Mar 26 2011

grocery shopping update [day 304]

I’ve gotten a few questions on my new grocery shopping plan.  I shop more frequently, but buying less, limiting myself to 25 items or less.  You can read the story about the downsizing and new shopping plan that was published in early February 2011.  Take a look.

Here’s the before and after photos of my pantry.  The after was taken a couple of weeks ago and even has less in there today.  I don’t have photos of the refrigerator or freezer, but they are sparse as well.  Here’s some of the results or the new way of shopping.

Money savings.

I started shopping at Aldi versus Kroger, Tom Thumb, WalMart or Target.  That, coupled with the 25 items or less, has produced the following monetary results.  These amount reflect groceries, the occasional toiletry items and some wine.

February 2011: $268.95

March 2011 (so far, 1 week left): $149.89

I started this in mid January, so I didn’t look at that month.  Here’s what I spent the 2 months prior.  Continue reading


Feb 7 2011

downsizing the kitchen & food supply [day 256]

I’ve been doing a lot of downsizing lately.  Right before snowmageddon, I decided to clean out the kitchen, not just utensils and cabinet crap, but food.  I don’t like being wasteful, and although we waste a lot less than the average American family, I felt that we needed to make some changes.  We made some radical changes and some subtle changes, and the results are proving to be really good.  I’ll share the overall goodness of this, the process of cleaning out the kitchen and a couple of mini-challenges.

The big picture.

We haven’t died of starvation. Again, we started this a couple of weeks before the ice storm.  We have much less food in the house, but we had plenty to eat during the 4-5 days at home.  I didn’t buy extra, in fear that we would starve and have nothing to eat for a week.  I bought a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread the day before the storm hit.  We had plenty, and I was even able to feed the two painters working in my house a couple of times.

Airstream… I mean streamline. Okay, I want an Airstream, but that has nothing to do with my kitchen.  The tasks of cooking, grocery shopping and cleaning the kitchen is much easier.  Cooking is easier, as there’s less stuff to shuffle around and I know what ingredients I have on hand.  Grocery shopping is easier, again, because I have less and I know the few things I need.  Cleaning is easier too, as I have a lot of extra pantry and cabinet space.  So much extra, that I was able to move all of my pantry items into empty cabinets while the oil paint takes 5 days to dry.

Here a snack, there a snack, everywhere a snack snack. My kids will open every bag of everything we buy at the store.  We could have, and have had, a pantry overflowing with food, and yet the kids can’t find a thing to snack on.  With much less in there, this is not a problem anymore.  It’s easy to see we have two open bags of crackers or pretzels.

Waste not, want not. We are wasting very little food these days.  Not that we wasted a lot before, but it was still more than I was comfortable with.  Waste is unnecessary, and by making some small changes to lessen it allows us to save a little money, be better to our environment and enables us to help others that don’t have enough to eat.

What did we do?

Downsized the pantry. If you have a smaller house like mine, the pantry is a small closet.  The picture is my “before” picture.  I don’t have an after right now, as the oil paint is still drying.  Whether your pantry is large or small, stuff always gets hidden in the back.  My pantry wasn’t horribly unorganized, it just had too much in it and could use a little more a system of “first in, first out”.  We took everything out and carefully selected what would go back.  I had cedar balls that didn’t smell like anything anymore.  Out.  Ridiculously expired stuff?  Out.  Open bags of stale crackers and chips?  Out.

We broke down the boxes and recycled them.  We couldn’t see all of the food behind the big boxes of crackers and cereal.  The boxes take up a lot of space.  I found it best to use see-through containers and baskets as much as possible.  Most of the stuff I didn’t know I has was in these black plastic crates and could not be seen. Continue reading


Jan 12 2011

free polypropylene [day 229]

Instead of buying ziplock plastic baggies and other plastic containers, I like to reuse containers I already have.  Instead of placing my plastic sour cream containers, margarine containers or other food containers directly into the recycling bin, I wash them and use them for other things.

  • Leftovers. These are great for leftovers.  If you want to send something home with a friend, you don’t have to worry about getting your container back.  Great for work too, if you’re like me and forget to bring the containers home.
  • Paint. Great for small amounts of touch up paints.
  • Freezer containers. Make extra food and freeze it for lunches or quick microwave meals.  (never reheat in the plastic containers)
  • Recycle containers. Use a small container to keep small lids for recycling.  Aveda will recycle all of these for you.
  • Hardware. These are great for storing nails, screws, washers and other hardware items.
  • Art supplies. These can be used for storing art supplies or used as water containers for paint brushes.
  • Toys. These are great for storing kids toys that have small parts.  They’re easy to open and close, also making them great for the car.  Less toys under the seats.
  • Pantry storage. Use these containers to store food that comes in unsealable plastic bags.  I buy rice in the large bulk bag and store it in an old pretzel container.
  • Other uses. I’m sure there are many more uses for these.  Just think what might be a good second or third use of something before recycling it.

