Resolutions Update Q1

Resolutions Update Q1

We are officially a fourth of the way through 2019! So, I thought I’d share how my resolutions are holding up.

I posted about my original goals for the year here.

Health-wise, I want to practice yoga. I have been faithfully practicing prenatal yoga at least once a week – the only exceptions being when we have been on vacation. I have even bumped up my practice from 15 minutes [yeah, I really don’t like yoga] to 45 minutes! It’s almost growing on me! It’s actually a nice break from my typical workouts which are getting harder and harder as I get further along in this pregnancy.

Oh, and floss daily. I have been flossing [nearly] every day using my water flosser, which I love. This is also a nice zero waste option – though unsightly and taking up a lot of space on my bathroom counter.

New skill this year is knitting. In January, I knitted three blankets as gifts for family and friends, but I cheated and did “finger knitting” using Loop-It yarn.

BUT the experience did help me to understand knitting better. Since then I haven’t done ANY knitting because I haven’t made it a priority to go buy some yarn and pick out a pattern. But I intend to make this a focus of Q2 so I can make that baby blanket for my baby girl arriving in TWO MONTHS! Ahhh!

At home, I want to start making my own cleaning products. I still haven’t run out of any cleaning products. We had quite a collection and a huge selection. But I am ready with my vinegar and essential oils for when the time is right.

I hope to reduce our trash [and recycling] even more. We are improving in the trash and recycling area. I now empty the three trash cans in our home once every other week. We didn’t put the cans out on the curb at all for the entire month of March because they were never full. Truthfully, they weren’t full when we finally did put them out last week, but we might as well let the truck stop at our place.

Some weeks we have more trash, some weeks less. But overall, we are definitely continuing to reduce the waste.

Personally, I would like to read two books a month: one fiction and one non-fiction. I have been reading WAY more than two books a month. In Q1, I read a total of twelve books and I’ve already finished two for this month. I have a lot more time to read a) because Brett has been working a lot of late nights lately and b) I barely spend any time on my phone or watching tv anymore. I’ve read some fiction classics that I hadn’t gotten around to yet, plus some religious books, some feminist books [I’m currently working on Emma Watson’s book club list], a biography, a book on posture alignment, and three books on poverty and how to put an end to it. So I’ve been busy…

For my family, I want to spend more time outside. We didn’t do great during the cold months, but now that it’s warmer we’ve been spending lots of time outdoors. In order to make it a priority, I’ve added “outside” time to my daily habits list on my chalkboard planner. On rainy days, it’s my first inclination to keep them indoors, but I have been reminding myself that it’s not harmful and sending them out with raincoats and boots. It’s a muddy mess, but they are still getting time outside.

And for this pregnancy, I want eat well and enjoy it as much as I can, because it will [hopefully] be my last. Well, I’ve definitely been enjoying it – if by “enjoy it” I was referring to lots of ice cream and bacon cheese fries at midnight. Hey, I’m only human…

How are your 2019 goals doing?

Karis

Zero Waste: Shampoo Bars

Zero Waste: Shampoo Bars

Last November, I ordered our first shampoo and conditioner bars.

These Ethique bars come in biodegradable boxes and are cruelty free, sustainably sourced, fair trade, palm-oil free and plant- based.

Are they cost effective?

I was curious to see how long the bars would last because I paid a whopping $33.20 for them. With my husband and I both using them exclusively, the shampoo bar ran out in the beginning of March – so basically four months. The conditioner bar is still going strong five months later.

Note: I also purchased the shower container [pictured above] to store them in because they logically need to be kept out of the water in order to last longer. The container is also biodegradable. 👍🏻

I’m honestly not quite sure whether these bars save money because I’ve never kept track of how many bottles of shampoo I was buying or how long they were lasting or how many washes I was getting out of them.

Then why switch?

Well, let me tell you…

Whether shampoo bars save money is not really the issue. I don’t use them because they save me money. I use them because they save a TON of plastic.

80 billion plastic bottles are thrown out around the world each year from shampoo and conditioners alone.

