Category Archives: Informative

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?

Weekly Eating – 1/14/19

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 with the sister in law was super fun. I love having people visit so I can cook for them, and an excuse to go out too. She liked Durham, and I think she wouldn’t be too mad if she ended up moving here. 

quail eggs

The birds are laying pretty well, I’m getting 3 eggs a day on average, sometimes 4. And the soy sauce is starting to get some color to it. I try to keep it by the window with the blinds open so that it gets some sunlight, that is supposed to help it darken.

soy sauce fermenting

Monday:

Breakfast – Peaches & Cream oatmeal. 1/2 cup oats + 1/2 can of peaches, microwave 1 minute, stir. Add 1 tbsp ground flaxseed and a splash of almond milk, microwave 1 more minute. Done.

Peaches and cream oatmeal

Lunch – leftover red beans and rice, with some roasted broccoli and cauliflower. Clementine for dessert.

leftovers

Dinner – Teriyaki tempeh! One of my absolute favorite things to do with tempeh.

tempeh teriyaki

Tuesday:

Breakfast – wasn’t very hungry, so I just had an apple. Clearly, I need to remove my current nail polish…

pink lady apple

Lunch – leftover pierogi: mashed potato and applesauce. With some fresh cherries.

pierogi and cherries

Snack – hummus & cucumbers

hummus and cucumber

Dinner – Polenta and charro beans. The polenta was supposed to set in cans so I could cut them into rounds, but that didn’t work. So I just plopped it in a pan and baked it. And the charro black beans are a friends’ recipe that is super tasty.

polenta and charro beans

Wednesday:

Breakfast – accidentally skipped it…

Lunch – leftover rice and roasted veggies with falafel balls and hummus, big salad on the side

falafel balls and salad

Dinner – Simple: pasta shells with organic mushroom sauce, edamame on the side. And I found Lienenkeugel Berry, so yeah, that’s my favorite light beer and I bought some.

pasta night

Thursday:

Breakfast – Strawberry and peach oatmeal. Handful dried peaches sliced, 1/2 cup oats, 1 cup water. Microwave. Add some fresh diced strawberries and chia seeds, microwave again.

strawberry chia oatmeal

Lunch – leftover beans and polenta with avocado

leftovers

Dinner – out to the Carolina Brewery in Chapel Hill. I had the Veggie Burger and fries. It was really good, hearty with black beans and some subtle spice. The slaw was meh. But the honey wheat beer was darn good. 

veggie burger

Friday:

Breakfast – leftover sweet potato waffles with berry sauce. Just microwaved a cup of frozen berries with some maple syrup and blended it with an immersion blender.

sweet potato waffles

Lunch – repeat of yesterday’s leftover lunch, plus salsa

Snack – hummus and veg

hummus with veggies

Dinner – dinner party at a friend’s house. She made an amazing salad with pulled pork and a creamy cilantro sauce. I am totally willing to break veganuary for the sake of hanging out with good friends and catching up since the holidays. Plus it was damn good!

pulled pork salad

The Weekend

This weekend I have a Durham food tour on Saturday, so that should be fun. And we got invited to hang out with our neighbors on Sunday. Looking forward to getting to know them better. Since Monday is a holiday, I think that will be the around-the-house productive day. 

Food Total: $173.08

Yeah… I didn’t want to admit to this but I can’t lie to yall. I went to the store with the intention of buying 3 things, for a total of $12. But then I saw the clearance cart, with some things we use often at a ridiculous deal. When something you need that is usually $43 is marked down to $13, you buy it all!

Then I made the mistake of calling the boy to see if he needed anything while I was at the store. He has recently become hooked on the dried fruits and nuts as a snack too, so we are now basically out, and he requested more. And to balance the $50 of healthy food, we also ended up with $50 worth of beer haha

Staples $49.44 Fruit/Veg $12.11 Extras $111.53
dried apricot 15.99 bananas 1.35 stuff 52.8
dried prunes 11.49 avocado x10 5 cracklin oat bran 4.99
pitted dates 10.99 tomato sauce x4 5.76 leinenkeugel 14.99
dried cranberry 2     blue moon seasonal x2 29.98
raisins 4.49        
dried peaches x2 4.48     tax 8.77

 

Well, next week is another chance to do better.

 

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

All About Quail – Q&A

 

So, in case you haven’t picked up on my oh so subtle social media and blog posts, we are the recent, proud owners of a covey of quail!

covey of quail

Covey = group of quail. You can also call them a flock or a bevy.

For a little background, I’ve been dreaming of chickens for years. I love animals, and I love the idea of homesteading. I’m a very curious, DIY kinda gal, and if I use it or like it or eat it, I probably want to at least know how it is made if not try to make it myself.

