regularly spread them out in the sun.

Do not store your onions together with fruits and vegetables. They will absorb odour and moisture, and end up decaying.

This method will see your onions last for up to four weeks. Buy spring onions instead of bulbs as they are cheaper.

Potatoes and other root vegetables should be stored in a cool and dark place like a closed up cardboard. They will last for up to four weeks.

If you buy potatoes, don’t store them using plastic bags at home. The moisture will cause them to sweat and accelerate their decay. Do not also store them together with onions.

Remove carrot tops or stems, clean them, drain off the moisture and put them in a plastic container or ziplock bags and refrigerate.

They will last for four weeks. Do not store your carrots with fruits as they are prone to absorb odours.

Your cereals can last for up to one year when stored well. The correct way to stretch them is to store them in airtight containers away from light and heat.

When cooked, ensure that they are cooled completely, drain any excess liquid, and store in single serving portions in sealed airtight containers or freezer bags. They can be stored in the freezer for up to six months when packaged this way.

You can also preserve your vegetables such as cabbages through fermentation. Chop and salt your cabbage using three tablespoons for a full cabbage, submerge the cabbage in its own brine in a container, and then tightly seal the container.

You’ll only need to loosen the container after every few days to release the fermentation pressure. Fermenting certain foods such as milk is easy. You can just use a bottle to ferment.

Fatuma Mohammed, alias Thrifty Phat, is a personal shopper, fashion and style enthusiast. She also runs a thrift shop in Mombasa County.

“I am a 30-year-old mother of one based in Mombasa. I have been thrifting clothes for 15 years now. It is an art that was passed to me by my parents. If you want unique, affordable and quality outfits this is the way to go. For example, I still have and wear some of the clothes I thrifted back in high school, and they are still in perfect condition.”

Looking good doesn’t have to be expensive. The trick is to know how to pair your outfits. Unlike many other items, clothes are not too easy to thrift.

They require lots of patience. You must be patient enough and have a keen eye to scour through heaps of clothes at open air markets.

Identifying an item is the first thrift step. How you bargain for each item is the most important step.

You may lose or acquire an overvalued item based on the strength of your bargaining skills. Always bear in mind that in thrift shops or open air markets, prices are hardly fixed.

Dress comfortably when going to thrift clothes. Wear tights and a spaghetti top, this way it will be easier to try on pants at open air markets.

Go to open air markets early and, or before noon. Most sellers open their bales during this time.

Tsedaniya Delnessa, 39, is a photographer and woodworker. She runs Manakristo Designs, a business that makes custom picture frames, home and office accessories.

“I am a mother of three from Ethiopia and I live in Nairobi. I thrift to save on time and money. I grew up in a time where I didn’t rush to the store to buy everything our home needed.

My mother made her tea spices from scratch at home. She would also roast her own coffee, and even make homemade yogurt. Her ways became my ways.

In Ethiopia, every family has recipes for a mix of spices they use in their everyday food, and normally it isn’t done in small batches. You make spices to last a whole year if you had the means. It is much cheaper.

I have learnt amazing Do It Yourself (DIYs) tactics too. For example, I’ve painted a whole house because I couldn’t trust fundis to do it the way I wanted; I’ve put up an entire wooden fence in our garden when I was determined to keep my dogs out of our private area; I laid down over 30 tonnes of soil in our garden when we couldn’t find someone in time to do the work. All these have left me with an extra coin.

To DIY, look around you and see what you have at home that seems outdated, old, or unnecessary. Think of what can be repurposed or up-cycled.

When my kids outgrew their crib, I decided to convert it into a chest for blankets, sheets, and towels instead.

Similarly, I used a large tree trunk for a bedside table when the kids needed one for their room. I just added a splash of colour and got a beautiful and unique piece.

All I only spent money for the paint. I have a friend with whom I swap clothes for our respective kids.

With another friend, we swap vegetables; my beans for her tomatoes; my chilies in lieu of onions.

We had a huge pile of wine bottles sitting at home that I needed to find a solution for. I ended up using them as a boundary for our herb garden. Some of the DIY hacks that I have learned along the way include:

You can freeze and preserve milk. Milk jerry cans can be frozen for up to three weeks. You’ll only need to leave them out to defrost as you need.

