Brewing Booch

Now that Alex and I brew Kombucha, I feel like we have entered a new level in our development as hippy DIY foodies. I think I have a slightly weird complex about it. When I list the things I like doing – practicing yoga, tending to my succulents, baking my bread, going to craft breweries, and now brewing booch – I kind of want to roll my eyes at myself. But what can I say…? This stuff brings me joy!

Alex and I are brewing kombucha together. It’s perfect because he is patient and scientific, whereas I am quick to make decisions and do things on the fly for the sake of experimentation and efficiency.

I first thought that kombucha was a new craze,but I actually read that it has been around forever and has experienced a number of surges in popularity. Right now you can buy it in almost every grocery store and it seems like there are new brands on the shelf every week but it is not a new trend – booch has stood the test of time! Its probiotic properties, low sugar content and delightful tang & fizz have make it a delicious and healthy beverage. It also contains caffeine so it kind of serves as a better-for-you alternative to soda!

Scobys are weird. There’s no way around that. They are yeasty bacteria slimy things (scientifically known as: Symbiotic Cultures of Bacteria and Yeast) that somehow eat the sugar in the tea you feed it and ferment the beverage – giving it the vinegary & effervescent properties that booch is known for. It’s amazing and disgusting all at once. Lucky for us, our brew jar is opaque so we didn’t really see the whole process. Now that I’ve gotten accustomed to our scoby I kind of actually wish I could see the entire thing going down, but it definitely helped soften our introduction to kombucha brewing.

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We purchased our scoby online and it arrived quickly, complete with full instructions on how to begin brewing. I highly recommend this. It was wonderful to have a comprehensive guide to get us started. Now that we’ve done it once, we’re excited to start experimenting with recipes, but the simple instructions were perfect for getting us started.

Filtered water + black tea + white sugar + white vinegar + scoby + 7-10 days = BOOCH!

After that initial period of fermentation in your brew jar, you bottle it with any flavoring you want to add and then you seal the bottles and leave them at room temp for 2 days to get bubbly, then pop it in the fridge!

Our first batch yielded 2 bottles full of this delicious drink – and we flavored it with slivers of fresh ginger. For our second brew, we doubled the recipe to yield more (image above) and are excited to experiment with juiced ginger, lemon, and other flavors to find our favorite combos.

I’ll keep y’all posted on how our experiment continues. But for now, I can tell you that making booch has given me the same satisfaction I get from all our DIY kitchen projects…no longer do I have to spend $3 or $4 whenever I want a bottle of booch. I feel liberated knowing that I can make it at home, and you can too. So get brewing!

Next on our list? Sourdough starter…can’t wait!

 

 

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For the love of compost

Upon setting the goal for ourselves of creating less waste in 2016, Alex and I promptly started composting. Honestly, I am not sure why we waited so long to begin with. We cook with so many vegetables that there were always raw vegetable scraps going into our trash can, but for some reason we didn’t think much of it until all of a sudden we did. After making the decision, it was a pretty easy process…

Step 1 – Decide to compost

This part is pretty easy. In our case, it was brought on by our goal to reduce our waste and be more environmentally conscious. Most of us don’t realize how much of our trash can is filled up with useable food waste until we start composting. Since beginning our compost bin in January, Alex and I find we take the trash out significantly less often. Between our compost bin and our recycling bin, there is considerably less trash in our can. Meanwhile, we empty our compost bin once a week and we find it fills up really fast! Sometimes it is even overflowing by the time we empty it. Cucumber & citrus peels, the tops of zucchini, the innards of bell peppers, the skin of avocados, the leafy part of carrots, etc. All of that can go into the bin and if you’re like us – you’ll be much more aware of how much food waste you actually produce!

Since deciding to compost, I have read Philip Ackerman-Leist’s book, Rebuilding the Foodshed. In his book, he talks about the destructive and unsustainable practice of mining for minerals to use in fertilizers. He talks about the need for alternative sources of minerals and highlights the importance and virtues of composting within organic and local food production.

