Category Archives: Administrative

Weekly Eating – 1/28/19

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 very relaxing. Saturday we took a reeeally long, like almost 3 hour walk to a park, then found a new way home. Turns out there’s actually a paved walking trail through some woods for part of the way.

On Sunday we went out to lunch with some friends to one of my favorite spots. We thought it was still Restaurant Week… but sadly that ended Saturday. We made the best of it and had a delicious brunch though.

Oh, and also I cut off a donated 12 inches of hair! 😲 Yes, you read that right, a full foot. I’ve been wanting to for years, and finally just said enough is enough. I sent it to Hair We Share, to give a free wig to a child who lost their hair due to chemo or other medical issues. Its been quite and adjustment so far, but I’m getting used to it.

one foot less hair

Monday:

Breakfast – scrambled quail egg breakfast burritos with mixed potatoes, vegan cheese, and hummus

potato and quail egg burrito

Lunch – Carrot dogs! A fun thing I’ve noticed on vegan blogs, where you marinate cooked carrots to taste like hot dogs. So I gave it a try, and they are actually quite delicious

vegan carrot dog

Dinner – Rice bowl loaded with Brussels sprouts, broccoli, sweet potato, carrot, some shredded chicken breast & hummus

veg and bean and hummus rice bowl

Tuesday:

Breakfast –smoothie

Lunch – leftover white bean soup & a big salad

salad and white bean soup

Snack – nuts & berries

Dinner – Butternut squash stuffed with black rice, lentils, carrot & onion. This is something I just kinda threw together with what I had and felt like eating, and bless the boy, he tried it. And actually liked it! Success.

stuffed butternut squash

Wednesday:

Breakfast – smoothie

Snack – green tea & a KIND bar

tea and nut bar

Lunch – out to lunch with a friend! We go out 2-3 times per month and I really love it because we don’t see each other much outside of work. So it is worth the $6-$9 per lunch.

out to lunch

Dinner –family was visiting overnight, so we took them out to Neomonde Durham! I got the half falafel pita platter with grape leaves and quinoa tabbouleh and it was amazing. Their garlic paste is to diiiiiiiiie for! And we ended up with oodles of leftovers.

Neomonde platters

Thursday:

Breakfast – smoothie

Snack – peanut butter

Lunch – leftover Neomonde & a salad

neomonde leftovers

Dinner – roasted veggies with rice & black beans

Snack – zombie corn! This is popcorn with nutritional yeast and chlorella to make it green. Looks crazy, tastes awesome, tons of health benefits.

zombie corn

Friday:

Breakfast – raisin bagel with almond butter and coffee

raisin bagel with almond butter

Lunch – the rest of the leftover roasted veggies with black beans and rice

roasted veg rice bowl

Snack –2 Thin Mint cookies! Just kidding, I ate the whole sleeve

two thin mint cookies

Dinner – Since Veganuary was over, when the boy said he wanted pepperoni pizza, I said sure why not! So we had frozen pepperoni pizzas haha

The Weekend

Well the food tour on Saturday got cancelled, so the day is mine. And thank goodness because we planned a big, ridiculous, outrageous stockup trip to Costco. Let’s just say some travel hacking is in the works, and to hit the minimum spends, we are front loading our food expenses, along with many other things.

And of course Sunday is the Super Bowl. Not that I care all the much about the game (still don’t know who is playing…) but we got invited over by our neighbors and I’m pretty stoked. It’s taken over 2 years, but we are finally making friends that live by us!

Food Total: Not even telling

The Costco trip… was crazy. Let’s just say we gave our über frugal friend serious heart palpitations!

Speaking of heart palpitations, February is Heart Health month! I’ll just say it again, straight from my Instagram:

 

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

Tracking My Trash Round Two

 

In a previous post I had guest written for Angela’s blog on how I wanted to start moving towards a more zero-waste lifestyle. That basically just means trying to cut back on what I buy, cut down on single use items, especially plastic, and re-use as much as possible.

Then I followed that up with one week of tracking every single piece of trash I ended up generating. It is quite an eye-opening experience, I would highly recommend you try it. It makes you much more aware of tiny things you would just trash without a second thought.

Well, some time has gone by, and Angela and I discussed tracking for a week again, to see how we were doing. We are equally terrible at remembering, so we decided to just start on a Tuesday.

boxed Panera lunch

For the purposes of tracking, I kept a running list in my phone of anything I threw away while at work or outside the house. Luckily I have already implemented a few tips and tricks at work to cut down on waste.