You can freeze your extra ripe bananas if you’re afraid they’ll go bad. You can make banana bread with them later. You can also extend the life of your bananas by wrapping the ends in foil or plastic wrap

If your kitchen sink drains are clogged, pour a cup of baking soda into it then slowly add a cup or two of white vinegar. It will bubble away and clean your drain. You can then rinse it with hot water.

De-crust your microwave by boiling a cup of water and half a cup of vinegar. Let it sit there for a minute or two then wipe your microwave clean. All the grime will come off as you wipe.

If you want to cool a drink faster, wrap it in a wet paper towel and put it in the freezer. It’ll be ice cold in about fifteen minutes.

How to live a cheap but rich life now

“I save 20 per cent by buying my detergents at wholesalers at Nyamakima. These include homemade detergents which are cheaper and have higher quantities.” Pillie.

“I buy washing powder in buckets of 5kg. This is a one off purchase that takes me months to exhaust. It’s also cheaper than buying in sachets,” Tsadeniya.

“I wash in bulk once a week. This saves on detergents, which I buy in bulk from wholesalers,” Fatuma.

“I replaced my ordinary bulbs with energy saving bulbs. I also switch off any electronics that I’m not using directly at the socket, and use solar to heat water instead of gas or electricity,” Tsadeniya.

“I use LED bulbs that saves me 30 per cent on power. In case I buy an electronic, I usually go for the one with the eco option on it,” Pillie.

“I do my kitchen shopping in bulk, then leave little portions in the kitchen and lock the rest away. It limits how I use items in the kitchen,” Fatuma.

“I make one large meal that covers a longer period instead of making small meals each time. It saves on ingredients. I also prefer foods such as sweet potatoes, arrowroots and pumpkins. They are healthy and tend to keep one fuller for longer,” Pillie.

“I buy monthly bundles, which come with internet, talk time, SMS, and YouTube. Such bundles are cheaper than daily airtime top-ups,” Pillie.

“If your household doesn’t need total connectivity, you can opt for a monthly mobile bundle based on the strength of the provider’s connectivity.

You can also put a limit to the amount of data you use on your phone. You can text, do voice and video calls, and even international calls for free on WhatsApp,” Tsedaniya.

Make use of personal finance and budgeting apps such as 1Money, Spending Tracker, Monthly Budget Planner & Daily Expense Tracker.

Buy your household essentials in bulk in major wholesalers– Robert Ochieng’ financial advisor at Abojani Investments.

Grow your own vegetables – such as sukuma wiki, dhania, spinach, and onions in your balcony or backyard using plastic pipes, gunny bags (terrace farming), old car tyres, and pots.

Don’t allow your faucets water to continue running as you wash or rinse dishes, brush your teeth, shave or even wash your hands.

Always turn the taps off. Put water restrictors to minimise water pressure. Take a traditional bath instead of running water down on electricity powered showers.

