One Small Thing: Bags

 

In the One Small Thing series, I am highlighting small changes you can make to your daily habits to reduce your waste and make the world a little greener, and your wallet a little thicker.

Check out all the habits already discussed:

Today we are going to talk about a personal favorite of mine: reusable bags.

budget epicurean weekly eating meal plan

If plastic straws and plastic bottles are the top 2 offenders found on beaches, the lightweight, ubiquitous bag probably rounds out the top three problem children. We have all been walking along, or driving down the road, only to see the tumbleweed of the twenty-first century, the plastic bag, float across our view.

These bags are small, lightweight, and tear easily. They can be pulled out the open window of a car on the highway, fall out of a shopping cart, or sneak under the lid of a trash can.

America is by far not the only nation with this problem. In fact, in a release from Earth Policy in 2014: “Before a ban on thin bags—which tear readily and get caught by the wind— went into effect in 2003, plastic bags were christened South Africa’s “national flower” because of their prevalence in bushes and trees.”

This problem has been ongoing and recognized for years, and many nations are trying to combat it with both taxes and bans. Many states and countries around the world have instituted taxes on merchants, consumers, or both, for using plastic.

Many more have outright banned single use plastic bags, instead imploring suppliers and citizens to use glass, cloth, paper, or cardboard instead. In America: “U.S. cities with bag bans include San Francisco (as of 2007), Portland (2011), Seattle (2012), Austin (2013), Los Angeles (2014), Dallas (to begin in 2015), and Chicago (2015).”

Some more facts from ConservingNow.com:

“Worldwide

  • A person uses a plastic carrier bag on average for only 12 minutes.
  • On average we only recycle one plastic bag in every 200 we use.
  • Each year, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. That comes out to over one million per minute. Billions end up as litter each year.
  • Windblown plastic bags are so prevalent in Africa that a cottage industry has sprung up harvesting bags and using them to weave hats, and even bags. According to the BBC, one group alone harvests 30,000 per month.
  • According to David Barnes, a marine scientist with the British Antarctic Survey, plastic bags have gone “from being rare in the late 80s and early 90s to being almost everywhere.” Plastic bags have been found floating north of the Arctic Circle near Spitzbergen, and as far south as the Falkland Islands. Source: British Antarctic Survey
  • Plastic bags are among the 12 items of debris most often found in coastal cleanups, according to the nonprofit Center for Marine Conservation.

Sources: International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies or persons as cited.

reusable grocery bags

So you know it’s a problem.

You know bags take 500 years to degrade, and even then don’t fully break down, but become toxic micro-plastics.

If you have a bag tax or fee, you’re tired of paying it.

You have a bag full of bags under your sink, or in a closet.

You don’t want to add to your stock anymore.

You’re ready to do something about it.

Now what?

Recycle or re-use old plastic bags

Since you already have a stash of plastic bags (you know you do), the first thing you can consider is recycling them. Many grocers are now putting up collection bins for old plastic bags right at the checkout or store entrance.

Those bags may be recycled into composite wood, which is a mixture of plastic and wood scraps. Or they may be melted down into a new batch of plastic bags. And a small portion may even end up in the space-age-sounding field of nanotechnology:

“Scientists at the University of Adelaide have developed a new way to recycle those plastic bags and create carbon nanotube membranes, which may potentially be used for energy storage and biomedical innovations. ” (source)

If you don’t have a store near you that offers plastic bag recycling, you can at least get creative and give them a second life.

Options include craft projects like turning bags into rugs or purses. You could also use them as liners for small trash cans, to hold dirty diapers, or pick up dog poo. But all these uses ultimately get them into the landfill anyways, now they also have gross stuff inside.

A better choice?

Don’t collect them in the first place!

How? Read on…

Reusable grocery bags – freebies/synthetic/plastic

I have at least 100 reusable bags at this point in my life.

This is not an exaggeration.

I fill the trunks of two cars, and there are even more sprinkled all around the house too.

And I think I paid for… 3 of them?

reusable grocery bags

Tons of events now give away bags, because it is easy branding.

They plaster their logo on the side, and you carry it around town.

If that bothers you, maybe you’ll have to scroll down to the you-buy-it options that can be plain or patterened.

As for me, I don’t give a hoot what’s on the bag. Only what’s in it.

BUT

These bags do come with some risks.

Most shoppers do not separate their groceries into produce – dairy – canned – meats, etc. And a very tiny number of people actually wash their reusable bags, ever, let alone after every shopping trip.

Myself included.

Guilty as charged.

I don’t think I’ve ever washed my reusable bags.

I know I know, how can I even blog about these things? Because honesty is the best policy. And honestly, I’ve never yet gotten sick. I suppose there’s a first time for everything.

And I’d still rather take that chance than keep accumulating bags full of bags.

The biggest message here: reusable is awesome! But wash them often. And never put raw meat in them, this is one case where plastic wrapping is A-O.K.

reusable grocery bags

Reusable bags – natural fibers like cotton, hemp, wool

The best option is to use an extremely sturdy bag made from organic, natural sources.

Emphasis on organic.

Crunchy granola gurus tout cotton bags, but neglect to mention the devastating impacts of pesticides, herbicides, and water usage demanded of conventionally grown cotton.

“The larger takeaway is that no bag is free of environmental impact, whether that’s contributing to climate change, ocean pollution, water scarcity, or pesticide use. The instinct to favor reusable bags springs from an understandable urge to reduce our chronic overconsumption, but the bags we use are not the big problem.” (source)

So look for organically grown cotton or hemp bags.

Or best yet?

Make your own!

Take your old clothing or linens that are destined for the landfill or Goodwill, a little bit of time and DIY sewing, and create yourself an arsenal of free, eco-friendly shopping bags.