Compost brings to the soil numerous benefits compared to synthetic fertilizers: minimal nutrient runoff, enhanced nutrient retention, increased absorptive capacity, superior drought tolerance, improved biological diversity, and better structure. For our purposes, one other benefit stands out: compost can be locally produced under local control with local dollars, creating local jobs and local resilience. Next to good food, I cannot imagine anything that has more potential to bring together bleeding-heart liberals and die-hard conservatives than locally generated compost…There’s something for (and from) everyone in compost!

You hear that? There’s something for everyone in compost, so get your sh*t together and make a decision to save your scraps!

Step 2 – Get a bin you can put food scraps in!

Composting is somewhat popular these days so it is easy to find compost bins online, with some trendy options from Etsy, World Market, etc. OR you can go the route that Alex and I went and head to your local Goodwill. We searched through their homewares section, finding a jackpot compost bin for $1.50. We have determined that it is most likely an old ice bucket – complete with a handle and a snug fitting lid. (See below!)

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A handle and a lid is important so you can transport your compost easily to wherever you decide to use it. The lid should be easy to remove so you can do it one-handed while holding your food scraps in the other. The lid will also keep fruit flies away and can trap any odors in there!

Step 3 – Find a place that can use your composted food waste for good!

Most likely, there are gardens or environmental organizations near you that have a composting program and would LOVE to have your food scraps. It may take a little digging at first, but I am sure you can find some. In my area, there is Occidental College which has a college garden and composting program run by students. There is also Debs Park which has a native nursery and a composting bin – which is where Alex works and where we take our compost to once a week.

Can’t find a nearby garden that can put your food scraps to waste? In Los Angeles, you can put raw food scraps in the Green Bin! Don’t put any animal products in there, but your fruit and veggie scraps will be combined with lawn waste from other people’s bins and then used in a variety of ways – including donations to local gardens or organizations that need compost!

The importance of compost

If we want to build sustainable food systems, compost is going to be a key ingredient. Mining minerals for fertilizers is not going to be an option forever. According to Ackerman-Leist, the US has “only about another twenty to twenty-five years of available phosphorus within our borders” and other countries are protecting their domestic sources of phosphorus with high tariffs due to its extreme importance in agriculture and crop yield.

Compost is a way in which we are able to recover energy from our food by using the decaying matter to enrich our soil and improve crop production. Hopefully, increasing the amount of compost available (in addition to looking for ways to sanitize and use natural sources of phosphorus like human waste) can help build a more sustainable and resilient food system!

Most frequently asked Compost Q:

Does it smell up your kitchen and look gross?

No. Limit your compost to just raw vegetable matter and it will not be a gross experience at all. We do not put any animal products in there (no egg shells or anything), and honestly – it usually smells like orange peel or coffee grounds. Nothing nasty or particularly gross there. If you go a longer time than usual without emptying it, things will get a little moldy, but that’s good! That breakdown and decay is what feeds soil vital nutrients. And in any case, that’s why you get a bin with a tight fitting lid!

Get on it – and start composting! 🙂

 

 

 

Foodies and Food Security

It seems that Los Angeles is the land of foodies – food trucks, farmers markets, restaurants popping up around town on the daily, fusion and food experimentation – it all happens here in LA. Yet, there is a sort of frowning upon the foodie that happens. Being interested in alternative foods and concerned about the quality and sustainability of food production has become almost synonymous with being a hipster or a snob. Why is that?

The other day while discussing career options and various ideas about the future, someone asked me, “Well, what do you enjoy doing?” My answer went something like this: “Well, I like cooking…I like eating…I like planning for meals and shopping for food…I like talking to my friends about food…I like going out to meals with my friends…I like wine and beer…I like exercising…I like eating healthy to refuel my body after exercise…I like writing about food.” It seems pretty clear that food is always on my brain and probably always will be. And the person said, “Well, yeah. You’re a foodie!”