By Satmag

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Go Green na Optiven



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It is the responsibility of everyone to tender and care for the planet for better and healthier future generations.
We call upon you to join any of these categories:
1. Those who are more environmentally friendly
2. Those who are ecologically responsible in both their decision making and lifestyles
3. Those who protect environment
4. Those who protect and sustain the natural resources in their area of business
5. Those who help to conserve resources like water, air and vegetation
6. Those who produce eco-friendly products, thus preventing pollution of our air, water and land
7. Those who can prove that they have been using Green Energy/clean energy such as solar power or if using conventional energy; they are using eco-friendly bulbs and that save energy.
How can each play a role this is a highlight of just but a few but you can  put your   role that  you are doing  to promote the  green agenda
1. Builders/Engineers/Architects/Interiors designers
i. Use of solar energy/ Use of solar panels
ii. Use of Energy saving bulbs, florescent tubes
iii. Use of organic paints, light friendly windows
iv. Use of Eco-friendly toilets
v. Harvesting of rain water from roof tops, use roofs that are Eco-friendly, ensure that water does not go to waste
vi. Proof of reduction of water bills as a result of going green
vii. Water recycling technologies like Bio digester
viii. Those whose provide green buildings, Eco-friendly homes
2. Farming, gardening, landscaping experts
i. Use of drip or sprinkler on not flooding water while gardening or farming
ii. Use of organic pesticides
iii. Use of organic manure
iv. Those who increase forests cover
3. Health businesses, Schools, Hospitals
i. Those providing natural skin care products & not petroleum or synthetic ingredients on the products
ii. Those offering advice on going green, creating awareness of going green
iii. Those who teach children on being a friend of the earth
iv. Those who buy from ethical farmers who are known to produce organic products
4. Transport industry, drivers, delivery companies and logistics firms/organizations
i. Those who reduce carbon emissions directly or indirectly
ii. Any Awareness of climate change
iii. Any knowledge of carbon emissions and how to reduce?
5. Property Owners within Optiven Projects
i. Planting of trees in their plots
ii. Adoption of water recycling technology
iii. Establishment of Green Spaces
iv. Proper waste disposal
6. SMEs
i. Those who recycle waste
ii. Those manufacturing from the recycled materials
iii. Those who take proper care of electronic wastes
iv. Tech companies that have a green policy on disposal of electric waste
v. SMEs that can prove awareness of global warming
7. Families
i. Those who adopt any of the going green initiative say family tree planting, planting a tree during birthday instead of having a birthday cake or doing both
ii. With children who are aware of climate change and also alive to ways of preventing in preventing it
iii. Families that are involved in separation of different form of waste and or engaged in any form of recycling
8. Hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, entertainment joins
i. Provision of organic food to customers
ii. Support of local farmers who do organic farming
iii. Awareness of climate change and its risks to humanity
9. Decision makers- checking the green component in your venture
i. Any policy decisions on going green
ii. Awareness on global warming
iii. Any knowledge of implementation of United Nations Development Goals
10. Children: If you are a child who is school going or otherwise and you have started being sensitive to the planet by doing conservation activities
11. Others: If you  believe that you are a friend of the planet, let us know
#GoingGreen=Healthy Families
George Wachiuri
Optiven Foundation

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VIDEO: Optiven CEO opens up about growing up in abject poverty, doing laundry for fellow students



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George Wachiuri, the CEO of Optiven Limited, has opened up about a side of him few people know about. Despite having built a multi-billion Shilling Real Estate Company and becoming one of the most recognisable names in the field, Wachiuri has remained a humble servant, who says he views his customers as associates and greatly respects and values his work mates. 

In an interview with Jeremy Damaris of Kenya Diaspora Media, he tells of how he struggled, lost money and friends, before rebounding “by the grace of God.”

A Certified Public Accountant – CPA (K) and is a former Lecturer at Daystar University, his entrepreneurial spirit developed early, and was awarded the Entreprenuer of the year 1997 by the University of Nairobi.

He is currently a PhD candidate at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

He holds a Masters’s degree in Business Administration (University of Nairobi), and a Bachelor of Commerce (Marketing option) Degree from University of Nairobi.

Watch as he tells his amazing story in Gīkūyū

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‘Kikambala hotel bombing in 2002 changed our lives’



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The scars on Mercy Neema Mwagambo’s body are a stark reminder of what happened at Paradise Beach Hotel in Kikambala 18 years ago.

On November 28, 2002, a two-pronged terrorist attack hit an Israeli-owned hotel but missed a plane belonging to Arkia Airlines.

A vehicle crashed through a barrier outside the hotel on the Kilifi-Mombasa highway and blew up, killing 17 people and injuring 80 others.

Every year today, Neema and 13 victims of the attack and their families converge at the deserted hotel to pray for the souls of their departed relatives.

However, today could be the last annual ritual as the owner has put the hotel for sale.

Annual ritual

For Neema and other victims, it’s not clear if the prospective buyer would allow them to continue with this annual ritual.

It is an attack that left villages of Musumarini in Kilifi County destitute, negatively affected Israelis’ investments at the Coast and damaged the tourism sector.

“I am trying to sell this property even at a throwaway price,” said Yehuda Sulami, an Israeli, on phone from Tel Aviv, although he did not reveal the price.

Sulami claims that after the attack, there were efforts to push him out of business.

