Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Saving Money: Saving Food

I looked in my pantry and fridge on Sunday. I was trying to figure out what I needed for dinners and lunches this week. I have so much damn food. Like ten different kinds of rice, four one gallon bags of frozen leftover soup, cans of beans, veggies, and pumpkin, stockpiles of flour and sugar, four different kinds of squash, beets from the garden, pecans, almonds, macadamia nuts, peanuts, and walnuts, boxes and bags of pasta, and tons of cream cheese! It is ridiculous that I was going to buy more food. I decided to plan and make meals from what I have already.

So far, I have made quinoa and lentil burritos (frozen leftovers), pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, apple crisp, and pizza. Tonight is butternut squash sauce on pasta with kale from the garden and homemade bread (making the dough in a moment). The rest of the week looks like potato leek soup (frozen leftovers), minestrone, and something with rice and all the frozen veggies I have.

I am doubling the bread dough recipe and making and freezing vegan hot pockets for the boys lunches. I'm also baking another batch of muffins for breakfast. (The next batch will be maple, pecan, date.)

It is silly to have all of this food and keep buying more. Having staples like rice, flour, butter, and dry beans is essential in any kitchen, but being so privileged that I buy more when I don't need it is wasteful. My goals are to bring my pantry down to a reasonable size so I can see what I really do have and reduce my own food waste. Also, saving money is awesome!

Things I buy that can easily be made: bread, bagels, muffins, jams, tea, pizza, soup, smoothies (think Naked and Odwalla), coffee, pasta, sauces, taco seasoning, beans, pickles, almond milk...okay...almost anything. Time is an issue? Pick a day, prepare and freeze a weeks meals. Or do what my friend, Rosemary does: quadruple one recipe, have your neighbors do the same, invite them over for a meal and exchange the extras that you made. You each get 5 different meals for the time it took you to prepare one!

Can I get a fuck yeah?!

I challenge all of you to look at what you have and use it before it goes rancid. Americans waste as much as 40% of the food produced here, yet 1 in 7 people in our country are food insecure (http://help.feedingamerica.org/HungerInAmerica/hunger-in-america-2014-full-report.pdf). This cannot be happening in my kitchen. This could be a time of food abundance in America if we all bought what we needed and ate what we made (and ordered).

Let's make supply meet demand! The benefits are huge to our country and the world: less water wasted on irrigation, less pesticide and herbicide usage, less worldwide hunger, less plastic packaging, more forest left intact, less fossil fuel emissions, less landfill waste, more money left in our pockets, farmers getting paid fair wages, less preventable food borne illness, and on and on.

What do you say? You in?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Currently-The Less-Sappy-Than-I-Thought Edition

Third sister pending. Kimmy's and my new "sister" tattoos. 

I haven't done a Currently  in a very long time; over a year, I'm sure. I am just now getting back into public writing after my life fell apart. It's a good sign that I am on the mend. I am hoping that I won't get emo, but I really don't think about what I am going to write for these posts until I am writing. So let's get started.

I am currently needing nothing. I have a roof over my head, a bike and a bus pass, a phone in my name (woohoo!!!!), my bills are up to date, my credit is mending, my sister will be here tomorrow, the kids are relatively healthy, enough food in the house, money in the bank, a cool, but not cold night, a sweet new sister tattoo, glasses that let me see what I am writing, and a set of panniers for my bikecycle on the way!! Wanting is another story though!

What/ who am I missing? I am missing my friends in Phoenix and Seattle, the love of a partner, the feeling of air on my skin when I ride my bike down the hills, my Minnesota family and the state in general, and I think that's it.

Reading, reading, reading...that's all I do in grad school. I am currently reading The Shipping News and Beautiful Girls for my own pleasure, and Making Healthy Places:Designing and Building for Health, Well-being, and Sustainability and Health and Community Design: The Impact of the Built Environment on Human Activity for a class. I am also reading an article called, The Impact of Community Design and Land Use Choices on Public Health: A Scientific Research Agenda. I know you're jealous. These last three are thrilling reads!

I am hoping for so many things. Some things that I am hoping for are too much for me to type out, but I will try. I am hoping my heart will mend. I am hoping that I will not feel broken forever and that I will be able to love again. I am hoping that trust in others will come back. I am hoping that someday I will be able to show my kids that love really is possible and can be worked through. I am hoping for her struggle to be understood and dealt with. I am hoping that my days are full of love and laughter. I am hoping that, one day, I will find myself again.

We have been playing a lot of board games and card games lately. I love playing with my boys, but so often, I am busy trying to keep the house running somewhat smoothly. Some days they understand and some days they feel robbed of a mom. Being a single mom to three is challenging. We've also been exploring and playing a ton of new music. Thank you, Spotify,  for your unending lists of suggestions!

That concludes my ramblings. Have a super safe week and remember that every person you meet is fighting a battle. Love and compassion will be what saves us. Smile at a stranger, strike up a conversation, call a long lost friend you haven't spoken to in forever. Whatever you do, do it with love; lead with your heart.

God and Not Having a Car

It's been said that God gives you what you can't give yourself. Sometimes, God's like, "Hey! Asshole! I keep trying to tell you this in nice ways, but you don't listen, so I am going to do something extremely painful." And sometimes, I hear that whisper the first time and listen. I am not religious. For me, God is nature, the sun, laughter, smiles, strangers with messages, life happening around me, friends, plants, science, hope, creativity, books, and love. I use the name God generically and interchangeably with the Universe, Goddess, Love, Inner Voice, and Nature. I hear God through my intuition, other peoples words, books, and poems. I know I can trust that all will be okay if I do the footwork and wait for the answer.

