Thinking in Shades of Green: The Never Ending Monologue

In a past life I was very active in the Republican Party and would be classified as a classic conservative, right winger, fundamentalist and whatever other title seems appropriate. Needless to say, earth friendly anything hasn’t traditionally been a leading issue for that political side of the house. However a verbal emphasis given to fiscal responsibility and dare I say it tightwadism has been. Interestingly enough as my lifestyle has become more and more “green” over the past few years I have realized that taking responsibility for the earth’s resources as a consumer doesn’t mean that you are anti business, anti budget, anti american economy at all as some of the right wing rhetoric would have you believe. To the contrary when done wisely and prudently going green can be very compatible with tight budgets. A core principle of the natural/alternative grassroots movement that is happening right now is to support local, small businesses. As a small business owner at I am particularly appreciative of the effort that it can sometimes take for an individual to go out of their way to support the quality of small business vs. the convenience and or price point of big business. But this blog isn’t about politics or political views. It’s supposed to be about food. Bear with me, I’ll get to food eventually.

Going green for me has been a huge learning curve. The concepts of the green shades that have crept into my life here and there are not new at all they are old and most of them based in centuries of common sense traditions. Concepts I’ve been exposed to in my lifetime by my Grandparents and even my parents. Their importance however has been lost in the face of an increasingly overwhelming world where an easy button for everything is all we wish for and convenience is the watch word of society.

By some standards I haven’t even begun to arrive at green but one baby step at a time I think I’ll get there. Check back in with me in a few years when I have the solar powered hobby farm of my dreams.  Thought I would share some of my least painful and basic lifestyle changes. Some would disagree that these are purely green and they would be correct. The pursuit of a health restoring and maintaining lifestyle from a nutritional standpoint has been far more compelling than either caring for earth’s resources or a budget. That is the overwhelming motivation that will come through in many of these points. But, I think you will discover as I have, that many healthy choices, are green choices and are also budget friendly choices. Given enough time and sufficient little things changed from what the normal frenzied consumer based American lifestyle is there are dozens of symbiotic relationships and crossover benefits that begin to emerge. This is a fairly recent and altogether delightful discovery for me personally.

Cloth diapers have been a HUUUUGE learning curve for me. I have to say in spite of the lure of the fluffy cuteness in all sorts of patterns all created to highlight the utter adorableness of the infant they adorn I was not a fan. Being the avid…Ok ok…Compulsive reader that I am some references that some fair skinned babies more frequently beginning to have troubles with disposable diapers passed before my eyes.  Assessing the gene pool that our poor kid was being created from I concluded that something inbetween glow in the dark and marshmallow would probably be the dominant pigmentation so figured that taking some precautions might not be a bad idea. Not knowing the first thing about cloth diapers and finding the terminology baffling I bought a lot of what I thought sounded like a great deal on newborn sized diapers off of craigslist.  As it turns out I was really grateful to have that particular little bit of obsessive preparation in place. We ran through every brand of disposable diaper out there and ended up with cloth like it or not because it was the only thing her skin would tolerate without breaking out into a horribly painful and red rash. As time went by I became more and more of a fan and learned through trial and error what prefolds vs. AIO’s vs. Pockets were and the various merits of aplex vs. snaps.

Don’t ever get a seasoned cloth diapering Mom started on hemp vs. cotton vs. bamboo vs. microfiber vs. any combination of any of the above unless you wish to be sucked into the black hole that is the cloth diapering world. Unlike the plastic pants and pins of my parents generations cloth diapering options are genuinely limitless now and are generating enough interest that if you are smart about it you can get a decent collection of high end and user friendly stuff while keeping the budget not only intact but actually freeing up some extra cash. This is one of those win win win things to do. It’s great for the environment (think about all the landfills being spared the bags full of your kids plastic wrapped waste) It’s great for the budget even with one kid but the savings sky rocket if you use them with a second. Last but certainly not least I am personally convinced it is the optimal health choice for the baby as well. Disposable diapers are increasingly toxic and it explains why more babies are unable to tolerate them than in times past. Well, that combined with increased environmental senstivities due to being born to parents with chemical overload.  Sorry, rabbit trails are a must this late a night.  Back to Diapers… Use an high efficiency washing machine and line dry the diapers and the impact on the environment will be even less for those of you that care.  I leave you with my last and final point on the whole diaper subject. Nothing is cuter on a baby than cloth. Nothing. See photos below for evidence.

