Archive for May, 2009

Friday, May 29, 2009

friday forum

I have a confession.  I was holding out on you.  It wasn’t intentional.  But apparently I had some food waste back in one of those weeks I was claiming to be so great and resourceful and all consuming of food.

Last week when I was downloaded what I though were pictures of Toddler L off the camera I came across a picture of these strawberries.

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I’m sorry to say it actually took me a moment to remember what the heck it all meant.  This all happened the Saturday before Mother’s Day.  On that Sunday I found out a friend had passed away.  It was not a good week.  (Remember the empty menu plan?)  So by Friday, I had no recollection of what had happened the previous Saturday.

Now I remember.

We bought these strawberries Thursday evening, come Saturday morning they looked like this.  Boy was I miffed.  Actually, I was a lot more than miffed, but Toddler L and Baby X were listening.  (Yes, I know Baby X is still cooking but I”m practicing and imagining he can hear everything I say.)  I try to keep my fruit on the counter instead of in the fridge because it typically tastes better.  Big mistake.  I have had strawberries since this debacle that went straight into the fridge until every last one was gobbled up.

This batch went straight into the garbage.

Yes, I know that in itself is a waste.  40% of what’s in the landfills could be composted.  But not by me.  Not for lack of desire.  More like lack of opportunity.  No compost, no garden, no green bins.  For now I take solice in the knowledge that I put that pesky plastic container in the recycling bag.

As for waste this week, I go back to having nothing to show.  (I’m not even smiling as I write that as I may be completely out of it and not even know.  I’d hate to be smug only to have another strawberry incident.)  I think I do a pretty good job of making a “use it up” lunch whenever there is something on the edge.  I guess that’s what has saved me so far.

felix

For those of you not managing quite as well with the food waste issue, here’s a little something that might just help.

This spring, The Kitchn (a division of Apartment Therapy) held their second annual Kitchen Cure.

This is a series of posts, reader interaction, and assignments designed to help get your kitchen in shape. The goal, in six fast weeks, is for your kitchen to be clean, healthy and organized, and your cooking more nourishing and delicious than ever.

One of their great ideas was this grocery reminder.  Post this on the fridge and you have no excuse to not know what’s inside.

eat this

If that doesn’t help you out, how about their list of What To Do With…?  75 Tips for Leftovers and Ingredients.  This is definitely one list I will be checking twice (weekly).  There are some great ideas for foods from all over the kitchen.  A personal favorite though was the ideas for Inedible Failed Dishes.  One commenter made a suggestion I think will become a family tradition of our own.

Growing up, on the rare occasions my mom completely failed in the kitchen, it was traditional to order pizza. Even if there were leftovers around, a kitchen disaster meant mom had a glass of wine or a gin and tonic while dad dialed. A family tradition I have adopted and will pass on to my daughter.

felix

For those of you that have seen the inside of my fridge, there’s a new addition.

I finally succumbed to the pull of bread in the oven.  I’m still not ready for kneading though.  I made a batch of dough considered the Master Recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  Four ingredients?  It must have cost a whole $1.00 for everything.  And the dough should make about four 1 pound loaves.  How about master frugal recipe.  As I don’t have a pizza stone or peel (don’t worry that will be remedied as soon as I can), tomorrow I will be making a loaf in my dutch oven.  Yep, the dutch oven, in the oven.  I’m already considering what else I can use to get some different shaped loaves.  A new use for that too-big-to-cook-in Corning Ware dish.

And yes, it was about 5 minutes of work today.  Let’s see if tomorrow goes as smoothly.  I can’t tell you how excited I am.  Really.

I love my bread machine, but this is what bread should look like.

artisan bread

If my in-laws don’t walk in the door and swoon over my fresh-from-the-oven bread I’m immediately sending them to a hotel.

Just kidding.  They can stay.

I’ll go to a hotel.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

a look inside

I write about how much money we spend on food.  I don’t usually take a picture of it because the shopping usually happens over several days and I just can’t get everything together for a photo shoot.  (I wish I could though, I think it would be interesting to see the total quantity.  It feels like a lot, but is it really?)

I write about any food that gets thrown away at the end of the week.  Yes, yes, I know I haven’t been very good about throwing food away but don’t worry there’s a surprise this Friday.  Wait for it.

But what about the in-between?  How about a look inside?  Our refrigerator is a utilitarian necessity.  (I know there is a movement of people getting rid of their fridges – I’m not there yet.  Or probably ever.)  We have a fridge, we put food in, we take food out.  I’m working on teaching a not quite two year old that standing with the fridge door open is not okay.  But what does that fridge say about us?

