One Small Thing: Plastic Straws

 

In this series I am highlighting one small thing you can do in your life that will make a difference in our collective waste production and move us towards a plastic free world. Don’t forget to read back through why you should consider making the switch to cloth napkins, handkerchiefs, and anything other than plastic bottles.

Today, I am breaking the news: Plastic straw are out.

You may have heard.

There are literal laws against them now in places like Seattle and California, and massive international companies like Starbucks and Disney are on board.

budget epicurean one small thing plastic straws

And thank goodness for that, because Americans use about 500 million straws per day!*

*Though the oft-cited 500 million straws per day number might not be accurate, the point is the number is really high, and no matter what the number is, we can and should work towards lowering it.

According to Time.com:

“Some scientists estimate there are 7.5 million plastic straws polluting U.S. shorelines, and anywhere from 437 million to 8.3 billion plastic straws on shorelines around the world. And plastic straws are just a small percentage of the more than 8 million metric tons of plastic that end up in the ocean each year.”

So whether the number is 5 thousand or 5 million, we need it to become closer to zero.

Some may argue the fact that straws are plastic and recyclable. To which I ask: when is the last time you actually recycled a straw?

We are really bad at recycling straws.

They are small, and so ubiquitous as to be an afterthought.

And even if we tried to recycle them, the machinery we have is built for dealing with cans and bottles and laundry detergent jugs, it cannot sort things in the tiny size range of straws.

Here’s a quick primer to answer: “can I recycle this”.

Recycling Mystery: Plastic Straws

Now, I want to be clear: this is not a political issue for me.

This is not a liberals versus conservatives thing.

I don’t give a good goddamn if you have a closet full of rifles or voted for Obama, twice.

I’m not advocating for #StopSucking or #StrawGate.

All I’m saying is, maybe this is the wake-up call that consumers and beverage providers need. The humble straw can be a “gateway plastic” of sorts. Maybe this will get people thinking about all the other single use plastics in our lives.

Maybe we can start asking why.

And how.

And what can I do to stop it.

budget epicurean one small thing plastic straws

We go through our days on autopilot, just throwing things away.

Where is “away”?

Where do you really think your trash goes?

Because literally every piece of plastic anything, ever made, is still here, on this planet. It may have broken down into microplastics, some may have been melted and turned into some other plastic thing, but it is all still here. And we just keep piling it on.

There is a lot of good to this movement, but also some bad.

Why People With Disabilities Are Sick of Hearing, “You Can/I Just.” And I Am Too.

There are people who, due to muscular, nerve, or other disorders, can only drink a beverage safely through a straw. And I don’t have all the answers.

What I’m hoping is that this inspires more of a cultural shift.

A change in perspective. A gentle jolt out of our complacent first world lives where we don’t know or care what is happening outside the boundaries of our social media feed.

 

Some ideas for alternatives to plastic straws:

Other straw materials

To choose the right alternative straw for you, you need to ask yourself a few questions.

What is your price point? How often do you use a straw? Hot or cold drinks? Thick or thin liquids? (i.e. milkshakes and smoothies vs iced coffee, water, and tea)

The good news is there is a plethora of options, with more becoming available all the time.

Paper:

Paper Straws are made from… paper.

The good news is that means they are compostable at the end of their life span and can be returned to the earth. They do have their own pitfalls as well though.

budget epicurean one small thing plastic straws

PROS
o Can be printed with food safe vegetable inks
o Vintage appearance, vibrant and colourful
o Completely biodegradable & compostable
o Great for use with children
o Trees can be a renewable resource if harvested responsibly

CONS
o Will go soggy after a short period of time
o Not suited for thick smoothies and milkshakes
o Some may still be coated in a thin layer of plastic

Sugar cane or Corn starch:

PLA STRAWS – PLA, short for ‘Polylactic Acid’ is made from a renewable resources, such as corn starch & sugar cane.

PROS
o Has the appearance of plastic
o Completely Biodegradable & compostable
o Made from renewable sources
o Can make it flexible like bendy straws
o Easily transportable

CONS
o Can only be composted at commercial composting facility, not at home
o Looks like plastic, so consumers may mistake it for plastic
o Not yet cost effective to a large restaurant/supplier

Glass:

Glass straws are of course made from glass. Most are decently thick such that you shouldn’t have to treat them too delicately, but they are still, well, made of glass.

PROS
o Very smooth, like sipping right from the glass
o Clear, you can see that it’s clean (hopefully)
o Doesn’t really conduct heat, so you can drink hot or cold drinks

CONS
o Easily breakable if dropped or banged against anything
o Slightly heavier than paper or PLA straws

Steel

Stainless steel straws are the most durable option. Made from stainless steel, they should last forever, and not rust.

PROS
o Lasts a LONG time, very cost effective
o Sleek and smooth like the glass kind

CONS
o May hurt if you hit yourself in the teeth with it
o Conducts heat well, so a hot drink might be a problem
o May occasionally get a metallic taste using it

budget epicurean one small thing plastic straws

Reusable sturdy plastic

When all else fails, a reusable plastic straw can at least be washed and drunk from many many times.

I’ll admit I have a handful of plastic straws that I bought on sale at Target several years ago. While they are plastic, they are also a sunk cost for me. They have already been manufactured, packaged, shipped, and bought.

They are a thicker, heavier plastic, and they are dishwasher safe. I use these straws to get myself to drink more water throughout the day, in my morning smoothies, iced coffees, and in many other ways, at home and out and about.

Since I wash them over and over, I’m certain these 5 or 6 straws have already been used dozens of times, and have several more years of life left in them.

 

Bring your own, duh

To go along with the points above about using your own straw that can be used over and over, it is also a good idea to bring one with you at all times if you are a frequent straw user.

There are legitimate arguments from some corners to keep at least the option of straws at restaurants, mainly for folks who, because of a disability, literally cannot drink without straws for one reason or another.

To that I say, why not have places that sell beverages be stocked with reusable straws that they can also sell? (See above)

Have it be a low enough price point that it is affordable, maybe $1.

Yes, everyone is human and if this is your situation you likely carry a straw regularly. But forget enough times and it will become very ingrained, and/or you will eventually have a straw in every car, bag, purse, and coat pocket.

Just drink from the damn glass

This is the simplest option of all: just don’t.

Like the opposite of Nike.

Just don’t use a straw.

Drink from the glass like humans have done for millennia.

budget epicurean one small thing plastic straws

Whether hot or cold, at home or on the go, you can always just drink from the vessel into which you put your liquid. And then of course either wash and reuse it, or properly recycle the container.

 

Want to figure out which straw you should use?
Take the Going Zero Waste quiz and find out!

 

 

What do you think about these plastic straw bans? About time, or too little too late? How do you avoid plastic straws?

Weekly Eating – 9/3/18

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

Well, Brofest week was a great success! All the guys made it in at various times on Saturday, staggered but close enough together that we had to take only one trip to the airport. It warms my heart to see the genuine affection for each other present in lifelong friends.