Cloth Diapered Toddler

Doodles in Haute Pockets One Size Fits All pocket diaper

Tin Tin baby sporting green Fuzzi Bunz

Tin Tin baby sporting green Fuzzi Bunz

Glass So this may seem basic and overly simplistic but one of the most green things I’ve done in the past year is to go plastic free. The Tupperware was given away, the plastic canisters disposed of. In their place I invested in several sets of (very much on sale) Pyrex glass with snap on lids, gallon wide mouthed jars with lids, and save every glass container with a lid that comes into our posession. The main driving force of this decision was in an attempt to remove the hormone disrupting properties that leach from plastic into our foods (particularly plastic anything that is heated) so that my body could begin to hopefully regulate itself without the negative extra components mixing things up. I can’t really claim that this one has been a boon to the budget. By biding my time and stalking some good deals at the ed of the day I’ve pretty much broken even with what decent quality plastic stuffage costs. I still use food grade five gallon buckets to store my bulk/dried items in. My primary concern is that anything that is enzymatically or bacterially alive in a liquid base like Kombucha, or food items that will be heated and cooled and or stored long term need to be in glass. All for health reasons. I think there is sufficient general knowledge out there regarding the manufacturing process of plastic that I don’t need to cover that ground yet again here in regards to the Environmental impact. So, I chalk Glass up as a win for two out of three. Health and Environment. Neutral on Budget.

Garden The foodies among us quiver with delight at the mental image of garden fresh produce. The budget minded beam benevolently at the savings a garden can afford and the environmentalists delightedly chortle about the positive impact of bio dynamic gardening. This really leaves just the black thumbs among us to still be convinced that a garden is a worth while waste of time, er, I mean, wise investment of resources. Being the shamed possessor of a black thumb myself and a badge carrying member of the Exclusive Excuse Clubs of “I don’t have enough space for a garden” and “My soil is poorer than Haiti” please believe me when I say you have my utmost sympathies and understanding. However even for me the effort of a garden outweighs the staggering frustrations and failures. Some success can be managed with some creative problem solving and at the very least it gets you outdoors and active which counts as a plus on the Health front even if the veggie garden never actually produces anything more than nutrient dense weeds.

Kitchen I am convinced that nothing is more healthy, beneficial to the budget or earth friendly than getting re acquainted with the kitchen. Kick the microwave out. Welcome the Toaster oven in. Seriously. Unproven and as of yet anecdotal and theoretical serious health ramifications aside a microwave just makes it too darn easy to cheat with food. The preparation of genuinely from scratch food (No, this does NOT include Duncan Hines. Seriously people. Mixes do not count as homemade, it’s cheating plain and simple. Got that?? Some exceptions allowed. It’s my blog. I can do that) is a lost art and along with the flavor, fellowship and textures that have been lost we’ve also lost the knowledge and ability to prepare our foods in ways that our bodies can actually access the health sustaining nutrients inside.

As oblivious as most of us are to this reality there are actually compelling and scientifically viable reasons for many traditional food methods of preparation as time consuming as they were. There are the right ways to prepare certain foods that unlock the full range of nutrients in such a way that our bodies can easily utilize them. Neutral methods that neither unlocks their full potential nor blocks it off and then the really bad terrible horrible awful way of treating food that basically blocks off our bodies ability to access anything there and actually utilize it in a helpful way. The worst effects of the poor methods is that it actually mutates the food on a basic cellular level so that it not only fails to support health it actually harms it. So that covers the Health front of things. For the Budget, cooking from scratch = less time eating out and less out to eats = less money spent. Unless you are eating off of the McDonald’s Dollar Menu in which case I have to wonder what on earth you are doing reading a blog like this in the first place.  As for the Green impact of kitchen re prioritization if done correctly it can be enormously beneficial. Mostly in regards to how it is supplied, stocked and how energy resources are managed and maximized. Details, tips, tricks on that is another mammoth post for another occasion.

There are many more areas of Green improvement in my life that have evolved over the past few years but my brain is weary and you my dear reader have successfully toughed through somewhere in the ballpark of 2000 words according to the handy dandy word counter that WordPress provides. That’s a lot. Way too much. I apparently like to see myself type. Probably almost as much as I like to hear myself talk. At least I’m easier to tune out in text than in cinematic full color glory with the audio cranked up.  Be glad it’s a text blog and not a video blog.

Until next time,

The Crunchy Sorta, Kinda Conservative

Steph Tallent

MoneyMoneyMoney…Totally not made of Money

As anyone who has stepped foot into a Health Food Store knows all to well anything that is touted as healthy, natural or the humdinger of them all organic is going to be significantly more of a drain to the budget than the bargain fare that can be found in the sale papers of the local grocery store.  Unless one is very desperate to try anything and pay an arm and a leg with all fingers and toes attached for last straw health improvement purposes, or else is very well educated about nutrition it’s enough to deter even a semi frugality conscious individual from wanting to have anything to do with this whole natural food movement. (See? I promised marathon sentences with poor grammar. More to come.)

