Apr 7 2011

fast waste [day 315]

I love pretty much any condiment, mustard, ketchup, sour cream, grape jelly, salsa… you name it.  I’ve been referred to as the condiment queen.  This is a problem to me in the world of fast food.  There’s so much plastic and paper waste associated with it.  I looked up condiment packaging and found a few eco-friendly alternatives.  For me, this brings up a bigger question.  The word “ECO” is used a lot these days.  I’m glad people are coming up with eco-friendly options that are much better for the environment, but here’s my question.

Should we just be content with using products that are a little bit better for the environment or should we be trying to scale back our use of disposable products?

I’m trying to do both.  I’m not always successful as you can see in the photo, but those were given with my meal, not upon request, but just assumed I would eat them all.  I’ve cut way back on the fast food consumption over the past year.  Meals are supposed to be a time of fellowship and relaxation.  If my lifestyle needs fast food, I need to make some changes.

My ideas were validated a few days ago by the cost of fast food.  My 2 boys and I went to Sonic.  I’m usually all over the price shopping part of eating, but this day, I decided to let them order whatever they wanted.  They both ordered modestly, as did I.  Almost $18.00 spent and the kids were still hungry.  A few days later, we went to a sit-down restaurant.  This time it was me and the kids, but we brought a friend along as well.  Including ‘good’ food for all of us, one beer and one dessert, the total was around $35, including the tip.  There’s a price for all that packaging, not to mention the nutritional value of fast food.

Also, I’m not sure why, but the magic number of napkins seems to be 6.  Why do I need 6 napkins with a sandwich?  Do I look that messy?  If they give out 5 extra napkins per person, with an average customer count of 450 a day, that’s 2,250 napkins that go in a landfill.  And that’s just napkins.

I’m not saying I will never eat fast food again (although I’m leaning in that direction), but I will be doing it even less now.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t eat fast food either.  We should all be aware of the effects of it though.  There are times where the fast food meal is not a bad idea, but doing it regularly will cost you a lot of money, aid in destroying our earth and eventually will break your heart.


Mar 26 2011

it’s alien poo out of an alien dumpster! [day 303]

Maybe I’m a mean mom, but I make my kids try new foods.  I don’t make them eat it if they don’t like it and I don’t go out of my way to get things that will gross them out.  Both of them like pistachio nuts so I thought I would make some pistachio pudding for dessert.  Here’s what happened.

Let me just defend myself here.  I have never fed my kids anything out of a dumpster.  I get food from grocery stores and I don’t know any aliens.  I don’t like food waste, so I bought just one box of pudding, however my timing on it wasn’t great.  I was going out of town the next day and since nobody liked it, it sat in my fridge for 5 days.  I guess the aliens came in peace though, as this is the shape the pudding cracked into.

Okay, so I added the little piece at the bottom between the two small lines, but it looked like a peace sign when I pulled it out, as the other 3 lines were cracked in.  So what’s the best way to avoid food waste with kids?  Here’s a few tips.

  • Small portions. When eating out, I sometimes make them share or order small quantities because we can always order more.  At home, I let them fill their own plates with the understanding that they must eat what they put on it.
  • Plan leftovers. If you go out, don’t get food that will taste bad as leftovers.  French fries are just gross as leftovers.  Order something that you or your kids will eat the next day.  At home, make extras of the foods that will keep well as leftovers and cook only what will be eaten on the right-now foods.
  • Let your kids cook. I don’t do this often enough, but if they help in the meal planning and cooking, they’re more apt to eat it.

This won’t eliminate waste, but it sure will cut it down to an extreme minimum.  It also never hurts to communicate your grocery budget to the kids and let them shop.  Keep in mind this can backfire when your 10 and 11 year-olds go to the neighbors house and tell them they’re spending way too much money on groceries, telling them everything they know about saving money when buying food.  I’ve found that works better than the ‘starving-kids-in-other-countries’ talk.  If we’re less wasteful, we’ll have more resources to help others.


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


Sep 23 2010

pulling food out of the trash? [day 120]

For some people, that’s a completely insane question.  After all, who would pull food out of a trash can?  Especially if you don’t need it?