Plastic bottles take 400 years to breakdown – and will NEVER decompose.

8 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean each year.

So, the answer to “why” is simply that we have a responsibility to this planet that we enjoy so much. And plastic is literally destroying it.

Bars are also less wasteful in general. With bottles, there is no measuring device that keeps you from wasting the product. In fact, I’m pretty confident [now that I’m using bars] that I’ve been using way too much shampoo for years. With a bar, you run it over your hair [or in your hands, as my husband prefers] and then lather and rinse. You’re not pouring an unspecified amount into your hands.

When our shampoo bar ran out, we got a bar from Lush – another great ethical company that produces cruelty-free, sustainable bath products.

Not very exciting to look at, but I actually like this bar a little better, though it is more expensive per ounce than the Ethique bar. It lathers like a dream and works great. Lush also has brick and mortar stores in the US so you don’t have to have them shipped to you. My husband conveniently works in a mall with a Lush location which makes these super sustainable and convenient.

Have you tried shampoo bars? Any recommended brands?

Happy hair washing!

🧼 🧼 🧼

Karis

A week’s worth of groceries for $30

A week’s worth of groceries for $30

A while back, I wrote about how I buy healthy groceries on a budget. So, here is a real-life example.

Thirty dollars. Two stores. One week’s worth of food for my family of five.

[The thirty dollars also covered a bag of red potatoes, two apples, and a banana which are not pictured here.]

Everything pictured was on sale and at or below my price limit of $1/lb for produce and $2/lb for meat.

This doesn’t include the dry goods that we already have on hand – nuts, oats, rice, beans, coffee, sugar, and flour – which we only buy about once a month and don’t need to restock at this time.

No more snacks

The biggest change to my grocery shopping habit, besides buying only what’s on sale, is that I don’t buy traditional snacks. No more pretzels or crackers or applesauce or fruit cups or yogurt cups or string cheese or fruit snacks or boxes of raisins, etc. I used to buy all of those things regularly, but then I realized that I didn’t need to buy any of that in order to give my kids snacks, or even to enjoy a snack myself. Now, when my kids want a snack, they have apple slices with peanut butter, bananas, oranges, grapes, red pepper slices, cucumbers, or nuts. And when I want a snack, I have the same thing.

If I’m feeling really ambitious, I’ll bake banana bread muffins or make my own applesauce in the crock pot or even bake my own granola bars, crackers, or pretzels – but I don’t typically have time for that. So bananas and apples are the perfect snack to have on hand that require no prep work at all – and they are also great on the go.

[Side note: I also don’t buy frozen foods anymore – except the occasional ice cream carton 😬 – because plastic packaging for frozen foods is made differently apparently and, as a result, is not recyclable. I used to buy a large amount of frozen vegetables, but I have transitioned to 100% fresh veggies.]

No more, no less

It might not look like a lot of food, but it is plenty for our family of five for a week. The meat and milk and eggs will actually last longer than a week because we don’t eat meat every night or eggs every morning. I have enough vegetables for sides for all of our meals and enough fruit for breakfast, lunch, and snacks.

The goal is to buy just the right amount so everything gets eaten and nothing gets lost in the back of the fridge and goes bad. [This way I make sure to avoid food waste – which is a big problem in America.]

The meal plan

So now that I’ve got the food, I decide what we are going to eat for the week. Breakfast is always oatmeal or eggs with fruit. Lunch is always PBJ with fruit and veggies for the kids and a salad for me.

Dinners will look something like this:

  • Tuesday [tonight] – Vegan Burrito Bowls
  • Wednesday – Veggie Omelets and Roasted Potatoes
  • Thursday – Chicken, Grilled Romaine and Asparagus
  • Friday – Pork Chops, Brown Rice and Green Beans
  • Saturday – Leftovers
  • Sunday – Mexican Rice and Bean Skillet
  • Monday – Southwest salad

The schedule may change. I don’t like to set my meal plan in stone because my work schedule often changes suddenly and sometimes I have to just throw something together. But at least I have food and ideas.