The whole weekend was filled with games of various kinds. Mostly video, but also console and board. A couple walks around the block were taken, and I even got them out of the house to visit my favorite all you can eat sushi place. I was quite proud of the fact that even though I was with 6 grown men, my plate stack was the tallest!

budget epicurean stacks of sushi plates

I also had a blast cooking in huge batches. I definitely have strong hosting genes from my catering and party planning relatives. I made a huge breakfast strata, apple pie oatmeal, 2 pans of enchiladas, a burrito bar, top your own pizza night, banana muffins, grilled cheese and tomato soup.

breakfast

By the time we got through Monday, I think we had used up about 9 pounds of ground beef, 4 pounds pork roast, 13 pounds chicken, 4 pounds pasta, about 1 pound of rice, a whole jar of salsa, some number of cans of beans…

budget epicurean breakfast buffet

 

Monday:

Breakfast – Since it was a holiday, this is the morning when I made a big batch of banana muffins. I had just ordered and gotten a set of silicone muffin pan molds the week before, so I was super excited to try them out! They are so pretty, and worked like a charm.

budget epicurean banana muffins

Lunch – RocknRolls Sushi! Between 7 of us we nommed quite a mountain of fish and rice.

Dinner – I made pizza dough when we got back home to give it time to rise. Then I rolled out a base and set out toppings and let everyone choose their pizza. Mine was definitely the only one that had any green on top…

budget epicurean top pizza night

Tuesday:

Breakfast – breakfasts will be boring this week, because literally every single day is banana muffins!

Lunch – I also had prepped 2 more kale and chickpea salad bowls, and took one for lunch today. I felt like that wouldn’t be quite enough on its own so I also dipped into my emergency work food stash and added a can of lentil veggie soup.

budget epicurean soup and salad

Dinner – Roasted chicken quarters with fresh pico di gallo and rosemary potatoes and corn on the cob

budget epicurean roasted chicken

Wednesday:

Breakfast – there were boys sleeping on the couch and in the other rooms, so breakfast had to be quick and quiet. Banana muffins to the rescue!

Lunch – The other kale and chickpea salad

budget epicurean kale salad

Dinner – The only dinner out so far, we all went to Tyler’s Taproom in the Tobacco campus of Durham for burgers and garlic fries

Thursday:

Breakfast – banana muffns, no way!

Lunch – my leftover pizza: marinara, thin sliced potato, kale, peppers and onions, and goat cheese

budget epicurean pizza

Dinner – I tried a new recipe with mac n cheese, cause I had a hankering for BBQ pulled pork mac, and OH MY GOD IT WAS AMAZING. The boy agreed, best mac n cheese I’d ever made. Of course it was like: 1 1/2 stick butter, 1 pound of 3 different cheeses, 1 1/2 pounds pasta, garlic salt…

budget epicurean mac n cheese

Friday:

Breakfast – sweet potato waffle with candied pecans. Just kidding, banana muffins!

Lunch – leftover enchilada with Spanish rice and charro beans

budget epicurean leftover enchiladas

Dinner – one of the guys shared a recipe his family makes called Bayou chicken, and everyone agreed it sounded amazing, so I picked up the ingredients at the store on the way home. I agree, it was indeed amazing!! Heavy cream will do that.

budget epicurean bayou chicken

The Weekend

We had a small amount of time left with one on Saturday, so we looked at a list of things to do in the Triangle. Turns out there was a free Greek Fest in Raleigh, so we checked that out.

There was music and dancing, Greek things for sale, and of course the food (which is really the reason we went). We also tried ouzo and Greek beers. Not a fan of anything licorice so the ouzo was meh, but the beer was good.

raleigh greek fest

And then they had a baklava sundae!! It’s basically mashed up baklava over ice cream, and it was seriously one of the most amazing things I’ve ever had. Of course I totally love baklava and anything with honey in it, so, unfair advantage.

baklava

Then we hung out at a bar in downtown Durham called the Atomic Fern, where they have a huge wall of board games you can borrow and play while you sit and drink. We played some we knew and tried some new ones, and now I’ve got some ideas for my Christmas list this year.

atomic fern

We will probably spend some time Sunday cleaning up from all the tornado of boy that happened this week, but are also planning on getting a cleaning service. But I gotta say, I’m gonna miss having everyone here.

It was really fun to have a full house, always someone to talk to, cooking in huge amounts… I can better understand now why my mom always loved hosting giant dinner parties and family holidays, and why my grandmother continued catering long into her 70s.

Food Total: $23.79

This is just from the couple things I picked up for the bayou chicken. Thank goodness that big $300 shopping spree was more than enough to make it through the week. The meals out are not included either, as those come from the ‘eating out’ or fun part of the budget.

Lessons Learned

I think our society has lost something primal and satisfying by no longer having large families all living under one roof, or a community of people that live near each other and all cook and live together.

The last night especially, on Friday, the 4 of us left were all cooking together. My kitchen is teeny tiny but we made it work. Someone was chopping onion, someone else was shredding the Parmesan, someone else dicing the chicken breasts.

It just felt so nice, so right, so comforting. Maybe I do need to open a restaurant someday, and create a team that feels like family.

 

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

 

 

Weekly Eating – 8/27/18

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

 

Well, Saturday ended up being MUCH more productive than I expected! I took that 20 pounds of peaches and turned it into 10 jars of peach jam (4 of which are destined for the food swap) and 6 jars of quartered canned peaches in the pantry! The pantry is slowly coming along as I edge out plastics with glass jars and canned items.

budget epicurean pantry

At the thrift store I also found some nice baskets for pantry items and a ton of excellent glassware. I also spent some time hanging up pants I bought at the thrift store for $4 each to dry, and ironing a batch of freshly laundered handkerchiefs. Oh, and had my first taste of a fresh fig! They are seriously amazing.

budget epicurean ironing handkerchiefs

Also, that ridiculously expensive spirulina? Yeah, turns out it turns all smoothies a really unappetizing brown/black color… The boy and I are both not impressed. Chalk that up to a costly lesson. No photos here… you’re welcome.

And I almost forgot, Sunday I hosted another tea party! I had a few girlfriends over for a few hours, to snack and chat and drink tea (of course). It’s always nice to have time to relax and catch up on each others’ lives. And also the food. I love making it, and I love sharing it, and I love eating it!

budget epicurean appetizers
Local tomato bruschetta and goat cheese stuffed dates and figs with sage and balsamic drizzle

Monday:

Breakfast – smoothie with banana, frozen mixed berries, and spirulina

Lunch – I had a later than usual breakfast, and an earlier than usual dinner, so no lunch today

Dinner – Tonight was Food Swap night! I inhaled some leftover quinoa with veggies before running out the door.

