It's Easy Being a Green Mama


I’m dreaming of a Green Christmas
December 2, 2017, 5:40 pm
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The week of Thanksgiving, I was definitely living the green lifestyle.  I did not shop.  AT ALL.  It wasn’t an exercise of self-restraint; I was without any funds.

I was the ultimate green mama that week.  I didn’t buy anything on Black Friday, small business Saturday, or Cyber Monday.  I did find that without any way to buy anything, I wasn’t interested in looking at the ads.  

Why was I without money?  I lost my credit card.  That was annoying, but I had my debit card.  I could be careful, I thought.  But then my debit card number was stolen, so it had to be cancelled.  For more than a week, I had a few dollars in cash to spend.  So I stuck close to home, walked everywhere (and rode my bike a bit) so I didn’t have to get gas.  I ate food we had in the house.

And I didn’t start my holiday shopping.  Instead, it gave me time to think about what was really important.  I have a lot of blessings.  A happy home, a loving family, lots of friends and community.  Would my life really be improved with that upgraded ring I was due for?  Or a car that was more reliable than the one I’m driving?  Do my children really need more toys?

Well, they think they do.  While I’ve been trying to be a great role model for them, taking them to pack Thanksgiving meals for families in transition, getting a present for an angel tree, and packing boxes for Operation Christmas Child, they’ve been writing a big wish list.  I know that it’s perfectly normal, and it does bring them joy to open presents.  I also know that my youngest child, who is 1.5 years old, loves empty boxes and old soccer balls.  I could put a soccer ball that he already has in an empty box and he’d be thrilled.  My almost 4 year old daughter wants a fancy balloon and a flashlight.  It’s really just the oldest, who is six and easily influenced, who is really craving presents.

What I’d really for our family is to make memories.  I’d like to spend lots of time with them, making cookies and crafts and having adventures.  I think, in the end, that’s what they would like, too.  I’d like to get our family a membership to the local science center.  They won’t outgrow that too fast, and there isn’t any waste involved.  I know, I will have to get them something to open.

For practical gifts, this reusable sandwich wrap is on my list.

https://www.uncommongoods.com/product/beeswax-reusable-sandwich-wrap?country=US&aw_cid=419001177&aw_aid=23041672977&aw_dev=c&aw_loc=9011832&aw_key=&aw_mtype=&aw_net=g&aw_ad=90124539657&aw_pos=1o4&aw_shopid=42947&aw_prod_partid=194850164217&gclid=Cj0KCQiAjO_QBRC4ARIsAD2FsXOicywjXoGqpksR-Jg_uRQy8puyBIBhQzId9NKMnJRnP4Rt1t2ZrwwaAtRFEALw_wcB

My challenge is going to be to come up with an eco-friendly, budget friendly, GREEN CHRISTMAS list.

 

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It’s easy for Jack Johnson to be green

Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans,” John Lennon sang.   Mamas like me feel like this all the time.

The challenge I gave myself in my last post was to use half a tank, max for one week.  I was doing good with it until my husband’s car broke down.  So, I drove him to and from work for over a week, me and all three kids.  When I didn’t need the car, he took it where he needed to go.  In a way, I guess he saved gas, because his car didn’t go anywhere for that time.   When he finally got his car back, it was such a relief.

GREEN DRIVING?

This car crisis really made me think about our family’s dependence on the car to get around.  Bhu Srinivasan in an interview on the 1A, pointed out that in most of the world, the average person doesn’t own a car.  There are some pockets in the United States, like New York City, where car ownership isn’t a necessity, but around here, it would be hard. We’re spread out, and mass transportation isn’t a big part of the infrastructure.

Besides spending money on car maintenance, insurance and fuel, I would love to no longer drive a car.  There are several solutions to reduce driving: bus or train, walk or ride bikes; and car pooling.  Except for a train, I definitely need to explore these things.  I kind of have been car pooling to school a few times.

 

ROAD TRIP

I did have a mini-road trip: I drove two hours to see Jack Johnson in concert.  For me, this was a really big deal because I haven’t been to a real concert in years. Despite coming home just a few hours before I had to get up and the rain pouring down for a good part of the concert, I had the best time!  Besides the music, there was a tent where Jack’s organization, All at Once, was promoting its campaign.  There was a game you could play, which educated concert goers about getting rid of single use plastics.