New grocery deals come out tomorrow, so I will likely make another grocery run in the next week to take advantage of new sales – but for now we’re stocked and I’m feeling good about our healthy [and fresh] food.

👍🏻

Karis

March Clothing Donation

March Clothing Donation

It has been ten months since I committed to one year without buying any clothes and to donating 26 clothing items per month – my self-imposed clothing ban.

Since then, I have not bought any clothing for myself or my kids [though my husband did buy me a sweater a few months ago] and I have donated 297 items of clothing from my wardrobe.

And I still don’t need any new clothes.

In fact, I feel like I still have an excessive amount of clothes – but, after I have this baby, I will be able to give away all of my maternity clothes and, after I get back to my regular size, I will be able to give away all my postpartum stuff as well. That will probably cut my wardrobe in half – again.

Last year, I heard about fast fashion for the first time when I watched the documentary The True Cost, which highlights many of the ways that fast fashion hurts not only our planet but people all over the world.

“It’s no secret that fast fashion has been responsible for a catastrophic level of environmental pollution. The trifecta of overt use of raw materials, water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions are only a part of the story. Not only is this circular buy, wear and toss behavior impacting landfills and becoming a major carbon contributor, but that may not be the worst of it. Fast fashion has played a very dark role in contributing to black-market trafficking of forced labor, as evidenced in the New York Times documentary, Invisible Hands, by journalist Shraysi Tandon.” – Forbes (read the article here)

I honestly had never considered how my “buy, wear, and toss” consumer mentality towards clothes [and all products] was affecting the world around me.

And it IS affecting the world. The only question was, did I care enough to change my spending habits? Hence the clothing ban.

This clothing ban has left me permanently changed. It may be over in May, but I will never be able to go back to my old ways of spending money.

Once again, if you haven’t watched The True Cost, DO IT!

Karis

My Favorite DIY Salad Dressing

My Favorite DIY Salad Dressing

One of my secrets for getting lots of fresh vegetables in my diet is to eat a salad every day for lunch. I make the salad and dressing myself – prepping and packing it to go when necessary.

Salads are a very healthy choice, but salad dressings are usually full of calories, sodium, added sugars, and saturated fat. In fact, ordering a salad at a restaurant is usually not going to be the healthiest option on the menu, despite what you would assume.

So, I’ve been creating my own salad dressings to avoid unhealthy store-bought varieties. For a time, I would premix a vinaigrette of sorts, but I got lazy and wanted something I didn’t actually have to make ahead. Now, I create my salad dressing right in the bowl with the following ingredients:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Italian dressing seasoning mix (homemade according to this recipe by The Midnight Baker)
  • Lemon juice (freshly squeezed, when possible)

You could use the Italian dressing mix to – duh – make Italian dressing, but this stuff is DELICIOUS as just a plain seasoning. I originally found the recipe in order to marinate some chicken. The chicken turned out delicious and the dressing really tasted like Italian; however, I wanted to just mix my dressing in my bowl with a few ingredients I always have on hand.

I essentially make the dressing, but in my bowl – and I use lemon juice instead of vinegar because it’s a more natural option and adds a more summery, citrus flavor. I just cut a lemon in half and squeeze a little juice right into the bowl.

This salad dressing tastes like summer. I’m not kidding.

Then I get creative with my toppings.

Other toppings I frequently add: almonds, capers, olives, peppers, cucumbers, etc

Don’t let your salad get boring!

And don’t let your salad dressing derail your healthy eating habits!

Share your fave DIY dressing below!

🥗 🥗 🥗

Karis

Food Waste: The Problem and What We Can Do About It

Food Waste: The Problem and What We Can Do About It

There was a time [not too long ago] when I wouldn’t have thought twice about throwing away the ends of the bread loaf or the bag of wilted spinach, and I have most definitely been guilty of tossing leftovers that I willfully ignored until they were no longer edible. But now, every time I throw away food – even into the compost bin – it is a reminder of my life of excess which provides me with so much food that I’m letting it go bad and throwing it away, and even more importantly, it is a reprimand for not being a responsible consumer of one of life’s most essential resources. Needless to say, I don’t throw food away without feeling badly about it anymore.

