Category Archives: Finances

Articles concerning finances. This is the “budget” Epicurean after all.

Weekly Eating – 1/7/19

 

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!

 

Well I got to go mushroom foraging with my friend finally! I’ve been wanting to since last year, but finally we both had time, hunting season was over, and it had just rained, so I got to frolic in his acreage and benefit from his knowledge.

mushroom foraging with a friend

And what knowledge he has! This friend has been in the food business for decades, and foraging for many years. It was quite eye opening to have all the things pointed out, like light and tree types and ages and water and elevation. What kinds of things to look for at what time of the year.

mushroom foraging with a friend

And when we found a cache of oysters, what they should smell and look and feel like. We then compared them to two different books when we got back, just to be extra sure. If he says it won’t kill me, I’ll eat it.

homemade pierogi

I also made a big batch of pierogi because since I took them to a food swap last year people have been asking for them again. I did 3 types: mashed potato, sauerkraut, and applesauce; all the fillings were also homemade.

vegan lasagna

Oh, and totally nailed my first vegan lasagna! The boy even said the cashew-tofu “cheeze” tasted “ricotta-y” haha I followed this recipe pretty much to a T. Full disclosure: pretty sure the noodles were not vegan. But the “cheeze” and lentil “meat sauce” was delightful.

Monday:

Breakfast – smoothie

Lunch – veggie burgers of the leftover curry mixed with leftover chili and oats and flax added as binder. I love veggie burgers for using up any leftover odds and ends. Topped with green sauce, hot sauce, and cashew cream.

veggie burger with cashew cream

Dinner – I made a mushroom deuxelle stuffing type thing, but added some pickled figs because why not. And a red beans and brown rice to go with this lovely foraged topping.

red beans and rice with mushroom deuxelle

Tuesday:

Breakfast – 1 blueberry organic yogurt

Lunch – leftover sweet potato fries  with avocado and BBQ jackfruit

leftover jackfruit and sweet potato fries

Snack – blueberries and walnuts

Dinner – leftover pumpkin gnocchi, and a salad

leftover pumpkin gnocchi

This was food swap night, and we had a ball at Durty Bull Brewing.

food swap goodies

Wednesday:

Breakfast – local chicken eggs on toast with vegan pepperjack cheese. I finally found some brands that taste like actual cheese, not chalky, and melt! It’s wonderful.

vegan pepperjack and egg sandwich

Lunch – veggie burger with vegan cheddar, sauerkraut, and avocado, and a big side salad with green goddess dressing.

veggie burger and salad

Snack – blueberries and almonds

Dinner – Annie’s organic shells and white cheddar mac, with a can of white beans, nutritional yeast, almond milk, garlic salt, and turmeric for color as the sauce!

beef mac

It looked convincingly like real mac n cheese. I had a pound of pastured beef from the Butcher Box thawed, and added it for a super healthy but hamburger helper like meal.

Thursday:

Breakfast – smoothie with bananas and coconut water, citrus fruits, frozen mango and peaches

Lunch – leftover red beans and rice and a salad

Snack – dried prunes and figs, and almonds

Dinner – Corn and potato chowder in the instant pot!

corn and potato chowder

I just put 5 potatoes, quartered, a tbsp veggie stock, 1/2 cup cashews and some water in for 15 minutes. When it was done I used the immersion blender to make it smooth and creamy. Then I added 2 more potatoes, diced, a can of corn, not drained, and some spices, and put it in for another 5 minutes. BOOM. Delicious.

Friday:

Breakfast – toast with 2 quail eggs and vegan pepperjack cheese

quail eggs and vegan cheese on toast

Lunch – went out with a friend to our favorite Chinese spot. They had a new tofu curry, so of course I had to try it! It was pretty good, though the tofu was a bit overcooked and chewy, the sauce was nice and had a slow burn to it. Great with the fried rice.

tofu curry

Snack – a banana in the morning, and chocolate cherry pecan mix on the way home! I just mixed a tbsp pecans, a tbsp dried cherries, and a tbsp chocolate chips in a small container.

chocolate cherry pecan trail mix

Dinner – sister in law is in town, and she is vegetarian. We took her out to Bull City Burger and Brewery, because I heard they have the Impossible Burger and I am dying to try it!

bcbb green monster

But, turns out, they got rid of it  🙁  Apparently, once you dig into the details of how it is made, it actually takes a lot more resources to make and transport that patty than they take to obtain locally raised pastured NC cows for their burgers and process them in-house. Which is actually a decision I can get behind. Hence me having the Green Monster instead.