So…that’s probably an extremely accurate description. But at the same time, I’m thinking, “being a foodie isn’t always considered a good thing”. The other day in the grocery store, I overheard a young man joking with his girlfriend about his gluten sensitivity and how he only eats organic meat that is raised humanely. He was making it up – laughing at the people who are concerned with those things and mocking the culture that accompanies it. And I get it…Our culture’s frenzy around food allergies has made it a hyped up hipster phenomenon. But at the same time, it is very real and the quality of our food – how it is produced, distributed and sold affects each of us!

Yes, it is true that it is somewhat of a luxury to be concerned about the quality of produce and certainly a luxury to be able to pay for the top-end stuff. But what is funny about that? And why is the focus on how these well-off individuals are “snobs” because they are concerned about that? The focus should instead be on the dysfunctional system that allows for this class separation and yields the market where quality food is not readily accessible to everyone.

A new Sprouts Farmer’s Market opened up in our neighborhood. While Alex and I are giddy and excited about this new addition to Eagle Rock, there is also the question of gentrification to consider. As one person put it, “it’s the last straw for Eagle Rock.” But to be honest, Sprouts is affordable. It is certainly not anymore expensive than Von’s or Ralph’s which also are located nearby – so why all the hype about Sprouts and it’s devastating impact on the neighborhood and the local population that are being pushed out by new residents?

Probably because Sprouts is marketed as a store that supplies food that is “better for you.” For some reason, that marketing angle means that it is specifically geared towards a specific demographic of people, when in reality it should probably be praised because it is a store that provides high quality produce and bulk items that are considerably more affordable than the unfortunately high prices of health food stores or Whole Foods.

The question is how can we improve the quality of food for all, without alienating populations that are not interested in the “health food” craze that has caught on among the hipsters and foodies; without making healthy and sustainable food the butt of a joke when it really should be the goal. How can we bring more grocery stores selling high quality produce, without the high prices, into underserved areas that need them so badly? How do we educate the populations that are struggling to make ends meet about the importance of nutrition and well-balanced meals in a way that elevates and empowers them?

As long as the sustainable, local, and health-focused food movements continue to be seen as isolated luxuries within the upper class “snobs,” there will be no real or successful efforts to alter our food system and make healthy food accessible to all. Within my lifetime, I sincerely hope that the food landscape continues to be improved so that food security and food quality can go hand-in-hand.

 

Quinoa Bowl with Kabocha & Tahini

Jumpstart your healthy eating routine with this Quinoa Bowl with Kabocha & Tahini!

The other day, Alex and I both became aware that our bodies were feeling a little bit sluggish and our pants were fitting a juusssssst a little bit snugger. Recognizing that we had enjoyed ourselves quite a bit the last few months, with brunches, birthday parties, happy hours, homemade cookies & crackers, etc. we made a conscious decision to clean up our act the next few weeks.

I don’t know about you, but when we decide to get serious about eating healthy – we have to make a plan that will actually work for us and not try to limit ourselves so insanely that we can’t sustain it for more than a few days. We’re not paleo people or low carb people – we simply commit to being more conscious of our eating and supporting each other so we make healthy choices together.

Here’s our go-to philosophy for clean eating regimens:

  • conscious of portions – no mindless eating!
  • eat when we’re hungry, not out of boredom
  • no alcohol during the weekdays
  • no baked goods during the weekdays
  • don’t have unhealthy snacks & chips in the house
  • pack healthy lunches & eat dinners at home during the weekdays
  • prep healthy grains, protein and veggies in advance so meals are easy to put together

A few samples of what this looks like in practice:

  • Breakfast: Overnight Oats with raw nuts, seeds & berries (no PB)
  • Lunch:
    • Salad with filling protein & delicious veggies
    • Warm Quinoa Bowls
      • with roasted chicken, chard, tomatoes, and sriracha
      • with chickpeas, roasted kabocha squash, chard, tomatoes, and tahini
      • with chicken sausage, saurkraut, and roasted beets
    • Healthy Wraps (multigrain or flax wraps with lower calories than bread)
      • with roasted chicken, avocado, hummus, cucumbers and sriracha
      • with roasted veggies, avocado, sprouts and balsamic dressing
  • Snacks:
    • Small yogurt or kombucha
    • Cucumber & carrot sticks with 1 tbsp of hummus
    • Hard boiled egg
  • Dinner:
    • Roasted chicken & veggies with green salad
    • Cumin crusted salmon with zoodles and mint yogurt
    • Tofu & Veggie Stirfry with quinoa (or small portion of brown rice)
  • Dessert???
    • Strawberries or mango for a sweet palate cleanser is my go-to when I really need a treat

Out of love for our bodies and compassion for ourselves, we try not to do strict diets where we completely cut out certain food groups or count calories – instead we come up with healthy recipes together that excite us but limit less healthy grains, sugars, and fats. It’s also fun to grocery shop with this in mind – we go crazy in the produce aisle and buy lots of veggies that will hold us through the week.

Over the next few days I will post guides & tips for a few of the meal recommendations above. To get you started though….

Warm Quinoa Bowl with Kabocha & Tahini

Ingredients

Meal Prep – quinoa and kabocha

  • 1.5 cups uncooked quinoa
  • Spices: cumin, paprika, salt & pep
  • 1/2 can chickpeas
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 kabocha squash, halved, seeds removed
  • Coconut or olive oil for brushing

Lunch Bowl Add Ins

  • 2 chard leaves, chopped into bite sized pieces (or kale or other green veggie)
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • 1 lemon wedge
  • 1 tsp tahini
  • sriracha

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400.
  2. Brush the inside of your kabocha squash with coconut or olive oil. Season with paprika, cumin, salt & pep. Optional: brush it with a little red curry paste. Place the halves face down on a baking sheet and put in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until it is golden and has some crusty bits on the edges. A fork inserted into the flesh should go in easily. Once done, set aside on the baking sheet and let it cool – it is verrrrrrry hard to handle when it’s hot!
  3. Put 1.5 cups uncooked quinoa in your rice cooker (or pot over medium-low heat on the stove) and cover with 3 cups water. Season with a few shakes of cumin and paprika and with salt & pep. Let it cook for 10 minutes, then add in canned chickpeas and give it a stir. Continue cooking until fluffy and the white ring on the quinoa becomes visible.
  4. At this point, you can store the quinoa and the kabocha in the refrigerator and use them throughout the week for lunches or meals at your convenience.
  5. When prepping your bowl, place about 3/4 cup cooked quinoa/chickpea combo in the bottom of your microwave safe tupperware bowl. Top with raw chard and tomato slices.
  6. Cut a wedge of kabocha squash and remove the skin with a knife or your fingers – careful not to lose a lot of the tasty orange squash along with the skin! Chop the squash into large cubes and place ontop of the bowl.
  7. Combine lemon juice and tahini and drizzle on your bowl, finish with a squeeze of sriracha or hot sauce.
  8. When you’re ready to eat it – microwave with a top on for 1-2 minutes. Leaving the top on will help the quinoa heat up without becoming dry, the steam from the tomato juices will help wilt & soften the chard and the tahini will flavor everything deliciously 🙂

Enjoy and feel good.

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Make this bowl everyday for the week using the quinoa and squash you prepared. OR add quinoa to any green salad to make it more filling. Kabocha can be eaten as a side OR throw it into a stir fry or curry. I love kabocha so much I’ll eat it on its own as a snack – the consistency is buttery and delicious!

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Earth Day on the Daily

Today is Earth Day! Today is a day when many people spend time outdoors, volunteer for environmental projects, or simply take time to honor our planet with thoughts. In my morning yoga class, we focused on grounding ourselves – sending energy to our legs and feet with our breath and poses. My legs certainly feel grounded now…they’re hard to lift because they’re so tired!