MyMan and I are diligently working to dig ourselves out of a rather hefty pile of debt that we in our naive excitement over earning more money than we ever thought we would managed to accumulate. “But it’s an investment!” (Ever heard that before??) It isn’t as bad as some but we are definitely of a mindset now that we want no personal debt at all except perhaps some purely investment based debt. So, yeah, digging out of debt hole = living on a budget. A totally sufficient but not a whole lot of wiggle room or extravagant purchases budget. This is the one crimp in my high flying fancies of living the all natural organic foodie life daydreams are made of.  After talking and talking and talking some more (our favorite way of spending couple time) we finally decided that we would set our food budget higher than shoestring and lower than all organic. We have both known families to go hardcore “Dave Ramsey” on life as we’ve come to call it, living on dried potato flakes and ramen noodles for years at the expense of their families health. We desire to eat as healthily as possible while not going overboard on food extravagances at the expense of the War on Debt.

So, here are my foodie- budget-keeping tips-tricks-ideas-and otherwise obvious statements.

Electricity where we live in central TN is pretty dadgum cheap. Not that this is an excuse to leave the lights burning 24/7 but it does mean that energy efficient chest freezers do not incure an unreasonable monthly expense.  When purchased at a couple of years old off of craigslist or a local dented appliances warehouse one can obtain chest freezers without too much cost. There is of course the space issue…Right now I have oodles of space so that is not a deterrent. For those with tight quarters there are some relatively small chest freezers that can be found. If it is possible at all to chisel some space for one they are totally worth every lost inch. With shelves put above them it isn’t a total loss of space, just the floor part!  Freezer space allows me to bargain shop and bulk buy without worrying about having to eat 80lbs of apples before they go bad. Another thing that is invaluable if you are into culturing food like I am is an extra fridge. Or cellar if you are lucky. Anything that stays consistently cool year-round. My goal is to replace canning as much as I can with culturing and for me this entails a second fridge. Again, if you can spare the space and afford the extra bit of cost energy efficient models will probably pay for itself before too long.

My favorite thing to do is buy in bulk.  We live a hefty drive from The Big City where most of the healthy bargains live so for me it is a more frugal move to stockpile what I can vs. frequently buy small quantities. Our gas budget and the environment should thank me.  Requires advance planning but enough trial and error and even I eventually figured out how to do it. If there is insufficient storage space start looking for a network of local individuals that can go into large orders with you and split it. Buying clubs can also be a great way to get fantastic organic/all natural dry goods savings. Right now I have four people I split my organic oil orders with. Grassfed Beef orders are also divided. Same goes for bulk organic fruit orders.

God failed to give me the math in the head ability that most penny pinching bargain shoppers are blessed with. Have a friend that can keep a running tally of price per ounce or lb. standard pricing from 5 different stores along with the accompanying sale price. My blood pressure goes up just thinking about that and a surreal out of body experience begins to happen. So, I’ve created some basic buying rules for myself. I set a “maximum” and “fantastically incredible” price per lb/ounce of specific items. Some examples:

Grassfed/pastured/organic/all natural meat: $3.00 lb maximum $0.80 per lb. fantastically incredible

All natural/organic fruits and veggies: $2.00 lb. maximum $0.25 lb. fantastically incredible

Wild caught fish (from safe sources, very hard to find): $5.00 lb. maximum $2.000 fantastically incredible.

All natural/organic Beans and Grains: $1.50 lb. maximum $0.35 lb fantastically incredible

So on and so forth. Shopping farmer’s markets in season is an excellent way to stay on the low end of my set price ranges. This spring for the first time I am purchasing a share in a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm. It’s been a long time goal of mine to support local agriculture and I finally figured out how to finagle it into my budget.

For those that are able a garden is a marvelous foodie saving way to spend time. Plus it gets indoor pasties like me outdoors! My black thumb perpetually gets in the way of the lovely garden that lives in my imagination but I pursue it as a worthwhile activity anyway.

Planning meals around whatever I have bought up at my cheapo prices allows me to usually fly under my set budget. The occasional once a week splurge on foods that are on my “high” range of price allowance is the current game plan that seems to be working out pretty well.  Nothing makes me want to beat my chest and holler “I AM DA WOMAN!!!” more than handing over an extra chunk of money back to MyMan for extra to fuel the Debt War momentum because I was able to keep us under the food budget for a few months.

Last but certainly not least is the ages old principle that cooking from scratch is always and forever cheaper than buying pre-mixed, pre packaged, pre-pretty-much-anything. You pay for it in time but depending on where you are in life it can be totally worth the savings.

Time for me to run off and do some essential oil experimentation for the cold caused stuffy Doodlebugs. Will break out the frozen chicken broth from the freezer and stuff her with chicken noodle soup tomorrow.  Recipe’s forthcoming.