Here’s a nice no-sew DIY for a t-shirt tote bag: https://www.mommypotamus.com/no-sew-t-shirt-tote-bag-tutorial/

And 7 more ways to do the same thing: https://thethingswellmake.com/recycled-t-shirt-bags-review-of-7-ways/

As with the reusable bags warning, remember to wash these often, preferably after each use with hot water.

 

Other uses for bags:

  • Corral trash/recyclables/compostables to bring home
  • Keep your car/office space organized
  • Hold wildflowers you pick or a bouquet you buy
  • Forage wild fruits, herbs, mushrooms, or nuts
  • Use instead of giftwrap/tape/bows for the holidays

reusable grocery bags

 

Tell me! Have you ever done any fun DIYs with old bags? Made bags yourself from scratch? How do you avoid single use plastics?

Weekly Eating – 10/8/18

 

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!

 

The weekend was a blast! I got to meet and hang out with Steveark and wife, and give them a nice walking tour of Durham, to which they are thinking about moving. And they I led an actual Food Tour of Durham, made new friends, and tried all the foods. I definitely had well over 10K steps!

little dipper durham food tour

Sunday was a quiet home day, with lots of reading and kitchen time. I made a big spinach quiche, and some homemade rolls for the week. We also finally got house cleaners to deep clean from Bro Week, and It Is Worth Every Penny.

Monday:

Breakfast – spinach quiche

spinach quiche

Lunch – leftover mashup: some lentils from sloppy joes & veggie fried rice mixed together

leftover lentils and rice

Dinner – pasta with blender pesto

pasta with pesto

Tuesday:

Breakfast – spinach quiche

Lunch – I baked a few sweet potatoes in my pressure cooker and packed them with black beans, spinach and pickled onions & radish. Garlic hummus and veggies for a snack.

baked sweet potato and black beans

Dinner – these Crispy Spinach Gnocchi with Sage Butter

crispy spinach gnocchi

Wednesday:

Breakfast – fruit smoothie

fruit smoothie and coffee

Lunch – more baked sweet potato and black beans. Yogurt & moon grapes as a snack.

baked sweet potato and black beans

Dinner – Thai Carrot  & Sweet Potato soup in the pressure cooker

thai carrot and sweet potato soup

With some quick flatbread to eat it with. Drizzle in some hot sauce, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and a dollop of Greek yogurt. YUM.

thai carrot and sweet potato soup

Thursday:

Breakfast – peppers & onion 2 egg omelet w pastured eggs <3

pepper and onion omelette

Lunch – pressure cooker stuffed red peppers with couscous and lentils. I learned an important lesson: pressure cookers cook FAST. Ten minutes turned the peppers to mush.

stuffed red peppers with couscous and lentil

Dinner – Date Night! We had red wine braised steak with roasted root veggies and listened to the storm.

steak and root veggies with red wine

Friday:

Breakfast – peppers and onions and egg burrito

Lunch – leftovers and more moon grapes

leftover meat and veggies

Dinner – Leftover beef & veg soup with rolls

leftover beef veg soup

The Weekend

sweet potatoes from the garden

I GOT SWEET POTATOES!!! If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you already know I’m pretty excited about it. There is no cooler feeling than pulling up handfuls of food you grew yourself.

sweet potatoes from the garden

I also found an amazing farm called Nature’s Roots Farm that offers tons of pastured meat and dairy options. Yes, I believe your diet should be mainly plants. Yes I think CAFOs and factory farmed meat and dairy is awful for you, the animals, and the planet. Yes I think you can survive off just plants forever, and thrive.

petting a cow

But I also think these are some happy cows. This is some well managed pasture. They are well-loved pigs, and a healthier forest because of it. I think this kind of meat is good for the planet, the animals, and the people who choose to eat it.

Fillaree refill

I further voted with my dollars for zero waste, Earth friendly processes by stopping by local business Fillaree for a hand soap refill! They sell soaps in glass bottles, and refill from large bulk tanks in store. It’s all natural and organic ingredients, and naturally smells fantastic (I chose the Lime Lavender scent).

Yes, it’s five dollars, for which I could get five bottles at the Dollar Tree. But I choose to support local Durham based family business, and eco-smart, waste free practices.

fall garden planning

I also got the last of the fall garden items in the ground. Since I ripped up the sweet potato vines that were taking up all the garden real estate, I had SO MUCH space to work with. It may be a bit too late in the season for some of these, but I’m hopeful at least some of these cool-loving crops will bring me something edible.

fall garden planting

Lovely rows of winter wheat, kale, chard, collards, radish, carrots, spinach, and beets. Let’s see what comes up!

 

Food Total: 24.46 + 86.15

My usual Produce Box delivery, plus a cooler full of farm fresh pastured milk, cheese, sausage, and brisket.

Lessons Learned

Living holistic values can be overall more expensive, for sure. But it tastes so good! It smells great. IT FEELS AMAZING. It’s worth it.

 

 

 

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

 

 

Crispy Spinach Gnocchi with Sage Butter

 

Do you ever do “clean out the fridge” nights? If not you should think about doing it! Food waste is a very serious issue, and one way to prevent it is obviously to throw less food in the trash.

But if you don’t know what food you have, it can be very easy to forget about it until your produce liquefies or grows a weird-colored fuzzy coating of something you do not want to eat.

Clean out the fridge meals help prevent that!

Basically, just take a look in the fridge. Not just the shelves but also the doors and drawers. And then try to think of a way to use up those food items! Soups are always a good bet, as are casseroles, burritos, omelets, and more.

This one was inspired by 2 baked potatoes, and a half bag of getting-soft spinach. I went to Google for inspiration, as I usually do, and found this recipe for Potato Spinach Gnocchi. I’ve made my own gnocchi before, using both butternut squash and acorn squash, so I knew that veggies are easy to hide in the wonderful pillowy dumplings.