Earth Day has become a day for environmental activism – providing a platform to elevate concerns and wishes for our treatment of the planet. But let’s not allow our concerns and conversations about the environment halt after today – there are plenty of things we can do and think about on the daily to ensure we are better stewards of the planet.

While in a college class about the History of Environmentalism, I learned about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – an island the size of Texas, completely made of plastic, chemical sludge and debris. It urged me to write an essay about the need to reduce our material consumption throughout our society in order to properly address our problems with waste. (Perhaps a post for another day).

It also urged me to be more conscious of my consumption of plastic waste that is unnecessary. Two easy things you and I can do to reduce plastic consumption?

  1. Buy a reusable To-Go mug and never leave home without it 
  2. Bring reusable bags with you everywhere you go

My hope is that this is not new to most people. In the state of California, plastic bags are banned in all grocery stores and paper bags cost 10 cents. I see more and more shoppers coming prepared with bags and more people in line at coffee shops with their own mugs and tumblers. What a relief! It’s catching on.

Alex and I always bring our own bags to the store. We never head to the market without our totes and we’re pretty good about stocking our cars with extras in case we make an impromptu run for groceries.

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Yet, we wanted to take it a step further. In January, we decided to avoid produce wrapped in plastic. It kills me when vegetables are unnecessarily wrapped in plastic – TRADER JOE’s…cucumbers don’t need to be shrink wrapped!!!!! And while we had grumbled about it for a long time, we never really did anything about it until…We went online and ordered mesh produce bags – amazing! And so easy to do.

Since buying our mesh baggies, we have been careful to buy vegetables from Von’s or Farmer’s Markets where we can more easily avoid plastic wrappers. It’s still sometimes difficult. It’s especially tricky when the organic produce is wrapped in plastic and the conventional produce isn’t. I never know which to choose – pesticides in the soil/water/my body OR plastic in the landfill/ocean! (Any thoughts on which is the better choice? Will research this and get back to you.)

So, think twice when in the produce aisle and make decisions with the planet in mind! Be sure to take your cup when you go to get your iced chai and don’t leave home without your bags (or baskets!). ❤ #environmentalistonabudget

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Pantry Must-Haves

 

I made cookies the other day on a whim. I was on the self-declared food committee for a girls’ outing & picnic at a winery. I woke up that morning and realized we needed cookies. Duh. So I threw together oatmeal & tahini & chocolate chip cookies for us to nibble on with our pink wine and classy picnic.

My best friend was so impressed I made cookies in the morning before picking everyone up. She kind of laughed and asked if I just have everything I need to make cookies at all times. The short answer?* Pretty much…

The secret to preparing foods at home is making sure your kitchen is well stocked. If you get the urge to make something, it is the worrrssstttt if you don’t have a simple ingredient you need. Most of the time, you’ll probably just end up ordering pizza or going out to a restaurant to eat the meal you were craving! At least, that’s what I do.

With that in mind, I have put together a list of the things I have found essential. These are things I think every kitchen needs and I highly recommend you have them on hand so you don’t find yourself needing to make runs to the market every time you want to make a batch of cookies or a simple meal!

*The long answer? I get creative to avoid the things I don’t have. For my cookies on Sunday, I didn’t have eggs, so I mixed up flaxseed with some water to create a sticky binding paste, and mixed it in. I didn’t have enough butter, so I looked up a recipe for inspiration that used tahini in it. I also could have also used coconut oil (you saw my instagram of the HUGE tub I just bought at costco). Having the confidence and creativity to make some substitutions goes a long way in ensuring you can throw food together with what you have at home. But first – make sure you stock up on pantry essentials so you have most of the items you need!