As a family, we began actively trying to reduce our waste [in general] at the start of 2018. To be honest, food waste wasn’t a primary focus until a few months ago when I read statistics about food waste in America being as high as 40% [read it for yourself here].

I am APPALLED at that number – especially when I think of the 49 million Americans who struggle to put food on the table , not to mention the millions around the world who will go to bed hungry tonight. And here I am, throwing out grapes because they are a little squishy…

Part of the solution to this problem is recognizing that I am a contributor to the food waste problem in the world and accepting that it is my responsibility to reduce my waste as much as I am capable.

So, in our home, we’ve been taking extra measures to reduce our food waste. I’m going to share them below, but before I do, here are the statistics that I hope you will find as shocking as I did and will motivate you to join the cause.

Food Waste Statistics

The waste is HUGE.

  • An estimated 40% of food in America is wasted. (Source: NRDC.org, read it here.)
  • On average, 197 pounds of perfectly good food goes to landfills EVERY DAY. (Source: FeedingAmerica.org)

The problem is serious, and seriously EXPENSIVE.

  • Approximately $161 billion worth of food is wasted each year in the US. (Source: USDA, read it here.)
  • Food waste is costly to our environment as well – using 21% of fresh water, 18% of crop land, and taking up 21% of our landfills. (Source: ReFED)
  • We are paying $218 billion annually to produce and ship and dispose of food.

American consumers, businesses, and farms spends $218 billion a year, or 1.3% of GDP, growing, processing, transporting, and disposing food that is never eaten. That’s 52 million tons of food sent to landfill annually, plus another 10 million tons that is discarded or left unharvested on farms. Meanwhile, one in seven Americans is food insecure.” ReFED.com

The biggest problem is in American homes – not grocery stores and restaurants.

  • 43% of wasted food is happening at the consumer level.

The chart above, from FeedingAmerica.org, shows the breakdown of where the food waste is happening.

What you can do about it

1. Buy only what you need. Only buy enough fresh food to last you a week or two, depending on the item’s shelf life. Then EAT IT. Don’t stock up on foods with expiration dates unless you are certain you will eat them.

2. Eat leftovers – including leftovers from restaurants. Store them in clear containers so you know what you have available in your fridge. Set up a “first in, first out” rule, eating oldest leftovers first.

3. Store food properly. Prolong the life of your fresh foods by storing them properly.

4. Freeze or preserve excess. When foods are nearing their expiration, eat or freeze or preserve them. Don’t just let them rot and then toss them in the trash.

5. Take inventory regularly. Make it a habit to frequently take inventory of the contents in your fridge and freezer and pantry – noting expiration dates – so that you know what you have, what needs to be eaten soon, and what you need to purchase.

6. Compost your food scraps. Composting is not as intimidating as it sounds and while it is easier to do if you own land, there are a growing number of urban composting resources to help you compost in your apartment or townhome or penthouse with a view. [Read this article by The Washington Post about how to get started.]

7. Donate to organizations that are rescuing food like Feeding America and ReFED. Look for organizations in your area and donate or volunteer.

8. Spread the word. We all have a sphere of influence and are capable of multiplying our impact by encouraging our social circles to join us in ending food waste.

Food is one of life’s most vital resources. Let’s not waste it.

👍🏻 👍🏻 👍🏻

Karis

Lessons in Motherhood and Giving Used Gifts

Lessons in Motherhood and Giving Used Gifts

My son, Theo, turned three a few days ago. In keeping with our new sustainability and zero waste principles, we made a big deal of our time together [at Chuck E Cheese for the afternoon] and downplayed the gift portion of the celebration. We actually never even mentioned a gift and he never asked for one.

But, of course, we did give him a gift – a set of used Paw Patrol characters and their vehicles [one of which I used to decorate his “Paw Patrol” birthday cake that all the kids helped decorate.]