So I decided to add the spinach to create green gnocchi! Because why not. But I also decided to pan-fry rather than boil them, because I was craving a cripsy coating. You can stop at Step 1 and boil, but I’d recommend the frying route.

I also pared down the prep time by microwaving my spinach rather than steaming and draining, and had already cooked potatoes. If I didn’t I would have microwaved them too. All together, this can be on the table in less than 30 minutes!

Not only do these taste a bit like french fries, but they also count as a vegetable and are healthy for you! Win win. Top with whatever sauce you prefer and enjoy.

spinach gnocchi

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 baked potatoes
  • 1 egg
  • ~1 cup flour
  • ~1 cup cooked spinach (fresh or frozen, fresh is about 3-4 cups packed that cooks down)
  • 1 tbsp garlic or 2-3 cloves
  • Optional: 1/4 cup shaved Parmesan cheese

Sage Brown Butter

  • 3-4 tbsp butter
  • Handful of sage leaves
  • Sea salt
  • Optional: black pepper, salsa, etc.

spinach gnocchi

Step 1: I started with potatoes I baked the day prior, otherwise bake your potatoes in the oven or microwave. Similarly, if using frozen spinach, thaw it and squeeze out the water. I microwaved my fresh spinach for about 2 1/2 minutes with a cup of water next to it in the microwave.

You can do the mixing and mashing by hand, but I prefer my hand dandy food processor. Mix up the potato well, then add the spinach. Process until well combined. Add the garlic, Parmesan, and flour, and process until a thick dough forms.

spinach gnocchi

Step 2: Using 2 teaspoons, scoop little balls of dough into a frying pan set to medium with olive or coconut oil. Fry for 2-3 minutes, flip, and fry on the other side. My pan held about half the dough, so I moved them to a paper towel covered plate while I cooked the other half.

spinach gnocchi

Step 3: Optional – at this point you can enjoy your fried gnocchi with marinara, pesto, alfredo, or whatever sauce tickles your fancy. Since I have an abundance of sage right now, I made a sage brown butter sauce (like I used on my butternut squash ravioli).

Melt the butter in the pan. When barely bubbling, add the sage leaves, and fry for about 2 minutes, until crispy. Do not over cook or the butter will burn. I also tossed in a teaspoon of my Reaper salsa, for a little bite, and it was just enough.

 

Weekly Eating – 10/1/18

 

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!

 

As promised, I spent a big part of the weekend planting the fall things and ripping up the summer things. Tomatoes and beans are now composting, and kale/beet/radish/broccoli/cabbage are in the ground. Fingers crossed we get something edible. I’m already planning next spring’s garden.

Monday:

Breakfast – Avocado and egg sandwich, quite filling and tasty

avocado and egg toast

Lunch – Leftover from the weekend roasted vegetables, with a small piece of steak under there (hah, I bet at least one person thought “under where?”)

roasted fall vegetables

Snack  – homemade creamy hummus and raw veggies (I ended up not being hungry enough to eat the peaches I canned)

creamy hummus and raw vegetables and canned peaches

Dinner –

 

Tuesday:

Breakfast – Peach oatmeal

Lunch – out to lunch with a coworker

Dinner – Lentil sloppy joes! My new favorite. With dill pickles and homemade purple sauerkraut

sloppy joe with lentils pickles and sauerkraut

Wednesday:

Breakfast – A friend at work keeps chickens, and she brought me a gift of a dozen free range eggs! I was so thrilled, because happy healthy free range chickens make the best eggs. I had a tasty breakfast burrito with bell peppers and onions and hot sauce and eggs and cheese. Nomnom.

free range egg breakfast burrito

Lunch – Leftover lentil sloppy joes! Not mad about it.

lentil sloppy joes

Dinner –I made a big batch of my crispy oven baked tofu

oven baked tofu

And whipped up a quick teriyaki stir fry to go with it

tofu teriyaki stir fry

Oh and I also have a jar of homemade apple cider vinegar that’s finally getting going! It’s a great way to use apple cores and peels and scraps. Just fill a jar 2/3, cover with water. Add about 1 tbsp sugar per cup of water needed, and cover. That’s it. Let it sit in a dark place for 2 weeks, strain, and let it sit again until tart enough.

bubbling apple cider vinegar

Thursday:

Breakfast – Another breakfast burrito!

breakfast burrito

Lunch – Out again! Shocking, I know, twice in one week. The down side of trying so hard to make friends for 2 years is that now I have them haha but at least our work meal card gets us 10% off so this was just over $4

chinese at work

Dinner – Ya’ll! Remember how when I went home for a wedding shower, I ended up coming home with a pressure cooker my mom didn’t want? I finally used it! My first item: baked potatoes.

potatoes in a pressure cooker

The good news is, it didn’t blow up! The better news is, it steamed perfect soft potatoes in 15 minutes. These things are pretty legit. And WAY less energy used than an oven at 350 for an hour.

loaded baked potatoes

Friday:

Breakfast – At the grocery store, I found an insane sale on smoked rainbow trout (like 75% off). Given my love of smoked salmon, I figured it might be similar. So I got it, because luckily for me someone brought leftover Panera, and I nabbed an everything bagel with cream cheese, the perfect lox canvas. Turns out, definitely not the same as salmon. But pretty good.

smoked rainbow trout bagel

Lunch – Leftover tofu teriyaki stir fry

leftover stir fry

Dinner – My second experience with the pressure cooker. Some tiny acorn squash that came with my Produce Box.

acorn squash in pressure cooker

Took 15 minutes yet again, perfectly fork-tender. They got whipped into a creamy cheese sauce for acorn squash mac n cheese.

acorn squash mac n cheese

Dessert – Wooo what a crazy week, out for lunch twice AND dessert on Friday! I had 2 peaches that desperately needed used up, so I cut them into a bowl with an also-near-death banana and some frozen pineapple. Topped it with some butter/brown sugar (crack) and granola, then I microwaved it for about 8 minutes and bam. Instant sweet tooth satisfaction.

fruit cobbler with ice cream

The Weekend

Saturday is a busy day! My pal Steveonomics is in town, his company is trying to convince him to move here. And so am I.   🙂  Then I have a downtown Food Tour afterwards. So definitely getting my steps in!