So the idea of having some birds in my backyard that I basically just water and occasionally feed and in return I get super fresh, healthy, delicious eggs for almost free? Too good to be true! You can actually do this in real life?! Why doesn’t everyone??

Not that many years ago, this actually was quite common. Just like most families during and after WWII had a Victory Garden, most families also had a laying hen or a few for their family food source. But as people became more and more enamored of convenience and concentrated into cities, and less interested in the husbandry and killing and processing of their own food, backyard flocks declined.

Until today, where very few people keep any type of animals other than a cat or dog, or the occasional weirdo with a gecko or snake, and almost never as a food source. But, enough of that soapbox. I don’t really care what y’all do with your backyards. All I knew was I wanted a chicken or seven in mine.

holding a quail

Well, the thing is, I still live in city limits. And there are rules.

The coop must be 50 yards from any property line.

Must be a shade, heat, and water source.

Must drain properly.

Large minimum square footage per bird.

Must send certified letter to each adjoining property line neighbor informing them of your intent to keep birds and get positive response.

City inspector to inspect before building the coop.

No more than 6 hens.

No roosters.

City inspector to inspect after coop is built.

Need a license ($).

Whew, and this is all before you even get to daydream about the cute little chicks. The boy was also concerned about noise (legit) and smell (also legit) and pissing off the neighbors and attracting predators and what if they escape and bird flu and…

Basically, it seemed like my dream would never come true.

But I didn’t give up. I kept reading, and asking what other options there were. And turns out, quail kept popping up.

covey of quail

Turns out, quail are just like chickens… but better!

They are smaller = need less space & less food

They are quiet

They still lay eggs, even sooner and more often than chickens

And so it was decided!

It took some time, but I wouldn’t shut up about it and begged and nagged him to death until he gave in asked the boy nicely, and he agreed to let me keep quail! And so that was how, the week after Thanksgiving, that a boxful of birds came to live with us on our micro-homestead in Durham NC.

Specifically, Japanese Cotournix quail.

 

And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for! All your quail questions, answered. From food to poo, here’s the whole story. If you have more questions that aren’t on the list, please feel free to pop it down in the comments, and I’ll add it!

 

What do quail eggs taste like?

This is inevitably the first question that anyone asks when I tell them I have quail.

The answer?

They taste like eggs.

Yup, just like chicken eggs.

quail eggs vs chicken egg

How big are quail eggs compared to chicken eggs?

They are about 2-4 times smaller. Even with just 3 girls laying so far I’ve seen quite a bit of variation in the egg size, from maybe the size of my thumb to nearly a full Grade A Medium chicken egg. But the yolk is a larger percentage of the total volume than a chicken egg, meaning much less egg white per egg.

quail eggs vs chicken egg
Banana for scale

Can you bake with quail eggs?

Sure can. You will have to adjust for volume of course, but quail eggs can do whatever chicken eggs can do. I’ve baked them into hash brown nests, fried them on sandwiches, and scrambled them.

baked hashbrowns with quail eggs

I have not tried baking anything with them yet, because I am over sweets for now, since the holidays.

But next on my list: quail egg mayo!

What does quail meat taste like?

Is this getting repetitive yet?

It tastes like chicken.

roasted quail

Seriously, roasted quail tastes like chicken. Not even a hint of gaminess, at least the two times I’ve tried it so far. I had to convince the boy that these were worth keeping until the end of their usefulness, so I bought quail meat to try before we committed to the flock. It was super tasty.

There is not much meat though. So I would say you probably need at least 2 birds per person, or to have it with something else quite filling or as a side/part of a larger dish.

Did you name them?

Nope.

Well, that’s a lie.

I named one.

Are you going to eat them?

Yup, eventually…

How do you tell the boys from the girls?

Mostly from the feather colors. The boys will have an all solid color, rusty to brown chest. The girls will have a brown or white chest spotted with darker brown or black feathers. If that isn’t a clear enough indicator, you can flip them over to look at the ‘vent’ (where the poo and eggs come out). The boys have a pointy thing there, the girls do not. (all guys are the same…)

Do you need a boy for the girls to lay eggs?

Nope.

The girls will lay an egg a day regardless of males being present. But they will not be fertilized unless there’s a boy around. Which is not important unless you care whether you eat fertilized or unfertilized eggs, or if you want to hatch chicks from the eggs.

We want to expand and hatch our own chicks eventually, so we want to keep some boys around.

How soon do quail lay eggs? How many eggs do quail lay?

Quail start laying as soon as 4-6 weeks old! That’s a lot sooner than the typical chicken 4-6 months old. And they generally lay an egg a day, approximately 300 per year.

What is the expected laying time and lifespan of quail?

