“I can feel your anger. It gives you focus. It makes you stronger.” – Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith
I heard a couple in line behind at the grocery store the other day complaining about the high cost of food. I turned around, ready to feel sorry for them in this tight economy, and saw what was sitting on the conveyor belt. Junk food (e.g., chips and cookies). Highly processed, convenience items (e.g., taco meal kit and pre-sliced chicken strips). Liquid sugar (e.g., soda and “orange drink”). That made me mad. They weren’t buying food so much as pre-purchasing a few bags of garbage for trash day. And then… I was sad, because I realized that they probably didn’t know any better than to grab things that are supposedly “easy” or “fast” for dinner, or how to make a healthy and yummy meal out of real ingredients, and how to really stretch every penny out of each food dollar. I hope their frustration leads them to look past the world of convenience and toward homemade foods.
Cooking is a lost art these days. I know. I wasn’t taught how to cook and was completely overwhelmed in college and my early married years. It wasn’t until I started to think about what we were eating, what we were spending, what our bodies needed, and how our food was grown, that I started to change my food buying ways. It is a skill and it needs to be learned. (And yes, I do occasionally grab the nearly worthless, might as well eat the cardboard box it came in, taco meal “kit” or pick up a 12 pack of soda when company comes over.) While reading a dollar stretcher email (love those) earlier today, I stumbled upon this and wished I could have handed it to that couple behind me a few days ago.
10 Things You Can Stop Buying at the Grocery Store
by Carol Charron
Live less expensively, eat healthier, and be more environmentally responsible
1. Packaged Meat – What’s so great about buying a chicken whole? It’s like getting Thanksgiving dinner any day of the year. You have this easy to cook, beautiful chicken and it becomes a Sunday dinner on baseball night with a simple rub of oil, a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Who can’t pull a chicken out of the fridge and do that? You can even prepare it the night before and have your teenager put it in the oven at 3pm the next day. With the leftover bones and loose meat, do what Grandma used to do. Put them in a stock pot or slow cooker and make soup.
As for the other cuts of meat, the bigger the quantity, the better the price. If you can’t afford to buy beef by the whole or half side, find a sibling or a neighbor that will go in for half with you. No more living at the whim of market prices. You will save money and have a freezer full year-round. You can even inquire at the local 4-H fair for an animal you can buy after prize time. This is going to be a shock to you city folk, but that’s where they go after the show. The piggy goes to market!
2. Juice – It’s healthier to eat your fruit whole. You get necessary fiber from the skins and the flesh. Stop paying for packaging and do it right. If you need to drink something, squeeze it from whole fruit one glass a time.
3. Microwave Popcorn – I had no idea how far removed we had become from the real thing until I recalled memories of my dad shaking the old pot on the stove to make real popcorn to my kids. I thought it would be fun to share that experience with them. When I made it, my kids loved it so much they won’t let me buy the microwave stuff anymore. I now have a jar of kernels that I keep next to the stove near my bottle of oil. Yeah, it has real butter/margarine and real honest-to-goodness salt, but I control how much. It’s a lot cheaper than the packaged stuff, and the taste will drive you wild. You’ll wonder how we ever became converts to packaged microwave popcorn. You won’t miss it.
4. Vegetables – You should be buying them locally at the Farmer’s Market to support your local farmers and local economy. We are simply slaves to our grocery store habit. When you grow it yourself, you can use everything. Recycle cuttings to make soups, and what you have left over you can compost, supporting next year’s garden. If you don’t have land, make a potted garden.
5. Cookies – The sky is as limited as your pantry and your Betty Crocker(r) Cookbook. Make them from scratch. Your kids will like your cookies better than the packaged cookies.
6. Spray Cleaners – You could pay $3 or $4 for that spray cleaner. That said, check the prices on vinegar, ammonia and bleach (not to be combined with each other, of course) at your local dollar store. Most of the time, when you buy a spray cleaner, you are getting the same ingredients in better packaging. Save your spray bottle, and when it’s empty, you can clean it and refill it with these money savers.
7. Bottled Water – By now, you have heard how awful all that packaging is for the environment. Here’s another case of paying for convenience. Buy some portable bottles and save a bundle by doing it yourself.
8. Herbs – Most of us only use four or five herbs in our kitchen. From seed, you can have herbs fresh and ready to cut in just a few weeks. My basil plant is thriving.
9. Bread – Like the chicken in the oven, throwing four or five ingredients into a bread machine is the easiest thing in the world. Do it at night before you go to bed and wake up to fresh bread the next morning. You can even make use of the dough-only function to make a pizza.
10. Trash Bags – If you buy fewer packaged foods, you will have less trash. If you compost your fruit and vegetable stems and peels, you will have even less trash. If you recycle your cartons, milk jugs and egg cartons, you will have less trash.