The chain of events leading up to this post:

March 2014:
The whisper: This guy is a fraud. Don't buy the car.
My plan: Buy the car without an inspection. Believe the dude is honest and good.
The reaction: Car breaks after 83 miles. I sue and win, but still don't have my money. 
God's reaction: "I told you so, Dumbass."
The repercussion: I have to borrow cars until I get the money or the car becomes available. I borrow T's car that I just gave back three days before. 

May 2014:
The Whisper: Give the car back and get off of T's phone plan. Autonomy. 
My Plan: Call T and make a mess of something that didn't need to be messy. 
The reaction: She got pissed and took away the car and shut off my phone. Quite warranted.  
God's reaction: "I told you so, Dumbass." 
The repercussion: No car. On my parent's phone plan. Must borrow cars from friends and sister. 

August 2014:
The Whisper: It's getting close to the time you won't have a car. Get a good bike and bus passes. 
My plan: Keep calm and know that all will work out as it is supposed to. Stop worrying because I have never been left without a solution if I chose to listen. Buy a great 24-speed road bike, get a free bus pass from work, and make the kids ride the bus all the time. 
The reaction: Kids are put out. I feel free.  
God's reaction: "Are you finally getting it, Numbskull?"
The repercussion: Strong body, gaining spiritual strength, kids who know how to ride public transit and are grateful when we have a car, an awesome bike, more money, I have gas money still in my account, and a smaller carbon footprint. We only buy what is truly necessary at the store because too much stuff equals too heavy on my bike and a pain in the ass to get home on the bus. 

The moral of this story is that when I listen to my intuition (God, Higher Power, the Universe, what-have-you), I reduce my stress level, save money, stay fit, and the biggest lesson: I have been wanting to ditch the car as my main mode of transport for many years. I made many excuses why I couldn't, but still I knew that I should. God had a plan to get me there and when I quit fighting, God did for me what I couldn't do for myself. "Trust in the plan, Jen."

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Thrifty School Shopping

5 Shirts
6 Pairs of Shorts
2 Pairs of Pants
2 Long Sleeve Shirts
1 Winter Coat

Tony Hawk


Carbon Footprint: Less than an 1/8 of a tank of gas

Buying clothes has to be the most expensive thing a parent does, next to feeding kids and sending them on field trips. There's no way I could afford to take three boys to the mall and get all new clothes. Besides, I can't even imagine my carbon footprint if I did. We all like new stuff every once in a while, but most of this garb is next to new and the boys are super happy!

I uploaded my favorite thrift store videos for your view enjoyment!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Terribly Slow and Not-So-Steady

I pretty much fell apart and have been sweeping up the pieces since Tris left our family to pursue her own healing and well-being. I don't blame her in any way. She had to do what she felt needed to be done, and in a way, I think she is the bravest person I know. She walked her own path and it cost her, the boys, and I everything. I am no saint, I do get angry and I still cry every day, but I also tell myself that she is good and deserves to make her own way in this world. Our family still misses her every day.

For my part, I have become fairly depressed. Homemade dinners gave way to frozen and boxed foods more nights than not; when the kids aren't home, I don't really eat anyway. The garden looks like shit. I don't have the energy to water or weed it after 8 or more hours working outside. I even bought an elderberry bush for the garden so I could have fresh berries for medicinal uses, as well as food. It's still in it's pot waiting to be planted. (Now that I have typed this out, it will be in the ground by this evening.) My worms in my kitchen compost have all mostly passed on; I saw a few today when I fed and watered them. My bakashi compost bucket was empty until 20 minutes ago. It's been pretty lame. I have been trying to figure out the point of life when the love of your life has flown the coop.

I am writing today to say that I have started the Bokashi compost again, I have mango fruit leather in the oven, and the worm bin was tended to. I am trying to come back. I really am. Any encouragement that doesn't start with, "Time heals all wounds" will be greatly appreciated.

I guess I better get to digging the hole for the elderberry bush.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

New Life

It's with a heavy heart that I write this first blog of the gardening season. Currently, we are one queer hippie. T is gone (for right now, at least). I don't think I need to go into the details, but suffice it to say that spending time in the garden is both joyous and extremely sad. Knowing that things are going to grow is exciting and heartbreaking. My partner won't be here to share my bounty with, she won't be here to watch things grow with, she won't be here to make fun of me when I squeal with delight as each seedling pops out of the ground. For now, she is gone. For now, my contentment in weeding and watering is followed by a feeling that the air is being sucked out of a hole in my chest. She will always be the greatest love of my life. She is growing in her own way. And so am I. I hope this summer brings tremendous growth to everything. Enough of the emoting, here are some pictures of what is happening right now in the garden.

My downstairs neighbors are starting their plot on this lovely afternoon. Can you believe a week ago today it snowed?!

We should have a nice haul of strawberries in June. This year, they started flowering in March. The earliest flowers yet. 

Onion flowers. These onions are so potent that they make my eyes water when I eat them. 

Woohoo!!!! My favorite medicinal flower, borage, is volunteering this years crop. I cannot wait to see them. 

I went bulk trash shopping and found a whole crib. I made pea trellises out of the two ends. The other two sides, I will bury in another part of the garden for more peas. 

Garlic and onions. I will be planting the second round of bulbs tomorrow. 

Number Three is watering in this glorious sunshine and warmth. He surprised me at the garden and wanted to help. I gave up asking the boys to help me last year. When we did it as a whole family it was awesome, but they only want to text and play on their Nooks (the worst idea for a Christmas present I ever had).