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This freezer says I let the husband go to the store by himself.  (Apparently buying a Banquet meal is a good way to get enough quarters back for a load of laundry.)

But it also says we portion out our meat and don’t buy a whole lot of frozen foods.  I feel pretty good about that story.  Granted, these pictures were taken before our weekly shopping, but this week’s list is mostly fruits and veggies anyway.

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I don’t think the fridge says too much bad stuff.  I like to think it’s pretty well organized and there’s nothing we don’t really use.  Except the mayonnaise which has never been opened.  It was purchased months ago when I really jumped into the home cooking and thought it was something I would need to cook for true Midwestern boy.  Apparently not.   And you can just glimpse the top of a whipping cream can.   I don’t even remember the occasion this was bought for.  I don’t seem to have a lot of need for whipped cream.  Maybe I’ll just serve it as dessert with lunch today.  I should probably check the date though, maybe you’ll see it again on Friday.  Hope not.

So, why the look?  I thought a little personal exposure was only fair.  It started with this interesting picture show You Are What You Eat by Mark Menjivar for GOOD Magazine.  Menjivar decided to document the contents of strangers refrigerators.  With no background except a very brief caption of each photo [Bar Tender | San Antonio, TX | 1-Person Household | Goes to sleep at 8AM and wakes up at 4PM daily. | 2008] we have a look into the lives of 17 random people. I highly recommend checking out the full story.  There are some things you just have to see to believe.

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What does your fridge say about you?  I would love to do a follow-up to this post showcasing some of your insides.  Take a picture of your fridge, you can even provide your own caption if you like.  Send it to me [calimama33 @ gmail . com] and I will shine a light on your story.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

not political, just independently minded

I love a good idea.

Maybe not as much as I love good chocolate, but that’s temporary.  Or so I tell myself.

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For those of you saying “remember the Compact?  We don’t buy new stuff”.  I say, do you eat out?  Do you shop at a local thrift store?  Do you buy handmade products from artists in your community?  Do you get your shoes repaired or your clothes dry cleaned?

When Cinda Baxter first dreamed up the 3/50 Project I imagine she wasn’t considering people who had put Compact style buying restrictions on their lives.  This shouldn’t stop you from participating.  I don’t believe the Compact was begun to say “don’t spend money”.  It’s about being considerate of how much money you spend and what that spending in turn means to the environment.

And if you’re not a Compacter, just think of all the establishments you could be saving.  As Cinda said:

It’s about funneling revenue back into local business. You know-—the folks that pour money back into the community via commercial property taxes, payroll taxes, sales tax, and salaries (not to mention all that good will by way of volunteer time, silent auctions, sponsored softball teams, workshops, book signings, etc.).

Many people who are community minded, or live in a small town, may take an idea like this for granted.  But for those in the big city, and especially those who are used to shopping by convenience, it’s a great reminder that who we choose to patronize has bigger implications than what we walk out the door with.  (Even if it’s just a full belly.)

Even if you don’t shop or eat out often why not do it at independent, local places?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

when drawing on the walls is okay

I’ve been wanting to get back into the design side of compact by design.  As a designer myself I can’t help but search out and be inspired by ideas of what can be done with a little creativity.  And if I can do it for less, so much the better.  I hope to bring you some great ideas of things you can do around your own home that don’t break the bank or the tenets of the Compact.  (I can’t promise I won’t bend the rules sometimes.)

Many of you may have heard about this guy in Kentucky who used his mad skills with a Sharpie to decorate his boring basement walls.

Sharpie basement2

It is certainly creative.  And daunting.  I don’t have that kind of talent.  But if you do, why not go for it?  How cool would it be in a small (boring) bathroom to give your guests some unique reading material?  Create your own comic strip and add to it as inspiration strikes.

For those of you who like something a little more high end.  Or just have less mad skills.  Or both.  How about going big like Kellie did with a few hours of time and a metallic paint pen?

hallway

Inspired by a favorite wallpaper print and the courage to try something different Kellie took a drab space and really made it sing.  I’ve always been one to paint regardless of rental agreements (my designer bones can rarely handle white walls for months on end), so this is something I am definitely adding to my mental file drawer for future use.  What a great fix for the long hallway – the bane of many homes.

Have some great design tricks that are Compact approved?  Send me [calimama @ gmail . com] the info and some pics, I will give you all the credit and share your good work.

Monday, May 25, 2009

monday – menus and more

from-the-kitchen1

The weekend has really snuck up on me.  Or I guess I should say Monday has really snuck up on me.  How can it be here already?  I’m not ready.

