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


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


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?


Nov 28 2010

paint the town red… or just settle for painting my bathroom brown [day 186]

I’m on vacation this week, or as some might call it, a staycation.  I have a few projects to get done around the house, things I can do without spending money or shopping.  I have about 10 outlets that need replacing, as they won’t hold a plug.  I have all the stuff in the grage to do this task, and I have for about 2 years now.  I even have the black one that goes on my fireplace, nicely matching the slate tile.

What I would really like to do is finish up a few painting projects.  I can’t do this without buying paint, and I can’t buy paint, as that would be retail shopping.  The only room that really needs painting badly is my master bath.  It’s been 80% painted for the entire 4 years I’ve been in the house.  The water closet room still has the original mid 90’s southwest style wallpaper and border with popcorn ceilings.  Now I have paint, lots of paint, but not enough of any one color to do a room.  My paint is leftovers from home projects, church projects, oops paint, hand-me-down paint… you get the picture.  I also have a wall to paint in the upstairs loft room.  I guess I’ll just have to get creative!  I have enough red paint to paint the town red, but not enough other colors to do what I would like to in the house.  I’ll keep you posted.  :)


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


Sep 1 2010

you can't possibly eat all that!!! [day 97]

One of my favorite websites, and has been for many years, is toothpastefordinner.com.  A collection of funny little cartoons that are way to close to reality.  My subject today?  Leftovers.

For just about everyone, they either love them or hate them.  After spending many years in the restaurant business, I can safely say that much food goes wasted.  Leftovers at home are easy to deal with, as you just slap them in a container and throw them in the fridge.  In a restaurant, you have to actually carry them home.  And if you ordered something like shrimp pasta, you already ate all of the shrimp out of it, but probably have lots of pasta left.  Yes!  You know I’m talking to you!  I’m talking to all of us.  There’s no way we can eat everything that is served in a typical restaurant meal.  The bigger the portions, the more money they can charge and you feel all warm and good because you’re getting a lot of food for your money.

Whether or not you like leftovers, here’s a few things to consider.

  • Split a meal when going out. There’s plenty of food for two people, not to mention you can always order more if you’re still hungry.  I’ve never had to order more food.
  • Plan for leftovers. Go in knowing you will eat half of what you order and bring the rest home for lunch or dinner.  (yes, I’m saying to save a few of the shrimp for tomorrow)
  • Bring a container. Okay, this might appeal to about one person out there.  Leftovers usually travel home in a styrofoam container, inside a large plastic bag.  Bring a container with you.  Okay, I’m aware that guys would just look crazy doing this and women probably have no extra purse space.  I guess I’ll have to figure out how to make this a trendy, cool thing to do.
  • Give it away, give it away now… check out day 38.  Are you going somewhere after dinner?  Give the leftovers away.

Okay, I have to tell this little story.  I went out with a large group of people and few months ago.  I had my kids with me and they sat at the kids table.  I was sitting far away from them and I just let them order on their own.  I gave them no instruction, so they could have ordered a ton of food with ice cream for all, and I wouldn’t have known until the check came.  Well, the check came.  I looked puzzled and asked the waitress if it was correct.  I was charged for only one kids meal.  She looked at me and said, “Yes, it’s correct.  Your kids shared a meal.”   Yes!  :)


Jul 4 2010

the challenge: day 38 [leftovers]

I was hanging out with some incredibly cool people last night and heard a wonderful story…

A couple of weeks ago, Mike and Steph went out to dinner to celebrate Mike’s new job.  They had an entire evening planned, dinner at a nice Italian restaurant and plans in the city afterwards.  As in most restaurants, the food portions are much larger than the average person can (or should) eat in one sitting, thus the invention of the “doggie bag”.  I’m not sure dogs ever get this leftover food, at least at my house they don’t.  Well, I don’t have a dog.  Anyway, they had a lot of leftover food.  What should they do with it?  They discussed their options and the conversation went something like this.

Mike: “Let’s ask for a to go box.”

Steph: “We can’t.  We have nowhere to put it.”

Mike: “Pack it up anyway.”

They packed up the food and took it with them.  I’m not sure what Steph was thinking at this point, but they took the bag of leftovers and headed out to their next evening adventure.  On the way there, they ran into a homeless man looking for food.  Mike gave him the bag of leftovers, reciting the contents of the bag as if he were a waiter in the restaurant, educating people on the specials for that evening.  What as awesome way to keep from being wasteful, and in the process, helping feed the hungry.

What do you do with your leftovers?  At a restaurant?  At home?

Moral of the story?  Be like Mike.


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)  😉