They will lay about 2 years. Their full life expectancy is also only about 2 to 2 1/2 years. They are small, so they mature fast, but they also die fast. So I will need to refresh my flock in at least 2 years.

quail eggs vs chicken egg

Do quail make noise?

They do, but it is very quiet. If you are not within 100 feet or so of the coop you wouldn’t know they are there. They make soft clucking and cooing noises, and little chirps. And I swear on my 50 pound bag of popcorn that sometimes they ribbit, like a frog.

Do quail smell?

The birds themselves do not smell. Not that I stuck my nose in one, but from holding them several times, there is no noticeable smell.

Their poop though, of course that ain’t roses! But it is not super strong, like I’ve experienced with chickens or ducks. You have to be right up in the coop to smell it. And once I shovel it onto the compost piles, I haven’t smelled it at all.

quail eggs

What do you do with the quail poop?

I have compost piles! This manure addition will make the compost super-charged, such that I probably won’t have to add any additional fertilizers to my garden from now on.

Where do you keep the quail? How much space do they need?

The quail live in a hardwood coop that a friend gave to me. I was exceedingly lucky in that regard, as we did not have to purchase or build a new coop.

The coop is about 6 feet by 2 feet, and they generally need 1/2-1 square foot of floor space per bird. That means up to a dozen could live here, right now we have 11 and they seem pretty happy.

quail coop

The sides are solid wood, with the front being chicken wire and hardware cloth. The holes are small enough that animals can’t get in to hurt or kill the birds. The base is 1/2 cm hardware cloth that is small enough the birds can walk on it ok, but big enough the poop can fall through. It is elevated off the ground with bricks so that I can get underneath it with a shovel.

Can the quail free range?

Ummm no. Unlike chickens, quail can fly, like for real fly. And in fact are often used to train hunting dogs, or hunters… so, no, if I let them free-range, they would fly away forever.

Someday, in an ideal world, I would have the space and money and time and build them a nice, big, safe aviary. That way they could almost free range. But until then, a coop is home. This spring and summer I have plans to build a second, larger coop, and possibly a quail tractor. We will see if that happens.

Do you clip the quail’s wings?

Yes, I did. This is in case they do get away from me and outside the coop somehow, they won’t fly away. They are apparently really fast and great at camouflaging though, so catching it would be a challenge regardless. It does not hurt the quail at all, it is similar to clipping your finger or toe nails.

What do quail eat? Is it similar diet to chicken?

Quail need slightly higher protein than chicken. They can get by on chicken feed, but they do better on turkey or “game bird” feed, which has 20+ % protein. You can get a big ol 50 pound bag for like $12-25 at a Tractor Supply or other hardware store.

quail coop with romaine

They also will eat many types of fruits and vegetables, and particularly love greens. They didn’t seem interested in lettuce when I put it in a bowl. But then I tied a twist tie to the ends and wrapped the other end on the cage, so it hangs. The LOVE to nibble and peck at the hanging lettuces.

They are also particularly fond of sprouts. They love broccoli and alfalfa sprouts, those disappear fastest of all the treats I’ve given. They also enjoyed the apple slices. Whenever we have bits of produce that we won’t eat, I put it in there to see how they like it.

Eventually I also want to get some bug treats, like mealworms, because they love insects. Extra protein and fat, which will help in spring when they are all laying regularly.

How much time does it take to care for quail? How often do you have to feed or water the quail?

With 11 of them, they go through about one quart mason jar of feed and water every day. I check on them every morning, to see how much food and water they have, and check if there are any eggs. If the water or food is low, I refill it. I check again at night when I get home from work.

This whole process only takes about 10 minutes a day total. I’ve now taken to bringing a new full jar of feed and water out with me. That way if they need one or both, I just unscrew the empty one and pop the new one in, without having to go back to the house to fill it up.

How much does it cost to buy quail?

Prices will vary based on whether you want to buy fertilized eggs to hatch yourself, baby chicks to raise, or older or full grown quail. The most common way to get into it is to buy baby chicks for about $1 each (but you take a 50/50 chance on boy or girl) or to buy a “mating pair” i.e. one boy and one girl, for about $25-$35.

I scooped up a great deal on mine. When I decided quail were happening, I put an alert on Craigslist. Sooner than expected, a post came in where someone was looking to sell 10 fully adult quail for only $25! Of course I dibs-ed it right away. Though one sadly died in transit to my house. Then, I accidentally ended up with 2 more for free, hence our current flock of 11.

How much does it cost to get started raising quail?

Well, you need the quail, which as mentioned will cost you a few bucks to $40 or so. The coop can have a huge range of prices based on materials and size you want. I’d advise checking Craigslist, Freecycle, and Facebook first. But you can even just put 2-3 in a rabbit cage, and that will run you $20-$40 from a pet store.