A few weeks ago we began looking for someone selling a used set of these Paw Patrol trucks because we knew how much Theo would love them. Living in the Chicagoland area meant that they were easy to find. We ended up buying a set of six vehicles and eight characters for $15. At Target, these Paw Patrol vehicle/character sets sells for $15 each.

We’ve already lost a few characters…

But the point here is that it’s actually not about the money at all. Yes, there was a savings, but it’s not like we couldn’t afford to buy it all brand-new.

Why buy used?

The motivation for buying used is to give a second [or third or fourth] life to something bound for the garbage bin. Rather feeding the machine that is constantly making new toys [especially plastic toys] we should be intentionally prolonging the life of the current toy population. I basically rescued these trucks from a landfill. I am essentially a super hero. And they are perfectly fine toys. In fact, my son ADORES them and couldn’t care less whether they were purchased new.

Why not buy used?

So it got me thinking about why I would still never show up at another kid’s birthday party with a gift purchased second-hand. It’s one thing to buy a used gift for my own kid, but a completely different story if I’m going to give a gift to someone else.

There is some unwritten social code that says it’s unacceptable to give gifts that are second-hand.

We even frown [although slightly less so] on “re-gifting” and most people would agree that the appropriate way to re-gift an item is if the recipient doesn’t know it’s re-gifted.

Isn’t that strange? Why should it matter?

Gift giving today is about the represented dollar value, not how much it will be appreciated.

I think that what has happened to our society is that gift giving has become more about the ritual [i.e. gifts are required at certain holidays and events] and the dollar value [i.e. gifts need to be within a certain price range] than it is about the recipient’s enjoyment of the gift.

At my first baby shower, a cousin of mine gave me a gift for the baby – purchased new, obviously. After I opened it, she handed me a pair of baby girl Sperrys that she had found used and thought were so cute she had to get them for my baby, but she gave them to me separately because she wanted to explain that they were second-hand.

I LOVE those pink cheetah-print baby Sperrys! It didn’t matter if they were new or not. Both of my baby girls have worn them – and I’m sure this third baby girl will as well.

I find it perplexing and rather sad that we don’t feel free to give gifts just for the sake of their enjoyment value.

Similarly, when I started dating my husband, he and his siblings had a Christmas tradition of trading names for a gift exchange. They had set a value of $75 and then provided a detailed list of things they wanted. I went shopping with Brett that year and watched him cross items off the list and tally up the total dollar amount for his sister-in-law.

I couldn’t even believe it. Is this what gift-giving has become? I felt, even back then, that this was the total antithesis of what giving a gift should be.

Have you been out shopping for a gift and had some sort of mental idea of how much you needed to spend? Somewhere between being “too cheap” and being “too flashy”? And have you been invited to a party or shower or event and known without any overt statement that a gift is a requirement – or at least you would be viewed as a party crasher if you showed-up empty-handed? Have you tried to make sure that each of your kids gets the same general value of gifts or the same number of packages on Christmas morning?

Can we go back?

Can we go back to giving a gift purely because we want to, rather than because it’s required? Can we go back to giving a gift just because we know someone will love it and not care about how much it cost or where it came from?

I’m hoping that by continuing to exchange used gifts [whenever possible] in my immediate family that I will teach my children that gifts are for the purpose of making people feel loved and appreciated by giving something that they will love – not out of obligation or to follow social customs or to show that we have the means to buy new, expensive things.

Buying used isn’t being cheap, it’s being responsible.

Theo was so excited about those Paw Patrol toys that he didn’t even want to eat cake. Everyone else ate cake while Theo played with the trucks. All the other kids came to the table for cake eventually, but Theo only wanted to play.

These toys were the perfect gift – because they were used and because no one cared that they were used. They represented our commitment to sustainability and our belief that the value of a gift doesn’t come from how much is spent or where it is purchased, but from whether it is given out of love.

Theo’s Birthday Video

As is my new tradition for the kids, here is a short video highlighting Theo’s third year.

Happy Birthday to my sweet, handsome boy!

❤️ ❤️ ❤️

Karis