We’ve been sold a lot of imaging and branding through advertising that has convinced us that we need to buy this brand, that bag, this carton. What we really need to do is live less expensively, eat healthier, and be more
Take the Next Step:
It’s a win-win-win situation! You can be friendlier to your waste, wallet and earth all at the same time. Start with the list above. Is there something here that you’re willing to stop buying? Give it a try. You’ll love the rewards.
Healthy wishes to you all.
“You want to go home and rethink your life.” Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars V: Revenge of the Sith
Growing up, the term “joiner” was a serious put-down in my group of non-conformists, who were so independent minded that we all, ultimately, ended up looking like each other in our non-conformity: black clothes, stark hair colors and styles, unnaturally pale skin with dark lipstick and heavy mascara… You get the picture. I still use the term when I joke with the Padawan Learner and Dad Windu, “You’re such a joiner.”
I read something today, however, that has changed my opinion of this word. I think Bill McKibben gives a powerful argument for becoming a bit more of a joiner: a neighborhood joiner, a community joiner, a stop-and-talk-for-a-few-minutes joiner. Where Have All the Joiners Gone? A declaration of dependence.
What’s your take on being more inter-dependent? Does it just about make your skin crawl, does the “borrowing a cup of sugar” idea sound nice so long as the neighbor kids stay out of your yard, or is this the type of thing that you long for deep down inside?
“Anakin, the most difficult trial a Jedi must face is to look inside oneself. Often we see things we don’t like. But these aspects are not set in stone. It is our decisions that shape our destinies.” Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones
Every now and then, I like to make myself think about what we’re really doing on a day-to-day basis because no matter what our stated philosophies might be, it’s what we actually do that makes us what we truly are. So…what positive acts have the three of us made so far this Memorial Day weekend?
- We finished installing the clothes line in the backyard and I put my first load of whites out to dry in the breeze. I was immediately in my own childhood backyard. What a simply wonderful visual reminder of a normal, happy chore from days gone by (and my arms got a workout too, carrying a basketful of wet clothes up the stairs and out into the backyard).
- We hit the farmer’s market for a flat of flower plugs for the front yard. I’m slowly taking over the grass area and replacing it with flower boxes and boarders. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get rid of that most ridiculous of all things, a water-sucking and drought unfriendly grass lawn, but I’m sure going to try.
- We bought several oh-so-yummy bunches of locally grown asparagus for our scrambled eggs and as a side dish with dinner this week. I got the best smile from the little boy selling it when I said, “I’ll take the rest of what you’ve got here.” It was great watching him and his brother working together.
- Dad Windu replaced the kitchen faucet and sprayer because the old faucet leaked from the body when you turned it on, it had just started to leak slightly when it was turned off and the sprayer was melted shut from a close encounters with a scorchingly hot frying pan a couple of years back. I won’t say who did it, but it wasn’t the Padawan Learner or Dad Windu. It was someone else. Someone who shall remain nameless.
- Dad Windu rode his bike over to the hardware store to get some necessary fittings for the new faucet. Yeah for faucets that don’t leak.
- We weeded and weeded and weeded until we thought we couldn’t weed anymore. We weeded some more.
- Dad Windu and I rode our bikes to get a few supplies from the supermarket, in a stiff wind that made the ride back a real workout. It’s pretty hilly around here, even without all of aLex’s bridges, and you know the wind is seriously bad when you have to pedal going down a hill. (Happy note: There were two other bikes at the supermarket’s bike stand on the nasty, busy road.)
- I used up some scraps of fabric hiding out in my closet to make a couple of needle cozies for my double pointed and circular knitting needles since my current method of storage and retrieval, which included primarily of tossing them all in a big bag and having to dump the whole thing out whenever I wanted to use a specific pair, was annoying to Dad Windu.
- I mowed the elderly neighbor lady’s front lawn because she’s in the hospital and her live-in son hadn’t done it for the past couple of weeks. Annoyed neighbors were threatening to report her to the housing codes department (city mows the yard and charges you $75 for the inconvenience), which is the last thing she needs right now. I used our horrid, old gas-powered mower, which is an ecological nightmare, but it was still the right thing to do.
- Padawan Learner rode his bike a mile away to his buddy’s house to see his buddy’s new puppy, even though he’s not a dog-lover.
- I walked down to the library with Padawan Learner and retrieved our books from the hold shelf.
What negative decisions have we made this holiday weekend in regards to living lightly?
- We drove over to a big box home improvements store for a new faucet because one local place was closed for the whole weekend and the other place’s selection’s selection is lousy (and they were also closed). We could have bought the faucet after the weekend at the good selection local place, but that would risk a loss of home repair momentum. A very contagious malady around here.
- We hopped in the car, again, to go to the farmer’s market because we waited too long to get there via the bus-walk route. We were punished by the consequences of the absolute pain of finding a space in the remarkably small parking lot and by the very rude lady who parked her SUV in the middle of the one-way exit lane, blocking all traffic behind her, as she went to retrieve her purchase.