Hosted at Bull City Ciderworks, we had a good turnout, and lots of new faces. I made some new connections, and came home with a pretty great variety of stuff. My first time making biscotti turned out great, thank goodness, and the pistachio cardamom was a hit.

budget epicurean pistachio cardamom biscotti

Tuesday:

Breakfast – smoothie with frozen cherries and blueberries and fresh peaches. Yes that is a plastic straw but it is the heavier reusable kind.

budget epicurean breakfast smoothie

Lunch – I prepped two big kale and chickpea salads over the weekend to have for grab and go lunches. It couldn’t be simpler: 3-4 handfuls of kale, rub with olive oil and lemon juice. Split a drained can of chickpeas between 2 salads, sprinkle on garlic salt, pepper, and grated parmesan cheese if desired.

budgetepicurean kale and chickpea salad

Dinner – leftover chicken and rice soup

Wednesday:

Breakfast – smoothie with frozen tropical mix, fresh peaches, cherry juice, and amla powder. I love this mix of fruit, but I hate that they put coconut chunks in it. Just why?

budget epicurean breakfast smoothie

Lunch – thawed homemade ravioli from a previous food swap with thawed pesto made from my own basil 🙂

budget epicurean ravioli with pesto

Snack – fresh heirloom tomato pico de gallo and blue corn chips

Dinner – I had a bunch of random odds and ends to use up: some pinto beans, a tiny bit of pico de gallo, a couple wet bruschetta. So I figured, why not make a Mexican strata? I layered the bruschetta in a pan, topped with pinto beans and pico, and poured on a few eggs. Baked at 350 for 40 minutes, and top with cheese and avocado.

budget epicurean breakfast strata for dinner

YUM! And now the fridge has more space! #nomorefoodwaste

Thursday:

Breakfast – Leftover pancakes with coffee. Whenever I make more pancakes than we can eat, I pop the rest in a bag in the fridge. Then all it takes is a quick reheat in the toaster, and good as new.

budget epicurean pancakes

Lunch – the other kale and chickpea salad, with grape tomatoes and an apple

more kale

Snack – I had myself a lovely tea time in the afternoon with green tea, my own biscotti, and a johnnycake from a previous food swap

budget epicurean tea and biscotti

Dinner – Thursday $3 Co-op dinner! Tonight was biscuits and gravy. None of us were brave enough to try the vegan biscuit, but the vegan gravy was okay. Not my favorite meal ever, but 8 of us all got together, there was much laughter, and live music. I’d eat cardboard and be happy in that situation. There’s nothing I love more than chill and cheap hangout with friends time!

budget epicurean co-op dinner

Friday:

Breakfast – a sad bowl of cocoa puffs. It was so tasty though!

Lunch – the rest of the leftover Turkish red lentil stew & some more grape tomatoes

budgetepicurean red lentil stew and tomatoes

Dinner – I started a crock pot full of chili this morning, and cannot wait to come home to that delicious smell! It also used up tons of odds and ends: field peas from the last produce box, rest of baked pinto beans, several heirloom tomatoes that needed used up.

The Weekend

Well, this weekend kids off Brofest at our house. Hub’s closest friends from childhood through college are all turning 30 this year, so they decided to do one big reunion /get together / celebration. At our house. For a full week. I have several friends with spare bedrooms on standby and a bag packed if I need a quick escape.

I kid. I’ve met all these dudes, and love them to pieces.

Anyone who is vetted by the boy and remained that closely in touch for two decades or so is clearly a good person. This week of relaxation, bonding, video games, and beer could not be more needed at a stressful point in his career, and I could not be more excited to have a houseful of hungry boys to cook for!

Though that does lead to the next point…

 

Food Total: $366.76

Ouch. Feeding a half dozen grown men for a full week is not a cheap ambition, let me tell you. But I am up for the task. We are now stocked for sandwiches, cereal,oatmeal, grilled cheeses, pizza, and more burritos than I would know what to do with.

There isn’t a spare inch of unused freezer space at this point. And I bet it will be nearly cleaned out by next Sunday. (HOW do parents with multiple boys in their teens at the same time stay solvent??)

But you know what?

Worth it.

Lessons Learned

As Mrs. FAF just pointed out, leftovers are a beautiful thing! I am so thankful both of us not only tolerate but actually enjoy eating leftovers. And I quote often even cook twice or three times as much food on purpose, to save us time later in the week. This is definitely one of my top tips for eating well on a budget.

 

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

 

 

One Small Thing – Water Bottles

 

In this series, I am highlighting one small thing you can change in your daily life and habits that add up to a plastic free world. Don’t forget to read up on cloth handkerchiefs and cloth napkins too. We as a species have a long way to go, but each tiny step in the right direction brings us closer to the goal.

Today, we are beating this dead horse: Water Bottles.

Unless you live under a rock, you know all about this. You’ve heard it a million times, seen it a million times.

Plastic is everywhere.

And none is moreso ubiquitous than plastic water bottles.

By the way, when I say water bottle, I also mean any other single use plastic bottled beverage. Sodas, lemonade, iced tea, sports drinks. They all come in plastic, and they are all part of the problem.

The numbers are pretty dire.

“Annual consumption of plastic bottles is set to top half a trillion by 2021, far outstripping recycling efforts and jeopardising oceans, coastlines and other environments” (Source: the Guardian)

plastic water bottles on a table

Think about everywhere you may have been offered or used a plastic water bottle.

  • Your office or work place
  • At a conference
  • A kids sports event
  • At a play or musical
  • Moving day
  • Lecture halls
  • On vacation
  • On a hike
  • At a lake
  • Camping
  • Potlucks
  • Barbeques
  • Office meetings
  • Retirement party
  • Birthday party
  • Wedding shower
  • Baby shower
  • On a plane
  • In an airport
  • At an amusement park
  • An aquarium
  • At the zoo
  • Skating rink
  • Soccer stadium
  • Baseball stadium
  • Football stadium
  • Hockey rink (you get the point)
  • Family holidays
  • At a friends’ house
  • At your house?!?

With the exception of times when local municipal water is honestly not safe to drink, there is absolutely no excuse to drink bottled water rather than tap water in your own home.

If this is your situation, then by all means drink from bottles. Water is hella important to the staying alive thing, and I’d far prefer that you drink water than not.

As the daughter of a chemist and director of seven water management facilities, I can tell you that 99% of tap water is perfectly safe to drink. I grew up my whole life drinking tap water.

Is it a taste thing?

Do you not like that water has no flavor? Does your tap water have too much chlorine or other flavor you don’t like?

Get a filter. Add cucumber slices or frozen berries. Squirt in some lemon juice. Invest in a SodaStream to make it fizzy. Hell, buy a few Mios and squirt some in.

No excuses.

And when you are out and about, there is a 90% chance that you can find a tap to refill a bottle, IF you have one. That’s a big if. Just like stocking every bag and car with a reusable cloth bag, why not start putting a reusable bottle there too?

If you have your own bottle, guess what?

That refill is free!

Yes, you can save yourself anywhere from $1 to $5 (depending on the location) by not buying a drink.

And, not use another plastic bottle!

AND, water is WAY healthier for you than any other sweetened, flavored beverage you might buy.

Win win win!