  1. I have a reusable k-cup and a small container of coffee, in case a second cup is required
  2. I have my own reusable coffee mug, water bottle, silverware, oil and vinegar, and salt in my desk
  3. I bring lunch & snacks in reusable containers and take anything compostable home with me
  4. I bring a new dish towel each week that I use at lunch and for drying my hands after using the bathroom
  5. I try to use as little TP as possible now
Trash outside the house:
  • Panera boxed lunch:
    • big paper box
    • plastic salad clamshell
    • tiny plastic dressing cup
    • plastic silverware wrapped in plastic
    • thin napkin
    • plastic paper wrapper on sandwich
    • plastic bag for cookie
  • 2 times forgetting my towel, used paper towels for hand drying
  • 2 tea bags at work

So overall, not a bad week. That one day of Panera just killed me though, and at least 2 dozen people were there with similar amounts of waste each.

Catered lunches are a pit of plastic.

Moral of the story: Bring your lunch!

single use plastic in trash

At home, I tried to keep anything I would normally throw away in a separate bag in the other room. Food containers I rinsed out so I didn’t have troubles. But some things had to just go straight into the trash, like moldy cheese.

Also, the boy lives here too. And he creates some trash, which I did not include because I don’t want to force him onto the blog without permission.  🙂  Only things which I used or emptied or cooked with are included here, because it is a pretty accurate representation of what I would do were I living alone as well.

We have 2 dogs, 11 quail, and no kids, for context.

I have a home-delivery for produce weekly, which re-uses the delivery box and any packaging needed. So if I get a pint container of strawberries, I just send it back empty so they can refill it for next time. Thus, no waste.

But, I do also supplement with things from ALDI, other grocery stores, ethnic markets, Amazon, and my co-op as well.

Trash at home:
  • 2 sliced cheese wrappers, and 4 slices moldy cheese
  • 2 plastic bags from frozen mixed fruits
  • Small black styrofoam box from food tour leftovers
  • Big white styrofoam from leftovers after Friday dinner
  • Top rip off from several cheese, frozen fruit, and tortilla packages
  • Half brick of cream cheese that went moldy, foil wrapper and box
  • 3 q-tips (don’t @ me, I mostly just hate water in my ear)
  • Sticker from 2 bananas and a grapefruit
  • Plastic inner ring from an Almond milk container
  • Empty Almond milk container
  • Giant plastic boxes from mixed salad greens (2)
  • Plastic bag from spinach (2)
  • Plastic lid from a tea box set I got for Christmas
  • Plastic wrapper from 2 boxes of green tea
  • Plastic wrap from a Butcher Box pork roast
  • Plastic wrap from a Butcher Box chicken breast
  • Edamame bag
  • Lemon bag
  • Avocado bag
  • Brussles sprouts bag
  • Plastic window from some mail
  • Plastic wrap from Charmin 
  • Plastic covering from Greek yogurt container
  • Plastic inner bag from “Cracklin Oat Bran”
  • Plastic wrapper from a frozen pizza
  • Plastic ring around new can of raisins
  • 1 stevia packet
  • Tempeh inner and outer wrapping
  • Bag from loaf of seed bread
  • Plastic grocery bag
  • Plastic wrapper from cauliflower
  • Foil top of new coffee can
  • Vitamin water mix packet
  • Mio knockoff bottle
  • Vegan cheese wrapping
  • 2 grocery receipts
  • 1 gas receipt
  • 2 dining out receipts

Yikes.

The thing that stands out to me is that is a really long list!

I thought I did better than this.

And I felt pretty ashamed of how much plastic I’m bringing home from the grocery store.

But then I thought of how much better I’m doing since a few years ago. How the co-op has become part of my life, so I do my best to shop in bulk for things like oats and barley and beans. How I now have a 100% local and package free source of daily eggs.

And all I can do is keep trying to do better.

recycling bin

Luckily, I now live in a place where recycling is an option.

This is the first time, as all my previous apartments and rental houses have not offered this. I could have saved things to take to my grad school campus to recycle but we all know how motivated grad students are when there are a million other things on your mind…

Anywho, the things that got tossed into the recycle bin did not have to go in the trash, and for that I’m thankful. But for those who don’t have the option to recycle, the below list would have been trash too.

Recycle:
  • 1 plastic soy sauce bottle
  • 1 plastic lemon juice bottle
  • 1 coffee tin
  • 1 can pineapples
  • 6 cans beans
  • 1 can beets
  • 1 can tomatoes
  • 3 beer bottles
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 can coconut water

box full of boxes to burn

Another fun thing about having a house now is that we also have a fire pit in the back yard. We recently took down 6 big trees, so we have tons of wood and sticks. But, we usually need some fast burning items to start it up, or keep it going.