Then Sunday is the opposite, no plans whatsoever. Well, just getting down the Halloween decorations from the attic, because you know I’m having a party! Gotta brainstorm a good costume.

Food Total: $98.19

Uhhh… oops. I swear I went to the store with a list in hand… and then there were just a lot of good sales. At least most of the things I got were staples and fruits & veggies. The canned goods will stay for a long time, and we were down to almost nothing on rice. We had like 3 rice based meals this week, and burritos are a main way the boy stays alive, so running out of rice would be a disaster.

Meats $23.57 Staples $40.27 Fruit/Veg $30.32
smoked rainbow trout 4oz 2.97 wheat bread 3 bag spinach 2 4
frozen whiting fillets 2lb 4.97 tomato sauce 1.18 bananas 2.28
frozen cod fillets 2lb 9.97 tortillas 1.48 avocados 4 3.58
Stew meat 1.5 lb 5.66 long grain white rice 10lb 2.99 cucumber 0.69
basmati rice 5lb 8.99 carrots 10lb 5.99
brown rice 3lb 4.49 sweet onion 1.21
cereals x3 5.89 bell peppers 9 8.91
Pasta – various x4 3.96 Limes 0.99
4pk org garbanzos 3.29 Pears 2 1.88
Pasta sauce x3 5 Lemon 1 0.79

Lessons Learned

Ugh guys. I need to admit that I am not doing as great with Zero Waste as I’d hoped. But this blog is supposed to be safe space though right? How do I get better? My biggest issues continue to be cheese (sliced and shredded) and anything frozen. The boy is the main cheese consumer, and he will definitely not shred or slice his own, I’ve tried buying blocks before and they just get moldy. And I’m not that much of a saint to do it for him weekly.

 

 

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

 

 

One Small Thing: Coffee Filters

 

In this series I am highlighting one small change you can make to your daily routine or one small thing you can do to make the world a little less wasteful. Don’t miss the previous posts about cloth napkins, handkerchiefs, water bottles, straws, and travel mugs.

Today we are continuing the caffeine chat with: Coffee Filters

This includes regular-sized coffee pot filters, as well as Keurig-style pod cups.

one small thingone small thing

A Brief History of Coffee Filters

As the story goes, all coffee used to be brewed the same way as Turkish coffee insists on being brewed: hot and dark and with the grounds still in the finished drink. This often led to an unpleasant taste and gritty texture.

One day, a housewife decided she was tired of chewing her morning drink. She tried a few different items around the house and found that her son’s blotting paper and a copper pot with holes put in it were the perfect combination for getting the black gold liquid without the gross solids.

And thus, the filter was born.

Through the years we have improved and refined filters based on material type, thickness, and adding ruffles. Those variegated sides help the liquid flow better, and the thickness and grade of paper determines how finely it can filter.

There are even filters made from a far wider array of materials than wood pulp, such as metal, bamboo, even gold.

What Are Coffee Filters Made Of?

Let’s imagine that at least one of those 2.7 cups of coffee per day consumed by 150 million Americans is made at home. That means at least 150 million coffee filters are used per day. And probably at least 149.9 million of those are tossed into the trash, destined for the landfill.

Every day.

coffee filter

Enter the Keurig

Coffee was chugging along, enjoying a slow but steady rise in popularity, when along came an invention that shot it to meteoric fame in homes and offices alike.

Yes, the Keurig.

Originally founded in 1992, Keurig launched its office brewers and line of products in 1998. As the single-serve brewer gained popularity among our instant gratification, everyone-is-unique culture, the Keurig became a household name and expanded for home use in 2004.

Green Mountain Coffee bought the Keurig company and brand in 2006, and business boomed for both through that partnership.

Several more acquisitions and mergers later and they are now part of the Keurig Doctor Pepper brand, and is now “a publicly traded conglomerate which is the third largest beverage company in North America.[

And of course, I must step up onto my soap box for a moment to lambast the Keurig k-cup, or pod, or whatever you want to call this insidious piece of single use plastic crap.

An estimated one in three homes has a Keurig brewer, and the company is on pace to sell over three billion cups per year.

That’s a sh*t-ton of plastic.

Even the inventor of the K-cup says he sort of regrets it… and he doesn’t even own a Keurig machine, saying “They’re kind of expensive to use”.

There’s been much backlash against the waste produced, even to the point of a YouTube video entitled “Kill the K-Cup” which dramatizes the damage it is doing and ends with “Kill the K-Cup before it kills our planet”.

<iframe src=”https://player.vimeo.com/video/116606409″ width=”640″ height=”360″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

When the patents expired, tons of knockoff brewers and cups flooded the market, many of which are better choices based on being recyclable, compostable, or reusable.

Though thank goodness, they are finally trying to change the composition of the cup such that the material is more attractive to recyclers and thus can be diverted for re-use rather than sent to landfills worldwide.

 

How Can You Do Better?

If you use a paper/bamboo filter, compost it

The first point is that most coffee filters are totally compostable! Yes, most are made of paper, and you can toss them into a compost pile or bin, coffee grounds included. The coffee grounds will provide a great source of nitrogen to your plants, while the filter itself will provide some great carbon.

 

Consider re-usable filters

Next, consider a re-useable coffee filter. I bought myself this one, and use it every day. Each night I dump the spent grounds into my compost bin, give it a quick rinse, and restock with fresh grounds for the next day. Easy peasy. I will probably never have to buy another filter in my life! How awesome is that.