Any plastic, glass, or stainless steel bottle will do. Many colleges, businesses, or sports teams give them out for free. Thrift stores are bursting with reusable bottles for mere dimes. Get yo self a bottle and USE IT.

For the health of it. For the planet. For the financial savings.

SO, repeat this out loud please: I will stop using plastic single-use bottles.

Why?

  • It is 1,000 times cheaper to drink tap water! (Infinity times really because dividing by zero. #maththings)
  • Remembering my own bottle is easy, and will become a new habit.
  • I care about the future of our planet, forests, animals, and oceans!

 

Did I miss any water bottle locations or excuses? Just kidding, pretty sure literally anywhere could go on that list. How do you avoid single use plastic bottles?

Weekly Eating – 8/20/18

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

Over the weekend, I spent some time pulling out diseased squash vines and clearing a corner of the garden. Since there is now space, I also started a big batch of fall seeds!

budget epicurean fall planting seedlings

My library is amazing and has a free seed service, where you can take home up to 4 kinds a few times a year. You can also save seeds and bring them in to share with your fellow Durhamites. I started the 4 from the library and a few from home too, so hopefully I will have beets, turnips, kale, collards, swiss chard, and/or onions in a few weeks.

 

Monday:

Breakfast – smoothie with peaches, bananas, frozen blueberries and flax & amla powder

Lunch – leftover veggie burger + portobello wrapped up in a whole grain wrap with roasted red pepper hummus and sliced veggies

Dinner – This AMAZING egg roll in a bowl from Don’t Waste the Crumbs: https://dontwastethecrumbs.com/2018/03/egg-roll-bowl/

budget epicurean egg roll in a bowl

Tuesday:

Breakfast – I diced up a potato, some mini peppers, grape tomatoes, and sweet potato leaves and cooked them in a frying pan with a lid on for about 15 minutes for a delicious and filling breakfast hash.

budget epicurean breakfast hash

Lunch – Well… I brought leftover egg roll in a bowl. But I forgot that Tuesday is now my busiest day, and I rarely am at my desk between 10 and 2 anymore. So I was starving, and couldn’t wait long enough, and succumbed to Starbucks (the closest semi-healthy option).

budget epicurean emergency starbucks lunch

I felt so much guilt for the $8.50 spent, as well as the plastic container. I’m hoping this makes me remember next week to pack a lunch that can be portable at room temp. I intend to re-use the package at least a few times.

Snack – hummus and veggies

Dinner – I diced up oodles of veggies: squash, zucchini, bell peppers, white corn, and red onion, and mixed it with 1 cup of quinoa and 1 cup of water. Then I baked it at 350 for about an hour, stirring once. The result was an amazing summer one pan dinner.

budget epicurean quinoa summer veggie casserole

I also had another big batch of leftover old bread slices and ends, so while the oven was on anyways I roasted the bread too, and then pulsed it in my food processor to make bread crumbs. Waste not want not right?

Wednesday:

Breakfast – homemade bread with peanut butter and fruit

budget epicurean toast and fruit

Lunch – leftover egg roll in a bowl with rice. I also had my reuseable water cup with straw, real fork from home, and used a hankie as a napkin. Was pretty pleased with myself.

budget epicurean leftovers waste free lunch

Snack – peaches, apples, and pear slices

Dinner – Erin’s amazing Turkish red lentil stew! I thought I over-did it on the cinnamon, as it smelled pretty strong, but the flavor was great!

budget epicurean red lentil soup

Then that night I had a great food debate on Twitter, which all started with popcorn. Of course I ended up making a big bowl.

budget epicurean stovetop popcorn

Thursday:

Breakfast – my tropical granola with almond milk

budget epicurean granola and milk

Lunch – leftover summer veggies and quinoa casserole and a big green salad

Dinner – Thursday night $3 co-op dinner! Some friends and I are making a tradition of it. Can you tell which is the beef hot dog and which is the vegan one? In my opinion they tasted pretty much the same!

budget epicurean co-op dinner hot dogs

We also went to one of the final home games of the Durham Bulls season, and a great time was had by all. Even though we got shut down pretty hard… at least the weather was GORGEOUS.

Friday:

Breakfast – I chopped up a potato, a handful of green beans, some tiny peppers, and an heirloom tomato and tossed it all in a pan with 1/2 cup lentils and 1 cup water. I let that simmer for 30 minutes while I made coffee and fed the dogs and got dressed, and then enjoyed my hot and tasty breakfast.

budget epicurean lentils for breakfast

Yes, lentils for breakfast. Try it sometime, you might be surprised.

Lunch – leftover African peanut stew that I made over the weekend with a giant rainbow of free produce from a friends’ parents.

budgetepicurean african stew

Snack – hummus & veggies

Dinner – leftover eggroll in a bowl

 

The Weekend

This will be a half and half weekend. Saturday is chillax and no stress day, I can be productive or choose not to be. And Sunday I am hosting another tea party!

 

Food Total: $55.49 + 74.05 = $129.54

This week’s delivery box price was a bit steeper than usual because in addition to my usual box I also invested in 10 pounds of ‘seconds’; peaches that were slightly bruised or discolored, to process into frozen, canned, and jam.

budget epicurean produce box

And then I spent a hefty sum at the co-op on Thursday, for a few reasons. One, we are nearly out of maple syrup. And I learned that real maple syrup is HELLA expensive. Like $20 a bottle. But. HFCS is no longer allowed in the house, and therefore this is the only option. Hopefully this will last a good long time.

Two, I did not realize spirulina is FORTY TWO DOLLARS PER POUND. Yeah I got like an ounce, but that cost near $20. Ugh. But it was already in my own glass jar and weighed and I wasn’t about to go put it back on the shelf… so I sucked it up. Better make some damn good smoothies is all I’m saying…

I also caved when I saw this amazing steel straw and straw cleaning brush on sale this week. It was cheaper here than on Amazon, plus now there’s no shipping or packaging, and my co-op benefits a little. I have tons of heavy duty straws but no cleaners, so this is great. Now the ones that are questionable from dried on smoothie gunk can be squeaky clean again!

budget epicurean steel straw

 

Lessons Learned

Bulk, package-free shopping is addictive! I had so much fun last time that I found myself getting some things that were not on my list, just because I had already tare-d jars just waiting to be filled. Hoarding habits die hard folks.

Also, always get wide-mouth if you have the choice. SO much easier to fill. And finally, almonds are heavy and come out really fast! I accidentally overflowed my jar, and had to pull out and extra container to put the handful that spilled into. Because I ain’t wasting $10/lb almonds y’all.

 

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

 

 

One Small Thing: Cloth Napkins/Hand Towels

 

In this post series, I am highlighting One Small Thing you can change in your daily life to decrease your consumption and waste production, and move towards a more environmentally friendly, low waste lifestyle.

These changes are focusing on the low-hanging fruit, the small switches that will not break the bank or add hours to your daily or weekly routine.

These are largely changes that used to be considered ‘the way of life’ just a few short decades ago.