CHALLENGE

I’m definitely going to be driving less, but I decided to work on Jack’s tips for a less plastic life.  I decided to go with Number 9: Clean up your soap situation.   To be specific, this week I’m going to clean up my house cleaning.  So tune in next week to see how I do.  Will I save money?  Will I be more environmentally friendly?  Will I be able to keep my challenge?



It’s not easy being green-during a hurricane
September 18, 2017, 12:25 am
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So, the past two weeks, since I wrote my last blog post, have been nuts.  We had a hurricane.  We survived, I’ve come out the other side intact, my house mostly the same (with a little more water and a few more holes than before), and most importantly, my friends and family safe.

Image result for hurricane irma satellite beach

I made my pledge to not buy groceries with the hurricane on the radar.  At the time, we didn’t have a good idea which way it was headed, and I was optimistic that it was not coming towards our home.  I fully intended not to get any food even if we did get a hurricane.  Living in hurricane alley, I’ve been through my share of natural disasters.  The first few days of that week pledge, it was helpful to not be buying any groceries anyway, because I wanted, if the storm was coming, to use up all of my perishable food so that it wouldn’t get wasted when the storm came.

As Irma got closer, I broke down.  I caved.  It started with bottled water.  You know how I feel about bottled water.  I got some partly to send to Texas for Harvey relief, and also a case for our family.  A few days later, it looked like we were in the cone of uncertainty.  We’d started boarding up our house, and talking about if we would leave.  I started looking at our pantry, figuring out what we could eat if we lost power.  In 2004, when the eyes of two hurricanes passed through our county two weeks apart, we were without power for about a month.  I ended up at the grocery store like everyone else, stocking up on canned goods; shelf stable milk, the most processed bread you can imagine, nut butter, squeezable jelly, and all kinds of granola bars.  I did not comparison shop or clip coupons.  I also stocked up on disposable diapers.  And I forgot my reusable grocery bags.

We ended up driving north to a relative’s house, and staying there for the duration of the hurricane, and returned home in awful traffic not long after the worst had passed.  We were very blessed when we got home, we had power and running water.  There hasn’t even been a boil water notice.  However, we are conserving water until our city water is back up to normal, so our youngest is still not back in cloth diapers.  And we’ve been drinking lots of bottled water.

I feel awful about my lack of green-ness.  There are certain things I did do, like not eat meat, but I did eat a lot of processed food.  A LOT.  And I have no excuse about forgetting my reusable bags.  If I had prepared earlier, thought ahead, I know I could have had gotten or made healthier choices for the food I packed.

Every year in our state of Florida, we have hurricane days just before hurricane season begins when they drop sales tax on items that you might need during a hurricane, like generators.  I decided that next year, in an effort to be more green, I will stock up on GREEN hurricane supplies.  For example, I can get or make less processed food that will still keep.  Some of the food items that I bought that was as upset about were lara bars, dried mango,  and Rx bars.  I could have made all of these items.   Next hurricane season, I’m definitely just going to spend a weekend making a bunch of these kinds of things, and then if we don’t get a hurricane, I’ll have lots of snacks.

The night before we evacuated, we had a hurricane feast, where I prepared just about everything left in our refrigerator and freezer, and the family tried to eat as much as we could.  Even so, we still ended up throwing away a bunch of things the first trash day we’ve had.  I hate wasting food.  I went to the grocery store and got all kinds of fruit and vegetables, and it was so exciting to cook a meal and have fresh food.

One thing that is still going on here is a lack of gasoline.  It’s getting better, but can be a bit tricky to find.  Today was my first day going more than a mile from our house in any direction.  I have had a full tank for several days, but between traffic lights being out and me not wanting to have to find gas if I use up a full tank, I have been staying close by.  So my challenge for this week is not to use more than half a tank of gas.  School starts again on Monday, so I’ll be doing school pick-up and drop-off, but I plan to stay local.  Walk and ride bikes whenever possible.  I certainly spent enough time in the car the last week.



How the Green Mama survived no restaurant food
September 4, 2017, 12:58 am
Filed under: Not eating out, Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

I didn’t want to write about completing my challenge, not eating out for a week, until I was done, so I could make sure I really did it.  It was a bit hard, but not terrible.  The hardest part, for me, was lunch time.  I was really tempted to just grab a quick lunch because it was easier with the kids than making them wait.  But I did it.  I did pack the equivalent of four lunches every day, whether I planned to be out during lunch time or not, just in case.