So, we keep a “burn box”.

This is where we put any big or small cardboard boxes, paper towel or TP rolls, envelopes, etc. Anything that will burn, can go into a bonfire rather than a trash can.

But again, not everyone has this option. So these things could have been trash instead.

Burn box:
  • 3 paper covers and rolls from “Who Gives a Crap” tp
  • Box from “Cracklin Oat Bran”
  • 1 paper towel tube
  • 1 empty box tissues
  • Cardboard bottom from a tea box gift set
  • Empty frozen pizza box
  • Dentastix box
  • Blue Moon beer box
  • 2 boxes from pasta
  • Box from cake mix
  • Box from granola bars
  • Bagged green tea box
  • Amazon delivery box
  • Tissue paper from a swap (quail eggs in exchange for 2 cute crystal serving trays and a neat ceramic soup tureen)
tea set
The tea box gift set. At least I can re-use the tins for loose leaf tea later!

And finally, my favorite way of keeping things out of the trash, is composting.

When we lived in a rental and I didn’t know if we would stay long enough for a pile to make sense, I had a big Rubbermaid container full of worms in the yard and did vermicomposting.

Now, I have enough space for a permanent pile.

We toss our kitchen goodies in there, and combined with the fall leaves and mulch, and sawdust shavings and quail manure, we make our own supercharged garden fertilizer. And keep literal tons of organic matter out of land fills.

compost

Compost:
  • Banana peels
  • 2 pear pits
  • 5 clementine peels
  • Coffee grounds
  • Old hard bread
  • Persimmon peel
  • Centers of broccoli and cauliflower
  • Zucchini and carrot ends
  • 2 paper tissues
  • 4 tea bags
  • 2 lemons
  • Loose leaf green and hibiscus tea
  • Ends of sweet potatoes
  • Onion ends and peel

Tracking My Trash: Round 2

Woof.

There you have it, in startling technicolor, all the trash created by an actually-quite-eco-conscious person trying not to make trash.

What a world we live in.

 

Any suggestions guys? How do I do better?

Weekly Eating – 1/21/19

 

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 great, I led a really fun Durham food tour on Saturday. 4 of the visitors were a young man touring colleges and his family, and the others were 2 couples visiting as well (a mom and daughter, and old friends) so none had ever been to Durham before. I entertained them all night with stories and things I’ve learned.

table covered in food at Neomonde Durham

We got a crazy huge spread at Neomonde. I cannot say enough nice things about them! Their food is amazing and super fresh and tasty, it is Mediterranean/Lebanese. Best hummus I’ve had in a long time.

the Little Dipper Durham salted caramel chocolate

And I looooove that we end the tours with the chocolate dippers at The Little Dipper now. I just love their staff and atmosphere, as well as the food of course! We had the Fluffer Nutter (chocolate, peanut butter, and marshmallow fluff) and the Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel. Mmmmm… they even gave me a to-go cup of the leftover chocolate! I had joked about it with my group, but they insisted…

carton full of quail and chicken eggs

And I am just so so thankful to finally have farm friends! To be able to visit the chickens and guinea hens, and have my own quail… the magic has definitely not faded, not yet! Every time I go out to the coop and find an egg, it is a tiny miracle.

Monday:

Breakfast – this was a holiday, so we slept in! Black coffee

Lunch – I had some small corn tortillas that needed using, so I brushed them with lime and toasted them in the oven, then loaded them up with refried pinto beans, salsa, red sauerkraut, and avocado for some tasty tostadas

tostadas

Dinner – Refrigerator soup! Basically bits of whatever veggies are about to go south, some beans, dried mushrooms, and veggie broth. With the rest of the toasted corn tortillas crushed on top.

refrigerator soup

Snack – We had a really awesome mixed berry ‘soup’ haha and a cup of turmeric golden milk for a nightcap

bowl of mixed berry nice cream

Tuesday:

Breakfast – pear and raisin oatmeal with flaxseed

pear and raisin oatmeal

Lunch – I forgot I’d ordered a lunch that got cancelled and rescheduled a while ago… so we had Panera today. Conveniently the same day Angela decided we would start tracking trash again… 🙈

boxed Panera lunch

Snack – local greenhouse strawberries and orange slices

strawberries and oranges

Dinner – mango tempeh and roasted veggies with black rice, and a garlic tahini hot sauce

mango tempeh and roasted veggies

Wednesday:

Breakfast – pear and raisin oatmeal with flaxseed (hey, I had 2 pears)

pear and raisin oatmeal

Lunch –mango tempeh and roasted veggies with black rice

mango tempeh and roasted veggies

Snack – local greenhouse strawberries and orange slices

strawberries and oranges

Dinner – giant salad of mixed greens & arugula, with seasame seeds, dried apricot, and walnuts. Dressing of tahini, lemon juice, garlic.

big salad

Snack – mixed berry smoothie with flaxseed and amla and spinach. I found it amusing, the size difference of our cup and spoon.

blender and coffee cup of smoothie

Thursday:

Breakfast – cinnamon raisin bagel with almond butter

bagel with almond butter

Lunch – I had some black beans left from the weekend batch cook, so I just added some dried onion, cumin, lime juice and salsa and used my immersion blender to make it a soup. Plus a big salad.

salad and black bean soup

Snack – faux Oreo cookies

Dinner –Instant pot baked potatoes smothered in vegan chili with vegan cheddar and fresh guac

chili baked potato

Friday:

Breakfast – big rainbow smoothie: canned beets, my last persimmon, spinach, frozen pineapple, a fresh banana, frozen mixed berries, flax seed, amla powder, coconut water

big rainbow smoothie

Lunch – the rest of the leftover mango tempeh with roasted veg

Snack – homemade garlic hummus and cucumber slices

hummus and cucumbers

Dinner – Went out with a friend for dinner on Friday for some awesome girl talk and Mexican food. This local place called Toreros has really good food and decent margaritas. I got a vegetarian burrito that was so enormous, I literally just started laughing when she put it on the table.

huge vegetarian burrito

The Weekend

This weekend we have no set plans really. Just relaxing at home and taking it easy. Doing some cooking projects, and maybe going out for the end of Triangle restaurant week.

Food Total: $164.99

Oof. Y’all.

I have totaled up January food spending, and it is not pretty.

We need to reign it in. Maybe I will ban myself from grocery shopping for a few months.

Dairy $6.48 Staples $69.77 Fruit/Veg $57.68
greek yogurt 3.99 diced tomatoes 12 6 frozen fruits 3lb x5 39.95
almond milk 2.49 canned beans 4 + 2 6pk 8.38 brussels sprouts 2.5
can pineapple 2.38 bananas 0.99
progresso 0.97 kiwi 6 1
spinach bags 2 5.98
frozen pizza 9.49 avocados 1.79
salad mixes 2 3.98
lemons 1.49

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

One Small Thing – Toilet Paper

 

In this series, I am highlighting one small thing that you can do in your day to day life to decrease your waste. Just one or two small changes can add up to a massive reduction in single use plastics and the overall burden on our planet’s resources.

Don’t forget to read back through why you should consider cloth napkins, cloth handkerchiefs, anything other than plastic water bottles, bringing your own coffee mug, alternatives to coffee filters, and not using plastic straws.

Today’s topic is pretty crappy*.

*TMI warning: this post is about toilet paper! If you are squeamish about bathroom facts and humor, now is your moment to click the little ‘x’ in the top right corner.

Who Gives a Crap Toilet Paper

Let me hit you with some facts.

“On average, Americans use about 50 lbs annually or 57 squares of toilet tissue every day. The average consumption of toilet paper across the global [sic] stands at about 20,000 sheets or 100 rolls every yearToilet paper production per day stands at about 84 million rolls. ” (source)

That’s a CRAP-TON of T.P.†!

All puns here will be fully intended.

Which is pretty mind-blowing, considering we didn’t even really start using it until the 1990s. Really.

Toilet paper is divided many different ways, but in general there are three categories: low-grade, mid-grade, and premium.

It seems at our own homes, cheaper is fine, but when we are at a house that’s not our own, we prefer “brand names” we trust (source)

Though overall, the “luxury” toilet paper category is making great strides. It is even becoming a bit of a barometer for how confident in the economy we are, since it is still “affordable” but seen as a “splurge”.

Is luxury toilet paper the new lipstick?

However, there’s a dark side to this lotion-covered, honey-scented, cloud-like goodness. One of my favorite no-nonsense teams, Bitches Get Riches, breaks it down for you, on why you should not fall prey to marketing ads for “pillowy softness” and “aloe coated” bull… poo.

budgetepicurean one small thing toilet paper

So, you realize this is a problem and a massive waste of resources.

