green grocery-getting

green grocery getting

I’ve blogged about my grocery-getting routine before and not a whole lot will change since heading for zero waste (other than being more diligent and committed!), but I thought it was worth updating on.

I still use my favorite muslin bags and Envirosax (the pattern I have is no longer available). I’ve added to my zero waste kit these big canvas bags with jar sleeves and mesh produce bags. The canvas bags are so sturdy, and they will also be great for picnics since they hold up jars/wine bottles perfectly!

At the store, rather than use provided plastic bags for produce and bulk items, I use the mesh and muslin bags (I previously only had a couple of each so I’ve added to my stash to completely prevent having to use plastic). At home, I decant the items into glass mason jars or Glasslock containers. I use a bit of Washi tape and a Sharpie to label them. A lot of produce can stay loose in the fridge or fruit basket on the counter. No more ugly bags!

I’ve yet to need bakery, dairy and deli items since beginning zero waste (I am trying to use up things in the pantry and freezer before shopping), but those items will definitely be more challenging. I already have a good practice for some things, or a plan in place to at least minimize the waste:

  • Milk – We already have this delivered weekly in returnable/refillable bottles.
  • Almond milk/creamer – I make my own.
  • Yogurt – I now make my own with milk.
  • Eggs – We have chickens, so we just collect the eggs in recycled cartons again and again.
  • Cheese/meats – Hoping I can ask deli counter/butcher block to fill my glass jars with no funny looks or refusal!
  • Bakery – I’ll ask to have my bread order put into a bag/pillowcase I will bring with me (or just make my own bread). Again, a bit nervous about asking!
  • Toiletry items – Look for a bulk source (possibly will have to make a biyearly drive to the nearest to stock up?) and make my own as much as I can. This will be a fun challenge to me because I’m odd like that.
  • Anything I can’t find in bulk – buy in glass or paper packaging. No more plastic!

I’ll do another post with actual photos of my haul next time I do a grocery trip, but so far I have been working on using up what we already had accumulated so I haven’t done a grocery trip since December 28 (and even then for only for 4 items!).

I’m not even close to perfect, but with a bit of pre-planning I’ve already prevented a LOT of plastic waste from heading to the landfill. It adds up so quickly. I’m still beginning and if I can find items I need loose, or in glass/paper packaging I feel like I’m doing pretty well. However, the bar gets higher for myself each day, which is a great thing!

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green your lunch (@ the office)

Do you take a lunch to work? I read something that said the majority of workers go out to eat for lunch every day, costing an average of $2,000 per year. That’s insane! While I do occasionally go out to eat, most days I bring lunch from home. Leftovers, a quick bento, or a sandwich usually do the trick, plus a few snacks.

Using the bento system has seriously greened up my routine, as it’s a no-waste system that doesn’t require plastic utensils or little Ziplock baggies of anything getting tossed out after your meal. But I’m not perfect and still end up using too much packaging in my daily routine when I’m not planning ahead well. So I decided to do a little post on how to green up your meals at the office to inspire myself and maybe you, to do a little better (kinda like my “green your grocery shopping” post I did way back). It all adds up!

green your meals at the office

Some ideas:

  • Use a Bento box (I use the one shown, which you can get on Amazon), or if it’s an all-in-one meal, a mason jar is awesome! I especially like the short, squatty ones for this.
  • A small tote makes a good lunch box if you have a fridge at the office (no need to have an insulated cooler).
  • BYO silverware. I have a bamboo set and I love them! I use them all the time, but if they are in the dishwasher I toss in regular old silverware with my lunch. I hate plastic utensils!
  • Invest in a couple cute, dishwasher safe travel cups, water bottles, and mugs. And use them.
  • DIY your snacks. I’ve been making our own “Lara Bars” and they are SO easy if you have a food processor. Just chop up some dates, dried coconut, and cocoa powder, then heat up some brown rice syrup and almond butter – mix together and press into a pan. After a couple hours in the fridge, cut into squares to take with you on-the-go! I will have to do a proper post on this because I’ve made lots of fun variations and they are better than the store bought kind, and wayy cheaper.
  • Take whole fruit, and keep a paring knife at the office to cut up the fruit at your desk. No need for brown apples in a throwaway baggie!
  • Make your coffee at home. Extra points for fair trade bulk beans and a reusable coffee filter. 🙂