Well, someone I know did just that.  To protect my friend, who did what I probably would have done, I will change some the details in this story or be very generic in my descriptions.

After a large meeting, where they sometimes bring food, my friend saw someone throw away a plastic tray full of McDonald’s breakfast burritos.  Several minutes after the person walked away, my friend, still bothered by the wasteful act, looked around to see if anyone was looking, and when they weren’t, pulled them out of the trash.  My friend gave me the tray and told me the story.

Would you eat one of these? I did.  Yes, they were sitting on top of the trash, but protected in a thick, plastic bubble.  I really don’t care for McDonald’s food, nor do I like to eat food with meat in it, but I ate one because I dislike waste WAY more. Continue reading


Aug 13 2010

what is it? [day 78]

You know, there’s just not a lot to blog on with the no shopping challenge.  So how is it going?  Really well.  I guess I don’t like to shop too much.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my days of too much shopping in the past, purchases heavily associated with debt.  I think I’m just becoming more content with what I have and I really hate debt.  It’s not that I don’t ever think about getting something new or that I don’t have a desire to buy something I want, I just do it differently now.  I ponder a few things:

  • Is it a need or a want?
  • How can I get it used?
  • Will I use this long term or is it an impulse buy, something that will get used 1 or 2 times then collect dust?
  • How does it impact the environment?
  • Is it a fad or a style thing that will not be useful in a short period of time?
  • Is it a good deal?

I suppose the most interesting thing I’ve learned so far in this process is this:  I don’t miss it, that is, the stuff I don’t buy.

I some sense, that means I never really wanted it.  It was there, priced well, nicely merchandised and by definition, an impulse buy.  I have also saved a lot of money in the process, but I seem to spend more on food and eating out.  Well, at least I found my next challenge.  😉

My experience?  It usually costs a lot and it will sit around until it eventually ends up long lost a garage or in a landfill.  So what is it?


Jun 24 2010

the challenge: days 26, 27 & 28 [$4.00]

Not too much to report over the last few days.  I’ve been working a lot, finished some books and spent a bit of time with my kids.

We had some unexpected dental expenses this month and to keep my credit card at zero, I had to pay a little more than usual because of lawn care, my tolltag and car repairs.  I have $4.00 left in my account, and for some crazy reason, that makes me happy.  Normally I would either charge groceries or maybe move some money from my checking account.  Instead, I decided to live with the $4.00 for a while.  We’re eating food from the back of the pantry and stuff from the freezer that… well, just should have been used a long time ago.  No eating out for a while.  I have a little bit of cash, very little, but it’s still sitting in my ‘piggy bank’.  The kids call it my piggy bank, even though it’s a box with Hawaiian girls on it.

I’ll probably move some money over from my savings just in case something hits my account, so I won’t have overdraft fees.  Can you imagine the large part of the world’s population that has to live on less than $2.00 per day?  Have you ever tried it?  I wonder what that would be like…


Jun 21 2010

sharing a hamburger [day 24]

Last night I went to II Brothers (also know as the ‘other brother’) with a large group of people.  We had so many people that we had to get a separate table for the kids.  Yep, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

My kids were on their own and ordered for themselves.  Now I gave them no instruction whatsoever, so they could have ordered pretty much anything and extra desserts and I wouldn’t have been the wiser.  After a nice time visiting with my friends, it came time to pay the bill.  I neglected to order anything, apparently I was talking when she came to take our orders, so I just had my iced tea and the kids stuff.

The bill came, I looked at it and immediately thought it was wrong.  I asked her if there should be two hamburger kids meals on there, not just one.  She said, “No, it’s correct.  They decided to share a meal.”  After picking my jaw up off the floor, I was speechless.  My kids ARE learning not to be wasteful!  It’s really working!!!!  I don’t cry and I almost had tears in my eyes!!!!!

Every time we go to a restaurant, I always ask them to share if they’re not that hungry.  We can always order more food, so just order what you know you can eat.  Okay, so I also bellyache about the price of food too, again, making the point of not being wasteful.  Wow.  It really works.  My kids are so awesome.  (no bias there, of course)  😉