The Weekend

While sis-in-law is in town, we are going to take her around Duke’s campus and downtown Durham, to show her all the things she might do and places she might live if she ends up being matched here. Since I am a tour guide on the side, this is right up my alley! And Durham has SO much to offer, it’s not hard to persuade people that living here is pretty cool.

Oh, and this weekend is Step 2 of my grand food experiment this year: home fermented soy sauce! I think this is a thing most people don’t want to know how it’s made… but I find it fascinating.

soy bean mold patties in brine

Basically you create a dough from cooked soy beans and flour. Then cut it into rounds, and let it grow mold, on purpose. After 12-14 days, you put the rounds into a brine, which only lets the right guys keep growing (hopefully). Between 6 months and 2 years later, you have a salty, complex and flavorful sauce!

 

Food Total: $129 + 29.98 + 15.66 + 41.17 = $215.81

Yikes.

That hurts a bit, totaling it all up. So, first there was the Butcher Box that I forgot to unsubscribe from, so another box came. The promo box that included 2 free pastured chickens was totally worth it, but this one not so much.

But, the deal they are running now includes the normal box, plus $25 for 2 pounds of Alaskan wild caught salmon. If you use my affiliate link –> http://fbuy.me/lwpAj <– and sign up, we both get 2 pounds of wild salmon free! I would keep going for another box for that!

Second, the Produce Box, which this week included broccoli, winter strawberries, pears, cauliflower, lettuce, carrots, and potatoes. And then a stop by the Co-op with sister-in-law just because she was curious and it turned into some bulk stock up shopping. Finally a quick trip to the regular grocery store because we were out of tissues, yogurt for the boy, and almond milk.

 

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

 

 

Weekly Eating – New Year 2019

 

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!

 

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Boxing Day, Happy New Year!

Whatever and however you celebrate, I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. I know we did, even if the driving sucks it is always worth it to see family.

skyline in virginia

We also went to Niagara Falls, which was the boy’s first time seeing them. He thought they were “pretty cool”.   🙂

Niagara Falls

It was amazing being off Monday and Tuesday, and a rough reality waking up at 6am again come Wednesday. But at least it was a short week! Back to the usual grind come next Monday.

Monday:

Breakfast – I honestly don’t remember… we probably just slept in since we had driven home from Ohio the day prior!

Lunch – Leftovers from Christmas week. We came home with like 4 different meals  🙂  Several were not vegan, but I do not waste food if at all possible, so we ate them up this week.

Dinner – mom sent us home with a bag full of leftover turkey and gravy, so I added frozen mixed veggies and flour, topped it all with biscuits, and called it a pot pie

leftover Christmas turkey pot pie

We watched Bird Box on Netflix and drank fizzy wine for the New Year, and went to bed like the old folks that we are haha

Tuesday:

Breakfast – big smoothie of frozen mixed berries, amla powder, flax seed, and almond milk

Lunch – cooked a batch of sorghum and made a “everything in the fridge” lentil curry to go with it in the instant pot. And I thawed the leftover injera from Dec to make it more fun to eat.

sorghum curry

Snack – banana bread a friend gave us for Christmas

Dinner – I made a batch of saffron rice and a crazy lazy version of Hoppin John with black eyed peas for the New Year. No greens though, so this year might be disastrous for our finances haha

new years hoppin john

Wednesday:

Breakfast – big smoothie of frozen mixed berries, amla powder, flax seed, and almond milk

Lunch – leftover half of a tofu sofritas burrito from Chipotle on the drive home

Snack – hummus & cucumber slices

hummus and cucumber

Dinner – we tried jackfruit for the first time. The internet says it is a vegan superfood, and they are right! It doesn’t have much of a taste on its own, but it shreds just like chicken or pork, and cooks into whatever you want.

canned jackfruit

I made some rolls to put it on, and added some shredded carrots and cooked beans for bulk, and we had bbq sandwiches with baked sweet potato fries.

jackfruit bbq sandwich

Thursday:

Breakfast – banana bread from a friend & coffee

banana bread

Lunch – leftover mushroom soup from Christmas with a big salad of spring mix, blueberries, dried apricots, and walnuts.

soup and salad

Y’all this mushroom soup recipe has been in my family for generations, and we all wait all year for it. Is it vegan? Hell naw. Cause heavy cream and butter are lyfe in Ohio. But am I gonna let it go to waste? Hell. to. the. no.