Besides packing more food to take with me, I did plan my meals a bit differently.  Usually I try to plan for four or five dinners when menu planning, thinking I can grab something if I need to or have leftovers.  This time, I felt like I needed to really make sure I had a lot of things to make.  I cooked a big pot of beans, and used them multiple times.

There was one night that we planned to feed the kids pizza from the school, as part of a fundraiser and community event, and they had run out.   For the adults, we had already decided we would eat dinner at home.   The kids were very disappointed, but we had lots of leftover taco ingredients, so what to feed them was no big deal.  For the kids, especially my oldest, it was the thrill of eating something I hadn’t made her that mattered.  I think she had her heart set on that.

I did find myself visiting the grocery store more than usual.  I stocked up on Monday, going to Aldi and making sure I had a lot of things.  And while I do love Aldi, my husband had requested a few items that I couldn’t find there, and I had to go to Publix.  And then since I wasn’t going out to eat, I went back to my favorite local market for a few things.  I did resist getting one of their sandwiches, which I usually love.

Overall, it didn’t feel as much of a sacrifice as I thought.  Lunch was tricky a few times, but by the end of the week I had gotten used to it.  I made a big batch of bean burgers on Monday and got some really good pretzel buns, I thought they were amazing with my favorite pickles and sauerkraut.

I did make me think more and more about what I consume.  I would love to be a minimalist, but I don’t know if that’s realistic for me in this season of life.  I  heard about Project 333, where you seal up every piece of fashion except 33 items for 3 months.  Maybe some day in the future I could work up to that. For now, I decided to not buy any new clothes, jewelry, bags or shoes for myself for six months.  Maybe at the end of that six months I’ll be able to minimize my wardrobe.  I do think more about quality rather than quantity.  I don’t want to contribute to fast fashion, and I’ve been trying to avoid doing that.

Since I noticed that when not eating out I tend to grocery shop more, I decided this week I won’t be any groceries.  I will make meals out of the food we have on hand.  When I’m not being lazy, I will look at what I have and make a meal out of it.   It probably means for me that I can’t wait until last minute to plan dinner.  No running out to the store to grab a missing ingredient.

I also have plans for some bigger challenges soon!   I need to do some research before I’m ready to tackle some bigger things.  I hope my kids are absorbing some of the things I have been doing lately.  I’ve been trying to talk with them about it.  I want them to be green too!

Read more about Project 333 here: https://bemorewithless.com/project-333/.



Fast food the green way
August 26, 2017, 7:09 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I like to fill my time with the things that matter to me.  Volunteering, being with my family, running, there is so many things to make time for.  Then there’s the things I have to do, all the daily chores, and of course, sleeping.  I really do enjoy cooking, and I really really enjoy eating a good meal.

Of course, it is hard to find the time to make the healthy meals I want.  I rarely have time to eat, let alone cook.  And it is just getting harder, as time goes on.  Now my oldest daughter is involved in after school sports, and we are trying to make time for homework.  First graders don’t do homework by themselves, at least mine doesn’t.  And I still have a child that doesn’t sleep through the night.  And now I’m marathon training, officially.

I think this is the norm for the average adult.  I’m a stay-at-home mom, I don’t even have job outside the house.  I find myself wanting to get a quick meal or at least a caffeinated beverage just to keep going.

But as anyone who ever goes to Starbucks knows, it’s easy to burn through money doing that.  Plus, so much of that goes in the trash.  And it’s not usually the healthiest of calories.  It’s kind of good and bad for me that as of this moment, there aren’t a lot of drive through options near where I live, and not much in the way of delivery.

So, fast food for us means, prepping ahead of time.  Weekends and during the day (nap time) is the best time for me to make big batches of things, or get dinner ready.  We have a weekend tradition of making a big breakfast, usually on Saturdays.  I usually make either waffles or pancakes.  I like to make a lot, and usually it lasts for at least half the week.  My breakfast is usually a smoothie, so that’s hard to make ahead of time, except I get everything ready.  I either buy a bake of wild blueberries in the freezer section or cut up a bunch of fruit and put it in the freezer.   Then at night I get out all of my ingredients and make it quickly in the morning.