Any ideas I missed? Any on-the-go conveniences you can’t seem to give up? For me it’s definitely coffee; I only hit up a coffee shop occasionally, but I NEVER remember to bring a travel mug on those days. Must be better! I feel so guilty every time I get a disposable cup (even though I do try to recycle it!).

make your own salad bar!

I love a salad bar as much as the next self-respecting veggie, but a) going out to lunch is expensive, and b) salad bars seem so germy! Shudder. What I love about them, though, is having all those OPTIONS. It is so much more fun to compile a salad with dabs of everything, isn’t it?

So, I decided to create my own, so I could pack a yummy salad every day for lunch at the office, and I might just do this every week! First, I chopped up lots of veggies, salad size, and put them in containers. I dumped a few canned goods like marinated peppers and artichoke hearts into their own containers, too. I whipped up a yummy marinated bean salad. I even threw some sunflower seeds in a small container. Then I put all those small tupperwares into one large plastic tote with a snap lid. Here’s my “salad bar:”

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It fits nicely on the bottom shelf of my fridge so I can just grab the whole thing in the AM, and assemble a salad superquick. I even made some fast side salads with dinner during the week with it. Mix-and-match!

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Notice just above, I pre-washed varieties of greens and mixed them together in a plastic container (the kind you buy bulk spinach in – just wash between uses). With a few paper towels in there the greens stayed fresh all week.

Do you love seeing what’s in people’s fridges? Welp here’s mine just for fun.

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I use a bento box or a large, flat glasslock container (depending on what’s clean) to pack my salad. Then all the juicy stuff stays separate until ready to mix together and eat! I use silicone cupcake cups, small jars, etc in addition to the little plastic bento containers. It’s like food Tetris! IMG_1463Have fun playing with your food!

green grocery shopping + a buy local challenge

The other day I was unloading groceries on the kitchen counter. It’s a bit of an ordeal because I have to take all my mason jars from the pantry to decant my bags of dry goods into them, and take the produce out of their little reusable baggies so I can roll them up with my Envirosax bags.

But, by ordeal I don’t mean that I hate it. I actually realized just then, I’ve come to absolutely love my food-getting routine because I have it pared down to an Eco-friendly science at this point, and I save a lot of money. It’s one of only a few things I have a sense of control over in my life. However, what it isn’t, anymore, is convenient. At least, not when compared to the way grocery stores want you, and lead you, to shop. And that, too, gives me a sense of rebellion I have grown to be addicted to (starting with one itty bitty thing will make you want to examine everything else you do in life, and improve them all.)

So, because it’s awesome to be a tree-hugger, and because I’m getting pretty good at it, I thought I would share some of my greener ways (I promise it’s more worth it than painful). I am starting with my grocery routine. Here are some ideas:

Green your grocery shopping

  1. Ditch all disposable bags. This is the obvious one and most people are using reusable bags these days. I have been using the same set of Envirosax I got on Amazon for several years because they hold a lot, are really cute, roll up small, and are washable. A set of 5 is around $35 and I use them for everything! But you can take it further and reduce the use of the thin, disposable bags for produce and bulk items, by bringing your own reusable bags and containers. I use small muslin bags for bulk items like beans and grains, and thin mesh bags for produce. Extra hippie points if you make your own from old fabric items, but I purchased mine at an Eco shop (locally made by someone way cooler than me).
  2. Reduce other packaging. Bulk bins are the way to go, even if you don’t bring your own containers. The packaging is still less, and it’s far less expensive. I think dry beans are about 1/5 the cost of a can of beans (serving for serving). Most grocery stores will allow you to use your own containers for things like spices, as well. You weigh the container first, then when you are checking out your items you have them subtract the container weight. Easy! And while you will spend something like $4 for a small bottle of most spices in the spice aisle, you will pay cents for bulk equivalents. You will feel like you totally robbed them the first time. I use these containers for spices, and you can see my post here about it (three years later, a different kitchen, and I still love my system).
  3. Figure out a good food storage system. Of course, if you buy in bulk and use your own bags, the stuff you buy won’t come in its own package. Investing in food storage containers is crucial to saving money in the long run. I use canning jars for my dry goods and it’s perfect. You can keep using them forever.
  4. Buy local. In the summer I go to the Farmer’s Market to get lots of things, and there is no down side to it. It’s cheaper, it’s healthier, it supports your local community and farms, and nothing has to be shipped from across the country. Plus it’s wayyy more fun than going to a grocery store. Also, I’ve recently starting participating in a local co-op for produce and bread. Every Saturday I pick up my box, and it’s a real bargain. If you have one in the area, give it a shot!
  5. Have things delivered. We also have our milk, eggs, cheese, and Greek yogurt delivered from a local dairy only 1 mile away. Everything is hormone-free and local. The eggs are cage-free and organic. Between the dairy delivery, and produce/bread pickups, I don’t go to the store very often anymore. It saves money (less impulse buying) and time.. which totally makes up for the excess time I spend container-wrangling.
  6. Eat mostly veggies. Factory farming is bad for the planet. You can’t reuse or recycle much of the gross packaging from meat, either. Eating more plants and less meat will save money and resources.
  7. Buy versatile products. When a recipe I want to make calls for an ingredient I don’t have, I Google substitutes for it before buying it. It’s likely I already have something that will work. Pantry staples are pretty versatile. Also, some products are just worth every penny because you can use them in place of so many expensive alternatives. I’d never used coconut oil until about a year ago (Skinny Bitch in the Kitch recommends it for many recipes). I’ve since discovered it’s great for greasing muffin tins/bread pans when baking, as a facial moisturizer, as a leave-in hair conditioner, as lotion (in a pinch), as a mouth wash (really!), to remove labels from things (like its own jar when you want to reuse it for something else!), as a sun screen.. the list goes on. No jars of random, unused (or once-used) products.
  8. Compost the scraps. All the veggies peels, apple cores, celery ends, etc, can be composted if you have a garden (even a flower garden). This goes above-and-beyond the grocery store trip, but is worth mentioning!

There are probably lots of things I didn’t think of – so let me know if you have other good tips!

Finally.. a challenge! It’s been a long time since I’ve done one, so I thought April 1 I would begin one for the fun of it. Starting April 1 (for one month) I will be doing a buy-local challenge. That means only buying from locally owned/operated establishments, and eating in local restaurants that feature, where possible, locally-made products. That was a mouthful, but I am stoked. Who’s in?

rockstar juice

I got a juicer a couple weeks back, and there are few things that make me feel more saintly about my healthy habits than drinking a big ol’ glass of fresh fruit and veggies. I love it! If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of juicing, I recommend checking out this post, or do some of your own Googling and reading up. There’s a LOT of information out there on it.

Here’s my gal. Isn’t she pretty, all full of juice pulp?

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My favorite juices so far are this beauty, called “Sunshine in a Glass” which consists of 1 grapefruit, one apple, 3 carrots, and a chunk of ginger {yum!}. This one is great for digestion, and the grapefruit helps liver function and will make your skin glow!

IMG_1333And this beauty, made of 1 beet, 2 apples, & a bit of Maca powder for an energy boost. Isn’t that color amazing? This blend is great for detoxifying the blood.

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I’ve also made a few legitimate green juices.. That is – leafy greens and mild green veggies like celery and cucumber mixed with my fruits. They are REALLY good {and perfect for getting rid of greens that are getting too limp for salads}.