Today we are talking about Cloth Napkins & Hand Towels.

budget epicurean cloth hand towels

I know the title looks like two things, since I mention both napkins and hand towels.

But let me explain why they are the same: they are the same.

A cloth, rather than paper, to wipe your hands with. That’s it.

The only real difference being that we call it a hand towel when it is in the bathroom and used to dry your hands after you wash them, and it is called a napkin when it is used at the dinner table or in the kitchen to wipe your face and hands.

cloth napkins

Because we generally don’t use napkins with dinner anyways (I know, we’re animals… no we just aren’t that messy I guess) I haven’t felt the need to invest in a set of cotton dinner napkins.

But I feel that coming on someday soon, as I do love hosting dinner parties and would be more than willing to host family holidays now that we have our own home.

You can re-use cloth over and over for years before they finally break down. And once they become too stained/ripped to use with company, they can become heavy duty cleaning rags for cars, floors, bathrooms, and more.

And the best part is, once they are beyond even that functionality, 100% cotton cloths can even be composted, to totally complete the cycle and close the loop.

Let’s say that your family of 4 uses 2 napkins each per day. I assume lunch outside the house. That equals 56 napkins per week, and a total of 2912 napkins per year.

Now let’s also just pick a random number and say you can get 100 paper napkins for $1 at the dollar store. That still means you are spending a minimum of about $29 per year on paper, which is then thrown away.

That is not taking into account if you buy napkins somewhere more expensive, or in fancy colors or patterns for the holidays, or host family or friends often.

If instead you invested that $29 into a set of nice, restaurant grade cotton cloth napkins, you would most likely never have to buy napkins, ever again! You could probably save yourself over $1000 easily throughout your life, and just imagine how many trees.

budget epicurean cloth hand towels

We used to be die-hard lovers of paper towels.

I mean, what could be easier when you spill some sauce on the counter than grabbing a sheet or two off the roll, wiping it up, and tossing the paper towel in the trash?

There was a roll in the kitchen, on the dining table, on the coffee table, in the bedroom. You never know when you might have to deal with an errant drip of coffee, or a smushed bug, or a dog would cough up something you do not want to touch.

But this convenience comes at a cost, as we would order cases of paper towels every 3-6 months. Not to mention the cost to the environment of all that paper production, transportation, and the greenhouse gasses caused by paper products rotting in landfills.

I figure, we probably spent about $25 on paper towels every 3 months. You can buy 24 cloth hand towels for $16, and they last far longer than 3 months.

That’s a savings of $75, per year!

What I do have oodles of now is cloth hand towels.

If you take a tour of my bathrooms, you will notice towel hooks and a different color towel hanging off each one. Sometimes I even put a second backup towel folded on the counter as well.

budget epicurean cloth hand towels

Many of these are now several years old at this point, as they were purchased on sale throughout college or gifted to me for various birthdays and holidays.

They have cleaned up spills, flour, counter tops, tables, floors, mud, grease, soap, and much more. They have likely been through the wash at least a few dozen times by now.

And all are still perfectly sanitary, and perfectly functional. I have a minimum of one towel hanging off the stove at all times, for cleaning random spills and drying hands or dishes after washing.

budget epicurean hand towel on the stove

When they get dirty, wet, or stained, they just go into the laundry hamper. I wash them with our weekly loads of clothing and bath towels, and have never had a problem.

Though I’m sure there is some small number of pennies spent on laundry soap, water, electricity, and time, these towels have paid for themselves many times over, and will continue to do so for years.

 

To summarize, why should you consider cloth napkins and hand towels?
  • They are infinitely cheaper over time
  • You only need to buy them once every few decades, if that
  • They take far less energy to create than hundreds of paper towels
  • They do not contribute to landfills every week
  • You will love the soft feel of the fabric versus paper
  • They are far more absorbent, for large messes
  • They come in tons of colors and patterns
  • You can use them to clean up after babies and animals
  • They may be able to be composted at the very end of their life

 

What you do think, did I miss any good reasons? Do you use cloth napkins and/or towels, and why or why not?

 

Weekly Eating – 8/13/18

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

This was an overall quiet week, but it felt like it went by so fast. That’s one of the things I hate the most about getting older, time just keeps speeding up! When you’re 16 you can’t wait for 18, then you can’t wait for 21, then 25, then what? You blink and you’re 30, just knocking on the door of 40.

We did get to enjoy a work-hard-play-hard Saturday, in which we (meaning the boy) did a ton of yard work, and also (me) sat in a hammock and read a book for an hour. The boy chopped down a few more smaller trees, which we didn’t need taken down by the pros with the big guys. Now the yard is SO huge and open feeling and I love it! There are just enough trees left to hang a hammock.

budget epicurean hammock time
Relaxing hammock time with the doggo

Even with a couple plants lost to disease because of all the rain, the garden itself is looking green, with the sweet potato vines out of control all over the place, several enormous green tomatoes coming along (I got a late start planting this year), beans nearly done, and the cantaloupe/ melon getting bigger everyday. You can eat sweet potato leaves, they taste like spinach.

budget epicurean garden sweet potato vines
Outta control sweet potato vines! This is one of four from one main plant.

I harvested my first real edible, a lovely acorn squash! The big compost pile is doing it’s thing, and the compost bin is nearly ready to be spread over the garden in the fall. My homestead dreams are coming true. Now to just convince him that we should get chickens…

And then on Sunday we went over a friends’ house for some grillin and chillin and pool time. I brought a big kale and chickpea salad and a rustic panzanella, and both were a big hit. I love that my friends are at least veggie friendly! I did indulge in a few bacon wrapped cheese stuffed jalapenos because, duh. And they were amazing. I did get a bruise from playing frisbee, which baffled the boy. He still gets surprised with how fra-gee-lay I am.

budget epicurean frisbee bruise

 

Monday:

Breakfast – breakfast stir fry with kale, pinto beans, and veggies

Lunch – leftover salads from the weekend, kale and chickpea and a panzanella with my homemade bread

Dinner – clean the fridge meal of loaded baked potatoes and roasted veggies

Tuesday:

Breakfast – peaches & cream overnight oatmeal

budget epicurean peach oatmeal

Lunch – gazpacho: I took the panzanella from the weekend, which had gotten too soggy to eat, and added some water and olive oil and pureed it into a nice summer soup! Traditional gazpacho started as a bread and oil soup anyhow, the veggies got added in later over time. Turns out it’s not great cold though, I prefer it hot.

budget epicurean gazpacho

Dinner – Sweet potato chili with some homemade wheat rolls. I took the leftover loaded sweet potato from last week’s Co-op dinner (yeah they are huge, the size of your face, so I brought plenty home) and mashed it in a crock pot with an extra can of diced tomatoes and about 2 cups of pinto beans. It turned out pretty darn tasty and filling. The boy even liked it.

Wednesday:

Breakfast – lentils with potato, zucchini, peppers, and mushrooms in a whole grain wrap.

budget epicurean lentil wrap

Lunch – red beans and rice with some salsa. I usually batch cook a bunch of one kind of bean each week, for use throughout the week. Then at some point, the beans really need used, and I’ll have them with some rice and salsa. It never disappoints.