- We grabbed dinner from a multi-national, everything shipped here because we don’t know the meaning of the phrase grown locally, fast food place since we focused on planting too long and didn’t have the time or energy to get dinner ready.
- Dad Windu and his beer snob buddy drove to two watering holes (the first, a preferred and locally producing one was closed) for the chance to drink and chat without wives & kids. At least they car-pooled.
- Instead of playing a boardgame, going for a walk or bike ride down to the park or another more sociable activity, we watched movies together both Saturday and Sunday nights.
- We drove to the doughnut shop on Sunday morning .again. for our turn to grab a dozen, to be enjoyed with our Sunday Morning Doughnut Buddies. Laziness on the doughnut retrieval, pure laziness.
How about you? What’s best and worst on your list?
“I don’t know who you are or where you’ve come from, but from now on you’ll do as I say, okay?” – Princess Leia, Star Wars IV: A New Hope
My son is a fan of all things George Lucas, with the Star Wars series being his favorite. He’s been watching the films, reading the books and learning about the “history” of the characters and a certain galaxy from long ago and far, far away since he was just a little guy. For the record, if you haven’t seen R2-D2: Beneath the Dome, than you just don’t know Star Wars. Who knew that such a strong, brave droid could experience so much angst….
Because of his obsession interest, there are many little quotes from the movies that frequently get bandied about in our house. Many. Frequently. One of the most common is after someone makes a demand for assistance (and forgetting to use the more polite, requesting, method) says, “Help me …” someone else will inevitably cut the request off with “Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.” Giggles will ensue and the request is repeated more appropriately. This eventually turned into Obi-Mom Kenobi being used instead when I was the recipient of the request and the expression stuck.
Perhaps you would like to know, since you’re still reading this, a little about me, Obi-Mom Kenobi, the person who is putting all this together. So here goes. First, my family is a little… different… from the majority of families in the United States. Not bad different, but we’re not really a mainstream family in a lot ways although we probably look like it at first glance.
- We don’t send our boy, my Padawan Learner, to school. That’s right, we’re a homeschooling family. Yes, that’s right. I know it can be very scare to hear that if you’re new to the concept. I am the primary person handling the teaching around here, but his dad, who is very like Mace Windu in wisdom and determination and will hereforth be called Dad Windu, has got a fair bit of teaching and sharing to do as well – in his own way.
- We try to live as lightly on this planet as we can (without turning our lives completely upside down). We evaluate decisions based on how they’ll effect the planet, how the local community will be involved and how the Earth will be treated in the production, delivery and disposal of our things. We’re not environmental saints, but we don’t ignore the fact that we’re the single biggest consumer nation in the world either. What we do, nationally and individually, is felt around the world.
- Dad Windu earns a decent wage but doesn’t make a ton of money. Instead, we life simply. I cook from scratch. We wear our clothes until they just can’t go any longer. My Padawan Learner and I walk, ride our bikes or use the bus to get around and Mace Windu carpools a couple of times a week with another guy from work that lives in the area so that we can get by with only one car. We live in a small, older house that we’re constantly making more and more ecologically sound – high efficiency appliances, pulling the plug on electronics when we’re not using them, reading together in the same room so that we don’t have lights on in three different rooms, etc. We borrow books from the library instead of buying – even used books take up space, requiring more bookshelves and, eventually, more “space” to store them in. Doing these things ensures that we don’t “miss” that second income that so many consider essential in today’s economy.
- We spend more but get less, and we don’t mind a bit. Huh? For example, we have an expensive set of pans that will last us the rest of our lives. I take extra good care of them because I know that’s the only way to make them last (virtually) forever. They did cost a fair bit upfront but whenever my mother, mother-in-law and Dad Windu would ask if there was anything I would really like for my birthday, Christmas and our anniversary, I requested a “share” towards the cost of a basic set of really wonderful pots and pans. I rest easy in this purchase, despite buying the pans being brand, spanking new, knowing that they were made here in the USA of materials mined in the USA and that I had wrung every last little bit out of the cheap set of pans that we’d gotten as a wedding gift.
- We barely buy anything at the grocery store. Instead, we get as much of our food from local farms as we can. Once a month, I order meats, cheese, eggs, locally milled flour and other basics from a food co-op. We’re also members of a Community Supported Agriculture farm (CSA) that, for a flat fee, ensures us a weekly share of locally, grown organic veggies during the growing months. We get all kinds of locally grown fruits at the weekly farmer’s market each Saturday, too. Between those three things, we’ve found a great (and cost-effective) way to ensure that we’re eating our recommended daily allotment of fruits and veggies, lean protein and plenty of fiber.
- We are a-theists, as in not-theists (Theist: belief in the existence of a god or gods). We’re not religion haters nor do we hate or ridicule people who are religious. We just don’t believe that there’s any proof of a “divine being or beings” or any special “members-only” truth to be found in in any of the world’s many, many religions. Nope, not even in the Jedi faith.