Then you will need feed, chick or adult depending on how old they were when you bought them. A tiny bag would cost just a few bucks, but your best cost per pound would be to get the big 50 pounders, which are about $12-$30 depending on brand. Let’s average and say $15, and your three quail will only go through maybe one bag/yr.

The cost of water will be negligible, just use tap. If you get babies, you need to worry about them maybe drowning in it. And you want a type of container not large enough to become a toilet… These can be done for free, or you can pick up a $3 one online or in pet stores.

That’s really the only requirements, so you’re looking at about $60 or so, to start with 3 adults (1 boy and 2 girls for more chicks, or 2-3 girls just for eggs). From there of course you can expand and spend as much or as little as you want, on coops, laying boxes, toys, treats, sand baths, bedding, and what-have-you.

Is it worth it?

At our grocery store, you can get 18 quail eggs for $5.99, which is about 33 cents per egg. Sometimes they go on sale. Chicken eggs can be had as low as 0.50 a dozen at ALDI, but more often to the tune of $1.50 – $2.50 / dozen at the store.

The thing is, I don’t know how those birds were raised. I don’t know if they ever saw the sun, got to walk around, or lived in a box that’s smaller than my pillow. I don’t know what they were fed. If they were given medications. If they were exposed to any diseases.

For my standards of food, I can obtain local, pastured, omnivore fed chickens (the way they should live) for $5 per dozen. I had no local source of quail eggs.

So to me, yeah, even if it doesn’t break down cost-wise, it is worth it.

quail farmer t shirt

But also, let’s run some numbers.

We use, on average, about 4 – 8 chicken eggs per week (sometimes more, sometimes none). For the equivalent of that we need about 8 – 30 quail eggs per week. I want to totally supply our egg needs. This is totally do-able with 9 girls. I should get 45 – 63 eggs per week, in the spring, if they all lay well.

It cost us a total so far of about: $25 + $18 + $6 + $12 = $61

Assuming I get the average 300 eggs/year, times 9 girls, that is 2700 eggs, y’all! That’s 150 containers from the store that I am not buying the packaging for, and a total savings of $900, at $6 per pack.

Not bad, I’d say.

Can quail live in extreme temperatures/climate?

Oh yes. One of the wonderful things about quail is that they are descended recently from wild birds. Therefore they are extremely hardy. They rarely get sick, and tolerate heat and cold very well, better or worse depending on breed. I have Japanese Cotournix, and they laughed at the snow and cold snaps we have had so far.

quail coop in the snow

How do quail do with winter and summer?

Well, they have handled winter with flying colors so far. We have a heat lamp for them, which I turn on when overnight temps will be below 30, to keep their water from freezing. But often when I go to check on them, they aren’t even near the lamp, like they’re trying to get away from the heat.

We will see how well they handle the humid summers here soon.

quail with heat lamp

Do you need to give quail any supplements or medicines?

Not absolutely necessary. As long as you’re giving them a quail or game bird feed, they should be fine. I supplement with some random greens, other veggies, and fruits now and then, about 1-2 times per week. I also add crushed shells back into the feed, which helps keep their calcium up so they lay more eggs. I just wash and let dry the eggs they already have laid. Then smush them up well.

adding crushed quail egg shell

I also got a supplement online called Rooster Booster, which is a poultry multivitamin basically. I add a tsp of this about 2-3 times per week into their mason jar of feed. And 1-2 times per week I add a tbsp of raw apple cider vinegar into their water. Apparently it is supposed to help keep them healthy and keep mites away.

What do you do with quail when you go on vacation?

I am lucky to have 2 friends now who own farms/microhomesteads near me. One currently has her own small flock of quail, the other has raised quail for years but stopped because chickens were more profitable (the farm is his livelihood). They are willing to take the flock if we are gone for long periods of time.

However, I would be perfectly comfortable leaving them with just a double supply of food and water for a 2-3 day trip. I would also ensure that they had plenty of treat options, and at least 2 different sources of feed/water, in case one got knocked over or pooped in.

How do you transport quail?

Well, they came to me packed in a cardboard box. I felt bad for the little guys, but they didn’t seem to mind it too much. But now, I have a better way: dog carriers.

quail in dog carrier

These we got when our pups were younger and smaller and could fit under the airplane seat in front of you. They no longer fit in there so they have been re-purposed as bird carriers. They have mesh on the sides and top so that air can get in, zip tops for easy in and out access, and handles and a long strap to carry. Super light, totally perfect.

 

 

There you have it, everything you never knew you wanted to know about quail keeping! Hopefully it was entertaining, and maybe inspiring. Anything else you want to know?

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?

 

 

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?

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?

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”.

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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?