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More recipes will be coming soon as I practice and experiment. I bought a 25lb bag o’ carrots this week, so that’s gonna influence the menu for the next couple weeks!! Do you juice? What are your favorite combos?

diy granola

I made (a slightly adapted version of) Alicia Silverstone’s Kind Diet granola, and it’s so delicious I wanted to share.
Ingredients:
  • 6 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (or maple sugar)
  • 3/4 cup wheat germ
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seed
  • 1 cup chopped almonds
  • 1/4 cup dried fruit (I used chopped dates)
  • 1/2 cup safflower oil
  • 1/3 cup brown rice syrup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spread the oats on a rimmed baking pan, and bake for 10 minutes. Transfer the oats to a large mixing bowl, and add the sugar, wheat germ, coconut, seeds, and nuts or raisins. Stir to mix well, then add the oil, syrup,and vanilla extract. Mix until everything is moistened.
  3. Spread half of the mixture on each of 2 rimmed baking sheets (or bake in 2 batches), and bake for 10 minutes. Stir after 5 minutes to brown evenly.
  4. Let the baked granola cool on the pans, then transfer it to a bowl and stir until crumbly. Store in an airtight container.
  5. Enjoy the crunchy goodness in a bowl with your fav milk {I like almond} or right off the pan.

instagram weekend & october detox check-in

What a great long weekend!! I was fortunate enough to have Columbus Day off {whoop}! I’m only 8 days in one the month of vegan eating// October detox, but it’s been a blast. It has rejuvenated my cooking rut and I’ve gone out for a couple awesome vegan meals. I can’t wait to try some weird ethnic and gourmet cuisine in NYC next weekend. So far I’ve made: apple sauce, butternut apple soup, apple crisp (can you tell we were hooked up with a serious apple surplus?!), smokey black bean tacos, pumpkin spice lattes, spicy hummus, pumpkin cookies, pasta with Field Roast sausage marinara sauce, red beans and rice, beet burgers, lentil and quinoa salad…. phew!

My life’s not ALL food obsessed and it was a great weekend. I felt like re-capping the 3 glorious days via Instagram.

Friday night, hubby and I went to SLC for dinner at Sage’s Cafe, which is an awesome vegan joint. I had the seitan tacos and hubby had the mushroom stroganoff. 😉 This Marilyn mini tag-art was on a wall near the cafe.

Then we hit the much-anticipated (by ME) Garbage show, which was postponed from last April! It was phenomenal. Much like seeing Fiona Apple, this was almost surreal! This band made up the soundtrack to my early teen years when I was just starting to care abut music. When you’re a weird kid, music can be your best friend. And.. I was pretty damn weird. Somehow seeing this band live made me realize I was just cool before my time. 😉

Saturday morning I made a run down to Whole Foods for some vegan cooking staples, and also hit the new Lululemon store. I loved this store window there. “Do 1 Thing A Day that Scares You.” I think that’s pretty damned good advice {and a good 30 day challenge… hmm.. just sayin’!}. (PS: Love my new Lulumon Studio Pants.)

The Whole Foods haul! Lots of goodies for my month of vegan cooking. OH!.. I was also on a fact-finding mission, as I’m writing a paper on Whole Foods services strategy. I know how to party.

In between studying and paper-writing I made that yummy sugar scrub on Sunday. It’s lovely!

Those vegan pumpkin spice lattes! I made a huge batch of the pumpkin mix from this recipe, to make a latte every day for the rest of the week. They are soooo good.

Monday I spent more of the day studying for my Tuesday night Corporate Finance final. But I did manage to sneak out for a few more cooking supplies at the Asian market… and snapped a picture of their awesome front door. 😉 I’m weird like that.

AND got a much needed haircut at the Cherry Bomb Salon in Ogden. Wanted to sneak that in before our trip next weekend. I’ll definitely be going back!

Monday night’s dinner is Tamarind Tempeh and Sweet Potatoes (from the Appetite for Reduction cookbook) and this purple cauliflower I picked up at Whole Foods. So pretty! So delicious! If I had to pick a favorite veggie it just *might* be cauliflower, but purple cauliflower??! WHA WHAAA!!

I hope everyone else had a fabulous weekend and has a great week!! Do tell.