But, when you gotta go you gotta go.

How do you answer nature’s call, while still ensuring there will be more nature in the future?

Better Paper = same use, but better source

There are many companies already out there that are trying to create a better paper. The paths are varied but the destination is the same: A more sustainable toilet paper.

Non-Tree TP

There are many products on the market, and I’m sure more on the way, that are proudly creating paper from things other than trees. Trees take a long time to grow big and strong enough for harvest, hence the issue with cutting them down daily by the millions.

But you know what grows really fast?

Bamboo.

And you know what we have plenty of, but it is considered (for now) a waste product?

Sugar cane.

Sugar cane is used to make sugar (duh) but once the edible part is extracted, the fibrous stuff gets tossed. It is not even composted, meaning it also contributes to the greenhouse gas from fermentation in landfills issue.

But by recycling the castoff fibers into toilet paper, we get a win-win! More circular economy by using the whole plant, and no more problematic downstream effects from the organic waste.

Companies like Public Goods and Hello Tushy sell this TP type.

TP That Gives Back

Toilet paper companies are also realizing that their customers are starting to ask questions, and to give a crap.

Case in point: “Who Gives a Crap” toilet paper. I’ll let them speak for themselves:

“We’re determined to prove that toilet paper is about more than just wiping bums. We make all of our products with environmentally friendly materials, and we donate 50% of our profits to help build toilets for those in need. To date we’ve donated over $1.8m Aussie dollars (that’s the equivalent of over $1,300,000!) to charity and saved a heck of a lot of trees, water and energy. Not bad for a toilet paper company, eh?.”

https://us.whogivesacrap.org/pages/about-us

Who Gives a Crap TP Roll

Recycled Paper TP

TP made from recycled paper is at least not using new resources, and is creating a market for paper to be recycled. It is rare that a company or person will do something that takes extra effort (recycling) and even moreso if there is no other profit or product to be made.

https://www.papernet.com/americas/usa/en/virgin-vs-recycled-paperq

There’s a bit of an issue here with recycled TP though: it may (actually probably does) contain BPA. BPA = bis-phenol A, this is a known endocrine disruptor found in thermal printed things like receipts and lotto tickets.

When these things are recycled in with other types of paper, the bulk paper pulp becomes contaminated.

This chemical can be easily absorbed through the skin. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to wipe that across my sensitive bits daily.

Bidet = Less Paper (possibly none)

Also recommended by eco-home-inspectors, a bidet is widely used in basically all the rest of the world except for the USA.

Perhaps it is just our in-born spoiled-ness, or our extreme germaphobia, but most Americans find bidets confusing, if not downright disgusting.

Happily, that seems to be changing, as public opinions of bidets warm, and the ease of use, cleanliness, and price point options continue to expand.

budgetepicurean one small thing toilet paper

Hardcore: Reusable cloth wipes + bidet = 0 paper!

By cutting down on toilet paper usage, you are saving trees from being harvested, preventing the whole chemical process of bleaching toilet paper, and keeping literal tons of waste out of landfills every year.

Especially if you have cloth diapered, this is probably no big deal to you. Or if you are already on the cloth period products bandwagon.

These make the most sense to me for wiping after peeing for ladies, and in combo with a bidet for drying yourself.

There are of course many drawbacks to this practice.

You should probably keep at least a few rolls of TP around for guests, unless everyone who ever comes to your house has the same eco values as yourself.

You should also have a sealable container to store them in between using and washing.

And given the stories of those who have tried it, the only thing I would say is make sure you do laundry, often!

 

 

What do you think, too much? Do you already use any or all of these alternatives? Would you try one?

Veganuary: What is it, should I try it?

 

So, if you recall, one of my main health goals for 2019 is to do a Veganuary: one month of eating vegan (with a few caveats). This will  definitely also help kickstart my goal to follow Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen checklist of healthy foods you should eat every day.

Dr McGregor Daily Dozen

I’ll be drawing inspiration from their website’s many free monthly vegan meal plans, and will try to use their free downloadable template too. (But I’ll probably end up just writing in meals on the whiteboard like I usually do).

Curious to know more? Read on…

What is Veganuary?

Veganuary actually started in 2014 in the UK as a nonprofit. It has since grown by leaps and bounds every year, with more than 250,000 people in 193 countries signing up for 2019.

From their own site: “Veganuary is dedicated to changing public attitudes, while providing all the information and practical support required to make the transition to veganism as easy and enjoyable as possible.”