Snack – hummus & raw veggies

I also stopped by a community garden on a lunchtime walk, and discovered a new thing: lipstick peppers! I thought the name was adorable, so I had to take one home. All the peppers were bumpin, so I grabbed a few kinds for salsas and sauces, along with some stevia leaves for afternoon tea.

budget epicurean foraging

Dinner – open-face balsamic and soy sauce marinated portobello sandwich with lettuce, purple sauerkraut, and pickles, and a cucumber/tomato side salad

budget epicurean portolbellos

Thursday:

Breakfast – was feeling kinda nauseated, I think I just had some oatmeal and ginger tea

Lunch – leftover summer ratatouille &  a salad. I used a mandoline to thin slice some potatoes, zucchini, and squash, and layered it with tomatoes and bell peppers and baked at 350 for about an hour. So dang delicious!

budget epicurean ratatouille

Snack – mixed berry almond energy bar from a food swap

budget epicurean energy bar

Dinner – Tonight I got weeknight fancy. I had some smoked salmon souvenirs from my trip to Alaska in the pantry, and wanted to do something with them. So I mixed one filet with mashed potatoes, and fried until crispy on both sides to make a salmon latke.

budget epicurean salmon latkes

While those were cooking, I blistered some fresh green beans and grape tomatoes and baby peppers in a pan with some lemon juice, and boiled a few ears of corn. At the last minute I stirred together some plain greek yogurt, lemon juice, garlic salt, and cucumber for a quick tzatziki. All together, it took less than 30 minutes and we had a super delicious, very profesh looking dinner for a micro-date night.

Friday:

Breakfast – there are a few bananas that are getting verrry brown so it’s time to bake. I mashed one up into pancake batter. Then I chopped up 2 fresh peaches and microwaved them with some lemon juice and maple syrup. A quick blitz with the immersion blender, and we had some fresh peach sauce to put on top.

budget epicurean banana pancake with peach sauce

Lunch – leftover salmon latkes, corn, and green bean salad

Snack – an apple &  yogurt

Dinner – Since I was fancy yesterday I went easy mode tonight, and boiled up a pound of pasta with my homemade tomato sauce.

budget epicurean pasta

I did get industrious in the kitchen, and made a huge batch of apple cider vinegar. I had an old gallon of cider from last fall that we never got around to drinking. I won’t waste that local apple goodness, so I boiled it to kill anything questionable, and poured it into a bunch of glass jars.

budget epicurean apple cider vinegar

Once cool I added some ACV I already had that has the mother in it, and hopefully in a month or 2 will have a bunch of fresh ACV for cleaning and cooking. Perfect timing, since I’m almost out right now. Making your own pantry staples is so empowering, and fun!

I also shelled the half pound or so of black beans that I’ve been harvesting a handful at a time all summer. These beans were handed down from a neighbor in Connecticut, who originally brought them over from Italy I believe. This is the beauty of heirloom seeds and seed swapping, these plants have a story and a history, and one tiny seed can grow over time to produce enough food to feed you for days. It’s honestly a miracle I can never get enough of.

budget epicurean black beans

The Weekend

This weekend I have a friends’ 30th birthday, which is a sleepover! I’m excited to hang out with friends, and do a bunch of silly things like manicures and face masks, watch chick flicks and eat popcorn.

Food Total: $39.68 + 30.75

Another good week for food, the box delivery was amazing for the price. It included a pound of local green beans, bell peppers, more potatoes, sweet potatoes, an onion, hydroponic lettuce, peaches, apples,  corn, cucumbers, and grape tomatoes.

$39.68
Meats $6.98 Dairy $8.36 Staples $15.08 Fruit/Veg $8.48 Extras $0.78
1lb turkey 5.99 Greek yogurt 6.37 Canned beans 6 romaine salad 2.5
1/2 lb bologna 0.99 sliced provolone 1.99 Canned tomatoes 6 pint mushrooms 2.49
french bread loaf 0.59 bella caps 2 3.49 tax 0.78
almond milk 2.49

I did one trip to the grocery store last Sunday, because canned goods were on stock-up sale, and after working hard outside the boy needed some serious fuel. So I got a big loaf of fresh bread and layered on nearly 2 pounds of deli meat, pickled jalapenos, and condiments for him. It hit the spot. 🙂

Lessons Learned

It feels really good to make progress on creating your dream life every day. We had been wanting to take down trees since moving in almost two years ago, and now we finally did it. The big, threatening ones were taken down professionally, so I no longer worry about storms knocking trees into our kitchen or living room. And the boy got to play lumberjack and take down the smaller ones, giving him a great workout and now we have a big ol pile of wood for bonfires all fall and winter long.

And making things is always fun! Even if it doesn’t turn out exactly like you think it will or want it to, you still feel a sense of accomplishment, like, yeah I made a thing. It just feels so great to be a producer and not a consumer sometimes.

 

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

 

One Small Thing: Handkerchiefs

 

As you may have noticed, this blog is all about being frugal, since I’m the Budget Epicurean and all.  But not to the exclusion of new experiences and food, of course, hence the Epicurean part.

You probably also already know that one great way to save money is by not spending it.

And a great way to not spend money is to incorporate habits and products in your life that can be reused multiple times or in multiple ways. This keeps you from having to buy more than one product for the same need. Handily, not throwing things away also is great for the environment.

The process of incorporating more Zero Waste habits into your everyday life should be pretty easy at the beginning.

There are so many simple habits we can change: using real straws or refusing plastic ones, bringing your own metal or bamboo silverware, using actual hand towels or cloth napkins rather than paper towels.

If you think this is too big of a leap, I will show you in this series how you can help save the planet with One Small Thing at a time.

The One Thing we will talk about today: Handkerchiefs.

Warning: detailed descriptions of snot ahead. Proceed to click the x in the corner if you don’t want to read about it or are squeamish.

budget epicurean zero waste changes one thing
Also check out that amazing 1960s packaging

Handkerchiefs can be beautiful, utilitarian, or tell the story of a place and time in history. They can be hand-sewn cotton, or crafted of the finest quality silk. If they are meant only for decoration and not for use, they can be called pocket squares.

The word originated from “kerchief“, meaning a head covering. Their use became more widespread, and their purpose became moreso to wipe your face or hands, thus “hand” was added to create handkerchief.

Handkerchiefs are also differentiated from cloth napkins in that they are typically not of quite as heavy fabric, and are carried around all day, not just for use at the dinner table.

Fun fact: everyone produces about 1 to 1.5 L of snot every day.

The purpose of all this mucus is to:

  1. Protect your sinuses and lungs from dirt, dust, and other particles in the air we breathe
  2. Act as a defensive barrier to foreign bacteria
  3. Keep your cells lining your airways lubricated

Things that can increase mucus production includes cold weather, allergies, spicy foods, emotional upset, and illness or infections. Healthy mucus is thin and clear, and is typically swallowed or absorbed and we don’t even notice it. When it thickens or becomes discolored, that’s usually a sign of infection.

