Tag Archives: waste

Pantry Staples

unnamed (6)After a recent post about groceries, I was talking with a friend about how we manage to go grocery shopping so “rarely”–anywhere from one week to three weeks.

That got me to thinking about how we pull it off, and what it boils down to is this:  we keep certain things (foods, spices, etc.) in our kitchen that can be utilized by many different dishes.  Here are a few examples:

1.  A broad assortment of spices.  In addition to the standard spices, like cinnamon, salt and pepper, make sure to have a few other options available too.  Ones I find I use a lot include ginger, cumin, parsley, and (surprisingly) crushed red pepper flakes.

The benefit to having a variety of seemingly random spices is that if you don’t have a spice on hand that a recipe calls for, a quick internet search often yields an appropriate substitute, thus eliminating the need to go out to the store and spend money.  For example, I did not have poultry seasoning on hand for a recipe, but I did have rosemary, oregano, sage, ginger, marjoram, and thyme that Google told me would make a decent DIY poultry seasoning.  It worked!

2.  Protein source.  Be it lentils, peanut butter, chicken, beef, fish, or lamb, keeping a protein source at the ready can help you create the skeleton of a recipe.  Plus, if you stock up when meats are on sale, you can also save money!

3.  Veggies.   It is a well-known fact that I incorporate almost-rotten foods in my cooking because I hate the idea of wasting food (and thus wasting money), but don’t discount frozen and canned vegetables either.  Toss them in with your spices and protein source, and you are well on your way to a tasty casserole of your own making.

4.  Cream of something soup.  Ronnica makes her own cream of chicken soup; I prefer to buy mine.  No matter your soup origin preference, if you have cream of chicken/mushroom/celery soup on hand, then you have a critical component of hundreds of recipes.

What food staples do you keep handy?

Environmental Pet Peeves

Tomorrow is Earth Day. Just like we say about Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day, we should love the earth every day. Please don’t allow this day to be the only day you think about your personal environmental impact.

In honor of the holiday, I’m going to use today’s blog post to share my earth-related pet peeves. I’m the first to admit that I can be a hypocrite and don’t always practice what I believe, so if you do any of these things, don’t think I think that you hate the earth. Still, I would ask you to reconsider.

My environmental pet peeves:

water bottles1. Bottled water. I try to never use a plastic disposable individual bottle of water. I bring my own water bottles wherever I go, and much prefer to drink from them. This also helps my wallet: a bottle water costs significantly more for something that is likely to be someone else’s tap water, anyway.

2. Throwing away recyclables. If you want to bug me further, throw that disposable bottle in the trash. I’m thankful that recycling options are so common these days. Even if you have to go out of your way to do so, please toss recyclables in the right container.

3. Leaving the light on. Here’s looking at you, Motel 6. I get that not everyone wants to live in the dark as much as I do, but even if you desire a room to be institutionally-bright, you don’t need it to be so lit when no one is in it. Turn off the light.

4. Leaving a car running while parked. Except when it’s extremely hot or cold, I don’t get this.

5. Excessive packaging. This isn’t an individual issue, but a manufacturer issue. We’ve come to believe that everything must come in a package. I hope to buy more and more that comes in green packaging (most preferably, no packaging).

What about you, what are your environmental pet peeves?

Photo by Daniel Orth

Child Christmas Gifts for $6 Each

Every year one of the presents I give my niece is nephew is my reading them a book, recorded on CD. I’ve been reading Chronicles of Narnia for my niece, and Roald Dahl books for my nephew.

This year I decided to supplement those gifts with another homemade gift: personalized “Find Its.” This is the finished product:

Homemade Find Its

I used a couple of sites for information and inspiration: for the Find It and for dying rice. I’ve included the steps I used and my observations below.

1. Find and prepare a clear, plastic container. I used peanut jars, and removed the sticky residue after I removed their labels by rubbing them down with oil, then dish soap.

2. Gather the items to include. I was all about using existing material, but I really didn’t have enough small items that would be fun for almost-4-year-old Bean and 2-year-old Peanut. I asked my friends with kids to supplement the items, which they did very helpfully.

The smaller the item, the better. I initially had a few larger items (2″ or so) in them, but it kept everything else from being able to move around.

Here’s what I included:

Find It itemsFind It objectsThe only thing I bought was the foam letters.

3. Dye the rice. The rice will take a day or two to dry, so make sure you give yourself enough time. I included 10-20 drops of food coloring with a few tablespoons of vinegar, then mixed it in yogurt containers with the rice. I didn’t like the color of the purple, so I ended up replacing that rice with rice I dyed yellow.