Dinner – Pumpkin gnocchi with pumpkin I froze earlier, and thawed pesto, topped with cashew cream and hot sauce

pumpkin gnocchi with pesto and cashew cream

Friday:

Breakfast – big smoothie of frozen mixed berries, amla powder, flax seed, and coconut water

Lunch – a big salad, and leftover eggplant parm with frozen mixed broccoli and cauliflower

eggplant parm and veggies

Snack – Hummus & cut up cucumber

Dinner – I forgot to add one exception to my Veganuary rules… sushi. Sushi, wine, and popcorn are my kryptonite. So when a friend invited us to an over-due AYCE sushi night, I wasn’t about to say “no, put a pin in that until February please”. I had the most plates. 😀

The Weekend

The weekend will include cleaning the house from the tornado it has become. We need to put away Christmas things and generally tidy up the clutter. Mari Kondo has a show on Netflix now, so that’s hopefully gonna motivate me to keep purging clutter. I officially accepted the Dragons on Fire’s challenge to de-clutter and get rid of 1000 items this year!

shoes

I’m off to a strong start, decluttering 11 items starting with hats and gloves on January 1st. Then I tackled shoes, purging a total of 15 pairs and keeping another 28 pairs. Pretty sure the boy has maybe 5… (2 tennis, 1 formal, 1 hiking/snow, 1 slippers).

It’s not fair, for girls we have so many different styles compared to dudes, and need all the styles in different colors too! (Flats, flip flops, running shoes, ankle boots, tall boots, heels, formal or casual, black and brown…) But it’s a start.

quail

I’m also oh so happy to have my covey back! I missed these girls over break, and the pure jolt of joy when I find an egg. They had a great time on my friend’s farm, though one met a tragic end… the flock also accidentally expanded. Someone left a box with several quail, and the two groups were combined.

The person watching them kept a few, but I ended up coming home with 11 rather than 9, of which 9 or 10 are girls! So I’m not mad, that means oodles of eggs come spring time.

Food Total: $66.95

No produce box, deliveries resume next week. I also forgot to cancel the Butcher Box subscription, so that charge will show up next week, oopsie… At least their meat ‘meets’ my strict criteria! So the boy will get one treat night next week.

By the way, the deal they are running now is $25 for Alaskan wild salmon. If you use my affiliate link –> http://fbuy.me/lwpAj <– and sign up, we both get 2 pounds of wild salmon free! I would keep going for another box for that!

Meats $7.08 Dairy $7.06 Staples $24.17 Fruit/Veg $25.55
vegan burgers x2 kinds 7.08 flavored Greek 1.58 org salsa mild med 3.78 org avocados 4 x3 10.47
plain Greek yogurt 32oz 3.49 coconut water can x2 1.96 frozen berries x2 3.84
organic hummus 1.99 1.99 coconut water box x2 4.98 sweet potatoes x2 bags 3.38
hot sauce 1.49 bananas 11 1.39
organic seed bread x2 7.98 blueberries 1.99
wraps x2 3.98 big box spring mix 3.49
seedless cucumber 0.99

 

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

 

 

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?

Weekly Eating – 11/5/18

 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!

 

 

Oh man, the weekend at the cabin was glorious! Since it was later in the fall than when we went last year, the colors were absolutely breathtaking.

fall colors at the cabin

It is just the best feeling to know there is nothing you have to do right now, just relax and enjoy. It was a great group of people too, which helps. Everyone just kind of comes and goes and does what they want to do. Sometimes you play games, sometimes you read, we went for a lot of walks, kayak and canoe trips.

fall colors at the cabin

We also went apple picking in a town nearby! I thought apples didn’t grow in NC very well, but I guess by being up in the mountains the weather and terrain make it possible. So we had a really fun day, and picked over 30 pounds of apples. They will go home with each of us to become snacks, pies, and sauce.

apple picking

And of course there was no shortage of food. Everyone brought at least one meal to share, and everyone also brought snacks. I think a few spoonfuls of broccoli and a pinch of lettuce were the only vegetables consumed all weekend haha

cabin food

But that’s ok, life is all about balance. When you’re hanging out with friends, on a once a year trip, if your diet is 90% meat, beans, and cheese, I think we will survive.

cabin food

The dogs were definitely interested in the pumpkin chili…

I miss it already. Can I go back yet?