We also have 2 sets of these reusable Keurig cups, which hubs uses in his home office, and I took one to work as well. They fit in most Keurig-style coffee makers, but make sure you read the full list in the product description to make sure yours is one with which it is compatible.

 

Another Option: the French Press

A French Press is a (usully) glass container into which you pour raw grounds and hot water to let it steep. It has a filter attached to a pump / handle that you simply press down, and it filters out the grounds. You then pour out your hot coffee, leaving the solids behind. A quick rinse of the press, and you’re good to go.

If it’s just you, try a small 1L size press, or if you have a big thirst or multiple java fiends try the larger 12 cup version. The press is reusable for many many years, and some say even makes a better tasting, less bitter brew, since it doesn’t soak in any oils from the grounds the way a paper filter does.

Can’t Forget My Tea Drinkers!

Oh yes, don’t think just because you don’t get your caffeine from coffee that I’ve forgotten about you. If you morning caffeine hit comes from a nice hot cuppa Earl Grey or a London Fog, this still applies to you.

If you already use only loose-leaf tea with a filter of some sort, then thank you, and feel free to tune out.

Filters and french presses can definitely be used for tea just as easily as coffee grounds. And they can be just as impactful on the environment. In fact, individual tea bags are responsible for several thousands of tons of non-biodegradable waste.

Though like filters, most are made from paper, least 20-30 percent are made from non-recyclable and non-compostable materials. And even the paper kind rarely gets put into a compost pile, most just end up tossed in the trash bin.

Then there are the foil or plastic or plastic-lined packets that some individual bags are further wrapped in, the boxes that are plastic wrapped, the little metal staple that holds the tag on the bag… you get the picture.

Step 1: If you must have individual tea bags, then at least read up on your favorite companies about their production line. Learn which companies have better or worse practices, and maybe switch. Choose tagless, natural sourced bags with minimal packaging.

Step 2: When you use tea bags, compost them! If you don’t have a pile and don’t want to start one, see if there are any local gardens, community gardens, or schools that will take them. Most gardeners won’t turn down extra, free compost materials.

Step 3: Graduate to loose leaf! The bonus is that it is usually far cheaper per pound versus bagged since you don’t have to pay the “processing fee” of bagging and packaging them. You can also get creative a make your own mixes. Go ahead and put a teaspoon each of green tea, spearmint, and chamomile in a cup, you crazy lady you. And then use a filter, steeper, or French press. And compost the leaves, too!

 

Reasons you should consider reusable filters:
  • Saves you money
  • Saves you time – never shop for filters again
  • Saves you hassle – no more forgetting to pick up a new pack of filters at the store and having to buy to-go coffee or -gasp- go without
  • Saves the planet – keep hundreds of pounds of plastic waste out of the landfills

And now that you have your delicious, hot cup of low-waste coffee, don’t forget to put it in your own to-go mug!

 

 

How do you get your caffeine fix?

Weekly Eating – 9/24/18

 

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!

The weekend was a good mix of relaxing and productivity and fun. I spent some time on Saturday whipping up a batch of hot sauce in green and red, along with some pumpkin cookies for this month’s food swap. I ended up with enough hot sauce that I kept plenty for us and also a bottle of each to swap.

so many peppers

I also finally got around to pulling up all the dead and dying summer plants from the garden. The tomatoes had been sadly neglected, as evidenced by several (at least 4) enormous hornworms I found. Like, these suckers were the size of my ring finger for sure. It was fascinating and terrifying and gross.

amazing photo of a giant hornworm on a tomato plant

And did you know they are a favorite host for parasitic wasps? Yeah… Nature, you creepy.

hornworn covered in wasp cocoons

In better news, we also attended the Eleventh Annual Pepper Fest! Held in Briar Chapel, between Chapel Hill and Pittsboro, it is a wonderful day filled with music, dancing, acrobatics, and all the pepper flavored culinary delights.

NC Pepper Fest 2018

Hosting everything from cayenne popcorn to ghost chili honey to pepper steeped beers and sodas, this festival will light up your taste bud and set your face on fire. If you want it to. The extra-hot stuff is clearly marked!

NC Pepper Fest 2018

From their website:

We are still tallying up things, but here’s where things stand so far:
* Approximately 3000 folks were in attendance
* More vendors than ever…89 booths!
* Local farmers were paid $3400 for 570 lbs of peppers of 45 different varieties!
*125 Volunteers helped put on the event.
*Kids Village was over the top! 250+ happy children
*Compost sorted by Kassandra & hauled off by Brooks Composting
Culinary Winners:
The Savory Stunner (Best Savory Dish): Little River Eco Farm
My Sweet Heat (Best Sweet Dish): Big Spoon Roasters
The Double Take (Most Creative Dish): Fusion Fish
The Platinum Pepper (Best in Show):  The Food Fairy
The Staff Sweetheart (Most Local):  Angelina’s Kitchen

NC Pepper Fest 2018

Monday:

Breakfast – Peach oatmeal. I need ALL the peaches before the season is over. way too soon, as always.

Lunch – I made a triple batch again of this cauliflower barley bowl, it is so dang good.

cauliflower barley cashew bowl

Dinner – Tonight’s dinner got muy fan-say. I had king oysters and enoki left over from a stop at my favorite asian grocery, so I made King Oyster scallops with rice noodles & enoki base, and a vegan cashew cream sauce. Too legit to quit, the boy even said it was awesome. I could charge $60 a plate for this ish.

king oyster mushroom scallops

I also had several passion fruits from a vine I found, and tried my hand at a coulis, which turned out divine when mixed with soda water. Homemade soda this week homies!

passion fruit passion fruit syrup

Tuesday:

Breakfast – more oatmeal!