Since I recently inherited a large collection of gorgeous heirloom handkerchiefs from my great grandmother, I have become a total convert. Yes, I had all the same questions and fears you probably do, and let me dispel a few myths for those still on the fence.

budget epicurean zero waste changes one thing

Your pockets will not get wet

Yes, mucus is 80-90% water. But how much volume do you produce on average? I’d wager not much more than a teaspoon. Most hankies can handle it, especially if you fold it multiple times. If you happen to have a runny faucet, just bring multiple hankies and switch out halfway through the day.

They will not ruin your washing machine or clothes

Unless you are ill, and producing an abnormally large volume or, forgive me, viscous snot, your hankies will do just fine in a normal washing machine. I have a bin where used ones go, and when its full I just toss them in with the next load of towels. It is best to wash them on high heat, but even that is not totally required.

Women who use reusable menstrual pads or cloth diapers can tell you that a washing machine is perfectly capable of sterilizing bodily fluids. You wash your bathing suits and undies/boxers in the same washing machine with your other clothes don’t you? Enough said.

You should use a new one each day (or more often)

Some people seem to be under the mistaken impression that if you use a handkerchief, you only have one and you use it over and over and over. That is not true. Dried on snot is not great, no matter how crunchy-granola you are. If you only have one hankie, you better be washing that bad boy daily.

They have *so many* uses

Of course the main use we are discussing is for blowing your nose or wiping a runny nose. But that is only one small part of the usefulness of carrying a handkerchief.

You can wipe sweat off your brow on a scorching summer day.
You can wrap small items in it such as baked goods when no other bag or wrapper option is avaialble
It can be a fashionable head wrap in a windy convertible while driving up the Amalfi coast
It can wipe up small spills, muddy paws, sticky hands, or wipe your mouth after eating
You can dry your hands after washing them instead of using paper towels that kill millions of trees per year
Y
ou can cover your mouth & nose if there is particularly dusty/ dirty air situation or an offensive smell
It can be a substitute bandage for a small injury
It can be a grand gesture to someone who is teary-eyed to hand them your hankie
They can be used to polish shoes or clean glasses
They can be used for some kinds of dances to enhance arm movements
It can become and emergency sling for an arm or baby
It can stand in as a potholder to grab hot objects

Anything else I forgot? Feel free to tell me in the comments!

Hand washing and air drying is best, but not required

The gentler you are with your hankies the longer the fabric will last, this is true of all fabrics. Sure, if you can pre-soak them, and then gently hand wash them, and then pin them up on a line to dry out in the great outdoors, and then press each one to mint condition, that is the ideal.

But I can tell you from experience so far, they will survive a spin through the washer and tumble dry in the dryer. They may be a bit wrinkly on the other side, but who cares when I’m just putting them in my pocket?

They do not have to be expensive, and they will save you money in the long run

Sure you can buy 3 handkerchiefs for $65. Or, you could buy 100 for $10. Or you could even just make them yourself from old sheets, pillow cases, or tshirts. A handkerchief does not have to be fancy and expensive, it just needs to be a piece of cloth you can re-use after blowing your nose or wiping up spills.

And shoot, why not just ask grandma or grandpa? They might have some hanging around and be happy to hand them down for free!

You can also re-use a handkerchief for literal years. Just having a stack of 7 could prevent you from ever having to drop $3 on a box of tissues ever again! I know we used to go through a roll of paper towels and a box of kleenex at least every other week.

Now, with a bin of clean and a bin of dirty towels and hankies, we haven’t had to buy any of either in over a month. And probably won’t have to for a long time, at least until flu season*. This switch will probably save us hundreds over the next 6 decades or so. I may even get to pass these on to further generations some day, for even more savings!

budget epicurean zero waste changes one thing

*Important note: Disposable tissues are by far the better option when you are legitimately sick and/or in public. When you have a viral infection, and blow your nose, virus particles are in there. If you use a hankie, and re-use it, you risk infecting those around you with everything you touch. Better by far to use disposable, toss the germs right into the trash, and wash your hands afterwards.

So, yes, there are certain situations where something disposable is definitely called for. New babies, sickness, allergies, come to mind. But for every day general use, consider trying out a hankie. You never know, it could end up saving you thousands, and saving the future of the planet as well.

 

 

 

More posts about hankies for your reading pleasure:

Zero Waste Alternatives: The Ultimate List

Tissues vs. Handkerchiefs (Zero-Waste Journey)

Handkerchiefs Save Money: Men’s or Women’s, Cotton or Silk, Embroidered or Plain

Handkerchief History

Every Man Should Carry a Handkerchief

“There is an inverse relationship between the handkerchief’s popularity and the rise of our germa-phobe culture. A society that sprays the air with disinfectant to rid it of those pesky bacterium and totes hand sanitizer on key chains looks eschew at the reusable tissue. I think hankie ignorance is partly to blame. Having not grown up around handkerchief-carrying men, it seems some people are under the impression that a hankie is used over and over again, all week long. But a man should take a clean handkerchief each day, and launder them weekly. It should go without saying that when offering a lady your handkerchief, it should always be an unused, clean one. You should probably tell her that when you hand it over, as to allay any fears she might have about what’s lurking in its folds.”

Weekly Eating – 8/6/18

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

Well, I survived my long drive last weekend to Ohio, and turns out it was pretty worth it. The bridal shower was beautiful, they did a great job of decorating and making the hall magical. And it was so nice to see family, I hadn’t been to town in about 2 years.

weekly eating budget epicurean

We caught up on life and things, and just being around the people who raised you is always comfortable. I also benefited, as there were several items I brought home that I previously hadn’t been able to get because I flew rather than drove. I inherited an Instant Pot my mom used once and didn’t like (hello, canning in my future!), a cast iron griddle that was too heavy for my grandma to use, a box full of mason jars, and handkerchiefs from my great grandmother.

weekly eating budget epicurean

I’m pretty excited to use some family heirlooms in my Zero Waste journey. It goes to show you that you should always ask around, old folks lived in times where zero waste was just a way of life, and they know things that we as a society have forgotten.