But then again, I’m hardly ever ready or on time.  Even though I hate being late.  But that’s for another post.  (I’m kidding, I would never bore you with such inane personal blabbering.  Okay, yes, I probably would.  But I won’t.  I promise.)

Back to Mondays.  Monday means the week is ahead.  The whole week stretches ahead.  Unused.  Unspent.  Waiting to be completed.  Oh, the things I could do with a whole week.

But I guess I’ll stick to what I will actually do with a week instead of daydream about things that won’t ever happen.  Although, I’m a big fan of daydreaming.  And sometimes my dreams do come true.  Hmmm, maybe that means the husband will make more of his wonderful oatmeal, chocolate chip cookies this week.  A girl can dream.

Let’s see what else we’ll be eating…

Sunday:  leftover brown rice salad, (somebody else’s) leftover Thai peanut salad, leftover fruit salad

Monday:  burgers, beans

Tuesday:  hibachi shrimp (ok, the sauce will basically be the same as the recipe, and it will have shrimp)

Wednesday:  london broil, corn on the cob

Thursday:  baked pasta with spinach and tomatoes

Friday:  we’re at a memorial service

Saturday:  in-laws are coming, menu is undecided (ohhh, the pressure)

Sunday:  most likely eating out with extended family

Yes, I know.  My week has two Sundays.  That’s how I get so much accomplished.

Really, I just decided it was strange to post on Monday about a menu that basically happened in the past.  Next week you’ll see the week starting on Monday.  Unless it’s one of those weeks where we just eliminate Monday.  Sometimes they are just better when skipped.

felix

Last week’s grocery bill was over budget and I blamed Costco.  This week is really over budget.  I blame…  Hmmm, I’m stuck on that one.  I could blame the husband for telling me at the last minute that we needed laundry soap (and hand soap and dish soap).  I could blame the non-coffee coffee tasting drink I tried on Tuesday and then found at the store and which happened to be on sale and I happened to have a coupon from Tuesday but didn’t really need.  I could blame myself for spending more than I budgeted.

But there is no blame here.  I live without blame.  How could I have blame when I have a husband who does the laundry? (and makes cookies)

Our budget was $80, we spent…

Sprouts Farmers Market – $33.49 (savings = $1.10)

Vons – $34.28 (savings = $30.25 not bad!)

Trader Joe’s – $14.65

Target – $27.33 (savings = $7.75)

Bakery Outlet – $2.09 (savings = $4.18 3 boxes Thomas English muffins for the price of 1, love it)

A grand total of $111.84.  On an $80 budget that’s really not great, but considering our savings was $43.28 by shopping sales and using coupons I say it’s almost kinda good.  Like my English sometimes.

felix

That coffee-like beverage I mentioned…

Teeccino

It’s considered an herbal coffee – a blend of herbs, grains, fruits and nuts.  No caffeine, no acidity.  Lots of flavor.

Unlike instant coffee substitutes, Teeccino brews just like coffee in all types of coffee brewers. We prefer the term “herbal coffee” or “coffee alternative” to “coffee substitute” since no one calls herbal tea a “tea substitute”, now do they?

I can’t say Teeccino is inexpensive.  Although I haven’t priced coffee beans recently either.  I love coffee but gave up caffeinated years ago and haven’t had a taste for it during this pregnancy.  Now that I’m almost to the stage of sleepless nights and constant feedings it will be nice to at least feel like I have something to help me pull through.

At $8.99 a bag it might be a splurge but if you find it on sale and have a coupon it’s not a bad deal for a great alternative to tea.  We drink a lot of tea.  I like alternatives.  I only wish I had grabbed more of those coupons.

*Teeccino has never heard of me.  (Except the guy giving out the samples, but I’m not even sure he’d remember me.)  They didn’t pay me to tell you how great I think their product is.  I did it out of the goodness of my heart.  I like to share.  You probably know that about me by now.  (But if someone at Teeccino see’s this and wants to send me lots of free product I stand behind what I said.)

Friday, May 22, 2009

chocolate relief

The best chocolate is…free.  (Well not really, but if it’s free I’ll eat it and pretend it’s the best.)

Hurry, there’s still time to get yours.  Well, you won’t actually get it for a while.  But you can register.  And then wait.  And then shop with the free chocolate coupon.

Mars is giving away a 1/2 million coupons for regular size goodies each Friday through September on a first come basis.

mars

Don’t say I never gave you anything.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

friday forum

Another week with nothing to throw away.  I have to admit, I feel like I’m doing something wrong.  I mean really, if Kristen at The Frugal Girl (she’s the reason I tell you this each week) has waste how can I not?