Lunch – more Cauliflower Barley Bowls!

cauliflower barley cashew bowl

Dinner – This was the Food Swap, so I mostly nibbled on samples.

bull city food swap

But when I got home the boy let me have a half a burrito he hadn’t eaten with his dinner 🙂

Wednesday:

Breakfast – Cocoa puffs lol at least I used homemade cashew milk

Lunch – red lentil dal with rice, hot sauce, crème fraîche, and a garlic curry sauce from the swap. YUM.

red lentil dal with garlic curry

And passionfruit soda!

passionfruit soda

Dinner –Baked cod with red potatoes and asparagus. Super simple, healthy, and tasty a.f. Also the writer of the recipe is freaking hilarious and I’m now a confirmed follower of her blog.

baked cod, potatoes, and asparagus

Thursday:

Breakfast – Smoothie. I got a cherry berry mix from the store, and it has cocoa nibs… I hate that. They are chalky and crunchy and I don’t want to chew my drink thank you very much. Now I know.

cherry cocoa smoothie

Lunch – Cauli Cashew bowl! Last one.

cauliflower barley cashew bowl

Dinner – Thursday Night Co-op! Today was BBQ pulled pork with slaw and chips, and dang was it good!

bbq pulled pork co-op dinner

Friday:

Breakfast – breakfast burrito w peppers, onions, mushrooms, and tomato + hot sauce. nom. nom.

breakfast burrito

Lunch – Leftover mushroom scallops & last of the seaweed salad

mushroom pasta and seaweed salad

Dinner – well, this turned into one of the most frustrating days of all time when my car smelled like smoke and just stopped running… and after the third tow didn’t show up I said forget it I’m just dealing with this later, and the hubs was sweet enough to take me to dinner, where I could drown my sorrows in a fishbowl margarita! The day got much better after that…

fishbowl margarita

Also the tacos al pastor were DELISH. I was in pain for hours afterwards because I was so full, but, #worth.

tacos al pastor

The Weekend

I’ll spend a big part of the weekend trying hard to stay off Twitter due to all the things I’m missing by not being at FinCon!

But there is plenty to keep me busy. Like planting all my remaining cold weather goodies like broccoli, cabbage, kale, beets, and radish.

fall garden vegetable planting

And pulling weeds. And planting oodles of bulbs now so our yard is a riot of color in the spring. And some garlic. And cleaning, which never ends. And turning this bumper crop of Carolina Reapers into delicious, face-melting salsa.

carolina reaper peppers

 

Food Total: $28.61 + 10.81 + 31.57 = $70.99

Not bad overall. One trip to the co-op for bulk barley and more canned pumpkin, one trip to Harris Teeter for cheese and other stuff, and a Produce Box delivery.

Lessons Learned

I enjoy eating the same meals over and over (see, 3 days of cauliflower and barley!) but I also really enjoy trying new recipes (mushrooms as pasta and scallops in the same dish? why not). Both of these things help me save money in the long run, as it keeps cooking at home interesting.

But, going out sometimes is ok too. The experience, not having to do dishes, and eating foods you probably wouldn’t take the time to make yourself all make it worth it. As an occasional treat though, not a daily ritual.

Also gardening is an immensely  satisfying hobby. Even when nothing grows. Even when the only thing you’re feeding is the bugs this year. Even when it rains too much, or not at all. The feeling of kneeling in soft dirt, smelling like compost and rain and Earth, digging holes and tenderly laying baby plantlings in there with the hopes and dreams of their leafy future… there is nothing else like it.

 

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

 

 

One Small Thing: Travel Mugs

 

In this series I am trying to highlight changes or swaps you can make in your day to day living to decrease your waste production and/or use of plastics. These things are not difficult, nor time consuming, nor expensive (nay in most cases they will save you money).

Just try One Small Thing at a time and see if it works for you.

And then try something else. And something else, and it becomes your new normal. And before you know it you can live low waste, stop contributing to landfills and polluting the ocean, and save oodles of cash year after year.

Today we will talk about an easy one: Travel Mugs.

one small thing: reusable coffee mugs

In today’s consumerist go-go-go culture, it seems our collective lifeblood is at least 90% caffeine.

The average U.S. coffee drinker consumes 2.7 cups of coffee per day, with the average size of a coffee cup measuring 9 ounces.

In total, approximately 150 million Americans drink 400 million cups of coffee per day — or more than 140 billion cups per year — making the United States the leading consumer of coffee in the world.

And though coffee makes up 3/4 of all caffeinated beverage consumption, we indulge in our fair share of tea and hot cocoa as well (source1 & source2).

one small thing: reusable coffee mugs

That’s a lotta joe!

And there is growing demand in developing nations as well, as China, India, and more attempt to lead increasingly Westernized lifestyles.

The biggest suppliers are Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia, and Ethiopia (source 4). I know at least a few of those surprised me. Worldwide, we devour more than 121.5 million bags (60kg each, that 7.2 billion kg!) of coffee (source 5) and about 3 million tons of tea every year (source 6), with consumption of both rising.

This is in no way saying we should drink less caffeine!

I’m as addicted as anyone else, nearly nonfunctional without at least one cup of coffee by 10 am. I’ve even gotten to the point where I drink it black.

I’m so metal.

Just kidding, I avoid cream and also I’m cheap frugal. 🙂

one small thing: reusable coffee mugs

The problem is not the coffee.

The problem is not the tea.

The problem is the plastic-lined paper cups.

Literal mountains of them.

We throw away literally Billions of paper cups per year. Yes, most are made from recycled paper, which is great, and many companies even use that in their marketing.

But what they neglect to shout about is the fact that those recycled paper cups would totally leak burning hot liquid onto customers, without the dirty little secret inside.

“Though they are made largely of paper, disposable coffee cups are lined with plastic polyethylene, which is tightly bonded to the paper making the cups waterproof and therefore able to contain liquid.