Dyed rice in yogurt containers

To help them dry, I spread the rice out on paper plates.

dyed rice drying

4. Take a picture of the objects you’re including, if desired. I’m printing out the above pictures and laminating them.

5. Once the rice is fully dry and you’ve taken a picture of your items, combine the rice and items in your container. I used 2 different colors of rice in each container. It mixes together as shown above very quickly.

6. Super glue or hot glue the lid onto the container, so that nothing escapes.

For this project I spent:

$7.98 on rice and peanuts (I’m saving the peanuts for future trail mix, and just used the containers)
$1.52 on printing and laminating the pictures
$1.93 on foam letters
$11.46 total

At $5.73 a Find It, that’s 1/3 the price they would be at Walmart, plus you can personalize them to the kid’s interests.

Lesson of the Lunchbox

A few weeks ago I tried doing mason jar salads for the first time. As someone who loves mason jars and making my weekday meals ahead of time, it seemed like a logical thing for me to try.

It turned out really well. I highly recommend this page as a tutorial for how to organize your salad layers, as that is the most important thing for fresh mason jar salads. When it’s time to eat, I simply dump the contents of the mason jar onto a plate and have a healthy, delicious meal.

But this post isn’t about mason jar salads.

One day a couple of weeks ago I unexpectedly had my work meal provided for so I didn’t need my mason jar salad that day. I left it, my plate and fork (the real stuff) in my lunch box in the fridge for the next day.

The problem is, it was a Thursday.  I left those items in the fridge that gets cleaned out on Thursday nights (when they decide to do so). When I went in the next day, there was no sign of my lunch box.

Or my mason jar, plate or fork.

I was, understandably, upset. After all, I strive to be a good steward of my belongings (hello, blog title) and losing these items was not being a good steward. To make it worse, most likely those still-wanted items were on their way to a landfill.

It was really easy to get mad: at the cleaning crew and at myself. But then I realized that I couldn’t change what happened by stewing on it further (I had already checked with the cleaning crew and they no longer had it). So I had to give myself grace.

I do want to  be a good steward of my possessions, and there is certainly room to improve in that. But I also need to recognize that the goal is not to be perfect in my stewardship. No one is saved by my frugality or eco-friendliness. While I do hope that there are positive consequences for others by my actions, that is my secondary motivation.

My primary motivation is to be faithful to the God who was first faithful to me. If I beat myself up about not doing this or that, I’m not honoring God who already did all the work for my salvation.

I hope that every time I look at my new lunch box or at my 7-plate dinnerware set I will think of God’s grace for me.

lunch box
My new lunch box is a little bit bigger, as it also doubles as my cooler.

Quitting Food Waste

I read a lot, and a lot of that lately has been about how to save money and save the environment. One thing I don’t remember being expressly talked about (but always there, somewhere) is the idea of not wasting food.

So I did a little research and found out:

– 1/3 of all food produced each year in the world is not consumed, but wasted

– Here in the United States, food waste is the 2nd largest category of landfill waste

– The food waste in the US works out to average 20 pounds per person, per month*

food waste ad on dump truckI’ve never calculated it, but I would guess that I’m around average in the amount of food I waste (if not worse). That disgusts me. I’m wasting my money, and I’m wasting food that others’ could eat.

Then, I throw it in dumpster where it will rot in a landfill that will scar the landscape and be sealed off, so those nutrients will not be able to nourish anyone else for a very long time.

I’m done with that.

I’m going to follow Sharon Astyk’s lead (author of Depletion and Abundance) and try better the American average by 90%. So starting now, I’m going to work towards wasting less than 2 pounds of food a month. I’d love to get to that point by the end of 2015.

What are my strategies for wasting less? (this is the section where my mom will shake her head, because I have always been an eat-very-little-of-my-plate-when-eating-out, leftover-hating girl)

1. Buy only what I know I’ll eat/use. My Buy Little Month helped me to be more intentional in what I buy. I want to continue that intentionality.

2. Use what is close to spoiling first. This will mean going outside o my comfort zone a little, because I have always been a strict follower of sell-by dates. I obviously don’t want to make myself (or anyone else) sick, but a little investigation will help me figure out what I can safely use. Recently, I researched eggs and now know how to read the carton as well as how to determine if an egg has gone bad (without having to crack it).

3. Don’t make more than I’ll eat. Living alone, I’ve gotten pretty good with this, but there’s always room for improvement.

4. When eating out, don’t order more than I’ll eat. Did I mention that I don’t like leftovers? I’ve grown to figure out how to eat my own leftovers, but I still don’t like restaurant leftovers.  I need to find smaller meals or items à la carte to order. Thankfully, I don’t eat out much.

Hopefully at some point, I’ll start composting, too, but I’m not ready to attract that kind of bug life to my apartment or balcony.

Will you join me in quitting food waste?

Photo by North Devon Council

*The stats found above can be found here