So, before you start rolling your eyes and saying “I’d DIE without cheese!”, just realize it doesn’t mean you have to never eat those things you love ever again.

Just try one day, one week, without it.

Try ONE plant-based meat or cheese alternative. Try one meatless meal, there are plenty out there. I bet you eat some already without realizing it. Veggie lasagna, a million kinds of soups, salads, curries, tacos, pasta, all kinds of ethnic foods like Ethiopian and dal.

I bet you can make it one week. And then keep going, for one month.

Why should I try vegan for a month?

There are a ton of different reasons why people try or choose a vegetarian or vegan diet. If any of the below things are of concern to you, then give it a go.

Health -it is no secret by now that vegetarian and vegan diets are crazy good for your heart and your health and lowering your cancer risk. I don’t want to belabour the point too much, but whole grains, legumes, and veggies are f*@%ing good for you. Eat them.

Nutrition – today’s industrial, monocropped, chemicalized, carbohydrate-and-corn based “foods” are basically leading to a double pronged epidemic of obesity and malnutrition. Think about how crazy and confusing that is. Meanwhile, plants are jam-packed with the fiber, vitamins, and minerals your body is so desperately craving, which it uses to maintain blood pressure, rebuild cell walls and proteins, and keep your guts working normally.

Environment – if you think about what it takes to raise an animal to slaughter weight, you realize all the resources that go into it. Tons of food, perhaps literally, that had to be watered and fertilized and processed and trucked to where the animals live. Water, for them. Probably some amount of antibiotics or medications. Several months or possibly years of feed and care.

Then they must be transported to wherever they will be processed, be processed so they use electricity and manpower and machinery, then be packaged up and transported to the store, and finally be transported to your home. So each 1 pound of pork or chicken or beef costs gallons of water and oil and feed. Meanwhile, one pound of raw barley, oats, tomato, beans, or zucchini also takes water and oil, but far far less. A diet heavier in plant products than animal products is easier on the planet with very few exceptions.

Money – any diet can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be, depending on how much self control you have at the grocery store and how good your home cooking skills are. Unfortunately, due to demand, it is ususally cheaper to prepare convenience foods with animals, like a $12 salad versus a $8 burger. But it is always cheaper to cook at home, and better for you too. Want to know more about just how you could save nearly $200 a year by trying vegetarian? Read here, here, here, here, and here.

Animals – the industrial scale food production system is horrific. Just watch any documentary like Forks Over Knives, Food Inc, etc. or do some basic internet search. Beaks and teeth and tails cut off, animals crammed into living spaces just inches larger than they are, constant streams of antibiotics and growth hormones just to keep them alive and increase profit per pound, substandard and contaminated feed. Opt out of the industrial system at the very least, and if you eat animals, choose ones that were raised the way nature intended, out in the open on fields of grasses and bugs. Find a Farmers Market near you, there will definitely be people there you can ask.

tomatoes cucumbers and peppers

How do you Veganuary?

One of the New Years’ Goals this year is for the boy and I to do a one month Veganuary. I foresee this not being too tough a challenge, as we already eat a large volume and variety of plant based foods. This will be harder on the boy, without turkey burritos, but I will try my darnedest to make him enjoy it with creative cooking!

We do have some specific caveats to our Veganuary, which is more like a “healthy-foods-only-anuary”, but that’s not as catchy.

  • Animal foods we raise are okay. My quail eggs specifically.
  • Animal foods that meet very strict criteria are okay: basically free range and/or mostly pastured, no added hormones or antibiotics or other non-medically-required chemicals. I.e. the dozen free range chicken eggs a friend gave to us for Christmas.
  • No wasted food. If someone gives us a consumable gift, that can’t be preserved, we will eat it. Like a delicious banana bread loaf.
  • The boy will keep using plain Greek yogurt on burritos and such. Because I don’t want this month to be torture.
  • I will eat honey, dates, and things made with yeast. Because that definition of vegan is too strict for me. I’m in it for the health of it.

And that’s pretty much it! If it is made from or literally is a plant, we will eat it. We are trying to check all the boxes on the Daily Dozen by starting with a smoothie containing frozen berries, flax, and amla powder, with occasional banana or other fruit or almond milk or chia seeds tossed in. Lunch and dinner will be leftovers or a rotation of meals I know we like and new ones we will try together.

Is it too late to start?

No way! Just because it is no longer January 1, you can still start wherever you are.

You don’t even have to commit to a full month if you don’t want to.