In addition, the difficulty of recycling coffee cups is increased by the fact they are contaminated with drink. This means cups cannot be recycled at standard recycling plants, and must instead be taken to special facilities” (source 7).

In fact, less than 1% of all paper drink cups actually end up recycled.

Why is it so hard to give up this white cylinder of java?

Why You’re Still Not Bringing a Reusable Mug for Your Daily Coffee

To summarize the above article:

  1. Convenience – no one wants to have to remember a mug and carry it around all day
  2. Social status – carrying that white cup tells the world “I’m important and busy so I need coffee, and only the best and only the most convenient will do”
  3. 10 cents back for bringing your own doesn’t work – “Consumers are much more motivated to avoid a fine than to take advantage of a reimbursement, according to numerous behavioral economics studies (like this one). ” (source 8)

Walking around with a white mug can be just a simple way to get your java fix on the go, but it also has become a big part of our culture. The local coffee shop is a place to meet with friends, to catch up, for business meetings, or for focusing & working remotely.

The to-go mug signals that you are a part of the “busy professional” part of society. Even if you think that social cues don’t affect you, trust me, they do.

one small thing: reusable coffee mugs

So what’s a conscious consumer to do?

I’m definitely on board with bringing your own, obviously. That goes for water bottles and napkins and utensils too. Preparation is step one to success.

Just find yourself a mug, preferably insulated, that has a lid. Toss that into your purse, car, or gym bag. And then when you need some hot tea or coffee, you’re all set!

They are re-usable over and over and over, and usually just require a quick rinse between uses. Run them through a dishwasher every now and then too.

Mugs / tumblers come in tons of cute colors, patterns, materials, with reusable straws, and in different sizes to suit any need.

You can even use a mason jar! No kidding. Maybe get iced coffee though, since heat will transfer through the glass.

Oh, and you’ll probably also get a small discount

But, I’m definitely guilty of forgetting things.

Like, daily.

So another idea that has been proposed, and I think is a fantastic one, is a well-established mug exchange program, with branded, eye-catching tumblers.

This could be just among one chain, a local joint, or many coffee shops all throughout a campus or a city.

It would require a small ‘membership fee’ to get the first mug. Then you can drink it there, or take it to go. There would have to be a simple way to maintain membership status signaling, perhaps through a reusable lid you keep between cups.

Then the mugs can be returned to be washed at any other participating location.

Imagine how many paper cups could be saved!

This would also solve the problem of inconsistent mug sizes. If the menu only has prices for 10, 12, or 16 ounces but your mug is 9 or 24 ounces, how is the barista to ring you up? If the mugs were standard, that is no longer a problem.

You still get the convenience of having it to-go, if it is the tall, insulated ceramic type of mug.

And you still have the convenience of multiple locations.

Over time, as this became more accepted and became the social norm, this concept of reusable mugs would become the top social class, and reuse would be something to be proud of, to get all your friends on board with, and to brag about.

 

Want to learn about more Small Things you can do? Read up on cloth napkins, handkerchiefs, no more straws, and water bottles.

 

 

Are you on board the reusable cup train? Or do you find it annoying, inconvenient, or other thoughts?

Weekly Eating – Wedding & Hurricane Edition

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!

 

Whoa buddy, what a crazy few weeks! Just as we were recovering from the hurricane of Brofest, where 6 grown men lived in my 3 bedroom house for a week and I fed them all, actual hurricane Florence blew into town, on the eve of my brother’s wedding!

On Sunday, we finally had a quiet, empty house. We did I don’t remember how many loads of laundry, and not much else. The plan was to spend Monday and Tuesday figuring out a cleaning service to deep clean, before flying to Ohio on Friday for the wedding. Well, turned out we spent Monday and Tuesday totally rearranging our plans, and driving to Ohio!

We got the travel alerts on Tuesday morning saying flights were very likely to be cancelled, and there were no penalties for rescheduling or cancelling flights if we did so now. So we talked it out quickly over email and a phone chat, and decided to take advantage of that deal.

I was quite proud of myself over the weekend for making a really nice travel lunch for myself, since Tuesday’s are crazy days at work now. I also re-used the plastic packaging from the Starbuck’s I ended up buying last Tuesday due to craziness, which eases my guilt just a little bit.

weekly eating hurricane edition

Then we also had our planned puppy sitter back out at the last minute, which worked because we were now forced to drive rather than fly. Now the pups could come with! So we were resigned to doing the drive we swore we’d never do again. In looking ahead at the weather, and the fact that many things were already closing or preparing to close by Wednesday, we made the call to just get the F outta dodge.

I’m very lucky my workplace was supportive of anyone who wanted to ‘evacuate’ and we could choose to work from home. Hubs already works remotely, so as long as we had internet we could still get things done and get a paycheck.

This was my first experience firsthand of how people react to impending disaster. I kid you not when I say that I had to go to three gas stations on Tuesday before I found one that still had gas. And it was completely out of regular, I had to buy premium at $2.99/gallon at that. After waiting in line for like 15 minutes.

weekly eating hurricane edition

There were lines to get into the ABC store parking lot (the only places in the state to buy liquor. People have their priorities straight…).

A friend I called said they had already gone to 4 grocery stores in the area and no one had any water left. The storm was planned to hit on Friday night. This was Tuesday at 4pm.

I got home to a madhouse of activity. Washer, dryer, and dish washer are going. There are still piles of random things all over the house, the refrigetrator needed gone through to freeze or toss anything perishable, and on top of it all we are now frantically packing to run away from a hurricane and into a wedding weekend that just got unexpectedly doubled in length.

We threw a bunch of things in bags, hustled it all out to the car, and hit the road by 7.

The drive was fine at first but we started getting a little worn out by 10. We had on and off rain, with a good hour of intense downpour on a windy country road, and plenty of traffic. By 11, we decided that stopping around midnight to rest might be a good call, and finish the drive early in the a.m. in time to log in to work.

