The hunt for no packaging

I am reading Zero Waste Home, and find it quite overwhelming. I’m not sure I’ll ever get to the level of waste reduction that this family did, but it’s inspiring me to make changes nonetheless. Today I was on the hunt for bulk foods that I could buy with my own containers. I came up with nothing locally, except a lady with a stand at the farmer’s market who sells nuts and some other bulk stuff. She is interested in doing this kind of thing in our city, and I hope she does! I’m looking for spices and other baking ingredients, as well as cereals and granola.

I found homemade butter at the same market, wrapped in paper,  which is at least much better than plastic tubs. Our Cowshare farm is not currently selling butter, and making it myself doesn’t really sound like my cup of tea.

Another person I found at the market was a lady who makes her own soaps and lotions. I don’t need soap or lotion, but she is going to make shampoo and conditioner for me, and reuse my same containers! I can pick them up at her store or at the market.

And finally, a lovely older gentleman with a bakery became completely befuddled when I asked if I could pick up bread from his bakery without any packaging… He kept saying things like, “just throw the packaging away when you get home” and I’d be like, no, I’m trying not to use any packaging and not have to throw anything away! I’m pretty sure he was still confused when I left. Maybe I’ll have better luck with the Amish.

This is a daily market in a parking lot down the street from M’s school, a great place to refill shampoo, butter, and maybe more.

the girl who thought making easy mac = cooking

I’ve always eaten my fair share of crap… well, not always. I was my high school’s first ever vegetarian (because of my stance against factory farming and animal cruelty). I also jumped on this other bandwagon that included eating breakfast for dinner and dinner for breakfast, for a time. In college I became a full-fledged American consumerist, eating Taco Bell and Wendy’s daily, and buying ramen noodles and pizza rolls by the grocery cart-full. I considered easy-mac “cooking” because it involved adding the powdered cheese and stirring. I have never enjoyed real cooking, by the way, except on the rare occasion that I was making food for a group of people, then I found it ok. When I was in a serious relationship (for the short time that I was), cooking dinner for “the family” and eating it together was actually one of my favorite things to do and favorite times of the day. It made me happy. (Would someone like to come over and eat dinner with me??? Warning: it will probably take you a couple of hours to reach this middle-of-nowhere godforsaken place.)

I still find that I have an inner resistance to cooking, for myself definitely, but cooking for a toddler is equally unsatisfying, because she will probably not eat most of it, or any of it, and ask me instead for “cheese???” or “cereal???”. I also don’t feel like I’m a great cook… at least not at what I want to make. The few times I tried my hand at Indian/Nepali food (which I love and want to make every day) it just tasted off. But honestly… doesn’t even a PB&J taste better when someone makes it for you?

This week, what with our recent grocery purchases being raw fruits and vegetables, I was forced to do something I consider “cooking”, that thing being transforming a stalk of brussel sprouts into something fit for consumption. I had no idea brussel sprouts grew on stalks (rather than in grocery stores, for instance). They are big on the bottom but quite small towards the top, so I really was unsure of how far up I could eat them. Or how to get them off the stalk. Or how long to cook them. Or how to cook them. Boiling seemed difficult (google says if you cook too long they are no good), steaming seemed complicated (I didn’t even understand the pieces of cooking equipment this called for), so I settled for the frying pan.

Helping with food prep! She actually fished out the sprouts I forgot to cut and counted the pieces. At least she won’t grow up thinking brussel sprouts grow in grocery freezers, like I did.

Lo and behold, I made a decent pan of brussel sprouts. They were really good! My mom even ate some. M even finished off a bowl and then said, “More? More candy?” *snort* If she thinks that’s candy, I’m going to be getting brussel sprouts more often!

Delicious, sauteed in butter (or oil, for our second batch) brussel sprouts!
Delicious, sauteed in butter (or oil, for our second batch) brussel sprouts!

In spite of the brussel sprout success, I still find myself shying away from “cooking”, but I’m determined to be able to make a small but satisfying variety of dishes that don’t come in packaging. It’s going to be an adventure, that’s for sure!

Save Waste and Money October

This month I’m trying to start a trend in my buying and spending habits: waste as little as possible, buy as little as possible. Recycling is fine, but I also want to eliminate the amount of waste we create, period, as well as trying to decrease the amount of packaging and wrapping we go through. My hope is that we can live more simply, not accumulate more stuff while getting rid of stuff we don’t use, and save money to use for experiences, rather than junk that piles up.

Part of this is keeping myself out of major chain grocery/super stores. I always end up buying stuff that wasn’t on my list in there, not to mention that it is all contained in lots of packaging and never local. So we’re doing our produce, milk, dairy, and baked goods from the co-op and Amish community, and of course there is no packaging, or we re-use containers, plus I use my own bags.