I must not be cooking properly.  Or it’s because I don’t use fresh herbs.  They intimidate me.

I have a 2″ square of tofu that will be up next week if I don’t think of something to do with it fast.  Maybe an egg and tofu scramble this weekend could save me on that one.

I was also saved of some previously claimed waste.  That’s right, I’m reclaiming my waste.

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ignore the moldy bread, it's the freezer burned chicken in the bag

The chicken in this photo is no longer waste.  Thanks to the great recommendations by Jonathan Bloom’s readers over at Wasted Food I will be using it for some soup in the near future.  Check out his post about my near wasted food and you will see what else I won’t be throwing away.  If you have something in the fridge or cupboard that you just don’t know what to do with, tell Jonathan.  He’s sharing our sad stories on his blog to help end the wasted food franchise.

Maybe between Jonathan and Kristen we will have to find something else to talk about on Fridays.

felix

Oh wait, I have something else to talk about.

waste

I was recently directed to check out Zero Waste Alliance.  Their thinking behind waste may be considered inovative by some, nothing new by others, and quite genius by me.

Waste is a resource in disguise.  It represents a failure of our processes and products and a loss of money.  We recommend that the entire concept of waste should be eliminated from our thinking and the word resource be substituted.

If only we could teach everyone to think of the object they hold in their hand when they think they are done with a product as a resource ready to be turned into something else instead of something to be gotten rid of by the quickest means possible.  (I know some of you already think this way [okay maybe not the run-on sentence part, or the parenthesis inside parenthesis part], this is directed at the people who will probably never read this blog unless they come across it while doing a search on Eddie Vedder and Twitter.  Hey, it happens.)

Zero Waste Alliance is doing just that.  In fact,

  • Interface, Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia has eliminated over $165M in waste.
  • Xerox Corp., Rochester, New York has had a Waste-Free Factory environmental performance goal since the early 1990’s. The criteria include reductions in solid and hazardous waste, emissions, energy consumption and increase recycling. This program resulted in a savings of $45M in 1998.
  • Hewlett Packard in Roseville, California reduced its waste by 95% and saved $870,564 in 1998.
  • Epson in Portland, Oregon has reduced its waste to zero and has saved $300,000.

How cool is that?

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Another cool thing that’s really taking off.  Have you noticed all the press The Story of Stuff has been getting recently?  Not only did The Huffington Post and NPR each do pieces this month but it made the front page of the New York Times.  (Actually, the HP and NPR pieces followed the release of the NYT story, but press is press right?)  If you’re not one of the 6 million that have seen this 20 minute look at all the stuff in our lives, you really must check it out.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

more free stuff

free-word

I love sharing great finds.  Here are a couple of free things I find great.  Don’t you love when I share?

I spend a lot of time online.  I don’t spend a lot of time reading magazines.  Hence the pile of magazines I haven’t gotten through since January.  (No, I can’t cancel the subscription.  I really want to get through them I just haven’t had made the time.)  And no, I’m not giving away my magazines for free.  Well, I will give them away for free.  But not until after I’ve read them.

Geez, give me a chance to explain.

I was reading a magazine (in a waiting room, not much else to do when waiting) and came across an interesting article by Christina Tynan-Wood.  She’s a software/gadget/techy geek type who wrote about great free tech gear.  (She called herself a geek first, I have the utmost respect for geeks.)  Here are some from her list that I plan to check out:

openoffice.org – if you’re picking up a used computer and need just the basic word processing, spreadsheet, presentation and drawing programs this could be your thing.  These products are open source software, hence the free to be.  Windows may be a monopoly but that doesn’t mean you can’t pass GO.

youmail.com – this is top of my list to check out.  What if your voice mail recognized who was calling and even sent you an email when you had a message?  Even better, what if the service could welcome a caller by name or hang up on that telemarketer you just can’t shake?  I would even consider paying for this much goodness, but no, it’s free.  I likey.

free.avg.com – back to that used computer that doesn’t need to do much but the basics.  How about a basic, but free, antivirus tool so you can still get online without worrying about horses and worms?

picasa.google.com – this is one I can attest to – awesome.  If you have pictures spread all over your hard drive this beautiful program will search them all out and organize them into an easy to view catalog.  Add to that basic editing features as well as the coolest email functions around.  If you take pictures you should use picasa.  (I don’t know about you Mac people, I’m still in the PC dark ages.)

hulu.com – if you haven’t already heard about this you probably will.  And you probably don’t have cable.  Hulu is a great website operated by the networks themselves to bring TV to your computer.  Movies too.  And good stuff.  Old stuff (WKRP in Cincinnati).  New stuff (Lost, Heroes).  If there’s a movie you’re on the waiting list for at the library or Netflix it might be worth searching the Hulu catalog.  They even advertise on TV.  I haven’t seen the ads since we don’t have a TV, but I hear it’s some of Alec Baldwin’s best work.

quicken.intuit.com – I can’t say much about this one as I happily leave the bills and budget headaches to the husband.  But for those of you who could use a few Tylenol over the monthly accounts it might be worth taking it online.  Quicken will track monthly spending, pending bills and will even help you create a budget so next month you might be able to skip the pills entirely.

