Cast your vote for good [day 22 & 23]

The purpose of doing a challenge is to stretch our thinking and to initiate lifestyle changes for good purposes.  For that reason, I’m not too legalistic with my rules.  The idea is to make good and logical choices.  I have decided to make a small change in my shopping habits for the remainder of this challenge.

the-shiftThe Shift

I’m adding 100% recyclable packaging to my list of approved things to purchase.  Why?  Because it’s near impossible to live this way.  I could do it, but not with a full-time job and being a full-time single mom.  It’s not sustainable.  There are parts of it that are sustainable though.  This process is all about how to make some simple lifestyle changes that have a positive impact on our lives, the lives of others and our resources.  Continue reading

I’ll trade this challenge for 5 years of no retail shopping [day 5]

jodys-homemade-almond-milkBefore this challenge, I could say with complete confidence, that I would never be making my own almond milk.  Homemade.  From scratch.  The only thing I cook from scratch is water.  Yep, boiling water.  And I’m good at it.

I have to say, frustration set in yesterday.  Why am I doing this again?  Why do I do any of this crazy stuff?  Making milk?  Seriously.  My oldest son, somewhat jokingly, said I’m insane and might need to go see a doctor for it.  He also said he would trade this challenge and do 5 more years of the no retail shopping challenge.  “Can I just go to my dad’s house while you finish this?”  No.  He asked that right after I gave him his allowance to buy the food he likes, so he doesn’t have to participate in this 100%.   Continue reading

is it wrong to break up a set? [minimalist challenge item #293]

[item] Stainless milk / creamer pitcher and a spoon

[purchase info] Purchased new at a discount store

[time in my possession] Approximately 7 years

[last used] 5+ years ago?

[difficulty level in getting rid of it] Medium

[destination] Fundraiser

[replacement item] None

[info] So this little pitcher has a matching sugar container / bowl that I do use.  So the big question… do you keep it because it’s a set, even if you never use part of it?  The fact that this is a set is making it a little difficult for me to part with,  They were made to go together.  After some careful consideration, I’m thinking it’s okay to separate them.  If someone out there can use a nice stainless mini pitcher, then why should I hang on to it because I have something that matches it?  Oh little pitcher, I hope you find a good home to someone that loves cream, but not sugar.

food with more color than the package…

I don’t usually blog about food, but clearly this is a topic that falls into the “living differently” and “downsizing” categories.

Flashback to 6 years old.  I remember eating cereal called Kaboom.  Do you remember it?  The cereal itself was more colorful than the box it came in.  “100% minimum daily requirements of vitamins and iron in 1 oz. sugary oat cereal with marshmallow stars!”  As a child, I always wondered where they were hiding the vitamins in this stuff.  If I saw a funny shaped piece or a burnt piece of cereal, I would avoid it because surely that was the vitamin.  I didn’t need it, I already took my Flintstones vitamins, so leave my cereal alone.

My mom didn’t leave my cereal alone.  Apparently she didn’t think there was enough sugar in the sugary oat cereal, so she dumped 3 or 4 tablespoons of sugar into it.  When I was done with the cereal, I ate spoons full of purplish milky sugar from the bottom of the bowl.  I’m pretty sure I never got the hiccups.

So what’s the big deal?  They don’t sell this anymore, right?  As of about 10 years ago, I did find some at Big Lots.  An what makes Froot Loops any better?  I would love to get my hands on the nutrition info for this stuff and compare it to other cereal.  Here’s an interesting article I read this morning on the use of food coloring in food:  The dangers of artificial food colors  There’s always been lots of controversy about this topic.  Why chance it?  If there are non-colored foods available, why not buy those?  They taste the same.  The color is only for presentation and marketing.  Yes, I buy foods with coloring, mostly because I don’t pay attention to this very much.  I do buy low fat and healthy foods when there’s an option for it.  Honestly, I spend more time price shopping food rather than nutrition shopping our food.  I should be doing both.

The thing that made me think of all this food stuff is bacon wrapped asparagus.  I love grilled asparagus and I can even get my kids to eat that way.  My friend that was coming over to cook dinner with us said he would bring bacon to wrap around the asparagus I was cooking.  My kids would love this without a doubt, but I don’t want to even let them know this is an option.  If they like it grilled, without butter, fat or covered in cheese, why would I mess with that?  Trust me, I let them eat plenty of unhealthy stuff, but I do try to teach them to eat low-fat and low-sugar options when they are available.