Another part of it is not buying a ton of shit off of It’s so addicting. It’ll occur to me that I want something, and BAM, I buy it. Especially when it comes to M… she doesn’t play with most of her toys, she gets all the clothes she needs from hand-me-downs. Really, what do we actually need? Not that much. We actually have everything we need, and buying more of everything is not going to make us happier. Moving towards being centered, conscious, and thoughtful in our actions will make us happier. Living a life that aligns with our conscience will make us happier. Having new and meaningful experiences that we can share with each other, the people we love, will make us happier. Learning about the world around us will make us happier. All this stuff, books and toys and gadgets and whatnot, will only make us poorer and less able to do what we want to do, not to mention contributing to a society of waste and corporations and mass production/transit.

I’m looking forward to the Reduce Your Waste series on A Thoughtful Life, and I’m also inspired by The Year Without A Purchase, whose book I would like to read eventually. One more inspiration to me is Brooke at ByTheBrooke, who is trying to buy nothing new this year, only used!

the hippies and the Amish

Well, we are truly on our way to being real, live hippies now. Our first co-op order was a little messed up because I was out of town the whole weekend and didn’t get home in time to submit it. I did add our name to some cases of food that needed filling, so we ended up with bananas and avocados. At the farm where we pick up our orders, I found the dreadlocked, baby-wearing, homeschooling, natural-eating, essential-oil using group of people I never knew existed in my area. There they are, in all their bare-footed glory! There they are with all their goats, chickens, and other farm animals roaming about. And don’t forget the bare-footed children (mind you, it was 50 degrees out). M has found her tribe, I think, except she was trying to beat back a chicken with a stick and take a (free-roaming) dog for a walk on a leash that he had no interest in.

Our true city-girl hearts are going to come through at some point.

So I’ll order more actual fruits and vegetables next week, but with the cowshare we have plenty of milk. We also don’t go through eggs very quickly so we won’t be needing any for some time. I have a freezer full of chicken so we don’t need meat right now either. Basically, I’m going to use up what I have before replacing it with local, raw alternatives. We DID need bread and cheese, however, so today it was off to nearby Amish country. They had an impressive selection of baked goods at their bakery, plus a lot of bulk grains, and produce from their gardens. M loves the homemade bread (who doesn’t?!) and I love that they let you grab a cup of coffee from their thermos in the store! Why haven’t I been shopping here before???

Amish country is a whole ‘nother world, and I love visiting. It’s like being an explorer and a tourist right in my backyard.

Clothing drying in the chilly October breeze
Clothing drying in the chilly October breeze
The silhouettes of Amish buggies in the morning sunshine
The silhouettes of Amish buggies in the morning sunshine
Amish baked goods
Amish baked goods, with a window into the kitchen where they were still baking
Friday is pie day... 75 cents a piece! Pie for everyone!
Friday is pie day… 75 cents a piece! Pie for everyone! As you can see, they were going quickly.
This is our view
This is our view

can I be this crunchy?

I used to be pretty granola. As a teen, my passion was vegetarianism. I was appalled by the meat and dairy industries and super enthusiastic about living a lifestyle that supported it as little as possible. Now that I have a very aware little human being that I’m trying to raise to be conscious and healthy when it comes to decisions about her body and this planet, I’m thinking of changing our grocery shopping ways even more drastically than just switching to organic foods and foods low in preservatives and dyes.

Sometimes living out in the country seems like a curse, especially in winter when we are stuck inside and isolated. There are great benefits, however, and one of those is the fact that we live so close to many organic and all-natural farms and orchards. Across the street from us is a long-horn cattle ranch (plus two horses and a donkey), although they are beef cattle and I don’t eat red meat, at least not at home. A few minutes away is a lovely apple orchard and cider mill where we can buy jams and sauces with no additives, preservatives, or dyes. Now I’ve discovered three large working farms that raise beef, pork, poultry, eggs, dairy products, and vegetables completely organically and humanely. You can even join a goatherd share!

This is all coming about because I was disturbed by reports of early onset puberty as a result of milk consumption and looking for a milk alternative. Even almond milk did not seem that great, as it contained a lot of preservatives and thickeners that weren’t healthy. In the end, I wanted to look for raw milk options, as well as for chicken and turkey products that are more compatible with my values.

It all comes down to this… I want my daughter to stand up for what she believes in, and to be part of a movement that supports the health of our selves, other living beings, and the planet. If I don’t model this for her, it’s not very likely that she will grow up to do it, either. And also… she loves farming! She is way into farm animals, milking, chickens coming from eggs, etc. In fact, she won’t eat scrambled eggs now because she insists that it’s a baby chicken! *spoiler alert- future vegan*

So, with all of this access to organic farms, why haven’t I made the leap? It all comes down to the sad fact that I don’t enjoy cooking. I really just… dread the process. Even if I include M and she enjoys it, it kinda feels like a chore. Well, you can’t love everything, right? Who knows, maybe I can find simple recipes that aren’t so bad to pull off…

What do you guys think?