Try vegan for one week maybe. Or go all in and do 6 months, it is up to you and your family. But I highly recommend giving it a shot, at least once. Worst case you end up finding new foods you might not have known about before.

Best case?

You feel better than you have in years, you get off all long-term medications, your skin clears up and is radiant, your hair and nails are shiny and strong, and you are as regular as a clock.

What do you have to lose?

 

 

What do you say? Would you try eating more plants?

Resolutions or Goals?

 

Happy New Year everybody! Welcome to 2019.

It always comes so fast, I don’t know why I keep being surprised by it. Happens every year.

Know what else happens every year?

Resolutions

People resolve to:

  • Get more fit
  • Lose weight
  • Sleep more
  • Drink less
  • Eat better
  • Save more
  • and so on

New Year 2019 champagne glasses

And many people are kind of “over” resolutions, because we are so bad at keeping them.

I have for years resisted the resolution bandwagon, for this reason. But I have discovered that there is a big difference between a resolution and a goal.

“If there is a specific achievement it’s a goal, but permanent changes to your life are resolutions since you keep doing them every day and not just until a specific achievement is reached.” (source)

Under this definition, I do actually make resolutions, several times per year.

I have in the past made changes to exercise more often, to eat less meat, to create less waste, to clean more often, to create better sleep habits, and so on, with the intention of doing these things every day. Of course I fell off the wagon on a few of these things, and have tried more than once to instill these habits.

But life is a journey, a work in progress, and I do still believe in incorporating these things into my life.

For the New Year though, I decided a goal is a better practice. One that follows the SMART principles:

  • Specific – no “eat better” allowed here
  • Measurable – what gets measured gets improved (just ask Erik)
  • Attainable – a big dream with small steps to get there
  • Realistic – a thing which can actually be accomplished
  • Timely – set a time limit! You need to feel the urgency

Goals, when written down and as specific as all the above, have a much higher likelihood of being completed or achieved than vague promises or following the social media crowd.

list of goals

I want my goals to improve the things I value the most: relationships, finances, health, and happiness.

Thus, my goals for 2019 include:

Call one family member per week

I usually am pretty good about using the commute time home to chat with my mom. But I need to also make it a priority to talk to the more remote family members like aunts, uncles, and grandmas. They won’t be around forever, and they have plenty of wisdom and stories to share. I want my family to never doubt that they mean the world to me, no matter how far apart we all are. That will equal out to at least 52 phone calls over the course of a year!

Date night at least once per month

My relationship with my boy is the most important one in my life. Not just because we live together and see each other every day, but also because so many things depend on this relationship, like our weight and health habits, happiness, and finances too. Luckily, I think he’s pretty cool, and he thinks I’m pretty cool too. We need regular, focused, one on one time away from typical distractions like video games and cell phones and bills to keep that spark strong.

Savings rate of 50% or better every month

I have slacked on calculating this for far too long. No more. My goal is to, at the end of January, and each month, calculate our actual savings rate. This will be complicated since we both have a work mandated 401k, as well as an HSA and Roths to factor in, before any contributions to our mortgage, taxable investment accounts, and money market. But I want to do it, at a minimum quarterly, to better see where we are. The market is crazy and net worth is not a thing I can control. But savings rate, we can control, and improve.

Max out both Roth IRAs by end of February

I know there are all kinds of arguments for dollar cost averaging and putting a set amount into the market each month no matter what. But there are some potentially big changes coming in 2019 (if they pan out, I’ll tell you all about it!) and we want to put that money to work as soon as we have it and not worry about it for the rest of the year. So the goal is both fully funded Roths by the end of February to the tune of 11k*. Limits increased for 2019 to 6k each, therefore it will be 12k total! Thanks Josh for catching that!

Veganuary (ish) – one month of 99% vegan eating

This will be a way to detox from the insanely overboard consumption over the holidays. (#TMIwarning) I’m a fraction of a pound away from 160 and had a bowel crisis over Christmas, if you must know. (#sorrynotsorry) It will also ease me back into my intended way of 80/20 plant-based life-long eating. Exceptions include animal products that meet my extremely stringent criteria, and I will not make a nuisance of myself if invited to someone else’s house or event, I will eat the food offered.

The Daily Dozen – I will do my best all year to stick to this

The Daily Dozen is based on the book “How Not To Die”, which I loved, own, and highly recommend reading. I also aim to re-read it through by the end of March. It is taped to my refrigerator to make it easy to remember. Basically loads of high antioxidant foods, whole grains, and veggies. Plus water and exercise. By eating all these things every day, you have a lot less room for junk.