First hotel we call: sorry no rooms.

Second: all booked. Third: no rooms.

No rooms at the inns.

Any of them.

All the way through West Virginia, and Virginia, and by the time we got to the Ohio border we only had 2 more hours left to go, it was 1 am, and we said screw it let’s just get there.

People are crazy, y’all.

Anywho, then we were finally in Ohio and beyond exhausted. I got almost 4 hours of sleep. I tried.

Luckily we stayed with my sister who is wonderful beyond belief. We both managed to get actual work done, but didn’t really get off the couch all day. I did buy some groceries to fill her pantry and cooked a nice dinner of Bayou Chicken Pasta for them to say thank you.

weekly eating hurricane edition weekly eating hurricane edition

Thursday we were a little more refreshed after a full night’s sleep. We decided to finish the 3-more-hours drive to my parent’s place where we were staying for wedding weekend because we had taken Friday off. I wanted to show hubs a little of my hometown, and it would be nice to sleep in and already be there to start the day.

Before we left, I cooked a 100% vegan meal to balance out the dairy and carb heavy dinner from yesterday 🙂

weekly eating hurricane editionweekly eating hurricane edition

Friday I took the boy to Mill Creek Park, a gem in the middle of Youngstown. It was approved in 1891, and covers over 4400 acres of hiking and biking trails, ponds and streams and waterfalls, and gorgeous greenery.

weekly eating hurricane edition weekly eating hurricane edition

We had lunch at Fellows Riverside Garden cafe, overlooking the lake. It was lovely, and their bagel & lox was divine.

weekly eating hurricane edition

My parents took us out Friday to a vegetarian place that they have repeatedly raved about called the Courthouse Inn & Restaurant. It’s by a couple who live (lived?) in NYC and have a very… unique sense of style. I can’t say I didn’t like it though. And the food was divine. The cauliflower legit tasted like wings, they had the best red wine I’ve ever tasted, and the sweet and spice sauce was delish. The stir fry over forbidden black rice was everything I wanted. And the carrot cake for dessert! Oh mama.

weekly eating hurricane edition

We also got to try a flight of wine at a local winery Sundog Cellars.

weekly eating hurricane edition

At my parent’s, it was pretty much just scavenge and find things to eat. But among the many meals that were “on the house”, so to speak, were the amazing rehearsal dinner that included a 16 oz ribeye steak and the cutest dirt cake of all time (the theme was fishing, because deep sea fishing is the couple’s favorite thing to do)

weekly eating hurricane edition weekly eating hurricane edition

and the wedding buffet itself was BBQ put on by Barry Dyngles, “Authentic Southern BBQ” lol. It was all good, but the brisket! Outta this world. I wish I’d had thirds.

weekly eating hurricane edition

And of course, it just wouldn’t be a Youngstown wedding without a cookie table. Cookie buffet really. Like, over the top a lot of cookies.

weekly eating hurricane edition

On the road, I had snagged a few sandwiches from a platter that were left over, so we just snacked and drank coffee. It was worrisome seeing all the signs reporting roads closed and to “limit travel in North Carolina”. Evidently there was a tornado and also flash flooding Monday morning!

But it was all fine, and we made it home safely. The boy and I had very different ideas of what qualifies as “comfort food” when we got home haha: Supreme frozen pizza, vs all the veggies stir fry.

weekly eating hurricane edition

The rest of the week was a bit of a blur, with oatmeal frequently the breakfast of choice since it’s easy and I had some peaches to use up in the refrigerator.

weekly eating hurricane edition

Wednesday the boy wanted to get creative and cook together, so we decided to have a make-your-own-sushi night. He got the rice started and thawed some seaweed salad, salmon & shrimp and when I got home I pulled out the nori sheets and we had fun mixing and matching and rolling.

weekly eating hurricane edition weekly eating hurricane edition

It provided about 10 rolls total, which was plenty for dinner and lunch the next day for me too.

weekly eating hurricane edition

Since I was on an Asian food kick, I also whipped up some quick  soup for lunch the next day with miso, veg broth, cilantro, hot red peppers, and enoki mushrooms. I ate that with the rest of the seaweed salad.

weekly eating hurricane edition

And of course on Thursday I went to the Durham Co-op dinner, which was sausage and peppers and onions. I met up with some friends, and met some new ones. I also got some cans of pumpkin pie filling on sale for an idea I have for next week’s Food Swap items…

weekly eating hurricane edition

And finally we ran out of almond milk, so I soaked some almonds overnight and made my first batch of homemade almond milk! So easy and so delicious. I think I’m going to try making my own more often so I can stop buying the plastic lined boxes. Plus you can customize the taste a little too, with salt, sugar, or vanilla. I need to find something to bake with the pulp now.

weekly eating hurricane edition

 

Food Total: uhhh, way too much

I usually keep travel and “entertainment” and groceries separate, but this trip kind of smushed everything together. We had some meals at my parents house (which obviously we didn’t pay for) and a lot of meals out provided (for rehearsal dinner and the actual wedding) but we also went out a few times, and I bought groceries twice for my sister to thank her for letting us stay with them.

Plus there’s the several coffees and sports drinks along the way to keep us awake and happy for ~20 hours in a car that I consider worth the cost in exchange for not dying or fighting.

Lessons Learned

Sometimes life can throw you curves. No matter how much you plan or think you’re ready, you just never know. We had to totally overhaul our plans and roll with it when the hurricane came to town. Luckily we were refunded for the flights, or this would be a very expensive surprise. As it stands, we did the best we could with limited time. Much of what was in the fridge could be frozen, so we didn’t waste too much. And yes we spent more than we likely would have otherwise, but life happens.

 

 

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

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?

 

 

The fusion of food, fun, frugality, and curiosity.