My husband has been the one to make hummus, and lately he likes making something quick for breakfast, such as “superhero” muffins and egg and veggie wraps.  He likes to make these in big batches, freeze them, and then toast them in the morning.  I think sometimes he even ends up eating them for lunch.

Lunch for us is often on the go. My oldest takes her lunch to school.  I have several bento style containers that have compartments.  She often requests “lunchables” so I’ll make my own version of cheese and crackers, with hummus and carrots for dipping.  My other two often get something similar.  I also like to give them rice and beans, healthy proteins and lots of fruit and vegetables.

I like to make snacks ahead as well.  One favorite snack I like to make is these chocolate chia bars I got varied from Vegetarian Times.

  • 1 1/2 cups pitted dates
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup whole chia seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract, optional
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract, optional
  • 1 cup raw nuts, such as walnuts or almonds
  • 2-3 Tbsp water

In a food processor, pulse the dates until it forms a paste.  Add everything except the nuts, puree until combined.  Add the nuts, pulse until fine.  Add water until mixture is no longer crumbly.

Place mixture in a glass casserole dish lined with wax paper.  Spread the mix in the dish, press it until flat.  Refrigerate until you eat, at least overnight.  I like to cut them into bite size pieces, and then grab them when I need something to hold me over.  Sometimes I give them for a snack for the kids to take to school, along with some fruit.

I wrote earlier that I often make dinner in the slow cooker lately.  I get all of the ingredients out the night before and prep, and then throw everything in the morning and turn it on low.  I love that dinner is ready and I’ve already done the work.  If I don’t do that, I end up making dinner when the kids are napping, if I can arrange that.  If not, I end up cooking dinner with three kids vying for my attention, and I just rush it.

So there’s at least one night a week where I figure something out fast because it’s just too much to think of what to feed them.  More often, it’s lunch, I’m out running errands, and I grab something quick to feed the younger two.  Or I get the middle daughter a smoothie because she loves them and I don’t want to fight her.  It adds up.  Last night, I ordered a pizza because I just really didn’t feel like thinking about it, and I didn’t have a meal planned out.

So I’ve decided this week, I’m going to challenge myself not to eat out at all.  It means I will have to set aside more time for planning.  I will have to make sure I’m prepared when I leave the house with snacks, water, and lunches.  I might even have to brew some iced tea.  It means I might have to take some time tomorrow to prep some quick things I can grab quickly.

 



Feeding my family…on the go
August 13, 2017, 8:40 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I meant to write a blog post earlier this week, but things have been hectic.  I got back from my weekend away Tuesday morning, just in time to help the kids get ready to go back to school.  For some people, having two kids in school might make for more free time, but for me, I get busier than ever.  Now I have to rush everyone to where they need to be, in addition to all the regular chores, like walking the dog, cleaning, volunteering, and trying to find time for the baby to nap.

Somewhere in all this busyness everyone needs to eat, and we eat on five different schedules.  It’s easy to reach for the nearest food option, be it fast food or a bag of chips. This kind of eating quickly gets expensive, and often isn’t as healthy as the food I would prepare at home. The trick  of avoiding fast food is having a routine of food preparation.

Like many moms, I do a lot of my meal prep at night.  I make everyone’s lunch the night before, and sometimes get breakfast and dinner ready as well.  My oldest eats lunch at school, and almost always brings her lunch.  I pack her a bento style box, and a reusable water bottle.  The two girls both bring snacks to school.  I use cloth sandwich bags to put different snacks in.   I also pack snacks for the baby and me to have on hand while we’re out running around the next day.  My daily snack, which I usually end up sharing, is air-popped popcorn, with a sprinkle of grapeseed oil and nutritional yeast, mixed with some raw nuts and dried fruit.  I take that and two water bottles with me in the car.  I also like to bring kale chips, energy bites, fruit, and usually crackers for the kids.

I prep the next day’s dinner.  I have been making lots of slow cooker meals, which I get all ready the night before.  Everything is ready to go, so all I have to do is take it out of the refrigerator and turn it on in the morning.  If it’s not a slow cooker meal, I make dinner during the baby’s morning nap while the girls are at school.

Finally, I get my breakfast ready, by getting my dry ingredients for my smoothie next to my blender for the morning. I like to get up before everyone else.  Some people have their coffee, but I like to make my smoothie and sit for five minutes of calm and peace before the craziness of the morning.