Well, I had planned to give you some more free stuff.  But I am out of free time.

We’re off to a symposium on jobs in our greener economy.  Yeah, free food.

If you have favorite free goods, please feel free to share.  Sharing is good.

Monday, May 18, 2009

monday – menus and more

from-the-kitchen1

I recently wrote how much I am enjoying the menu planning.  And then last week I had no menu at all.  This week was a bit of a struggle.  It’s kind of like going to the gym.  (Not that I do that either.)  If you take a day or so off it is so hard to get back into the habit of going.

I’m definitely glad I have a menu for this week, I think it will be much easier to just look at the list and pull the corresponding ingredients from fridge or freezer each day.  But I’m still lacking in the creativity department.  Gotta kick that up a notch next week.

Let’s see what we’ll be eating…

Sunday: hoho (husband on his own)

Monday: vegetable casserole with tofu topping

Tuesday:  no cooking, we’re out at a jobs in the new green environment conference

Wednesday:  burgers, corn on the cob

Thursday:  chicken strips, sauteed carrots

Friday:  waffles

Saturday:  shrimp in creamy tomato sauce

felix

To round out the week we had a major shift in our shopping trips compared to last week, for which I am very grateful.  From 10 stores to 3 was a huge improvement for my frazzled brain.

Our budget was $80, we spent…

Sprouts Farmers Market – $41.88 (savings = $0.15)

Target – $12.03 (coupon savings + $2.00)

Costco – $29.64

I know I said last week that Costco would be a monthly (or less) trip and yet here we went again the following week.  I confess, it was due to my poor cupboard sweep.  In the list making last week, I did not note that we needed apple juice.  As that is a staple in our house (Toddler L gets a shot in his water), it just makes sense to buy it at the best price.

So back I went.  Unfortunately, by going back I opened myself up to a request from the husband.  Beer.  I’m not opposed to having beer in the house.  I’m opposed to being denied the occasional beer if it’s in the house.  (Six weeks and counting!)  But when you have a husband that doesn’t ask for much and makes (from scratch) your favorite cookies, you let him buy beer.  Even when it puts you over budget.  Luckily, (at least when I can drink it) he has good taste in beer.  And again, that usually means the best savings are at Costco.

At a final tally of $83.55, we did pretty well.  Not the “way under budget” I was hoping for this week, but as $12.67 of that was beer (he split a case with a friend – all to help the budget, what a guy), I am not too upset.

felix

I am really excited about some ideas to put the design back in compact by design, so stay tuned to see what that ends up being.

Friday, May 15, 2009

friday forum

It’s week two following The Frugal Girl‘s food waste challenge and I don’t have a picture.

No, not because I don’t have a picture.  Because there’s nothing to take a picture of.  I can happily report I have thrown no food away this week.  Although I’m not really sure this was a week.  I don’t remember cooking, much less eating, so I guess I probably haven’t really gone through that much food this week.

But that’s neither here nor there.  The point of the story is I threw nothing away.  There were hardly an scraps from Toddler L too.  Maybe I forgot to feed him.  Or maybe I should wander around in a daze more often, there seem to be some benefits.

Nah, I think next week I’m going to try to live life to the fullest.  I’m going to put my best foot forward.  I’m even going to do a menu plan.  I hope.

I will say, I still have that freezer burned chicken from last week so if anyone has any great ideas how to use it I’d really appreciate it.  (I already claimed it as food waste, if I throw it away next week you can’t count it against me.  You can’t.)

felix

Strange but true.  An actual Compact derived comment…

We are headed to a kids consignment sale that promises to be massive.  Way bigger than that ten family garage sale your neighbors had last summer.  This is supposed to be the mother-lode.  As we are driving over an hour to get there I really hope it is.  I’ll let you know what we find.

Send thoughts of booster seats and kid-size basketball hoops our way.  Good karma is always appreciated.

Now off to have a great weekend.  I need to kick-start a better next week.