This is an area where I really need to be rethinking good.  And if anyone can find me a box of Kaboom cereal, I would be forever grateful!

4 kitchen thermometers [minimalist challenge item #50]

[item] Lot of 4 kitchen thermometers

[purchase info] Purchased new from housewares stores or coffee shops

[time in my possession] Approximately 13 years

[last used] Over 5 years

[difficulty level in getting rid of it] Easy

[destination] Thrift store

[info] I had a ‘bouquet’ of these in a small vase of coffee beans.  This is a true picture of excess, as I can only use one at a time.  I kept my 2 favorites, one in use, one in the dishwasher if it’s dirty.  Why did I feel the need to have 6 of these???  My senselessness on display here.  :(

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

the ridiculousness of cereal straws [day 239]

I told my kids I would let them buy a box of cereal straws if they promised to blog on the  ridiculousness of them.  They chose to do it, so I purchased the box of Oreo Funstix cereal straws for $3.50.

Joe: O.K. First of all. My mom is making me do this. So I’m not going to write much. Here’s what I am going to say. ‘’Cookie straws are stupid. Their a waste of plastic, and a waste of sweet, precious, awesome money.’’

Obviously he places a high value on his money, not mine.  He can buy the cereal straws next time, with his own money.

Cole: I don’t mean any of this. Cookie straws are too expensive. Also pointless and stupid.

I don’t allow him (or his brother) to say the word stupid, but I suppose he thinks it’s okay to type it.  Apparently cereal companies aren’t selling enough cereal, so they’re molding cereal into other forms and marketing it to kids.  If my kids want more of these, they will have to buy them with their own money.  I think they’ll become less important to Cole and Joe will buy a box every so often just to annoy me.  :)

santa claus [flashback]

December 11, 2009… I was listening to talk radio on my way to work yesterday.  It was so incredibly cold I didn’t want to let go of my warm coffee mug to steer the car, much less turn on the radio.  The news guy was reporting on the experiences of the fake mall Santas this year, disclosing the newest Christmas lists they’re receiving.  Many of the kids sitting on Santa’s lap are not asking for the typical toys and electronics, they’re asking for basic necessities.  “Mommy really needs a job” or “Could we just have our house back?”  Some others are asking for food and clothing.  You know the economy is bad when kids are happy to get socks and underwear for Christmas.

Santa Claus.  The historical Saint and the modern day icon of commercialized Christmas.  Who is Santa?  Santa has many roots in history spanning the globe, roots also ranging from Christianity to paganism.  The early Christian Santa was Saint Nicholas.  He was a Saint that gave generous gifts to the poor, especially to daughters of poor parents so they did not have to become prostitutes.  I could go on for days here about the history of Santa, but he did have his start as a good guy that helped people.

Honestly, I’ve always struggled with the whole Santa thing.  I did not want my kids believing that some overweight guy in a furry red suit is going to give them anything they want for Christmas.  Their dad said that was wrong and I was awful for even thinking it.  Choose your battles, right?  I chose not to fight this one.

My earliest recollection of Santa is asking my parents if Santa was real.  I was in kindergarten, five or six years old, and already wondering how one guy could go around the planet in one night, bringing lots of stuff to kids.  And don’t get me started on the flying reindeer and sleigh.  I suppose my over-analyzing of everything started at an early age.  My parents told me the truth and quickly proceeded to tell me that my knowledge was a secret.  I wasn’t very good at keeping secrets back then.  Even with my secret knowledge, Santa continued to bring me lots of toys and stuff, and much more than he brought anyone else.  Continue reading

ask the chickens, maybe they know [day 162]

Last night at dinner, I was having a conversation about not being wasteful, mostly with food, but really anything else.  In efforts to not be wasteful, the conversation quickly lead to the subject of expiration dates.

Expiration dates are helpful in many ways, but also used for control.  I’ve had this conversation a few times with my friend E, who gets rid of everything the moment it expires.  I’m quite the opposite, so for her birthday last year, I found the most expired thing I owned and gave it to her.  It was a tube of Coppertone sunscreen that was 10 years expired.  Would I have still used it?  Yeah, probably, however it might not have worked, but it wasn’t going to kill me.    Continue reading