Monday:

Breakfast – Pumpkin bread with cream cheese icing! Spoilers, this was breakfast all week  🙂

pumpkin bread with cream cheese icing

Lunch – Pumpkin Risotto! Exactly the same as the Butternut Squash Risotto, I just used pumpkin puree I’d done in the instant pot.

pumpkin risotto

Dinner –Loaded nachos with sweet potato and black bean southwest bowl. Just put a can black beans, 1 can pinto, 2 large diced sweet potatoes, 1/2 lb beef, and 1 can tomatoes in the instant pot. Cook for 15 minutes, done. Topped w plain Greek yogurt, 1/2 avocado, and cheddar.

loaded nachos

Tuesday:

Breakfast – attempted to make oatmeal stuffed apples in the instant pot. They ended up way overcooked, and turned to mush… so no new recipe for you guys sorry.

oatmeal stuffed apples

Lunch – Leftover buffet! Leftover buffets are an amazing way to clear out the fridge, and keep from wasting food.  We usually do so once a week or so, on the weekends. Just pull everything out, and let everyone pick and choose what to put on their plate.

leftovers buffet

I had eggplant and okra curry with brown rice.

eggplant and okra curry

Snack – tea time! I found the Stroopwaffels I bought a while ago, and decided now was the time to try persimmons for the first time. I had a cup of green tea with a Fuyu persimmon & Stroopwaffel and it was awesome. If you’ve never had a persimmon, do yourself a favor and get one now!

tea time persimmon and stroopwaffel

Dinner – Quinoa, free range organic chicken breast, local green beans and cherry tomatoes, peppers, and corn cut off the cob.

chicken quinoa casserole

Wednesday:

Breakfast – pumpkin bread, what?!

pumpkin bread with cream cheese icing

Lunch – Cranberry walnut chicken salad in lettuce wraps, with homemade mayonnaise

chicken salad in lettuce wrapschicken salad in lettuce wraps

Snack – Garrett’s popcorn, Chicago mix, from the wedding

chicago mix popcorn

Dinner – more leftovers! I had the remaining tuna puffs and some lentil loaf.

tuna puff leftovers

Then I was watching Fat Salt Acid Heat on Netflix, and the salt episode gave me intense cravings, so I ate a literal plate of rice doused in soy sauce and sprinkled with salt. Mmmmm. Don’t worry, I really do have chronic hypotension.

salty rice

Thursday:

Breakfast – I’ll give you one guess.

pumpkin bread with cream cheese icing

Lunch – Leftover steak tips stroganoff with frozen peas

leftover steak stroganoff with peas

Snack – an apple and a pear

apple and pear

Dinner – Lasagna! Possibly my best lasagna ever. With Nature’s Root Farm pastured mozzarella and ground beef, it was so crazy flavorful, and I added a few handfuls of spinach and parsley to the sauce so I can claim it even had some veggies.

homemade lasagna

I also learned my lesson, do not pressure can marmalade. It set up perfectly and was gorgeous, but canning means it will last longer in the pantry rather than fridge. But, it re-liquefied the marmalade, and turned it an icky brown. I’m a little heartbroken.

sad canned marmalade

Friday:

Breakfast – hmmm… sensing a trend? Trust me it’s worth it. This bread is the bomb.com and I have no problem eating it daily. In fact I won’t know what to do with myself once it’s gone.

pumpkin bread with cream cheese icing

Lunch – Leftover lasagna and a salad

leftover lasagna and salad

Snack – someone at work brought these and left them in the break room. Freeze dried bananas, the only ingredient is banana. They were weird, like astronaut food you convince your parents to buy you from the science center as a kid. And the packaging, for like .2 ounces of fruit, ugh. But they would otherwise be trashed, so.

freeze dried bananas

Dinner – This stupid easy 5 ingredient sausage & kale soup. (Sort of this one too… just use what you have okay.)

Kale and sausage soup

The Weekend

So… you may or may not know that I want to have a farm someday, or a homestead. Not a secret to those who know me, I love gardening, and animals, and DIY, and eating things local, especially from my own hands. But the thing is, I live in a city. On about 1/3 of an acre, with lots of trees.

Not ideal for farming.

But I have dreams.