The former special forces officer said he had no money to compensate victims of the attack.

“I’ve faced an avalanche of litigation on compensation. There was no insurance cover on terrorism,” said Sulami.

It is the first time has spoken publicly on the matter.

He said while he sympathised with those who lost their loved ones or suffered injuries, he lost his lifetime investment and close friends and “there was no one to comfort me.”

Among the 17 who perished were 14 Kenyans and three Israelis. The deserted hotel is arguably the only remaining mark of Israel investment in Coast.

Prior to the attack, over 100,000 tourists from Israel had made Mombasa and Kenyan Coast their second home away from home.

“Arkia Airline used to bring in between 250-270 guests per flight. It had operated Mombasa route for close to seven years before the attempted missile attack,” said Sulami.

After the attack, the airline stopped flying the route and Israel investments at the Coast started dwindling.

Sulami claimed that what followed was a number of litigation and attempts to force them to close down the hotel.

“We became the target yet the Kenyan government had promised to assist the affected persons,” said Sulami, without providing any evidence of the alleged persecution.

The victims of the attack narrated to the Saturday Standard on how they were neglected by the Government and the owner of the hotel.

For instance, Neema cannot walk as her legs were seriously injured. She was working at the front office at the hotel.

On that fateful day, she was helping a guest check in as her colleagues were overwhelmed by the number of tourists.

“Had I remained inside the hotel at my work station, may be I would not have been injured this way,” said Neema.

November is a peak season for the tourism sector in Coast. On that day, as a group of 230 guests were leaving the hotel, another 250 tourists were checking in. All the guests were Israelis.

“I reported early for duty on that fateful day and was looking forward to a rather busy day since we had huge check in and check out for guests,” she said in an interview.

At the gate, a troupe of Girima dancers were doing their jig to bid goodbye to outgoing guests and welcome the incoming ones.

Most of the incoming tourists had already been ushered in to the waiting lounge at the reception but a small group had joined the traditional dancers.

“What followed was a huge bang followed by fire all over the Makuti-thatched hotel,” Neema said, adding that she found herself on the ground.

Neema could not walk so she crawled to the swimming pool. She had suffered serious burns allover her body and decided to jump into the swimming pool to cool herself.

“I was taken to hospital in Mombasa and later airlifted by a military aircraft to Israel for specialised treatment at Jerusalem Hospital. I spent four weeks receiving treatment for my broken legs and burnt face and back,” she said.

The Kikambala bombing incident also robbed the family of Mufidha Mohamed of its breadwinner, Wildred Oyaro Owuor, who used to operate a taxi business at the hotel.

“My husband suffered a ruptured stomach. He died 21 days after he was admitted at Pandya Hospital,” Mufidha says. She was breastfeeding Zaki, their last born now 18 years, when the attack happened.

She said with the death of her husband, she was left as the sole breadwinner to fend for her five children.

“It has not been easy for us all. I have tried to venture into business with very little success,” she said.

Today Mufidha, her children and a few other survivors will converge at the blast site to hold prayers and commemorate those who died.

“Today we shall go to the hotel which has now closed down to hold prayers. It is a ritual I’ll do until I meet him in the next life,” says Mufidha.

Dr Sam Ikwaye, Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (Kahc) Coast branch executive officer, says the events of the fateful day have had a long impact on Kenyan tourism.

Travel advisories

Dr Ikwaye says it is after the Kikambala bombing that key foreign tourists source markets started issuing travel advisories against Mombasa and the Coast region.

“This was the start of a very bad beginning for Kenyan tourism,” Ikwaye said.

He explained the Kikambala bombing marked the first time the industry experienced serious external shocks and has never fully recovered.

“Neighbouring nations too and the world experienced our pain years after we had suffered and today terrorism has been recognised as a threat not just synonmous with Kenya, but the world over,” he said.

Kilifi Senator Stewart Madzayo said it is unfortunate that no compensation was made to those who suffered the brunt of the terror attack.

“Both the national and county governments should be compelled to assist surviving families. This will not take away completely the suffering they have endured but will offer some sort of comfort to those affected,” said Justice (rtd) Madzayo.


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