Do more of what is good or good for me

OK, this is the closest one to a resolution rather than a goal. This loops into the health goal, in that I want to do more of what is good for me, like eating plants, doing yoga and HIIT, and sleeping. But I also want to do more of anything that makes me happy, within reason. Obviously popcorn and wine makes me happy, but shouldn’t be every day. But reading? That I can, and should, do every day. A nice warm bubble bath? Sure. Gardening and loving my quail? Yup.

Make someone smile every day

That person can be my husband, a stranger I smiled at, someone at work whom I give a genuine compliment, or even myself. There is too much doom and gloom and selfishness in the world, we need to pay more attention to the good all around and within us. Like thanking the stranger on the bus, or Penny from ShePicksUpPennies who celebrates money wins, large and small.

champagne cheers

Cheers to making 2019 all we can dream!

 

 

How about you guys? Any resolutions, or goals, for the new year of 2019?

Happy Holidays!

 

Happy Holidays dear readers!

As we roll on towards the end of the year, all the festivities await. The Budget Epicurean will be taking a little hiatus this year, to focus on family and memories and food! I wish you all the very best, and look forward to rejoining the blogosphere in 2019.

To keep you satiated until then, please enjoy some classics over the years from the archives:

And if that just isn’t enough, feel free to head on over to the Archives page, where every single post (650+!) is listed out by category.

<3
B.E.

Holiday Diet Round 2

 

In case you haven’t noticed, or live in a place without seasons, it is fall! The leaves are changing beautiful colors, pumpkin spice and apple everything is everywhere, and the mornings are starting to get a little chilly.

And you know what that means.

Holidays are coming!

We just survived Halloween, with more than a little indulgence, and I’m sure several readers still have a little stash of candy that wasn’t handed out to Trick or Treaters like me.

Next on the docket is Thanksgiving!

The nights getting colder, the trees getting more naked, & probably some stressful traveling that is worth it to spend time with family.

ALL THE GOOD FOOD.

Green bean casserole.
Sweet potato casserole.
Stuffing.
Turkey.
Ham.
Rolls.
Mashed potatoes.
Pumpkin pie.

There are so many things I am thankful for, it is tough to list them all.

(Please give Thanksgiving its due and hold your horses on the lights and the Santas and the snowmen and the carols. Please.)

And then, the Big Kahuna.

The holiday everyone adores and waits for all year.

Christmas.

I get it. It’s super exciting.

The lights.
The trees.
The smells.
The cookies.
The generosity.
The gifts.
The love.
Hot cocoa.
Sledding.
Snowmen.
Snow angels.
Family.
Traditions.

THE FOOD.

Lord, the food. And the cookies. And more food. And a few more cookies, just because.

Because food is love.

There’s a reason that the very first thing most people associate with any given holiday is the food. Just Google Thanksgiving, you will get a million photos of turkey. Or Christmas, and prepare for a deluge of cookie recipes.

And that is all well and good. And I will most certainly be indulging.

The problem is, I’ve already over-indulged.

At a wedding shower. A birthday party sleepover. Food swaps. Baseball games. Brofest. My brother’s wedding. My cousin’s wedding. Food tours. Halloween party. Cabin weekend.

Every time, I’d tell myself “it’s just this once”.

“I’ll do better next week”.

It’s hard being the Budget Epicurean and eating delicious food all day every day! 😉

I’ve also been extremely lazy, and essentially fallen off the exercise wagon completely. I’ve run… twice? This year.

Basically, ten pounds have snuck up on me.

And I’m going into the holiday season minefield with the equivalent of what I’d normally gain, already taken up residence.

Not good.

So it’s back to my stand-by rules, that I really should follow at all times, to whip myself into shape again (just to blow it all up again soon… is this what yo-yo dieting is??)

Again I will be focusing on whole grains, proteins, and plentiful fruits and veggies. I also downloaded the My Fitness Pal app to track portions (as that tends to be my downfall) & calories.

Hitting my 10,000 steps per day, and shooting for even more.

Getting back to yoga at least 3x/week, and cardio/HIIT 3x/week.

Following my own advice on how to avoid over-eating.

And there are a few more rules this time:

  • No snacking after 8pm
  • No drinks at all after 9pm
  • Wine limited to 5/week
  • Popcorn limited to 2/week

By putting this in writing, I hope to solidify my intentions, and force myself to be accountable.

After all, I publish what I eat every week so…

Let’s see how well I can do in the next few weeks!

At least there is no beach at stake this time.

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?