Ready your kitchen, with these essentials:

  1. Essentials:
    • Salt & Pepper
    • Flour (We always have spelt & regular all purpose flour)
    • Sweet: Raw sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup & honey
    • Vinegar: balsamic, rice, and red wine
    • Condiments: Soy Sauce, Sriracha, Spicy mustard!
  2. Oils/Fats:
    • Olive oil
    • Butter
    • Canola oil
    • Highly recommend: Coconut Oil
    • Peanut butter
    • Tahini
  3.  Grains:
    • Rice (white and brown)
    • Rolled Oats
    • Quinoa
    • Pasta
  4. Canned:
    • Garbanzo beans
    • Black beans
    • Coconut milk
    • Chicken/veggie broth
  5. Spice cabinet basics:
    • Basil
    • Oregano
    • Cumin
    • Coriander
    • Paprika
    • Cayenne
    • Cinnamon
    • Ginger
    • Garlic
  6. Baking basics:
    • Vanilla extract
    • Baking powder
    • Baking soda
    • Yeast
    • Unsweetened coconut flakes
  7. Seeds / Nuts (I find them essential – we usually have the following on hand)
    • Raw almonds
    • Pepitas
    • Flax seed (ground or whole)
    • Sesame seed
    • Chia seed

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There are a lot of lists out there. Many of which have more items.This is what I truly find essential to have all the time.You can of course go out and buy specialty ingredients when a recipe calls for it, but it’s great to have these things in your back pocket for when you need them. If you stock up on these items, it will give you flexibility to make something on the fly. And if you want to make one of my recipes (please do!), having these basics will certainly help you be prepared! 

Coming soon:
A grocery shopping guide. What we buy every week to ensure we can make well rounded meals vs. the items we buy sparingly for specialty recipes! Tips for shopping smart & green.

Thanks for reading, loves!

 

 

Exercising Kindness

I’m pretty kind when it comes to others, but it’s a completely different story when it comes to myself. I think we all have a tendency to be especially unkind to ourselves and our bodies when it comes to thinking about exercise, fitness, and diet.

This is something I’m consistently working on. It’s easy to get mad at yourself for not going to the gym or it’s easy to feel guilty about not eating as healthy as you feel you should, but those negative feelings are just as detrimental to your body’s health as the piece of cake you’re regretting.

Recently I have realized just how exhausting it all is. When I was 160 pounds, I wanted to be 140. Once I reached 135 pounds, I wished I were 130 and consistently worried about putting the weight back on. It’s forever, it’s tiring, and it’s unnecessary. With this in mind, I have been trying to shift my focus to health instead of appearance. I think this slight change in mindset has really helped relieve some of the pressure and has enabled me to be more kind to myself.

By thinking in terms of what my body wants and needs, I am loving it more fully. To me, loving my body means eating balanced meals, getting outside & getting active a few times week, but also giving my body space to relax. It means I can treat myself to a brownie and not calorie count in my head to try to reassure myself it’s okay. It means if I don’t want to push myself to go to the gym, I can just go on a walk in my neighborhood and feel like I did something equally as beneficial and restorative for my physical (and emotional) wellbeing!

I think this change in mindset is crucial when trying to stick with a healthy diet or fitness plan. Whether you love your curves or are eager to get in better shape – it is important to think in terms of health. Both big and small can be beautiful, as long as the body is treated right. So instead of thinking about size, think about your body’s wellbeing and what it needs to thrive. If you’re feeling discouraged because you’ve tried to lose weight for a long time, I know it is easy to convince yourself that the healthy diet is not working and therefore you should just eat what you want. But don’t give in! Whether you’re seeing the results you really want or not, eating right has incredible effects on your body that may not be visible. Your body can’t change overnight but as soon as you start changing the habits, there are tons of other health boosting effects you may not notice right away.

Reality check: Unfortunately, you (like every other human) are not immune to needing exercise. We cannot be sedentary and miraculously live healthy lives. So at some point, we all have to love our bodies enough and decide to put in some effort and find some kind of activity we enjoy doing! There are a lot of things to choose from, so get out there and try something to find what activity can keep you healthy. As you age, this will be incredibly important. SOOOO many studies link health to movement – doesn’t really matter what you do but physical activity is what keeps us all agile and strong.