Been trying to convince the boy for 2 years now that we should get chickens. Yes, they are allowed. But only 6, and no roosters. Which is reasonable, as I don’t want a rooster anyways. But he is insistent that they smell and are loud and we don’t have enough space and the dogs will eat them, etc.

So… what about quail? Turns out quail are way underrated. They are tinier and quieter than chickens, you can fit way more in the same amount of space. And they also lay eggs almost daily. Yes, it will take about 4 quail eggs to equal one chicken egg. But if I can have 20 quail rather than 2 chicken… I’m ok with that.

First things first, we need to try quail eggs and see if we even like them. So I procured some quail eggs, and in my search for recipes found this one from Jo Cooks. 

quail eggs in hashbrown nest

IT WAS AMAZING GUYS.

quail eggs in hashbrown nests and radish saute

The eggs are the teeny tiniest most adorable things. And they look really cool in the tiny hashbrowns. And then for dinner, quail just happened to be on sale at HT!

So we are going to get to try both the eggs and the meat, and hopefully this will be the clincher in letting me get some.

Food Total: $way too much

I think the produce box this week was $28? I tried the build-your-own, with lots of fall goodies like brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower. Hooray for cruciferous veggies!

But then I went to HT, and got a lil carried away… I spent $102 there. I stocked up on several small things that all added up; EVOO cold pressed olive oil, sunflower oil, lime and lemon juice, Bob’s Red Mill spelt, pasta, the quail, biscuits, shredded cheese…

Plus, we tried Butcher Box for the first time. It was $129, for about 12 pounds of all free-range, organic, non-GMO, no-added-anything meat. We got the mixed box, so there was chicken, beef, and pork in there. I think we had a beef roast, a pork loin, 3 chicken breasts, a pound of bacon, and some sirloin steak tips. And it is delivered right to your door! I don’t love the copious amount of packaging though…

Everything we have tried so far has been wonderfully delicious. And I love that I can eat meat again! I know that health-wise, plants are king, and they will remain 80% or so of my diet. But boy, was it nice to have chicken salad, ground beef, and sausage soup again.

And I love knowing these animals were raised as they should be. With plenty of grass, sunshine, and love. If you are wanting a more ethical source for your animal protein, I’d recommend looking into them, if you don’t have a more local meat source near you.

If you decide to check them out and sign up, and use my link: http://fbuy.me/kXzkj  I will get $43 off my next box order, and you get $20 off your first order plus a pound of FREE BACON!

 

 

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

Weekly Eating – 10/22/18

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!

 

Wow, weddings always go by in a flash don’t they?! The weekend in Chicago was a ton of fun, food, and fast paced sightseeing. The boy had never been, so of course we had to hit Millennium Park to see the Bean, the Chicago River, the Magnificent Mile, and Navy Pier.

Chicago downtown Millennium Park

The town was lovely, as was the church and the wedding itself. The reception was at a cool glassblowing studio, where they had some live demonstrations going on! The food was divine, as expected, and we danced the night away. No joke, I had 24K+ steps Saturday! Of course, I’m sure I negated that with the obligatory deep dish pizza.

Chicago deep dish pizza

In the airport, we ate at a cafe that had a brilliant device: you press the button to order, or get a check. I think that is just the smartest thing. No more getting interrupted every two seconds when you don’t want anything, and waiting around trying to flag someone down when you do.

restaurant button

Also of note, I’ve got baby beets, radishes, collards, and wheat popping up all over! Fingers crossed I actually get something edible before Jan/Feb freezes it all.

seedlings sprouting

Monday:

Breakfast – Berry oatmeal with chia and walnuts

berry oatmeal

Lunch – Leftover bayou chicken pasta I’d pulled from the freezer

Dinner – pasta, because when you’re exhausted from traveling and the fridge is empty, you don’t want to go to a store. And a box of pasta plus a jar of sauce is as easy as comfort food gets.

desperation pasta

Tuesday:

Breakfast – berry & kefir smoothie

berry smoothie

Lunch – leftover defrosted veggie burgers with hummus, sauerkraut and avocado

veggie burgers

Dinner – the Butternut Squash Risotto that lit up Twitter. Yes, it really is as delicious as it looks, and you should go make some. Now.