 

Monday:

Breakfast – potatoes, eggs, and pancakes

Lunch – chili at work. It was a crazy busy day, so I would not have been able to eat at all if a co-worker hadn’t brought chili and pretty much forced me to eat a bowl. The cornbread muffin was really good

Dinner – Chipotle! I know that’s 2 weeks in a row. I’m not mad. Does derail the diet plans a bit…

Tuesday:

Breakfast – Leftover pancake, with bacon and candied walnuts

Lunch – Baked sweet potato, black beans, avocado, and salsa

weekly eating budget epicurean

Dinner – Rest of the Chipotle

weekly eating budget epicurean

Wednesday:

Breakfast – Corn tortillas with fried potatoes, peppers & onions, and sweet potato leaves! Turns out they taste just like spinach when cooked, and we have an abundance of them right now.

weekly eating budget epicurean

Lunch – baked sweet potato with black beans, avocado, and salsa

Dinner – Slow cooker tofu masala. I chopped up onions and bell peppers, mixed garlic, ginger, tons of spices, tofu, and coconut milk and let it simmer on low all day at work. When I came home, the house smelled amazing and as soon as the rice cooker was done our dinner was ready. Ridiculously healthy, tasty, and satisfying.

weekly eating budget epicurean

I made a big batch of blueberry banana muffins using this recipe from Amazing Paleo because I want to experiment with more gluten free recipes (so I have things for next time my sister visits). I used local NC blueberries instead of nuts.

weekly eating budget epicurean

I also made 2 more loaves of my favorite white bread because we were out. It was getting late, so I decided to let it rise overnight and go to bed rather than rush it or stay up too late baking. In the morning it turned out they had risen into monster blobs!

budget epicurean weekly eating

Haha still tasty, and actually the loaves were extra light and fluffy due to the overnight rise time. I bet I could turn this dough into 3 loaves with the extra rise time.

Thursday:

Breakfast – Paleo blueberry muffins

Snack – hummus & raw veggies

weekly eating budget epicurean

Lunch – tofu tikka masala

weekly eating budget epicurean

Snack – my favorite chocolate PB bars, and a salad because they had a potluck at work for someone’s retirement

Dinner – Thursday night Co-op $3 dinner! Loaded baked sweet potatoes with black bean and corn salsa, vegan butter and sour cream, and cinnamon sugar & raisins.

It was a blast, and I also finally made the leap and became an owner… It’s a one time fee of $100 and you get discounts and deals all year long. This was also my first Zero Waste grocery shopping adventure!

weekly eating budget epicurean bulk grocery shopping

Bringing jars and tare-ing was a little awkward at first but the cashier clearly is familiar with the process. And the per pound deals are pretty great. Sadly I did smash my biggest pickle jar, so I was quite sad about that…

weekly eating budget epicurean bulk grocery shopping

Friday:

Breakfast – PBFit on fresh bread

weekly eating budget epicurean

Lunch – lunch out with a friend. I did half great with this. I remembered to bring my towel as a napkin, and even brought my own real fork for the salad. But I did not have a container, so I was stuck with a huge plastic clamshell. Baby steps, this is still progress.

weekly eating budget epicurean

Snack – fresh fruit! I cut up a TON of fruits last night, so we have a wall of containers in the fridge with local NC fruit now.

Dinner – Last of some leftover beef n vegetable soup with my homemade bread.

The Weekend

This will hopefully be a pretty chill weekend. We don’t have any real plans yet, besides several potential friend hangouts, weather permitting. I will probably do some sort of baking or sewing project, like trying a batch of tortillas or crepes, maybe some gnocchi. We are still slowly sifting through the freezer and pantry and cleaning it out, so I’m trying to come up with recipes to use what I have that the boy will also actually like and eat.

We also have a lot of yard work to do, and various housekeeping and cleaning. Vacuum, sweep, laundry, clean the bathrooms… you know, adulting things. I may make some time for relaxing, a new sewing project I have in mind, and/or taking my books back to the library too.

Food Total: $44.12 + $146.27

This is extra high because it includes the $100 membership fee to become an owner in the Durham Co-op. It is a one time fee, and without it I still only spent $90 on food this week! Yay!

Lessons Learned

Bulk shopping is super cheap, and not as hard as you may think. Any glass, or even plastic, container will do. I did learn that a wide-mouth jar is best, as the pour spouts for the bulk containers are very wide, and if your jar you’re pouring into is too narrow, you will fling pinto beans and dried rice all over the place. Don’t be that guy. Luckily my store had a handy wide mouth cup to use, to pour from the container into and then pour from the cup into my smaller containers. It’s like they’ve done this once or twice.

 

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

Tamarind Margarita

 

Tamarind is one of the up and coming ingredients right now, being “discovered” by chefs and home cooks alike. And for good reason! Tamarind is sour, tart, slightly sweet, sticky, and a great “secret ingredient” in sauces, stews, drinks, and chutneys. Along with the culinary uses, it also has a whole host of health benefits.

But, what is it? A fruit, a nut, a spice?

Tamarind is the fruit of a tree, but is actually technically a legume. It grows as a long pod, sort of similar looking to a peanut. Inside the pod are the seeds, surrounded by the sticky sour pulp. This pulp can be used fresh, but most often it is dried and turned into a paste, which makes it even more potent. The trees grow best in tropical areas, meaning it can be found as widely dispersed as Thailand, India, Mexico, Africa, and the Mediterranean.

When I found a bag of tamarind paste at my favorite Indian spice store, I just had to have it. I don’t yet know what other tasty creations I will make, but I knew as soon as I saw a Tamarind Margarita recipe that would be my first experiment!

Y’all know I love me a margarita, whether mixed with fruit, hot and spicy, or as a two-for-one lower calorie fizzy drink.

tamarind margarita

Given that all the hype about tamarind is that it is sweet yet sour, a margarita seems like a natural pairing. I could use tamarind paste rather than the usual “sour mix”, which to be honest I have less than no idea what the ingredients are! I love swaps where I can use real food items that I can see and pronounce over a bottled chemical alternative. Even when the end purpose is not super healthy… but I digress.

We all have our vices, no? 😉

I did learn one important lesson about tamarind paste: this stuff is thick! It is very viscous, and not easy to dissolve in ice cold water. So after I made the first one, where I put ice in the shaker, and had to shake for what felt like half an hour, I learned my lesson.

On the second one I did not add ice, until after it had already been shaken and poured. So take note, ice cold water = paste staying paste and not dissolving!

This makes one pretty strong 4-ounce margarita, and is easy to double or triple. I used bacon rim salt because the internet said smoky flavors pair well with tamarind, and I truly agree! The boy, however, hated it and said he preferred just the drink alone. He wiped off all the salt. So, you do you, you’ve been warned.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 ounces silver or gold tequila
  • 1 ounce lime juice (or lemon if you don’t have lime)
  • 1 generous teaspoon tamarind paste
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar
  • Optional: rim salt or sugar, ice to fill your glass

tamarind margarita

Step 1: Mix all ingredients in a shaker, and shake well. You can also pour it right into a glass and mix it with a spoon, but using the shaker makes me feel like a bartender. Plus mine has cute recipes on the side.

tamarind margarita

Step 2: If using rim salt (or sugar!), put some lemon or lime juice on a shallow dish. Rub the glass in the liquid, then dip into your salt or sugar, and gently shake off the excess. Fill with ice, and pour the margarita over.

tamarind margarita

Step 3: Enjoy (responsibly, please!)

tamarind margarita

If you don’t have agave, or are trying to cut out sugar, feel free to leave it out, or substitute brown sugar or stevia. But it will be quite sour and tart if you use no sweetener. You could also omit the lime juice, if the tamarind is strong enough of a flavor. It does make the drink an odd brown color but I promise it is worth the taste!

 

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