Let me address the question you’re all waiting to add to the comments section.  “Aren’t plastic containers bad for your health?”  Yes, some of them are.  I looked up these types of containers, as pictured above, and they are made of polypropylene.  Without getting too technical, the symbol on these containers is the one pictured on the left, and there’s no proven health risks on this type.  The containers say “dishwasher safe” on the bottom.  They are doing some studies based on a 2008 study saying some of the plastic will get into your food, but nothing has been proven to this point.  This type of plastic is considered a ‘safer’ type.

There are many types of plastics out there, and here I’m only speaking of PP (polypropylene) plastic.  I usually use these containers 3 or 4 times, hand-washing them or placing them in the dishwasher with a no-heat-dry setting.  Never cook food in any type of plastic, as that does melt and can leach chemicals into your food.

I’m no plastics expert, but it’s good to do a little research on any containers you do plan to reuse.  All plastics have the symbols like the one above, making it easy to research.  Yes, it’s a pain to have to know all this stuff, but it’s the world we live in.  It’s better to educate yourself and not have to worry.  I like free storage containers, and I could eat my weight in sour cream, so I usually have a lot of them.  All of them go to good uses.  What do you use food containers for?


Jun 5 2010

the challenge: day 9 [grilling, propane, outdoor movies, teaching man to fish]

I decided to grill out tonight and was wondering if I was going to need a new propane tank. Since that is energy to cook with, and they sell the tank refills at the grocery store, I have decided this will be okay. I did ponder the fact that it’s not a necessity, as I could cook inside. I also thought that cooking outside versus inside saves on utilities since all of the hot cooking would make the air conditioning run more. Anyway, I’m up for your thoughts on this.

We also went to the outdoor movie in downtown Frisco last night and it was some nice family time. They put up the big inflatable screen and hundreds went to watch Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. I kept thinking I need to bring a small version of this to some apartment complexes in Frisco where the kids can’t go downtown, as their parents are working or they don’t have the transportation.

I also want to post my response to a comment left on the future of shopping post. This is from Ozz…

Well lets see….The US is a CONSUMER based economy it is no surprise that companies attempt to make shopping an easier afair. I think it’s kinda cool but I hate dressing rooms. Just think of the jobs from wiring the stores for this, the dock workers taking the shipments of plasma screens, the software support (ok probably really good for India but ya never know)….etc.

Why some of these impoverished people might get a job due to this, then they can buy the clothes. What a concept instead of handing out…train. It is better to show a man how to fish than to just give him fish.

~Ozz~

My response. (Feel free to start a discussion here)

Although I agree with your statement of teaching man how to fish, I don’t feel that this shopping direction is a positive one. This seems to me like another step in making the rich richer and the poor poorer. Our consumer based economy teaches us and our kids that more is better, success is defined by money and happiness will be yours if you buy things that make life easier and more comfortable.

I have become uncomfortable with my comfort. I don’t expect everyone to follow me in that (okay, so I hope some do), but I hope as a society that we can make some positive changes. Like bridging ‘the gap’ between rich people and poor people. ‘Target’ing new ways to build community and thinking outside ourselves, while not building more ‘wal’s to protect ourselves from people we don’t know or understand.

One last thing. There are many types of homelessness and poverty. When I go visit friends (I don’t see these as mission trips anymore), and I see a cute little kid helping me work on painting an apartment so they have a place to meet with others, or maybe a child in Mexico that doesn’t have enough to eat, they just want to feel loved and have their basic needs met. Yes, there are many people who have chosen homelessness as a way of life and I’m sure there are many lazy people our there that don’t want to work and instead ‘work’ the system. But there are many out there that don’t have a choice and they need justice, people who care and are willing to get off their butts and do something about it.

Too lazy to try on clothing or too lazy to work? I’m not the one to judge that, although I have many opinions… (I know, we’re all surprised by that!) My point with this whole shopping thing is that I’m not going to be lazy with this. If it takes a little extra effort to buy necessities that are not excessive, not made in sweatshops and better for the environment, then that’s what I’m going to do. Small change can equal big change.

Ozz, I love a devil’s advocate perspective and you know I greatly appreciate your views! Keep them coming.