For me, I’ve always been fairly active because I enjoy sports and working out but there are times when it is rough to find the time or the energy – we all have that. I try to find a healthy balance of playing frisbee, doing yoga, taking walks or runs in the neighborhood, doing stretches and home aerobics work outs, going to the gym, or hiking. Yet sometimes I drop the ball. For example, I hadn’t been to yoga in so long that my classes expired. I was so bummed I almost didn’t go back to the studio, but today I got my act together and went in to ask for my classes back. They made me pay for one class today, and in exchange I got all ten classes back and can use them for the next 3 months! I am so excited to get back into my yoga practice and am so glad I didn’t use this as an excuse to keep putting off yoga class…

When thinking about my fitness, my diet, and my body’s health, this shift to focusing on wellbeing instead of appearance has been enlightening.I’m lucky to have the support of an incredible partner who lifts me up on the daily, whether I feel like the most beautiful and healthiest being on the planet or whether I feel guilty for not treating my body better. It’s a consistent up and down but keeping health and wellbeing at the center, relieves a lot of pressure that is otherwise an exhausting cycle of self destructive thoughts and actions. So break the cycle and love your body by treating it with the respect and kindness it deserves.

 

Homemade = Less Money & Less Waste

My biggest pet peeve? Folks who complain about being broke but who also buy lunch every day…C’mon people! Buying groceries and then preparing meals at home is definitely the way to go.

In addition to being cheaper (and healthier), making food at home produces less waste than restaurants do when cooking for the public. Its that easy! Make the environmentally conscious decision to cook at home as much as possible.

Think about it:

  • Food waste – this is a big one! It is easier to predict the amount of food needed to feed your household than it is to predict customer demand in a restaurant. Food waste is a huge problem at restaurants due to miscalculating demand, large unfinished portions, etc. If you miscalculate the food needed at home, you can put the leftovers in the fridge, stored in a reusable tupperware for lunch the next day!
  • Food production/storage waste – when you cook at home you have control of how much disposable food storage you use. When you eat out, you have no idea how much plastic wrap, styrofoam containers, and other disposable packaging they use and throw away.
  • Disposable napkins, plates, utensils – this is more applicable to fast food or take out, but think about how often you bring leftovers home from a restaurant in a disposable container!
  • Restaurant energy consumption to refrigerate, air condition, heat, light up the establishment is significantly higher than your home energy consumption – do not take this lightly! Energy consumption is actually a huge deal when it comes to storing, preparing, and cooking food!

Note: Alex and I go out to a meal once or twice a week. We recognize that eating out is a social activity and can be exactly what you want after a long week at work! Treat yourself – because that’s important too. But, let’s be honest – eating out for a meal everyday is bad for your wallet, your health, and the planet.

So Environmentalism on a Budget Lesson #1? Cook at home – save money, save the world.

Environmentalist on a Budget

It’s easy to care about the wellbeing of the environment, but much harder to ensure your actions reflect your words. Even more so when you’re on a tight budget.Yet, there are plenty of things you can do to reduce your ecological footprint and contribute to altering our society’s treatment of the planet. Alex and I were recently inspired by a woman who has produced less than 1 mason jar filled with trash in two years….have you seen the video? If not, go watch it now.

Let’s be clear…Alex and I are not setting that lofty a goal for ourselves, its all about baby steps! But that video did help us realize that there are a lot more things we can be doing. It helped inspire us to make even more of an effort to be environmentally conscious by changing little things in our daily routines and living practices.

We’re recent college graduates. I work for a nonprofit and Alex is an intern with the National Parks Service while he applies to graduate school. AKA we are not rolling in cash. But we are determined to do what we can with what we have!

Interested in reducing your ecological footprint and making more environmentally friendly decisions? If we can do it, so can you! The first step is simply being conscious of wanting to be more environmentally friendly and keep this in mind throughout the day when making decisions and going about your routine.

Next step? Follow emiesfoodforthought and keep your eyes out for my frequent posts with tips & recommendations for making small changes with big impacts.