Butternut Squash Risotto with Crispy Sage

Wednesday:

Breakfast – ham egg and cheese breakfast bagel sandwich; I found these bagel thins in the freezer too. Can you sense a theme? Oncoming winter always prompts a drive for freezer clean out for some reason.

bagel sandwich

Lunch – Leftover Thai sweet potato and carrot soup over rice, with a small chunk of leftover brisket

leftover mishmash

Dinner – Thawed pork chops with cranberry sauce, sweet potato and carrot casserole, and green beans. Basically Thanksgiving prep for taste buds. Eaten by a fire, as all fall meals should be.

Thanksgiving dinner practice by the fire

Second dinner – So uh, we went out to meet up with a friend for a beer. And we chatted and had a great time catching up. Then as we were about to leave we got on the topic of sushi (which, you should know by now, I freaking LOVE). And of course I perked up like, we can has sushi now?!? And the boy. said. yes. !!! I don’t care that I had dinner and it’s 8:40pm and they close soon. We goin! And, we went. And it was glorious. #sorrynotsorry

second dinner sushi

Thursday:

Breakfast – PBJ toast, which, I ended up not eating until the way home from work later bc I was still kinda full… weird…

Lunch – leftover risotto! and homemade soda.

butternut squash risotto

Dinner – Burritos! Always satisfying.

burritos

Friday:

Breakfast – sad bowl of cocoa puffs…

Lunch – I forgot to pack a lunch, so I dipped into my emergency food drawer at work for canned soup.

emergency work lunch drawer

Dinner – “Make Room In The Fridge Dal”, that gives the Angry Leftovers Man heart palpitations. It was super good though.

leftovers dal

The Weekend

Saturday is the big Halloween party! I haven’t thrown a good holiday party in a long time, and I finally know enough people in NC to pack the house, so I’m pretty excited about it. Been decorating, cleaning, planning, and cooking all week.

Halloween decoration

There will be a bonfire outside, lights all around the porch, games set up inside and outside, and creepy music on YouTube. I’m making a couple dips and a veggie tray, and people are bringing all kinds of goodies too. But the real highlight will be the Trick or Treat shots!

trick or treat shots

Food Total: $64.43 + 28.05 = $92.48

Weekly Produce Box and a trip to ALDI for last minute party foods. We were also down to our last container of coffee, which is a good reason for all out panic. I picked up some cute fall scented candles as well, because we will have a housewarming to go to soon!

Crescent roll dough was on sale, which if I get motivated and have enough time Saturday morning, I’ll turn into cute dough ‘fingers’ with marinara ‘blood’ dipping sauce. I also picked up tortillas in anticipation of a taco night next (next) weekend.

Dairy $9.24 Staples $22.89 Fruit/Veg $11.23 Extras $21.07
cream cheese 2.37 Coffee 4.79 vine ripe tomatoes 1.89 cake mix – for work party 1.7
berry kefir 3 6.87 Cooking spray 2 2.98 romaine 1.99 Graham crackers 1.25
crescent roll dough 1.78 celery 0.89 Marshmallows (s’mores) 0.89
Dipper chips 0.89 3pk bell peppers 1.99 Fancy choc bars 2 3.98
tortillas x2 3.28 butternut squash 1.57 Jello (shots…) 0.7
100% fruit juice x2 5.18 seedless cucumber 0.99 Mason jar candles 2 9.98
Red blend wine 3.99 pineapple 0.99 taco mix seasoning 0.29
bananas 0.92
Tax 2.28

 

And then my Harvest Box contained: Avocado XL green (1), Apple Cider (1), Green Beans, Fall Glo Tangerines (4), Garden Cucumber (1), Red New Potatoes, White Sweet Corn (3), Sweet Onion (1), Fuji Apples (4).

the Produce Box Harvest Box

So we are very well stocked up, and if I can contain myself and stay away from stores, I shouldn’t have to grocery shop at all next week!

Lessons Learned

Guyyyyyys. Avoiding plastic is SO hard. Especially when throwing a party, with many people you barely know. On the one hand, most of the things I already had (forks, plates, water bottles) and will do my best not to purchase more of in the future. I want to overall move more towards smaller dinner party style, with real plates and cups and silverware.

But plastic food packaging too. My beloved ALDI, the purveyor of low prices, why must you use so much plastic? I feel like we could get an additional savings if you just sold me peppers naked, as nature grows them.

Another lesson? A stocked freezer is so amazing. Especially when you get back from a trip and do not have the energy to go to the store for food. But also, you should look in there routinely and make sure to actually eat the stuff. I think it’s time for a big purge, a la my January pantry and freezer challenge.

 

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

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?

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?

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?