Of course, realistically, I get a snack or meal on the go frequently.  I try to eat food that is minimally processed, but it can be hard to find.  At home, I tend to frequent the same few places.  This past week, I spend time in Bend, Oregon. I went to Next Level Burger for lunch, and I had a vegan burger there.  They reused or composted everything.  It also made it very easy to stick to my no disposable straws/bags commitment, because neither was offered.  I also got a smoothie, which was great, but I felt very guilty, because the cup I drank it out of was a one-use cup (made out of corn, but still).

Usually, eating out, especially with kids, even if I remember to bring our own bottles from home, there’s all the paper napkins that get used with my messy kids.  Plus, they tend not to eat everything (at least my two daughters) and we have to bring it home in a container.  I try to wash those and re-use them when I can, but often they get tossed out.  There’s also plastic forks, knives and spoons that get tossed after one use.

I’ve already gotten into the habit of bringing my stainless steel straws with me.  I usually have my water bottle.  So my next step, for this week’s challenge, is to bring my own utensils and take home containers, so those don’t get wasted, either.  If I bring my own things from home that I’ll have to wash, it will force me to think twice if I really need to buy that food, or just eat what I already have.



Shopping for food as a green mama
August 4, 2017, 12:58 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

My priority for feeding my family is a plant-based, whole food diet as much possible.  I find that getting most of our nutrients from plants is cheaper and it saves energy.   Our family rarely eats meat, so when we do, I usually get organic.  It makes it more feasible for me to spend the money on it when we don’t do it often.  I try to make most of my meals from scratch.  If I can’t make all the food from scratch, if at all possible, I try to buy food with ingredients that are simple.

In a future blog post, I plan to go into the reasons of why I eat the way I do.  I am not the strictest at eating this way, but I try to stick to it.  It is much easier to grab goldfish and veggie straws, especially with the amount of time I get to prepare snacks and meals.

I love food shopping, honestly.  I try to go without the kids when I can.  Sometimes my husband lets me go run errands on the weekends by myself, which for moms of young children, is like a vacation.  When this happens, I get to go to some of my favorite places (multiple ones) to get ingredients.  I love going to smaller, family run businesses if I can.  I like to see what interesting, seasonal items they have.  I have a weakness for exotic food and produce that I’ve never seen before.  Being a green mama, this can get me into trouble, and I don’t buy it if I can’t justify it.  When the kids are with me, I usually end up at the supermarket with them, grabbing things as fast as I can, giving them cookies and taking deep breaths.

Like many mamas, I plan my meals, make a list, and then try to stick to it.  I’m not much of a couponer, to be honest.  I have tried it, and I’m not good at finding the time to look for coupons that I’ll use.  I love when our local grocery chain sends me coupons for fresh items, like dairy or fruit, which they do because I joined the baby club.  I also love when my favorite smaller businesses send me a coupon through e-mail.  I try to buy bulk of items, or get them when they’re on sale.   I also try to get produce when it’s in season, it’s usually cheaper, and then freeze it.

Other options for buying fresh local produce is going to local farmer’s markets and belonging to a co-op.  I have tried both of these things, but haven’t done it lately.  We also have had a garden in the past.  While labor intensive, I love having a garden.  When kids contribute, they definitely are more excited to eat their food.   Plus, you have complete control, and you know exactly what pesticides were used on your food.  The best broccoli I’ve ever eaten was picked that day.

When I go shopping, I sometimes come home with so many plastic bags.  I reuse some of them for trash and for my dog, but they easily fill up in our closet. Sometimes I remember to bring my reusable bags to the grocery store.  So this week’s challenge is to say NO to plastic bags.  I will bring my reusable bags every time I leave my house, including to go to the book store, toy store, and clothes store.

Plastic bags contribute to the plastic floating around the ocean.  Leatherbacks, which love to eat jellyfish, mistake them for the favorite food, and mistakenly eat them.  Read more about it here:   https://www.plasticoceans.org/the-facts/

I’m giving myself a second challenge.  I’m going to try making sure the produce I get is local.  I’m going to check out the farmer’s market across the street.  I’m also going to sign up for a box from Space Girl Organics.  I’ll let you know how it goes very soon.  This is the organization I’m going to use:  https://www.spacegirlorganics.com/

I have so much more to say on the topics of feeding my family.  It is so important to me, and it is a labor of love!