 

 

Mind, Body, and Awareness

For a period of time in third grade, I went to the school clinic everyday with a stomach ache. It was about a week or so before my parents realized it was always right before lunch time. We lived in Germany at that time, and the German-American school we attended was huge (accommodating 1,500 students in Grades K-12) and to me, the cafeteria was a scary place. Older students running around and being noisy, a “slop bucket” where you scraped your leftover food (eww), and the fear of losing your friends and being lost in the mess probably made it quite terrifying for me. Mind you, this is all in hindsight. During that week of calling home with  stomach aches, I swear I had no ulterior motive and no awareness that my pain was a way of avoiding the horrors of the cafeteria.

Close to 20 years later and I still suffer from stomach aches and headaches. There have been lots of diagnosis for both – needing stronger glasses, hormone induced migraines, TMJ, poor posture, stress/tension headaches… lactose-intolerance, IBS, gluten sensitivities… And probably these are all contributing factors. At this point, its much better than it was, but its still something I live with and have to deal with on a regular basis. Though its clear diet and lifestyle choices can help manage them, I’ve pretty much come to terms that there is no real fix for these ailments.

My current regimen? I eat lots of probiotics and watch my intake of foods that I have trouble digesting (garlic, certain dairy, highly processed or fried foods, specific sweeteners & fake sweeteners, etc.). I sleep with my mouthguard every night (no shame), do yoga and neck stretches to loosen muscles and improve flexibility, try to be aware of my posture while at the computer (just fixed it as I wrote that sentence), and do strengthening exercises recommended by a PT.

Yet all of this isn’t quite enough. Its hard work to keep all of those things in mind while continuing in high spirits, not feeling overwhelmed or sorry for myself about never being 100% well. So I have started doing something thats been recommended to me by a number of people over the years.

 Practicing mindfulness

I’m only a few months into my meditation practice, but I already think I have seen a change in my mindset. By taking the time everyday (aspiring to that) to sit in stillness, focus on my breathing, turn off judgements and release my thoughts, I have become more aware of my reactions to stress and have deepened my connection to my body.

IMG_7033People practice meditation for years and years and years, so I recognize that I am but the newest of novices in the grand scheme of things. Yet, I find that I am now more aware of my reactions to stressful situations. For example, I work in a dynamic environment where unplanned things happen all the time. As a Type A person, this used to drive me crazy and I spent the majority of the day worried about keeping everything on track, making sure everybody was where they needed to be, and anxiously anticipating the event that would put everything in chaos. Though I still try to keep everything on track (that is my job after all), I am now able to recognize my body and mind’s typical response to these stresses and can sometimes even “talk myself back from the edge,” by focusing on my breath, acknowledging the trigger, and trying to let go just a little bit.

“That’s what the dharma is about; turning all our habits around, reversing the process of how we make everything so solid…It starts with catching ourselves when we spin off in the same old ways. Usually we feel that there’s a large problem and we have to fix it. The instruction is to stop. Do something unfamiliar. Do anything besides rushing off in the same old direction, up to the same old tricks.”

-Pema Chódrón, When Things Fall Apart

Since starting my meditation practice, I now feel that I have more control over my body’s reaction to anxiety or stress. I acknowledge that there are factors outside of my control that impact my physical health and comfort but I also recognize that in changing my habitual responses in a given situation, I can be more aware of how my body responds to tension and stress. Obviously this type of change doesn’t happen overnight so at this point in my practice I am not always able to reverse my reactions, but I am definitely more aware of them. At least I no longer call home sick with stomach aches without realizing what scary thing I am avoiding!

If you’re interested in mindfulness or starting a meditation practice, I highly recommend Pema Chödrön’s book, When Things Fall Apart. It sounds like a weird self help book, but I promise that its amazing. Her thoughts and teachings are deep, yet its written in a very accessible and relatable way. The chapters can be read independently, in times when you need a reminder to let go and not take life so seriously or when you feel like a piece of shit and need a pick-me-up. You won’t be disappointed – buy it here!